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

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Baker´s Dozen (well, almost)

Actually I lied, boys and girls. That's NOT completely all. Here's one I prepared earlier...

You know, I haven´t written much about the carnival of classic Dr Who stories which have been released on DVD. Thanks to the sterling efforts of The Doctor Who Restoration Team, we´re getting more and more DW serials released on DVD each year, which is wonderful to behold. The carnival is turning into a veritable avalanche.

2007 in particular has surely been a goldmine for Tom Baker fans. By the end of 2007 the following TB stories will all have been released on DVD, in the following (not story) order: "The Keeper of Traken", "Logopolis", "Robot", "The Ribos Operation", "The Pirate Planet", "The Stones of Blood", "The Androids of Tara", "The Power of Kroll", "The Armageddon Factor", "Planet of Evil" and "Destiny of the Daleks"! (Not to mention a re-release of "Genesis of the Daleks" as part of a forthcoming Davros boxset). It´s a bloody Tom Baker DVD fest! A Baker´s Dozen, if you count the "Genesis" re-release.

By contrast William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee fans must feel rather bit hard done by this year, with only one Pertwee release, "The Time Warrior", and absolutely zilch from Hartnell and Troughton! However 2008 is already looking promising with both "The Silurians" and "The Sea Devils" coming out (along with the somewhat sh*t Peter Davison story "Warriors of the Deep") in a Silurians/Sea Devils boxset. "The Sea Devils" is one of my all time fave Pertwee stories. Highlights include those famous monsters of le mer with their bulgy eyes and string vests emerging from the sea, Jon Pertwee at his strident best, Jo Grant in a flared white trouser-suit and a star turn from Roger Delegado, the definitive Master who knocks John Simm's recently superficial, campy performance into a black hole. Can't wait for that one. Boxsets ahoy!

Anyway, getting back to Tom Baker, as he's my favourite Doc, I felt like posting some random musings on those Fourth Doctor stories which have, or are about to be, unveiled on DVD this year...

The Keeper of Traken / Logopolis

Released as part of the "New Beginnings" boxset, you know. (And WHY do I keep thinking of the Bucks Fizz track with virtually the same name?) I've already posted my (expansive!) thoughts on these two TB stories,
here! And as DW stories go, "Logopolis is" one of my all-time fave raves and a fabulous ending to the Baker reign. I was so glad it finally got the release it deserved on DVD having previously owned a (rapidly deteriorating) VHS copy.


From Baker's swansong to Baker's debut! And my, doesn't he look SO much younger in this one! Die-hard fans are not ultra-keen on this story. It's a fairly pedestrian tale with a UNIT backdrop but this was all deliberate - introducing an unfamiliar Doctor in a familiar setting kind of helped to cushion the blow.

The story still has a fair amount going for it. There's a great villain in Miss Winters, the head of Think Tank and all round bitch with a lovely pudding bowl hairdo. Still at least she isn't quite as sartorially or follically challenged as Professor Kettlewell (the inventor of the robot of the story title) who looks like someone presenting Open University circa 1974. And he probably did.

Ian Marter also makes his debut as the dashing Dr Harry Sullivan, a bit of a stereotypical English hero but likeable all the same.

The giant robot itself is quite an impressive creation - big and metallic with a booming voice. The idea of the robot being used by the twisted scientists to do their dirty work and kill people - so conflicting with its prime directive - is an interesting one, as is its (almost human) characterisation and the relationship it forms with Sarah Jane Smith. There are "King Kong" resonances too when the robot mutates to giant proportions and holds poor old Sarah captive. This however is where the special effects go t*ts up - cue hilariously bad 1970s CSO with a fuzzy robot clutching a Sarah Jane ragdoll.

The biggest reason to watch is of course the debut of Tom Baker, who makes an immediate impact with his eccentric ways, staring eyes, toothy grin and wonderfully fruity voice. As I said, he looks positively youthful in this story (compare to the worn-out, cynical Doctor of Logopolis - light years off!) and has an energy and enthusiasm that cannot help but engage. Seven years later it's all kind of drained away!

