#SherlockLives

Hi my hot cute girly geeks and boy geeks of course. I’m taking a small break in my final sprint towards my NaNo goal.

Sherlock Lives!!! Britain’s favorite self-proclaimed sociopathic consulting detective is coming home! The last few weeks the BBC has been building the tension with us faithful Sherlockians. And not only the BBC, don’t forget the brilliant masterminds behind Sherlock, Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat and Sue Vertue. We have been teased till no end until finally this morning the wait was over…

Well, I say over, we now know when the wait is finally over. But before I dive into that, here’s what happened:

SherlockLives-Hashtag-Frenzy

We got a new trailer and a hashtag!!! I mean, I was watching the trailer when it aired right after the 50th anniversary and let me tell you, having a room full of people, and a lot of them all being Sherlocked or being in the process of turning into a Sherlockian we squeed like proper fangirls and fanboys.

Even Lou was excited…

screenshot_2013-11-29_2056

Then, the BBC announced Sherlock was part of the Christmas festivities and would be broadcast during that time, still no airdate announced.

And good old Watson updated his blog! But please John, shave of that ridicules mustache.

Overlord Mr. Gatiss teased us yesterday night with the following…

screenshot_2013-11-29_2028

The BBC joined in…

screenshot_2013-11-29_2026

So did Sue Vertue…

screenshot_2013-11-29_2029

And this morning the frenzy of troubled Sherlockians posted themselves around the famous spots in London. Us poor fans needing to stay home to work and such followed twitter like a hawk.

And then the fandom that waited, and waited, and waited, exploded…

BaPTvm9IMAAQXjm The Empty Hearse BBC1 BaPOod8IUAA6GYP BaOoXcnIQAACPJh BaOof6XIQAAe5z4 BaO7uCeIAAApveA BaO_1rPIUAAf0ps

Pics of the empty hearse and the airdate driving around London, we paid our r3spects online and the lucky ones in real life.

BaOGzrFCAAEwMm8

We got some wise words from the bosses…

screenshot_2013-11-29_2025_1 screenshot_2013-11-29_2025_2 screenshot_2013-11-29_2025 screenshot_2013-11-29_2023

All the airdates are now confirmed.

The radiotimes suggests how to throw a Sherlockian New Year’s Day party, according to Sherlock.

And the BBC1 provided us comfort.

screenshot_2013-11-29_2027

So sit back, grab your union jack pillow, deerstalker, shockblanket and a proper cup of tea, and wait just a few more weeks for Sherlock to return to your screen.

Sherlock season 3 episode one: Wednesday January first on BBC1

Sherlock season 3 episode two: Sunday January 5th on BBC1

Sherlock season 3 episode three: Sunday January 12th on BBC1

Sherlock season 4 episode one: somewhere in 2016 probably…

How are you preparing for this??? Me, getting ready by rewatching season one and two on New Year’s Eve.

The Game, my fellow Sherlockians, is finally on!

Love, from your own hot cute girly geek Mendy.

PS

Disclaimer: I do not own pictures used in this blog. No copyright infringement intended. Everything belongs to their respective owners. All the opinions stated in this blog are my own.

Credit for the pictures goes to: BBC1, Mark Gatiss, Sue Vertue, Louise Brealey, Amanda Abbington, Speedy’s cafe, Sherlockology, radiotimes, John Watson, @vickieleni, @Marley_89, @kirk_skirk, @AccioSherlock13, @y_in_bllue. If I forgot to mention someone, I’m truly sorry, just let me know!

Advertisements

Review: “Doctor Who: The Enemy Of The World” (Writer: David Whitaker)

Unless you’ve been either on a desert island or are a member of “Hermit’s Anonymous”, you’ll know that things have been a little busy in the world of “Doctor Who”.  Most recently, we have had hours of programming devoted to the fiftieth anniversary.

However, Whovians were treated last month to an announcement that we didn’t think would at all be possible.  Nine episodes, previously thought lost forever, had been found by Phil Morris – a man who has been hailed as a bit of an Indiana Jones for the television age.  Now, forty-five years after its original transmission, the BBC have released the six part story “The Enemy Of The World” on DVD.

 

The main plot of this story sees the TARDIS crew of the second Doctor, Jamie and Victoria landing in 2018 in Earth’s Australasian Zone.  Following an encounter with some armed men, the Doctor and his companions are drawn into a plot to overthrow a man by the name of Ramon Salamander, the so called “Shopkeeper Of The World” due to his work on feeding an ever expanding human population.  A man who has a darker side to his persona and who also happens to look like the Doctor.

