Skip to content

Tardis Party: Doctor Who episode close-up ~ The Pandorica Opens/ The Big Bang (New Season 5/ 2010)

November 21, 2013

doctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardis

doctor_who_the_pandorica_opens_the_big_bang

doctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardis

‘Hello, Stonehenge!’ Fans weren’t sure about Spinal Tap’s booked-at-the-last-minute support act

Phew! It’s been long, it’s been winding, it’s been wibbly-wobbly (and, yes, timey-wimey) and, maybe most of all, it’s been damned colourful (almost as much as Colin Baker‘s Sixth Doc ‘Technicolor Dreamcoat’), but finally it’s here – yes, peeps, we’ve reached the end (just in time for the big 50 itself) of George’s Journal‘s looks-back at/ close-ups/ reviews of essential Doctor Who episodes past, with this very post.

Ooh, but what a fitting focus for the final of the faster-than-time hurtle through the time vortex this journey’s been! For, yes, it surely gets no better in ‘NuWho’ than The Pandorica Opens/ The Big Bang, the simply stupendous finale to Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith‘s and present show-runner Steven Moffat’s first season at the collective helm of the time console.

Sit back and relax then, folks (not least because all this Who celebratory stuff‘s nearly over round these parts, ho ho), but – at the same time – don’t forget to beware a Sontaran strong-arming you into the Pandorica. Unless you fancy an eternal nap, that is…

.

.

doctor_who_the_eleventh_doctor_question_who_75

.

Doctor: Matt Smith (The Eleventh Doctor)

Companions: Karen Gillan (Amy Pond); Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams); Alex Kingston (Professor River Song)

Villains: Christopher Ryan (Sontaran Commander Stark); Ruari Mears (Cyber Leader); Paul Kasey (Judoon); Barnaby Edwards (Dalek – voice: Nicholas Briggs)

Allies: Caitlin Blackwood (Young Amelia); Tony Curran (Vincent van Gogh); Ian McNeice (Winston Churchill); Bill Paterson (Bracewell); Sophie Okonedo (Liz Ten)

Writer: Steven Moffat

Producer: Peter Bennett

Executive Producers: Steven Moffat, Piers Wenger and Beth Willis

Director: Toby Haynes

.

doctor_who_the_pandorica_opens_the_big_bang_matt_smithdoctor_who_the_pandorica_opens_the_big_bang_karen_gillan

.

.

.

doctor_who_the_eleventh_doctor_question_when_75

.

Season: 5 (12th and 13th of 13 serials – 50- and 55-minute-long episodes)

Original broadcast dates: June 19/ June 26 2010

Total average viewers: 7.1 million

Previous episode: The Lodger

Next episode: A Christmas Carol (Special)

.

.

.

.

doctor_who_the_elevennth_doctor_question_what_75

.

When left temporal co-ordinates by would-be love interest-cum-enigmatic-time-traveler Professor River Song (the result of a trail of messages left through time by recent allies Vincent van Gogh, Winston Churchill and future queen of ‘Great Britain’ Liz Ten), the Eleventh incarnation of The Doctor (all floppy hair, tweed jacket, bow-tie, braces and youthful eccentricity) and his present companion Amy Pond (a fiery yet fiercely adventurous, sexy Scottish redhead) meet up with River at the site of the co-ordinates – just outside Stonehenge in 102 AD. In fact, they meet her in a tent where – via her handy hallucinogenic lipstick – she’s slyly tricked the Roman soldiers around her into believing she’s Egyptian queen Cleopatra, as is her wont.

She shows the Doc and Amy a painting (thanks to the aforementioned trail) by van Gogh – it’s clearly a vision of the TARDIS exploding, contains the co-ordinates of where and when they are and is named ‘The Pandorica Opens’. Amy asks what the Pandorica is, only for the Doc to scoff at River’s explanation that it’s supposed to contain the most fearsome thing in the entire universe. He says it’s merely a fairy-tale. Still, Vincent’s vision suggests it might be more than this and – figuring if someone wanted the ideal marker for where they’d hid or buried the Pandorica, where better than Stonehenge? – the trio ride off to the great stone monument.

Eventually, they find their way beneath Stonehenge and there, indeed, discover the Pandorica – a great cuboid box. According to legend, the Doc explains, locked inside it was ‘the most feared being in all creation, a trickster soaked in the blood of a billion galaxies, who could not be reasoned with’. Amy likens it to her favourite story, the Greek myth of ‘Pandora’s box'; she’s already mentioned Roman history was her favourite school subject. The Doc points out that one should never ignore such a coincicence – ‘unless you’re busy, then you should always ignore a coincidence’.

On further investigation, he and River quickly conclude not only is the Pandorica slowly unlocking itself and opening, but also Stonehenge’s pillars are operating as giant transmitters beaming this message out to everything and everyone in time and space (hence how poor Vincent was assailed by the ‘vision’ in his dreams). Worried by this, River reverses the signal being transmitted and discovers that every one of The Doctor’s direst enemies are amassing over the Earth in ten thousand spaceships, ready and waiting for the Pandorica to open. River and Amy wonder what they can possibly do, but The Doctor’s firm they can do nothing but stand and fight; besides, they possess at their disposal ‘the greatest fighting machine in the history of the universe – Romans!’.

River moves off to get help from the Romans, leaving Amy, alone with The Doctor now, the opportunity to ask him about something on her mind. Why did she, earlier in the TARDIS, find an engagement ring in his jacket pocket? Trying to get her to remember something momentous she’s forgotten, he tells her it belonged to a friend of his who’s fallen out of the universe, but the ring is a trace of him that might just be able to bring him back. Amy, though, cannot remember this person as Rory, her fiancé and lifelong friend, whom was killed and erased from all existence in a recent adventure, thus the ring isn’t going to aid in his return. The Doctor persists, however; he tells her there was a deep reason why he chose her as a companion – doesn’t she ever wonder why she lived in such a large house with so many rooms? Doesn’t she ever think she herself doesn’t make sense?

Suddenly, the pair are attacked by the remnants of a Cyberman (a one-time guard of the Pandorica?), which knocks out the Doc and attempts to assimilate Amy. She, though, is saved by a Roman soldier – more than that, it’s Rory! Still not remembering who he is she wanders off (having been knocked-out too but with a dart) to rest in the nearby Roman camp. Rory can’t explain how he died and suddenly awoke to become a 2nd Century Roman; the Doc suggests that he’s never before seen ‘a miracle’, but why shouldn’t this be one? Plus, Rory has to be patient, as Amy simply can’t remember him yet. Returning to Stonehenge above, the Doc then addresses all the spaceships overhead. He advises them not to try and get past him to claim the Pandorica because they should all remember how he’s beaten them so many times in the past… and then let someone else try (see video clip above). This should buy them some time, he confides in Rory.

Now in the TARDIS, River tries to fly the machine (having previously known The Doctor, at least in her time-line, if not his, she knows how to), but for some reason of its own volition it takes her to a house elsewhere in England. This, she concludes from looking inside, is Amy’s home – for it contains a photo of her with Rory (the latter in fancy-dress as a Roman centurion) and books about Pandora’s box and Roman historical facts. All of these details refer not just to Amy, of course, but also their current adventure back in time with the Romans and Rory (as a Roman) in ancient Britain. Immediately she contacts The Doctor and he agrees with her (especially after verifying the day River has arrived at herself is exactly the day when he first met Amy and removed ‘a crack in time’ from her bedroom wall) that it’s very bad news; indeed, all the coincidences point to their present adventure being a trap. Someone must have engineered the whole set-up and lured the Doc to the Pandorica at this very point in time by using Amy’s memories as building-blocks for their plan. In which case, the Romans are unlikely even to be human, even though they themselves believe they are.

The Doctor: People fall out of the world sometimes but they always leave traces, little things you can’t quite account for… faces in photographs, luggage, half-eaten meals…  rings. Nothing is ever forgotten, not completely, and if something can be remembered it can come back

River attempts to return the TARDIS to a safe time and place, but the machine’s compromised and as she tries to exit a stone wall appears in the doorway blocking her way out. Meanwhile, back at Stonehenge, just as Rory has managed to make Amy remember who he is, the Pandorica has finally opened and his fellow Romans robotically ‘awaken’ to reveal themselves as Autons (plastic humanoids controlled by the Nestene Consciousness). Amy asserts she will never leave him again, yet it’s too much for Rory who’s fighting against his now Auton-state and, his body betraying him, shoots Amy dead with the Auton gun hiding behind his hand.

Beneath Stonehenge now, a collection of The Doctor’s greatest foes, including Daleks, Cybermen and Sontarans, materialise before the Pandorica and inform him they have all banded together to place him in the Pandorica (therefore it’s actually him who’s supposed to be the great dangerous being of legend) for it’s foretold his TARDIS will destroy the universe. The Doc pleads with them it can’t be so, not least as he’s not the one who’s piloting it at this critical moment, but they don’t listen and force him into the Pandorica and close it – seemingly for all eternity. And in the future, River not being able to control nor escape it, the TARDIS explodes and creates a chain-reaction – one-by-one the universe’s stars and planets around the Earth explode and cease to exist.

The story now shifts to the year 1996, specifically from the viewpoint of Amy (then known as Amelia) as a child. One day she mysteriously receives a leaflet through her door inviting her to visit the National Museum, thanks to someone having circled on it the Pandorica exhibit and writing ‘Come along, Pond’. The man whom hastily delivered it appeared to have been wearing a fez. Dragging to the museum her Aunt Sharon (whom owing to Amelia’s lack of parents has brought her up), Amelia makes straight for the Pandorica box and, owing to another message (‘Stick around, Pond’), hides until closing time and after her aunt’s given up looking for her. Now, she approaches the Pandorica and, touching it, is stunned to watch it open… yet inside is not The Doctor as we’d expect, but the grown-up Amy from Stonehenge in 102 AD, whom announces to her younger self ‘OK, kid, this is where it gets complicated…’.

Back at Stonehenge in 102 AD, following the TARDIS’s explosion, all the stars (and planets) in the sky have vanished, yet Earth oddly remains; indeed, this is exactly the same state as in Amelia’s 1996. And, despite nothing stirring around him, Rory is still alive cradling the dead Amy in his arms. Just then, from out of nowhere The Doctor appears, wearing a fez and manipulating a device on his wrist. He informs Rory all is far from lost and the Auton-human must free him from the Pandorica using his sonic screwdriver, which he instructs Rory must then be placed in Amy’s top pocket. Then he disappears again by punching the controls of the wrist device.

Bemused, Rory does as he’s told, helping a dazed Doc (the one from 102 AD) out of the Pandorica, whom quickly deduces he must now set in motion the chain of events the ‘other Doctor’ and Rory are enacting. When asked by Rory why the alliance of his enemies around them are now frozen as stone, he explains they’re merely after-images because none of them existed in this reality owing to the universe’s destruction. And when probed about saving Amy, the Doc says he could do something for her if he had the time. To this, Rory punches him across the face, delighting the Time Lord – ‘Welcome back, Rory! Had to be sure [he was still the real Rory beneath the Auton plastic]!’). The two now place Amy in the Pandorica, the Doc assuring it’s ultimate-prison-construction means it boasts an immensely powerful ‘restoration field’ that will bring her back to life and keep her alive until it’s opened in the future (in 1996 by Amelia) from whence the fez-wearing Doctor came. The Doc must now use River’s wrist-watch-like vortex manipulator to travel to the future and become that future Doctor – however, ever the lovelorn loyal fool and to the Doc’s disbelief, Rory claims he’ll stay behind to protect Amy locked in the Pandorica for the hundreds of years until it’s opened, for as an Auton he won’t die, so long as he ‘keeps out of trouble’.

Back at the museum in 1996, Amy and Amelia watch a video accompanying the Pandorica’s display detailing a myth that a Roman centurion has stood guard over the mysterious monument throughout history (during which it moved about Europe), right up until the last time he was ‘sighted’, dragging the box away from its Blitz-torn WWII London location hit by a German bomb. Their viewing is interrupted, however, by a Dalek approaching them seemingly from out of the blue and, just then, the Doc from 102 AD appears thanks to the vortex manipulator. The trio take cover from the Dalek and are saved when a museum guard strides from the shadows and disables the Dalek with a shot from the gun behind his hand – it’s the ‘Auton Rory’, who’s finally reunited with Amy after over two thousand years looking after her in the Pandorica. The Doctor suggests the Dalek must have been restored by the ‘light’ (or the restoration field) from the now open Pandorica, which also contains billions of atoms from the universe destroyed by the TARDIS exploding. From a nearby exhibit he offers Amelia a fez, but she declines it so he wears it instead.

He then completes the tasks of fixing his, Rory and Amy’s ‘timeline’ (on Rory recognising him as the ‘future Doctor’ whom appeared at Stonehenge due to his fez) by traveling backwards and forwards in time and relaying the instructions we’ve already witnessed him give Rory back then and deliver the messages to Amelia. Following this, the trio head to the roof for safety, for the Dalek is coming back to life, but on their way there come across another Doctor (seemingly from the near future) dying before them. Before he snuffs it, this Doc whispers in our’s ear – whom declares he now only has 12 minutes to live. Additionally, they notice that Amelia has disappeared; The Doctor eerily explains that she must have vanished because all time is collapsing simultaneously as the TARDIS is still exploding throughout all history. The three of them are anomalies in this time-line (not least not properly belonging in this universe) so they likely have longer than Amelia did before they each disappear.

