Diary of an old cheeser

Hi there! Like other blogs, this is my chance to wax lyrical (some might say talk utter cr*p) about a) what's happening in my life b) all of my pet obsessions in particular music, tv, movies, books and other generally connected things, quite often of the retro, old and "cheesy" variety. Hence the title of my blog. Feel free to leave a comment if the mood takes you. There's nothing like a good chinwag about one's favourite topics and besides I love to meet new people! Cheers, Simon

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

New Beginnings!

As you might just have gathered from my previous posts, I am a major Dr Who fan. And last month, a DVD boxset called "New Beginnings" was released, containing a trilogy of Who stories from the early 1980s – “The Keeper of Traken”, “Logopolis” and “Castrovalva”. The linking element between all three stories is the return of the Dr’s old adversary and fellow renegade Time Lord, The Master (Boo! Hiss!) In addition, “Logopolis” sees the departure of Tom Baker after a 7 year stint as the Fourth incarnation of the Dr (sob!) and “Castrovalva” introduces newcomer Peter Davison as Dr Number Five (hoorah!) And if that wasn’t enough in the way of changes, two new companions join the TARDIS crew – an aristocratic, scientifically gifted girl from the planet Traken called Nyssa and a brash Australian air stewardess by the name of Tegan Jovanka!! “Logopolis” and “Castrovalva” rank as two of my all-time favourite Dr Who stories so you can imagine my excitement when I heard they were coming out on DVD…

So, guys, gals and fellow Whovian geeks, here's a review of the three stories and what I like and don’t like about them (fortunately I tend toward the former rather than the latter). And I should add, this is a VERY long review. So gird your loins, please. Old Cheeser is about to get on his soap box and has a lot to say on the topic…! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. Incidentally, there’s quite a lot of spoilers ahead so if you don’t want to know what happens in these stories, DON’T read on! Go watch the stories first!


Or the Egghead of Traken as I used to refer to him. So called because the Keeper of the story is an alien with a very big, crusty egg-shaped head, as you can see in the pic just above. Very ornate looking chair as well, eh?

The Keeper presides over the Union of Traken, a group of planets which exist in universal harmony and are held together by “people just being terribly nice to each other”, as the Dr puts it. Any evil that tries to penetrate the world of Traken usually shrivels up and dies. But now something is threatening the harmony…

Tom Baker is on good form as the Dr in this story, but does look pretty worn-out and tired. This is very close to the end of his reign in the role of the Time Lord and it shows. From this season onward, Dr Who had a new producer who took the show in a different, initially more serious direction and apparently some of the changes didn’t sit that happily with Tom. The manic, clownish fourth Dr of the last few seasons has been replaced with a more sombre, dry version. However whilst I miss some of Tom Baker’s old glee (some have accused the new producers of literally sapping the life out of him) his more reigned-in performance is still welcome after the excesses of before – he was probably getting TOO out of hand. And I love the new “Autumnal” variation of the Dr’s costume – all dark, rich burgundies and reds (see the photo below or my very own profile picture for evidence!)

What about the rest of the story ? It’s an interesting tale of the pervading influence of evil in a “good” society. The planet Traken can be likened to a garden of Eden with the Melkur statue that lands on the planet (see right) the equivalent of a serpent entering that garden of paradise! Seemingly calcified and dead, the Melkur is in fact very much alive and one of the Trakenites, a woman called Kassia, falls under the Melkur’s influence. Kassia’s husband Tremas has been nominated to become the next Keeper when the current one dies and she’s upset that he is going to be taken away from her (Becoming Keeper isn’t like being made Prime Minister of Britain. No. It means sitting in a chair inside a glass chamber and not being physically present for the majority of the time. Sounds like stacks of fun, doesn’t it? One can sympathise with Kassia’s annoyance. And I can imagine it would play havoc with one's love life – if any of the Trakenites have one, that is). Anyhow, the Melkur promises Kassia that Tremas will not become Keeper but it’s all part of his plan to gain power.