 

The only experience that I have had of this story prior to its DVD release earlier this week was through the only episode that was held in the BBC archive, Part Three, when it was released on “The Troughton Years” and “Lost In Time” compilations.  Unfortunately, in its own right, this episode isn’t the most dynamic as it was one which delivered a lot of plot and little action.  However, to judge this whole story on its weakest episode doesn’t do this story justice as this six-parter is a pacy story with plenty of action and sophisticated writing by David Whitaker, especially given that “Doctor Who” was primarily a children’s programme at the time of transmission.

David Whitaker’s script for the story has been described as being in the James Bond mould and it’s easy to understand why.  You have a villain who, on the one hand  has the public face of a benevolent hero, whilst on the other hand has plans to take over the world through using technologically created earthquakes, plots and counterplots,  nasty underlings and weak men who are manipulated, and a plot that keeps moving throughout six episodes.  Plus, he delivers a story which could be relevant as a “Who” story today as the focus is upon a man who creates food for an overpopulated world, but seeks to keep the world under his thrall using natural disasters as his weapon.

Given that this was Barry Letts’s directorial debut, it’s easy to see with the benefit of hindsight why he was given the role of producer during Jon Pertwee’s time on “Who”.  He keeps the action moving along at a breakneck speed.  Granted, as I state above, Part Three is a bit on the slow side, but this doesn’t hinder the overall pace of the story which manages to tease information to the audience throughout the six episodes yet maintains the viewers’ interest.

As for the casting, well it’s note perfect. Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling give solid performances in their respective roles as companions Jamie and Victoria.  Hines gets the chance to portray Jamie more of a thinker in this episode, rather than as the impetuous hero than Jamie is traditionally known for, whilst Watling manages to take Victoria away from her “screamer” tag into a character who is as much involved in the action as Jamie.

The guest cast perfectly compliment each other, as well as the lead cast, most notably Bill Kerr in the role of Giles Kent, Mary Peach going into “Emma Peel” mode in the role of Kent’s assistant Astrid, Colin Douglas delivering a gruff performance as security chief Donald Bruce and Milton Johns delivering a note perfect performance as the slimy assistant to Salamander, Benik.  (A type of role he would return to in the story “The Invasion of Time” as the equally slimy Castellan Kelner).

But, it’s Patrick Troughton who is the real star performer of this story, and not just because he is the Doctor.  Troughton uses his background as a character actor to convincingly portray two roles.  His performance as the Doctor is very much as you see throughout his time in the role.  That being said, given the story’s more edgier focus, the Doctor’s clown persona is stripped down and whilst you get a man who could still be underestimated by his opponents, you also see a more determined and even steelier Doctor than what we’re used to in this incarnation.

On the flip side, his portrayal as Salamander is one of being two sides of one coin.  Like the Doctor, he has two personas, but whereas the Doctor’s is born of a need to have opponents underestimate him so that he can triumph through cunning and letting his opponents make mistakes, Salamander’s is born from a need to show the outward trappings of a benevolent leader, whilst once you scratch the surface you get a dictator who is cruel, duplicitous and represents everything that the Doctor is not, as where the Doctor uses his intelligence and technological resources to help people, Salamander uses them to subjugate.

“The Enemy Of The World” is a cracking story which, as I said, will probably come to be very underrated in the annals of “Doctor Who”‘s history, especially as it is placed in a season which has two Cybermen stories, two Yeti adventures, the first appearance of the Ice Warriors and Victoria’s departure after an encounter with parasitic seaweed.

If I have to have one niggle with this release, it is the lack of extras (or “Value Added Material”).  Since the BBC became aware of the full potential of the DVD, we have had documentaries, commentaries, comedic short stories, CGI enhanced effects and other material to surround the story itself.  Despite the picture quality being enhanced and improved using the VIDFire process and a trailer for the forthcoming story “The Web Of Fear”, there are no additional extras on this release. This is disappointing, not only from the perspective that people who have purchased it would have had to pay roughly the same price as other releases in this range, but because I think that there will be a few tales to tell about this story, both about its production and its recovery.

A case of a welcome return for a classic story, but the rest of the package could have been so much better

Review: The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot (Writer: Peter Davison)

Imagine the scene, it’s the biggest party of the year and you’re not invited. That’s the central story idea to this mockumentary written, directed and starring Peter Davison who, alongside Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy, tries to gatecrash the filming of the fiftieth anniversary episode of “Doctor Who” with the help, or hindrance, of a collected cast of “Who” luminaries including Paul McGann, Steven Moffat, John Barrowman and David & Georgia Tennant.

On the lead up to the fiftieth anniversary celebrations, you may have become aware of a couple of Twitter hashtags floating around – #FDR and #FishDr. Well, the fruition of the project behind these hash tags came into fruition with “The Five(ish) Doctors” which was transmitted on the BBC’s Red Button.

