Tuesday 30 November 2010

008 The Daleks Part 4: The Ambush

EPISODE: The Daleks Part 4: The Ambush
TRANSMITTED: 11 January 1964
WRITER: Terry Nation
DIRECTOR: Christopher Barry
SCRIPT EDITOR: David Whitaker
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
FORMAT: DVD - The Beginning Boxset

The Tardis crew make their escape with Ian first operating and then trapped in a Dalek casing. Another variant Dalek appears here with a flame cutting device replacing the sucker arm. However the Thals are entering the city,lured by a note the Daleks made Susan write.

"Make no attempt to capture them. They are to be Exterminated!"

Yup, the first appearance of the Daleks catch phrase. The Thals are lured into an ambush where the Thal leader exterminated, the very first Dalek victim. Another first later in the episode: as the Thals relate the history of their war they name their planet as Skaro.

The Doctor wants to leave as soon as possible but they discover the Fluid Link, the component the Doctor removed from the Tardis, has been left in the city. They must go back for it if they want to escape.

A key part of the Daleks is the voice, easily imitated in the playground. The Dalek voice artists in this story and several of their subsequent appearances are Peter Hawkins & David Graham, both of whom you'll have heard in many other places.

Peter Hawkins was the voice artist behind Bill & Ben and Captain Pugwash. He was the first voice of Zippy from Rainbow - this isn't the last time we'll be hearing from Rainbow, and indeed Zippy. He was one of the original Cyberman voices in The Tenth Planet. He provided the voice of Frankie Mouse in the original radio series of the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy.

David Graham is probably most famous for Thunderbirds where he provided the voices of Parker, Brains, Gordon Tracy, and Kyrano. He had voice roles in many other Gerry Anderson series. He has two on screen appearances in Doctor Who, most prominently as the scientist Kerensky in City of Death. My four year old son, however, knows him best as Grandpa Pig in Peppa Pig & The Wise Old Elf in Ben & Holly's Little Kingdom.

Monday 29 November 2010

007 The Daleks Part 3: The Escape

EPISODE: The Daleks Part 3: The Escape
TRANSMITTED: 04 January 1964
WRITER: Terry Nation
DIRECTOR: Richard Martin
SCRIPT EDITOR: David Whitaker
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
FORMAT: DVD - The Beginning Boxset

The Thals turn out not to be hideous mutations but instead are tall blond and handsome and supply Susan with enough drugs for the Tardis crew and the Daleks. The Thals are here because their crops are failing. The Daleks decide to deceive the Tardis crew to lure the Thals into a trap. Realising they've been duped and are being monitored the Tardis crew immobilise the monitor, plot then successfully execute the immobilisation of a Dalek.

Yes, most of the Tardis crew spend the whole episode in a cell. Yes, the Thals look a bunch of weak & simple fools. But the episode holds the attention right the way through, especially every moment the Daleks are on screen.

We get our first adapted Dalek in this episode, one with a tray replacing the sucker arm.

Towards the end the look of revulsion on the Doctor & Ian's faces as they open the Dalek, followed by the final shot of the claw projecting from under the cloak emphasise that the Daleks aren't machines there is something awful inside it.

Two men are really responsible for the creation of the Daleks: Terry Nation & Raymond Cusick.

Terry Nation wrote the first Dalek story. He'd been working as a gag writer for Tony Hancock and nearly didn't take the job but suddenly finding himself without employment he decided to take the gig and cunningly kept his share of the rights to the Daleks and in the process made his fortune on the back of a wealth of Dalek merchandise issued over the years. Terry Nation would return to write for the series again and again over the years and would also create Survivors and Blake's Seven for the BBC.

Raymond Cusick was the staff designer at the BBC eventually allocated to the second Doctor Who story. It was he who came up with the Dalek design based on a brief description. A testament to the design is that it was barely altered over the original series of Doctor Who. In the first two stories they look a little different with rings around their middle instead of the more familiar upright slats that are introduced in the Chase. Interestingly Cusick wasn't the first designer allocated to the story. A schedule clash prevented the originally assigned designer, Ridley Scott, from doing the job.

