I have a book out, in Obverse's series of Doctor Who monographs The Black Archive. For more details and a link to download a sample, see the publisher's website.
This is not the last time that I will be promoting this book here, for transparent reasons. "Explore Gothic castles, ghosts in armour, amphibious landings and a heroine who already knows her own mind, as the gargoyles of the Gothic aesthetic merge with the bogeymen of Britain's imperial decline," says the author on Facebook about his contribution to Obverse Books' series of Doctor Who monographs.

On Twitter, he reports "My entry in @theblackarchive series of monographs on individual Doctor Who stories can now be ordered from the publisher. This 1973 story dwelt in currents of Gothic literature and film, feminism and post-imperial consciousness, and potato-headed aliens."

Here, he urges you to go to The Black Archive website and place an order for the print edition of The Black Archive 24: The Time Warrior. Ebook ordering to follow on publication day or thereabouts.
sir_guinglain: (Pertwee_TVAction)
( Jul. 30th, 2018 09:42 pm)
I've posted one of my ventures into fan fiction to AO3:

Umbrella (3191 words) by SirGuinglain
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Doctor Who, Giles cartoons
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Third Doctor, Zoe Heriot

In an alternative timeline where Zoe was exiled to Earth with the Doctor (as was intended at one point), Zoe has difficulty blending in to twentieth-century London - and it looks as if twentieth-century London might have its own ideas. First published in issue 20 of 'The Terrible Zodin', Fall 2017.

Dialogue for the old and new fans...

From Planet of the Spiders part one, as it might be re-edited:

LUPTON: Not only a Doctor, but a woman Doctor. We do not want her here.
CHO-JE: We cannot shut out the world entirely, my brother.
LUPTON: Why not? You used to, in Tibet.
CHO-JE: All things pass away, as you will learn in your meditation. This world of samsara, the world of appearance, is the world of change.
LUPTON: Yes, but I came here to get away from the world. So did the others. We came here to find solitude.
CHO-JE: One day you will learn to walk in solitude amidst the traffic of the world.
LUPTON: It's still not too late to stop her coming.
CHO-JE: But it is. Mister Chibnall has already gone to the station to fetch her.


CHO-JE: We can but point a finger along the way. A man must go inside and face his fears and hopes, his hates and his loves, and watch them wither away. Then he will find his true self, which is no self. He will see his true mind, which is no mind.
SARAH: And that's what meditation's all about?
CHO-JE: Yes! The old man must die and the new woman will discover to her inexpressible joy that he has never existed.
SARAH: Well, good luck, mate.

From Chrissie's Transcripts Site, with alterations.
More musings on Doctor Who and national identity from me have been published at John Connors's Time Lines blog. I've written an introduction with more ideas at The Event Library, and the posts themselves are available at part two and part three.
The first part of a series of musings on Doctor Who and British identity, at John Connors's Timelines blog, originally commissioned by John for the fanzine Plaything of Sutekh which he co-edited with Richard Farrell. A short introduction can be found at The Event Library, too.
For reasons clear to anyone who studies his Twitter feed and interactions, veteran Doctor Who fan Ian Levine is keen to make it known that this short series of articles published in DWB in 1992 is available to read online. It's been supplemented and superseded by other work, such as Richard Molesworth's DWM articles and the two editions of his book Wiped published by Telos, and by the ongoing work by the BroaDWcast site, but it's still readable and tells Levine's side of the story as well as convey how horrified first-generation Doctor Who fandom was when they learned that episodes which they often remembered from childhood and which they imagined survived at some BBC vault no longer existed, with anecdotes of early fandom and the dawn of home video.
Part of the experience of dipping into old Doctor Who fanzines is seeing how fan prejudices were challenged by the experience of professionals. The editor of Celestial Toyroom (March 1980) reacted with some scepticism to a newspaper cutting from The People's Journal (Dundee) in which Katy Manning, seven years after her departure from the series, described Tom Baker's Doctor as "a rather serious, dramatic kind of doctor, whereas Jon [Pertwee] was a funnier character." At this distance, with the doubtful wisdom of age and with the benefit of hindsight, many viewings and DVDs, I can see what Katy means; but I'm not surprised that in a period when very few people indeed had access to video recordings to compare the performances, and with many of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society writing as if they spent their evenings prowling Soho, ready to apprehend Tom Baker for turning 'their' series into a comedy, the teenage (I think) editor doubts Katy's assessment.

