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A photo of Frazer Hines in a flat cap in an article titled Magic Moments, Personalities from the Equestrian World recall the Highlights of their careers.  Above the photo it says Emmerdale Farm actor Frazer Hines is taking a few months off from the popular Yorkshire Television series to pursue his horse racing interests.  He talked to Sue Gibson about his passion for the Turf...  My enthusiasm for transcribing the full article is low, but if you really want me to leave a note in the comments.

My sister must have given me this since her passion was horses, where mine was Dr Who.

This entry was originally posted at https://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/506201.html.
19 June 2018 @ 09:12 pm
The Invisible Enemy is one of the least well-regarded Tom Baker stories and probably marks the point where most* fans feel things began to go clearly wrong under Graham Williams. It is also the first Doctor Who story I have coherent memories of. I have brief images from before then - Pertwee driving under a dinosaur, Sorenson turning into an ant-matter creature - but I have quite clear memories of the basic plot of episodes two and three of The Invisible Enemy.

I decided not to warn tame layman that this was not a story held in high regard. It introduces K9 and I foresaw tedious discussions about how nothing which introduced K9 could possibly be considered bad. I'm glad I didn't because he loved it. About halfway through episode 3, he asked me if this was a classic and I mumbled something about how it wasn't considered very highly and there was a giant prawn. When the giant prawn duly turned up he did concede that it was, indeed, a giant prawn but it didn't really dim his enthusiasm.

Over the course of this Randomiser thing, I've become quite interested in when a Doctor Who story's episodic structure is clear. The Invisible Enemy is another, and quite a late example, where each episode is quite distinct.

Episode 1 is set on the remote Titan base and quite is creepy in many ways. A relief crew is infected by a mysterious mind-controlling space virus (in one of those moments were it does not do to consider the purported science too carefully) and wipes out the base personnel with the exception of Michael Sheard. The Doctor is subsequently also infected - with "the nucleus" no less - but retains more control. Leela, to the consternation of the virus, is immune. The episode revolves around the Doctor and Leela answering a distress call from the base and investigating. It is mostly a game of cat and mouse through dimly lit corridors culminating with the Doctor, temporarily under the control of the virus, raising a gun to shoot Leela.

Episode 2 moves to the Bi-Al foundation, where Leela transports the Doctor's unconscious body, along with Michael Sheard who has now been infected by the virus. It mostly forms a race against time structure, as Professor Marius (and his pet K9) attempt to figure out why Leela is immune to the virus and use that to cure the Doctor, while the forces of the spreading virus take over the facility.

Episode 3 is mostly spent inside the Doctor's brain where miniaturised clones (don't ask) of the Doctor and Leela undertake a fantastic journey style tour in order to find the nucleus. It is a classic 1970s style vaguely psychedelic set. In lots of ways it is an episode of padding, but the central idea is neat (if kind of nonsensical).

The final episode takes everyone, including the giant prawn-like nucleus which has been de-miniaturised to human size back to Titan for a conclusion that is almost clever but ultimately involves blowing the giant prawn up. It's sort of half disappointing and half quite clever, in that Leela spends much of the episode advocating blowing it up while the Doctor insists he has a better idea. It's the weakest of the three episodes - Baker and Martin, the writers, seem to have used up all their ideas in the previous parts and are now simply hurrying towards a somewhat unimaginative conclusion.

Still, the story introduces K9 and, as tame layman repeatedly pointed out - has exit signs, spelled "EGGSIT" on all the doors. Tame layman loved the signage throughout the story.

I can see why aficionados of Hinchcliffe era Doctor Who may not have liked this. It has all the ingredients necessary to be another atmospheric gothic horror piece, but in reality is lighter in tone. The final episode is definitely weak and the earlier episodes, while containing a fair amount of high concept stuff, rely a lot on running battles between Leela and the infected to keep things moving. On the other hand, it is full of high concept ideas, introduces K9 and while, I have to admit, I am not terribly excited by EGGSIT signs - tame layman was thoroughly charmed.

* No, I have no idea what I mean by most, especially now fandom is so diverse. I probably mean most readers of Doctor Who Monthly/Magazine in the 1980s.

This entry was originally posted at https://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/506042.html.

Cartoon image of the Shalka Doctor - looks like a cross between Richard E Grant and Dracula in a green great coat.

I had not realised (or perhaps remembered) that NuWho was announced before Scream of the Shalka was released on BBCi - the DWM article that accompanies this picture notes that this is "the official ninth incarnation according to the BBC". But the same issue carries the stop press announcement of the new series. This ninth incarnation was not going to be official for much longer.