Sunday 28 November 2010

006 The Daleks Part 2: The Survivors

EPISODE: The Daleks Part 2: The Survivors
TRANSMITTED: 28 December 1963
WRITER: Terry Nation
DIRECTOR: Christopher Barry
SCRIPT EDITOR: David Whitaker
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
FORMAT: DVD - The Beginning Boxset

This is the episode that changed everything.

The Doctor, Ian & Susan find out the truth about the radiation level and the Doctor reveals his sabotage so he can see the city walking out of the control room they encounter machine creatures.... The Daleks! The Daleks temporarily paralyse Ian for trying to escape throwing them into a cell with Barbara.

"Ian, do you think they really are just machines? Do you think there's someone inside them?"

The Daleks are totally different to anything seen before. They're not obviously a man in a suit and for many years people believed they were remote controlled.

Cut to the Daleks Control Room: we get the heartbeat noise which does persist to this day. The Daleks believe the travellers are Thals, but when convinced otherwise tell the Doctor the history of the planet. The Doctor agrees to fetch some drugs that they found at the Tardis and Susan ends up making the journey.

Oh dear, another set of running while being whipped with plants!

This episode is soooo quiet in places, I've got the sound on the TV right up!

This holds the attention right the way through, a cut above the previous four episodes.

As we've already said, this episode was recorded the night that president Kennedy was shot! I had to wait till 1992 to see it all the way through when it was bought for me for Christmas..... and I got two copies,one from my parents and one from my friends. The parents copy went back in exchange for something else, I remember not what!

Sydney Newman, one of the television executives instrumental inn the creation of Doctor Who - see the Origins documentary on Doctor Who - The Beginning DVD Boxset - famously said he wanted no "bug eyed monsters" in his television show. When he saw the Daleks he exploded, but the Producer, Verity Lambert, convinced him that these were different and he allowed himself to be over-ruled. Interviewed on the subject he said he didn't want to do the Daleks and didn't want to do the Forsythe saga which shows how good a television producer he was!

Years later, Newman & Lambert would donate their first names to the fictional parents of the human doctor in Human Nature.

Saturday 27 November 2010

005 The Daleks Part 1: The Dead Planet

EPISODE: The Daleks Part 1: The Dead Planet
TRANSMITTED: 21 December 1963
WRITER: Terry Nation
DIRECTOR: Christopher Barry
SCRIPT EDITOR: David Whitaker
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
FORMAT: DVD - The Beginning Boxset

We have an odd effect at the beginning of this episode that every time I see it makes me think my TV has gone wrong. Then Fluffing Billy makes up for the previous four episodes with wonders such as "Chesterfield" and "Semi Solidified" when talking about the beast (more follows) which looks like it's stood on a garden barbeque built of breeze blocks! Going back to the Tardis just holds the story up with a lot of mucking about with the food machine. Eventually we get to go to the city thanks to some sabotage from the Doctor.

The city model itself is great and the episode picks up in the last few minutes as we reach the futuristic city. Oooooh, that door noise is superb, still occasionally used today. NOOOO, Don't split up! Everyone's starting to feel ill by this point as they realise Barbara's missing. She runs round the city, and is taken in a lift down to a lower level where she's menaced by an unseen creature with a robotic arm.....

You'll remember that I saw all four parts of the first Doctor Who story when it was broadcast as part of the Five Faces of Doctor Who season in 1981. Here's how I came to see the next episode: I went to secondary school in 1984, Greycourt School in Ham, Richmond. My maths teacher for the first year was one Stephen Payne, who we discovered was a Doctor Who fan (I later learned he was the first Doctor Who Appreciation Society president). He left at Christmas 1985 to run full time his publishing company, Visual Imagination, which had acquired the rights to publish Starburst magazine from Marvel. Before he left he asked us if there was any old Doctor Who we'd like to say. We said the first Dalek story. So one lunch time, after wrestling with the school TV set in Lab 3 we settled down to watch The Dead Planet.... and I was bored out my skull. It's sooooooo slow. To make matters worse due to problems setting up we barely made it into episode 2 and never reached the good bit..... But I had by then seen the first five episodes of Doctor Who. It would be another seven years before I stretched this run to the first Eleven episodes.