Here's the article and picture, with a few addresses removed.
Behind the cut )
It may not be the most thrilling Doctor Who story, but The Monster of Peladon deserves some credit for being so brazen about its limitations. Where else to imprison your lead characters but a communications room? They can find that radio contact with the outside worlds is jammed, but can watch the action elsewhere on black and white television monitors (a primitive planet, Peladon, though in real life there were sound practical reasons for their use) and receive messages from gloating villains. Unable to manage forced perspective in the studio? Just get the actors to behave as if you can and the audience will believe that the model citadel a foot or so away from them is half a mile off... Ice Warrior costumes looking worn? Just paint them even more green than usual and give their commander a glittery cape. Azaxyr is definitely from the glam rock faction on Mars. As for politics, solve the miners' strike by making their leader the head of the government and maybe give him a peerage... Some good development for Alpha Centauri, though it and Sarah Jane do an awful lot of standing around and talking while watching the aforementioned monitors.
Today's Doctor Who DVD catch-up exercise was Death to the Daleks. I realise that I had never recognised John Abineri as Railton until now, perhaps because of his wig and also that he is unceremoniously dispatched by an Exxilon arrow early in part two. The casting of Duncan Lamont, the original Victor Caroon in The Quatermass Experiment, is appropriate as well as occasioning some frisson from the juxtaposition of a symbol of early British television science fiction with the Daleks. (ETA: my own historical perspective is of someone who has always viewed Quatermass as 'past' and the Daleks as 'current', but this was not the case for those who were making Death to the Daleks just a little over twenty years after The Quatermass Experiment.)

The production subtitles benefit from our knowing more about the development of Sarah Jane Smith and the subsitution of the (excellent and deservedly legendary) Elisabeth Sladen for the (taller, more 'womanly') April Walker. For all he says in interviews nowadays about the place of women in adventure stories, ropes and railway tracks, the Terrance Dicks of 1973 emerges as someone keen to enhance the role of women in Doctor Who, unsuccessfully urging Terry Nation to make Jill Tarrant second-in-command of the expedition, and emphasising Sarah's resourcefulness.

Lesser-known personalities are given coverage too - Arnold Yarrow, one of the acting profession's sprightly nonagenarians, is a cogent presence on the DVD's making-of documentary and the subtitles emphasise the breadth of his career. While Yarrow was glued into grey latex as the subterranean Exxilon Bellal, another studio in Television Centre was recording an episode of Softly Softly: Task Force quite possibly commissioned by Yarrow in his just-former capacity as that programme's script editor.

I'd come across a newspaper cutting from 1974 publicizing the London Saxophone Quartet's involvement with Death to the Daleks, and here they are on the soundtrack, performing the music of Carey Blyton. Blyton was in the process of leaving his long tenure as music editor at Faber, where he had been Benjamin Britten's editor, seeing his compositions through the press. Production subtitler Martin Wiggins draws attention to the quotations from music hall and nursery rhyme which pepper this score. His contributions to this period are understandably overshadowed by those of Dudley Simpson, but his determination to avoid electronic music (on the grounds that synthesizers were depriving musicians of income) was rewarded in a memorable score which arguably set a precedent for the rest of the 1970s as Dudley Simpson was steered away from close collaboration with the Radiophonic Workshop and back towards conventional music.

Visually Death to the Daleks supports my argument that it is in this, the last Pertwee/Letts/Dicks season, that the programme begins its Gothic phase, with Sarah finding her way through a temple set lit with flickering candles before being trussed up by priests ready to sacrifice her for bringing the latent past of the intelligent living city into the present of fear and ignorance. The execution of the scene is far more steeped in threat than the near-sacrifice of Jo at the end of The Daemons.
Comparing The Six Wives of Henry VIII, made in late 1969/early 1970, with the contemporary seventh season of Doctor Who raises questions about value judgements. The Six Wives walked off with BAFTAs, no doubt deservedly so, though I haven't made any evaluation of the competition. The scripts of The Six Wives (on my acquaintance with two) are concerned with the themes of adult life, of gender relations and politics, of a society where women of high social status are diplomatic chattels or likely to be treated as political inconveniences whose lives are forfeit when their fertility challenges the king's masculine and regal potency. Doctor Who is concerned with soldiers shooting at non-human life forms, and though the forces of UNIT have their moral ambiguities they retain the fallback position of white hats. In The Six Wives, there is no operational bias towards a power-wielding side; the "word of a Henry" is good for nothing without an ability to rig the context in which it is shaped and reshaped.

