Sunday, January 31, 2010

Me and My Shada...

Pixie's been doing her homework again.

Let's just say that my recommendation of "The Kingmaker" didn't go down too well with the rest of the team (Philistines) but they have graciously accorded me the opportunity to redeem my honour by recommending another Big Finish audio adventure. Oolon wants something more traditional, so I'm going to have to revoke "The Chimes of Midnight" as my next suggestion and go for "Shada" instead. You can't get much more traditional than this somewhat legendary unfinished Tom Baker adventure, now can you?

This is an adventure that Big Finish actually did for the BBC, rather than just being licenced to use the Beeb's characters. It was originally done for BBCi's Cult TV website (and the Prof seems to think there was Flash animation alongside it) where I missed it, so I've settled for the extended CD instead.

Shada was written by Douglas Adams and fell victim to strike action in 1979 (for the full story, see the Beeb's own take on it here). Bits of what was actually shot before the whole thing was abandoned eventually turned up in "The Five Doctors". The CD script has, by necessity, been tweaked to take into account that it's Paul McGann in the role and not Tom Baker, but that does lead to the excellent line of "...back when I was all curly hair and teeth". Yep, 'cos that wig in the TV movie was perfectly fine, apparently...

McGann is excellent as the Doctor. I'm not a huge fan of the TV movie, but he does a cracking audio. He works very well with Lalla Ward, who's back to being more of a useful Romana rather than the whimpering idiot one in "The Creature from the Pit". And most of the rest of the cast is pretty stellar: James Fox is wonderfully bumbling as Professor Chronotis (whilst supplying further evidence to support my argument that most Timelords really aren't cool), Hannah Gordon does a great line in sexy starships and Andrew Sachs does a funny voice (but then, I suppose we'd be disappointed if he didn't).

Susannah Harker also turns up (presumably having been let out of Sapphire and Steel's reality warping box specially for the occassion) and Melvin Hayes (a name which will mean nothing to anyone not old enough to remember "It Ain't 'Alf Hot, Mum") does an excellent impersonation of another gravelly voiced old-crotchett whose face I can visualise but can't remember what the hell he's called. Hopefully it'll come to me before I finish writing this; even the Prof can't remember his name, but he thinks he's in "The Vicar of Dibley" if that helps (I don't want to know how he knows that). The only really duff bit of voice-acting comes from the lad playing Chris Parsons, who doesn't quite realise in the first episode that he's supposed to be acting and not just reading out loud. Still, he seems to get the hang of it by the second act.

The story takes place over six parts, and like a lot of the original series could happily have been sorted out in four. Still, it doesn't feel quite as relentlessly padded as, say, "Inferno". There are some whacking great plot-holes, too. Now I know its probably not PC to say bad things about Douglas Adams, who by all accounts was a truly lovely bloke, but his writing was always a bit, well, wayward. "Shada" really flags up the problems inherent in being your own script editor, something RTD reinforced constantly throughout his own reign. Just let someone else do it, its far less painful in the long run.

I did enjoy listening to "Shada", and it is an interesting story in spite of the "WT*?" moments, but the one thought that kept coming back to haunt me was just how god-awful it would have looked if the BBC ever had got round to filming it all. In my mind's eye, the starship was pretty impressive, the Kraag were all nobbly and smouldering and Shada was grim and never-ending, but I just know that the Beeb's version would have been absolute tat. There would have been another of Matt Irving's washing-up liquid bottle and a pair of stabilisers space vehicles, some truly dreadful rubber suits and an "Ark in Space" set of pods, just sprayed black for the hell of it. And that's the real downfall for this audio; because it is a real script, from the real show you know exactly how it would look, rather than the rest of the audios, where you can dream about how it should look.

So, traditional? - yes; entertaining? - yes; flawed? - definitely; tainted by bad special effects association? - sadly; worth bothering with? - yes, as an interesting piece of ephemera that reminds us of the fact that no matter how ropey the effects, we still love the Doctor. Unless he's Sylvester McCoy.

