This is one of the paperback 50th Anniversary series and features the First Doctor it was first published June 1st 2002 by Random House UK…
I decided to cheat a little an post an excerpt from the authors introduction, firstly it makes a few things easier to explain but also it will help you make sense of my review.
As you can see the Agatha Christie theme runs through this book not only in terms of a plot outline but also in the chapter titles each of which is an actual book title by Christie.
We start the book off from the point of view of the military unit, predominantly that of Shade initially with more characters becoming known to us as the book progresses. They are in the middle of a war an believe they are about to take part in a training mission on an asteroid. On their arrival they soon discover not all is as they expect it to be and they are not alone.
After a misdirected effort to reach their destination the Doctor, Polly and Ben also find themselves on the asteroid and a force field prevents the re-entering the TARDIS.
I am going to really leave the plot there as I don’t want to give away too much, those who know the Christie original will know people disappear one by one but in this case even that is not what it appears to be.
I have to confess that I am not thrilled by the companion choice for this book, of all the companions down the years these are two of the ones that I have least affection for and really cannot relate to.
My problem is they are very much of their time, the Doctor picks them up from Earth in the 1960’s and mentally they do not really change that much, for my personal taste Ben is far too patronising he references to Polly as ‘Duchess’ annoy me maybe because I used to have a dog by that name and can see similarities between the way he treats her and a pampered pooch. Polly herself is also everything that frustrates me in many female characters, constantly requiring saving, insipid and superficial I just never feel any real depth to her character and her doe eyes at Ben make me feel a little queasy.
Sadly the Doctor himself is rather a non entity in this book, for the majority of the story he remains helpless on the periphery and only in the very last chapters does he real contribute to the story at all.
I know it sounds like I didn’t like the book very much but that is not really true, I liked the idea of it, and I like the story surrounding the space marines and the war they are fighting, but it very much felt like that was the main story and the Doctor was just squeezed in, I think the book could have been written just as well if not better without his presence at all.
If this had been a later, more physically active Doctor and more interesting companions it could have been a different story but I actually think as a first Doctor story it does not really work.
I am going to give it 4 out of 5 which may seem generous but the actual writing is good and the story is good just the Who link that fails in my eyes.
I did debate whether to actually do these in order but decided against it after all very few Who fans will have ever watched every single episode in order initially so I shall use Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey and jump back and forth.
Today I am going to look at a newer episode The Eleventh Hour which sees us introduced to the 11th Doctor which seems fitting as in only a few weeks we know he will play the role for the final time.
Story Title; The Eleventh Hour
the Eleventh Doctor played by Matt Smith
Amy Pond played by Karen Gillan
First Aired in the UK:
“The Eleventh Hour” was first broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC One on 3 April 2010. Overnight figures reported that 8 million watched the episode on BBC One and the simulcast on BBC HD. Final consolidated figures rose to 9.59 million on BBC One and 494,000 on BBC HD, making the final rating for the episode 10.08 million viewers, the most-watched première since “Rose” and the eighth highest rated episode since Doctor Who‘s 2005 return. The episode was second for the entire week on BBC One and number four for the week across all channels. The episode earned an Appreciation Index of 86, considered “excellent”.
The episode was also popular on BBC’s online iPlayer. Within one week of broadcast, “The Eleventh Hour” received 1.27 million hits on BBC’s online iPlayer service, the record for most requests in a week.It went on to become the most requested episode of 2010 with 2.241 million views; Doctor Who was named the most watched programme of the year on the service. Stats taken from Wikipedia
We ended the previous series with the Tenth Doctors obvious pain at his impending regeneration, many people have divided opinions about whether it was tear jerking or whiny but either way Matt Smith’s comic genius in this episode was the perfect antidote. There are times where some of the lines do sound a little like the were written for the previous Doctor but overall he imposes his personality onto the role within minutes of climbing out of the wrecked Tardis. His first human contact is with a little girl Amelia Pond who has something living in her house. He sets off to take a quick hop to the future but returns years later to find Amelia has grown into Amy, a feisty young lady determined not to take any nonsense. The monster living in her house can take the form of any person with whom it has formed a bond,
We also see Rory in this episode but there is no hint of his role in episodes to come. In fact at the end of this episode Amy does the same as Rose and runs off with the Doctor leaving her poor boyfriend behind, not a trait which endeared Rose to me.
