June 10, 2013
There’s a tendency to think that the celebrations for Doctor Who‘s 20th Anniversary ended with the broadcast of The Five Doctors in November 1983. But that wasn’t really the case. Just over a month later another season of Doctor Who began broadcasting, the 21st in total, which effectively kept the celebrations going. Another 22 episodes of Peter Davison as the Doctor, and then suddenly in March of 1984, there was a 6th Doctor - Colin Baker, who got a whole story to himself at the end of the 21st season. On screen the changes came fast and furious - three stories in a row (Resurrection of the Daleks, Planet of Fire and The Caves of Androzani) a regular cast member left, while two different ones joined. Fans and viewers said goodby rapidly to Janet Fielding, Mark Strickson and Peter Davison - and in fact they said hello to Nicola Bryant as Peri at the same time as saying goodbye to Turlough.
While ratings held steady in the UK, the show just got more and more popular in North America. In my particular corner of the world, Doctor Who was now being broadcast a remarkable 8 times every 7 days. This was long before the idea of a specialty cable channel doing a “marathon” of episodes of one particular tv series became fashionable. There were still not that many channels available on regular cable (even if “pay tv” was now making inroads) in comparison to today (although we had a lot more than the 4 regular channels that the UK was now “up” to). The local PBS station broadcast one episode every weekday at 6pm while also showing an entire Doctor Who “movie” (ie. all episodes from a story edited together) on Saturday afternoons, usually starting at 4pm. They would end at 5:30, then you’d have a couple hours off before TVOntario broadcast another episode on early Saturday evening, which they would repeat Thursday evenings (which meant on Thursday nights you had even a shorter break between episodes). Target novels were now starting to proliferate like never before - if I missed a Saturday broadcast of an entire story that I hadn’t seen before, I could walk down the street to my local convenience store and buy the target novel of the new Peter Davison story that I had missed (note, I did this for both Snakedance and Enlightenment - my family did not get a VCR until late summer 1985). Heck, that’s something that I can’t do today (even substituting Target novels for DVD releases).
1984 was the first year that I discovered and bought Target books, and actually the first time I owned a piece of Doctor Who merchandise - all inspired from seeing a PBS pledge break during Mawdryn Undead where one of the gifts that you could receive in return for your pledge was the novelization of that very story. It seemed so incredible to someone about to turn 12 - if I was to go out and buy a novelization of a Doctor Who story, I could re-read it again and again and again and re-live the experience of the story again and again and again. Nothing seemed so exciting! By the time the story had finished broadcast that Saturday afternoon in the summer of 1984, Doctor Who had become my favourite show and I knew that it was always going to be. And that’s why for this Doctor Who fan, 1984 was perhaps the best year ever to be a fan of Doctor Who.
Posted by Luca on Monday, June 10 at 9:51 pm
June 03, 2013
This was a post I was hoping not to have to write for a good many years…..it just seems like yesterday since Matt Smith was cast as the 11th Doctor. But as he has announced his departure in the role and it is likely that the 12th Doctor has either already been cast or will be cast very soon, we haven’t got much time to make our picks for the new 12th Doctor. Here are mine.
1. Stephen Mangan
Many feel the star of the BBC’s tv adaptation of the Dirk Gently novels by Douglas Adams probably took himself out of the running by having taken a Doctor-like role in the past couple of years. They say he’s too obvious a choice. But barely anyone (comparative to Doctor Who) has even seen the Dirk Gently series (broadcast on BBC4 and ran for just 4 episodes), particularly in North America, a market very much in mind for the people making Doctor Who these days. What his performance as Dirk Gently proved is that he is suited to the role. He’s gotten a lot of press recently having tweeted a pic himself with a Tom Baker scarf the day before Smith’s departure was announced with a cryptic Doctor Who comment in the tweet. But I should point out that I’m not jumping on any bandwagon - when we did our picks for the 11th Doctor five years ago, he was one of my top choices then as well - in fact, if you search back to November 4th 2008, he was actually the first person I suggested in our “Who I’d Like to Be Who” series of posts. I haven’t changed my mind since then.
2. Peter Serafinowicz
Why? Because if he became the Doctor, we could get rid of the psychic paper and cut down on the sonic screwdriver usage as the 12th Doctor would be the first incarnation to defeat the enemy or gain entry to some place by doing Paul McCartney impressions. Or Ringo Starr impressions. Or Michael Caine impressions. Or just about any kind of impression.