Oh yes, and his name is Trevor Peacock, by the way. All hail IMDB!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

My Kingdom for a Sound-a-Like

Big Finish carried the torch for Dr Who fans for many years before the show returned to TV, alongside the various Virgin and BBC novels. Nick Briggs, voice of pretty much every alien to appear so far under RTD (er, well, you know what I mean; gods, thats a mental image I could have done without), is now in charge and, by all accounts, doing a fine job in bringing past Doctor audio adventures to the slavering masses.

The quality overall has been a little variable over the years. David Tennant has also made numerous guest appearances, often as UNIT cannon fodder, sorry, soldiers. There have been some very experimental stories, such as the alternative timeline adventure with David Warner as the Doctor instead of Pertwee (Doctor Who Unbound: Sympathy for the Devil). And the one with Derek Jacobi as the writer (Doctor Who Unbound: Deadline) is superb. But then, it was written by Rob Shearman.

Now I'm not an expert on Big Finish audios; that's more the Prof's line (he's way more a Dr Who geek than I am, bless). But he does a sterling job of listening to the ones that take his fancy, then telling me which ones are really worth listening to.

Arguably amongst the best is "The Kingmaker" by Nev Fountain, most famous in Britain for being one of the writers on Dead Ringers. This topical impressions show started on BBC radio before moving onto the telly, as many do, and was possibly best known for the prank phonecalls John Culshaw used to make whilst pretending to be Tom Baker's Doctor. He was very good at it, too; the best was one he made to Sylvester McCoy, who part way through asks "Have you been drinking again, Tom?". The only unsettling part of it all was the suggestion that McCoy often got such rambling, incoherent phonecalls from the 4th Doctor and was actually quite used to it.

Culshaw gets to strut his stuff in this audio adventure with Peter Davison's Doctor, filling in for Mr Baker in possibly the worst impression he's ever done of him (which is a terrible shame, because he's usually spot on). And he's not the only sound-a-like present...

The plot centres around the 5th Doctor doing a spot of historical research for a series of books he's supposed to be writing. The thorny problem of the Princes in the Tower arises, so the Doctor, in his usual innocent-but-doomed way, decides to go back and find out first hand just what Richard III did with them. As you can imagine, things go very wrong, very quickly.

His companions on this adventure are Peri and Erimem, an ancient Egyptian princess. I always hated Peri as an assistant; she was dumb, got Peter Davison's Doctor killed and was dumb. Did I mention that she was also really dumb? I always wanted to give her a damn good slap. But in this audio, her thickness is played for wonderful, understated comic effect and despite myself I actually ended up quite liking her. Not as much as Erimem, but still.

Who-ever did the casting for this audio really does deserve a medal. Richard is played by Stephen Beckett, who does an absolutely sterling Eccleston-a-like. Make the most of it, its not as if we're ever going to get the real thing after the Beeb's cock-ups during his stint on the TV series. He delivers his lines with a dry wit, a job that is made very easy by the quality of the writing and the cleverness of the script.

Davison, as ever, is superb. Just like McGann, he's used the audio adventures to really develop the character of his Doctor, a world-weary innocent who can't do right for doing wrong. The jokes are funny and not over-done, the plot is clever (so much so that I can't really tell you any of it without ruining it for you) and the other vocal support is brilliant, including Arthur Smith at his gravelly best as Clarrie.

So, if you fancy supporting Big Finish and want an entertaining, historical adventure, "The Kingmaker" is a good place to start. And where else are you going to be able to pretend that you have three of the best Doctors vocally sparring with each other? Nowhere.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

More Shit to Spend Cash On

I'm still waiting for latest Wave 2 Classic Series Who figs to turn up today from Forbidden Planet. I've had 'em on pre-order since before Christmas and I'm a sucker for the classic range. Truly, they may as well just have a direct debit out of my bank account.

Wave 2 is EarthShock Cyberman, 1967 classic Ice Warrior, Morbius (looking like leftover bits from other model kits), Pyramids of Mars Mummy, The Master (from Deadly Assassin) and (yawn) Voc Robot.

