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[sticky post] Doctor Who and Me

My mother was 12 years old in 1963, when Doctor Who aired for the very first time. She watched the show, enjoyed it, and became a lifelong fan – maybe not the kind of fan who obsesses and writes fanfiction and memorises every detail, but the kind of fan who has now been watching the show for 50 years and counting, rarely missing an episode, so that Doctor Who was part of my consciousness from my earliest babyhood, because it was always on in our house. When Doctor Who stories began to be released on VHS, Mum invested in them – not many, because they were expensive and money was scarce, but over the years we built up a bank of maybe two dozen adventures, which were my introduction to the earlier Doctors, the ones who'd already ended their run before I was even born. Rather more affordable were the Target novelisations, and we built up a huge library of over 100 books, which I read over and over as a child. The videos gave me a voice and character for each Doctor, but the novelisations were my window to their adventures, and I loved them.

Introduction continued behind the cutCollapse )

The Review ProjectCollapse )

archive of older reviewsCollapse )

Coming soon - Power of the Daleks, The Highlanders, The Underwater Menace!


Smoke and Mirrors

Okay, I think I've got this out of my system now...

Title: Smoke and Mirrors
Author: llywela13
Show: Doctor Who
Characters: Harry Sullivan, Sarah Jane Smith
Spoilers: The Zygon Invasion / The Zygon Inversion
Summary: Companion piece to Z-67. The Doctor has asked for a favour; Harry and Sarah discuss over dessert
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: The Doctor, his TARDIS and his companions belong to the BBC. I have borrowed them for this story and am making no profit from this.

Story behind cutCollapse )


Title: Z-67
Show: Doctor Who
Characters: Twelfth Doctor, Osgood, Clara Oswald, Harry Sullivan (mentions thereof)
Spoilers: Missing scene from The Zygon Inversion. When the crisis is over, Osgood has a question to ask. Companion piece to Smoke and Mirrors
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: The Doctor, his TARDIS, his companions and his friends belong to the BBC. I have borrowed them for this story and am making no profit from this.

Story behind the cutCollapse )

First Doctor era Review Masterpost

My never-ending review project has reached the end of the First Doctor era! That's three-and-a-bit seasons, 29 adventures and 134 episodes – he certainly served his time. I won't say how long it has taken to get this far, writing reviews takes time and I have precious little of that available, each project taking its turn (before eventually, usually, fading away) but it's been nothing but fun, getting to know the original Doctor and his wonderful companions.

That's what this project is all about, really – getting to know every part of the Doctor and every one of his companions. I've seen almost every televised adventure now, but writing about them in-depth, in order, teases out details I might not otherwise have noticed, allows me to join the dots and build up a complete picture of who all these characters really were and what they actually experienced – which doesn't always bear much resemblance to what the received wisdom of collective memory might claim.

When I first started watching First Doctor adventures, I found, as do most newcomers to the classic show, that it was quite a culture shock, the television of 50 years ago so very different from what I've become accustomed to in the shows of today: different structure, different format, different production values and technology, different acting style, different pace, different dialogue patterns. It takes a bit of getting used to! But I found that I adapted quickly, growing enormously attached to the characters and gaining a whole new appreciation of the televisual pioneers of the 1960s along the way.

This era of the show, like every other, has its ups and downs. It was limited by the technology available at the time, and sometimes over-reached itself, its ambition greater than what could actually be achieved. Sometimes the pacing didn't quite work, or the dialogue was clunky. Sometimes the plot was a bit thin for the time available and had to be padded out, while other times perhaps there was a bit too much story to cram into the time available and the resolution was rushed. Sometimes the characters fell a bit flat, or were required by plot to do or say something out of character. But you know what? Every one of those criticisms could also be aimed at every other era of the show, including the current one. Nothing made by man is perfect, after all. So yes, this era has its flaws, but the whole is immeasurably greater than the sum of its parts.

There is just something wonderfully fresh about this era of the show, back before a dense mythology had grown up around it, back when everything was new – there's such freedom here, as the show explores its concept for the first time, pushing boundaries and discovering what Doctor Who is capable of. There are some fantastic characters in this era, and they have some incredible adventures. Susan, Ian, Barbara, Vicki, Steven, Katarina, Sara, Dodo, Ben, Polly not to mention the Doctor himself – it is well worth the effort of acclimating to the style and technology of the era for the sake of getting to know them.

