Category: TV

The growing power of the Idiot’s Lantern…

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?

  1. THE TUNE AND THE TUNNEL

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

1973

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”

Doctor Who: The New Series Whovember Recap!

New Whovember recap

 

New Whovember has concluded: Three Doctors, Two show runners and War Doctor in a right state…

The 50th anniversary saw Jokerside take on the 26 years of classic Doctor Who, so it was only a matter of time before the New Series came under the sapce-time visualiser.  

NEW WHOVEMBER FOUND ITSELF IN A VERY DIFFERENT UNIVERSE FROM ITS CLASSIC FORBEAR. So the Classic Whovember recap ran, that “monumental 26 year run stretching from Totter’s Lane in East London on a fog-bound night in 1963 to the sun-drenched, cat-stalked streets of Perivale” to Millennial San Francisco took its leisurely time and eight Doctors. When the show came back, the show needed to update and almost everything changed.

The 10th anniversary of the new series takes place at the end of this month, when Jokerside will take a long look at the how ten years of the new series compare with 10 years of the classic run. But first, a summary of the recently completed New Series Whovember. With its own Fourth Doctor at the beginning of a hopefully long run, it falls to a trilogy of Doctors who include one of the shortest serving and two of the longest running.

The spirit of the original Whovember remains, where each article took an individual Doctor and a different, crucial aspect of the show’s myth and viewed them through the prism of a plot arc or set of serials. It wasn’t an exact art then, but the new series posed new problems, with the most complicated and arc-based era of the show’s 50 years setting some stern challenges. As usual, a little seen episode or a fresh viewing would set the parameters…

The Ninth Doctor - Doctor Who

#9 – Slitheen – The Green, the Good and the Ugly

The return of the one giant and previously missing Who staple… The Cliff-hanger!

There was little steer when it came to the single series of the Ninth Doctor. But one idea seemed irresistible, albeit a little horrid. The Slitheen. These green and bulbous aliens managed to make quite an impression on the reborn show. They would spill out quite happily into spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures but while they never made the impression that the Weeping Angels would and have fallen away from monster montages they played a pivotal role in that first series. Not only were they the focus of the show’s first two-parter and therefore cliff-hanger, but they were also the first new ‘monster’ to earn a return appearance.

For all the other highlights of that first series, it’s a delight to find that the mini-Slitheen arc in Series One is solid and show advancing stuff. Running just before the series finale, Boomtown is the first of Who’s bottle episodes, something that would stretch ingenuity with incredible results in subsequent series. For its lightweight approach, it made room to tackle difficult issues:

Continue reading “Doctor Who: The New Series Whovember Recap!”

Doctor Who: Silents II – “Back to back on the fields” (Whovember #11 Omega)

Eleventh Doctor and Handles #Whovember 

No, you haven’t forgotten… The final Whovember concludes the story of the Silents as their plot crawls towards the Fall of the Eleventh. Their second plan had failed, so the Silence turned to their tall and forgettable servants. They could definitely get the job done… 

THE SILENTS HAD TWO FIRST APPEARANCES, BUT OF COURSE THAT’S EASY TO FORGET. Previously, they’d subtly emerged in a ‘deadly’ cameo in Series Five‘s The Lodger before emerging from the shadows in the two-part premiere of the sixth series.  When that season wrapped up the associated River Song arc in the middle, the Silence had failed twice to eliminate the Doctor.  When it came to resolving the arc, and dodging the 50th anniversary antics, Moffat’s other definitive creation proved crucial. Yes, the time of resolution was near:

First, another cameo…

Closing Time (Series Six, 2011)

the River Song we left in Let’s Kill Hitler hears a song that she knows, like us, means a season finale’s coming

It’s a refreshing step back to department stores when Closing Time starts. Of course, it’s less a sequel to The Lodger than Gareth Roberts Series Eight episode The Caretaker. There it’s thematic, here it’s picking up the Doctor on his goodbye tour. The Doctor’s death at Lake Silencio has been constantly reinforced as fixed point in time. This may be a light distraction, a bit of a riff on the Tenth Doctor’s extended farewell tour, but it’s crucial… While this Doctor’s constantly convincing himself not to help, he doesn’t have as many people to see (even though it’s been a hundred years at least since he personally met Craig) and is strangely open to a way out of his predicament.

There are some nice touches amid the frippery. Oddly, Star Trek gets another mention, again twice. For all the lightweight filler of Closing Time, the Cyber reveal and their slow involvement actually makes for one of their better appearance in the New Series. Since 2005, they’ve been treated worse than the Sontarans. In that respect it’s just a shame that love proves to be the Cyber downfall. And yes, at the middle of the plot is yet another deserted ship where the crew are purposed, like The Girl in the Fireplace, like The Lodger… However, this time it’s fortunate that the lightweight plot doesn’t fill 45 minutes. That gives the Doctor time to purloin four TARDIS blue envelopes and a Stetson… And we flash forward to the Silences’ plot three about to kick in. The kids in the street, reflecting on their fleeting meeting with the Doctor as adults are nonsense, but does help to build inevitability as we realise why Closing Time has to be on this list. In the final few minutes, the River Song we left in Let’s Kill Hitler hears a song that she knows, like us, means a season finale’s coming:

 “Tick tock goes the clock even for the Doctor”

It’s a multi-verse premonition that pops up at the end of Mark Gatiss’ Night Terrors, and would carry through to the thirteenth episode of the series… Continue reading “Doctor Who: Silents II – “Back to back on the fields” (Whovember #11 Omega)”

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