I can't help feeling, in some ways, that its just as well this wasn't the future of Doctor Who at the BBC. The whole article is bizarre. DWM is on set or the recording of the story. Except they aren't. At 10:10am DWM is banned from the studio (in case they stress the actors). At 10:15am they are banned from the Green Room and sent to the car park and are told can they can't talk to the actors. Richard E. Grant (it is stressed to them several times) is not the new Doctor. He's just an actor who is providing the Doctor's voice. Anyway he knows nothing about the show and has never seen it. Nor has the director, Wilson Milam - in fact the director has never even heard of Doctor Who. Eventually they do get to interview Richard E. Grant (in the car park) and DWM dutifully reports that he is very nice and not at all standoffish. They are even allowed briefly into the studio (when the actors aren't there) and told they can come back later to take photos - when they return Richard E. Grant is absent. The whole article finishes as DWM reports a random conversation, as they are packing up, with a man who abridged some of the Target novelisations to be released on tape "It was bollocks!" he tells DWM. "But there are 5,000 completists right? Mad fans who'll buy any old crap. It's the Doctor Who fans. They're mad as f---"

What's most bizarre about the whole thing, really, is not that DWM (and by extension the fans) is basically treated as a nuisance (I'm sure DWM is often considered a nuisance by the production team and I suspect they don't always hide that as well as they might) but that those involved had sufficiently little grip on the publicity machine that something like that could get written up and printed in the show's official licensed magazine. Someone must have realised about halfway through the day that they were busy shooting themselves in the publicity foot - and hence arranged the interview with Grant - but even so the whole thing is shambolic and, given the viewership for an animated adventure on BBCi was not going to be much larger than the fanbase, reveals a shocking contempt for the story's core audience. Less than a year later and the BBC would, one way or another, be ensuring that nothing less than a kind of breathless enthusiasm for the current version of Doctor Who and the production team could appear in the magazine.

This entry was originally posted at https://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/505350.html.
01 June 2018 @ 07:41 pm
I think it would be fair to say that I'm not really a fan of Eric Saward's violent and black humoured vision for Doctor Who. However, having said that I think both of his stories for season 19 (The Visitation and Earthshock) are good to very good and while I don't much like Revelation of the Daleks (and suspect I will be less enamoured of Resurrection of the Daleks, when we get to it, than I once was) that's more because the style is not my cup of tea. I can see that it does what it does very well and can understand why many fans consider it the strongest story of its season.

Attack of the Cybermen, on the other hand, doesn't really work, but it's difficult to figure out quite why. It's the first Doctor Who story to be intentionally written as two 45 minute episodes and it is one of the few in that season which really tries to make use of the format with episode 1 set in the London sewers and episode 2 on Telos, both with quite a distinct atmosphere and feel to them.

Episode 1 feels like an episode of some kind of cop show, with Lytton (Saward's favourite space mercenary) and his gang of jewel thieves (plus the mole working for the police) encountering the Cybermen while attempting (or so most of them think) a diamond heist. The dialogue is good. The atmosphere - well the atmosphere around the thieves - is also good. Unfortunately, as with so many Eric Saward stories, the script isn't that interested in the Doctor and Peri and so has them spend 45 minutes running around the streets and sewers of London chasing a distress beacon Lytton has set up. Where the sections with Lytton are all dimly lit in muted colours, the Doctor and Peri in their garishly bright outfits seem preposterously out of place in the story. In Revelation of the Daleks, Saward creates the world of Tranquil Repose and its population of grotesques and while the Doctor and Peri again spend an awful lot of time running around doing very little, they seem much less out of place in that setting, than in something that appears to be emulating The Bill. The 1980s stories have a reputation for being overlit. Lots of Attack of the Cybermen is very well lit and yet, somehow, it still feels overlit and I suspect part of it is just how out of place the Doctor and Peri feel in episode 1.

In episode 2 the action moves to the ice world of Telos. Once again this is aiming for a particular and distinct atomosphere, with the ethereal seeming Cryons and haunting evocative music. The Cryons are one of the 1980s better attempts at an alien race, with distinct personalities and distinctive hand movements. It is also interesting that they are coded as female rather than male. In retrospect the decision to place them all in masks was a mistake. It makes it much harder to distinguish between and identify the characters and so the differences between them are not so obvious as they might have been.