The Daleks is the second episode of Doctor Who to be recorded twice. The first recording was plagued by a technical fault that caused backstage voices to be recorded, so the episode was remounted a few weeks later. The original recording does not survive, save for a few seconds used in the recap at the start of the next episode.

Great debate exists about the overall story titles of some of the Hartnell series. This story has been referred to as "The Daleks" (obviously), "The Dead Planet" (after the first episode) and "The Mutants" (as the name exists on some BBC paperwork) This last name fell out of favour in the 1970s when the Jon Pertwee story The Mutants was broadcast (DVD pre-orders for that story coincidentally went up yesterday). You might not agree with the overall titles I use but they are the names on the DVD, VHS & CD cases so that gives them some authenticity. The Doctor Who Target Books range did occasionally change the name of the story for publication (The Cybermen, Auton Invasion, Cave Monsters, Doomsday Weapon, The Dinosaur Invasion, Giant Robot and Loch Ness Monster all have different titles when broadcast on the screen) which creates even more confusion!

Friday 26 November 2010

004 An Unearthly Child Part 4: The Firemaker

EPISODE: An Unearthly Child Part 4: The Firemaker
TRANSMITTED: 14 December 1963
WRITER: Anthony Coburn
DIRECTOR: Waris Hussein
SCRIPT EDITOR: David Whitaker
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
FORMAT: DVD - The Beginning Boxset

"This knife is a bad knife. It does not say what it does"
"It's a better knife than yours!"

A fabby exchange between the Doctor & Kal exposes who killed the old woman. Ian then makes fire for the tribe. Kal kills the guard on the cave the Tardis crew are once again imprisoned in before becoming victim number 3 in a fight with Za. Then we get the fabulous image of the skulls on fire as the Tardis crew fake their deaths and escape, a chase where the crew get whipped with plants while pretending to run for the first time and we get our first glimpse of the Tardis dematerialising. Finding themselves on a new planet the Tardis crew go to clean themselves up before venturing out to gather data. But they're not noticing the radiation meter, that previously showed safe, edge up into the danger zone and flash out a warning.

It was here we left the narrative in 1981's Five Faces season. Personally I'd have loved to have seen what happened next in The Dead Planet, because I knew what was waiting there. I would see it just five years later (more on that tomorrow), but I wonder now if Five Faces might have worked better showing just An Unearthly Child on day 1 and then devoting the next three days and all of the next week to the second Doctor Who story.

Hmmm. What was shown on Fridays instead of Doctor Who during those weeks? Would Monkey have been on then?

Thursday 25 November 2010

003 An Unearthly Child Part 3: The Forest of Fear

EPISODE: An Unearthly Child Part 3: The Forest of Fear
TRANSMITTED: 07 December 1963
WRITER: Anthony Coburn
DIRECTOR: Waris Hussein
SCRIPT EDITOR: David Whitaker
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
FORMAT: DVD - The Beginning Boxset

So we escape from cave, with help from the old woman in the tribe who doesn't want the tribe to have fire who then becomes the first death in Doctor Who, struggle through jungle, reach Tardis and then get ambushed. Plotwise it doesn't advance the story much and effectively returns everyone to where they were at the start of the story.

A word for some of the behind the scenes personnel: Verity Lambert is both the only female and youngest producer at the BBC. Waris Hussein is the youngest and only Asian director on the staff. For 1963 this is a huge change from the norm at the BBC. For the writer, Anthony Coburn, this story is his only contribution to the series. Hussein would only direct one more story, though he was invited back to direct the 1983 anniversary special, and Lambert would be gone in two years to an illustrious television career including Euston films, Minder and Jonathan Creek.

