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Tansy Rayner Roberts

Posts Tagged ‘classic who’

The Trials of Turlough [WHO-50—1984]

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

1984Turlough was one of my favourites. I’m not sure why especially, except that he brought the snark better than anyone. Tegan would complain and shout a lot, but Turlough got to be witty and elegant in his resistance to the Doctor’s particular brand of virtue and heroism.

What is it about Earth people that makes them think a futile gesture is a noble one?

There’s a popular idea that classic Doctor Who companions always start out with pots of characterisation and then gradually descend into bland screaming girls until they are finally written out at the request of the actor. I’m not sure that’s entirely true for any companion at all – it is true that many get stronger scripts to start with than later, but it’s rarely such a linear progression as fans (and perhaps the actors) tend to believe. Sarah Jane’s feminism waxes and wanes rather than sliding in a downward spiral, and the same is true for Nyssa’s scientific know-how, Jo’s spy skills, and so on.

It is rare for extra backstory to develop after a companion’s first appearance – though it did happen to some extent with Ace, and with Tegan. Many companions started out with almost no backstory and… never got any more.

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Shada Lost and Found [WHO-50—1980]

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

1980Shada is the best known and more deeply beloved of any Doctor Who story that no one has ever actually watched.

Intended to screen as the final story of Season 17 (which had begun with the introduction of Lalla Ward as Romana II in Destiny of the Daleks), Shada’s production was cancelled partway through filming because of a strike at the BBC.

Perhaps under other circumstances it might have been forgotten, a footnote in the show’s history. But there were many elements which came together to form a kind of mythology about how magical this story was, and what a terrible loss it was to Doctor Who fans, that it continues to enjoy a kind of semi-canonical status.

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Romana’s Regeneration Fashion Parade [WHO-50—1979]

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

1979The regeneration of Romana at the beginning of Destiny of the Daleks was always something of an oddity. Mary Tamm had already left the show, and so the production team decided to go for humour rather than angst in the exchange of actresses.

Lalla Ward emerges, still wearing her Princess Astra dress (that’s quite a lot of trouble to go to for a sight gag, Romana, actual cosplay) and manages to bemuse the Doctor with her presence before mentioning quite casually that she is regenerating.

He is cross at her for blatantly copying the princess’s form, and her cavalier attitude that they’re not going back to Atrios so what does it matter?

(do all Time Lords borrow patterns from other existing people in the universe? Is that why Romana I looked so suspiciously like Princess Strella on Tara, has she done this before?? Does this explain the similarity between the First Doctor and the Abbott of Amboise, the Second Doctor and Salamander?)

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Time Lady in the TARDIS [WHO-50—1978]

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

19781978 is not only the year in which I was born, but it also produced one of my all time favourite eras of Doctor Who. Having left Leela behind on Gallifrey to indulge in her gratuitously discreet romance with the guard Andred (in one of the most derided leaving scenes of all time), the Doctor was happy to put his feet up, but the universe had other ideas.

The White Guardian, one half of the two greatest powers in the galaxy, has given him a quest, to assemble the crystalline, transformative segments of the Key to Time. He also provides the Doctor with a new ‘assistant,’ the glamorous and snooty Romana (Mary Tamm).

We’ve had intelligent companions before, and companions who are close to being the Doctor’s intellectual peer (Zoe and Liz being the main examples), but this is the first time that a companion was set up as being the Doctor’s superior in most things.

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Why Leela is for the Women Too [WHO-50—1977]

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

1977“For the dads” is a phrase that Doctor Who fans of a certain age tend to hear repeated over and over by production crew, actors and fans alike when talking about the 1977 introduction of Leela (Louise Jamieson), the ‘primitive’ companion who wore strips of leather, hunted Sontarans with a throw knife, and was generally as a rare example (along with Peri and her leotards) of the show actually intending glimpses of sexuality to peep through the family-friendly curtain.