Mr Davison has produced sketches of this nature for the Gallifrey convention where he paints himself as a combination of a pompous Thespian and a bit of a buffoon. “The Five(ish) Doctors” extends this with a comedy of errors as he, along with two of his successors, try to get in on the anniversary filming.

Each of the three leads paint themselves as three actors who are desperate for a role in the anniversary. Davison still plays the comedy buffoon leading his two “partners in crime” around, whilst trying to call in favours from Steven Moffat, who plays up his evil genius persona whilst playing with action figures, and more comedically, his daughter (and sketch producer) Georgia who plays up her pregnancy, along with a craving for chocolate ice cream and an exasperation with her Dad as he seeks a favour from Mr Tennant in getting a role in the special.

Colin Baker portrays himself as an actor desperately hanging on the end of the phone for work, whilst subjecting his family to repeat screenings of his time in the series.

Sylvester McCoy joins in the fun by playing up his involvement as an actor in a major film like “The Hobbit”, much to Colin’s annoyance.

This combination of the three leads makes for a relationship akin to the traditional relationship in the “Doctor Who” stories where Doctors meet – all of them sniping and disagreeing with each other, but whereas the Doctors usually have a plan of some sort, these three hapless heroes wing it with comedically embarrassing effect.

In addition to the guests above, you get additional prominent portrayals by Paul McGann who is as desperate as his predecessors to get in on the special… work permitting, of course, and John Barrowman playing up his musical performer persona whilst revealing a hidden side to his private life which is hilarious (This is a case where I have to say “spoilers”), plus members of the production team including Matt Smith, Jenna Coleman and Nicholas Briggs, various companions from different eras, family members, a hilarious cameo scene by Peter Jackson and Sir Ian McKellen, and one final cameo which definitely has a big spoiler attached to it.

Needless to say, if you haven’t seen “The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot”, I highly recommend that you hunt it down.

As a humourous “piss-take” in the vein of the Ricky Gervais series, “Extras”, this little adventure lovingly has fun at the expense of the franchise without mocking it and it sits nicely alongside the other programmes that commemorate this landmark anniversary.

Review: “Doctor Who: The Day Of The Doctor” (Writer: Steven Moffat)

I was going to start this with “Spoilers Within”, but who am I kidding?  

I’m going to start this review with the stuff that only the people who went to the cinema got to see.  Firstly, my favourite clone warrior, Strax… or somebody from his particular clone batch, gave all viewers a warning not to use mobile phones and talk during the screening, along with the punishments  in the event of these rules being infringed upon.  A nice little start to the festivities.  (I knew there was something about that alien menace called popcorn!!!!)

The second warm-up for the film itself was the eleventh (or is that twelfth?) incarnation of the Doctor getting mixed up in his anniversaries between the 3D of the 50th and the 12D of the 100th.  Alongside “11” (“12”), there was a brief appearance by “10” (“11″… this is going to get confusing) warning people about the perils of 3D especially where his successor’s chin is concerned, and an appearance by the third Doctor in this episode, the one who has been given the alternative name of “The War Doctor”) to add a bit of creepiness to the proceedings.

Now, on to the episode itself.  It was a smart move of Steven Moffat to return the programme to it’s roots.  No, I don’t just mean the retro feels of the opening titles… which was fantastic, but the return to Coal Hill Secondary School and making Clara a teacher at the school.  I knew that Clara had become a teacher from a #SaveTheDay clip that was released and this, in itself, was a way of the programme celebrating its past and driving the character of Clara forward into become a teacher for the dog, but the fact that she is working at Coal Hill adds the proverbial cherry on the cake, especially as a certain “I. Chesterton” is the chairman of governors.

The opening scene also lends weight to the Doctor’s own personal timeline and the direction of the story through Clara’s teaching of Marcus Aurelius’s point about good men.  The Doctor’s recent history, particularly during Matt Smith’s incarnation and in the mini-episode “The Night Of The Doctor”, has focused on what a man’s own perception of what a good man is.  During the course of this episode, we see the Doctor grapple with the choices which colour his view of the “good man” and the reasons why he failed and continued to fail in this role.

Following a nice linking scene which sees a change in emphasis in the relationship between the Doctor and Clara, due to them no longer being a mystery to each other following the events of “The Name Of The Doctor”, they are airlifted to the National Gallery, where the storyline is moved to the Doctor confronting the ghosts of his past, both in his dalliance with a certain “Virgin Queen”, which previously featured “off screen” in “The Shakespeare Code” and “The Beast Below”, and in the fateful day that has driven “Doctor Who” lore for the last eight and a half years, the last day of The Time War and the fall of Arcadia.