3. Ben Wishaw
Probably a better choice for Doctor #13. The new Q from James Bond looks younger than Matt Smith but is a year or so older. However, I think they should go about 10 years older at least. If not, Ben could be the man
4. John Bradley-West
There’s been much talk that the next Doctor should be black, or that the next Doctor should be a woman, or that the next Doctor should be a blind, crippled, Guatemalan Lesbian, all because we have never had one in the role before therefore we delilberately need to have one now. In the spirit of affirmative action in fiction, I think the next Doctor should be a short, bearded, pudgy guy with a high pitched voice, because we’ve never had one of those in the role before either. And what better actor than John Bradley-West, who plays Sam in HBO’s Game of Thrones?
For what it is worth, it is the opinion of this blog writer that the next Doctor “should” not be anything other than the best actor for the role.
More choices to come - while there’s still time.
Posted by Luca on Monday, June 3 at 10:14 pm
June 02, 2013
1983 is turning out to share a lot of characteristics with 2013. It was the biggest anniversary celebration the show had done (it remains to be seen whether the 50th will top it), featuring fewer regular number of episodes in the season itself (in 1983 it was 22, rather than the typical 26), a multi-Doctor anniversary special in November, with the public announcement that there will be a new Doctor taking place in the summer months after the filming on the anniversary special had been done in the spring but before the broadcast in November (that’s when Peter Davison announced his departure - summer of 1983. A shame that Matt Smith has now down the same in the summer of 2013).
Of course, the 22 episodes were planned to be a full run but another BBC strike put paid to the production of the final four episodes, so the return of the Daleks planned for that season was postponed until the 21st season in 1984 (much different from whatever the reasons are for the fewer number of episodes in 2013). Despite that disappointment, 1983 was for many fans the happiest time to be a fan during the classic series days. Huge conventions and events were now happening on either side of the Atlantic (in places like Chicago and Longleat in the UK). Who Merchandise was being produced at increasingly higher levels (this year saw the publication of the first of the large Hardbound Peter Haining books on the show, A Celebration (which proved to be so successful that they published a similar HB large book every year for the next 5 years even when they were without a significant anniversary to celebrate), as well as the first story to be released on home video - Revenge of the Cybermen - picked as the first choice because of how overwhelmingly popular the Cybermen now were following the broadcast of Earthshock). The 90 minute special The Five Doctors had such an incredible amount of hype for it, probably the most for any Doctor Who story to date, making it virtually impossible not to be swept up in the excitement. It was a tremendous celebration that was enjoyed by Who fans all over the world in 1983. A glorious year indeed!
Posted by Luca on Sunday, June 2 at 6:28 am
May 26, 2013
It was a new beginning for Doctor Who in 1982. Peter Davison burst on to the scene in fine form with one of Doctor Who‘s finest seasons, a new time-slot in the UK, and ratings that on average, nearly doubled that of the previous season. Season 19 if often lauded for being the season which arguably shows Doctor Who‘s diversity better than any other season, even to this day. Stories set either totally or partially in Earth’s future, earth’s past, present day, alien planets, spaceships and even in the mind of one of the companions. The season incuded (amongst others) the cerebral, surrealistic Kinda, the “hard” sci-fi of Four to Doomsday, the fantasy of Castrovalva, a pseudo-historical with The Visitation, the first “pure” historical with Black Orchid and the all-out action-packed space epic Earthshock, which proved to be the biggest hit of the season and arguably, in its day, the most popular Doctor Who story of all time. From new monsters, returning monsters, new villains and the most brave and bold departure for a companion the series had ever done, the 1982 season was truly a special and memorable one.
It was quite the season for writer Eric Saward. He took over from Christopher Bidmead (with Antony Root sandwiched for a few months in between) as the show’s script editor while scripting two stories, the aforementioned The Visitation and Earthshock. It is difficult to think of another writer in the classic series days who had such a quick and impactful debut on the show - he went from being commissioned as a freelance writer for a debut script to becoming the show’s script editor and top writer by the end of the same year.
Outside of the UK, the series continued to gain in popularity around the world. In the US, the BBC achieved one of its biggest sales ever in this year - the entirety of the Doctor Who back catalogue (at least in terms of complete stories) to the US PBS stations. It was one of the most lucrative BBC sales to date, and the money that it generated was put back into other programmes rather than Doctor Who, showing the value of the property to the BBC just a year before its biggest anniversary celebration yet…..but that is for our next entry.