Anyway an enjoyable tale with enough to recommend and I'm glad it's now out on DVD.

The Key To Time Season (Season Sixteen)

From "The Ribos Operation" through to "The Armageddon Factor", this is a six story boxset bonanza! It actually came out in the US a few years ago, but finally gets a proper UK release with loads of brilliant extras.

I have fond memories of this season from when I grew up:

The White Guardian looking very refined in his suit under the tree.

The Dr's new assistant Romana rubbing the Doc up the wrong way right from the start.

A c-c-c-craaaazy pirate captain and his robotic parrot.

The evil Queen Zania going all negative as people try to shoot her.

Moving stones sucking the life blood out of unsuspecting campers.

Romana in an ecky-thump cloth cap and slingback heels falling off a cliff, with a crap filmed backdrop.

A wonderfully eccentric Earth professor teaming up with the Dr.

The nasty Vivienne Fay being turned into stone (serves you right, madam).

Two Romanas for the price of one in an aristrocratic, swash-buckling setting.

A pre-"To The Manor Born" Peter Jeffrey doing his best moustache-twirling villain bit (actually he's a bit better than that).

The Black Guardian freaking out when the Dr denies him the Key to Time.

And K9 is also showcased to the max during this season, shooting down the pirate captain's parrot and stopping those nasty blood-sucking stones in their tracks! Go K9! And did you know that 2007 is the metal mutt's 20th anniversary? (1977 saw his debut in the Baker tale "The Invisible Enemy"). If you wanna know why I love K9 so much, try here.

There's a downside to this season too. If pushed I admit that the Philip Hinchcliffe-produced era of TB comes off better than the Graham Williams period. Mr Williams had a rather "slapdash" approach to producing and a more notably "kiddy" element snuck in during his tenure on the programme. Tom Baker had also settled into his role very comfortably by this time and had become pretty arrogant and difficult to work with - and this comes out sometimes in his performance; it's like he's on auto-pilot or thinks he's too good to fully exert himself. I'm probably being a bit unfair - it also didn't help that daft old bat Mary Whitehouse had complained about the show, so leading to a toning down of the "adult" element - less violence and horror for instance - boooo!! You boring old cow!! And whilst entertaining enough, I certainly wouldn't rank any of the stories in this season with the likes of "Genesis of the Daleks", "The Deadly Assassin" or "Talons of Weng-Chiang", for instance.

The first four stories of the "Key" season probably fare best, whereas the last two are undoubtedly the worst :

"Power of Kroll" is pretty mediocre (green-painted swampies running away from giant CSO squid) .

Whilst "The Armageddon Factor" is a hilariously cheap, tacky finale (John Woodvine hamming it up and getting stuck in a time warp, The Shadow's naff mask, a cockney Time Lord, horrible shoddy sets...once again it's all too apparent the Beeb have exhausted the budget). But overall there is lots of fun to be had watching the Key to Time season.

Old Tom does slip into pantomime theatrics at times, especially his (literally) eye-ball rolling performance at the end of "Armageddon" when he contemplates how the Key might corrupt those who gain control of it. However throughout Season Sixteen he enjoys a great rapport with newcomer Mary Tamm as the icily aloof Romana and this is one of the series' strengths. Sample dialogue:

The Dr: ...One more thing. Your name.

Romana: What about my name?

The Doctor: It's too long. By the time I've called out, "Look out..." What's your name?

Romana:[slowly] Romanadvoratrelundar.

The Doctor: By the time I've called that out, you could be dead. I'll call you "Romana".

Romana: I don't like "Romana".

The Doctor: It's either "Romana" or "Fred".

Romana: All right, call me "Fred".

The Doctor: Good. Come on, Romana.

He he...