The two talents that worked on An Unearthly Child that would be associated with Doctor Who for the longest period of time are the Script Editor, David Whitaker, who would write for the program many times after leaving his post, and the production assistant, Douglas Camfield, who would shortly find himself elevated to director. It's interesting that Hussein's production assistant is Camfield, who later directs many stories and uses Graeme Harper as his PA, who in turn directs for both the old and new series of Doctor Who. It's also interesting to note that Derek Newark, who plays Za, the lead caveman, returns to Doctor Who in a later Camfield production, Inferno.

Wednesday 24 November 2010

002 An Unearthly Child Part 2: The Cave of Skulls

EPISODE: An Unearthly Child Part 2: The Cave of Skulls
TRANSMITTED: 30 November 1963
WRITER: Anthony Coburn
DIRECTOR: Waris Hussein
SCRIPT EDITOR: David Whitaker
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
FORMAT: DVD - The Beginning Boxset

Oh it's a cavemen..... watching in 1981 I think I was disappointed to find that the shadow wasn't some alien creature! But back in 1963 Doctor Who had a semi educational brief to show historical situations. So we travel back in time to when Cavemen are learning to make fire, which is the foundation of almost all technology today. In 1981 it bored me to tears, lots of talking about fire and getting menaced by cavemen, it's not even on the same planet as the previous episode.

We do get the famous "Doctor Foreman", "Doctor Who?" exchange between the Doctor and Ian, while Ian & Barbara discuss the mystery of who the old man is. Following a throw away line in an Unearthly Child about having found a spare part we now discover that the Tardis instruments are faulty and what's more it's stuck as a police box where it's meant to change.

You might think it odd now, but the first Doctor Who book wasn't the first Doctor Who story - that honour belongs to Doctor Who and the Daleks. It would be many years before An Unearthly Child was novelised, in 1981, as a tie in to the Five Faces season. Similarly it's not the first story on video (Revenge of the Cybermen) or DVD (The Five Doctors). Non fans (and some actual fans) struggle with Doctor Who not being released in order......

Tuesday 23 November 2010

001 An Unearthly Child Part 1: An Unearthly Child

EPISODE: An Unearthly Child Part 1: An Unearthly Child
TRANSMITTED: 23 November 1963
WRITER: Anthony Coburn
DIRECTOR: Waris Hussein
SCRIPT EDITOR: David Whitaker
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
FORMAT: DVD - The Beginning Boxset

I love the start of Doctor Who. We have the familiar: A policeman walking down a street on patrol walking past a junkyard whose door opens to reveal a Police Box inside.... a Police Box that hums. Now today a Police Box is Doctor Who, in 1963 they were a common sight on UK streets. Then a school, this is after all a children's series and nothing would be more familiar to children than a school. Two teachers, Barbara Wright (History) and Ian Chesterton (Science) have concerns about a pupil, Susan Foreman, and decide to investigate. Talking together in the car they share their experiences teaching Susan with each other which highlights what an odd pupil she is. Following her home she goes into the Junkyard we saw earlier and decide to follow....

A line of dialogue spring out at me. Barbara: "I feel frightened, as if we're about to interfere in something best left alone" Wonderful foreshadowing of what's going to happen. Of course we know what they'll find in there and what that will lead to but viewers in 1963 wouldn't.

The Police Box inside hums as if alive..... and in through the door behind them walks an old man. Ian & Barbara, hiding from him, hear Susan call out to him from within the telephone box and address him as Grandfather.... After an exchange with "Grandfather" they hear her call out again, forcing their way in through the doors....

Within the find a huge control room, far bigger than the Police Box that contains it. Susan and her Grandfather are from another planet in the future, travelling through space & time in the Tardis, exiles from their own time & people. Grandfather wants to imprison Ian & Barbara in the Tardis to stop them revealing it's existence, Susan wants to let them go. In trying to escape Ian electrocutes himself on the Tardis console. Susan and Grandfather argue about what to do in the course of which Grandfather activates the Tardis which takes off, rendering the teachers unconscious.

