Month: March 2015

Doctor Who: The Master in the 1980s – “Somewhat Reduced Circumstances”

The Master in the 1980s - the Doctor Who Marchster takeover

The Master in the 1980s - the Doctor Who Marchster takeover

You will continue to obey me! The Marchster takeover reaches its mid-point. The Master had burned brightly before fading to a surely inevitable end during the 1970s. The 1980s brought a new Doctor and Jon Nathan-Turner, a producer who wanted to fill out the TARDIS crew and saw the strength in this youngest ever Doctor having a nemesis of note. A decade of survival beckoned, as the Master’s fiendish plots became increasingly self-absorbed. The Second Marchster… A select journey from Geoffrey Beever’s skulking well-spoken loon to Anthony Ainley’s smarmy psychopath…

THE MASTER HAD ENJOYED, AND SUFFERED, A PRODUCTIVE 10 YEARS ON DOCTOR WHO, FROM HIS GLORIOUS ARRIVAL ON EARTH TO SCRAPING A LIVING AS A WRAITH-LIKE ASSASSIN. He couldn’t stay crispy for long however, though the effects of his misadventures would be felt for a good time yet.

Having so far met his nemesis only once during his long-lived fourth incarnation, it was timely that the Master’s rebirth should come as the scarf and frock coat were locked back in the TARDIS costume room. It was certainly a rebirth, though not a comfortable one – as the Master carved his longest on-screen life yet from the tattered familial tragedy of others.

The Keeper of Traken (Season 18, 1981)

Envious Eyes

Having escaped E-space and lost two companions in the form of K9 and Romana, the Doctor’s trip to explain how he could mislay a Time Lady to the Time Lords on Gallifrey is interrupted. Fittingly, after the pomp legend of The Deadly Assassin, there is an admirable dream-like quality to The Keeper of Traken. Although the serial’s name doesn’t so much concern the incumbent Keeper, gate-crashing the TARDIS in his reality-warping chair like Metroid of Jack Kirby’s New Gods, but the position itself – and the envious eyes that covet it.

New Beginnings

The final premonitory days of the Fourth Doctor

On the way, we’re in the final premonitory days of the Fourth Doctor. It’s unfair to say that Tom Baker was sleep-walking by this point. The science of script editor Christopher H. Bidmead acted as sterner control than the occasional frippery of Douglas Adams a year previously. Though, in a season that carried a loose arc of entropy, the Doctor was subconsciously building a new family for his future incarnation. From E-Space came the first – Adric, the precocious maths genius teen who doesn’t make the best foil for the Fourth Doctor, but who was soon to make friends in N-Space.

While on Traken, the Keeper has detected evil in the family union of the benign Tremas, his soon to be wife Kassia and his daughter Nyssa, as he relates through an extended flash-back sequence much like a fairy tale. And if the idea of a galactic empire held together by universal harmony sounds too good to be true, it most certainly is.

Calcified Evil

A fairly blunt metaphor for the Master himself

The concept of the Melkur is a fascinating one, retaining a considerable amount of mystery thanks to its Henry Moore-like design and the fact that we never really learn much about it. Everything is carried along on superstition and good will, although it’s also a fairly blunt metaphor for the Master himself, twisted into his current form through his pure evil. On a planet where time is a concept not worth tracking, it appears the Melkur is embedded in the gardens outside the main chamber for many years, giving Kassia time to truly become “married to the statue she tends”. Continue reading “Doctor Who: The Master in the 1980s – “Somewhat Reduced Circumstances””

Doctor Who: The Master in the 1970s – Arrival of the “Unimaginative Plodder”

The Original Master - Doctor Who Marchester takeover

The Original Master - Doctor Who Marchester takeover

You will obey me! Whovember has ended, and that’s not gone unnoticed. Welcome to the Marchester takeover. When creating a Moriarty to match the Doctor’s Holmes, the Who team had to wheel out a figure with staying power, little did they know how successful they’d be. He arrived, a stylish and sinister figure, capturing a popularity when the show was already nearing a decade old. Things would never be the same again… To start this three-part takeover… A select journey from imperious Delgado to bug-eyed husk…