The Doctor: We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one, eh? ‘Cause it was, you know. It was the best. The daft old man who stole a magic box and ran away. Did I ever tell you that I stole it? Well I borrowed it. I was always going to take it back. Oh that box. Amy, you’ll dream about that box. It’ll never leave you. Big and little at the same time. Brand new and ancient and the bluest blue ever…

On reaching the roof, the Doc goes on to point out that what appears to be the sun burning full and bright in the sky isn’t it at all, for it’s died along with all the other stars and planets; it’s in fact the TARDIS still in the process of exploding – and as it’s doing so constantly throughout time it’s keeping the Earth ‘alive’ and warm. He amplifies the familiar TARDIS-sound it’s generating through a satellite dish and, with the help of Rory’s Auton-enhanced hearing, notes a voice in the sound – River’s voice. Of course! She hasn’t died in the explosion, because inside the TARDIS’s console room, the machine has put her in a time-loop to save her life. The Doc uses the vortex manipulator then to collect her from the TARDIS; her first action being to snatch the fez from his head, throw it in the air and blast it with her laser gun, despite his protestation ‘I wear a fez now; fezzes are cool’ (see bottom video clip).

Thinking at high speed (as usual), The Doctor has come up with a plan to save the day. As the TARDIS is still exploding (simultaneously throughout time), he should be able to pilot the Pandorica into the heart of the explosion and, due to the Pandorica’s ‘restoration field’ and its billions of atoms from the previously-destroyed-universe, recreate that universe in a gigantic second big bang that will also seal the cracks in time for good. River, however, points out the plan’s downside. In order to achieve this, the Doc will have to be inside the Pandorica, therefore he’ll be sealed on the other side of the cracks in time and, in bringing everything else back, he’ll cease to exist himself. Just as he’s rushing back to the Pandorica to enact his plan, though, he’s shot with a bolt from the fully restored Dalek and uses his vortex manipulator to disappear. Knowing he now must be where they encountered the dying near-future-Doctor minutes before, Amy and Rory race off to this spot while River remains behind to shoot the Dalek dead.

Arriving at the spot where the Time Lord should be, Amy and Rory are confounded to discover he’s nowhere to be seen. Joined now by River, she reminds them The Doctor often lies and they realise he must have followed the advice of the near-dead Doctor’s whispered words in his ear – deceive them to buy himself time so he can strap himself into the Pandorica without them trying to stop him sacrificing himself. Arriving at the box then, Amy bids him a tearful farewell and, finally, he explains to her why he took her with him as a companion – her life in such a big house. Why didn’t she share it with her parents? What happened to them? Amy panics when she can’t remember and the Doc reassures her that it’s not her fault; her parents were consumed by the crack in time in her bedroom he healed on first meeting her. If he’s successful at ‘rebooting’ the universe they’ll return so long as she tries hard to remember them, just as she did in remembering Rory back at Stonehenge. With that, he flies the Pandorica into the exploding TARDIS and…

… sits up on the floor of the the machine’s console room, delighted he’s survived. However, he realises that not only is Amy also there, but him too – neither can hear him and they’re versions from his near past. He must be rewinding through time – and so he does, back through all his adventures with Amy (‘Hello, universe; goodbye, Doctor’). Eventually, he ends up in Amelia’s bedroom back in 1996 (the night she’d waited for him to return after he first met her, him having crash-landed the TARDIS in her garden). She’s asleep and he regales her with a bedtime-story-like tale of him and the TARDIS (‘brand new and ancient and the bluest blue ever’ – see above pull-out quote). And then he steps through the last remaining crack in time, which can’t seal until he’s behind it. Seemingly having half-heard him, Amelia wakes up and finds nobody in the room, so settles back down to sleep.

Fourteen years later, Amy wakes on her wedding day and – to her somewhat bemused surprise – is overjoyed to come across her mum and dad in her house (she’s clearly remembered them successfully so they’ve returned in the re-set universe, even if she doesn’t remember doing so – or, by extension, doesn’t remember The Doctor or any of her adventures with him). Later, during her and Rory’s wedding reception, the latter hands her a gift an unknown woman gave him for her – it’s a blue diary with a TARDIS-like-embossed blue cover, but all the pages are blank; in fact, it’s River Song’s diary and Amy sees her (but doesn’t recognise her) enigmatically walk past a window. When she questions why someone would give her this, Rory suggests the old wedding saying ‘something old; something new; something borrowed; something blue’. And then as a sad tear falls from her face to the diary and she notices male wedding guests wearing familiar garb – a bow-tie here; braces there – a thunderbolt suddenly strikes her.

She interrupts her father’s speech and declares that ‘the raggedy man’ whom she’d always claimed had visited her when she was a child wasn’t a figment of her imagination – he was real, is real; he’s The Doctor! She states that he was so clever, ecnouraging her to try her damndest to remember and leaving her the hint of something ‘borrowed’ and ‘brand new and ancient and the bluest blue ever’ on her wedding day – that is, the TARDIS, of course. And then, right in the middle of the room materialises the TARDIS, out of which steps a tuxedo-sporting Doctor, whom admits he’s certainly impressed by Amy this time, while Rory exclaims ‘it’s The Doctor; how could we forget The Doctor?’.

After sharing in the wedding celebrations and showing off some truly horrendous dance moves, the Doc sidles away and back to the TARDIS, now parked in Amy’s garden. There he comes across River once more, to whom he returns her diary from Amy – the content on all the pages (now the latter’s restored him to the universe) having returned. These details, however, while from her past with him are from his future with her, so he hasn’t peeked at them. They flirt perhaps more so than before and she returns to her own time via her vortex manipulator, leaving him to enter the TARDIS quietly. But he’s prevented from making a sudden getaway – and happily so too – because Amy and Rory approach him and ask him to stay. Suddenly, though, the TARDIS’s phone rings and the Doc’s regaled with how an Egyptian goddess is on the loose on the space Orient Express. Another adventure beckons, so he tells his companions it’s time to say goodbye… the newlyweds lean out the doorway and cry ‘goodbye’ to their 21st Century Earth-bound world and the Doc sets the TARDIS zooming off through time and space once more.

.

.

.

doctor_who_the_eleventh_doctor_question_why_75

.

Why is Pandorica/ Big Bang the final essential offering from this blog of all Doctor Who episodes/ serials? Because, quite simply, it’s my favourite story from Matt Smith’s Tenth Doctor era; in fact, from all ‘NuWho’. Yes, I’ll happily admit (being a big fan of Charles Dickens and practically all things Scrooge), the story that directly follows it – 2010’s festive special A Christmas Carol – runs it close, but unlike that otherwise terrifically atmospheric, highly frolicsome and utterly heart-warming story, Pandorica/ Big Bang simply has absolutely everything you could want from a Doctor Who adventure – and, yes, more.

First of all, it’s an epic, dramatic, romantic, witty and thrilling two-parter finale to its season (more: its plotting, in true Moffat-scripting style, twists and turns more than a slinky snake covered in butter – you really don’t see coming the twist that it’s the Doc who belongs in the Pandorica nor all the ‘wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey‘ frolics in Big Bang).

Additionally, it acts – like previous ‘NuWho’ season finales – as a more than fitting closer to a series-long story arc, specifically addressing the ‘cracks in time’ gambit, Rory’s having died, Amy’s forgetting this and his and Amy’s pending wedding, which appeared/ were alluded to in earlier episodes (more: the Doc going back through his timeline sees him go back through previous episodes; bringing Rory back and having him ‘kill’ Amy brings genuine emotional resonance to their romance previously played for laughs and deepening the mystery of the ‘silence will fall’ message feeds into next season’s arc).

Plus, it features, as should every excellent episode of Who, a smorgasbord of unforgettable moments: Amy bringing the Doc back into existence and the TARDIS materialising at her wedding; the Doc in a fez and River then destroying said fez; him, Amy and River investigating a tomb carrying burning torches; an alliance of Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans and more forcing him into an interstellar prison-cell; Amy emerging from the Pandorica instead of the Doc at the start of Big Bang; and (more! more! more!) both the Doc’s awesome Stonehenge speech to all his enemies’ spaceships and his quieter, even more powerful, clever-clever speech to the sleeping Amelia.

With its thrills, spills, surprises, laughs, largesse, epic canvas, intimate characterisation and fantastic fairy-tale atmos amid all the time-travel twists and turns and pseudo-science and tecnho-gimmickry, Pandorica/ Big Bang succeeds and delights on every level. Few episodes of television drama satisfy without a caveat to mention and genuinely warm the cockles and the heart (especially modern TV drama) but, for me, this slice of Who magic and majesty does it absolutely every single time.

.

doctor_who_the_pandorica_opens_the_big_bang_alex_kingstondoctor_who_the_pandorica_opens_the_big_bang_alliance_of_enemies

.

.

.

doctor_who_the_eleventh_doctor_question_how_75

.

Obviously written to conclude not just the first season of ‘NuWho’ he’d overseen, but also to conclude its story arc, Steven Moffat‘s Pandorica Opens/ Big Bang was always intended to have as big, epic and dramatic a feel as possible. Less well known, however, is the fact the title of the story’s second half was chosen as much because it was a personal joke of its scribe as for its narrative relevance.

Apparently, The Big Bang wasn’t just intended as a reference to the ‘second big bang’ The Doctor causes by flying the Pandorica into the exploding TARDIS, but also as a reference to what newlyweds Amy and Rory got up to in their bunk-beds aboard the TARDIS immediately the episode finished (as could have been worked out after watching the next episode – 2010’s A Christmas Carol – and as was subtely referenced in the following year’s mid-season finale, 2011’s A Good Man Goes To War, when the Doc reluctantly works out when Melody Pond/ River Song was most likely conceived aboard his space- and time-machine. Doctor Who episode title as double entendre then? Sounds good to me.

Perhaps the most eye-catching element of Pandorica‘s production is the fact filming was allowed at the real Stonehenge monument on Wiltshire’s Salisbury Plain. There were strict conditions the cast and crew had to abide by, though – per the usual regulations at Stonehenge, nobody was allowed to touch the stones, nor bring heavy equipment into the space, nor light it from anywhere but the ground. In which case, only minimal filming could actually be done there, thus, a replica of the world famous site was erected at Margam Country Park in Wales’ Port Talbot. ‘Foamhenge’, as it became known, was a lightweight replica that accommodated four days’ worth of shooting, including the Doc’s speech to the spaceships overhead (described by the episodes’ director Toby Haynes as the character’s ‘big pop star moment’).

Haynes was particularly keen for the chamber under Stonehenge to have an eerie, ghostly, adventure film-like atmosphere, citing the tone and style of Indiana Jones as a touchstone for its scenes (flaming torches included), so much so he had music from the Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981) soundtrack played to inspire Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Alex Kingston as they entered the set (the biggest ever constructed for ‘NuWho’ up to that point) in character.

Moreover, River Song’s outfit for this double episode was inspired by the togs of that other of Harrison Ford‘s back-catalogue, namely Star Wars‘ (1977) Han Solo. She, the Doc and Amy, of course, ride horses across the Plain to reach Stonehenge; except they didn’t really – only their stunt doubles actually rode any equines. For close-ups, the thesps actually ‘rode’ bouncing saddles mounted on the back of a moving truck. Haynes has remarked that, surprisingly, the budget for Pandorica/ Big Bang (which, as they were filmed together, means they can be taken together too when it comes to the pennies) was actually lower than for other episodes of its season, despite the double-parter’s epic, grandstanding ambitions and entirely successful realisation.

Pretty much immediately heralded by critics as among the elite of ‘NuWho’ episodes, this story was almost universally acclaimed on broadcast – and by the punters too: The Pandorica Opens‘ ‘audience index’ was 88/100, the highest for its season; only to be broken a week later by The Big Bang‘s ‘audience index’ of 89/100. Just as significantly (if more prestigiously), Pandorica/ Big Bang also won the 2010 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form), the fifth time a Who episode had won the award – and of those five, the fourth Moffat-penned effort to do so (the others being 2005’s The Empty Child/ The Doctor Dances, 2006’s The Girl In The Fireplace and 2007’s Blink).

When you let the dust settle then, Amy’s tear drop on River’s diary and after the TARDIS has finally materialised at the wedding, Pandorica/ Big Bang can only be seen as one hell of a Doctor Who story (in truth, it’s not just my fave ‘NuWho’ effort, but also in my wee little opinion, probably by a hair from Matt Smith’s perfectly coiffed fringe, still the best). And, given where it belongs in the Doc’s chronology, most importantly of all you might say, it ensured the outstanding Season 5 went out with a big bang. In the words of Basil Brush then… Boom! Boom!

.

.

.

Previous close-ups/ reviews:

Blink (New Season 3/ 2007/ Doctor: David Tennant)

Rose (New Season 1/ 2005/ Doctor: Christopher Eccleston)

Doctor Who: The Movie (1996/ Main Doctor: Paul McGann)

The Caves Of Androzani (Season 21/ 1984/ Doctor: Peter Davison)

The Five Doctors (Special/ 1983/ Main Doctor: Peter Davison)

City Of Death (Season 17/ 1979/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

The Talons Of Weng-Chiang (Season 15/ 1977/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

The Deadly Assassin (Season 14/ 1976/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

Pyramids Of Mars (Season 13/ 1975/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

Genesis Of The Daleks (Season 12/ 1975/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

The Ark In Space (Season 12/ 1975/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

The Dæmons (Season 8/ 1971/ Doctor: Jon Pertwee)

Inferno (Season 7/ 1970/ Doctor: Jon Pertwee)

The War Games (Season 6/ 1969/ Doctor: Patrick Troughton)

An Unearthly Child (Season 1/ 1963/ Doctor: William Hartnell)

.

george's_journal_motif

.

Annette O’Toole/ Sarah Douglas: Supergirls

November 15, 2013

.

annette_o'toole_and_sarah_douglas

Talent…

.

… These are the lovely ladies and gorgeous girls of eras gone by whose beauty, ability, electricity and all-round x-appeal deserve celebration and – ahem – salivation here at George’s Journal

.