I could spend ages discussing this episode in depth but I don’t want to it was a great romp and this clip shows Smith firmly gripping the Doctor mantle
But for this episode I want to talk about something very important to Doctor Who and that is family, the show was designed for family viewing (though some older who fans seem to have forgotten this now and believe it is made solely for their benefit) and in my house this episode marked not only a new Doctor but a new viewer. My daughter, all grown up was a definite Tennant fan girl, who was determined not to watch it (that didn’t last long and she fell for Smiths Doctor just as much) but my own little monster was at an age where he was beginning to really take notice of things and he fell in love with the show. For him Smith was his first Doctor and though he loves all the Doctors except number Six but you can’t really blame him for that, he does prefer the new series. There are so few programmes you can all sit down to and watch as a family where you can all take equal enjoyment from but more than that there is something so heart warming about the first time your child learns to love something you love rather than you just watching along with kids TV. The monster and I have hours of fun playing with Doctor Who toys, reading his magazines and books, watching episodes together, we even went to The National Media Museum for a Doctor Who day out. we have been to watch the 50th special at the cinema together and in doing so have shared a part of history.
Fandom is great but sharing your passion with those you love means even more, I know there will probably come a day where the monster decides it isn’t ‘cool’ to watch Who but I know that I have given him a gift that in years to come he will come back to and one day he will sit with his arm round his own little monsters as they watch Daleks exterminate.
Now it may seem strange putting up the phrase spoilers on a programme that has stretched back 50 years but I am aware when discussing the older stories there may be some people who have not seen them. The older series many stories were told over 4-6 episodes so I will briefly discuss each episode then an overview of the story as a whole.
I decided that the best place to start would be at the beginning, the format of these review is still a work in progress so please bear with me, all feed back welcome as always.
Story Title; An Unearthly Child
the First Doctor played by William Hartnell
Susan Foreman played by Carole Ann Ford
Barbara Wright played by Jacqueline Hill
Ian Chesterton played by William Russell
First Aired in the UK;
“An Unearthly Child“
23 November 1963
“The Cave of Skulls“
30 November 1963
“The Forest of Fear“
7 December 1963
14 December 1963
Episode 1; An Unearthly Child
We begin with the two teachers, Ian and Barbara, from the school which Susan has attending becoming suspicious about the girl and her erratic knowledge base, highly intelligent in some aspects get incredibly naive in others Susan has not quite managed to fully integrate herself unnoticed into life as a teenage girl. She loves the music and the twentieth century yet it is in the details her ‘otherness’ shows through her inability to grasp old money, and some of the more basic concepts of social interactions give her away and this failed with a down slide in her homework standards lead to Barbara decides to visit her home. Unable to find the address the school have for her she enlists the help of Ian to follow Susan home with the intention of talking to her grandfather however instead of a house they find themselves outside a junk yard.
I want to keep the clips to a minimum but as this was the first glimpse we get of the Doctor I could not resist we also get our first look inside the TARDIS. Although we now are familiar with the idea of the TARDIS it is worth stopping and considering just how different this was to anything else at the time of its broadcast. Spaceships and time travel were of course well documented topics in literary works as well as in film but the idea of something existing in different dimensions was as far as I am aware unheard of. The choice of the Police Box for the ship was am amazing choice as it took the ordinary and created something extraordinary.
