Category Archives: Doctor Who News

The Grey Man of the Mountain

Who is the grey giant that haunts the mountain of Ben MacDui? What exactly has the Brigadier come to investigate? And will Ace, ever, get to the Edinburgh Hogmany street party she so desperately craves?

Big Finish’s Grey Man of the Mountain, by Lisbeth Myles, is, it has to be said, a bit of a curate’s egg. On the one hand, Ms Myles’s writing is accomplished and natural. Characters are expertly made real through their actions and exchanges rather than cumbersome exposition, and the narrative proceeds at a satisfying pace. Sound design is, as ever, fantastic: the mountain atmospherics are beautifully evoked, creating a real sense of place. And the background music is, pretty much, spot on for the period of the TV series it tries to fit into. 

Performances, too, are (on the whole) excellent. Sophie Aldred and Sylvester McCoy as Ace and the Doctor inhabit characters they are intimately familiar with, and yet obviously nowhere near bored of playing: there’s a real joy from both that is easily passed from actor to audient. (Singular of audience. It’s a word. Honest.)

And mention must be made of John Culshaw’s performance as the Brigadier. In many, many cases – Tim Treloar as the Third Doctor, for example – the fact that the actor plays an interpretation of a character rather than an impression of someone else’s performance is a real plus. Here, though, Culshaw’s expert rendition of Nicholas Courtney’s Brig is exemplary, and would be a lesser thing were it not so close to the original. It is very hard to hear without seeing the TV Brig in the mind’s eye, and that’s no mean feat. It’s an absolutely glorious thing to have him back for an entire story.

So, why a curate’s egg then? Well, there’s no one thing that is majorly wrong, but a number of small things that add up.

The script is very funny in places, and played for comedy, especially in the first episode. However, occasionally that comedy is hammered home with incidental music that completely  overplays it, in one instance very nearly going the full shave-and-a-haircut. To my mind, this does the comedy of the moment a disservice. Thankfully, this isn’t the case for the majority of the story.

The music is also part of another problem for me: the Christmas motif. There is nothing essentially festive about the story, but being released in December there was obviously opportunity for a bit of yuletide reference, and that we get in spades. The Brigadier’s entrance is heavy-handedly Yuled-up by its incidental music, for example; and later in the story, an impromptu bit of Christmas singing feels artificially inserted in a somewhat laboured manner. I’m all for a Christmas story – but please, let’s have Christmas as a main character rather than a bystander.

My third issue was with the story itself. While beautifully written, it very much tells what happens rather than why it happens. There’s a bit of supposition later on regarding what might be going on, but to a great extent it is a series of events that occur rather than a mystery being solved or a larger picture emerging. As such – and despite one character’s story definitely going through an arc of sorts – there doesn’t feel like much of a satisfying third act to be had.

And lastly – and it really pains me to say this – one performance is just execrably poor. Not throughout, but enough bad acting that the fourth wall is repeatedly broken and the story undermined.

All in all, I am sad to say that I found this a disappointing listen. A lot of good things, and much that I look forward to hearing in the future (Culshaw and Myles to name but two); but enough small annoyances to make the whole thing less than the magic carpet ride it could have been.

The Grey Man of the Mountain is available from BigFinish.com

Doctor Who Unloved: ‘The Dominators’

Doctor Who Unloved is a new series of articles, by writer Peter Ravenscroft, that seek to look back at episodes of the show that have picked up a less than stellar reputation over the years; perhaps unfairly. These articles will revisit and perhaps restore the reputation of these stories.

We begin back with the 2nd Doctor and ‘The Dominators’. Over to you Peter.

Ah, ‘The Dominators’.  Poor, unloved ‘The Dominators’.  A story that frequently languishes shamefully towards the very bottom of fan polls, almost the worst Troughton story; for some fans, the very worst; the story that’s so bad even the writers had their names removed from the credit; even Derrick Sherwin, who re-wrote most of it, shaved an episode off and didn’t have a kind word to say about it.

In this episode of Doctor Who Unloved, I take a look at whether ‘The Dominators’ really is the disastrous Dulcian’s dinner that fandom seems to think, or is it worth substantial reappraisal?

Now, I have a confession to make; a confession that the five people who follow me on Twitter already know: I love ‘The Dominators’.  It is one of those stories that every other fan appears to loathe but which I truly enjoy.  In the last Doctor Who Magazine poll, it was noted that ‘The Dominators’ was the only story not to receive a single 10/10 rating from voters.  But that’s because I did not vote in the Poll!