And, as we find out in the final episode, the Melkur is really a TARDIS inhabited by…the Master! Who we finally see properly in the story’s last scenes, looking horribly charred and decrepit in a black cowl. It’s great to see the Dr’s old foe back in the fold and on the whole his return is well-handled. Geoffrey Beevers (coincidentally, the husband of Caroline John, who played Jon Pertwee companion Liz Shaw!) as Melkur/The Master has a deliciously malevolent voice, which drips with evil/sarcasm and this is used effectively throughout. When he is unveiled as the Master at the end he does get rather hammy and silly though, especially the bit when he look like he’s going to strangle the Dr.

I like the cod-Shakespearean look to the story. The cast all look suitably opulent, wearing robes and tunics with big puffy sleeves and shoulder pads. The women also have fabulously big hair – Kassia’s flame-haired “do” is wonderful:

Unfortunately Sheila Ruskin’s performance as Kassia isn’t quite as wonderful as her coiffure. She veers from some fairly endearing confusion and pain (“My husband will be taken away from me forever! And I know it will be soon!”) to wide-eyed over-acting and hysterics (“The evil is before you!! Before your eyes!!”) Not to mention her ridiculously flouncy fainting technique.

Anthony Ainley on the other hand is convincing and likeable as Tremas, Keeper-nominate and Nyssa’s father. With his long white hair and beard and generally amenable manner it’s hard to anticipate what will happen to him later on. Mr Ainley’s performance here is considerably more subtle than later ones and shows what a good actor he can be, when given a decent script. And if you want to know who he goes on to play after, either read on, or…re-arrange the letters of “Tremas” to make another name…

And what about Nyssa? She was never my most favourite companion (I preferred Tegan!) but she makes an impressive, if understated, debut here. Being a scientific genius and all, I felt that she became rather patronising and clever-clever later on in the programme, but in “Keeper” she still shows promise, teaming up with The Dr, Adric and Tremas to defeat Melkur. I like the bit when she shoots the Fosters, showing that she’s not such a push-over. And her “fairy tale” outfit – tiara, velvet tunic and floaty skirt – looks very pretty indeed (see right).

The ending of “Keeper” comes as a shock too. Just when you think harmony has been restored to Traken and all is nice and jolly again, the Master emerges from a grandfather clock which is in fact another TARDIS! Gasp! And then poor old Tremas is taken over by the Time Lord, who seizes his body to regenerate himself. Noooo!! A new, dapper-looking Master with slicked back hair and a black velvet suit disappears inside the Grandfather clock, muttering “A new body…at last” then dematerialises…leaving a disoriented Nyssa calling: “Father? Where are you?” A rather chilling finale and proof that not every Dr Who story has a happy ending.

Overall then an enjoyable enough story, although for me, the best is yet to come...


The Dr decides that he wants to repair the TARDIS chameleon circuit and goes to the planet Logopolis to get it sorted out. Logopolis is an interesting kind of place. It’s populated by a group of elderly mathematicians whose calculations are actually responsible for holding the entire fabric of the universe together. Bizarre but true. AND…did you know that one of the meanings of “Logos” is “The rational principle that governs and develops the universe” and “Polis” is Greek for “ancient city”! Put them together and what you have got? Clever eh! Unfortunately the Dr's the Master, turns up and starts zapping the Logopolitans, so disturbing the equilibrium of the universe.

There’s a decidedly funereal feel to “Logopolis” that I really like and the sense that the end is in sight for the Dr comes across strongly. Some critics find this story too slow and ponderous (admittedly it’s very low on action) but I love the dialogue and general atmosphere. Although there is an occasionally ridiculous plot element – the Dr’s plan to materialise the TARDIS under the Thames and open the door to “flush out” the Master being the prime example – on the whole it’s a good, if sometimes slow-moving story. Most of episodes one and two take place inside the TARDIS and it’s only when the crew arrive on Logopolis that things really hot up, with the Master unleashing havoc.

