Monday, September 19, 2011

The Moff, Matt Smith & Troughton Syndrome

This is a bit of a digression from my usual blogs in that it touches upon contemporary Doctor Who. It comes as the result of watching 'The God Complex' on Saturday & still being undecided about whether I like it or not. Then realising that without exception the one thing I always like in The Moff's era is Matt Smith, which got me thinking about Patrick Troughton.

I recently wrote two columns on Patrick Troughton for Starburst Magazine and I noted there that Patrick Troughton was what made the Patrick Troughton era so fondly remembered and that whilst there were a number of exceptional stories broadcast during the Second Doctor's era there was a lot of mediocre stories that were raised by Patrick Troughton. It wasn't so much that the scripts were great: a lot of them were pretty much the same story repeated but that the central performance was so good. That combined with an excellent chemistry with his various companions raised a lot of Troughton's stories above the average. Even in the poorer stories it is Troughton that brings a certain class to proceedings.

That's how I'm beginning to feel about The Moff and Matt Smith. After the RTD era came to an end there was a perceptible desire for a change. The Moff's pre-showrunner scripts were well loved. He was one of the few Doctor Who writers to play with the time-travel concepts of the show and there were high hopes that this would continue.

I'm not going to dismiss the whole Grand Moff era in one fell swoop. It's had some great stuff in it. I've been amused, entertained and moved a lot but...

There's something not quite right for me and I've found it hard to put my finger on it. In fact I'm not even sure I have but it just doesn't feel as good as it looks. I don't mind the smart-arse plotting. It isn't that hard to follow. I don't mind River Song. But it's just that the sum of its parts don't add up properly. Something feels askew.

But what always saves it is Matt Smith's wonderful performance. For example 'The God Complex' contains two great examples. One was the extended scene at the end where he talked Amy out of her faith in him - which reminded me of the Seventh Doctor's similarly themed scene with Ace in 'The Curse of Fenric'  and the other was the darker moment where he turned on Tibbis regarding his races genetic cowardice. You could glimpse then the fear that the Doctor can generate in that moment and Matt Smith never has to raise his voice.

I've come to enjoy the episodes not because of their plots or the over-dramatic story arcs but because of Matt Smith. I found myself waiting to see what he'll do. He doesn't always do what you'll expect but you can watch Matt Smith and convince yourself that here is an alien who just happens to look like a human being.

And whilst immediate judgements on Doctor Who stories are often wrong I suspect when we look back on the Matt Smith era it'll be remembered best not for the fireworks, the story arcs or its 'smoothness' but for Matt Smith (and as with Troughton the support he's got from his companions Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill).

In the end Doctor Who changes. It's flexibility means that we sometimes anchor ourselves to a particular era of Doctor Who and judge all that follows by those standards and we forget that Doctor Who isn't just for us but for everyone. I'm aware therefore that my criticisms are based on personal prejudice. I'm also aware that there has been much to admire with The Grand Moff's run. I find myself crying more than I ever have watching Doctor Who (and I'm a bit of a blubberer it must be admitted) but I also feel more obviously emotionally manipulated. There are big neon signposts marrked 'THIS IS EMOTIONAL' (as if they were Wayne's World's Oscar Nomination scene) and I think they would be insufferable if Matt Smith was not so good.

This is my first attempt to articulate my feelings about the current Doctor Who so forgive me if I have not quite made myself clear and - as always - feel free to disagree.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Frontios


I like Frontios, even though the Gravis & his Tractators are victims of the eighties Doctor Who lack of budget. They look like fish-headed woodlice but lack animation & suffer from the much-mentioned-in-this-blog problem of 'waddle'. The willing suspension of disbelief is tough in those circumstances, even for a 'Web Planet' loving Doctor Who geek like myself. However there's enough oddness & tension in the build up to their appearance to take a little edge of it.