In terms of design The Six Wives of Henry VIII can be surprisingly simplistic. The first episode, directed by John Glenister, has some location (or perhaps Ealing) filming, including scenes in the billowing tent complex of the Aragonese special embassy where Henry VII and his heir Arthur first greet Catherine of Aragon (a bright-eyed, auburn-locked Annette Crosbie, lovely but considerably less of a dolly-bird than Caroline John's similarly-coloured Liz Shaw). In contrast the second episode, directed by Naomi Capon, places its exteriors in the electronic television studio, with short scenes of hawking performed behind tufts of foliage against a plain cyclorama. Doctor Who placed a far greater emphasis on naturalism, perhaps because it was much less concerned with the inner lives of its characters. It's difficult not to be distracted, during Anne Boleyn, by the speckled grey wall flats which are fastened together to represent Anne's cell in the Tower of London, impassioned and cogent though Dorothy Tutin's performance is. The reliance on the vaseline-smeared lens to suggest an altered state of consciousness, whether the erotic bliss of Catherine's early marriage or Anne's visualised imagining of the executions of her supposed lovers, is a reminder that if a director found available electronic effects inappropriate for the subject, there were few other options to take up.

Doctor Who in 1970 is fast and involving by comparison with The Six Wives, where the audience is expected to commit to the actors and dialogue over long periods with little in the way of scene or shot changes. The script editing is more consistent too, though in a prestige-hungry series of individual plays the roles of the two script editors may have been devoted to different objectives than the consistency of development of continuing characters across the narrative. Nevertheless it's not clear from the writing that the Henry VIII seen crushing Catherine's last letter to him is the same man single-mindedly compressing his one-time love for Anne into cold-hearted assessment of her as a brood-mare of state. Doctor Who was wholeheartedly a series of serials rather than a sequence of plays with continuing cast and characters, and a case can be made that it does better by its regulars than its distant Tudor stablemate.

I could go on, but the compare-and-contrast exercise is an unjust one given the qualifications one has to make regarding the different programmes' expectations of their audiences. Nevertheless, when members of the irony mob start celebrating Doctor Who as 'bad television', I think of examples like those above to remind me, and them, that it isn't and wasn't, but most of the time quite adventurous, and good at it.
This was the last 'season opener' to be broadcast before I was born. I watched it tonight as part of a group born, for the most part, over twenty years later. Thus this viewing was received consciously in the shadow of Davies and Moffat. Liz's line about a man who travels through time and space in a police box was, in the context of Spearhead's original broadcast, a mocking farewell to the programme's old format; now it is a self-aware championing of what has endured (despite the plans of Derrick Sherwin and Peter Bryant), the triumphant transformation of what common prejudice tells us should be ridiculous into heroic epic, while retaining street-corner proportions. Some of Spearhead's oddness now looks prescient - the Doctor's shower won't be repeated until 'The Lodger' forty years later, for example. While Matt Smith's Doctor had no alternative but to get on with Craig and fit into his life, Jon Pertwee's Doctor is by comparison featherbedded by the fantasy-adventure force of UNIT, though they are still rather austere and yet to enjoy 'Action by HAVOC' or become the family-ensemble which flattered Pertwee's comfort zone. That being said, he's more a disjointed Eccleston-like Doctor here than he later became, even the soon-dropped waddling gait being a symbol of a Time Lord on edge and caught out.
What was already going to be a Doctor Who-ish day for me has been made more so by the arrival of The Ambassadors of Death on DVD. I went straight to episode two to see how the colour recovery process has worked. I'm impressed by the results; whereas the full colour spectrum isn't always present, it often results in an eerieness which complements the story's atmosphere, such as here, where the blue-grey shadows contrast with the variably reddish-brown-yellow of the cell walls and the Brigadier's uniform.
Cut for screengrab )

It's also intriguing to see that the story has been credited to "David Whitaker, Malcolm Hulke and Trevor Ray" on the sleeve. While the involvement of Hulke and Ray with the final script has long been known, it's been usual for the BBC DVD range to reflect the writing credit as seen on the broadcast episodes.

Also in the post was the latest issue of scurrilous fanzine FANWNAK; on first glance it seems to have dramatically raised its game both in production and writing terms, and though its sense of humour remains not always to my taste, there are a good few critical articles which may well reward a read.
Despite my best intentions, I didn't leave my flat today until early evening, and even then that was only a shopping trip to a different town and a different supermarket to the ones I normally buy from. This was not only a consequence of the weather, but that the splitting headache I'd developed on Friday had not gone away. Exactly why I decided one of the most notorious Doctor Who stories of the third Doctor's tenure might have a medicinal purpose is lost to time and the unfathomable workings of my mind.

Invasion of the Dinosaurs is the only story of Jon Pertwee's last season where UNIT play a consistent and substantial role in the action; they are also returned to the streets of London for the first time in several years, since (I think) The Mind of Evil in 1971. This return to quasi-realistic spectacle shakes some of the cosiness out of the UNIT set-up, but in doing so it shows how much Doctor Who had changed within Jon Pertwee's tenure as the Doctor. The hard-edged near-future of most of his first season could not be returned to, and instead the deserted London under martial law is a self-consciously allegorical landscape, where order is maintained under emergency powers. Looters are detained in the expectation of a revival of old norms, but those norms didn't include prehistoric monsters roaming the streets, nor allow that authority figures are actively working to erase the very society which authenticates their power and status.