Thirty years ago this year the cinematic excrement that’s Superman III appeared in flickatoriums, but its saving grace must be it established a place in the Superman firmament for the ravishing redhead thesp Annette O’Toole. Two years earlier, the little-less-dafter-than-a-brush but much more entertaining Superman II made big moolah at the box-office and confused pre-pubescent boys everywhere – why were they attracted to Sarah Douglas’s bosomy, nubile baddie Ursa while simultaneously wanting to run away from her? Nowadays, those grown-up boys don’t have to worry about such things (well, probably not); instead what they have to worry about is why they haven’t yet checked out this pictorial tribute to these two beautiful, talented actresses – for yes, peeps, the Kryptonian crackers Annette O’Toole and Sarah Douglas verily make up the latest double-entry in this blog’s Talent corner

.

Profiles

Names: Annette O’Toole/ Sarah Douglas

Nationalities: American/ English

Professions: Actress, singer, songwriter and dancer/ Actress

Born: April 1 1952, Houston, Texas/ December 12 1952, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

Known for: Annette – playing Clark Kent’s first crush Lana Lang in Superman III (1983), appearing opposite Nastassja Kinski in Cat People and as Nick Nolte’s girlfriend in 48 Hrs. (both 1982). Mind you, Annette’s actually had a long and fruitful career as a performer, beginning as a Hollywood child actress and dancer in the ’60s and ’70s, before hitting the big time in the ’80s, a decade during which she also starred with Barry Manilow in a CBS TV adaptation of the musical based on his hit tune Copacabana (1985). She then focused on the small-screen, appearing in the mini-series version of Stephen King’s It and being Emmy-nominated for The Kennedys Of Massachusetts (both 1990), while later guest-starring in Nash Bridges (1996-2001) and taking the lead role in her own series The Huntress (2000-01). She returned to the Superman universe to play the hero’s ‘mother’ Martha Kent in Smallville (2001-11), in which her second husband Michael McKean – of This Is Spinal Tap (1984) fame – played Daily Planet editor Perry White. Together, the couple have appeared in cabaret, at Spinal Tap concerts (Annette as a backing singer), as Topanga Lawrence’s parents in Boy Meets World (1993-2000) and co-wrote an Oscar-nominated song (A Kiss At the End Of The Rainbow) for the McKean-starring mockumentary movie A Mighty Wind (2003).

Sarah – appearing as Ursa, Kryptonian cohort and squeeze of Terence Stamp’s General Zod, in first Superman (1978) and then much more memorably Superman II (1980), as well as in several other fantasy film and TV roles, such as  Queen Taramis in Conan The Destroyer (1984), Pamela in mini-series V: The Final Battle (1984), sorceress Lyranna in Beastmaster 2: Through The Portal Of Time (1991) and as the heroine in The People That Time Forgot (1977). Between 1983 and ’85 she had a recurring role on California-set soap Falcon Crest (1981-90) and guested in the likes of Space: 1999 (1975-77), The Professionals (1977-81), Return Of The Saint (1978-79), Bergerac (1981-91), Remington Steele (1982-87), Sledgehammer! (1986-88), Babylon 5 (1993-98) and Stargate SG-1 (1997-2007). In recent years she’s acted on the UK stage and lent her voice to animated TV series and many audio dramas.

Strange but true: Annette won her first major film role as a beauty pageant contestant in Smile (1975) after doing an impression of a ‘dead cockroach’ during an audition/ between 1981 and ’84 Sarah was married to fellow thesp Richard LeParmentier, whom played Admiral Motti in Star Wars (1977), the Imperial officer Darth Vader strangles to death via The Force after finding his ‘lack of faith disturbing’.

Peak of fitness: Annette – easy, the swimming pool sequence in Cat People; yes, you know the one/ Sarah – it has to be wearing those outrageous, fantastic and utterly revealing outfits in Conan The Destroyer.

.

twitter.com/thesarahdouglas

sarah-douglas.com

.

CLICK on images for full-size

.

annette_o'toole_in_red_dress_with_curly_hair_3 annette_o'toole_in_red_dress_with_curly_hair_2 annette_o'toole_in_red_dress_with_curly_hair

.

sarah_douglas_young_in_white_dress_2 sarah_douglas_young_in_white_dress

.

annette_o'toole_smiling_1975

.

sarah_douglas_black_outfit_and_tights sarah_douglas_in_sexy_denim_outfit

.

annette_o'toole_in_black_dress_with_curly_hair_2 annette_o'toole_in_black_dress_with_curly_hair

.

sarah_douglas_young_hand_in_hair sarah_douglas_young_in_black_gown

.

annette_o'toole_in_one_on_one_1977

.

sarah_douglas_in_return_of_the_saint

.

annette_o'toole_copacabana_3

annette_o'toole_copacabanaannette_o'toole_copacabana_4

annette_o'toole_copacabana_2

.

sarah_douglas_in_the_people_that_time_forgot sarah_douglas_long_hair

.

annette_o'toole_48_hrs

.

sarah_douglas_dressed_as_an_aviatrix sarah_douglas_in_black_jacket_and_yellow_shirt

.

annette_o'toole_cat_people_3

.

annette_o'toole_cat_people

.

annette_o'toole_cat_people_2

.

sarah_douglas_getting_out_of_car

.

sarah_douglas_wearing_low-cut_black_dress

.

sarah_douglas_being_led_from_car 

.

annette_o'toole_surprised_in_superman_3

.

annette_o'toole_happy_in_superman_iii

.

annette_o'toole_looking_surprised_in_superman_iii

.

annette_o'toole_wearing_sunglasses_superman_3

.

sarah_douglas_ursa_in_superman_2_showing_off_her_insignia_trophies sarah_douglas_ursa_in_superman_2_monochrome

.

sarah_douglas_ursa_in_superman_2_on_collectable_card

.

sarah_douglas_ursa_in_superman_2

.

sarah_douglas_ursa_in_superman_2_on_the_moon

.

sarah_douglas_ursa_in_superman_2_winning_arm-wrestle_in_bar

.

sarah_douglas_ursa_in_superman_2_sitting_on_oval_office_desk

.

annette_o'toole_smiling_in_superman_3 annette_o'toole_smiling_again_in_superman_3

.

annette_o'toole_with_christopher_reeve_superman_3

.

MSDSUTH EC012

.

sarah_douglas_black_outfit_in_conan_the_destroyer_2  sarah_douglas_revealing_costume_in_conan_the_destroyer

.

sarah_douglas_skimpy_outfits_in_conan_the_destroyer

.

MSDBEAS EC007

.

annette_o'toole_blue_top_and_chokerannette_o'toole_blue_top_and_choker_2annette_o'toole_blue_top_and_choker_3

.

English Actress Sarah Douglas sarah_douglas_in_white_suit_falcon_crest_publicity_shot

.

annette_o'toole_sophisticated_in_monochrome

.

sarah_douglas_falcon_crest_publicity_shot sarah_douglas_face

.

annette_o'toole_mature_in_smallville_2 annette_o'toole_mature

.

sarah_douglas_in_white_suit_bare_feet

.

george's_journal_motif

Tardis Party: Doctor Who episode close-up ~ Blink (New Season 3/ 2007)

November 13, 2013

doctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardis

doctor_who_blink_david_tennant

doctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardis

Freeze frame: “If the wind changes – or you press pause – my face’ll stay like this… oh pants”

Yes, peeps, we’re less than two weeks away from the big day itself now, ‘The Day Of The Doctor’, the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who (1963-present). Actually, to be precise, we’re 10 days away from it, so what better post to, er, post today than a tribute to the Tenth Doctor’s era of NuWho – combining with this blog‘s latest in its countdown to the half-century date by way of close-ups/ reviews of great Who stories of lore?

And, dare I say it, you’ve got to be fast with this one – real fast. For Blink and you’ll miss it. Geddit? Geddit? All right, I’ll get my full-length, suede Tenth Doctor coat…

.

.

doctor_who_the_tenth_doctor_question_who_75

.

Doctor: David Tennant (The Tenth Doctor)

Companion: Freema Agyeman (Martha Jones)

Villains: The Weeping Angels (Aga Blonska and Elen Thomas)

Allies: Carey Mulligan (Sally Sparrow); Finlay Robertson (Larry Nightingale); Lucy Gaskell (Kathy Nightingale); Michael Obiora (DI Billy Shipton); Louis Mahoney (Old Billy)

Writer: Steven Moffat

Producer: Phil Collinson

Executive Producers: Russel T Davies and Julie Gardner

Director: Hettie McDonald

.

doctor_who_blink_david_tennantdoctor_who_blink_freema_agyeman

.

.

.

doctor_who_the_tenth_doctor_question_when_75

.

Season: New Season 3 (10th of 13 episodes – 45-minutes-long)

Original broadcast date: June 9 2007

Total viewers: 6.6 million

Previous episode: The Family Of Blood

Next episode: Utopia

.

.

.

.

doctor_who_the_tenth_doctor_question_what_75

.

Sally Sparrow, a young woman with lashings of curiosity and a love of ‘old things’, can’t help investigating an old house (named Wester Drumlins) in the area of London in which she lives. In one of the rooms she discovers writing on a wall, the edge of which is just viewable from behind peeling wallpaper. She peels off the old wallpaper in random strips to find, each time, complete messages, which taken all together, warn her (addressing her by name) to beware the ‘Weeping Angels’ – she looks out the window to see a stone statue of an angel that seems to be crying into its hands – and the messages are signed of with ‘love from The Doctor’.

Shaken but more curious than ever, Sally goes round to her friend Kathy Nightingale’s flat – at 1.00am in the morning. And, while there, discovers Kathy shares the flat with her brother Larry, as the latter walks out of the bathroom not wearing any clothes, much to Sally’s amusement. Having persuaded Kathy to do so, Sally and her friend visit Wester Drumlins the following day (Kathy joking they could be professional investigators named ‘Sparrow and Nightingale – it so works’, to which Sally replies ‘Yeah, for ITV’). While snooping around the house, they hear a knock on the front door; scared, Kathy hides in the back of the house, while Sally opens it on a man whom admits he has a strange assignment to carry out. He must hand over to her at exactly this location and at exactly this time on exactly this day an envelope addressed to her from his grandmother, whose maiden name was Kathy Costello Nightingale.

Sally is angry at this, assuming it’s a joke and Kathy’s responsible, but just as a door slams shut in the house (the door Kathy had been hiding and listening behind), she takes the envelope from the man and, opening it, discovers photographs of Kathy on her own and others seemingly with family members dressed in old-fashioned garb, as well as a letter that explains at exactly this point Kathy inexplicably had been transported to Hull back in the year 1920 and, no doubt, would be dead by the time Sally read the letter. True to the letter’s explanation, Kathy seems to have vanished without a trace, yet there’s several angel statues standing in a room and clasped in the hand of one of them is a Yale lock on a string; Sally pulls the key free and pockets it. Visiting Kathy’s grave nearby, Sally learns she happily lived out the rest of her life in the past, dying in the year 1987.

Fulfilling a request in Kathy’s letter, she then visits the DVD store where Larry works to somehow explain to him his sister’s gone away and won’t be coming back. This she manages to do and observes Larry is watching on a TV screen a bespectacled, intelligent-looking if eccentric-sounding chap conversing with someone who isn’t there. Larry explains this is an ‘easter egg’ (a hidden bonus offering on a DVD), which while being a strange thing itself is even stranger as it’s only to be found on 17 random DVDs. Entire topics of discussions on Internet forums have sprouted up around this phenomenon, he explains to – again – an amused Sally; he’s even transcribed the man’s ‘conversation’. Then, just as he disappears to fetch her the list of 17 DVDs, Sally finds herself bizarrely interacting with the man on the screen, as if in conversation with him. Becoming more than a little concerned by what’s going on now, she decides enough is enough and visits the local police station.

Larry Nightingale: Me and the guys are trying to work out the other half
Sally Sparrow: When you say ‘you and the guys’, you mean the Internet, don’t you?
Larry Nightingale: How’d you know?
Sally Sparrow: Spooky, isn’t it?

Struggling to convince the desk sergeant that all she’s experienced isn’t fanciful cobblers, Sally eventually is passed on to young and handsome Detective Inspector Billy Shipton, whom leads her down to a garage. The cars that fill the space, Billy explains, have all relatively recently been found outside Wester Drumlins, their owners having seemingly disappeared into thin air. It’s a mystery that’s totally unsolvable. The prize of the collection, however, is an old-fashioned blue police telephone box, but this one is a ‘fake'; the windows in its door are too large and there’s no telephone to be found in the space where it should be in the door. Plus, although the door’s keyhole looks like it should take an ordinary Yale key, no such key can open it. Billy, clearly enamoured with Sally, asks her out on a date, but Sally merely gives him her phone number.

After she leaves, Billy notices from out of nowhere a group of stone angels have suddenly been positioned in front of the telephone box. A surreal and impossible thing, he goes up to the scene to investigate and, while looking into the face of one statue, blinks… and finds himself instantly transported to an entirely different location. He’s soon joined by a spiky-haired, fast-talking chap dressed in a pin-stripe suit and sneakers, along with an attractive young woman.