Posted by Luca on Sunday, May 26 at 11:52 am
May 18, 2013
.....the Valeyard! Or at least that was one of the names given in the episode. What did you all think of the season finale, The Name of the Doctor? How many of you guessed that ending? How many of you guessed that beginning? Let us know your thoughts. Don’t stop for the next six months - because next up is the 50th Anniversary special! Or maybe we should call it the 2nd part of the 50th Anniversary special….
Posted by Luca on Saturday, May 18 at 8:27 pm
May 17, 2013
1981 was an extremely eventful year for Doctor Who, even with only 3 new stories (comprising 12 episodes) broadcast in the UK (Warriors’ Gate through Logopolis). Most notably, the longest running Doctor (which is still the case to this day), Tom Baker left after the end of this, his seventh season. Romana and K9 (each having been around a few years in different incarnations) left a couple of stories before Tom Baker did (although K9 would re-appear on our screens before the end of the year, though not, technically-speaking, in Doctor Who). A new, fifth Doctor, debuted in the closing seconds of Logopolis. It would not be until January 1982 that viewers got to see a substantial performance of Peter Davison in the role, but his debut in 1981 was quite revolutionary and, as it has transpired all these years later, quite influential. The Doctor could now be played by a younger man.
That wasn’t all. With a delay to a new broadcast slot for the next season to weekdays in January 1982, 1981 was the last of 18 consescutive years where Doctor Who was broadcast in Saturdays in the UK - quite remarkable when you think about the show being a tradition and an establishment. In anticipation of the season (and because of the then-unprecedented 9 month gap between seasons), the BBC broadcast a selection of stories from each previous Doctor for a repeat run in the autumn of 1981, entitled “The Five Faces of Doctor Who”. For many younger fans (at least, though younger or about the same age of the programme) this was the first chance to watch stories from Doctor’s other than Tom Baker, or to watch black and white Doctor Who episodes. The repeat run was the first shift in the BBC and those making Doctor Who to start regularly celebrating its past while also making new episodes. The run of five stories showed was An Unearthly Child (and yes, Doctor Who Magazine, that’s what the BBC called as they do now, and not “100,000 B.C.”), The Krotons, The Three Doctors, Carnival of Monsters and the 2nd airing in 1981 of Logopolis. The ratings - with the episodes shown on BBC2 - were excellent for repeats and for something shownn on BBC2. In fact these broadcasts did comparatively better against expectations than the Season 18 episodes did on first airing (including Logopolis, which was a part of both Season 18 and The Five Faces of Doctor Who).
For many fans, the presence of The Krotons as the selected Troughton highlighted (or drew attention to) the fact that so many episodes in the archives were missing - The Krotons was the only complete 4-part Patrick Troughton story in the archives at that time (and there’s only been one more recovered since then). In 1981 Doctor Who Magazine published a list of what was missing from the archives, making the fact that so much of Doctor Who was missing in the archives public knowledge for the first time. The release of this information was a very dramatic event for many Doctor Who fans in 1981. But some fans didn’t accept this news passively - 1981 is also when the yearning for the recovery of missing episodes and the hunting for them began for so many fans, which still happenining even to this day…..
1981 ended with the broadcast of the first ever spin-off of Doctor Who - K9 and Company. Elisabeth Sladen and John Leeson were back, and nobody knew then that this was only to be the first of two spin-offs for Doctor Who that they would play their customary roles in together!
Something else happened in 1981 with Doctor Who which was very eventful for this writer. On October 29th 1981, I watched Doctor Who for the first time! The episode was The Pirate Planet Part 3 on its Thursday repeat (although I didn’t realize it was even being shown on Saturdays, at least for the first few weeks I watched). Hooked by the cliffhanger to that episode of the Doctor falling off the edge of a plank, I had to tune in next week to find out how the Doctor got out of it. And I’ve been hooked ever since…...
Posted by Luca on Friday, May 17 at 11:02 am
May 11, 2013
The Cybermen return in Nightmare in Silver, penned by Neil Gaiman and the first Cybermen story to feature “Silver” in the title and on going chess match in 25 years. Let us know your thoughts on the episode, and whether it was an upgrade on Silver Nemesis (or any other episode you care to compare it to).