Anthony Ainley makes his full debut as the Master in this story, although we don’t see him properly until episode three. Up until then we just hear him chuckling in evil fashion rather a lot as he taunts or murders various people, like the policeman who carks it in the opening sequence of part one, and later on, Tegan’s poor old Aunt Vanessa. This is quite effective – it’s far more menacing when you can’t SEE who’s doing all the killing – just some unseen presence.

The Master also has a deliciously nasty method of bumping people off, which involves using a weapon called the Tissue Compression Eliminator that shrinks people to doll sized proportions! Yes, you’ll never look at Barbie or Ken in the same way again.

The cliffhanger to Episode One is a kitsch classic, with the Dr stood next to Aunt Vanessa’s sports car on the Barnet-by-pass, being interrogated by a Detective Inspector who thinks he’s been doing all the killing.

The Dr: “But he’s still about somewhere…”

Detective Inspector: “He, sir?”

The Dr: “Yes. The Master”.

And he looks inside the sportscar to see ... well, look above!!! Here comes Barbie doll?

Going back to the subject of the The Master, he's fairly restrained in “Logopolis” before becoming the cackling, melodramatic villain of later stories. He’s cold, steely and determined, shrinking Logopolitans left, right and centre and determined to discover the mystery of Logopolis. However he soon realises he’s royally f*cked up when it transpires that his killing of the Logopolitans threatens the future of the universe itself! On the Dr’s instructions, Nyssa has been brought from Traken to determine her father’s whereabouts and when she encounters the Master she thinks she’s found him. In one heartbreaking scene she asks him: “What is this mission of yours Father? You seem so changed by it. You look younger, but – so cold.” Let’s face it, the Master doesn’t have THAT much of a resemblance to her old Dad. You would have thought that Nyssa might have guessed something was wrong, the silly girl! Talking of Nyssa, she’s a bit under-used in this story and was clearly shoe-horned into the action at the last minute (she wasn’t originally intended to become a long-term TARDIS traveller). She’s great in one scene though where she watches the destruction of her own home planet – moving stuff.

And then there’s Tegan – I’ve written about her at length before, so have a read if you want to know more about her character! Tegan’s scenes in episode one with Aunt Vanessa (played with splendid gusto by Dolore Whiteman), provide some good bits of comedy and contrast nicely with the general atmosphere of gloom and doom elsewhere. “Hell's teeth, Auntie Vanessa! It IS a flat!" Ms Jovanka proclaims, when the sports car that is supposed to be taking the duo to Heathrow Airport breaks down on the motorway, next to a certain blue police box. I love the dialogue between the pair:

Tegan, looking skywards, sees an aeroplane: "Now that's what I call travelling."

Aunt Vanessa: "You and your aeroplanes! Sometimes I think you should have been born with wings!”

And what about the departing Tom Baker? He’s on great dour form here, as befits his final story – it’s almost as if he knows the end is nigh. Appropriately there’s lots of talk of decay, destruction and dying – the story starts off with the Dr talking about the TARDIS falling apart and being in dire need of repair.

Then the shadow of his future catches up with the Dr in the form of…The Watcher!! Never has a non-speaking part been more significant than that of the wispy Watcher. He’s a decidedly odd looking fellow, swathed in white, without proper features and who we never even hear speaking properly. He hovers on the sidelines like some kind of other-wordly ghost, watching the Dr from afar and biding his time. You see he’s an omen of what lies in store for the Doc…

I love the shots of the Watcher as he stands by the motorway observing proceedings from far off. He’s not exactly the kind of person you see everyday on the Barnet-by-pass. And I really like the long distance shot of the Watcher on the bridge above the Thames, followed by the bit when the Dr goes to "talk" to him – Tom Baker's scarf blowing in the Winter breeze and the Watcher standing there, impassive. Spooky stuff.