This man we recognise as The Doctor and the girl introduces herself as his traveling companion Martha Jones. The Doctor explains that, like has happened to Billy (and we assume Kathy), they’ve been sent back into the past by ‘The Weeping Angels’, whom by waiting for a victim to close their eyes in front of them (or merely blink) are able to move towards them, touch them and transport them back in time. The Angels, according to the Doc, are ‘the only psychopaths in the universe to kill you nicely'; they are time-locked when anybody or anything is looking at them (ensuring they can’t look at each other), so move and incredibly quickly when not looked at. Creatures of the abstract, they feed off potential energy – the days a person would have lived having been sent back in time by an Angel. Billy then, like the Doc and Martha, has been sent back to 1969. And for Billy unfortunately there’s no way back; for the Doc and Martha though (who’ve been sent back without the TARDIS, which in the present the Angels want to get their hands on for all the time energy they sense it contains) there may be a way back to the TARDIS, so long as Billy can pass on a message, but he’s going to have to wait a long time to deliver it…

Back in the present, Sally gets a phone call asking her to visit the local hospital at once. In a bed at the end of a ward, she discovers lying in it a very old Billy, whom has been waiting until this point on this day to pass on to her his message from The Doctor (having known he had to ever since meeting the latter in 1969, he couldn’t do so before though, because he had to wait until he’d met Sally in the present). The Doc’s message is for Sally to look at the list of 17 DVDs. Billy, dying within moments (The Doctor had told him he would die immediately after meeting Sally again), explains too that it was him, as a DVD engineer, whom put the ‘easter eggs’ on the DVDs. Sally looks at the list and immediately knows what she must do… she phones Larry and tells him to bring one of the ‘easter egg’-featuring DVDs and a portable DVD player – what connects all 17 DVDs on the list is that they’re the 17 she owns herself.

The Doctor: People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey… stuff

Rendezvousing at Wester Drumlins then (which Larry refers to as ‘Scooby-Doo’s house’), the two sit down and watch the entire ‘easter egg’. As Larry looks on, Sally suddenly properly interacts with the Doc, perfectly filling in the gaps in his half-conversation; all along then the half-conversation the Doc was having on the ‘easter egg’ is actually a conversation he’s ‘having with her’ right now (see video clip above). Sally asks him how this could be possible, to which he tells her to look to her left – Larry is writing in her bits of the conversation in his transcript. The conversation comes to an end, though, before the Doc’s told Sally and Larry how to escape from the Angels – him having told them they can’t take their eyes off them – because Larry’s doing just that, staring at an Angel in the garden and has stopped transcribing (ergo the conversation can’t carry on). It’s up to Sally and Larry now.

As Larry struggles to remain staring at the Angel, Sally finds a door leading into a cellar, which may lead to a way out of the house. She descends into the cellar, Larry behind her, and there they find the group of Angels around the TARDIS (which they’ve brought here). Sally goes up to the TARDIS – Larry still maintaining all the Angels’ stares – and is about to put in the door’s lock the Yale key she earlier pulled from an Angel’s grasp, but the Angels somehow switch off the cellar’s lights.

Fumbling in the dark to find the lock and turn the key, Sally – followed by Larry – finally tumbles into the amazingly bigger-on-the-inside TARDIS and, immediately, a hologram of the Doc appears, telling them to insert into a slot in the time console an ‘easter egg’-featuring DVD that the TARDIS recognises one of them has. This Larry does, the result of which is that the TARDIS begins frighteningly to dematerialise around them – it’s returning to The Doctor and Martha in ’69 and leaving them behind. Sally and Larry cower to the floor surrounded by the Angels. However, swiftly they realise the Doc has tricked their foe because right before the TARDIS dematerialised all the Angels were staring at the blue box, therefore when it disappeared they ended up staring at each other; now they can neither look away or move ever again. The pair get up and leave.

One year later, Sally and Larry are running a rare DVDs and book shop together (named ‘Sparrow and Nightingale’), but Sally’s still hung up on the fantastic and unbelievable adventure that brought them together; all the documents and notes of which she keeps in a file. Larry admonishes her, asking whether it’s ‘getting in the way of other things’ between them. As he goes out to buy some milk, Sally rushes out of the shop; she’s just seen the Doc and Martha getting out of a taxi in the street. She goes up to him and introduces herself (see bottom video clip). The Doctor apologises, saying he has no idea who she is and that things for him sometimes don’t happen in the right order. And then it hits her – the reason why the Doc was able to warn her of the Angels and record the half-conversation with Billy as an ‘easter egg’ for her was because she is going to give him the file (containing Larry’s transcript) right now. The mystery solved and this chapter of her life closed, she bids the Doc and Martha goodbye just as Larry returns, whose hand she takes in hers and holds.

.

.

.

doctor_who_the_tenth_doctor_question_why_75

.

There’s no doubt Blink is one of the greatest episodes of ‘NuWho’ – actually, it’s so good it has to be one of the very best of Who‘s entire 50-year canon. And, like pretty much all the show’s outstanding stories, its greatness starts with one thing – its writing. Blink wasn’t the first episode of Who that Steven Moffat had written (he’d also scripted the very good and very well received double-header The Empty Child/ The Doctor Dances from 2005’s New Season 1 and 2006’s Madame de Pompadour-toting The Girl In The Fireplace from the following season), but owing to its unadulteratedly marvelous time-twisty-fixated and head-scratchy script, it was arguably the first that made casual – as well as utter die-hard – Who fans really sit up and take notice of his abilities. The intelligent complexity of its writing – it bears similarity with time-paradox-like efforts of the big-screen such as Christopher Nolan’s Memento (2001) and Back To The Future Part II (1989) – was really unlike anything consumed before by a Saturday tea-time audience watching a BBC family drama, even Doctor Who.

Blink then broke new ground; the following year Moffat would deliver his similarly complicated but excellently plotted double-header Silence In The Library/ Forest Of The Dead (2008), then when he became show-runner himself we got the likes of The Pandorica Opens/ The Big Bang (2010) to conclude New Season 5 and The Impossible Astronaut/ Day Of The Moon (2011) to kick-off the next one. Yet, unlike these often epic two-part stories, Blink has something else – a terrific tightness of plotting and smaller scale/ running time that makes it arguably even more of a polished diamond than they are. It may be a 45-minute-long adventure that’s so clever-clever it asks much of its audience, but never too much to turn it off – it’s perhaps the perfect combination of smarty-pants plotting and dramatic duration.

The other significant area where Blink excels is in its characters. And perhaps what makes this so emphatic is that both David Tennant‘s hugely Tenth Doctor and Freema Agyeman’s companion Martha Jones feature in it so little (more on that below). Specifically, this episode offers us a couple of doozies in terms of protagonist and villain/ monster – Carey Mulligan’s Sally Sparrow and the never-seen-before Weeping Angels. No question, in addition to Moffat’s writing, Sally Sparrow is such a fine heroine because of Mulligan’s terrific thesping; once viewed, it’s utterly unthinkable anyone else could have played her. She imbues Sally with not just intelligence, resourcefulness and gutsiness (per any of today’s adventure heroines), but also a lovely blend of melancholia (sad is ‘happy for deep people’) and an appealing charm and humour (a perfect example being her in the DVD shop waiting for Larry to remember where he recognises her from: ‘There it is…’).

Sally Sparrow is often cited as the greatest companion-that-never-was in NuWho (if not of all Who) – a sentiment with which this blogger isn’t about to disagree. Frankly, if she’d have appeared opposite Tennant’s Doc throughout this season instead of the lovely yet underwritten Martha Jones – and been realised somewhere near as well as she was here – well, it could have transformed the season into an utter stonker. Still, in the words of Doris Day, que sera sera; she remains an exquisite, wonderful one-off addition to the ‘Whoniverse’.

As for the Angels, they’re surely the finest villain/ monster devised for NuWho. Truly, they’re up there with the very best (the Daleks, the Cybermen and The Master). Properly scary owing to a brilliant conceit – if you merely blink in their presence, you’re done for – they’re the stuff of psychological horror at its finest, while also being aesthetically perfect in their gothic appearance; all hard yet beautifully dignified like characters frozen in stone from The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe (1950), but baring fangs as soon as they suddenly move. I was in my late 20s when Blink was originally broadcast and, I’m not afraid to admit, they were the first monsters of NuWho that unnerved me in the manner others did in the Classic series. Lord knows how scary I’d have found them if I were younger or they’d debuted in the show 20 years earlier.

In many ways, Blink is rather a slight episode of Who. It doesn’t feature many characters (as mentioned, there’s little of the Doc himself), doesn’t take place across a broad or fantastic canvas of a setting and features a simple but utterly brilliant foe. Its pay-load then, is undoubtedly its smarts-heavy writing. Yet, Carey Mulligan’s heroine, the perfect realisation of the Angels and (let’s not overlook it) the pitch-perfect direction from the first woman to helm NuWho, Hettie McDonald, are all crucial contributors too. Small but perfectly formed then – and Who at pretty much its perfect best.

.

doctor_who_blink_carey_mulligandoctor_who_blink_weeping_angel

.

.

.

doctor_who_the_tenth_doctor_question_how_75

.

Very few episodes of Doctor Who can claim to have originated as stories from other Who media, but Blink certainly can. Effectively it began as the short story What I Did On My Christmas Holidays By Sally Sparrow, written by Steven Moffat for the 2006 Doctor Who Annual. Moffat took the basic premise of his story (the Doc – Christopher Eccleston’s in this instance – communicating to Sally Sparrow – here a child – via a video message from another time and place) and altered it (Sally became an adult because, maybe oddly, Moffat decreed that children don’t like watching other children acting, and the Weeping Angels were introduced as major foes) and adapted it into the episode’s script. In fact, two further NuWho episodes have also been adapted from other media: New Season 1’s Dalek (2005) by Robert Shearsmith from his audio drama Jubilee (2003) and New Season 3’s Human Nature/ The Family Of Blood (2007) by Paul Cornell from his novel Human Nature (1995).

The notion for the Weeping Angels as Who monsters came to Moffat when he observed such an angel statue while on a family holiday, while also thinking back to the playground game ‘statues’ (participants can only move towards a chosen person when theat person’s back’s turned and must freeze when they turn round), which apparently he’d always found scary. Portrayed rather marvelously by only two actresses (Aga Blonska and Elen Thomas), the Angels’ costumes featured masks and outfits of a fabric soaked in fibreglass resin so they looked firm and like stone. CGI was used in post-production to ensure they remained genuinely frozen when standing still.

Moffat had first intended the Angels to debut in his double-header Silence In The Library/ The Forest Of The Dead (in which later favourite River Song actually did debut), but these stories had originally been planned for New Season 3 and eventually Moffat was unable to commit to writing them at that point, so instead agreed to take on that season’s ‘Doctor-lite’ episode which would become Blink, introduced the Angels then and substituted the invisible Vashta Nerada as monsters for the next season’s double-header. The Angels have, of course, highly successfully appeared twice more in the show – New Season 5’s The Time Of Angels/Flesh And Stone (2010) and as the cause of companions Amy Pond and Rory Williams’ swansong in last season’s The Angels Take Manhattan (2012).

The fact Blink‘s a ‘Doctor-lite’ episode (an episode that features little of The Doctor so the main actor could film another episode at the same time) may be a little ironic as it’s generally seen as the greatest episode from the tenure of David Tennant, the most popular Doctor incarnation since (if not including) Tom Baker‘s. What isn’t ironic, though – and in hindsight certainly not surprising – is how good Carey Mulligan is as protagonist Sally Sparrow.

Mulligan was just 21 when the episode was filmed, but afterwards swiftly went on to become a film star. She was rightly nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for An Education (2009) and added the likes of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010), Drive (2011) and The Great Gatsby (2013) to her CV, as well as an acclaimed performance in the Royal Court and then transferred-to-Broadway production of Chekov’s The Seagull. In his present role as show-runner, Moffat has said it would be wonderful to get Mulligan back as Sally Sparrow but that she’s now ‘gone on to bigger and better things’. I’m not sure I’d necessarily say she’s gone to ‘better’ things myself, but she’s certainly gone deservedly stratospheric following her brush with Who.

Mind you, her award wins actually began with Blink, as her efforts here saw her receive 2007’s Constellation Award for Best Female Performance in a Sci-Fi TV Episode. The story too won that year’s Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) – the winning of which NuWho has made a speciality over the years – and two years after its initial broadcast it was voted by readers of the beloved Doctor Who Magazine the second greatest Who episode of all-time – behind the equally awesome The Caves Of Androzani (1984). To sum up then, any which way you close your eyes and think about it, Blink‘s a blinkin’ stone-cold, immovable Who classic.

.

.

george's_journal_motif

.

Next time: The Pandorica Opens/ The Big Bang (New Season 5/ 2010)

.

Previous close-ups/ reviews:

Rose (New Season 1/ 2005/ Doctor: Christopher Eccleston)

Doctor Who: The Movie (1996/ Main Doctor: Paul McGann)

The Caves Of Androzani (Season 21/ 1984/ Doctor: Peter Davison)

The Five Doctors (Special/ 1983/ Main Doctor: Peter Davison)

City Of Death (Season 17/ 1979/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

The Talons Of Weng-Chiang (Season 15/ 1977/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

The Deadly Assassin (Season 14/ 1976/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

Pyramids Of Mars (Season 13/ 1975/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

Genesis Of The Daleks (Season 12/ 1975/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

The Ark In Space (Season 12/ 1975/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

The Dæmons (Season 8/ 1971/ Doctor: Jon Pertwee)

Inferno (Season 7/ 1970/ Doctor: Jon Pertwee)

The War Games (Season 6/ 1969/ Doctor: Patrick Troughton)

An Unearthly Child (Season 1/ 1963/ Doctor: William Hartnell)

.

Tardis Party: Doctor Who episode close-up ~ Rose (New Season 1/ 2005)

November 8, 2013

doctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardis

doctor_who_rose_new_season_1

doctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardis

Run! With his crew-cut, leather jacket, trendy v-neck and gritty pace, Christopher Eccleston’s incarnation of Gallifrey’s favourite son was undoubtedly a Doctor Who for the new millenium

Once in a while – actually, very rarely, if we’re being honest with ourselves – something really rather wonderful happens that’s so wonderful it disguises itself as unassuming and we don’t realise it’s exactly that at the time. One evening over the Easter weekend back in 2005, one such occurrence took place when BBC1 screened a three-quarters-of-an-hour of fantasy adventure drama named Rose.