Actually, as we discussed recently on the Verity! Podcast, Leela’s leather outfit might look kinky but is far more practical than most of the mini-skirts that were such a regular feature of the show from 1966 through to… well, the mid 1980’s. (the 1980′s, in fact, seemed to have way more restrictive and uncomfortable looking miniskirts than the 1960′s – what’s with that, fashion?)

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Eldrad Must Live! [WHO-50—1976]

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

1976The Hand of Fear, Sarah Jane Smith’s farewell story of the classic series, is a favourite of mine, and I’ve never really stopped to think about why. In many ways it feels like a very ordinary story, ticking a lot of the boxes of Pertwee-Baker Earthbound serials, without even a UNIT chappie or two to liven things up.

I think that a big part of the appeal of this one for me is that the story revolves around Sarah as the companion, and has a greater effect on her than most of her later stories had. It might be paced like the old show (and how), but it has a gleam of what we would get in New Who – stories where the companion’s feelings and reactions to things were basically the point of the plot.

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Delgado, Diplomacy and Draconians [WHO-50—1973]

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

1973The Master:
Nobody could be more devoted to the cause of peace than I! As a commissioner of Earth’s Interplanetary Police, I have devoted my life to the cause of law and order, and law and order can only exist in a time of peace.

The Doctor:
Are you feeling all right, old chap?

[Doctor Who - Frontier in Space, 1973]

As I mentioned last week, 1973 is “my” year of the Pertwee era, and my go-to episodes to watch most come from this year: Carnival of Monsters, The Three Doctors and the most excellent The Green Death. I really enjoy the more mature Jo of these stories, and the comfortable relationship she has with the Doctor – and while I know in my head that the earthbound UNIT years are a big part of what make the Third Doctor a special snowflake, I do love to see him swanning around foreign planets.

That brings me to Frontier in Space or as I like to think of it, Doctor Who and The Space War. Like Day of the Daleks, this is a story I first experienced as a Target novelisation, and no matter how well it was rendered on screen (and I think they did a pretty good job of it), the book version is the “real” one for me.

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The Third Doctor’s Day [WHO-50—1972]

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

I always loved Jon Pertwee’s Doctor, maybe not best of all – I didn’t start to think of him as my favourite Classic Doctor until I was in my late teens – but his era was very special to me. I knew that Tom Baker was regarded as The Best Of All Doctors thanks to my early introduction to a small group of fans but also because most of my Doctor Who Received Wisdom came through my Mum. Who, by the way, loved Tom Baker like he was drizzled in chocolate.

THERE IS A REASON TOM CAN NEVER BE MY DOCTOR, JUST SAYING!

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Domesticating the Doctor IV: Marrying the Ponds

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Originally published at Doctor Her on 16 April 2012, which is why it doesn’t reference Season 7 at all.

The Eleventh Doctor crashes literally in Amelia Pond’s back yard, and from that point on is irretrievably tangled in her life and her family – though with the exception of dancing with them (presumably) at her wedding he remains largely apart from, and free from any association with her parents and aunt. Indeed, the whole of season 5 not only has Amy’s family literally removed from her life (a mystery to be solved by the Doctor) but frames the Doctor himself as her imaginary friend, a character who, in the land of child logic, would never interact with her parents and guardians anyway.

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What Katy Said [WHO-50—1971]

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

The surreal thing about listening to DVD commentaries of the Pertwee era is not how many of the participants are no longer with us, but how recently they have died. Producer Barry Letts, actors Nicholas Courtney, Caroline John and Elisabeth Sladen all passed away within a handful of years, but thanks to DVD schedules, we have some very recently-released (and even some yet to be released!) DVD commentaries featuring their voices. In the case of Terror of the Autons (released in 2011), Katy Manning is now the only survivor of the commentary, which is unbelievably sad especially considering the close friendships of the people who made the show in this era.

When Katy, Nicholas or Barry talk about Jon Pertwee or Roger Delgado on this commentary it’s with pride and sadness, and it feels like they are enjoying the opportunity to capture those friendships one more time.

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