Posted by Luca on Saturday, May 11 at 8:06 pm
May 10, 2013
The 1980’s! Doctor Who’s third different decade that it has existed in, and one that started so brightly. Not with the UK ratings, which saw the show take a ratings dive in large part because the BBC were now losing the Saturday ratings battle in general from new and networked competition. But 33 years later it’s really tough to care about ratings in one country too much when the quality of the episodes being made and shown were so incredibly high-quality. 33 years later one can watch the first season with new producer John Nathan-Turner at the helm (with Christopher H. Bidmead now script editing) and seeing a show that is trying very hard. There was a whole new musical style to the show (which included a new energetic version of the theme tune, but also all of the incidental music now done by the Radiophonic Workshop at the BBC). Whereas previous seasons usually only tended to feature one or two new writers per season, Season 18 featured as many as 5 stories that had new writers (including one script, Full Circle, written by a 17 year old fan, Andrew Smith - something that you’ll never see happen nowadays with the television series). The show had never looked more stylish, with an entire new set of directors used by John Nathan-Turner - Lovett Bickford, Paul Joyce and Peter Grimwade amongst them. It made for a fantastic set of episodes for Season 18, although only 16 of the 28 were broadcast in 1980 - the rest we’ll get to in the next entry, for 1981.
John-Nathan Turner wanted to take the show into the 1980’s and even 30-plus years later, when you watch Doctor Who from beginning to end (or rather, beginning to present day) you can still see what a great job he did. 1980 will always be remembered by Doctor Who fans as the year that JNT came on to the scene and put his stamp on the show.
Posted by Luca on Friday, May 10 at 10:53 pm
May 05, 2013
Dame Diana Rigg made her first ever Doctor Who appearance last night, and her first ever appearance alongside her daughter, Rachel Stirling. Meanwhile Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax featured for the third time. Tell us what you thought of The Crimson Horror - a sweet episode, or a did it cause your skin to go red?
Posted by Luca on Sunday, May 5 at 3:56 pm
May 03, 2013
1979 was the end of an era for Doctor Who in almost as many ways as had been the case in 1969. True, the decade didn’t end with a change of Doctor or broadcast colours as had happened in 1969, but, other than two episodes that were broadcast in early 1980, the Graham Williams era finished in 1979, as did Douglas Adams involvement in Doctor Who. The Delia Derbyshire theme arrangement and Dudley Simpson’s incidental music also finished at this time, two staples of the show that had been there since its inception (or near-inception in the case of Dudley Simpson - he’d “only” been there since 1964.
Not all of this was meant to happen this way - all of these elements should have gone well into the end of February 1980 with the broadcast of the six-part adventure Shada, but a BBC staff strike delayed production on the show that the original production dates were cancelled, and the BBC chose to prioritize its resources on getting other programmes back up to speed. It still seems incredible that the BBC would not choose to complete a 6 part partially-filmed story for 17 year old series that was now starting to earn the BBC a ton of cash in North America and was still garnering high ratings at home. (Technically it got the highest ratings ever in 1979, though that was because another atrike at ITV put the BBC’s only competition off the air for about three months, including two months where new episodes - namely the entirety of Destiny of the Daleks and City of Death) were being broadcast. Nobody knew it at the time but it was in retrospect a sign of things to come in terms of BBC Management of the brand. But despite the incomplete Shada being abandoned during 1979, there were still a fine run of stories that are probably liked by fandom more now than they were at the time. The show was continuing to garner momentun in North America and Tom Baker and Lalla Ward were stars in the UK. Here’s to the end of the very fine and successful decade for Doctor Who that was the 1970’s!
Posted by Luca on Friday, May 3 at 4:07 pm
The Doctor Who Blog's mission is to provide witty and insightful commentary on the world of Doctor Who in all its various forms. And to make several bad puns and references to jokes Tom Baker once made.
- 50 Glorious Years: Episode 22 - 1984
- The 12th Doctor
- 50 Glorious Years: Episode 21 - 1983
- 50 Glorious Years: Episode 20 - 1982
- The Name of the Doctor is…...
- 50 Glorious Years: Episode 19 - 1981
- Silver Upgrade
- 50 Glorious Years: Episode 18 - 1980
- Queen Crimson
- 50 Glorious Years: Episode 17 - 1979
- Come Along If You Dare
- 50 Glorious Years: Episode 16 - 1978
- Don’t Hide Your Feelings
- 50 Glorious Years: Episode 15 - 1977
- Ice, Ice, Very Nice