For this, yes, was the opening episode of the revamped Doctor Who (1963-present). Little did we know then, of course, that this more than pleasantly satisfying if not utterly earth-shattering slice of television would lead to the monolithic-like darling of modern Beeb drama that’s the ‘NuWho’ phenomenon. But it did. Yes, everything has to have a beginning – and like An Unearthly Child (1963) was for the ‘Classic’ series – Rose verily was that for ‘Nuwho’.

So here it is then, peeps, the latest in George’s Journal‘s celebratory series of posts marking the Who Doctor’s half-century anniversary, the close-up/ review of the fittingly rose-tinted Rose

.

.

doctor_who_the_ninth_doctor_question_who_75

.

Doctor: Christopher Eccleston (The Ninth Doctor)

Companion: Billie Piper (Rose Tyler)

Villains: Nicholas Briggs (The Nestene – voice); Alan Ruscoe, Paul Kasey, David Sant, Elizabeth Fost and Helen Otway (Autons)

Allies: Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler); Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith)

Writer: Russell T Davies

Producer: Phil Collinson

Executive Producers: Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner and Mal Young

Director: Keith Boak

.

doctor_who_rose_christopher_eccleston_and_autondoctor_who_rose_billie_piper

.

.

.

doctor_who_the_ninth_doctor_question_when_75

.

Season: New Season 1 (first episode – 45-minutes-long)

Original broadcast date: March 26 2005

Total viewers: 10.8 million

Previous episode: Doctor Who: The Movie (1996)

Next episode: The End Of The World

.

.

.

.

doctor_who_the_ninth_doctor_question_what_75

.

Londoner Rose Tyler wakes up on a normal weekday, leaves her council estate flat she shares with her mum Jackie and goes to work at Regent Street department store Henrik’s. During the day she meets up with her boyfriend Mickey Smith for lunch in Piccadilly Circus and at the end of the day she descends to the store’s basement to deliver cash to a colleague for that week’s lottery tickets. Only she can’t find the colleague and is spooked when she’s sure she’s seen a mannequin moving of its own accord. Suddenly the mannequin – and more of its plastic humanoid-like ilk – definitely do move, so much so they menacingly begin to chase her, only for the hand of a leather-jacketed, crew-cut-haired man to grab hers and demand she ‘run!‘.

The man orders her to escape from the building, the top of which he claims he’ll have to destroy to kill the ‘mannequins’. Are they aliens? Is he an alien? What the hell’s going on? Rose does as she’s told, carrying away with her one of the would-be-mannequin’s arms that came away in a struggle. The top of Henrik’s explodes; the threat seemingly extinguished and the man nowhere to be seen. One thing’s for sure, with Henrik’s gone up in smoke she’s now out of a job.

Returning home, she throws away the ‘mannequin arm’ in a bin outside her flat and is mollycoddled by Mickey and irritated by her mum’s fussing, news of the explosion all over the TV news. Next morning, she’s stunned to find the head of the man who saved her appear through her flat’s cat-flap; apparently he’s traced a signal of more of last night’s ‘aliens’ to her address. He comes in, briefly meeting her enamoured mum, as Rose makes him tea. As she does so, though, he’s attacked by the ‘mannequin arm’ that’s leapt from the bin, entered through her cat-flap and is trying to throttle him. Helping free it from his throat, she watches as the stranger deactivates it with a screwdriver that makes an electronic noise, claiming he used his device’s ‘plastic function’.

Following him out of her flat, her curiosity is piqued as to who he is, even though she’s naturally apprehensive – whoever he is, he’s clearly very dangerous. The man confirms he’s an alien and named ‘The Doctor… just The Doctor’. Before he walks away, he advises her to go back to her Earthling life and forget him, but it’s obvious there’s no way Rose will be able to do that.

Surfing the Internet on Mickey’s computer, she discovers there’s online speculation over whom this weird chap is – clearly he’s been spotted and caused great curiosity before. Convincing her boyfriend to drive her to the address of a man behind a website about her stranger, she’s informed by this conspiracy theorist-type that there’s traces of ‘The Doctor’ throughout history, and ‘her one’ (for he appears to have had different faces at different times or his name’s been passed on through generations) has been recorded witnessing both JFK’s assassination and preventing a family from boarding the Titanic, thus saving their lives. Could he be a time-traveller? One thing’s for sure, there’s one, single, constant companion of this mystery man… death.

Somewhat dismissing her new acquaintance as a nut, she returns to Mickey’s car, unaware while she’s been away her boyfriend has been dragged into a wheely-bin and replaced with a robotic-like plastic duplicate the bin seems to have created. In fact, she’s still none the wiser she’s not with the real Mickey until his replacement begins behaving very oddly (including demanding of her information about The Doctor) while on a restaurant date with her that night. Just in time, however, the Doc appears and saves Rose again by pulling the Mickey-duplicate’s head off as they and other diners scarper from the restaurant.

Rose: If you’re an alien, how come you sound like you’re from The North?
The Doctor: Lots of planets have a North!

Realising she’s in danger – and London’s other inhabitants too – this time she’s not going to leave The Doctor’s side. Indeed, she flees after him down an alley and into a most unlikely hiding place – a narrow blue police telephone box from the 1950s (so inexplicably out of place in her ’00s world she doesn’t even recognise what it’s supposed to be). Its interior certainly isn’t what she expects: a highly technological yet organic looking room with a central console, whose expanse is far bigger than should be physically possible.

Stepping out of the box with the Doc, she discovers they’ve moved through space to the city’s North Bank, just across from Westminster. The latter explains the box is his mode of transport and called the TARDIS. Urgently, though, he stresses that, like him, the mannequin-like creatures are aliens (actually Autons, although he doesn’t name them – not seen in Who since 1970’s Spearhead From Space and 1971’s Terror Of The Autons). Unlike him, though, more of them in space above the Earth are about to launch a full-blown invasion.

Obviously, he attests, those already in London have a base somewhere in the city, from which they’ll be about to signal their spaceship the invasion can commence. But where are they? It must be somewhere nearby with a giant, circular structure that could act as a satellite dish to transmit the signal. Rose points out that just across Westminster Bridge is the London Eye and, grinning, the Doc rushes off – she’s located their hideout. Rose dashes off after him, swiftly calling her mum (who’s out shopping) to go home as she’s in danger.

Finding a way into the hideout beneath the Eye, the Doc and Rose climb down into a cavernous space, the bottom of which is filled with a great oozing, malevolent fluid – this, The Doctor explains, is what controls the ‘mannequins’, the Nestene Consciousness. Instantly, he’s grabbed by two of the Nestene’s mannequin guards, while Rose discovers the real Mickey cowering in a corner. Understanding the Nestene’s language, the Doc anxiously explains that the explosive device the guards have found on him was something he wasn’t planning on using; he’s come here to negotiate with the fellow alien – Earth mustn’t be invaded; the human race deserves to be left alone to develop. The Nestene isn’t convinced and determined to invade the planet, oh, and kill The Doctor.

Meanwhile, the invasion is starting. In the shopping centre where Jackie is located, Nestene-manipulated mannequins break through shop windows and begin firing on people via guns disguised behind their ‘hands’ (like in Spearhead From Space). Back in the hideout, Rose realises this is her moment – she may have ‘no job, no qualifications and no future’, but she does have junior gymnastic skills she learnt as a child. She grabs hold of a dangling chain and swings across to The Doctor, knocking away his guards and freeing him to drop his device into the Nestene Consciousness. The Doc, Rose and Mickey escape from the hideout, exploding behind them, while the invasion halts; without the Nestene’s control, the ‘mannequins’ resort to inert, harmless plastic.

The danger now passed and the adventure over, the Doc returns Rose and Mickey to their estate. Standing in the TARDIS doorway, he invites her to come travelling with him; confirming his blue box is a spaceship. Rose, reluctantly it seems, turns down the offer, explaining she has to stay to look after her loved ones. The TARDIS dematerialises… and then instantly rematerialises, the Doc opening the door to add that it’s also a time machine. This is too much for Rose; she doesn’t need a third invitation and rushes through the door and back into the extraordinary machine.

.

.

.

doctor_who_the_ninth_doctor_question_how_75

.

Rose‘s credentials as an essential episode of Doctor Who surely can’t be doubted – in fact, given it was tasked with kicking-off the new-millennium relaunch of Who, it’s easy to argue it’s the most important story in the show’s entire history save the one that kicked-off the whole thing in the first place, An Unearthly Child. Everything and the kitchen sink was riding on Rose proving a success but, broad-shouldered as it is, it’s an episode that delivered exactly what was asked of it – and more.

Of course, ‘NuWho’ has a hell of a lot in common with the ‘Classic’ series (not least the protagonist, his transport, his eye for a pretty female companion and his uncanny knack of getting into all sorts of scrapes here, there and everywhere/ when). Yet, don’t doubt it, ‘Nu Who’ also has a good deal that willfully distances itself from ‘Classic’ Who – and, in many ways, it’s the thoroughly satisfying execution of these tenets that makes Rose work so well.

Taking its title, as it does of course, from the Doc’s would-be companion, it actually doesn’t follow The Doctor as he discovers her but Billie Piper’s Rose as she discovers him; from her waking up on the day his actions will make her jobless, via her saving the day with her only claim to fame – up to this point, of course – her gymnastic skills, right up to his invitation to join her on his travels at the end. Rose is Rose’s story then; the Doc merely an enigmatic, incredible, dangerous, charismatic stranger from the stars. We discover him through her eyes; the snippets we learn about him come thanks to her curiosity (not least her checking up on his ‘recent’ past thanks to X-Files-y amateur sleuth Mark Benton of Strictly fame).

Now, sure, we’d discovered new Docs via companions before (the Sixth via Peri, for instance, and especially way back at the very beginning the First via Barbara and Ian’s snooping around in Totter’s Lane), but never had the show placed the companion quite so front and centre; the Doc seen quite so sideways on. It’s different, refreshing, rather breezy, very effective (nicely reintroducing the show and the Doc character to a new, post-millennial audience) and, thus, very ‘NuWho’.

Let’s also consider Rose as a character. In an era of supposedly Blair-Britain classless capitalism, endless soaps and fly-on-the-wall documentaries, Rose is instantly recognisable. She’s less an EastEnders (1985-present) or Shameless (2004-13) chav; more the blonde down the chip-shop who swears she’s just seen Elvis – or rather The Doctor. We all know her (we all know her chatty, good-time-loving mum and useless boyfriend too). Therefore, having the Doc meet her in this urban, multicultural, fast-moving, petty, ironic, mouthy, snarky, Internet- and mobile phone-switched on, BBC News 24-viewing Blighty grounds this new Doctor Who instantly. We recognise her world – it’s a mostly light, heightened version of the Britain in which (on a good day) many of us like to think we live. And, maybe most important of all, it helps to stress just how different – how alien – The Doctor is when he lands in it.

And, don’t doubt it, this Ninth Doctor is certainly alien and very Doctor-ish – but like everything else going on around him, he’s quite the breath of fresh air too. His prickly and argumentative but, by turns, cheery and conversational personality is reminiscent of the Fourth and the Sixth Docs, for sure; yet unlike them, there’s no fey theatricality. With his dynamically no-nonsense appearance (a Doc in a leather jacket and with such short hair felt very new back in 2005) and sharp Lancastrian accent, he’s a hero as much cut from the cloth of harder, modern crime dramas as he is a Time Lord from Gallifrey. As so often with the casting of new Docs, Christopher Eccleston‘s was boldly out of left-field then, but for the launch of ‘NuWho’ sort of a statement of intent and so pretty much spot on (following the huge success of David Tennant and Matt Smith, it’s easy to overlook that).

I’ll never forget when Rose was first broadcast and thinking right from the off just how much more urgent, à la mode and polished (importantly with much improved production values and effects) it was contrasted with the ‘old Doctor Who’. And, most significant of all for a pilot, just how much it promised for the future – for, yes, delightfully there was a whole series to come.

.

doctor_who_rose_noel_clarke_and_wheelie_bindoctor_who_rose_russell_t_davies_in_the_tardis

.

.

.

doctor_who_the_ninth_doctor_question_how_75

.

Given how long it had taken Doctor Who after its 1989 cancellation to return to screens with ’96’s The Movie, it came as no surprise to anyone it took even longer to return again in the shape of Russell T Davies‘ ‘NuWho’. However, during this (second) long lay-off, the show was far from the victim of TV power brokers sitting on their hands.

Following The Movie‘s successful UK broadcast (more than nine million viewers) but less than stellar one in the US (just over five million), the hoped-for US-made regular series for which it had been planned as a pilot didn’t materialise and the rights for Who returned from part-owned US hands to the Beeb entirely in 1997. And, owing to The Movie‘s popularity in Blighty suggesting there was a chance Who could be en vogue once more, BBC big-wigs began discussing a relaunch of the show proper.

An early stumbling block, though, was the fact the corporation’s commercial arm BBC Worldwide had for some time been planning a big-screen Doctor Who film (an idea that US backers had been keen on in the early ’90s before The Movie made it to the small-screen), but by 2003 the controller of BBC1, Lorraine Heggessy, had persuaded Worldwide to ditch their idea as she and her colleagues had approached and had their offer to re-launch the show accepted by a die-hard fan. This, of course, was creator/ writer of Channel 4 hit Queer As Folk (1999-2000) Russell T Davies, whose new Who series, it was announced on September 26 2003, would be made by BBC Wales in 2004 and hit screens in 2005.