Particularly praiseworthy is Mark Strickson's sterling work as Turlough dredges up a 'race memory' of the Tractators from deep in his subconcious & forces himself through his cowardice & out the other side. One of themes of this story - intended or unintended - seems to be 'coming of age'. It isn't really heavily pushed but this is the story when Turlough grows up. It is also the story of a boy king, Plataganet, who is forced to take up his responsibilities to a failing colony, even if he isn't ready for it. There's a hint of Henry IV-V about it if you're pretentiously minded like me.

Platagenet (played with a perpetual pained pride by Jeff Rawle) talks in speeches. He's acting the King, perhaps because he isn't one yet & it takes the events of this story to make him one. Or at least one more true to himself. Before this he's trying to hard to be his father, the semi-legendary Captain Revere. After this perhaps - to steal a West Wing episode - the people of Frontios will let Platagenet be Platagenet.

The presence of

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Awakening




That was pretty enjoyable stuff.

This is definitely the best of the three Peter Davison two part stories. It rattles along at a fair old pace, is well cast & well-acted even if (again) it doesn't feel like there's too much on the line. There is a hint or two that the Malus is a threat to more than just Little Hodcombe but it never really comes across.

It also has the air of an old school British horror movie. One of those 'rural horrors' that Mark Gatiss talks fondly of in his rather nice series of horror movies. Doctor Who does the Wicker Man perhaps. There is something intensely creepy about wrongness in a English rural setting. Perhaps its the opposition of the prettiness & the oddness or the realisation - which this story brings home rather nicely - that the veneer of 20th century civilisation is a lot thinner than we'd like to think. It doesn't take much to nudge us back into less enlightened times.

And to think this all started off because Tegan wanted to visit her grandad Andrew Verney (Edward Hall). Only in Doctor Who would said grandad be kidnapped by a raving aristo like Sir George Hutchinson (the magnificent Eric Lil formerly of 'Image of the Fendahl') whose mind has been effected by an alien scout from the planet Hakol. So instead of a nice relaxing trip The Doctor, Tegan & Turlough must battle this big faced creature, it's psychic powers & a beligerent gang of yokels who seem to have followed Sir George down the padded road to lalaland.

Actually one of my minor issues with this story is the bizarrely straightforward way the whole village seems to go along with Sir George. He's apparently cut the village off from the outside world & is going to burn Tegan at the Maypole. Would they have stood by & actually let this happen? Certainly Colonel Ben Wolsey's reaction suggests that they might have tried to stop him. Wolsey (played in fine yoman style by Glyn Houston, formerly of 'The Hand of Evil') seems to have realised that there's something a bit 'lost' about Sir George. On the other hand the sadistic fun that Joseph Willow (Jack Galloway) gets from the proceedings seems to suggest that things might have been less straightforward than that.

It seems that everyone who dislikes Sir George's war games is rounded up & locked away: Andrew Verney, Jane Hampden (Polly James, also another excellent performance. Her & Peter Davison seem to have a nice chemistry & there's some nice 'business' with opening & closing the TARDIS doors towards the end which I enjoyed). 

On which note we must pause for a moment. Is it me or is the Peter Davison era the moment the TARDIS loses a bit of its lustre. Instead of being an astonishing thing, capable of blowing people's minds it has become some kind of glorified taxi service. The Fifth Doctor is constantly inviting people in & taking them on short - or long - hops. But I digress.

The Malus itself, which looks like the angry brother of the Face of Boe (perhaps he's Rex from the latest Torchwood series), isn't as effective as it could be, although the minature version has a certain creepiness to it a la ventriloquist dummy stylee. However there's some nice scenes involving ghostly Cavaliers & Roundheads, the latter of whom butcher one of the villagers rather unpleasently. A fact that everyone having a jolly time in the TARDIS at the end seems to forget. Let's hope the poor chap didn't have a wife & family who might miss him (& here the Austin Power's scenes involving the death of henchmen springs to mind). I do wonder how they'll explain his death, Sir George's disappearance & a massive exploding Church to the authorities, especially as everyone in the TARDIS seems more focused on having a nice cup of tea.