The Tardis/Police Box now stands on some sand with a shadow being cast towards it....

It's a brilliant 25 minutes of television slowly dragging you in from the familiar into this odd other world. Even if you understood what's going on as you watch it you've no idea where the Tardis is at the end, just the ominous NEXT EPISODE: THE CAVE OF SKULLS caption before you as a hint.

My first encounter with An Unearthly Child was on Monday 2 November 1981 when it was repeated at the opening of BBC2's Five Faces of Doctor Who season. That's not it's first repeat though: it was shown again on Saturday 30/11/1963 just before the broadcast of the second episode of the first Doctor Who serial.

There's a couple of odd little details in this episode that would have been missed by original viewers and both are found in Miss Wright's class room. The band Susan is listening to are John Smith & The Commonmen: Years later the Doctor would start using John Smith as a regular alias. Susan is left reading a book on the French revolution. Less than nine months later the Tardis would be materialising in France at that same point in history for the crew to witness the events at first hand.

And having now watched the Pilot & An Unearthly Child in close proximity to each other I can see lots of differences.

I got the video of An Unearthly Child while at University. We watched it for the RHBNC Sci Fi Society (IFIS) Doctor Who Thirtieth Anniversary Video Night in November 1993 (along with Destiny of the Daleks & Earthshock) and I think I've watched it every year on November 23rd since then. So it's quite possible that I've seen an Unearthly Child more than any other episode of Doctor Who. In this case familiarity has not bred contempt: I still love it to bits.

If you've not seen An Unearthly Child then buy Doctor Who - The Beginning Boxset. It's in the Amazon DVD sale mentioned bellow for £8.99 and for that you get the Pilot Episode, the 4 part Unearthly Child, 7 part the Daleks and 2 part Edge of Destruction. That's 75p an episode. In fact I'd be interested to hear if anyone reading hasn't seen it.

Anyway, 47 years ago today Doctor Who started. Happy Anniversary everyone!

Monday 22 November 2010

Christmas is Coming ......

.... and the Trailer for the 2010 Doctor Who Christmas special is up on YouTube!

000: "The Pilot Episode"

EPISODE: Pilot Episode
TRANSMITTED: 26 August 1991
WRITER: Anthony Coburn (and CE Webber)
DIRECTOR: Waris Hussein
SCRIPT EDITOR: David Whitaker
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
FORMAT: DVD - The Beginning Boxset

With all the Doctor Who material missing from the archives, it's a miracle that this survives. Recorded Friday 27th September, the tape contains one version of the episode up until the point they enter the Tardis, a complete version of the Tardis scenes, an aborted start to the second attempt to record these scenes and a complete second take of the Tardis scenes. Sydney Newman, the BBC's head of Drama, wasn't happy with what he saw and ordered the pilot to be reshot and that recording, made on the 18th October, became An Unearthly Child as we know it today.

A film recording of the pilot languished in the BBC archives for many years until 1977 when Ian Levene was purchasing stories from the BBC. During the course of his visits to the film library in Windmill Road he discovered that one of their copies of An Unearthly Child had a different length and on viewing it found it was the pilot version.

The pilot has an interesting release history. It first appears on the Hartnell Years VHS where the first half is edited together with the second full take of the second half. On the 26th August 1991 it was shown on the BBC for the first time (if memory serves this was part of Lime Grove Day, celebrating the famous BBC studios where the pilot was filmed). This version uses the first half with the first take of the Tardis scenes. The complete version including both takes was first released as part of the Edge of Destruction VHS in 2000. In 2006 it features twice in the Doctor Who: The Beginning DVD set. There's a complete version of all recorded footage and optional commentary, plus a newly edited version from all of the takes. Unfortunately the newly edited version is accidentally included at the start of the Play All option on the Unearthly Child DVD when it should have just been part of the special features.