Doctor Who was back then at last – but actually its triumphant return for the BBC had almost been trumped just weeks before this announcement. For the Beeb’s new online wing BBCi was confusingly about to screen an animated Who adventure for the show’s 40th anniversary. Entitled The Scream Of The Shalka (and featuring Richard E Grant voicing the Doc – later to appear as The Great Intelligence in Season 7 of ‘NuWho’, of course – and Derek Jacobi voicing The Master, whom would sort of play the latter in 2007’s Utopia), the  episode went live in November 2003, but was instantly doomed not only as a one-off – albeit interesting – enterprise, but also as a non-canonical pariah. Why? Because BBCi’s promotional boast that Grant’s animated Time Lord was the official Ninth Doctor was obviously made redundant when Davies confirmed that in his new – and official – series the companion would be played by former teen popster Billie Piper and the Ninth Doctor by Christopher Eccleston.

The first ever Who episode shot in widescreen, Rose went before cameras in July and August 2004, with filming mostly taking place in and around Cardiff (as would be and still is the case for much of ‘NuWho’), while interiors were shot in BBC Wales’ studios. The primary set was the new TARDIS console room; a coral-meets-steampunk interior for the space- and time-machine that seemed to fit the angsty and edgy Time War-time-locking ‘last of the Time Lords’ that Eccleston’s (and to less of an extent Tennant’s) Doc of the ’00s was.

Doctor Who‘s ‘New’ Season 1 went on to win the 2005 BAFTA Award for Best TV Drama Series

In addition to Eccleston, Piper and the aforementioned guest appearance from Mark Benton, Rose introduced the Davies-era allies Camille Coduri as Rose’s mum Jackie and Noel Clarke as Rose’s boyfriend and comic foil Mickey Smith – Clarke would later achieve acclaim for starring in the self-written movies Kidulthood (2006) and Adulthood (2008), the latter of which he also directed. Meanwhile, Rose also fittingly marked the first appearance in ‘NuWho’ of its voice-actor-in-residence Nicholas Briggs, whose tones have since been relied on for many a Dalek and Cyberman, yet, being an über-fan, had been for years before (and remains still) a driving force behind a plethora of Who spin-off media.

Obviously, none of the production staff on Rose – including Davies and fellow executive producer/ Head of BBC Wales Drama Julie Gardner – had worked on Doctor Who before; although, like his fellow future writers on the show such as Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, Davies had previously written unofficial Who novels during the show’s hiatus. Actually, though, that first fact isn’t true – there was one, single chap who worked on both Rose and the original ‘Classic’ series, model unit supervisor Mike Tucker, a contributor then to the show’s all-important, impressive visual effects.

The episode, of course, proved a huge hit when broadcast (helped not least by a publicity blitz; a particular memory of which for me being a gigantic print ad at the far end of Waterloo Station’s concourse). Screened on Easter Saturday at 7pm (and followed on BBC Three by the first edition of the so sadly now departed behind-the-scenes revealer Doctor Who Confidential), it pulled in a whopping 10.8 million viewers, ensuring it’s one of the most watched episodes of ‘NuWho’ and making the Beeb’s statement just days later a second series had been commissioned an utterly predictable step.

Yet controversy arose when weeks before the broadcast canny Net-heads discovered it had been leaked online and, much worse, almost instantly after the episode’s screening the BBC announced Christopher Eccleston would be stepping down from the show following the end of the series. Initially, fans were dismayed, but it later emerged it had always been the thesp’s intention only to do a single series; most of all out of fear of typecasting, no doubt, but (it emerged much later) maybe also because owing to practically none of the series’ crew having worked on a fast-moving, stunt-laden adventure drama before, Eccleston hadn’t been too impressed by, well, its health and safety practices. In the end, who knows why he walked. It’s a bit of a shame in my eyes, for a second season of his Doc would have been interesting, but few Who fans have shed many tears as it resulted in four whole years of Tennant’s hugely popular incarnation.

In any case, Rose was a roaring success, ‘NuWho’ was out of the traps, BBC1 had a stalwart on which to build its Saturday prime-time schedule again and BBC Worldwide had an enormous cash-cow in the offing – Doctor Who was Auton-matic for (all) the people once more.

.

.

george's_journal_motif

.

Next time: Blink (New Season 3/ 2007)

.

Previous close-ups/ reviews:

Doctor Who: The Movie (1996/ Main Doctor: Paul McGann)

The Caves Of Androzani (Season 21/ 1984/ Doctor: Peter Davison)

The Five Doctors (Special/ 1983/ Main Doctor: Peter Davison)

City Of Death (Season 17/ 1979/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

The Talons Of Weng-Chiang (Season 15/ 1977/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

The Deadly Assassin (Season 14/ 1976/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

Pyramids Of Mars (Season 13/ 1975/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

Genesis Of The Daleks (Season 12/ 1975/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

The Ark In Space (Season 12/ 1975/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

The Dæmons (Season 8/ 1971/ Doctor: Jon Pertwee)

Inferno (Season 7/ 1970/ Doctor: Jon Pertwee)

The War Games (Season 6/ 1969/ Doctor: Patrick Troughton)

An Unearthly Child (Season 1/ 1963/ Doctor: William Hartnell)

.

Playlist: Listen, my friends! ~ November/ December 2013

November 1, 2013

.

In the words of Moby Grape… listen, my friends! Yes, it’s the (hopefully) monthly playlist presented by George’s Journal just for you good people.

There may be one or two classics to be found here dotted in among different tunes you’re unfamiliar with or have never heard before – or, of course, you may’ve heard them all before. All the same, why not sit back, listen away and enjoy…

.

CLICK on the song titles to hear them

.

Sandy Nelson ~ Teen Beat (1959)1

Astrud Gilberto ~ Fly Me To the Moon (1964)

Ann-Margret ~ Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (1966)2

Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66 ~ Mas Que Nada (1967)3

Noel Harrison ~ The Windmills Of Your Mind (1968)4

Area Code 615 ~ Stone Fox Chase (1970) – theme from The Old Grey Whistle Test (1971-87) 

Jon Pertwee ~ Who Is The Doctor (1972)

Sha-Na-Na ~ Born To Hand Jive (1978)5

Herb Alpert ~ Rise (1979)

S.O.S. Band ~ Just Be Good To Me (1983)6

Aztec Camera ~ Jump (1985)

Rod Argent ~ Aztec Gold (1986)7

Ennio Morricone ~ End Title from The Untouchables (1987)

.

1 Nelson’s classic (mostly) virtuso drum solo that hit #4 in the US charts; the same tune was dramatically treated (i.e. slowed down) by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop for the cutting-edge, Oscar nominated Snow (1963), a documentary on that year’s severe UK winter

2 The Swedish-American sexpot’s take on Bond monster blockbuster Thunderball’s (1965) alternative title theme

As performed on Eartha Kitt’s TV variety show Something Special and introduced by the host; Mas Que Nada memorably featured 30 years later in the film Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery and in an airport terminal-set Nike TV ad featuring stars from the Brazilian football team broadcast during the ’98 World Cup

4 Son of Rex Harrison, the Best Actor Oscar-winner for My Fair Lady (1964), Noel Harrison’s original version of Michel Legrand’s (also) Oscar-winning The Windmills Of Your Mind achieved iconic status as the theme of The Thomas Crown Affair (1968); Noel Harrison died aged 79 on October 22   

From the soundtrack, of course, of the monster musical hit Grease (1978); a nostalgia act of a rock ‘n’ roll/ doo-wop band, Sha-Na-Na actually appeared at the Woodstock Festival in ’69 (right before Jimi Hendrix) and hosted a TV variety show (1977-81) syndicated on US TV 

A chart hit in the UK (#13) and dance favourite in the States, it’s ‘more familiar’ as the lyrical basis for the Norman Cook outfit Beats International’s instrumental Dub Be Good To Me (1990)

7 The well recalled theme for ITV’s World Cup ’86 coverage  (1986), which went on to become the theme to the channel’s The Match (weekend live coverage and highlights of the old English First Division football league). Rod Argent was keyboardist and co-songwriter with The Zombies and in ’88 he teamed up Peter van Hooke (drummer with Mike + The Mechanics) to write Goal Crazy, The Match’s theme for the final four seasons until it came to an end in 1992; together they also produced a number of hits for Tanita Tikaram, including Twist In My Sobriety (1988).

.

.

.

george's_journal_motif

Ewok attack! 30 years of Return Of The Jedi

October 31, 2013

return_of_the_jedi_chewbacca_and_the_ewoks

If you go down to the woods today: yes, you’ll be in for the surprise that’s the original Star Wars trilogy culminating in a climax featuring teddy bears – no wonder Chewie looks a tad narked

Three full decades ago this very year saw one of the biggest mis-steps to befall cinema. Up there with the Best Picture Oscar being awarded to How Green Was My Valley instead of Citizen Kane (both 1941), Michael Cimino following up The Deer Hunter (1978) with Heaven’s Gate (1980) and everybody involved in making Xanadu (1980) deciding to make, well, Xanadu. Yes, that’s right, 30 years ago this year George Lucas came up with the bright idea of ditching his initial notion for Return Of The Jedi (1983) of sending his rebel heroes to the home-planet of loveable but awesome ‘walking carpet’ Wookie Chewbacca and opted instead to send them to the planet of the… Ewoks, a bunch of savage overgrown teddy bears.

To be fair, time has been rightly kind to Jedi. The presence of the Ewoks in its last two thirds (although often irritating and, frankly, baffling) far, far from destroys this action-packed, event-filled, fun, frolicsome, dramatic and tragic finale to the original Star Wars saga; even if, Ewoks aside, it’s undoubtedly the weakest of the first three flicks of The ‘Wars. Let’s face it, with its speeder-bikes, Leia in a bikini, awesome space battle, Luke-cum-Vader-cum-Emperor tête-à-tête and original Anakin reveal, Jedi rocks. And even the Ewoks are rather cool. In a very cuddly way. Quite frankly, Jedi is Star Wars (the original Star Wars, that is) so of course it’s tops.

And so, here it is then, George’s Journal‘s official tribute to the triginta annus-celebrating Return Of The Jedi; a behind-the-scenes-picture-packing and quote-from-the-flick-toting post that is most certainly not, Admiral Ackbar, a trap…

.

.

HOVER MOUSE OVER images for more information/ CLICK ON images for full-size

.

return_of_the_jedi_mark_hamill_as_luke_skywalker

.

return_of_the_jedi_harrison_ford_as_han_solo

.

return_of_the_jedi_carrie_fisher_as_princess_leia

.

return_of_the_jedi_david_prowse_as_darth_vader

.

return_of_the_jedi_nien_nunb_and_billy_dee_williams_as_lando_calrissian

.

return_of_the_jedi_warwick_davis_as_wickett_the_ewok_kenny_baker_r2d2_and_anthony_daniels_as_c3p0

.

return_of_the_jedi_admiral_ackbar

.

return_of_the_jedi_sebastian_shaw_as_anakin_skywalker_yoda_and_alec_guinness_as_ben_kenobi

.

Han: Together again, huh?
Luke: Wouldn’t miss it
Han: How we doin’?
Luke: Same as always
Han: That bad, huh?

.

return_of_the_jedi_harrison_ford_relaxes_on_a_plank_between_shots_on_jabba's_barge

.

return_of_the_jedi_mark_hamill_filming_luke_being_grabbed_by_the_racnoss_claw

.

return_of_the_jedi_mark_hamill_left_hanging_during_jabba's_barge_shoot

.

return_of_the_jedi_harrison_ford's_stuntman_hanging_from_scaled_down_version_of_jabba's_barge

.

return_of_the_jedi_crew_members_manhandling_boba_fett_on_jabba's_barge

.

Han: Chewie and I’ll take care of this, you stay here
Luke: Quietly. There may be more of them out there
Han: Hey, it’s me!

.

return_of_the_jedi_carrie_fisher_and_her_stuntwoman_enjoying_a_sunbathe

.

return_of_the_jedi_carrie_fisher_and_her_stuntwoman_tracey_eddon

.

return_of_the_jedi_carrie_fisher_and_mark_hamill_in_a_flowery_dressing_gown

.

return_of_the_jedi_carrie_fisher_steals_a_kiss_from_jabba's_guard

.

Luke: You’re wrong, Leia. You have that power too. In time you’ll learn to use it as I have. The Force runs strong in my family. My father has it. I have it. And… my sister has it. Yes. It’s you, Leia.
Leia: I know. Somehow, I’ve always known…

.

return_of_the_jedi_george_lucas_wishing_he_could_look_as_cool_as_harrison_ford

.

return_of_the_jedi_harrison_ford_and_mark_hamill_in_a_tea_break_between_scenes

.

return_of_the_jedi_george_lucas_and_carrie_fisher_between_takes_on_location

.

return_of_the_jedi_george_lucas_harrison_ford_and_carrie_fisher_in_a_puffer_jacket_on_location

.

return_of_the_jedi_george_lucas_and_harrison_ford_on_location

.

Lando: That blast came from the Death Star! That thing’s operational!

.

return_of_the_jedi_carrie_fisher_and_mark_hamill_goofing_around return_of_the_jedi_carrie_fisher_kissing_a_wookie

.

return_of_the_jedi_billy_dee_williams_carrie_fisher_harrison_ford_against_blue_screen

.

return_of_the_jedi_anthony_daniels_peter_mayhew_carrie_fisher_and_harrison_ford_in_foliage

.

return_of_the_jedi_filming_han_and_leia_gaining_entry_into_the_shield_generator

.

return_of_the_jedi_george_lucas_directing_land_speeder_sequence_against_blue_screen

.

return_of_the_jedi_carrie_fisher_and_mark_hamill_on_a_mounted_speeder_bike

.

return_of_the_jedi_filming_speeder_bike_sequence_with_model

.

Admiral Ackbar: It’s a trap!