‘The Dominators’ was the first Patrick Troughton serial I ever saw, way back in 1990 when it was shown as part of the Galaxy channel’s Doctor Who weekend in late September.  And immediately, I was impressed with Troughton’s portrayal of the Doctor.  Anyone who can find nothing to like in ‘The Dominators’ must surely be oblivious to the superb chemistry portrayed by Troughton, and Frazer Hines as Jamie, one of the best Doctor/Companion pairings in the history of the series, and they are on sparkling form here.  The scenes set in the Dominator’s ship as the TARDIS team face intelligence tests that the Doctor is trying desperately to fail are superb, as is the scene in which Dominator Rago assesses whether the Doctor and Jamie understand guns.  The Doctor’s improvised solutions to problems, such as piloting the travel capsules, rustling up potent explosives from a medical kit to destroy Quarks, and tunnelling through the bunker wall to catch the deadly seed device are tremendous fun to watch.

One accusation often levelled at ‘The Dominators’ as a serial is that it is dull.  Sorry, but I just don’t see that.  It captivated me as a ten year old, and I will still watch all 5 episodes back-to-back to this day.  A real highlight is the pacy, and often brilliantly absurd Quark hunt in the final episode.

There is nothing dull about the Dominators themselves.  They are nasty, vindictive, cruel villains who are presented as a credible threat.  Surely there is a convincing allegory to be applied to a twenty-first century view of them – they are the unscrupulous businessmen and politicians who would destroy a planet and its people for profit, driven by the greed for fuel.  

Ronald Allen and Kenneth Ives are perfectly cast and deliver suitably menacing performances; Allen brilliantly plays the glowering senior Dominator Rago; one of his best scenes is the callous gunning down of Tensa by a Quark, when the Dulcian refuses to accede to Rago’s demands.  Ives is despicably devious as the rash and impulsive Toba, intent on senseless destruction for the fun of it whenever Rago’s back is turned; his high point is the malicious murder of the harmless Ballan in the penultimate episode.  The fact that neither of the Dominators get on with each other is actually a rather refreshing take on Doctor Who villainy, arguably an example of the banality of evil: Dominators by name; petty but no less dangerous bureaucrats by nature, and I enjoy this facet of their characterisation, a facet that enhances, not detracts, from the Dominators as villains. 

Another accusation of dullness is frequently levelled at the Dulcians themselves.  My interpretation is – that’s the whole point.  The Dulcians are a civilisation which has allowed themselves to become so complacent that they have atrophied into an indolent race with no curiosity, no personality, no ambition, and with their politicians trapped in interminable debates.

Perhaps ‘The Dominators’ is unpopular because the politics of the Dulcians holds up an unflattering mirror to the issue of lazy liberalism.  Now, I’m not implying for one moment that the way to solve such laziness is to crush the offenders out of existence, but even the Doctor, often portrayed as a liberal supporter of the underdog, realises that the Dulcians need a literal bomb under them to get them to act; in much the same way as the First Doctor has to rouse the pacifist Thals into action to solve their own insidious problems on Skaro.  Maybe such politics has fallen out of fashion in our supposedly more enlightened age, and ‘The Dominators’ suffers as a result.

I think that is a shame.

Of course, one cannot assess ‘The Dominators’ without considering the Quarks.  Now, I have very few issues with the Quarks.  Their design is appealing (they would make great action figures), the soundscape created for them, with all of their burbles, beeps and warbles is distinctive, and they do give the very clear impression of being, as the Doctor puts it ‘appallingly dangerous’: their initial destruction of Cully’s three friends as they run from the capsule is effectively gruesome, and the pyrotechnics team do a convincing job of portraying the Quark’s firepower in the destruction of Cully’s travel craft.  The only thing I would criticise is their voices: they are certainly idiosyncratic but I feel they would have been more effective if they had been more sinister and powerful, rather than sounding like giggling children.

To conclude, I stand by my conviction that ‘The Dominators’ is an unfairly maligned entry into the glorious canon of Classic Doctor Who and deserves far wider appreciation than it receives.

Is that a ‘Dominators’ detractor I see over there?  Quark – Destroy!