Planet of Evil

Not one of my favourites of the Baker era, though still a good example of producer Philip Hinchcliffe's "gothic" style, including a very creepy invisible monster and a convincing-looking jungle set:

And I distinctly remember the bit when Professor Sorenson is taken over by the anti-matter and his eyes start to glow in a weird way with this horrid crackling sound - it scared the sh*t out of me as a kid. (Probably the scariest Dr Who moment for me though is from "The Android Invasion" when Sarah-Jane turns out to be an android facsimile, and pulls a gun on the Dr after which her "face" falls off to reveal a load of wires and circuitry underneath. Ugggh! Again this terrified me as a kiddie and I even got my Uncle to draw me a picture of it! Perhaps I liked it more than I thought, then).

Erm, didn't have much to say on that one, did I? Says it all...

Destiny of the Daleks

This is the one in which Davros came back and everyone wishes he hadn't, played by David Gooderson, in a pale imitation of Michael Wisher's portrayal. Mind you it can't be blamed entirely on the actor; this was the period when Douglas "Hitch Hiker's Guide" Adams was script-editing the show, hence the jokey approach for most of the season.

We also get the Movellans, the arch-rivals of the Daleks who must have looked very trendy at the time in their beaded fright-wigs and quilted body suits but now resemble rejects from Boney M. This female Movellan is pretty foxy though isn't she?

The story doesn't have anywhere near as much depth or darkness as preceding Dalek tale "Genesis" - the tone shifts about all over the place - but is reasonably watchable. The Daleks look pretty run down though and badly in need of an overall. "Destiny" was not a high point of the show.

On the plus side, "Destiny" sees the debut of Lalla Ward, replacing Mary Tamm in the role of Romana, and she makes an immediate impression as the Dr's intellectual equal, even if her opening regeneration scene is pretty dumb - suggesting that Time Lords can just regenerate if they feel like it rather than out of necessity. Doh!

And whilst on the subject of Ms Romanadvoratrelundar, here's a fascinating story for y'all...Did you know, I met Lalla Ward?

Once upon a time in York, my friends and I all belonged to the DWAS (that's Dr Who Appreciation Society) and used to have regular get-togethers watching badly copied episodes of the old series (in those days nothing was available on VHS and DVD was but a glint in some techno-boffin's eye). We also used to stalk Dr Who actors on a regular basis, or should I say, whenever they appeared in plays at the York Theatre Royal, we used to queue at the stage door for their autograph, or, when we were being particularly daring, beg the theatre staff for the opportunity to actually interview one of these STARS!

Anyway, one day we managed to get through the stage door and ... gasp! ... meet The Honourable Sarah Ward herself! Being nice considerate young men, we went off and bought a box of chocolates prior to the meeting and repeatedly practiced a speech which we were to make to Ms Ward: "We wanted to give you this box of chocolates because we really liked you as Romana and you're such a good actress." We must have said it 100 times and I remember some lady outside the theatre who was putting up posters, overhearing us and laughing. By the time we got through the stage door I was so nervous. Lalla materialised (not via TARDIS but the normal way) in her dressing gown, post-performance. I distinctly remember my friend Derek asking if he could take her picture and her reply: "I don't think it's quite right to have one's picture taken in one's dressing gown." Well laaaa de daaaaa, get you, love! (In view of Ms Ward's response I recall one of my mates later suggesting that we should have said back to her: "Well in that case, perhaps one would look better WITHOUT one's dressing gown"??! Er, perhaps not. Look, we were sexually frustrated adolescents, alright? And yes, at that time I wasn't fully aware that I would have rather seen say, Turlough, without his dressing gown on rather than Romana). But returning to the subject of the aristocratic Time Lady/actress, she did, before leaving, say to us: "Thank you for the chocolates" and signed my copy of "Warrior's Gate". Oh Lalla, you ARE a BRICK!

And after the Silurians/Sea Devil extravaganza, I wonder what's on the DVD release menu for 2008? So my fellow Who fans, what would YOU like to see come out on DVD next year?


  • At 4:51 pm , Blogger doppelganger said...

    Top of my wish list would be Tenth Planet with animated gaps - like the 'Invasion' release....

  • At 5:08 pm , Blogger matty said...

    The White Guardian is kind of hot, actually.

  • At 6:29 am , Blogger TimeWarden said...

