Tag: Doctor Who

Doctor Who: The Late 1970s, The Fourth Doctor and Stitches in Time

Doctor Who and the late 1970s

Doctor Who and the late 1970s

 

40 years on from his first full appearance, there may not be a better time to look at the Fourth Doctor, still the very real and lasting giant of the series.  As Last Christmas showed, there’s a lot to be said for a snappy, irritable, aloof and alien Doctor in this universe. It’s not just the Glam side of the 1970s that will play a key role in the future of Doctor Who?

THE START OF THIS WEEK MARKED ONE OF THE GREAT ANNIVERSARIES IN ALL WHODOM: 40 YEARS SINCE THE FOURTH DOCTOR’S FIRST FULL EPISODE. He’d already appeared at the tail-end of Planet of the Spiders in June 1974. But lying prone on the floor, there was precious little indication of what was to come, even in that first rather simplistic serial Robot. In hindsight, after a staggering seven seasons, encompassing 41 stories and 172 episodes Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor remains the most prolific of the Time Lords. The Tenth and Eleventh incarnations would come close with 36 and 39 stories respectively, thanks to 2005’s format change. But still, despite the strong and sterling headway the last two made in America, it’s often the famous grinning, long-scarved figure of the Fourth that pops up in popular culture.

Repetition

Losing his hat where Pertwee would pick up his cape…

Jokerside’s Whovember series took a long look at the Fourth Doctor’s debut season, reasoning that it’s the single finest series of Doctor Who. And when it came to his debut appearance, it was clear that “Tom Baker… did something different”:

“Immediately, Baker’s Doctor isn’t as attached to UNIT as Pertwee’s had been, even during his last season. He can’t wait to escape but as he says, “I hate goodbyes”. Watching it, I can’t help but think what any other Doctor would have done. Had it been the Sixth, he may well have buckled down a lot sooner. Still, the Fourth had his own slightly too silly costume selection to make. Overlong and reaching, fortunately once chosen, it’s the speed and comfort that’s the punch line. Years of familiarity have enhanced the joke. And then the more telling phrase for this Doctor: “There’s no such word as can’t”.

“Hanging between that and “No point in being grown up if you can’t be childish sometimes” the Fourth Doctor comes straight out of a peculiar Gallifreyan can. One that’s bigger on the inside obviously. They are words to live by, and live he does. Lounging around Bessie in a way Pertwee would have tutted at, losing his hat where Pertwee would pick up his cape – but still carrying off the role of the scientist when he needs to.”

Doctor Who: A Fresh Scarf – “Harry Sullivan is an imbecile” (Whovember #4)

Though resolutely still in the UNIT set-up, albeit one softened by the Third Doctor’s recent mobility, and written by Third Doctor stalwart Terrance Dicks, the Fourth Doctor’s initial appearance is an instant tide-turner. Almost immediately – far more than his predecessor, a noted comic actor – Baker is happy to lets loose with laugh out loud moments. True, he’s nominally not ‘acting’ a new persona as much Pertwee had, but he’s instantly engaging.

To summarise the Whovember breakdown, Tom Baker’s arrival got everything right. Though cast by outgoing producer Barry Letts the new Doctor couldn’t have hoped for a better incoming producer and script editor. While he may be losing an increasingly sparse UNIT family, Baker was incredibly lucky in the companion stakes. Sarah Jane Smith really came into her own when paired with this incarnation of the Time Lord, possibly his perfect foil. But she wasn’t alone, with a season of (lovable) public school idiot Harry Sullivan rounding off one of the all-time classic TARDIS crews. That’s fortunate, as the first full season story arc in the history of Who saw them propelled across five adventures over 20 weeks with very little TARDIS in sight. Continue reading “Doctor Who: The Late 1970s, The Fourth Doctor and Stitches in Time”

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Doctor Who: Celebrity Histories – “I’m Going to be King. Run!” (Whovember #10 Omega)

Tenth Doctor and his Zygon

Tenth Doctor and his Zygon 

New Whovember continues. The second of two Tenth Doctor retrospectives looking at the strangely linked world of his celebrity historicals. As the knocks tolled for this Doctor it was clear that he still had a thing for Royals. But would we ever find out what?

IN THE FIRST PART OF THIS RETROSPECTIVE WE VISITED THE SECOND AND THIRD SERIES OF NEW WHO – TACKLING WEREWOLVES, FIREPLACES AND BARDS. When Martha left, halfway through the Tenth’s chronological tour of duty, there was no way that trips to the celebrated past would leave with her. Series Four presented two historic adventures, both with celebrities of sorts and both landing in the top half of that year’s most viewed. While they proved to be excellent farewells to the Russell T Davies era of historical adventures but they left some plot strands… Although the Eleventh Doctor may have upped the stakes with Marilyn Monroe and River Song, the riddle of Queen Bess was asking for a conclusion.  And what better time than the Doctor’s Golden anniversary?

In this installment a look at:

A mixed bag of Fire, Myth and gold.  But are there any other patterns? “No, no, don’t do that…”

The Fires of Pompeii (Series Four, 2008)

Capaldi isn’t alone…

Series four still sticks out in the run of New Who. It’s resplendent, with only Series Eight matching its appearance. The fifth series would take a strange decision to mute the colour palette and it would take some time to return to this sheer variety. Companion-wise, initial disappointment that Donna reneged on her excellent choice not to join the Doctor gives way to undoubtedly the best character development seen in the show. And yet, it never quite hits the high-points of Series 3 despite serving up two celebrity histories.