The Time War scene is what fans have been looking forward to since the Doctor’s return in 2005.  Until now, it’s been a mythical event, but now we’ve been given a glimpse into the war’s last day and what was the Doctor’s darkest day.  The day when an old man, sickened by the carnage surrounding him, took matters into his own hands and, in effect, committed mass genocide to protect the universe.  We didn’t know which incarnation took this decisive step or why and although we now know that the previously unknown incarnation of the Doctor undertook this deed, we still have very little knowledge as to what led him to act as an arbitrary judge, jury and executioner on the Time Lords and Daleks, apart from the information he provided during “The End Of Time (Part Two)” where he outright stated that the Time Lords had got as bad as the Daleks.

Once he has gained access to The Moment, he undergoes a “trial” of conscience by The Moment’s interface which has taken the form of the Bad Wolf entity.  Now, there have been grumbles that Billie Piper did not do a reprise of her role as Rose, but this turn of events makes sense.  Who best to pass judgement on the Doctor’s potential act of mass murder, like some invisible Jiminy Cricket, than a being who was responsible for a mass slaughter (as in the episode “The Parting Of The Ways”)?

Whilst I am talking about The Moment’s interface, what a smart move by Steven Moffat to reference the fact that Time Lord technology has the ability to gain sentience?  This is consistent with Time Lord technology that has previously featured within the programme – The Hand of Omega, the Nemesis statue or even the TARDIS herself, for instance.

Following this initial sojourn to the Time War, we are guided to the story’s “B plot” which features the Doctor, or more appropriately Doctors, tackling an invasion by Zygons, last seen in the 1975 story “Terror Of The Zygons” alongside Queen Elizabeth I.  Now, this could be seen as a bit of whimsy which features has David Tennant and Matt Smith playfully sniping at each other with John Hurt refereeing, much as in previous stories such as “The Three Doctors”, but there are more layers to this than what may immediately be apparent.

The scene in the Tower of London’ s dungeons gives an important character reference and a clue to this story’s eventual resolution.  Every Doctor that we have seen since 2005 has dealt with the ravages of the Time War in different ways, and the two who feature in the episode are perfect examples – the Tennant Doctor or “The One Who Regrets”, a man who knows how many children he slaughtered, the man who apologises every time he can’t save a single person, and the Smith Doctor or “The Man Who Forgets”, a man who has deliberately buried the knowledge of his crime, as much as easy as burying the knowledge of his predecessor who committed the act.  As for the clue, well I’ll leave that until later.

Once they leave 1562, it’s time for the three Doctors to put an end to the Zygons plot, despite some bloody-mindedness on the part of U.N.I.T.  This is done with a combination of intelligence and sass.  Once they walk out of the “Gallifrey Falls”/”No More” painting in the style of three gunfighters from the Wild West, you know that they have an ace up their sleeves.  Despite their impassioned pleas that they don’t want Kate Stewart to resort to the same act as by wiping the adversaries memories into forgetting whether are humans or Zygons.  However, at this stage, the pleas are still hollow given what the forgotten Doctor still has planned, despite Clara’s entreaties to the Doctor hidden within the warrior.

This leads us back to where the forgotten Doctor began with a big red button and a decision to make.  The decision to use the moment though is only part of this scene.  Through the course of this adventure, a previously feared incarnation of our favourite Time Lord has undergone a humanisation.  We have laughed at his bickering with the Tennant and Smith incarnations of the role and cheered him on as he seeks to broker peace between the humans and Zygons, which is what makes us feel all the more sadder and fearful for the Doctor’s very soul as not only he, but two Doctors who we have travelled alongside for nearly eight years, make the decision to use The Moment.  Ultimately, this isn’t a Doctor to fear, this is a Doctor to fear for.  A powerless Doctor, such as in the episode “Midnight”, who has been backed into a corner with no apparent options left to him.

What follows is a reaffirmation of the Doctor’s traditional mission, thanks to his companions – both Clara and The Moment Interface.  Former script writer and editor Terrance Dicks has previously described the character of the Doctor as never being cruel or unkind and always being on the side of the underdog, and Steven Moffat takes this and uses the companions to prompt the Doctor’s promise, which is fitting given remarks from companions such as Donna Noble and Amy Pond who has reminded him that he needs a companion, even a virtual one like The Moment, to remind him of what’s important and to keep his darker excesses in check.