.

return_of_the_jedi_ewoks_with_a_clappeboard_for_'blue_harvest'

.

return_of_the_jedi_ewoks_on_a_break

.

return_of_the_jedi_carrie_fisher_and_warwick_davies_who_played_wickett_the_ewok

.

return_of_the_jedi_george_lucas_and_ewoks

.

Anakin: Luke… help me take this mask off
Luke: But you’ll die
Anakin: Nothing… can stop that now. Just for once… let me… look on you with my own eyes

.

return_of_the_jedi_george_lucas_and_harrison_ford_discuss_things_on_the_emperor's_throne_room_set

.

return_of_the_jedi_richard_marquand_directing

.

return_of_the_jedi_richard_marquand_directing_ian_mcdiarmid

.

return_of_the_jedi_ian_mcdiarmid_in_emperor_make-up

.

return_of_the_jedi_richard_marquand_directing_mark_hamill

.

return_of_the_jedi_mark_hamill_rehearsing_luke_and_vader_duel_with_vader_stand-in_swordsman_bob_anderson

.

return_of_the_jedi_mark_hamill_and_david_prowse_rehearsing_climax

.

Han: I’m sure Luke wasn’t on that thing when it blew
Leia: He wasn’t. I can feel it
Han: You love him… don’t you?
Leia: Yes
Han: All right. I understand. Fine. When he comes back, I won’t get in the way
Leia: Oh, Han, it’s not like that at all… [whispering] he’s my brother

.

return_of_the_jedi_george_lucas_examines_model_of_the_'new'_death_star

.

return_of_the_jedi_shuttle_on_the_studio_floor_surrounded_by_crew_members

.

return_of_the_jedi_artist_painting_storm_troopers_on_background_matte_painting

.

return_of_the_jedi_ralph_mcquarrie_concept_art_for_jabba's_palace

.

return_of_the_jedi_ralph_mcquarrie_concept_art_for_speeder_bike_chase

.

return_of_the_jedi_ralph_mcquarrie_concept_art_for_ewoks_transporting_c3p0

.

return_of_the_jedi_ralph_mcquarrie_concept_art_for_ewok_village_on_endor

.

.return_of_the_jedi_carrie_fisher_and_mark_hamill_in_directors_chairs

.

return_of_the_jedi_carrie_fisher_and_mark_hamill_in_directors_chairs_2

.

return_of_the_jedi_rolling_stone_magazine_return_of_the_jedi_beach_shoot return_of_the_jedi_carrie_fisher_on_rolling_stone_magazine_return_of_the_jedi_beach_shoot

.

return_of_the_jedi_peter_mayhew_posing_with_ewoks_ewok_actors_crew_members_on_location

.

Several of the above images can be found in the newly published book The Making Of Return Of The Jedi: The Definitive Story Behind The Film by JW Rinzler

Almost assuredly all the images are copyright of Lucasfilm Ltd.

.

george's_journal_motif

.

Tardis Party: Doctor Who episode close-up ~ Doctor Who: The Movie (1996)

October 27, 2013

doctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardis

doctor_who_the_movie_paul_mcgann_and_sylvester_mccoy

doctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardis

The key to time: Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy hands over the reins to eighth incarnation Paul McGann for the curate’s egg that’s the one-off Anglo-American Doctor Who TV movie

Yes, the less-than-a-month countdown is finally underway to ‘The Day of the Doctor’, mes amis – the official day of Doctor Who‘s (1963-present) 50th anniversary when its official 50th anniversary special, er, The Day Of The Doctor will be broadcast. And, with the countdown really ramping-up now, what better episode of the show to celebrate (in George’s Journal‘s ongoing celebration of Who) than this one?

Yep, it’s the Who episode that divides Who fans like no other. For it’s the episode from neither the 1960s-’80s ‘Classic’ series nor the hugely successful ‘NuWho’, the one that’s neither unofficial nor entirely canonical, and the one that’s neither royally cool nor total rollox (although admittedly, in many ways, it’s both). Yup, it is – and could only be – Doctor Who: The Movie

.

.

doctor_who_the_eighth_doctor_question_who_75

.

Doctors: Paul McGann (The Eighth Doctor); Sylvester McCoy (The Seventh Doctor)

Companion: Daphne Ashbrook (Dr Grace Holloway)

Villain: Eric Roberts (The Master)

Ally: Yee Jee Tso (Chang Lee)

Writer: Matthew Jacobs

Executive Producers: Philip Segal and Jo Wright

Director: Geoffrey Sax

.

doctor_who_the_movie_paul_mcganndoctor_who_the_movie_daphne_ashbrook

.

.

.

doctor_who_the_eighth_doctor_question_when_75

.

Original broadcast dates: May 12 1996 (Canada)/ May 14 1996 (US)/ May 27 1996 (UK)

Total viewers: 5.6 million (US)/ 9.1 million (UK)

Running time: 85 minutes

Previous serial: Survival (Season 26)

Next episode: Rose (New Season 1)

.

.

.

.

doctor_who_the_eighth_doctor_question_what_75

.

In the guise of his boggly-eyed, Scot-accented and now somewhat pleasantly plump seventh incarnation, The Doctor is sitting in an armchair of his spacious yet homely TARDIS console room, eating jelly babies, reading HG Wells’ The Time Machine (1898), listening to a record on a gramophone and generally behaving rather absent-mindedly. Big mistake. Not least because he’s transporting the remains of arch nemesis and rebel Time Lord The Master – following the latter’s ‘execution’ at the hands of the Daleks on their home-planet Skaro – to his and The Master’s home-planet Gallifrey.

From past experience, we all know how brilliantly sly that Master can be and, lo and behold, a distracted Doctor doesn’t notice the former’s remains – technically a tube of DNA-rich slime – slither out of the box in which it’s supposed to be sealed, across the floor and into the time console itself. The record on the gramophone skips, sparks fly from the console, its mechanism groans and suddenly The Doc discovers his beloved TARDIS is taking an inexplicable detour to Earth – specifically San Francisco on 30 December 1999. However, we’re left in little doubt that this is all The Master’s doing.

Duly materialising the space- and time-machine in a back alley of San Francisco then, The Doc steps out and closes the door – only immediately to be assailed by machine-gun bullets, having accidentally landed right into the middle of a China Town gang fight (see video clip above). Crumpling to the ground, he’s quickly attended to by a survivor of the attack, a youth named Chang Lee, whom doesn’t notice the dying Doc point aghast to the transparent tube of goo escaping through the TARDIS door’s keyhole. Chang Lee – feeling obliged or just for the hell of it? – calls for an ambulance and rides in it along with The Doctor; not knowing his identity, though, he forges an identity for the patient, filling out the latter’s name on paperwork as the first that comes into his head: ‘John Smith’.

On the operating table, The Doc stuns and bemuses the nurses and the just-returned-from-a-night-at-the-opera ace surgeon Dr Grace Holloway by snapping in and out of consciousness and exclaiming they shouldn’t operate on him, as they’ll ‘kill’ him and ensure he can’t regenerate. Eventually, the medical team manage to subdue him, remove the bullets from his body and inexplicably lose their patient – somehow, a disbelieving Grace realises, she has killed the man. But how?

Overnight, however, the Doc does manage to regenerate and takes on the appearance of a handsome, shaggy haired chap, albeit one that, when he escapes from the morgue, has a severe case of amnesia and has no idea who he is. Meanwhile, in the morning, Grace argues with her senior the incident must be investigated, but he’s having none of it and declares the matter will be covered up, forcing the principled surgeon to resign and walk out – not before she’s checked the Doc’s x-ray, though, and discovered that impossibly, yet beyond doubt, he possesses two hearts.

Having stolen from an orderly’s locker and dressed himself in a ‘Wild’ Bill Hicock-style fancy dress outfit (intended for a New Year’s Eve party that night), a still dazed and confused Doc spies Grace leaving and, remembering her as his surgeon, follows her and confronts her in the hospital car-park. Still in a state of disbelief, Grace won’t allow herself to be convinced that this new man is the patient she ‘killed’ the night before, even when he pulls tubes from the operation out of his abdomen and confirms he has two hearts. Driven back to her house, he talks his way in and discovers Grace’s live-in boyfriend has left and taken all his possessions (owing to her over-dedication to her career); all his possessions, that is, apart from a pair of shoes that the Doc tries on and appropriates.

As all this has been going on, The Master’s slippery, slimy, temporary state has entered the body of ambulance driver Bruce, whom immediately returns to the hospital in search of The Doctor (curiously dressed in a leather jacket and shades very reminiscent of Arnie in 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day). Fortunately, he misses his fellow Gallifreyan, but does discover Chang Lee, who’s spent the night there waiting on news of the Doc and snatches the latter’s bag of possessions when informed he’s ‘died’. Following the youth back to the TARDIS, The Master gains entry to the machine when Chang Lee takes the TARDIS key from the bag, unlocks the door and walks in.

The Doctor: I know who I am…!
[He kisses Grace]
The Doctor: … I am The Doctor!
Grace: Good. Now, do that again

Inside, Chang Lee is quickly convinced of the awesome time-travelling and alien nature of the man he accompanied to the hospital and is easily convinced by The Master that the Doc is the evil one of the two; indeed, he claims that the latter stole not only the TARDIS from him but also his body, which is why he ‘had to’ steal the ambulance driver’s body – and, this body being human, won’t last him long, meaning he needs Chang Lee’s help to ‘steal back’ his ‘own’ body.

Back at Grace’s house, the Doc has an instant surge of recollection and realises he is indeed The Doctor, (uncharacteristically?) kissing her in delight. He then swiftly informs her what he believes has happened – The Master has somehow found his way back into the TARDIS and opened the machine’s source of power, the cloister room’s Eye of Harmony (which may or may not be linked to the original Eye of Harmony on Gallifrey) in order to take the Doc’s own body. However, keeping the Eye open for too long will destroy the Earth. Our hero tries to prove this by showing the fabric of Earth’s reality is already starting to destabilise: he steps through a window as if slipping through a thickly-coated bubble.

In order to thwart The Master and close the Eye, the Doc claims he will need an atomic-related device; fortuitously, he and Grace discover via a TV broadcast that an atomic clock will be unveiled at San Francisco’s Institute of Technological Advancement and Research that night as part of the city’s official celebration of the turning-of-the-millennium. This clock, the Doc exclaims, will contain such a device, so as Grace happens to be on the Institute’s board and so should be able to gate-crash the party (and now mostly convinced by the Doc’s protestations), she agrees to take him there.

Unaware of its driver’s true identity (The Master), the pair accept a lift to the Institute in an ambulance – which had turned up at Grace’s house owing to her calling for one earlier to hospitalise the ‘crazy’ Doctor. However, as the Doc twigs their driver is, in fact, his foe, they abandon the ambulance and steal a police motorbike to make it their location in time. Arriving there, they manage to foil the security and steal the gadget from the clock – an integrated circuit chip – and return to the TARDIS.

Yet, on arriving there, installing the chip and closing the Eye, The Doctor realises the Eye has been open too long, thus they somehow must turn back time to prevent Earth’s impending destruction – which, he calculates, will coincide with midnight and the turn-of-the-millenium. However, before he can rewire the TARDIS’s damaged console to do this, The Master appears and, taking control of Grace and Chang Lee’s mind, manages to chain The Doc above the now reopened Eye, with the latter’s own eyes forced open, so he might steal all The Doctor’s remaining lives (having used up all his own).

Owing to Chang Lee finally seeing the light and disobeying The Master, the latter kills him and relinquishes control of Grace (she having now served her purpose for him of helping disable The Doctor). Grace, though, leaps to the task she knows needs doing – she rushes back to the console and rewires it, succeeding in sending the TARDIS into a time-holding pattern just seconds after midnight has struck. She then returns to the cloister room where her attempt to challenge The Master results in him killing her too, but does just enough to help free the Doc and give him the chance to grapple with his nemesis, which sees the latter fall into the Eye and seemingly to his doom. This causes the Eye to close and thus time reverts back to before its reopening (moments before midnight struck), ensuring Grace and Chang Lee are brought back to life.

The trio depart the TARDIS into the now safe San Francisco night. Returning all the Doc’s possessions, Chang Lee bids them farewell, the former’s friendly warning not to be in the city in exactly a year’s time ringing in his ears. Having shared a final kiss with Grace, The Doctor turns down her offer to remain with her; her having already turned down his offer to be his travelling companion. They say goodbye and the Time Lord returns to the TARDIS, dematerialises it and sends it on its travels through time and space once more. Yet, just as he switches on the gramophone and settles in his armchair with The Time Machine once more, the record skips at the exact same point it did at the start of the adventure, forcing him to cry: ‘Oh no, not again…’

.

.

.

doctor_who_the_eighth_doctor_question_why_75

.

The reason why Doctor Who: The Movie is one of the show’s ‘essential’ episodes is because it’s arguably its most unique – and the reason for that is twofold. First, it’s the only on-screen – genuinely canonical – story to have been made in the show’s more-than-a-decade-and-a-half-long ‘wilderness years’ (between the end of the ‘Classic’ Series in 1989 and the start of ‘NuWho’ in 2005) and, second, it’s the only on-screen story ever to properly feature Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor.

Make no mistake, The Movie is an utter curiosity and controversy among Who fans – derided by some, admired by others; loathed by many, loved by few. It splits opinion surely more than any other episode/ story/ serial – not least because some of its plot-points are so out-there for Who (which non-fans may see as something of an irony in itself) they’re no longer deemed canon. However, without The Movie, there may never have been a new series in 2005; like it or not then and clearly or sometimes merely by default, it very much serves as a bridge between ‘Classic’ Who and ‘NuWho’.

