Classic Who – The Valeyard and Regenerations

There are two things you need to know before we can talk about the Valeyard as being or idea. The first is that the concept for the character builds on, and is inspired by, the handling of regeneration from as far back as the second Doctor.  The second and more important, is that the character came up at a time when the script editor and producer were at odds with one another – drastically affecting the quality of the whole season in which the Valeyard was featured, and the way he was eventually handled.

I’m going to try to minimise spoilers, so if I’m oddly vague about something that you think is common knowledge, be aware I’m trying to let people less well versed in the show’s history still have some of these surprises.  Personally, if I know I’m going to read a specific book, or watch a specific film, I will usually avoid reading anything about it just so I can experience it as freshly as possible.  That said, some spoilers are going to be unavoidable, especially when I talk about the Trial of a Time Lord season, and the Valeyard.  There will almost certainly be spoilers in any comments.

One of the genius ideas with regards to Doctor Who was the whole concept of the lead character being able to change appearance, allowing the show a longevity far beyond what most actors would be able to achieve. Continue reading

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Classic Who – The Martian Legacy

(A delayed post – I started writing this last year, then suddenly it’s the day before a new Ice Warrior story.  So here it is with a quick final edit, for those of you who want a taster for what went before.)

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Given they only ever had four televised stories (until tomorrow), it says a lot about the Ice Warriors that 38 years after their last televised adventure, they are still a popular alien race. They’ve been given a lot of life beyond those original TV tales with numerous appearances in comics, novels, and audio plays.  Here I’ll just concentrate, in as non-spoilery a way as possible, on their televised appearances.

I think the key to the Ice Warriors’ popularity is that they are a rare race within the Doctor Who universe in that their plans and motivations are different in each of the stories in which they featured.  While Daleks and Cybermen have more appearances, their stories are substantially less varied – those creations stopped being a race of aliens and became monsters – whereas the Ice Warriors changed organically over the course of their stories. Continue reading

Classic Who – The Viewing of the Lost

I started writing this post a week or so back, and pretty much had it mostly finished when yesterday morning I found out that they’d discovered two missing episodes!

For those who are unaware, the two episodes for were Galaxy 4 episode 3, and The Underwater Menace episode 2.

The amusing thing is, they are both episodes that I don’t think are very good.  It’s the universe testing the true fans – ‘let’s see who is happy when they find out it’s these two that have been found.’

I suspect I’m a real fan, because nothing could take the shine off the fangasm I’d had from this find.  For me, any episode found is akin to winning the lottery in it’s likelihood.  Finding two is unbelievable.

Anyway, I’ve made the appropriate edits needed below.  This is basically a run down of the resources available to you if you’re curious about experiencing old Who, but aren’t quite sure how to get around the gaps caused by so many episodes being destroyed or lost.

Okay, so I suppose the first place to start is telling you what you probably already know – lots of early Doctor Who is missing.  Oh, it exists on audio, and some even have telesnaps [1], but if you listen to some fans, the loss of these episodes was as bad as any disaster in human history.  Titanic? Piffle!  The total deathtoll of all the wars in recorded history? Don’t waste my time. The Boston Molasses Disaster of 1919? A close second, but no.

Don’t you understand?  Some episodes of a television show I like were destroyed!  Who cares about all those other classic or important shows that no longer exist at all because of the cull, this is a show I liked!

Too cynical? Maybe, but if you’re one of the folks new to the fandom, you’ve probably already come across some of these people. But don’t worry, you don’t need to have your sense of perspective surgically removed to be a Doctor Who fan.

Snarkiness aside, it is a shame about the lost episodes, and possibly the best way to appreciate it is this –

William Hartnell made 134 episodes in his original run, and 44 are still missing.  That’s about 33%.
Patrick Troughton made 119 episodes, and 62 are still missing, or around 52% of his run.

So for the New Who fans, here’s the Eccleston and Tennant runs with those equivalent percentages gone.  Just try to imagine that you can never, ever, ever watch the crossed out stories again.  Oh, and that you only ever got to see them once the first time around. Continue reading

Classic Who – The Why of the Daleks

The Daleks just got that much cooler...

Right, after a lengthy Twitter conversation involving the lovely @knuckle_salad, I figured I’d do a post or eight-hundred aimed specifically for the new fans of Doctor Who, the ones who came in some time in the last six or seven years and know little to nothing about the original series.

Now, if you have no interest in the original series, that’s fine.  I don’t know what the heck you’re doing here reading this, but it really is fine.  We all have different likes and dislikes.  For instance, I love the original series of Star Trek, I think Next Generation is mostly good, I adore Deep Space Nine once it gets moving, Voyager was like having my mouth washed out with chunky diarrhoea, and Enterprise was one of the worst screwed up opportunities I have ever seen, except for Season Four which was really clever and interesting.

Point is, different things appeal to different people.  Despite the claims of some fans, you’re actually allowed to not like the original series of Doctor Who.  It’s not a perfect series.  Its strength was always story-telling, characters, and ideas.  But some stories are severely lacking in one or more of these elements.

Also, huge chunks of the first six years are missing.  There are some television shows from that era where nothing at all exists.  Where Doctor Who fans are unbelievably fortunate is that all the missing bits still exist on audio.  And while audio isn’t an ideal format for some stories, it’s better than nothing at all.

We also have telesnaps [1] from some of the missing episodes, so combined with the audios, we can hear and see what was going on.  Again, it’s not ideal, but we’re very lucky to have even that.

I think I’ll try recommending some stories for new Doctor Who fans next time around, unless someone out there throws me a topic too yummy to resist. Which is very likely. So don’t wait for the list, but if you have questions, write to me and I’ll do my best to answer them without lying too much making too many errors.

But this time I want to talk about the Daleks.  There are a lot of people who simply cannot understand the fascination with them.  They’re short little robot [2] dudes.  What is it about the Daleks that made them such a success right from the beginning?

Okay, to address this, you have to try to understand where they come from, from a media and cultural perspective.

Continue reading