Which leads me to the screwdriver scene.  If you were paying attention, the Doctor stated that the screwdriver needed centuries to calculate a way of removing the dungeon door as an obstruction which was done through the three versions of the sonic.  Well, the Doctor uses the years between the potential act of using the Moment and his latest incarnation to work out two things, that there is an alternative to destroying Gallifrey through using their TARDISes like a stasis cube, much like the way the Zygons and Doctors use the paintings as an escape route, and the calculations necessary to complete this act – not only through his past selves, but by drafting in his former selves, which is already a fanboy or fangirl “SQUEE” moment, but also his future thirteenth persona which gives us a brief glimpse of Peter Capaldi… Well, Peter Capaldi’s eyes. (Cue big fanboy/fangirl “SQUEEEEEEEEEEE” moment).

Once the adventure itself finishes, we have the traditional goodbye scene.  For the new ninth Hurt Doctor, who is now as valid as his “siblings”, and the Tennant Doctor, it leads to a moment of clarity, albeit short lived because they will forget that they may have saved Gallifrey rather than surely destroying it.  For the Smith Doctor, it’s a moment of peace and of a renewed determination for him as, thanks to the museum’s curator (or is he a future Doctor?), he seeks out Gallifrey, no longer a planet that he thought he had utterly destroyed but a planet that he has now saved.

 

All of the actors within this episode are solid and compliment each other.  David Tennant slips back into his portrayal of the Doctor with ease as he playfully bickers alongside Matt Smith like brothers, whilst acknowledging that they are both the Doctor which leads to some powerful scenes between the pair, particularly when Tennant’s Doctor challenges Smith’s about his apparently callous persona, but these two will no doubt yield the acting laurels to John Hurt who delivers what may be the most stripped down version of the Doctor in fifty years of “Doctor Who”.  Gone are the catchphrases and eccentricities surrounding the character and instead we have an incarnation who does not feel worthy to call himself “Doctor” through his potential act of genocide, but who is capable of redemption through the faith of his companions, whether they be Time Lord, human or technological.  That’s not to say though that he doesn’t have fun with the role as he playfully referees his two successors and shows that he has as much sass and sarcasm as his fellow Doctors.

Billie Piper’s exact role in this episode was cleverly kept under wraps as she was billed as Rose, but her final role as “Bad Wolf Girl” or The Moment Interface was a clever combination of roles mixing the sassy nature of Rose Tyler, the otherworldly steel of the “Bad Wolf” and the quirkiness of a character similar to Idris in “The Doctor’s Wife”.

Jenna Coleman builds upon her portrayal of Clara Oswald.  Gone is the mystery which formed the early basis for their companionship, to be replaced by a friendship of equals.  Clara is no longer a nanny or governess and is now a teacher, not only to the pupils of Coal Hill but to the Doctor as well, not just once, but three as she allies herself alongside The Interface in explaining that the universe is full of warriors and heroes, but what it really needs is the man who will take the harder choice to perpetuate peace rather than become a participant in war, even through a bloody conclusion in the name of peace.

The guest artists work well alongside the leads.  Joanna Page delivering a comedic interpretation of Elizabeth I and her Zygon duplicate which leads to some jokes at the expense of the Tenth Doctor as he inadvertently becomes her husband alongside some historical liberties which add to the comedy.

Jemma Redgrave returns to her deservedly acclaimed role of Kate (Lethbridge-) Stewart, adding steel to the science as she prepares to destroy the Black Archive, as well as covering for it.  It was lovely that her on-screen father, portrayed by the late, great Nicholas Courtney, was name checked during the scene where the Doctor told Kate off about her actions.  (Plus, I loved the use of the pinboard to reference past companions on the series alongside a verbal reference to Captain Jack Harkness and a “blink and you’ll miss it” appearance by a pair of River’s Laboutin red shoes).

Ingrid Oliver takes over the comedy U.N.I.T. scientist role of Osgood from Lee Evans’s Malcolm.  However, she adds a moment of smarts to her performance as either she or her Zygon duplicate maintains the deception of memory loss to ensure that the human/Zygon peace talks keep moving forward.

But the most notable guest performance is that of Tom Baker in the role of The Curator.  He adds enough twinkle in his performance to provide the Doctor with a glimpse of hope that he has been successful in his plans to save Gallifrey, whilst maintaining enough ambiguity for the audience to speculate as to whether he is a future incarnation of the Doctor or not.

 

The direction by Nick Hurran is nothing short of jaw dropping, and it has to be to drive a story that is not only a celebration, but a feature length episode that is suitable for 3D screening and cinema.  He pulls this off ably, alongside the newly named “Milk” special effects house to show off battle scenes, transformations shots, beautifully desolate vistas and 3D paintings to convincing effect.