I think it is episode 2 however that things really start to go wrong. There is a sub-plot in which two cyberisation rejects, Stratton and Bates, team up with one of the erstwhile diamond theives (Griffiths, excellently played by Brian Glover) in order to try to steal the Cybermen's Time Ship. As with a number of Saward sub-plots this proves ultimately futile with nothing achieved and while Stratton and Bates are largely non-entities as characters (or at least, I didn't care less about them), Griffiths managed to be sympathetic to an extent and the character feels wasted. Lots about this sub-plot also makes very little sense - Lytton suggests that his plan has been to link up with Stratton and Bates all along following information from the Cryons, but it is far from clear how the Cryons could have known that Stratton and Bates were about to make a bid for freedom. Equally, the heart of this part of the story is the tragedy of Lytton, ultimately partly cyberised and sacrificing himself in an attempt to kill the Cyber-controller. But the story makes it clear that Lytton isn't helping the Cryons through any sense of altruisum, but because they are paying him. At the end the Doctor ruminates that he never misjudged anyone as much as Lytton - but he never thought Lytton was anything other than he was, a space mercenary who worked for hire - the fact that this time Lytton was working for the Doctor's allies doesn't seem to me to make that much difference. There is a lot of event in episode 2, but the core of the story is that the Cybermen lock the Doctor up with a Cryon to whom he gives the means to blow up the base. Everything else is a distraction and while that's not immediately obvious on watching, I think the viewer nevetheless gets the feeling that there is little of actual substance going on.

I think the direction takes a fair bit of the blame. While I've praised the atmosphere and the Cryons, there are many parts of the story where I know what is happening now, but I remember being unclear when I first watched as teenager. The deaths of Stratton, Bates and Griffiths is a case in point, Stratton moves to open the door to the time ship, there is an effect, he falls over the door opens a Cyberman appears, Bates and Griffiths run, there is another effect and they fall over. It all happens in the space of a few seconds and leaves the viewer in a state of "wait? what?". Even Lytton's torture - where the Cybermen crush his hands (and with so much of Doctor Who of this era one wonders who thought graphic crushing of someone's hands was appropriate tea time family viewing) - is somehow muddled. As a teenager I recall it wasn't clear to me that he was even being tortured until after he was lying on the floor with hands covered in blood. The final result is graphically gory, somehow without managing to be horrific, ending up just feeling rather tasteless. Other bits are just wierd. In episode 1, the Doctor and Peri are held at gunpoint by one of Lytton's henchmen, disguised as a policeman. They overpower him and hand-cuff him to a railing. Throughout the policeman says nothing, and the Doctor and Peri do not attempt to get any information out of him. It's as if the budget had run out of money for an extra speaking part.

It's such a shame. There is excellent acting, some great dialogue, a lot of effort being put into creating interesting aliens and atmosphere (though one could perhaps argue that the final effect of Telos is a little too evocative of twinkly Christmas), and a strong idea around the redemption and tragedy of Lytton (even if I think the execution was flawed). I don't think it is a story I'd have ever been fond of, but it should have been one I could respect for what it was. But it just doesn't work and you come away mostly thinking it is another of the 1980s stories which tries to compensate for a flimsy plot and cheap sets by being loud, violent and garish.

This entry was originally posted at https://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/504417.html.
26 May 2018 @ 01:36 pm

Cover of The Doctor Who Quiz Book by Nigel Robinson.  Foreword by John Nathan-Turner.  It has pixellated/space invaders style artwork showing a tardis, planets, stars and green blobs with yellow tails which look a bit like jelly fish but which I  suspect are supposed to be rockets.

Nigel Robinson, I have learned since joining LJ, got his start in publishing with a Tolkien Quiz Book in which enterprise he was aided and abetted by fredbassett. He went on to edit the Doctor Who book range. His wikipedia page peters out in the late 1990s though I believe Fred has managed to track him down since.

This entry was originally posted at https://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/503746.html.
24 May 2018 @ 08:56 pm

Black and White image of three people in 1930s dress walking arm in arm.

My grandmother is in the centre with my great-grandparents either side.

This entry was originally posted at https://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/503502.html.
23 May 2018 @ 07:01 pm

A tabby cat on a brown recycling bin in the sunshine

This entry was originally posted at https://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/503061.html.

Black and White Photo.  Sylvester McCoy is wearing an outrageous outfit, with patterned trousers and braces, and what looks to be a multi-coloured long coat with wide lapels.  Extravagant lace is visible at the  cuffs.  His haired is spiked up and  he has a small star above one eyebrow - the effect is slightly New Romantic
The credit on the back reads Sylvester McCoy in The Pied Piper by Adrian Mitchell from the poem by Robert Browning (Olivier Theatre, 1987). Photograph by Nobby Clark.

On the back of this postcard, I've written "Theatre Trip to `Anthony and Cleopatra' 6/2/88". So I must have picked this up while in the National Theatre shop. I certainly never saw the production.

This entry was originally posted at https://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/502562.html.
15 May 2018 @ 08:07 pm

The Second Doctor Paper Doll.  Outfit consists of a long grey cloak, a grey bandana and sunglasses
This is so Professor Zaroff doesn't recognise him in the marketplace of Atlantis (or so the notes tell me). Wasn't this particular Atlantis underground? Weren't the sunglasses a mite suspicious.

Also note lack of outlines - not sure it works when the Doctor has outlines. We'll have to see when we get to the third Doctor.

This entry was originally posted at https://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/502397.html.