As for what I think..... well it's so similar to an Unearthly Child it's hard to pick them apart. Yes there's a few technical problems here and there: the thump & wobble as the camera hits something zooming in on Ian & Barbara touching the Tardis, the Tardis doors struggling to close and banging against the walls. Plus there's a higher than average crop of artists fluffing their lines here: Susan mucks up the change in John Smith & The Commonmen's chart position, Barbara stumbles over her lines in the car. There's usually some problems like these in most 60s Doctor Who which was filmed as live. The surprise here is that Fluffing Billy doesn't join in and delivers all his lines perfectly! But watch take 1 of the pilot carefully and you'll see him groping Carol Anne Ford a few minutes from the end!

The actual differences are small: the Rorschach style inkblot isn't in the final version, the pop music coming out of the Tardis, Susan wears a futuristic outfit in the Tardis scenes, the odd sound effects at the start of the Tardis dematerialising......

If an Unearthly Child, the real version, didn't exist and this did (or vice versa) we'd be wondering what the difference is, while accepting what we had. But I'd happily trade this in for one of the missing episodes (Tenth Planet 4 for example) because of how close it is to the finished product. I suspect this view won't be held by everyone though!

Join us tomorrow as we look at what was actually seen on 23 November 1963.

I'd be remiss if I didn't say that Forty Seven years ago today president Kennedy was shot in Dallas, Texas at around 6:30pm UK time. At the point the news spread, the cast of Doctor Who were in the studio about to record the second episode of the second story, The Survivors, which introduces The Daleks to the world. The BBC suspended it's planned television schedules to cover the event, resuming the next day with the first episode of a new science fiction series....

Sunday 21 November 2010

The Long Game

Someone asked me yesterday how long this will take me to do.....

Well if I stick to my schedule, which includes K9 & Company, the McGann Movie and Shada, then there's 703 episodes to watch which will take me to 25/10/2012.

Some notable landmarks on the way:

First Dalek episode: Episode 5 on 27/11/2010 (yes, that early!)
First episode missing from video archive: Episode 14 on 06/12/2010
First Cybermen episode: Episode 131 on 02/04/2011
First Patrick Troughton episode : Episode 135 on 06/04/2011
Last episode missing from video archive: Episode 243 on 23/07/2011
First Jon Pertwee & First Colour episode: Episode 254 on 03/08/2011
First Tom Baker episode: Episode 382 on 09/12/2011
First Peter Davison episode: Episode 561 on 05/06/2012
First Colin Baker episode: Episode 630 on 13/08/2012
First Sylvester McCoy episode: Episode 661 on 13/09/2012
McGann Movie: Episode 703 on 25/10/2012

The CDs of DEATH!

Alongside the DVD range we have the missing episodes CDs. In the early 90s several stories with missing episodes were released on tape and were HUGE sellers, but vanished without trace after just a few releases. It's possible this may have something to so with a certain story being scheduled for release and then being returned to the BBC archives.....

Late in the 1990s the BBC started releasing missing stories again with narration recorded by one of the companions in the stories. Over several years every story that was missing or partially missing was released on CD making a complete set of Doctor Who available for the first time. The stories available in this format are:

Marco Polo
The Reign of Terror
The Crusade
Galaxy Four
Mission to the Unknown
The Myth Makes
The Dalek Masterplan
The Massacre
The Celestial Toymaker
The Smugglers
The Tenth Planet
The Power of the Daleks
The Highlanders
Underwater Menace
The Moonbase
Macra Terror
Faceless Ones
Evil of the Daleks
Abominable Snowmen
Ice Warriors
Enemy of the World
Web of Fear
Fury from the Deep
Wheel in Space
The Invasion
The Space Pirates

Curiously the range continued after they completed the stories that were missing:

Space Museum
The Ark
War Machines
The Tomb of the Cybermen
The Ambassadors of Death
Mind of Evil
Curse of Peladon
Sea Devils
Warriors of the Deep(!)

These stories have all been released despite existing in their entirety. By my reckoning that means all of seasons three, four and five are available on CD.

Saturday 20 November 2010

Here's the plan......