Oh & last but not least I should compliment Keith Jayne on a excellent performance as Will Chandler. Will's a young lad from 1643 who the Malus drags into the 20th century & Jayne makes him live. It's quite a charming little performance, reminding me (perhaps oddly) of Fraser Hines as Jamie. You can see him as a companion & I like to think there's a series of adventures out there involving the Doctor, Tegan, Turlough & Will. (If Big Finish nick that I'll have a free subscription chaps)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Warriors of the Deep


Ah, Warriors of the Deep how nice to see you.

If there is ever a Doctor Who story that would confirm the prejudices of non-Doctor Who viewer towards Classic Doctor Who it is Warriors of the Deep. It's like The Comic Strip Presents: Doctor Who. You can use the pressure of the production as an excuse - and a fair one - but someone, somewhere should have just said: No, this is not good enough. Scrap it.

It's so easy to give it a kicking: it is too brightly & flatly lit; the sets wobble; the Sea Base doors are foam rubber & obviously foam rubber; the Sea Devils have a severe neck problem & waddle slowly along like drunken ducks; no one can shoot straight etc etc. That's before we mention the Myrka.

What is admirable is the way everyone in it takes it so seriously. There's no arch-camping about; there's no treating it like a comedy or going way over the top because it is 'just' Doctor Who. Everyone is trying hard to pretend there in a dark cold war thriller with aliens added so that Peter Davison's final line: "There should have been another way" is heart-breaking. There should. There's another strong scene in the final episode when the Doctor's takes out his anger on Preston (Tara Ward) & he rages against the human race - similar to Matt Smith's 'nobody human has anything to say to me' scene in The Beast Below. It's strong stuff with the Doctor bought down to earth by Turlough's little aside 'it doesn't excuse what they are about to do'.

Most of the other actors are do pretty well, although Tom Adams as Vorshak does feel like he's giving a performance that coud slot happily into Airplane as he's so straight down the line master & commander. It borders on the pompous.

But in the end you can't get away from the fact that this is rubbish. It's not the script particularly, although that does feature some clunking lines: "Bring forth the cutting device" & "...the power bloc opposed to the one that runs this base" being two of my particular favourites. It's not the direction, although that is pretty plodding & features some rather bizarre angles. It's the shoddiness of the whole thing, which is vastly unfair on the people that made it who were put under a ridiculous amount of time pressure. The fault, if it is to be laid at anyone's foam rubber bulkhead, is JNT's.

I have one particular geek bugbear about this story - above & beyond the usual stuff - which is the Silurians flashing lights. This drives me insane & considering that Ian Levine was working with the production team by this point on 'continuity' issues it is a disgrace. The lights flash when a Silurian is speaking in time with his voice. Why? WHY? Even assuming that no one bothered to look up or remember the original Silurian story where the 'light' was effectively the focus of mental power & a weapon why did no one say..."These are living creatures. Why would they have a flashing word light? Do they all find it impossible to tell which one of them is talking? Do they only talk in the dark? WHY? WHY!!

It's a bloody shame because I like the Silurians. They're Doctor Who villains with a decent motivation & some shades of grey. They show us - humans - up for the kind of short-sighted, fear filled ape descendants we really are.

I should mention the Myrka, even if it is only to hammer another nail into the large, probably green paint stained coffin, of the poor thing. It can only be excused. It's slow, it waddles & it is basically a pantomime horse with affectations. The fact that its front & rear ends are played by the front & rear ends of the Rentaghost Pantomime horse just makes it worse. So waddling through a brightly lit studio whilst various extras throw themselves at it doesn't help but we all know what the classic moment is don't we. Oh come on you didn't think I could write a review without mentioning it.

What the hell possessed Pennant Roberts to allow Ingrid Pitt's Doctor Solow the ridiculous posturing with the Myrka as if they were going to go mano-a-mano. Pitt's karate kick is pretty impressive but so flipping stupid it should be illegal. And once having filmed it why the hell did no one else take Pennant aside & tell him to drop it. Then burn the negative.