The DVD's picture quality is remarkable, and the colour restoration on part one (the videotape of which was mislaid, presumed destroyed, probably not long after transmission in 1974, leaving only a black and white film print presumably made with the intention of being exported to non-colour markets outside the UK) impressive even if it's of variable quality; the colours of the location scenes on part one bring out the dry grass of a hot summer evening in mid-1970s England when the sun is low in the sky, and is fitting for this London forced into a twilight existence. Throughout the story the film exterior sequences have more vibrant colours than 1970s telecine often manages, and the model shots of the foam rubber puppet dinosaurs are well served. The dinosaurs are not that bad, with the apatosaurus in particular well-realised; but then, large, placid and stupid is probably easier to achieve than fierce and terrifying. It's to be regretted that too much is demanded of the weakest of the models, the tyrannosaurus rex, and that some of the angles chosen during the model sequences expose the artificiality of monsters and their miniature sets.

Matthew Sweet's visual essay puts the contributions of the production team in context and points out just how hard the political allegory is made. The films in the 'Reminder Room' on the 'spaceship' on which the self-deluded colonists believe they are travelling to New Earth (though no cat-nuns will they there find) represent the selective, alarmist hand-wringing of sometime bien-pensants who have given up on the vast majority of their fellow human beings. Matthew Sweet observes that writer Malcolm Hulke was a longstanding member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, and in the 1960s many on the established left looked on askance as ecologist politics previously associated with fascism became adopted by their comrades. There's definitely something of the crisis of the social democratic state in Invasion of the Dinosaurs, from the political new directions offered by Charles Grover to the misguided idealism of Mike Yates and the drive for efficiency of General Finch, to the petty grandiose dreams of Professor Whitaker, a salutary tale of what can happen when the grant application of an Oxford don is rejected. This isn't so frivolous an observation as it might seem - Oxford has had a reputation as a more political university than its fellow ancient university Cambridge, educating several shapers of the so-called post-war consensus. Malcolm Hulke and script editor Terrance Dicks were perhaps inclined to reflect wryly on this, as they were Cambridge men.

Jon Pertwee might have resolved to leave the role of the Doctor, but he was still the consummate showman at this stage, seizing the opportunity for comedy when arrested as a looter, deploying a couple of variants of his Cockney accent, and convincing as a man of action through sheer authority despite - as David Brunt's production notes remind us - suffering from a long-term back injury that meant most of his falls were performed by Terry Walsh. Elisabeth Sladen observes in a 2003 interview included in the set that on this, her second story, she found herself playing a gentler, less assertive character than she did in her debut, The Time Warrior. Even there, Sarah was perhaps less dominating than she would have been had she been played by April Walker, whose casting, and sacking following objections from Jon Pertwee, was revealed in David Brunt's infotext in this set and is perhaps the greatest coup of the production notes. Lis Sladen describes her resolve to keep putting her all into the part despite its becoming a more passive companion role than expected with her usual smiling, positive demeanour, and it was not really a surprise that it was while watching this interview that my headache disappeared.
sir_guinglain: (SarahJane)
( Jan. 9th, 2012 11:54 pm)
I was an advocate of the theory that the initial replacement for Katy Manning on her departure from the role of Jo Grant in Doctor Who was Fiona Gaunt. I am happy to be intrigued by the revelation that the actress concerned was someone else entirely. When (for reasons explained on the other side of the link) this actress was doomed to depart before production on The Time Warrior had got very far, she was of course replaced by the late and much-missed Elisabeth Sladen; and my childhood and all that followed would have been very different.
I've uploaded more articles and stories to the Tides of Time archive, this time concentrating on the third Doctor's era.
sir_guinglain: (Pertwee_TVAction)
( Apr. 20th, 2011 05:29 pm)
Further to the news of Elisabeth Sladen's death yesterday, I've been dipping in and out of the latest Doctor Who DVD, Planet of the Spiders, which was released this week. There's a fifteen-minute interview with John Kane, who played Tommy in the serial, where (among other insights) he observes that Elisabeth Sladen had the same powers of being able to immerse herself in a role and perform with immediacy as Helen Mirren, and that he was very surprised that her career never took off to the heights he expected. As Russell T Davies said on the BBC News channel last night, acting is a hard business and it is easy to be forgotten.


sir_guinglain: (Default)


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