I've been thinking about how I'm going to do this. I've got a format for the top of my posts which looks a bit like this:

EPISODE: Destiny of the Daleks: Part One
TRANSMITTED: 01 September 1979
WRITER: Terry Nation
DIRECTOR: Ken Grieve
SCRIPT EDITOR: Douglas Adams
PRODUCER: Graham Williams

FORMAT: DVD - Destiny Of The Daleks

All the basic information for the episode plus an opportunity to click through and buy the story where it's still available. I've written an Excel model to generate the HTML for me and harvested the data from various websites. The excel model has already told me one interesting fact: If I stick to schedule, which involves K9 & Company between Logopolis & Castrovalva, Time & the Rani 2 will be the only episode, apart from An Unearthly Child, that I'll watch on the day it was broadcast. But I'm willing to bet we'll have slipped a bit by then!

After that I'm going to talk. Obviously I'll try to say something about the episode in question but since I'm not playing Just A Minute there will be some deviation round the subject to talk about people in it, who made it, anything connected with the episode and anything else it brings to mind. And I can't be done for repetition either so some subjects may keep coming up. Please forgive any hesitation if I miss a day or so here and there.

I'm hoping to get a few other people involved on the way. My wife Liz will probably be making frequent appearances, but maybe not that regularly until we get to the colour episodes ("I don't like Black & White!"). And seeing as I have some friends who like their Doctor Who some of them might be showing up too from time to time.

I'll be referring to a few books too. Wiped! Doctor Who's Missing Episodes by Richard Molesworth and Doctor Who on Location by Richard Bignell are both likely to pop up regularly. If you're a Doctor Who fan you need both books.

I'd be failing in my duty if I didn't point you at Amazon's Doctor Who DVD sale as there's some incredible bargains to be had there if you want to buy some DVDs so you can watch along with me.

Oh yeah: COMMENTS. PLEASE comment. Then I know you're reading.....

We'll finish our look at the three formats I'll use with something about the missing episode CDs tomorrow. Then on Monday we'll have a rehersal for the real thing using Doctor Who's rehersal for the real thing from 1963....

The DVD Planet

Just over ten years ago if you'd have asked someone what DVD was they'd have probably said it was something you needed to visit a specialist clinic for (a bit like Postman Pat SDS then). But DVD quickly became the viewing format of choice with it's superior picture quality and bonus features soon making video obsolete.

DVD isn't the first attempt to produce an advanced home video format: Laserdiscs had been around for donkeys years, but never really took off outside of the film enthusiast community. VCD was tried but failed quickly. DVD however is a different story.

There were some Doctor Who stories released on the Laserdisc format. A quick bit of research reveals the BBC released Revenge of the Cybermen & Brain of Morbius in the UK while Five Doctors and Day of the Daleks were released in the US. Later in the 90s Day of the Daleks, Ark in Space and Terror of the Zygons were released in the UK.

The first Doctor Who story released on DVD was in 1999 and was the special edition of The Five Doctors .... which was the first DVD I bought in 2000 when I got my first player, a Wharfedale 750 (fabulous machine, still occasionally use it today). Now there's a good 2 meter stretch of shelving in our living room groaning under the weight of Doctor Who DVDs. And thanks to The Doctor Who Restoration Team all sorts of Technomancy has been applied to the surviving Doctor Who stories from VIDFire to restore the video look to film, Reverse Standards Conversion to turn US videos back into a better looking UK format and Colour Recovery to literally pull the colour information out of black & white prints of colour stories.

Despite new high definition & storage capacity formats, DVD remains the format of choice for watching Doctor Who on.

Friday 19 November 2010

Video killed the Television Star

When I was growing up in the 1980s I wanted a video recorder, but my parents were having none of it.

The first Doctor Who story I saw on video was Revenge of The Cybermen at a friends house in 1985/6 following trip to Longleat..... but I didn't see many more until much later.