Below is a masterpost of reviews and banners for the First Doctor era:

Masterpost of links and bannersCollapse )

Phew! Now onto the Second Doctor era!

4.02 The Tenth Planet

First Doctor with Ben and Polly
Follows on from Season One, Season Two, Season Three and The Smugglers

DOCTOR: This old body of mine is wearing a bit thin.


So here we are. After 29 adventures told across 134 episodes, the First Doctor's time finally comes to an end, and with it comes the greatest innovation in the history of Doctor Who: the introduction of the concept of regeneration, the ailing Doctor renewing himself by means of a complete physical transformation so that the adventure ends with our first glimpse of Patrick Troughton's Second Doctor. The success of this gambit ensured the longevity of the show and is the foremost reason it is still with us today.

Three out of four episodes of this adventure still exist to be viewed as originally intended – but of course it would be the fourth episode that is missing, the one with the regeneration. A clip containing the crucial last minutes of the episode, the regeneration scene, has managed to survive, however, and is available to be viewed, while the missing fourth episode is one of only a handful that have been animated for a DVD release, the animation matched to the original soundtrack.

With Hartnell's ailing Doctor sidelined for a chunk of the adventure, new companions Ben and Polly are called on to carry large portions of this story, which they manage well – this is their third adventure, but their first encounter with aliens, as The Tenth Planet sees the introduction of the show's second-most iconic monsters: the Cybermen. This is also the first real 'base under siege' story of the show, a format that would become a particular staple of the Troughton era.

Another point worth noting, for interest and amusement: the televised story The Tenth Planet is set in the year 1986. The novelisation of the story, written around 20 years later at about the time it should have been taking place, sets it instead in the year 2000… but then the novelisation of the following story, Power of the Daleks, refers back to this one but sets it in 1996!

The plot, in a nutshell, is this: the Doctor, Ben and Polly arrive at a remote base in the South Pole in the near future, just in time to face an invasion of Cybermen, who plan to suck the Earth dry and convert its population. With the Doctor taken ill and fading fast, can his inexperienced companions save the day?

Writer – Kit Pedler, Gerry Davis
Director – Derek Martinus
Script editor – Gerry Davies
Producer – Innes Lloyd


Random thoughts while watching:

Episode OneCollapse )

Episode TwoCollapse )

Episode ThreeCollapse )

Episode FourCollapse )

Quotable QuotesCollapse )

The Verdict

Well, the science may be more than a little dodgy, but overall and taken as a whole I love this adventure: it's a strong story, tightly plotted, full of interesting characters and conflicts, with excellent characterisation and world-building. A high note for the First Doctor to go out on, sad though I am to see him go.

I particularly enjoy Ben and Polly in this. They've been a great addition to the show, adapting well to being whisked away into time and space. It's noteworthy that they have been shown operating independently of the Doctor in all their adventures so far, while, like Ian and Barbara before them, their primary relationship is with each other rather than with the Doctor. Both gave a strong showing of themselves here, Ben in particular. They are fantastic companions, highly adaptable, resourceful and inventive, never giving up. I'm looking forward now to seeing how they get on with the new Doctor!

4.01 The Smugglers

First Doctor with Ben and Polly
Follows on from Season One, Season Two and Season Three

POLLY: When are we going to land?
DOCTOR: I don't know. That's the cause of half my troubles through my journeys. I never know.


Season four of Doctor Who opens not with a bang but a whimper, as the four-part adventure The Smugglers is completely missing and can be experienced only as an audio soundtrack or fan-made reconstruction. This sets the tone for the season to follow, as, out of nine adventures, four are completely missing and five partially missing, with not a single complete story to leaven the mix. It is the hardest hit season of the show, in missing episodes terms.

The second-last pure historical of the 1960s, filmed as part of the third season block and then held over as the season four opener, a few Australian censor clips and telesnaps, along with the soundtrack, are all that survive of The Smugglers. Following on from the extensive location shooting around the street of London for The War Machines, The Smugglers was the first Doctor Who story to feature major location shooting outside of London, substantial portions of the story being filmed down in Cornwall, and a bit of amateur on-location colour film footage recorded behind-the-scenes during production at Trethewey Farm in Cornwall also survives.