And then there's the story's finale. I remember watching this as a kid and being gripped – my favourite doctor was about to die!! In a nail-biting climax the Dr and the Master fight atop a radio telescope. This isn’t just a normal fight either. As in all great science-fiction, the very existence of the universe is as stake. The Dr and the Master have formed a temporary alliance in order to work out a way of halting the spread of entropy that is destroying the universe. They work out a way to do it but - shock! horror! - the Master tricks the Dr and decides that he's going to hold the whole universe to ransom. After all, if you have the means of saving the entire cosmos from total destruction, you're in a pretty good position to bargain. However the Master's method of doing this is to record his threats on what appears to be a Sony Walkman, then plug it into the radio telescope's audio system and broadcast the message to the locals. Erm...One somehow doubts that the rest of the universe is going to hear this... But! Everything hinges on an all-important cable. The Master threatens to transmit a signal down it that will end the universe (honest!). However once it is removed, the threat will be over. So the Dr takes his chances and goes outside onto the radar gantry to pull out the cable. But the nasty Master programmes the radar to begin rotating so that the Dr will be thrown off the gantry...can the good Doc make it to the cable in time??

This is a suitably dramatic final challenge for the Dr as well as a fitting way for him to bow out - dying whilst saving the entire universe has to be the ultimate in heroism!! However in time-honoured Dr Who tradition, there are some truly rubbish special effects – one shot of the Dr hanging from the telescope is obviously a stick man on a string. The Master sitting and watching the Dr as he falls off the gantry is clearly a still photograph (he doesn’t so much as flinch). But I love the montage of flashbacks of the Dr’s greatest foes that follows, all there to chide and mock him – the Daleks, the Cybermen, Davros and the evil Black Guardian – “Dr! You shall die for this!”

And then – the Dr falls!! Cue hilarious shot of Adric, Nyssa and Tegan all exhibiting “shocked” reactions to this event.

And suddenly we’re there. The fourth Dr’s final ever on-screen moments. The crumpled (although remarkably unbloody) Doc lies beneath the radio telescope as his companions gather round him, each calling out “Dr?” in wary tones. Cue another round of flashbacks of the Fourth Dr’s previous companions – Sarah, Harry, The Brigadier…great stuff for nostalgics like me.

The regeneration scene itself is one of my all time favourite bits and is lovingly done with the Watcher merging with the fourth Dr to become his fifth incarnation. You see the Watcher was the future Dr all the time! (There are also some great outtakes of this scene elsewhere on the “Logopolis” DVD, with Tom Baker getting all grumpy whilst they set up the regeneration shot – apparently he found the idea of leaving more upsetting than he thought).

And then the new Fifth Dr sits up and it’s all over! Ta dah!! I love the Dr's inquisitive look at Nyssa. Interestingly, when we next see him in "Castrovalva" his hair has turned a much lighter shade of blonde. And his boots have disappeared to be replaced by shoes. Amazing what regeneration can do for you.

Overall then great stuff and "Logopolis" will always remain a personal favourite for me.


All change! And hello Tristan Farnon. Or should I say Peter Davison – the youngest ever actor to be cast as the Dr. Initially I wasn’t sure about him and the public weren’t entirely convinced either – the general consensus was that he was already too well-known, his recent appearance in “All Creatures Great and Small” being a case in point. (Other actors previously cast as the Dr had been relatively unknown). However after "Castrovalva" I think Peter D undoubtedly proved his ability in the role...more on him later.

"Castrovalva" is quite a slow mover to start with – it's more character than plot-focused, giving viewers the chance to get to know the new Dr as well as the companions. And just like “Logopolis”, much of the first two episodes take place in the TARDIS. The overwhelming emphasis is on the Dr's failing regeneration, and his companions' attempts to help him out. The Dr goes looking for a place within the TARDIS called the Zero Room, which is supposed to have unique healing properties and will enable him to recover from the trauma of his regeneration.