 

The script by Steven Moffat uses the pomp and ceremony of the fiftieth anniversary to tie up some loose ends for the franchise, certainly post 2005 whilst giving the show a new vitality, a new mission to strive for, which will take the Doctor away from being a wounded warrior and return him to being  an adventurer, a dreamer and the universal version of the eternal optimist.

That’s not to say that the story isn’t without it’s apparent plot holes.  How did the Doctor and Clara escape from his own time stream following the events of “The Name Of The Doctor”?  Did the humans and Zygons actually broker peace and what are the consequences?  And how did they get hold of the stasis cube technology from the Time Lords?  Does the Doctors’ actions now mean that “The End of Time” is an invalid storyline?

In addition to the above, “The Day Of The Doctor” isn’t without its potential controversies.  The first being the Doctor’s rewriting of personal history.  By re-writing the rules of time having its fixed points, along with the fact that the  Interface broke the Time Lock around the Time War, there is a risk that it has become a magical solution to the Time War, such as in the end of the 1996 television movie when Grace and Chang Lee are resurrected.  Steven Moffat cleverly writes around this by saying that once the earlier Doctors return to their own time streams, they will lose the knowledge that they have acquired.  From a franchise progression point of view, this makes sense.  Do we really want to see a version of the Doctor carrying around the guilt and pain of the Time War forever more?  From my personal point of view, no.  He needs to change, and the programme has to change alongside him.  That is one of the strengths of “Doctor Who”.

But the most controversial aspect of this story could be how we view John Hurt’s version of the Doctor within the history of The Doctor as a character, and within the franchise as whole, and what implications will it have for the numbering of the Doctors that has been traditionally applied.  My own personal opinion, is that as soon as he stopped his course of action to use The Moment, the “War Doctor” ceased to be and John Hurt became THE Doctor.  As for numbering controversies, well, who cares?  If moving the Doctors up one so that Christopher Eccleston becomes the tenth, and so on, then does it really matter?  What matters is that this is a celebration of what the Doctor represents, not which face he wears.

Chapter one of the “Doctor Who” story has closed.  The young boy has stopped running away from his home.  Now, the old man wants to go home… albeit via the long way round.

Review – An Adventure In Space And Time (Writer: Mark Gatiss)

NOTE:  There is a major spoiler towards the end of this review.  Please do not read onwards unless you’ve already watched the film.

 

As part of the fiftieth anniversary celebrations of “Doctor Who”, long term fan and scriptwriter Mark Gatiss takes us back to 1963 and the genesis of a new science fiction television programme through the eyes of four prominent people responsible for its creation – creator and BBC Head of Drama Sydney Newman, producer Verity Lambert, director Waris Hussain and leading man William Hartnell.

Without the benefit of DVD extras and programmes like “Doctor Who Confidential” in 1963, little is known about the actual origins of the show itself, except for looking in hindsight.  Whilst you gain knowledge of the history of the programme, you do it with a sense of emotional detachment, pretty much like some form of televisual archaeologist.  Well, Mark Gatiss gives you the next best thing to witnessing the origins first hand with this docu-drama which not only shows the struggles behind the creation of the show, but also that of four people who tried to break out of the structures that have been set for them, whether it be due to how the BBC operated at the time, or the prejuidices of society at the time, in the cases of Lambert and Hussain, or through typecasting, as in the case of William Hartnell.

All four leads impressed in their portrayals of their respective roles.  Brian Cox portrays Sydney Newman as a showman with his “pop pop pop” and pushy, in your face, razzamatazz, but who also was a hard nosed taskmaster in his demands on how “Doctor Who” should be made whilst using his savvy to schmooze his leading man when he has concerns when the sets weren’t ready.

Jessica Raine takes the role of Verity Lambert and embodied the Newman’s phrase at the beginning of the film of a woman being “full of piss and vinegar”, bringing fire and spirit in the face of blatant and institutionalised sexism.  However, this is only a mere part of Ms Raine’s performance as Verity as she forms a formidable, yet warm and caring partnership with the “characters” of Hussain and Hartnell.  By the time that 1965 comes along and she leaves the role of producer, you get a real sense that Hartnell not only missed Lambert as an ally within the programme, but as two people who genuinely cared about the other.

Sacha Dhawan portrays the role of Waris Hussain as a young, firebrand director who is charged with trying to bring Newman’s dream to fruition whilst being confronted with technology in its infancy, poor studio facilities and racism, such as in the scene in the BBC bar where the bartender pretends not to listen to his order.  This scene also shows the dynamic partnership between Hussain and Lambert, and Dhawan, along with Raine, portrays the pair as both colleagues in the face of adversity and friends.