This is the sort of story that deserves a drinking game all of its own. So you can gather you like minded friends together & get quietly drunk whilst mocking the whole thing & when Ingrid Pitt karate kicks the glorified pantomime horse you can cheer.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Five Doctors


So Season 20 comes to an end with a big, sparkly party. The Five Doctor's together. At last.

Except it isn't quite like that. Tom Baker doesn't really appear, except in bits of footage nabbed from the unscreened (& unblogged by me - so far - Shada). Whilst William Hartnell's death means that the First Doctor is played instead by Richard Hurndall. Hurndall doesn't really look much like Hartnell but makes a fair stab at a version of the First Doctor that does the job. After all none of the Doctor's - except Davison - are really doing much but a 'best of' performance. The cliches of each incarnation are given a run out. After all this is a ninety minute celebration not an attempt to recreate each Doctor's era.

This was my first proper introduction to most of the older Doctors & unsurprisingly it is Patrick Troughton who I enjoy watching the most. He's so much fun to watch & he's interaction with both the Brigadier, who in post-retirement mode is picked up & dumped in the Death Zone alongside the Second Doctor, & his other selves is delightful.

The plot is pretty mundane: a.n.other renegade Timelord has seized control of the 'Scoops of Rassilon' & has dragged the various incarnations of the Doctor to Gallifrey & placed them in the Death Zone to play the 'Game of Rassilon'. This is not a particularly cerebal form of Snakes & Ladders but a battle to survive. To add a bit of spice to the mix our nameless renegade sends a Dalek, The Master, a Raston Warrior Robot, a Yeti & a large number of David Bank's Cybermen there to. The purpose of the renegade's complex plan is to find out the secret to IMMORTALITY. He can't do it himself, it's dangerous. So he plans for the Doctor to do it for him. Why he decides to make the Doctor's mission more complicated by adding a load of things in there that'll get him killed I don't know. Gallifreyan's never seem to want to do things the straightforward way do they.

All these monsters have very little function except as nostalgic threats to the Doctor. The loan Dalek is pretty summarily dispatched in a series of Skaroesque corridors that seem to have been built in an extension to the Death Zone, the Cybermen do a lot of marching but are mainly there to be butchered either by the Raston Warrior Robot or The Master. The Yeti, which must be a real one not a Great Intelligence infested robot, just does some roaring & clawing. (Classic Doctor Who has an uncanny knack of forgetting which of its monsters are robots & which are not. The Yeti are both but the monsterous ones are robots. The Daleks aren't just robots they have an organic content. The Cybermen aren't just robots...etc etc but I digress.)

Even poor old Antony Ainley is second banana here to the other renegade. Ainley gets to do some nice work, including the nice scenes with the High Council of Gallifrey (which due to budget constraints seems to consistent of three Timelords sitting in a Garden Centre) but eventually ends up tied up after getting a punch in the chops from the Brigadier.

O but he does get involved in one of Doctor Who's more stupid set ups. The checkered floor & pi. I'm not going to deliniate precisely why this scene is ridiculous because I could be here all day but fundamentally the actions of the characters do not fit with the explaination. Pi is a mathematical concept that I always hated as a schoolboy that has something to do with circles. It does not in anyway explain what the hell takes place with The Master, the First Doctor, Tegan & the Cybermen. It just doesn't make nonesense, let alone sense.

In the end the renegade is unmasked, the Doctor gets to meet up with old companions - real & imaginary - & the bad guys are defeated - and I do like the fate that awaits those who search for immortality. Rassilon, of whom we hear much awed talk, turns out to be a chubby moustached man who in a Pertwee story would get cast as the annoying civil servant. I prefer him as Timothy Dalton.

But in the end all these criticisms, the mocking of Paul Jericho's 'No! Not the Mind Probe' line, the cliches & all the rest of it do not amount to a hill of beans. This - like the Three Doctors - isn't a story to be judged on quality. It's almost impossible to juggle this many characters & get a smooth plot from it. We're not watching the Five Doctors for that stuff.