Eventually the Zero Room is found but en route we get to see lot more of the TARDIS interiors, not just the console room, I hasten to add - confining the action to one place would surely get boring (although that did happen in a very early William Hartnell story "The Edge of Destruction"). I forgot to mention the extra TARDIS locations we see in "Logopolis" - the TARDIS cloisters being the most notable of all, somewhere the Dr retreats when in need of solitude and a quiet think! In "Castrovalva" there are lots of corridors plus a kind of Cricket pavilion room (in which the Dr discovers his new costume, replacing the Tom Baker outfit that he's still wearing) and of course the Zero Room. All of these sets are stylistically similar to the console room and very nicely designed too, unlike the horrendous TARDIS sets used in “The Invasion of Time” (brick walls and manky old corridors, yuk).

The Zero Room itself is an impressive set, and it's a relief when the Dr and co find it! It's an isolated space from the rest of the TARDIS, in fact the universe itself. As Tegan wryly comments, "The Dr should have told me that's what he wanted. I could have shown him Brisbane". It's so peaceful and tranquil in the Zero Room that the Dr goes to sleep and starts levitating.

But is all quite as tranquil as it seems?

NO!! Because the dastardly Master is back and has yet MORE plans up his velvet sleeves to defeat the Dr once and for all. Blimey, he just doesn't let up does he? No sooner has the Dr regenerated, then the Master kidnaps Adric for his own villainous ends, imprisoning him in his metallic "Web"(pictured above). Er, looks slightly kinky doesn't it? Who knew that the Master was into bondage scenarios? And with young teenage boys as well? Actually from the expression on his face Ad-thick looks like he's enjoying it.

Oh dear. What ever am I suggesting. This is a children’s show after all and any sexual subtext is purely coincidental. Besides which, would anyone REALLY want to do anything kinky with Ad-thick? Not unless you’ve got a thing for bratty geeks with piggy features and pudding bowl hairdos.

Anyway, getting back to the rather more important matter of the plot...! Unbeknown to the Dr, Tegan and Nyssa, the Master has cunningly used a projection of Ad-thick (I think I really like this new version of his name) to pre-programme the TARDIS to fly back to “Event One”, which turns out to be none other than the Big Bang that created the universe itself! There's a palpable build up of tension as the TARDIS heads closer and closer to the Big Bang and the companions are faced with a nail-biting decision. They must jettison 25% of the TARDIS in order to create the necessary thrust that will propel them away from the explosion - but in doing so they risk jettisoning themselves in the process…

Fortunately the TARDIS escapes impending disaster but at a high cost, as the jettisoned 25% includes the Zero Room! Nooo! Although they manage to construct a “Zero cabinet” from the remains in which the Dr can rest, it's still up to Tegan and Nyssa to find a proper location where the ailing Dr can recuperate. And searching the TARDIS database they come across the safe haven of Castrovalva, a dwelling of simplicity on a small planet in the Phylox series...

Whilst the Dr is incapitated it's mostly down to Tegan and Nyssa to take care of things and it's good to see them getting the opportunity to exercise some independence, as well as giving more focus on their characters. Tegan’s attempts to fly the TARDIS when they're on their way to Castrovalva, are quite amusing (she manages to land the ship sideways). Overall her character is on good form in "Castrovalva" and she's not as hysterical or aggressive as in other stories. I feel that Christopher Bidmead (the author of "Logopolis" and "Castrovalva") writes much better for Tegan's character than some other Dr Who writers; then again, he was responsible for creating her so it's hardly surprising (I also really liked her in “Frontios”).

We get some nice location work on the planet of Castrovalva as the girls carry the Dr to their destination. And there’s a funny bit when poor old Nyssa accidentally falls into a stream and gets her trousers wet with an accompanying “Ugh!” And no, she doesn’t take them off, again probably owing to the fact that this is a kid’s show. (Mind you, producer John Nathan Turner must have quickly realised the error of his ways, as only in the next season we suddenly got to see Tegan in a figure-hugging corset and shorts and Nyssa in some lacy underwear. Nyssa even pulled her skirt down in one episode! Gratuitous? Surely not. And a bit later new assistant Peri arrived, who was often to be seen in a bikini and erm, showing off her cleavage rather a lot. Yes, sexuality sells, even in a sci-fi show for nerds. All I can say is thank God they didn’t put Adric in a thong).