It was during production of this serial that the decision was made not to renew William Hartnell's contract, after months of ill-health and behind-the-scenes turmoil.

The plot, in a nutshell, is this: landing on the Cornish coast in the 17th century, the Doctor and his new companions Ben and Polly find themselves enmeshed in the struggle between a local smuggling ring and a ruthless band of pirates on a quest for buried treasure.

Writer – Brian Hayles
Director – Julia Smith
Script editor – Gerry Davis
Producer – Innes Lloyd
Aired – 10 September–1 October 1966


Random thoughts while watching:

Episode OneCollapse )

Episode TwoCollapse )

Episode ThreeCollapse )

Episode FourCollapse )

Quotable QuotesCollapse )

The Verdict

Overall and taken as a whole, The Smugglers is a story that many people tend to overlook, and I can see why. Although engaging enough, with what sound like spirited performances by both regulars and guest cast, it's a very slight story, really. As a pure historical, it lacks an iconic monster or villain to capture the imagination, and it also sort of falls between two stools, in pure historical terms, lacking either the outright comedy of The Romans and The Myth Makers or the pseudo-Shakespearean quality that makes stories like Marco Polo and The Crusade so special. It's a decent story, full of subtle jokes and humorous dialogue, with an interesting historical setting and plenty going on, but it doesn't stand out in the way that some adventures do. That, really, is its only crime, however, and perhaps if the visuals still existed it would be better regarded. As an introduction to Ben and Polly as full-blown companions, it does its job well, giving both plenty to do so that we get to know them a little better. I enjoyed it – a solid start to the fourth season of the show.

Doctor Who Season 3 overview

Season One, Season Two

Season 3 brings me almost to the end of the First Doctor era, closing with the Doctor just two adventures away from his first regeneration.

When I began this journey, I did not expect to fall so much in love with this era of the show, but the First Doctor and Susan, and Ian and Barbara, and Vicki and Steven and the others have well and truly won me over. The seeds of every Doctor there has ever been can be found in William Hartnell's performance – he is the Doctor, the pattern for every incarnation after him. Very much of its time, his era isn't always easy viewing for an audience accustomed to modern stylings and slick production values, but if you commit yourself to taking that journey with him and hook into the characters along the way, it really is a fantastic ride, an age when almost anything could happen. Although at times the show could be over-ambitious, the limitations of the cramped little studios often worked in favour of the drama, as, without sophisticated special effects to fall back on, there was much greater emphasis on characters, dialogue, drama and tension. Equally, while we are so accustomed to dramatic shortcuts now that it is easy to become frustrated by the slow pace of this storytelling, there is something only too relatable about seeing the characters struggling to overcome the obstacles they encounter along the way, rather than simply glossing over them to save time. There were no quick fixes in this era of the show, no shortcuts and no easy way out, the characters had to work through their adventures on their own wits in a way that brings their fantastic adventures right back down to Earth.

Of Hartnell's three complete seasons, the third is the weakest and there's no getting away from that. Those ten adventures, told over 45 episodes, were a time of transition for the show, both behind and in front of the camera, and it was very much a season of two halves as the departure of the show's pioneering first producer, Verity Lambert, ushered in a new era, leading to an experimental, more light-hearted and less character-focused second half of the season. The cast, meanwhile, went through a period of rapid turnover, swapping Vicki for Katarina for Sara for Dodo in the space of just four adventures. Space pilot Steven was the constant figure at the Doctor's side through all this, carrying entire adventures virtually single-handed, an absolute stalwart through some turbulent times, but he too had departed before season's end, while yet another change in the season finale saw granddaughter-figure Dodo exchanged for the trendy young adult pairing of Ben and Polly to launch a new era going into the new season ahead.

3.01 Galaxy 4
3.02 Mission to the Unknown
3.03 The Myth Makers
3.04 The Daleks' Master Plan
3.05 The Massacre
3.06 The Ark
3.07 The Celestial Toymaker
3.08 The Gunfighters
3.09 The Savages
3.10 The War Machines

3.10 The War Machines

First Doctor with Dodo, Ben and Polly
Follows on from Season One, Season Two, Galaxy Four, Mission to the Unknown, The Myth Makers, The Daleks' Master Plan, The Massacre, The Ark, The Celestial Toymaker, The Gunfighters and The Savages

DOCTOR: The official mind can only take in so much at a time.