We're watching it as a celebration, as a 'best of' & we want to hear the Third Doctor 'reverse the polarity of the neutron flow' & see the Doctors mocking each other. We want a bit of fun. And that more than anything else is what the Five Doctors is about, fun. That & a little nostalgia.

The King's Demons



Like "Black Orchid" in the previous season this two parter seems to be just a bit of inconsequential fluff.


The Master, armed with a tissue compression eliminator & a clever robot called Kamelion, is trying to change the course of human history by preventing the signing of the Magna Carta.

Even the Doctor admits this is small stuff for an increasingly messianic Master. Its the sort of minor temporal meddling that the Monk might be more likely to undertake. However perhaps the Master was just looking for an excuse to practice his French accent & do a bit of jousting. He's not always the most sensible of villains the Master.

On the other hand it is possible that the Master was just using this as a test run for Kamelion before trying it out on more developed worlds.

Ainley does his best as usual, erring towards la fromage only on one or two occasions. Much as I do like Delgardo's Master there is something watchable about Ainley. He's certainly fun.

The problem with this story - apart from the big historical question of what the Magna Carta signifies & whether its non-existence would make that much difference - is twofold.

Firstly it takes some rather excellent actors & then throws them away on tiny little parts (Frank Windsor as Ranulf & Isla Blair as Isabella), although Christopher Villiers as Hugh gives one of those performances that is filled with the kind of annoying over-exhuberence that requires he be squashed like a bug, called in this household 'The Langford Effect'. Unfortunately even the Master doesn't get around to doing that. The only actor given a decent part to run with is Gerald Flood as King John & he does a fine job.

Secondly its just feels a bit tagged on to the season.

There's no real pace or power to the story, it kind of drifts by like the television iceberg. There's never any real feeling that the Doctor & crew are in real danger. Indeed both Tegan & Turlough spend most of the story so unafraid they have time to whine & moan. Tegan mainly about the cold & Turlough about the rough way he seems to be treated by everyone for no good reason. Turlough's complaints have a bit more legitimacy.

Everyone seems to be going through the motions a bit like a West End cast flogging their way through a flop. That doesn't mean every story in Doctor Who has to be deep, philosophical & pretentious but it does mean that a feeling of genuine threat has to be there. Of course we "know' the Doctor will find some way of getting out of it but it needs to feel like a struggle. This just feels like The Doctor & The Master enjoying a bit of light-hearted good guy-bad guy banter for old times sake so low are the stakes.

There's some nice stuff: the Master v Doctor slow motion fight with broad swords; Kaemelion's banter with Tegan (who doesn't trust him); Gerald Flood; Ainley's laugh; the Monty Python & the Holy Grailesque extras; King John's War song & the Doctor's disapproval of it.

There's some odd stuff: the Master's disguise undoing itself by magic (which isn't explained or a huge surprise to the Doctor) and the rapid way everyone excepts the Master as a good guy once he has been revealed & follow his commands without question.

So despite much to criticise I did find it mildly entertaining. I think that's just because its such a throwaway little thing & because Ainley seems to be having a ball, which is always a joy to behold.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Enlightenment


So the Black Guardian triology ends with a bang, not a whimper. There's so much to adore in this story, from it's initial concept, which is perhaps best described as a mini version of The War Games: various ship's crews are 'borrowed' from different timezones in Earth's history to take part in a race. Instead of the War Lord though we have the Eternals a race 'beyond time'.

They seem empty. Bereft of ideas & emotions, shells of thought. It's a hard concept to grasp. After all what do they do when they're not racing for 'Enlightenment'? They are clearly supposed to be something but what that something is seems pretty abstract. And how do they fit in with our bird hatted friends, the White & Black Guardians? After all the prize seems to be in their keeping somehow? Do the Guardians nip into Eternalsville & put out a 'who wants to be a Captain' request? The Guardian's can't have been entirely peripheral because Wrack (Lynda Baron) is clearly already a signed up member of the Black Guardian's gang. There's some questions to be answered there & frankly I can't be arsed to answer them. Not now. Probably not ever if truth be told.