Goodness! I like going off on a tangent don’t I? Preferably a rude one. So getting back to Castrated Vulva, I mean Castrovalva…

What about the town of Castovalva itself? There are some truly fabulous sets used to represent the interior of the city in a kind of Rococo-Italian style. And the costumes look lovely as well – the feathered hunting gear worn by the men (slightly flamboyant for a bunch of (presumably) straight men!) the washer womens’ garb and the Portreeve’s outrageous hat! (see left).

Talking of the men and womenfolk, Castrovalva appears to be a very traditional, Patriarchal society – the men do the hunting and fetching, whilst the women stay within the confines of the town and do the washing and other domestic duties. The ladies are also generally represented as a bit of a giggly and gossipy bunch (they even steal the zero cabinet and use it as a washing trough, much to Tegan’s constination!) And they get bossed around by the men rather a lot. Mmm, not sure if I approve of this. But then in some cultures that's how things probably are!

There's some lovely characterisation too - the town's medicine man, Mergrave is well played by Dr Who stalwart Michael Sheard (a fabulous actor who has starred in several other stories). Shardovan, the librarian of Castrovalva, has a sinister quality about him that could lead the viewer to think that he might be the Master in disguise! And then there's the Portreeve, the town magistrate/leader who is wise but elderly and definitely not all he appears...

And neither, it turns out, is Castrovalva. Far from being the sanctuary that the Dr and his companions were hoping for, it transpires that the town is in fact an elaborate trap thought up by the Master and literally created out of thin air by Ad-thick's mathematical computations. When the Dr and co try to leave the town it's much harder than they imagined - the steps that lead out of the town keep taking them back to the same place and they can't get out! The whole idea of a town where spacial dimensions are bizarrely inverted and from which there is no easy escape derives from the art of M. C. Escher. Take a look at the Escher picture above. Freaky eh? Now tilt your head so you can look at it from different angles. In a weird way, each part of the picture makes sense, but when put together it's a jumble! The same concept applies to Castrovalva (also referred to by the Dr as recursive occlusion - yet more technical jargon). And being part of it, the townspeople of Castrovalva aren't actually aware of the problem. I find this whole idea fascinating and utilisting it in a Dr Who story is highly inventive. Unfortunately, given the limited special effects of the early 1980s, the "Escher"ness of the town isn't conveyed quite as well as it could have been - there's a few BBC Micro-style graphics in there which don't really come up to scratch. A shame the DVD Restoration crew didn't do some alternative special effects to go with the story, I'm sure they could have created something good with CGI.

The story builds to an exciting climax, with the Dr's health at stake, not to mention the pressing need for him and his companions to escape from the rapidly dissolving Castrovlva. And the Portreeve is revealed to be none other than the Master!! Surprise, surprise. Showing once again what a versatile actor Anthony Ainley can be, given the opportunity - he was really very convincing (and like Tremas rather cuddly!) as the Portreeve. Once back in Master mode he does revert to hammy threatrics though; his endless shrieks of “My web!” at the end are cringeworthy. But I love one of the last scenes when the Castrovalvan citizens turn on the Master and start ripping his clothes and attacking him! Revenge is sweet. And the Dr, Nyssa, Tegan and Adric manage to escape just before the town vanishes - forever...

Leaving us with a humorous final scene in which the Dr forces everyone to jog back to the TARDIS, stating: "You've got to be fit to crew the TARDIS! A trim time-ship and a ship-shape team." Right-on, Doc. And as for his health, he's feeling much better now - "Well however I feel - it's absolutely splendid!" An uplifting finale to a great story.