WHOVEMBER #4 PROCLAIMED SEASON 12 TO BE NOT ONLY THE GREATEST SEASON IN WHO HISTORY, BUT THE FIRST ARC. THAT’S TRUE, BUT THERE WERE CONTENDERS BEFORE, LOOSE ARCS WHERE THE SERIAL FORMAT JUST COULDN’T CONTAIN A COMMON ELEMENT. Jon Pertwee’s second season sits pretty as the closest contender. There, as always, the serials sat distinct from each other. But while the Doctor’s exile had brought the show its greatest stability, with consistent sets and cast, Season Eight added an extra component. And of course that dapper silhouette belonged to The Master. The season’s shared villain, linking every story, popping up and winding like a snake through tales of Doomsday Weapons, Axons, Daemons and Autons. While Season Seven had brought colour, Season Eight brought fun. And it all started at the circus…

The Terror of the Autons (Season Eight, 1971)

Perhaps the start of the end

Doctor Who had undergone its most significant reboot with the arrival of Jon Pertwee. Forget changing support cast, switching leading man and even altering the TARDIS set. Now we not only had colour but a fixed-Earth setting and a large and stable cast. The new production team headed by producer Barry Letts and Script Editor Terrance Dicks needed a writer they could rely on to set out the stall in the season premiere, so for what became Spearhead from Space they turned fast-rising star writer Robert Holmes. Not only reliable and steady hands, but one of the greatest British television writers of the 1960s and 1970s. Holmes name would become indelibly linked to Doctor Who, and that’s not through quantity as much as sheer quality. Sontarans, Autons, Gallifrey, the brain numbing monotony of Time Lord society – those and many more emerged from the mind and pen of Holmes. Onto Gallifrey later, but things must begin at the beginning, or in this case perhaps the start of the end. Because one year on from introducing the third Doctor, Holmes was tasked with creating his implacable Moriarty.

Enter the Master

“I am usually referred to as the Master”

It’s a great arrival. A TARDIS unmistakably appears, but one with a working Chameleon circuit. And with precision timing the Master emerges from the horsebox to make an immediate and indelible impression.

In just a few lines, in his first scene (appearing before the Doctor), Robert Holmes and Roger Delgado define a cool, impeccable, menacing and powerful nemesis. As the Master, Delgado cut a smooth and sartorial figure, with his dark suit, Nehru collar, slick hair and crucially piebald goatee. Delgado’s superior sneer and almost always unruffled delivery gifted much comedy to the character without sacrificing any of the threat.

The Doctor has never worn facial hair, except when in disguise or imprisoned for years in a dwarf star alloy cube, apart from the odd sweeping sideburn that the 1970s couldn’t control. The Master… Had a beard, a goatee that may as well have had a “twiddle this tache menacingly” label hanging from it. The Master had a fine taste in suits, the Doctor had a frilly shirt, multiple coloured velvet jackets and a cape! The Master was a force for evil, with hypnotic control cowardice. The Doctor was noble, occasionally grumpy but compassionate. The Master had a working chameleon circuit in a TARDIS with an occasionally black interior, occasionally reversed. They both dished out the same faint praise to each other, but then again they are both Time Lords.

Yes, the Master was designed in every way to be the perfect foil to the Doctor, and Delgado’s ability to elevate a potentially horribly one dimensional character to the charismatic third dimension ensured that the Master would have incredibly staying power – as it turned out, well beyond regeneration… Continue reading “Doctor Who: The Master in the 1970s – Arrival of the “Unimaginative Plodder””

Doctor Who at 10 years old: Classic versus New

The Mistress, Time Lady and Cyberman

New Doctor Who Tenth Anniversary

A decade in, how’s the bold New Doctor Who bearing up to compared to its Classic predecessor

10 YEARS. 10 YEAR’S ALREADY. 10 YEARS. THE TIN ANNIVERSARY. AND THEY SAY TIME IS RELATIVE. Since Doctor Who returned on 26th March 2005 we’ve heard more about fixed and immovable points of time than ever before. Sure, they haven’t been treated too consistently over the past decade, but if ever there was a point that had ultimate mobility it was one spring day 10 years ago.

Jokerside’s always been kind to the show’s prolonged hiatus. For all the shame that Who was cut down at the all too young age of 26, when it was reaching a considerable 1980s high, and clearly by decision makers who had little objectivity, the hiatus has proved crucial to the show’s legacy. True, we might have lived without the American TV Movie, although losing Paul McGann would have been criminal. More important was the throng of fan activity that quickly swung into place to continue the Doctor’s adventures and keep the Sacred Flame alive during the lean early 1990s; imaginations starved that quickly adapted to generating content for themselves.

