Thursday’s penultimate news of 2007

Doctor Who

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Audio and radio play reviews

Review: The Companion Chronicles – Old Soldiers

Old SoldiersAfter yesterday’s tussle with awfulness – aka the Companion Chronicles’ Helicon Prime – we come face to face with something a whole lot better. Nicholas Courtney’s Brigadier has been a companion of sorts – or at the very least a practising Friend of the Doctors – since the Troughton years, appearing opposite him, Hartnell (in The Three Doctors), Pertwee (for most of the era), Tom Baker (a couple of stories), Davison (The Five Doctors and Mawdryn Undead) and Sylvester McCoy (Battlefield). He’s also been something of a Big Finish regular, cropping up in The Spectre of Lanyon Moor (with Colin Baker), Minuet in Hell (with Paul McGann), the UNIT range of stories as well as a few others. So quite why they need him to have one of his own Companion Chronicles, I’m not sure.

All the same, of the three stories in the second series of the Companion Chronicles, Old Soldiers is probably the best. A traditional narrative in which Courtney reads the story to the listener rather than to another actor, it’s firmly in keeping with the Pertwee era and fleshes out both the Brigadier and UNIT a little.

Continue reading “Review: The Companion Chronicles – Old Soldiers”

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Some further additions to The Canon

On Monday, I came up with the idea of The Canon: the films and TV programmes British people need to have watched to be a literate member of society who understands British culture.

My, hasn’t that gone down a storm?

All the same, I’m carrying on since I think it’s relatively worthwhile doing.

My latest thought on the subject is that there might well be two Canons – one for men and one for women. I came to this conclusion by examining the following films and TV shows:

Group 1: The Italian Job; The Sweeney; Monty Python’s Flying Circus; The Professionals; The Fast Show
Group 2: Sex and the City; Pride and Prejudice; Bridget Jones’ Diary

Now, if you’re a British male, you will need to have watched all the shows in Group 1 to be able to function properly in British culture. If you don’t, you will not understand the deep cultural significance of “You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”, “Shut it!”, the Ministry of Silly Walks, the Ford Capri and “Scorchio!”, phrases and topics that will pop into conversation at various points of your life and which you’ll have to have patiently explained to you like you’re a small child if you don’t know what they are.

If you’re a British female, there will be no expectation that you know anything about anything in Group 1. Even if you do know about them, no British male will try to discuss them in conversation unless you raise the subject yourself – and you’ll probably be hailed and saluted if you do (and potentially thought a little odd, unfortunately).

However, there will be an expectation among other women that you know about Manolo Blahniks, Colin Firth swimming in a lake and giant pants*. Men knowing about any of these things risk being thought of as gay, which as we all know, Will Never Do. Unless you’re gay.

So at the very least, there need to be two Canons. Nevertheless, there’s also a very big overlap. Doctor Who, formerly part of the male Canon, is now officially in both groups thanks to Billie Piper and David Tennant. Whether you’re male or female, you need to have a passing acquaintanceship with both EastEnders and Coronation Street and know that houses/planes blow up a lot in Emmerdale. The Sweeney might well be moving into both groups, too, thanks to the necessity to understand it to get to grips with Life on Mars.

Any suggestions for shows that belong in only the male Canon or the female Canon? Or indeed both?

* This might only be true for middle class women.

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UK TV

Who’s your favourite Doctor?

The 10 DoctorsTrickier question than it sounds, “Who’s your favourite Doctor?”, even though it’s the most traditional of Doctor Who memes.

I was pondering this the other day, because I realised there wasn’t one Doctor that I ranked above all the others. There’s something dissatisfying about each of them, I realised.

You see the question isn’t really “Which Doctor is your favourite?”, it’s really “Which Doctor and era of the show is your favourite?” Yes, David Tennant is very good and could well be the best Doctor of them all, but he kind of irritated me during the second series of new Who. And there was Daleks in Manhattan to cast a great big shadow over him, too. So I couldn’t, in all conscious, vote for him as my favourite Doctor because of the dead weight of those stories draining off my enthusiasm for him.

So I slowly progressed through each of the Doctors in turn, weighing them up.

  • William Hartnell: The best Doctor for one episode only – the first one, An Unearthly Child, when he’s an evil git. After that, doo-lally tap, flying saucers on a pieces of string and stories that lasted longer than a tax audit and felt as bad to sit through.
  • Patrick Troughton: Good stories and at least one fun companion, but there’s just something about his Doctor that leaves little impression, although I do like his slyness in Invasion.
  • Jon Pertwee: Brilliant for his first season, where he’s imperious, alien and self-serving (“Screw you guys. As soon as I get this TARDIS fixed, I’m sodding off. You can fight the aliens yourself then”) and has the wonderful Liz Shaw as a companion. Then he turns into a wine-tasting git who goes to establishment clubs and has a companion with the mental capacity of a squirrel.
  • Tom Baker: Again, a wonderful first few seasons of stories and a clever final season (that’s a bit dull, admittedly). But hampered by the rubbish Graham Williams era and Tom Baker slowly going round the bend in the middle.
  • Peter Davison: Great stories, although some really turkeys here and there. Some interesting attempts at characterisations of companions, even the ones who were really irritating, as well as Turlough who was great (for a story). But the Doctor himself didn’t really have a personality except in Castrovalva (his first story) and The Caves of Androzani (his last story).
  • Colin Baker: If you were going by his audio adventures only, one of the best Doctors. Possibly even the best. And the idea of a slightly mental, psychotic Doctor was quite fun. Plus he had Peri as a companion. Ah, Peri… But the eighth circle of Hell is probably filled with giant plasma screens playing his TV stories on a continual loop.
  • Sylvester McCoy: Take any other Doctor, give him the same stories (yes, even Time and the Rani and The Happiness Patrol) and he’d make them into instant classics. But with Sylvester McCoy, even the best of the stories have an element that I will describe as “extreme suckiness”
  • Paul McGann: Not a lot to go on really, is there? Could have been good. Definitely could have been better than in the TV movie, and when he’s good in the audio stories, he’s very, very good. But still not worthy of best Doctor honours.
  • Christopher Ecclescake: Oozed loathing for the show from every pore of his body. Are you mental?
  • David Tennant: Could have been the best. But isn’t. See above.

I eventually came to the conclusion that my favourite Doctor was Jon Pertwee, but only during his first season (season seven), although I could potentially swap him out for Tom Baker in Ark in Space.

So over to you guys, assuming you have the time and the inclination. What’s your favourite era of Doctor Who? It can be as long as you like (eg the 80s, any year with a 3 in it); it can be as short as you like (eg the pre-title sequence of Remembrance of the Daleks, the end of Utopia); it can be new Who or old Who; it can be based on any criteria (eg David Tennant iz sooo HOTT in eVERYTHING!!!!!, the hermeneutic coding in Kinda is the best seen in any performed text).

Answers on a postcard to the usual address or in the comments below.

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