Again, The Fires of Pompeii ramps up the production quality with astonishing set design thanks to BBC co-production Rome. Ancient Rome on Doctor Who once again, except it isn’t – it’s Pompeii and “it’s volcano Day”. Once again this is the first main trip for the Doctor’s companion and a rough ride of conscience and choice awaits. It may be the weakest grasp at celebrity, but its warranted. Lucius Caecilius Lucundus’s house still stands in Pompeii. And with the actor portraying him latterly rising to the rank of Time Lord it’s got to be a cert. Capaldi isn’t alone, sitting in a fine cast that also features Phil Davis, Phil Cornwall and Phil ‘The Power of Kroll’ Taylor. I might have made one of those up. Continue reading “Doctor Who: Celebrity Histories – “I’m Going to be King. Run!” (Whovember #10 Omega)”

Doctor Who: Celebrity Histories – “Stepped through in either direction” (Whovember #10 Alpha)

Tenth Doctor and his future

Tenth Doctor and his future 

New Whovember continues with the first of two Tenth Doctor retrospectives. To begin, the strangely linked world of celebrity historical that prove, if nothing else, that there are few people the Tenth Doctor likes to hang around with more than Royals.

IT’S NOT EASY TO FORGET THAT THE DOCTOR’S FIRST ADVENTURE TOOK HIM BACK TO THE DAWN OF HUMANITY, BUT THERE’S BEEN A LOT OF TIME VORTEX UNDER THE BRIDGE SINCE THEN.  When it returned in 2005 the new series established a formula it’s virtually kept to of kicking off each series in the present day, then speeding forward in time before dipping back into the past for the third episode. While purely historical adventures may not have existed in the show since the early-1980s, the successful return has shown that they remain a crucial part of the show.  Indeed, few things sum up the Russell T Davies era of New Who like the celebrity history. And as the longest serving Doctor of both Davies’ tenure and New Who it seemed natural to look at the Tenth Doctor’s brushes with the celebrity shoulders of times past…

In this installment a look at:

Broadly, if you’re not royalty of the writing or properly regal kind you’ll have trouble getting in. Things have changed considerably since the Seventh Doctor couldn’t quite place Queen Elizabeth II’s face in Silver Nemesis. But are there any other patterns? “No, no, don’t do that…”

Tooth and Claw (Series Two, 2006)

A Victorian household named Torchwood

Tooth and Claw unmistakably kicks off in the Highlands. The setting for the Second Doctor adventure The Highlanders, where it was ably doubled by Surrey. Here it’s Merthyr’s turn to stand in for the timeless landscape. Timeless that is until… Slow-mo kung fu monks appear to commandeer a Victorian household named Torchwood. It’s a strange but thrilling start to the Tenth Doctor’s first historical, climaxing in a classic cage reveal pre-title cliff-hanger. The clue to cage’s the inhabitant is in the title you know…

Set loose from introducing this incarnation, Davies shows a playful and confident hand. Ian Drury makes an unexpected but welcome appearance aboard a TARDIS heading for 1970s Sheffield while Rose calls the Doctor a big old punk. But amid the fun of a vortex crash and the Doctor’s astute use of his Rhythm Stick, they end up in 1879. The Tenth Doctor’s first historical makes more than a nod to the Second Doctor’s 1966 Scottish outing – the last completely historical serial of any real length – when the Doctor introduces himself as Dr James McCrimmon. That takes in the PhD the Second Doctor once established that he’d earned and as a cover it gives David Tennant the chance to use his own accent (and then when Rose matches him, start the “Don’t do that” trope that will become very familiar). It’s fun but it’s also a sign that things are about to become a little too coincidental. The auspicious bump into Queen Victoria send the TARDIS crew into a tale of werewolves, long laid plans of revenge and assassination set mostly on the Torchwood Estate. Continue reading “Doctor Who: Celebrity Histories – “Stepped through in either direction” (Whovember #10 Alpha)”

Doctor Who: Slitheen – The Green, the Good and the Ugly (Whovember #9)

Ninth Doctor Whovember Jokertoon

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The first retrospective of the new series finds the lonely Ninth Doctor on his short travels. In particular, a look at his complete adventures involving the new series first recurring villains. Bold and unforgettable maybe, but were they any good: The family Slitheen.

New-Whovember, the sequel to Whovember as Doctor Who Series Eight returns…

#9: The Return of the Returning Monster: Aliens of London, World War III and Boom Town

IT’S APRIL 2005 AND THE DOCTOR’S ADVENTURES HAD PROVED AN UPROARIOUS SUCCESS. Four episodes in, after visiting the past and far future with new companion Rose, he returns to London for the first time. We’d already learned about the Time War, the TARDIS, the Time Lords, met old rogues in the Autons and new villains in the Gelth. But now there was something more crucial. Episodes four and five formed a two-parter. The first two-parter of the New Series. This wasn’t just show runner Russell T Davies’ chance to create a feature film for Sunday afternoons (ahem, still not happened BBC…) but also the return of the one giant and so far missing Who staple… The Cliff-hanger. Continue reading “Doctor Who: Slitheen – The Green, the Good and the Ugly (Whovember #9)”

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