    Excellent post, Simon. I hadn’t totted them all up but you’re right, it’s a Baker’s dozen! As much as I love “Genesis”, I get a bit miffed at the number of times it’s reissued. I have the single edited-audiotape, bought at Longleat. The reissue with “Slipback”… twice (someone gave it as a pressie after I’d bought it and it was just too much hassle to take it back!). I’ve taped it off the telly twice, in 1993 on Beta, in 1999 on VHS. I bought both the VHS pairing with “The Sontaran Experiment” and, of course, the DVD. It’s since been reissued for a tenner, with an added cardboard sleeve (!), and now the Beeb, in their infinite wisdom, want us to fork out £100 for the Davros box set! Excuse the rant, just wanted to get that off my chest!!

    You must’ve played your VHS copy of “Logopolis” a lot! Did you buy many of the Video releases? And, what are your feelings towards buying DVDs of stories you already own on the earlier format? I’m still catching up on the DVD front. For me, it’s been a good week for Hartnell and Troughton as I just purchased “Lost in Time” for £13 from WHS! I couldn’t believe the price. I wondered if they realised it is, essentially, a box set even if the packaging is less than is usually the case. It’s all swings and roundabouts though as, whilst saving £12 in this case from Smith’s original price, “The Invasion” is now on offer for £10, while I paid £16 a year ago, especially wanting it the week of its release. I could’ve waited, already owning the VHS!

    “The Time Warrior” isn’t one of my favourites. I don’t particularly like the setting and Lis doesn’t look the best she ever did in this story! That would be “Planet of Evil”! I like “The Sea Devils” but between episodes four and six they become remarkably easy to kill if my memory serves me correctly. “The Silurians” is one of my all-time favourites. Did you watch this weekend’s BBC FOUR repeat of “The Daemons”? I suspect not, as you were busy moving house! I still rely on my Beta recording from 1992, not having bought the VHS release… “Chap with wings, five rounds rapid”! I don’t mind “Warriors of the Deep” despite its many failings! I haven’t seen it since it was broadcast, though, so a rewatch might cure me of that view!! No argument from me regarding Delgado/Simm!!!

    I’m not ultra-keen on “Robot” either. Could it be because Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks were tired after five years on the programme, the same as Tom B was by the time of “Logopolis”? Moving on to “The Key to Time”, I wouldn’t mind Romana rubbing me up the wrong way, or even the right way, especially if she’s wearing that white dress! I don’t really care for K-9 because I feel the metal mutt (pardon the cliché) is one of the show’s creations that swings the general public’s view of “Doctor Who” towards it being a children’s programme. And, I can’t imagine the thing with Hartnell or Troughton! As you say, “Doctor Who” works best when at its most horrific. I firmly believe the classic series owes more to horror than science fiction (these days it owes more to “EastEnders”!). Apologies for the little dig at RTD! I’m trying my hardest to give that up!! Lol!!!

    Doesn’t “Destiny” have an awful cover. Davros’s neck is too long and he looks skinny! Terrible artwork. You met Richard Dawkins’ missus! I’m green with envy. She and I share the same surname, hence TimeWarden! It also helps that Ward rhymes with Lord!! “The Warden” was also the first in Trollope’s series of “The Barchester Chronicles” (forgive the digression!).

    To answer your closing question, and working appropriately back through time; from the McCoy era “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy”; from Colin B’s run “Attack of the Cybermen” (I have a soft spot for Season 22 as it was the first series I ever recorded on video and this is the one remaining story to complete the DVD set having just bought “The Mark of the Rani” for a tenner - I didn’t think it worth £15.99!!!); from Davison’s period “Planet of Fire” (entirely because it’s necessary to own those images of Peri in a bikini in as sharp a form as possible!) but story wise I’d nominate “Frontios” with “Kinda” a close second; from Tom B’s tenure “The Seeds of Doom” which I missed buying on VHS; “The Ambassadors of Death”, “The Mind of Evil” and the aforementioned “The Daemons” all deserve to see the light of day, sooner rather than later, from Pertwee’s time; delving into the realms of fantasy, I’d like to see Troughton’s “Fury from the Deep” miraculously rediscovered and immediately released while I think the original Hartnell “Daleks” serial deserves a reissue as a single release.