Passing the site, I notice they've got a few new ones on pre-order from the makers, Character Options (I don't do many of the new ones, and when I do I'm picky). The latest wave, End of Time, has only 4 figures - Emo Leaping Blonde ASBO Master, I've Just Fallen out of a Space Ship and it Still Didn't Kill me 10th Doctor, The Narrator (Rassilon), and Another fig With a new Head Stuck on from the 11th Doc (in 10ths outfit). These are all expected on January 31st. The Rassilon's not bad, but it'll be cheap in the shops in 6 months cos no one will want one. I can wait. The rest, alas, are just the usual plastic tat - but no more so than than a few of the classic range if your not a completist like I am. There's some nice bigger images of the new range, as ever, at (of which we've pirated one above).

Bless Forbidden Plant for doing these, especially the sweet exclusives from last year. The range of Docs slowly growing on the shelf is lookin' pretty damn cool.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Join Podshock for their Pre-Gallifrey 21 Second Life Meet-Up

Come to Second Life and meet up with the Podshock podcasters and many other Doctor Who fans (even some of us Dirty WHOers will be there) and share your love of Doctor Who and Torchwood. The event takes place on the 20th of February, 2010. There are virtual TARDIS tours, dancing to sci-fi & Doctor Who related music, fun discussions about your favorite subject.

I can't emphasize how fun this is. It's such an easy and immediate way to meet fans like yourself from all around the world! The setting is in the excellent Doctor Who themed Second Life sim of Katrina.

For a more full, detailed explanation and useful information we urge you to go check out the Podshock blog page.

Possible reboot of Doctor Who for Americans

I'm SORRY. But this is WRONG WRONG WRONG. Or at least it feels wrong. By Rassilon's beard...

The title of the article linked to below is Fox developing U.S. version of 'Torchwood'. Yeah, yeah yeah. Whatever. "Touchwood". Who cares? Not me. I know some people LOVE that show. Personally I've tried ...snores. Oh, sorry. I fell asleep. And YES that last series WAS quite engaging and overall excellent. BUT I digress!

The real story for me is at the bottom of the article where it briefly mentions..: "Tranter might try to reboot "Doctor Who" for U.S. audiences..."

*SHUDDERS and involuntarily dry heaves*
Finally. This is certain proof that there is no God or that there IS a Devil. One or the other.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Doctor Who charicatures by Jon Pinto

Spot on illustrations of the 10 Doctors by Jon Pinto. Go to his website to discover his other works of genius. Just click on the website illustrations to view or save the much larger versions of various Doctor illustrations to your computer.

My personal favorite is the Paul McGann portrait. ;-)

Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre: End of Time Part 3

Oh yeah, Fuschia!!? WHO's the Master NOW!?

I am the MASTER.....
oh yes, I went there.

Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre: End of Time Part 2

Haha! This time I've beaten you, Teedles. The Prof was hoping for an "I am the Master" joke, but we're not going there again...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre

Fuschia! I cannot believe I beat you to posting this....

Ladies and Gents, by the Pixie's favorite wool-based production company, The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre: Dr Who End Of Time pt. 1.

11th Doctor Wallpaper

I found a fun fan made wallpaper of the 11th Doctor and companion Amy Pond. I found this lovely wallpaper on Anna Thetical's flickr photostream (much larger sizes found there), where she also features many other Doctor Who wallpapers.
Enjoy. ;-)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

All Hail Babelcolour: 10 Docs Pt. 2

Never heard of Babelcolour?

If not, your in for a treat. Ignore what's below and nip over the his YouTube channel right this instant and enjoy.

The motherfuckin-foot-master of Who recolourization and editing, Babelcolour is the sickeningly talented daddy of making the visually impossible possible. Right now he's engaged in the epic task of 'The Ten Doctors', his opus of 45 years of content telling an epic tale by pulling and tweaking footage from across the Docs time-lines. Well worth a look and, as of today, now up to part 2.

If you do nothing else, check out his gob-smacking tribute to 'The Time War' (it makes me weep like a Japanese schoolgirl) and his (oh-so-educational) 'Every Doctor Who Story 1963-2008'.

Hat's off to the chap. Simply the best.

Friday, January 1, 2010

End of Time Pt. 2 Bingo

WebMaster: Terry Lightfoot
WebDoctor: Oolon Sputnik
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