Oh, I almost forgot. What about Peter Davison's performance as the Dr? As I said at the start of reviewing this story, he did have his detractors. At the time of watching I thought he seemed more wimpy and fey than Tom Baker's powerhouse performance. But in hindsight I think I was unfair (and I was about 13 at the time too...) Peter D has been highly underrated in the role. In this, his debut story he is rather "all over the place" given the unstableness of the Dr's regeneration and his performance in "Castrovalva" reflects this. But he has the integrity, sense of justice and determinedness about him that's essential to the Dr's character. What's even more characteristic of the Fifth Dr and (to nick another reviewer's opinion) is his "old mind in a young body" persona - we get the sense that he's wise beyond his years, despite his youthful appearance and it's this aspect I like about him the most. Peter Davison did an excellent job during his three years playing the Time Lord.

And there you have it. Three "absolutely splendid" stories in one box-set. Thank you for indulging my geeky ravings, I just cannot help myself. I should quickly mention the extras that accompany each story. There's some excellent documentaries, including one called "A New Body At Last" in which Tom Baker confesses what an awkward b*stard he was to work with! It's good to see Tom B on the story commentaries as well (he's a hard fellow to track down) but a shame that Janet Fielding (Tegan) only contributes to these and doesn't appear "in the flesh" in the documentaries. Never mind. Overall I am very happy with this DVD release.

Now I've just heard that they're releasing Tom Baker's debut "Robot" later this year. Another reason to celebrate! Will I go to my grave with "Dr Who" seared on my heart? Perhaps, but my husband wouldn't be too happy and would undoubtedly prefer his name to be there instead. I'll just have to make room for both.

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  • At 5:44 am , Blogger matty said...

    Wow! That's a lot of Dr. Who!!!

    I want to see this program!!!

  • At 6:21 am , Blogger TimeWarden said...

    Excellent post, Simon. It took a while to read, though I’m sure it took longer to write, but is filled with such infectious enthusiasm that it was worth every word. It’s obvious this period of “Doctor Who” means a lot to you. It was nice to finally have someone explain “Logopolis” and “Castrovalva” to me, too! I don’t have any problems understanding “Ghost Light”, as some fans do, but have never entirely got to grips with Bidmead’s approach in these two stories, yet, like you, love his later, more action based, “Frontios”.

    Of course, although “Castrovalva” was Peter Davison’s screen debut, it wasn’t actually the first story he recorded. They wanted him comfortable in the role before making his debut as the fifth Doctor. Michael Sheard was indeed a fabulous actor, especially in “Pyramids of Mars” and “Remembrance of the Daleks”. I remember him playing Hitler opposite Peter O’Toole in “Rogue Male” as well as alongside Michael Kitchen and Dame Peggy Ashcroft in Stephen Poliakoff’s “Caught on a Train”. Sad news about Derek Waring, who played Shardovan in “Castrovalva”, having died of cancer on February 20th, age 79.

    On a lighter note, Janet Fielding has subsequently said it was ridiculous, and sexist, having to climb over rocks in heels in “Castrovalva”. She is a very attractive lady though, despite being a “mouth on legs”! I must confess to catching an eyeful of her braless cleavage, when she bent forward over a table, on that occasion I met her. Definitely impressive, for me to remember that over twenty years later! And, speaking of cleavage, there’s a book, or at the very least a post, to be written about the importance of Nicola Bryant’s in the annals of “Doctor Who”, as you so rightly point out!! I’m put in mind of the John Waters’ movie “Cry Baby” where Rikki Lake exclaims, “Our bosoms are our weapons, girls!”

  • At 7:15 am , Blogger Steve said...

    Wow! Dr Who to the max!

    It's weird reading about a phenomenon that was sadly missing from my childhood (for some reason my parents rarely watched the Beeb). I'm certain I sneakily watched a few episodes though as whenever I think of "old Dr Who" I always picture Tom Baker.

    The name Logopolis appeals to me for obvious reasons!

  • At 10:34 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Matty - yes indeed, you should see it, SOON! You KNOW it makes sense! Incidentally has that friend of yours lent you his Dr Who DVDs yet?