  • At 8:46 am , Blogger Steve said...

    Wow. What a Tom Baker-fest! Actually although I hardly watched any of the original Dr Who airings I do recall occasionally catching a few of the Tom Baker episodes and distinctly recall Romana (the original one)... Karen and I both think Tom Baker is great; there's something very earthy and slightly deranged about the man that manages to be amusing more than terrifying!

  • At 1:11 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Hi there Doppleganger! That would be good but I don't think they're doing any more animated releases, sadly. Heard they lost the franchise with Cosgrove Hall or something...

    Matty - So you have a thing for old white-haired men with beards? I'm telling B! Perhaps it's the power thing that attracts?

    Tim - Thank you! And a very expansive reponse from you - thank you kindly for taking the time to be so expansive!

    Funny that isn't it - 12 releases in all including the re-release of "Genesis". Sounds like you have lots of copies of the classic Dalek tale - you are obviously more of a die-hard fan than me (well in the merchandise stakes anyway!) Like you I don't want to purchase the Davros boxset - well actually you haven't said that you DON'T want it - but yes, it's another attempt to make Who fans part with their hard-earned cash. I for one will be buying "Destiny" separately. Of course if you don't have any of the Davros stories it makes for a nice pressie...

    I did watch "Logopolis" a good few times, yes! I don't mind buying the DVD versions, as I didn't actually have many VHS versions to start with - probably about 15-20 videos in all, so that answers your other question! I don't have any Hartnell or Troughton stories on either VHS or DVD, not being a massive fan of that era of the show (although one day I may invest!) Neither am I a Sly McCoy fan and have no intention of purchasing any of his stories either! Sounds like the "Lost in Time" boxset was a bit of a bargain though and I know what you mean about seeing DVDs go down in price after their original release date...frustrating! Incidentally some of the DW DVDs are dirt cheap on Sendit.com, you can get some bloody bargains! I purchased "Robot" for just under £9 (incl. p&p) which I was v pleased with.

    Funny as I actually DID manage to catch a bit of "The Daemons" amidst the cardboard boxes strewn over the lounge of our new house! And did you know, according to Amazon and Eye of Horus (Dr Who fansite) it's slated for a DVD release in March 2008 - hope so anyway. There was a commentary recorded some time back, so I wouldn't be surprised...

    With regards to your Romana comment, oooh Timmy! I love K9 but I know what you mean about consciously playing towards a "kiddie" audience, I guess it's true. And easy on the RTD comments!

    Perhaps you are distantly related to Ms Ward then?!

    And thanks for your choice of desired DVD releases. You know my thoughts on S. McCoy. I agree "Attack" is worthy of a release but definitely isn't one of the best Cyber-tales. There's a lot of violence in it and for some reason the story leaves a nasty taste in my mouth. It would be good to see "Planet of Fire" but Turlough in his pants does it more for me than Ms Peri Brown I'm afraid. But honestly, JNT was sooo deliberately pandering toward male/laddie viewers with that "sit up in bed and my boobs bounce" shot! I'd like to see "Frontios" and "Kinda" as I agree they are two superior PD tales. And I pretty much agree with the rest of your choices too!

    Steve - Indeed. I think you're absolutely right in your summary of Tom B, that's him down to a tee! The loonie ones are always the most interesting.

  • At 2:11 am , Blogger The Sagittarian said...

    Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker would be my pick of the "old guard". I remember seeing a programme with Jon Pertwee as the Dr, something to do with a little black box that was going about sucking the energy out of everyone...does anyone know that one?

  • At 8:14 am , Blogger TimeWarden said...

    It came as something of a surprise to me that you aren't as much of a fan of the black and white era of "Doctor Who" as you are of the 70s onwards! But then I thought about it and reached the usual conclusion that it's probably partly down to which period of the series you grew up watching.