Creative Explosion

Keeping the Sacred Flame alive

The New Adventures came about through the chance inquisitiveness of Peter Darvill-Evans at Virgin Publishing, before BBC books found repeating that magic wasn’t that easy. Among the roster of Virgin’s subsequent New and Missing Adventures were Russell T Davies, Mark Gatiss, Gareth Roberts, Paul Cornell… On screen, the wittily disrespectful Curse of Fatal Death gave Steven Moffat a chance to script Who that wouldn’t otherwise have materialised. At the end of the decade, Big Finish roared into prolific recording, reviving those would be soon called classic doctors thanks to Nick Briggs, Gary Russell et al – creators who would have a significant role to play in 21st Century Who.

While many were dragged into the world of New Who following their involvement in the above, reputations enhanced by proven success, there’s no doubt that the looser editorial control in the early 1990s (that is, from the BBC) allowed Who to diversify and deepen far more than it could on television. And the legacy of creative explosion on New Who is undeniable, even as it sits proudly back its traditional Saturday family slot.

Time Wars

Masterful appropriation of fate

More importantly, when all these events combine, the hiatus became the ideal metaphor for the perfectly vague Time War. A non-descript, highly destructive war of which few could speak and the Doctor would take no little time to recover from: Masterful appropriation of fate.

Who loves a birthday, but has rarely managed to hit the date. There may be something coming up in Series Nine to celebrate this anniversary, which would be a neat reference to the Classic series 10th anniversary special, which may have fallen in Season 10 but was almost a whole year early. Whatever happens, we’ll be very lucky to see Three Doctors team up this time around.

So if you took 10 key points of Doctor Who – how would these first 10 years of New Who compare to the Classic Series?


New Who has been lucky to retain Murray Gold for its entire run


Delia Derbyshire’s distinctive arrangement of Ron Grainger’s theme stayed broadly unmolested for seven years from the moment her second version had rung out at 17:16 on 23rd November 1963, just as the highly influential work of genius in the key of E should. There were a few minor tweaks of course – such as the echoes that appeared during Patrick Troughton’s first season. With colour and overhaul to the title sequence that had managed to last one doctor without sporting the protagonist’s face, came the first big theme change. Jon Pertwee’s first season in 1970 saw extra sting to match its Quatermass horrors arrive during The Ambassadors of Death. But the Third Doctor also saw his tune lose some of the introduction, completely mislay the middle eight and take fright at fading, opting for a stutter and eerie chopping.
Continue reading “Doctor Who at 10 years old: Classic versus New”

Post 101: 100 Jokerside Moments (51 – 100)

Jokerside 100

TO MARK JOKERSIDE‘S SECOND AND A HALF ANNIVERSARY AND 100th POST….  What better way than the second part of the 100 things of note that have happened in film, TV and music during Jokerside’s lifetime? The great, the good and the sad…

Still wearing that party hat?

51. Universal Horror

It may have taken Disney/Marvel rubbing their noses in it, and they may not have got Dracula Untold exactly right, but at last the great sleeping Universal Studios has woken from the depths of the Black Lagoon. And there’s always Blu-Rays of the classic James Whale Frankenstein films until they nail that huge coffin.

52. Cucumber, Banana, Tofu

Regardless of the massive entertaining quality of Cucumber, this is the commissioning, cross platform public service and high concept budgeting that Channel 4 was born to make. And if the sadly under-watched Cucumber made us realise anything, it’s how great it is to have Russell T Davies’ writing back on air.

53. Lego

Just when it couldn’t get more world-conquering, there’s a public competition and an official Doctor Who set is announced for release in 2015. (See 58)

54. Return of the Gothic

The last 12 months may have seen Jokerside glimpse at contemporary adaptations of Dracula and Frankenstein, but things look set to get a lot busier. Dracula Untold did the business to modestly kick-start the Universal franchise while American and British broadcasters aren’t alone in commissioning multiple adaptations of gothic classics. Just keep an eye on the re-energised drama of ITV in the UK…

55. New talent on Doctor Who

Doctor Who’s Eighth series may have been enjoyable but it wasn’t an unmitigated success, scuppered by the cloyingly pointless Clara dating arc and a Doctor who didn’t even feel compelled to be in a Doctor Who story. But there was much promise behind the camera with the very welcome Ben Wheatley and Douglas MacKinnon, and on scripting duties, including Peter ‘Kill the Moon’ Harness and Jamie ‘Mummy on the Orient Express/Flatline’ Mathieson.. As Moffat’s tenure inevitably draws to a close, there’s hope they’ll form the new guard…

56. Constantine on the page

Only a few swam at speed after DC Comic’s ambitious reboot. Was there ever any doubt hat Liverpool’s most famous wizard would become a key player in DC’s agenda (See 10).