    Time Warden - thank you kindly and for taking the time to read it! Yes the post was a labour of love to write (I started it a couple of weeks ago and had to keep coming back to add more). But when it's on a topic you enjoy and which you're knowledgeable about, one has a tendency to get carried away!

    You're right, it's one of my favourite periods of "Who". I think Bidmead was a great writer, although he did incline a little toward an intellectual-based approach to stories as opposed to an action-oriented one, which I guess might have alienated some of the fans.

    And yes, "Four To Doomsday" was the first story Peter D filmed...you can actually tell as his hair is longer in "Castrovalva" and then suddenly turns short in "Four"! I might have guessed you'd know about Michael Sheard's other appearances (although you didn't mention Mr Bronsan!!) I saw him at a Dr Who Convention in 2003 (yes, I went to one!!) In the evening they had a disco and played "School's Out" by Alice Cooper and he came and danced with the fans, which was hilarious!!

    I read about Derek Waring's death which was a shame.

    I remember reading Janet F's comments - she did diss the show and her character later on but you can kind of understand. Rose or Martha certainly wouldn't be seen doing something so stupid and in that respect the series has moved on - a good thing too. You are sooo naughty looking at Ms Fielding's boobs! Still I've already confessed to liking John Barrowman's bottom, so who am I to talk?? Perhaps I will leave you to write a post on Nicola Bryant's cleavage though, Tim!! (And I can write about Turlough stripping to his undies in "Planet of Fire" - nice).

    And funny that you should quote "Cry Baby" - love that film!

    Steve - such a pity you didn't see much Dr Who when young - you were badly deprived!! All that and football too, eh?

    Yes I thought of "Logopolis" when I first saw your blog title. I like "opolis" type words! Acropolis, Metropolis, Mr Opodopolis (the owner of the launderette in "Eastenders" btw). The list goes on...

  • At 6:21 am , Blogger TimeWarden said...

    Re: Michael Sheard, Yeah, I didn’t mention “Grange Hill” as I assumed everyone would know about his most famous role. What I did neglect to mention, however, is that he was also in “Dragon’s Domain”, arguably the best episode of “Space: 1999”.

    And, talking of hair length, Tennant’s changes during the course of a single episode, if you watch “New Earth” very carefully!

    Seeing Janet’s boobs was just one of those unavoidable occurrences! Although I was some distance away, I did quickly avert my eyes so as not to cause her any unnecessary embarrassment. It seems like we might both be looking forward to a DVD release of “Planet of Fire” but for different reasons!

  • At 12:24 pm , Blogger Samarcand said...

    An excellent review there Simon! I remember these stories well, although with a little less warmth than you do. I would like to see tham again though. I finally managed to get through the boxset of The Beginning recently (the first three Hartnell stories, including Edge of Destruction which you mentioned) and thought they were uniformly excellent, with some excellent ideas and an astounding use of what they had available to them - both in terms of the technology of the day and the budget. Although the Thals all speak with extremely proper BBC English accents, which does detract slightly...

    You and Timewarden have, however, forgotten Michael Sheard's biggest role - that of the ill-fated Admiral Ozzel in The Empire Strikes Back. The first person that we see Darth Vader killing in that film!

  • At 1:39 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Tim - I haven't yet watched "Dragon's Domain", that's close to the end of the Series One set. Reviews pending...

    Yes I think you are right about "Planet of Fire", he he!

    Samarcand - Thanks for the compliment, pet!! I myself would like to watch "The Beginning" box set sometime, having only seen "Unearthly Child" years ago. Hartnell is not my favourite Dr but he was a very commanding actor. I think it's a generational thing - you prefer the Dr you grew up with! And you're right - back in the 1960s they had even fewer resources and obviously had to make do. The strength of the earlier stories seemed to come from the performances and scripting.

    And I do remember Michael Sheard as Admiral Ozzel although it wasn't such a big role was it? He was only in a few scenes and then nasty old Darth strangled him for bringing the Imperial fleet out of light speed too soon! God I have the memory of a geek...


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