    For me, the middle Troughton season will always be the pinnacle of the series' entire run. That's why I find it so sad that it's that very season that's least well represented in the BBC archives. I suppose I should be thankful I saw "The Evil of the Daleks" twice even if I was only around eight years old at the time!!

  • At 1:04 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Amanda - I agree, they are two of my fave Docs too. Mmm a little black box sucking out people's energy...you know what, I cannot for the life of me think what that story might be! This is SHAMEFUL for a suppose Dr Who fan. Can anyone help? Tim?

    Tim - You're right, that's really my main reason - a generational thing. I was born the year Patrick Troughton bowed out and my earliest memories are of Tom Baker. Jon Pertwee is very sketchy. Don't get me wrong though, the b+w period was pretty classic, I'm just a "colour" boy!

    Right again, it is sad that so few complete Hartnell and Troughton stories exist any more. Which FOOL decided to wipe all those episodes?!? I don't remember "Evil" but it sounds good! Have to say I am VERY tempted by "The Invasion" which is currently only £7.89 on their website!!

  • At 4:54 am , Blogger TimeWarden said...

    I highly recommend "The Invasion". Cybermen coming up out the sewers, indestructible Cyber-army marching down the (now, sadly redeveloped) steps of St. Paul's, enemy within Tobias Vaughn played by Kevin Stoney (there's an actor who would've played a very cold, steely Master), Douglas Camfield directing, the former Guinness brewery location (to which some of the cast succumbed)! It's my second favourite story after "Fury from the Deep"!! And, at the price you mention, a bargain!!!

    Speaking of bargains, WHS had the "Keeper of Traken/Logopolis/Castrovalva" box set for just £13 today, though neither of the two copies on the shelf were in particularly good condition! To buy or not to buy, that is the question?!!

    I thought about the Sagittarian’s question yesterday, mentally scanning all 24 Pertwee adventures but was unable to come up with an answer. My initial instinct was that it might be the Keller Machine, in "The Mind of Evil", feeding off the fear in men's minds but that was no little black box, more the size of the TARDIS console! So, I'm unsure, sorry!!

  • At 5:23 am , Blogger Deemer said...

    I don't know a thing about Dr. Who, but I just have to tell you what an excellent post. It's so in depth. You must really have a passion for this show.

  • At 11:19 am , Blogger Minge said...

    I think I should come and stay with you for a month and we can have a Doctor Who watching marathon.

  • At 1:57 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Tim - Well, since my last response I have succumbed and purchased a copy of "The Invasion"! Funny about St Pauls, I used to work near there and walked around the very same places where those silver men trod! Really looking forward to watching it and I'll try to post a review later if I can...

    As for the "New Beginnings" box set, I'd say, GO BUY!! Of course I'm biased as I love these stories but you can't go wrong at that price. Actually have just checked and they're both around £14.99 on Play.com and Sendit.com so if you don't mind paying a couple more squid you can get non-damaged versions! Bargain!

    In terms of Amanda's comment, I too thought of "The Mind of Evil", couldn't think what else she might be referring to!

    Deemer - Aww thank you! Yes, I do indeed have a passion for DW - as the length of the post attests! (Perhaps I should rephrase that - and I also have a dirty mind, in case you hadn't guessed...) And I know you have a passion for politics and other serious things (well not entirely, but you know what I mean...) Whereas I never really write about that kind of thing. Ahem. Still shows where our priorities lie doesn't it?! But that's people - we're all different and we've all got our preferences and likes!!

    Minge - Hello pet! Yes that sounds like fun. As I'm settling into my new home perhaps you can pop round for some tea and a vid-fest. Only on condition that you bring some of your delicious cinder toffee or one of your cakes, though.

  • At 8:30 pm , Blogger DanProject76 said...

    Romana 1 in a chav cap!

    Disco robot Movellans!

    And no Adric photos. Phew.

    Future releases? I don't mind really. Wouldn't mind some more 1971 nonsense.

  • At 1:11 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Dan - I don't know what you are insinuating about the Dr Who sex-god that is Adric. In fact I was planning on doing a post on his sheer raunchiness recently.


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