Written by Peter Ravenscroft

Michael Bennett Interviewed

The Doctor Who Experience is gone but it’s far from forgotten. It provided fans with an amazing experience and allowed the hard graft that goes into the show to be seen up close and personal. Some time ago Eddie got a chance to talk to Michael Bennett, owner and creative director of physical events and A/V company Sarner, who created the Experience?

Outpost Skaro: Let me start by asking how Sarner became involved?

Michael Bennett: At the very outset, the BBC issued a tender. We applied to get on the tender list so we could bid fro the project, and I was involved putting together the creative concept for the tender bid. I was involved right from the beginning, from that point.

OS: From a creative point of view, what is the Experience? What was the creative journey?

MB: At the very beginning, we wanted to try to create I suppose the ultimate adventure. What we were trying to do in our tender bid was create an experience where visitors would actually be involved in the show, as if you were in the story itself. That was our intention, that you could actually imagine going into the TV screen and you became part of the actual adventure. Obviously, that was a big, broad, brain storming kind of situation. We’d sit round the table at Sarner and start looking at ideas.

OS: So, this is an idea you brought to the BBC then?

MB: I think what we brought was this idea of going into the storyline. I think they were looking for an exhibition – a lot bigger than their current one – principally based around props, all the monsters. And it had to be in two halves, because we wanted the first half to be the adventure, where the visitor would get involved in the storyline and the actual show side of things, and the second half would be the exhibition itself. And of course, we’ve got some fabulous artefacts from the history of the show.

My principal direction was to create this show, and how we would actually do it technically, looking at the storyline and what would actually have to be there. What was absolutely going to wow the visitors, what was going to create that interactive experience.

OS: So, what would you say were the creative challenges with putting this show together, then?

MB: Creatively, the big hurdles… initially, we knew, we had to work with the production department, so obviously, then, we have to keep it on-brand. As well as coming up with the storylines and everything, we had to stay on-brand – and that’s quite a challenge in a live show, a live attraction. It’s quite a discipline to do that when you’re on TV – and we’re doing it in a live show, as well as coming up with how we do all the special effects, that sort of thing. So these are kind of two key challenges that we have to work with.

OS: Let me ask then – because I assume you’re not going to have Matt Smith and Karen Gillan showing up at every event – how did you merge the need for their time with the live aspects of the show?

MB: What we’ve done is, we’ve created this storyline where the Doctor is [XXXXX] in the [XXXXX] as he was in [XXXXX] – we’ve got a new [XXXX}, and he’s [XXXX]! He’s [XXXXX] in a [XXXXX] basically, and the adventure is that the visitors have to [XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX] with a plunger. So the challenge is to [XXXXX] him! And on the way we encounter lots of monsters, and all sorts of things happen. But that’s the challenge, and we get round the fact that he’s not there live, though of course he is. Inside the [XXXX].

OS: Tell me a little bit about the relationship with the BBC in Cardiff, and the ongoing-series prodiuction team. How did that work, and how closely have you worked with them to develoip this?

MB: It’s worked really well. I did one of the early presentations – to Steven Moffat and Beth Willis and Piers – quite early on, so they understood what we were trying to achieve by creating storyboards and doing the visuals. And they thought, this is really great, going to be a brilliant experience, they loved the idea. And from that point we did a rough script around what we were trying to create,. And then Steven rewrote that in a little bit of his style, adding some humour and these sorts of things. And its been an on-going relationship, with the producers making sure we’re on brand, and not straying too much.

Obviously, our immediate client is BBC Worldwide, but there has been a relationship with the production team in Cardiff. To organise shoots, and that sort of thing. Co-ordination.

OS: Talking about the relationship with Worldwide, I understand one of the goals of the Experience is that it move to Cardiff. What sort of constraints did that put on what you could do?

MB: A lot of thought has to go into doing a de-mountable exhibition, or one that’s travelling. The way it’s designed… because a lot of our shows are permanent shows, they’re quite complex, and you’ve got to think about the de-mountability or the fact that it’s going on the road. You’ve got to think some of it is a bit like opera or theatre, touring theatre. You’ve got to think about scenics, and how they’ll come apart, and you have to design with that in mind. Everything’s got to be done is such a way that it’s easily tourable.

OS: So, did that lead to any things you couldn’t do, that you’d like to have done with it?

MB: Not really – we put everything in we wanted to put it. We’ve probably have gone a bit over the top! It’s a very complex show, but some of the endings we had in mind from the very beginning – it wasn’t going to be a travelling show then – are still there.

OS: This is Doctor Who – there’s no such thing as over the top…

MB:True, yeah!