Like The Time Meddler before it, The War Machines closes the season out with the dawn of a whole new era for the show, as, following on from Steven's departure in The Savages, the companion baton now passes from granddaughter-figure Dodo to the trendy young adult pairing of Ben and Polly. I always feel bad for Dodo, because there was plenty of potential in her bubbly, light-hearted personality and actress Jackie Lane tried her hardest with weak material, but the character was poorly conceived from the start and never really recovered. Ben and Polly, on the other hand, are instantly engaging. They sparkle, both as individuals and as a pairing, full of promise to take into the new season.

Dodo's poorly written departure is the main weakness, for me, in what is otherwise an entertaining outing for the Doctor, these last two adventures a real return to form for Hartnell after a season marred by behind-the-scenes strife. There's a very fresh, new feel about this adventure, which is quite different from anything that's gone before. It's the first Doctor Who story ever to be set in present-day London, with lots of fabulous location filming to set the scene, and also sees the Doctor, here at his most proactive, working in partnership with the authorities in a way that's almost proto-UNIT – in that sense, the story is years ahead of its time, even if the concept of a sentient computer running amuck isn't exactly original.

After so many missing episodes and recons, it is a real relief to be able to round out the season with four complete episodes. This is the last complete serial of the Hartnell era and the only complete serial of Ben and Polly's too-brief time on the show.

The plot, in a nutshell, is this: landing in London in 1966, Dodo is glad to be home, while the Doctor learns that a powerful computer has set its sights on world domination and enlists the aid of new companions Ben and Polly to save the day.

Writer – Ian Stuart Black / Kit Pedler
Director – Michael Ferguson
Script editor – Gerry Davis
Producer – Innes Lloyd
Aired – 25 June-16 July 1966


Random thoughts while watching:

Episode OneCollapse )

Episode TwoCollapse )

Episode ThreeCollapse )

Episode FourCollapse )

The Verdict

Overall and taken as a whole, I really, really enjoy this adventure – it feels so fresh and new, its current-day setting and location filming a real departure from the norm. I love how energised the Doctor is, how much he enjoys himself throughout, taking charge and making himself thoroughly at home even while only passing through. Dodo's poorly written departure is the one sour note, but in contrast I thoroughly enjoy her replacements, Ben and Polly. Of the two, Ben is the better established by the end of the adventure, having received the lion's share of the development – aided and abetted by having been himself throughout while Polly spent half the story under hypnosis. What we did see of the non-mind controlled Polly was a delight, however, and while my inner feminist calls it a shame to see the women side-lined while Ben builds up a strong working partnership with the Doctor, on the other hand, since women have over the years since been predominant as companions, I enjoy seeing the Doctor operating with a male sidekick for a time.

Big thumbs up for this one.

The Planet at the End of the Universe

Summary: All together aboard the TARDIS once more, Sarah's feeling complacent about life as a time traveller, Harry's in denial, and the Doctor is only too glad of an excuse not to return to Earth when a distress call takes the trio to a remote planet at the far edge of the universe, where an isolated survey team has fallen prey to a mysterious malevolent force.

Title: The Planet at the End of the Universe
Show: Classic Doctor Who
Characters: Fourth Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith, Harry Sullivan
Rating: PG
Wordcount: 48,888 - 8/8 chapters, complete
Disclaimer: Not so much alternate universe as universe alteration, this story is (very) loosely based on the season 13 serial Planet of Evil, written by Louis Marks – a re-imagining of what it might have been like if Harry had returned to the TARDIS instead of staying on Earth at the end of the previous adventure. All characters herein belong to the BBC, along with the original concept and anything else that seems familiar. I have borrowed them for this story and am making no profit from this.
Author's Note: Although loosely based on Planet of Evil, this is not actually a re-telling of that story, partly because adding another companion alters both the dynamic and the flow of events, but mainly because although the Doctor and Sarah are as cute as all heck in Planet of Evil, I've never been overly fond of the story itself, so here I've simply taken the core concept and constructed a new plot on top of it.

The story can be read at AO3 or at Whofic.com