It is worth mentioning here that in trying to be impartial rather than just the squealing fan girl that I do think in many ways unless you are already a Who fan you are not going to fall in love with the series from this episode if you watch it as your first episode today. By today’s standards the camera work seems clumsy and the picture quality is poor although the BBC are showing a restored version as part of the 50th celebrations. The other failing is really the story line. Strange girl gets followed home from school by two teachers who would in today’s climate be reported for stalking her, follow her to a junk yard where she appears to be living and confront her grumpy old granddad. In any other genre this would be the point social services were called instead they force their into her home and are shocked by what they find. The episode ends with the Doctor setting the ship in flight after refusing to allow Ian and Barbara to leave and they land on what appears to be a strange beach. The cliff hanger ending lacks impact compared to many of those modern viewers are used to,
Episode 2; The Cave of Skulls
I need to keep the summaries briefer for the next episodes or it will be a ridiculously long post lol so here goes
We start with a group of cavemen arguing about making fire and failing. Lots of shouting, and political squabbling about leadership.
Meanwhile in the TARDIS the Doctor is arguing with Ian about the possibility they have travelled anywhere before opening the doors to reveal the prehistoric landscape. Once outside the Doctor notices that the TARDIS has failed to camouflage itself to blend into the environment. Susan, Barbara and Ian explore together while the Doctor wonders off to take samples, the Doctor disappears and Susan has hysterics before they go looking for him.
The Doctor is held captive by the tribesmen as they fight for leadership, the others are captured as the search for the Doctor and before long are reunited in captivity. We leave them prisoners in a cave surrounded by skulls that have evidently met with a violent ending.
Episode 3; The Forest of Fear
After a little plotting and squabbling our intrepid travellers work out how to escape from the cave, Barbara nearly gives them away by screaming about a dead wild boar which is rather amusing considering where they had just escaped from. We do begin to get character building in this episode revealing the main characters personalities more possibly because they are isolated for most of the episode.
When the leader of the tribe is attacked they rush to his aid and lose their chance to escape.
Episode 4; The Firemaker
We open with a view of the Tardis surrounded by savages before seeing our daring explorers dragged back to the caves. The Doctor tries to re-establish the power balance within the tribe and actually instigates the stoning of one character to drive him from the tribe which is rather a disturbing image when you consider what the Doctor has come to represent in later years. They are thrown back into the caves, and discovered making fire, eventually they make there escape and return to the Tardis.
This was a brilliant opening story for the series, it is worth bearing in mind that the actual intention of the series was still being tweaked and was intended to provide an element of historical education as part of the programme so heading back to the primitive beginnings of man was apt in more ways than one.
I decided to take a break from writing fiction on Fridays and indulge my fan girl side and concentrate on my Sunday Story and writing for publication.
So today we continue with the next in the special 50th Anniversary Kindle series and the third Doctor
Now once again it is hard to really discuss the story without giving too much away simply because these are novellas rather than full novels but we can look at the characters involved.
The characterisation of the Doctor (played on TV by Jon Pertwee) and his companion Jo Grant (played by Katie Manning) is consistent with the TV episodes I have seen but I have to make a confession here I have not watched the Third Doctor as much as I have watched the others. This is not because I dislike him as a Doctor but I grew up knowing the actor for the major role he played…
I have to say I have listened to a couple of episodes rather than actually watching them and I do find it easier to see him as the Doctor without him actually in front of me (strange I know) so this was a perfect way for me to enjoy a third Doctor story, Jo Grant I love, it can appear to a casual viewer her primary role was to get into trouble and be rescued but one closer inspection you can see she if often subtly the reason for the Doctors success.
The real bonus about this book is the baddie, in the first two book from the series the alien threat was posed by less well known races but in this third story The Master makes his presence know.
It is interesting to note that I had no trouble visualising the older incarnation of The Master played by Roger Delgado rather than the more recent John Simms portrayal. I think both actors played the roles wonderfully but I do also feel they both are tied to the Doctor’s they played opposite and I could not imagine them in each others story lines.
Overall 5 out of 5 for the third book and the third Doctor onwards now to the fourth.