OS: Let me ask one last question, then. What’s your relationship with Who, and the team from Sarner that worked on it. I mean, this is obviously a professional engagement, but does it go beyond that for you?

MB: I think, like a lot of people, I lived it as a fan. I watched it right from the very beginning, It’s been a family event in our family – after the football results, Doctor Who’s going to start, and it’s a tea-tome thing. I’ve lived with it from 1963. I mean, personally, I was a big fan in those days, and having seen it come through… With this exhibition, we’ve got the Tom Baker Tardis, the interior of the David Tennant Tardis, these are really iconic kind of things for everybody. Although it has to be a fun adventure, but as far as the iconic items that are here, it’s going to be a very exciting exhibition.

It’s a job, but also, being what it is, part of the British culture, it becomes something more as well. It’s very exciting in that respect. A very exciting thing to be involved in. A really great experience.

DWM 560 – 50 years of the master

He is the Master and you will obey him, you young whippersnapper!

Highlights of the new issue include:

  • The results of the World Cup of the Master – a Twitter tournament to decide the renegade Time Lord’s greatest stories.
  • Current Master Sacha Dhawan answers questions from the TARDIS Tin.
  • On set with Russell T Davies and Phil Collinson as they recreate some classic 1980s Doctor Who for the new Channel 4 drama It’s a Sin.
  • Olly Alexander, who stars in It’s a Sin, tells DWM about working with the Daleks.
  • Interviews with three of the actors who appeared in Resurrection of the Daleks: John Adam-Baker, Sneh Gupta and Nigel Tisdall.
  • Patrick Mulkern accompanies Katy Manning and John Levene on a return visit to Aldbourne, nearly 50 years after the filming of The Dæmons.
  • A solution to the mystery surrounding the 1973 episode that marked Roger Delgado’s final appearance as the Master.
  • An exclusive preview of the Season 8 Blu-ray box set.
  • DWM’s review of the New Year’s Day Special, Revolution of the Daleks. 
  • The Fact of Fiction analyses the 1999 Comic Relief Special The Curse of Fatal Death.
  • The DWM Christmas Quiz answers.
  • The second part of The White Dragon, a new comic-strip adventure for the Thirteenth Doctor.
  • Previews and reviews, news, prize-winning competitions, Time and Space Visualiser, The Blogs of Doom and more.

Doctor Who Magazine Issue 560 is on sale from Thursday 7 January

£5.99 (UK)

Revolution of the daleks pin set

Hero Collector Eaglemoss will be launching the very first merchandise tie-in to the Doctor Who Festive Special, Revolution of the Daleks, with a brand new Chibi Pin Badge Box Set, available to pre-order now.

The Chibi Pin Badge Box Set includes seven high-quality metal pin badges, depicting the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) in her prison uniform, the new Revolution Dalek, and five other mystery characters from the special, all in an adorable chibi-style!

These badges make the perfect addition to any outfit, and a great gift for the coming festive season.

A new Festive Special figurine box set is also on the horizon, joining Hero Collector’s range of hand-painted Doctor Who figurines at 1:21 scale (approx. 3.5 inches tall), with more details announced following the episode’s transmission.

The Doctor Who Festive Special will see The Doctor locked away in a high-security alien prison, while her friends Yaz, Ryan, and Graham are left stranded on Earth. It’s not easy for the trio to return to normal life, especially when they discover a disturbing plan afoot – but how can you fight a Dalek, without the Doctor?

The Revolution of the Daleks Chibi Pin Badge Set will launch on New Year’s Day, and is available to pre-order now on the Hero Collector website.

polly’s story – free this week

Big Finish are making one of the Companion Chronicles free this week and it’s well worth grabbing.

The Three Companions

The tale by Marc Platt features both Anneke Wills and Nicholas Courtney along with John Pickard and Russell Floyd.

The Three Companions – Polly’s Story by Marc Platt
Polly Wright has tracked down an old friend of the Doctor’s… Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, former Brigadier at UNIT. As they trade stories of their time travelling in the TARDIS, it soon becomes clear that their pasts are intertwined, and linked to a current crisis on the planet Earth. And there’s a third companion, watching them from a distance. A certain Thomas Brewster…

All i want for xmas is who….

CAPTAIN JACK IS BACK

One of the most iconic characters in the Whoniverse is returning for the upcoming Festive Special of Doctor Who as John Barrowman MBE puts on his famous coat once more and reprises his role as Captain Jack Harkness.