But it is David Bradley who deserves star billing in the role of William Hartnell.  Much has been documented and said about Hartnell being difficult and cantankerous, but this film puts these behaviours into some context as Bradley portrays William Hartnell as a man who is scared that he is not going to get quality work due to his typecasting in roles where he had to portray tough guys and authority figures, which later gives way to another form of fear as the symptoms of arteriosclerosis begin to take effect and rob him of a part that he loved and cut his career woefully short.  In the midst of this, you see a man who basically became  a child all over again as the magic of the role of the Doctor takes hold, something that is consistent with all of the actors who have taken on this role, right up to Matt Smith.  Both David Bradley and William Hartnell perfectly embodies the description of the role that Verity gives early in the film for the Doctor… the magic of C.S. Lewis mixed the technological wizardry of H. G. Wells and the warmth of Father Christmas – this is evident particularly in the scenes between Hartnell and his grand-daughter and the scene in the park where he conducts a group of children in an adventure with nothing but his imagination to guide them.

And that is what makes the conclusion of this film so bittersweet once he is told by Newman that he is being released from the show.  Bradley gives an emotive performance of a man who has rediscovered the joy of not only being a grandfather in real life, but also in being a surrogate grandfather to a nation’s children, only for his failing health and a production schedule that would probably floor a younger man snatch away this role, but he also gives a nice little twinkle in his portrayal of the moments leading up to “Doctor Who”‘s first regeneration scene with not only a cameo from Reece Shearsmith in the role of Patrick Troughton, but also with the inclusion of Matt Smith in an uncredited cameo as himself as an ethereal bystander at this event.  It was a moment that was beautifully handled, and in the hands of lesser scripters and actors could have been seen as self-congratulatory or too sugary.

In addition to the four leads there are brilliant performances by Lesley Manville in the role of Hartnell’s wife, Heather, Jamie Glover, Jemma Powell and Claudia Grant in the roles of original “Team TARDIS” actors William Russell, Jacqueline Hill and Carole Ann Ford, plus cameos, both credited and uncredited from a whole host of actors who have appeared in “Doctor Who” itself including former companions William Russell, Carol Ann Ford, Jean Marsh and Anneke Wills, plus current series Dalek voice actor Nicholas Briggs portraying Peter Hawkins, the man who first breathed vocal life into the Doctor’s arch-nemesis.

 

It’s a testament to Gatiss, along with the production team and the actors, that this film is a perfect celebration of “Doctor Who”.  As with the main series, as it is now, “An Adventure In Space And Time” made me smile and laugh, whilst also leave a lump in my throat and nearly make me cry.

Thank you Mark Gatiss.  I may never have the chance to walk on the TARDIS set, but you gave me the next best thing.

Doctor Who: Doctor Who Explained and The Doctors Revisited

As the fiftieth anniversary of “Doctor Who” draws ever closer – three days away from when I write this, it’s easy to notice that one type of programme has really sprung up this year to celebrate “Who”and that is the “talking heads”/”clips”  style of show which serves the purpose of explaining the history of “Who” to newer Whovians who may not have dipped their toes into the water of the “classic” stories.

For the first time, really, since the first series of “Doctor Who Confidential”, we have been treated, thanks to BBC America and the “Watch” satellite television channel, which is one of the UK TV network, with a strand of programming which celebrates the show in “Doctor Who Explained” and “The Doctors Revisited” – both of which are thematically similar due to their shared production team and, in fact, “Explained” stems from “Revisited”.

“Doctor Who Explained” explains the show in a broad brush strokes including who the Doctor is, the reasons of the companions, what the TARDIS is and a brief explanation as to who his most prominent foes are within a whistle stop 45 minutes.

“The Doctors Revisited” takes the concept of “Explained” and brings it into sharper focus by concentrating on each incarnation of the Doctor in an individual episode.  “Revisited” has a clear, consistent format by breaking each episode of these documentaries into three “chapters” – “Who’s Who” that focuses upon the Doctor, “TARDIS Team” which revolves around the companions and “Famous Foes” which, as the title entails, has a brief explanation on some of the Doctor’s most prominent arch-enemies.

Although seeing clips from “Doctor Who”‘s past is surely a treat for those who haven’t seen the earlier eras of the show, what really is the big selling point is the sheer amount of interviewees within this series.  You get the majority of the actors who portrayed the Doctor, including the current man to hold the key to the TARDIS, Matt Smith,  a whole host of companions ranging from Carole Ann Ford, who portrayed the Doctor’s grand-daughter Susan, and William Russell, who was Ian Chesterton, from the show’s beginnings in 1963 through to current companion Jenna Coleman, guest artists including Matt Sheppard, Nicholas Briggs, Dan Starkey and Frances Barber, and behind the scenes personnel including lead writer Steven Moffat, current series producer Marcus Wilson, former executive producer Julie Gardner, and writers Tom MacRae and Neil Gaiman.