The good things about The Movie are undoubtedly good – and there’s a fair number of them. Top of the list has to be McGann’s interpretation of the several centuries-old Time Lord. Starting off an amnesiac (and, thus, in the eyes of nearest human contact Grace, a highly eccentric charlie whose delusions of grandeur should see him committed), as the plot develops and the action ramps0up, this Doc realises who he is and becomes a finely realised, very likeable protagonist. His boyish good looks, hairy mane, Old West/ Victorian-esque togs, flirtatious nature and propensity for wide-eyed wonder and excitement all make him more than reminiscent of the literary romantic hero. He’s rather Byron-esque is The Eighth Doctor (without all the booze-fuelled shagging and capering, of course).

One may argue then he’s the most ‘human’ Doctor to date (not least because of his lip-locking tendencies – more on that below), but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; indeed, it arguably foreshadows the hugely popular 21st Century Docs that would be David Tennant‘s Tenth (whom falls for his first companion Rose, of course) and Matt Smith‘s Eleventh (whom develops an incurable, familial bond for companions Amy and Rory and even marries his love interest River Song).

Also in the credit column is the fact that despite this being a TV movie made as much for a North American audience as for a genned-up British one (and thus a bit of a Who re-boot), it observes the show’s tradition of inviting back the existing Doctor actor to pass on the reins to the next via a regeneration scene. And, although feeling very much old news by the mid-’90s, it’s comforting then that things kick-off with Sylvester McCoy’s comfy Seventh Doctor before we segue into McGann’s all-new ’90s-friendly ‘New Man’ version. Moreover, the regeneration sequence itself is a real doozy (see video clip below); interspersed, as it is, not only with The Master’s occupying a human’s body (and thus being reborn himself), but also nattily with a morgue orderly watching Frankenstein’s monster come to life in James Whale’s classic 1931 film version of the story.

Credit for that scene and for the The Movie as a whole then should also go to helmer Geoffrey Sax, a Brit TV veteran who was at the time plying his trade in the States. His direction is smart, imaginative, witty and pacy (often just about papering over the cracks in the plot) – and again then a foreshadowing of the sort of modern cinematic-friendly direction ‘NuWho’ would enjoy. Additionally, The Movie‘s production values impress. Always a victim of relatively low budgets, the ‘Classic’ series forever had to make do with wobbly cardboard-esque sets and charming if not the most credible-looking monsters, but thanks to American money there’s none of that in sight here.

Doctor Who: The TV Movie won the 1996 Saturn (Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films) Award for Best Television Presentation

The location shooting in Vancouver (standing in for San Francisco; albeit not that convincingly if you’ve visited either city) gives the thing an American sheen and dynamism, while the extravagant motorbike chase on the highway really packs an action punch (again a sign of things to come in the show’s future) and most eye-catching of all is the TARDIS set; the console room alone seems to fill an entire studio and contains more archaic props than you can shake a stick at – even if, because of all that, it maybe doesn’t really feel very Who.

That inevitably then leads us on to some of The Movie‘s glaringly unusual and more disagreeable aspects. As mentioned, the plot isn’t all that tight (exactly why the Doc must purloin a small part from the atomic clock is glossed over and seems a bit of an excuse for the motorbike chase and an impromptu heist by the leads, while Chang Lee’s motivations for believing, let alone following, the clearly devious Master instead of believing in the Doc aren’t convincing, as is The Master’s cheery befriending/ pseudo-adoption of the boy – why doesn’t he just kill him once he’s used him to get inside the TARDIS?). Eric Roberts’ casting as the classic nemesis/ negative of the Gallifreyan hero is questionable too (but there’s an understandable reason why it happened – see below); although Julia’s brother and Emma’s dad clearly enjoys hamming it up like a good ‘un – and who can blame him?

But most precarious of all, of course, are those controversial ‘changes’ that the story throws into the Who mix. First, we have The Doctor kissing (not just once, but twice) his otherwise very fitting, amusing and refreshingly age-appropriate companion Grace. At the time, this was a huge curve-ball for ‘Whovians'; the Doc had always seemed to be an asexual being. Yet this is a new incarnation and with his youthful, romantic demeanour it does rather fit and, as mentioned, it maybe helped make amorous future Docs more palatable for die-hard fans.

Elsewhere, the portrayal of the body-less Master as a CGI-ed Abyss-like water snake and then full-on Voldermort-esque cobra is a little peculiar to my mind (why would he choose the form of a creature from a planet he despises for his non-humanoid state?). Yet the most contentious and, yes, dodgy thing of all has to be the revelation two-thirds of the way through that The Doc himself is half-human. Frankly, the idea smacks of the US backers wanting to make the character more accessible to a US audience (‘Why should the hero be entirely alien? Make him snog the girl so the viewers and advertisers like him more’, you can imagine them clamouring). It feels all wrong and, given The Movie was a one-off and the idea utterly ignored in ‘NuWho’, has been proved to be pretty much pointless. An awkward mis-step.

Still, accepting its less than successful elements, there’s much to admire and enjoy about The Movie. In an era of slick, US dominated sci-fi TV – in particular The X-Files (1993-2002) and all those Star Trek series – it proved not only could a pacier, more expensive-looking version of the show work, but that it was still relevant. And, thus, of course, it – maybe unwittingly, but hey – paved the way for the Doctor Who we know and love today.

.

doctor_who_the_movie_the_tardisdoctor_who_the_movie_eric_roberts

.

.

.

doctor_who_the_eighth_doctor_question_how_75

.

Whenever it comes to this final section of these close-ups/ reviews, I always seem to be saying such-and-such an episode had a  torturous journey to the screen – but truly none had it rougher than The Movie. Not least because its journey was seven eccerin’ years long. The Movie was the brainchild of ex-pat Who-nut Philip Segal, whom by the end of the ’80s had established himself as a mover and shaker in the LA world of US network TV. Realising  the ‘Classic’ series was on its last legs and there was no appetite within the Beeb to carry on with it in the near future, he began to plague the corporation’s newly established commercial wing BBC Enterprises (nowadays known as BBC Worldwide) with constant transatlantic phone calls over the possibility of reviving it as an Anglo-American, but US-based one-off TV movie-cum-pilot or (if he could secure a deal) a fully-fledged series.

For a long time, it all came to naught. A fly in the ointment was a rival US project to get Who back on the big screen (following the Peter Cushing-headlined Doctor Who And The Daleks and Dalek Invasion Earth: 2150 AD of the mid-’60s), which loftily aimed to land Donald Sutherland for the lead role. Until this project’s lease on the commodity that is Who dwindled in the early ’90s, Segal’s efforts proved to be fruitless; indeed, he eventually scuppered his rivals entirely by informing Sutherland that the project’s backers only planned to film the bare minimum necessary – instead of actually start a filming shoot proper – right before the date their lease was up in order to extend the lease. Another problem for Segal was the BBC’s umming-and-ahhing over a potential The Five Doctors-style (1983) special for the show’s 30th anniversary in the autumn of ’93. Plans were drawn up and ideas tossed about, but despite the hoohah, nothing happened apart from the Dimensions In Time (1993) effort for that November’s Children In Need appeal, which saw four previous Docs and many companions interact with characters from EastEnders (1985-present) in a witless, execrable 3D embarrassment.

Eventually though, once he’d moved on from the TV arm of Steven Spielberg‘s Amblin Entertainment (where he’d made a name for himself working on 1993-96’s seaQuest DSV and 1993-96’s The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles), Segal managed to broker a deal to get a TV movie up and running which, the agreement was, would be jointly back-rolled by Universal Television and the BBC and broadcast on the Fox network in the States. It would be a one-off, but also effectively serve as a pilot for a brand new US-produced series should it prove successful enough. Positioning himself as a centrepiece between all the project’s interested parties – Universal, Fox and co-executive producer at the BBC Jo Wright – Segal forever found himself being pulled in opposing directions as he tried to please everyone, whom inevitably all wanted different things out of the project. In which case, it’s a wonder The Movie turned out the (generally) satisfying slice of entertainment it did; moreover, it’s obvious too then why it contains so many Who-centric aberrations and things that plain don’t work.

Script-wise, Segal initially (back in his Amblin days) enlisted Universal-contracted scribe John Leekley. Viewing hours upon hours of Doctor Who episodes, Leekley became enamoured with both Gallifrey’s Time Lord society and the WWII-echoing tone of The Third Doctor/ UNIT stories. Thus, his stab featured the notion of the Doc learning that he deserves to inherit Gallifrey’s Lord President role, as well as the fact that his mother was human and The Master is his half-brother, plus the second-half of the adventure would have been set in the war-torn Blighty of the 1940s (indeed, check out Paul McGann’s fascinating audition for the role – it’s clearly taken from this script). In the end, Amblin chief Spielberg both nixed this screenplay and the entire project, declaring rightly that the whole thing had become too much like his own Indiana Jones (and with, to my mind, strong Star Wars undertones too).

Once away from Amblin, Segal looked to The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles writer – and fellow Brit – Matthew Jacobs as a scribe. The latter’s first attempt dumped practically everything in Leekley’s effort apart from the half-human Doc element (which seemed a necessary inclusion for the US backers). Jacobs wasn’t just familiar with Doctor Who, but had fond memories of the show, as his father Anthony Jacobs had played Doc Holliday in William Hartnell-era serial The Gunfighters (1965); indeed, during the shoot of which the actor had brought the young Jacobs to the set as a birthday treat. With a good feel for the material then, the writer not only brought in the character of the Seventh Doctor for a hand-over regeneration, but also grounded the story in modern-day America with the notion of The Master attempting to steal the Doc’s body for his own. From this, the eventual plot of The Movie slowly and eventually formed…

As Jon Pertwee, the hugely popular Third Doctor, sadly passed away in the days between Doctor Who: The Movie‘s US and UK broadcasts, the titles of the UK broadcast included an epitaph to the legendary thesp

Apparently, the notion to cast McGann as the new Doc was first suggested – perhaps unsurprisingly – by the Beeb, with Jo Wright being a champion. Once he auditioned, first around ’93-’94, McGann became a favourite for Segal, but given his lack of name recognition in the States, the US backers were far from sure. They favoured much more familiar names, including Michael Crawford (Segal’s first favourite), Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Billy Connolly, Jonathan Pryce, Trevor Eve, Tim Curry and Rowan Atkinson (whom would go on to portray one of the Doctors in the Steven Moffat-penned, 1999 Comic Relief spoof The Curse Of The Fatal Death).

By coincidence, as well as John Sessions, Tim McInnery, Anthony Head, Robert Lindsay, Liam Cunningham and Nathaniel Parker, an early auditionee was another of the McGann acting clan, Paul’s brother Mark. Later on, of course, Head would appear as chief villain in the Tennant-era story School Reunion (2006) and Cunningham as a Soviet sub captain in the latest series’ Cold War (2013). As for the casting of just-about-medium-weight Hollywood star Eric Roberts as The Master, it was a stipulation of the US backers that an actor genuinely recognisable to US audiences filled out the antagonist role opposite the lesser known (and, eventually in the case of McGann, actually practically unknown) Brit thesp in the protagonist role.

Contrary to popular belief, The Movie was a ratings hit in both the UK (where it was broadcast on the evening of 1996’s Spring Bank Holiday Monday, capturing a mightily impressive 9.1 million viewers – the largest audience for a TV drama in its week) and the land of of its filming Canada (where it debuted on Edmonton, Alberta’s CITV-TV channel two days ahead of its US screening). However, as is widely known, it was far from a success when broadcast in the States, drawing a disappointing 5.6 million viewers. Yet blame can perhaps be apportioned to the fact it was up against the (then expected) last ever episode of monstrously successful sitcom Roseanne (1988-97) – it seems the gallivanting Gallifreyan has always found negotiating female Earthlings tricky.

Ultimately then, Segal and the Beeb’s gamble didn’t pay off; the regenerated, revitalised Doctor Who hadn’t ‘found an audience’ in the States (as per its requirement) and remained stillborn, ensuring no new series followed and McGann’s one, solid crack at playing the Doc was his last… well, at least on TV. For in the realms of audio adventures, novels and comic strips (not least the much-loved strip in the official Doctor Who Magazine), McGann’s Eighth Doctor became a bona fide hit with fans, happily and undoubtedly fulfilling the potential his incarnation had shown in its single on-screen appearance.

Moreover, as mentioned many times here, in the long-run Who itself gained greatly from The Movie; Russell T Davies clearly having noted that in the faster, more sci-fi fashionable turn-of-the-millennium-era the appetite for Who at least in Blighty was back, thus his decision to properly bring the show back to the BBC could well pay off. But what of the man who’d tried – and somewhat succeeded – in bringing the Doc back in The Movie? Well, in recent years Philip Segal has found great success as the man behind culty shows such as Ice Road Truckers (2007-present). For which channel? That’s right… the History Channel. The Doctor would be so proud…

.

.

george's_journal_motif

.

Next time: Rose (New Season 1/ 2005)

.

Previous close-ups/ reviews:

The Caves Of Androzani (Season 21/ 1984/ Doctor: Peter Davison)

The Five Doctors (Special/ 1983/ Main Doctor: Peter Davison)

City Of Death (Season 17/ 1979/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

The Talons Of Weng-Chiang (Season 15/ 1977/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

The Deadly Assassin (Season 14/ 1976/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

Pyramids Of Mars (Season 13/ 1975/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

Genesis Of The Daleks (Season 12/ 1975/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

The Ark In Space (Season 12/ 1975/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

The Dæmons (Season 8/ 1971/ Doctor: Jon Pertwee)

Inferno (Season 7/ 1970/ Doctor: Jon Pertwee)

The War Games (Season 6/ 1969/ Doctor: Patrick Troughton)

An Unearthly Child (Season 1/ 1963/ Doctor: William Hartnell)

.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 60 other followers