The cheeky Captain left viewers reeling in the series 12 episode, ‘Fugitive of the Judoon’, when he made a brief surprise appearance with a stark warning for Yaz, Ryan and Graham to pass on to the Doctor before disappearing.

Jack's Back!
Programme Name: Doctor Who Special 2020 – Revolution Of The Daleks – TX: n/a – Episode: Doctor Who Special 2020 – Revolution Of The Daleks – Teaser (No. n/a) – Picture Shows: Captain Jack Harkness (JOHN BARROWMAN) – (C) BBC Studios – Photographer: James Pardon

In the upcoming special titled, ‘Revolution of the Daleks’, Captain Jack will be on hand to help ‘the fam’ as they discover a disturbing plan forming involving one of the Doctor’s most feared and dangerous enemies, the Daleks. With the Thirteenth Doctor locked away in a space prison, will Captain Jack be able to help save planet Earth?

On returning for the Festive Special, John Barrowman MBE revealed: “Putting on Jack’s coat and setting foot back on the set of Doctor Who was just like going back home.  It’s always thrilling  to play Captain Jack. He’s a character very close to my heart who changed my life, and to know the fans love him as much as I do makes his return even sweeter. I hope everyone enjoys Jack’s Heroic adventure with Thirteen.”

Picture Shows: The Doctor (JODIE WHITTAKER), Captain Jack Harkness (JOHN BARROWMAN), Graham O’Brien (BRADLEY WALSH), Yasmin Khan (MANDIP GILL), Ryan Sinclair (TOSIN COLE), Daleks.

Chris Chibnall, Executive Producer, said: “A Doctor Who Festive Special means treats galore, and there’s no bigger treat than the return of John Barrowman to Doctor Who, for an epic and emotional feature-length episode. If anyone can blast away the sheer rubbishness of 2020, it’s Captain Jack. Daleks beware!”

Matt Strevens, Executive Producer BBC Studios, added: “After a tantalisingly brief appearance in Fugitive of the Judoon it’s a total joy and thrill to welcome back John as Captain Jack. One of the most iconic characters in Doctor Who lore, his presence ignites this Festive Special from the start.”

‘Revolution of the Daleks’ will air over the festive period on BBC One with more details to be revealed soon. Doctor Who is a BBC Studios Production.

Autumn doctor who toy sets

Following on from the summer’s B&M release, Character Options is delighted to announce a brand new wave of Doctor Who action figure sets for autumn 2020. The new collection will be available in the UK on shelf in B&M stores from early October. Sales in the US will begin mid-October via The Official North America Doctor Who Store, and Amazon.

This exciting launch will introduce six brand new Action Figure Sets – an all new look for the Friends of the Thirteenth Doctor set, a new Companions of the Third and Fourth Doctors set, a very special U.N.I.T set, plus a Fifth Doctor & TARDIS set. Rounding up the release will be two more History of the Daleks Sets which chart their chronological TV appearances. Each and every set of this detailed series will include highly detailed 5.5 inch scale figures featuring multiple points of articulation and come presented in the now well established ‘classic’ Doctor Who packaging.

The Companions of the Third & Fourth Doctor set features new figures of Sarah and Romana 1 and 2 and spans the dates April 1974 to December 1979. This set includes Sarah Jane Smith in her outfit from 1974’s ‘Monster of Peladon’ story, Romana 1 in her outfit from December 1978’s ‘The Power of Kroll’ story and Romana 2 in her red outfit from the story ‘The Horns of Nimon’.

For many collectors, the arrival of the 1971 U.N.I.T Claws of Axos Set can’t be bettered but with the addition of the 1975 U.N.I.T Terror of the Zygons Set, Character Options has added what is possibly the most anticipated and eagerly awaited variant of the Fourth Doctor to the mix; decked out in his fetching tartan scarf and Tam ‘O’ Shanter hat. The set is completed by the addition of Sergeant John Benton, this time in camouflage fatigues and an additional U.N.I.T trooper, both with Sterling SMG machine guns as seen in the timeless 1975 story battling the shape shifting Zygons.

There is also an updated release of the Fifth Doctor TARDIS set featuring a ‘Visitation’ 5th Doctor variant.

The new series is also well represented with the first full set of The Fam!

After queries from fans on twitter we can also confirm the Ryan toy is made of plastic not wood.