Whilst these programmes offer very little that is new to Whovians who are fully versed in “Doctor Who”‘s history, it’s clear from the outset that “Explained” and “Revisited” are more for newer fans to whet their appetites into trying out older stories, especially as each episode of “The Doctors Revisited” was partnered by a story from each Doctor’s era immediately following the documentary, for example the Patrick Troughton era had the 1967 classic “The Tomb of the Cybermen” to represent it.

That said, “Explained” and “Revisited” are a well put together series of programmes which celebrates the wide ranging heritage of “Doctor Who” and a perfect accompaniment to all the other celebrations taking place for the show’s fiftieth anniversary.

Doctor Who: The Ultimate Guide

The Doctor and Clara are ready for a long overdue holiday.  However, as in all adventures involving the Doctor, there’s a slight hiccup.  Whilst carrying out work on the TARDIS, he has wiped his own memory and it’s up to Clara and the Doctor’s 1200 Year Diary to teach him who the Doctor is.

And so starts the first real opening salvo in the BBC’s celebration of fifty years of “Doctor Who”.  Granted, we have had “The Science of Doctor Who” with Professor Brian Cox which tenuously linked real universe science with the fantastical Whoniverse and the “Monsters and Villains” weekend which was basically ten selected episodes around the Top Ten voted monsters and villains… out of a selection of ten, but this was the first real link up programme which is a real celebration of the fiftieth anniversary.

From “An Unearthly Child” to “The Name Of The Doctor”, you are taken on a two hour history tour of the Whoniverse taking in the keystones of the programme – the TARDIS, the companions, the monsters and villains and, most importantly, the Doctor himself alongside linking narrator Russell Tovey, aka Alonzo Frame himself from the episodes “Voyage Of The Damned” and “The End of Time (Part Two), and various actors from the series including Peter Davison, Paul McGann, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, David Tennant, Katy Manning, Louise Jameson, Sophie Aldred, Noel Clarke and Karen Gillan plus celebrity fans such as impersonator Jon Culshaw, the band McFly, former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq and comedian Al Murray, along with lead writer and executive producer Steven Moffat.

There have been programmes which have done the delving into the programme’s history, whether it be programmes like “30 Years In The TARDIS”/”More Than 30 Years In The TARDIS” which took the programme and really looked at the behind the scenes history as well as the on-screen detail in somewhat fine detail (certainly for a programme that lasted roughly an hour on the original transmission and ninety minutes on the extended VHS/DVD cut); or programmes like “The Doctor Revisited” or “The Essential Guide” which serve as a “jumping on point” for newer fans.

What “The Ultimate Guide” does is strike a balance by acknowledging the programme’s history in a relaxed fashion which shows how the on-screen aspect of “Doctor Who” has progressed, evolved and changed from its beginnings in 1963 into the fantastical show that we know and love today.

Through mini-features on each of the actors who have portrayed the Doctor, you do get a sense that although these are eleven actors bringing their own interpretation to the role, there is development and cross pollination in each of the portrayals from Hartnell through to Smith which demonstrate that they are all portraying one man.

But, the features on the evolution of the series doesn’t just concentrate on the Doctors.  There’s commentary on how the role of the companion changed with the times – not only for the female actors who took the role from the traditional image of the “screamer” and feed for the Doctor and moved the companion’s billing to equal to if not, at times, higher than that of the Doctor and the roles of the male companion, which was unfortunately curtailed really to Mickey, Jack, Rory and one off companion Adam.  (Where were the likes of Ian or Jamie?).  Plus, there were points on foes like the Daleks, the Cybermen, the Master and how some of the Doctor’s traditional foes have evolved into allies – such as the Ice Warriors, Strax and Madam Vastra.

Whilst some fans may not be too happy with the format of this programme, this “talking heads” documentary had a difficult task.  It had to distill fifty years worth of a television history into two hours, whilst serving as an introduction to people who may only have become a “Whovian” recently, and maintaining an interest for people who had a casual interest for the show.

Granted, there were also points where I was questioning which “celebrity fans” were actually the genuine article.  I mean, where were the likes of Rufus Hound or even “Number Twelve” himself, Peter Capaldi?  That said, what I could not doubt was that there was enthusiasm by all the guests interviewed.

Whilst it may not have been perfect, and let’s face it could you really cram fifty years into two hours and call any eventual programme “perfect”, the time flew by and it maintained my interest throughout.  (Plus, it wasn’t the complete dog’s dinner that was the 1991 documentary, “Resistance Is Useless”… a talking anorak, I ask you).

A great way to start off anniversary week itself.