57. The First World War

2014’s commemorations one hundred years after the Great War saw a social and cultural response that complimented a generation. Whoever first thought of those roses around the Tower of London roses deserves an Honour.

58. Travellers’ Tales

Plodding away for over a decade on their Lego videogame franchises, the English software house’s consistent quality is admirable. And really, without those original Star Wars comedy cut scenes there wouldn’t have been the all-conquering The Lego Movie last year (see 53).

59. Channel Five

The Desmond tenure turned a significant profit and saved Big Brother, still in Jokerside’s reckoning, the king/queen/both of reality TV. But Five has now become the first UK terrestrial channel owned by an American mass-media company. That’s huge, but what it will mean for British broadcasting remains to be seen.

60. Winter keeps coming

It may lead the pack when it comes to comfort viewing, but Game of Thrones, the show where nothing really happens and no-one seems to mind, hasn’t let us down at doing just that.

61. The Fab Films

50 years since the release of The Beatles’ Hard Day’s Night last summer kick-started a retrospective of their diverse and underrated filmic oeuvre (See 62). Watch for more of that on Jokerside in 2015.

62. And the Fab songs

And of course, that meant the 50th anniversary of the Fab Four’s first single in October 2012. A single that would start a revolution in the head (See 61).

63. 60 years of Rock ‘n’ Roll

And last summer, the 60th anniversary of Bill Haley and the Comets’ Rock Around the Clock. Rock had been around before, but this pushed it mainstream and it hasn’t taken a holiday since.

64. Wonder Woman

(See 96) It came with criticism, but it wasn’t quite as rude a welcome as Aquaman received. Gal Gadot looks the business as Wonder Woman. And pointing out the similarities between an Amazonian goddess and a Greek warrior princess? Well, duh?

65. Netflix

Netflix arrived in Castle Jokerside for Arrested Development fourth season and hasn’t left. Sod the films, their approach to original programming is refreshing and welcome. Conventional channels have even less reason to be complacent.

66. Seven Spools

Jokerside’s fiction sister-site launched in late 2014. Stories to divide the year sevenly are waiting for you right here

67. Videogames just not slowing down

In a short period of time videogames have supplanted other forms of media, drawing headlines for the sheer devotion and money they engender. Nowhere near maturity, they need support and creative input to flourish into an important and life-changing part of life; from education to philanthropy.

68. Wine

Fuelling Jokerside since 2012. May Bacchus be praised!

69. Bowie wins a Brit

Unbelievably and incredibly well deserved: Bowie became the oldest ever recipient of the Best Male Solo Artist Brit in 2014. He didn’t turn up of course, managing to annoy the Scots by proxy. After all, he didn’t even turn up for the Olympics. One day…

70. DC’s creative split

No, not on the page but in motion. Splitting their universes into the cinematic and televisual is bold and allows creative freedom that can only reward the fans. All Terran and alien fingers crossed that it pans out.

71. Birdman

Not perfect, an acquired taste, but certainly stunning. It rightly ruled the Oscars while reminding us that a film industry without Michael Keaton acting crazy isn’t worth having (not to mention Ed Norton…). Keaton’ll be back at the Oscars one day soon…

72. W1A

She’s had a tough few years has Auntie Beeb, and it’s not getting easier – but she’s still up for taking the piss out of herself. (see 74)

73. Coincidence

It’s bloody everywhere.

74. The BBC

Oh yes, Britain’s wonderful, unique, flawed state broadcaster. Doomed to be criticised no matter what she does, but she keeps on going, and Jokerside wouldn’t have that any other way. (See 72)

75. DC animation

Sadly, the rather good Beware the Batman fell after just one series in the Dark Knight’s 75th anniversary year (see 97), meaning no regular animated Batman for the first time in 21 years. Fortunately DC’s ambitious animated films were there to keep the ball rolling. Jokerside watches repeats of the brilliant The Brave and the Bold to fill the gap. Continue reading “Post 101: 100 Jokerside Moments (51 – 100)”

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