In 1989 during the summer when I was working I finally got the money together to buy a VCR. One of the first things I bought were Doctor Who videos. I'm not sure which but Day of the Daleks, Death to the Daleks, Spearhead from Space, Revenge of the Cybermen and Terror of the Zygons were early purchases. I can distinctly remember buying City of Death on the day of release. Some of the older stories turned up over time - Dalek Invasion of Earth & War Games during the summer of 1990 but apart from birthdays my real DW Video buying didn't start till I got to University......

At University a considerable amount of my grant cheque disappeared on videos: Doctor Who, Star Trek: Next Generation and Blake's 7. While there I started to acquire older stories not yet released on Video..... Really no idea how that happened ;-) During the second year I bought Robots of Death, one of the books that never really did it for me, to give me all the stories released on VHS up until that point. From there every story was bought on release day, with friends taping older stories off of UK Gold for me.

From shop buying I turned to the Internet in the late 90s using Blackstar to finish off the video collection..... save for the missing episodes collection released at the end which I had to go hunting for in the shops.

I've been retiring my VHS tapes as the DVDs came out so there's not many left on the shelves now. But there's still a number of stories unreleased on DVD so the VHS tapes will be putting in an appearance here, starting with The Sensorites.

Thursday 18 November 2010

On Target

..... hang on, someone's taken that name already!

Around the time Logopolis aired (I'd have been 7) I ventured into my local library - which would have been the branch in Tudor Drive, Kingston - and looked for some books on Doctor Who.

I walked out with a copy of Giant Robot and loved it.

Over the next few months I worked my way through their stock of Doctor Who books - Destiny of the Daleks (so scared of it still, I hid it in a cupboard), Planet of Spiders, Planet of the Daleks, Pyramids of Mars, Sontaran Experiment, Tomb of the Cybermen, The Web of Fear (the actual copy I read from the library now sits on a shelf in our house, as does Castrovalva - they were withdrawn from lending and put out for sale, I didn't half inch them!) and many others.

Come birthday time I was bought 2 books: Destiny of the Daleks (again, was I not traumatised enough Mother?) and Day of the Daleks.  Many more followed: My first Troughton was The Cybermen (from a book shop on Brook Street Kingston) while the first Hartnell book was Tenth Planet (WHS in Richmond - massive strop when I couldn't decide between that & Dalek Invasion Of Earth - DIOE was sneakily bought by my mother at the same time and later presented to me to keep me quiet at a wedding).

Hardcovers I owned were rare in my life, though a sale at Volume 1 in Kingston netted a few (later replaced with paperbacks and recently sold on eBay for a HUGE ammount)

Today I've got a complete set of Target novels sitting on my bookshelf. 

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Me & Who

.... well "Who & I" as a title was already taken.

Born 4th May 1973, the day before Planet of the Daleks part 5 was transmitted.

My earliest memories of Doctor Who are c1977 when I was scared by a morning showing of the Dalek Invasion of Earth movie.  2 things stick in my mind: a legion of Daleks blowing up a shed and the companion being chased down a tunnel by a giant ball.

I can remember my uncle and cousins coming over one night and watching Doctor Who.....  K9 was in a tunnel.....  So we reckon that's probably an episode of the Sunmakers.

I definitely saw episode 4 of the Ribos Operation on transmission and from Pirate Planet onwards watched all that season, and I recall the summer repeats of Pirate Planet & Androids of Tara.

The end of Destiny of the Daleks 1 scared me to death and I didn't watch again till Horns of the Nimon, catching Destiny & City of Death in the summer repeats......   The next year I didn't see anything till towards the end of Warriors Gate and watched nearly every episode from there.

What happens next on TV pops up very early on our journey through the episodes so I'll mention it there .....

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Hello World!

Phil has a plan.

The plan comes from two sources......

1) Every year I traditionally watch An Unearthly Child on 23rd November, the anniversary of it's original broadcast.

2) Recently I've been listening to a lot of missing episodes Doctor Who on my MP3 player.

So the plan is to watch (or where the video/dvd isn't available, listen) to Doctor Who in order.  One episode.  Per day.  Kicking off with an Unearthly Child next Tuesday, 23rd November.

I have a week to prepare.......