As the conclusion to the Black Guardian trilogy it is also the end of the 'evil' Turlough story arc. Mark Strickson is excellent in this: confused, chicken-hearted, freaked out & finally decided. When he is offered Enlightenment he makes the right choice. Whether the Doctor is right to believe him when he says he never wanted the deal with the Black Guardian is moot. He certainly wanted it initially, but perhaps the price he was asked to pay become too high too quickly. Anyway after this Turlough's definitely one of the good guys but you're never quite sure if he can be entirely trusted.

The thing is though that Turlough's story isn't really the central one or at least it isn't particular the most interesting. It is the relationship - if that's the right word - between Tegan & the Eternal Marriner (Christopher Brown) that holds the most fascination. Marriner is fascinated by Tegan, but it isn't physical. It's emotional. Tegan's mind fascinates him. She's full of interesting thoughts & emotions. She is alive. With big, glowing capital letters & Marriner is drawn to that life like - cliche alert - a moth to a flame. Tegan finds it rather creepy, although at the end as Marriner is returned to his unalive living you do get the impression that she's a little sorry for him. Christopher Brown is excellent as Marriner & the scene between him & Janet Fielding are wonderful.

It's interesting to note that the Edwardian Eternals, Marriner & Striker (Keith Barron) are both quite buttoned down & unemotional at the beginning & whilst Striker remains pretty much like that all the way through (& I should pay a minor tribute to Keith Barron for a surprisingly good performance) Marriner starts to fray a little at the edges. Meanwhile on the Wrack's ship, a Pirate Ship in full Oo-Ar cliche mode, the Eternals there seem to be acting - very loosely in the case of the terrible Leee Johns - as if they've stepped out of a Hollywood Pirate blockbuster. Lynda Baron is delightfully OTT. If she had a moustache she'd be twirling it. It's like two two parters have been stuck together. One all serious & Bidmeadesque & the other some kind of camp Pirate tribute. All that's missing is a parrott.

So it makes for a slightly odd, if vastly entertaining story, which I have fond memories of as a twelve-ish year old. Tegan's party dress in particular remains a fond memory for me. (Cough)

Enjoyable, entertaining & well worth a watch even if I Peter Davison gets a little sidelined. It's almost, but not quite, a Doctor light episode. Davison is good though but for once the bulk of the action & acting is left in the hands of the companions.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Terminus


Terminus: it's an bit of an odd one. There are things about it I love.

I like the Vanir, especially Bor (Peter Benson) who might just be one of my favourite minor characters in the entire programmes history, at least so far. That lugubrious cynicism is wonderful & unusual in Doctor Who & his line in the final episode about 'hoping for something better on the other side' is delivered to perfection.

I liked Sarah Sutton's departure, which seems right for the character. Although with the amount of clothes she was shedding as she went along there was a danger - if that's the word I'm looking for - of her ending stark naked. The idea of Nyssa staying on Terminus where she can use her skills to do some good, both for the Vanir and those suffering from Lazar's disease. For me I think Nyssa is the best of the Fifth Doctor's assistants & the little peck on the cheek she gives him as she departs has as much emotion in it - for me at least - as any amount of weepy snogging from the modern series.

I like the first two episodes, where the story builds quite well but in the last two episodes it doesn't really go anywhere. It ends up feeling like a tale designed simply to get rid of Nyssa. I think part of the problem is that the story gets confused by what scale it should be operating on.

On the one hand there's an excellent story about plague, privatisation & slavery that feels intimate & personal, as when we learn that Olvir's sister was bought to Terminus & when we hear Inga (Rachael Weaver: who isn't actually that good I'm afraid) talking but then there's this ridiculous grand plot about Terminus being at the centre of the Universe & responsible for the Big Bang. If Terminus goes, the Universe goes, which seems too big when wrapped around what to me is the centre of the story: the survival of ordinary people against indifference.

Surely the damaged engines threatening to destroy Terminus itself would have been threat enough?

At the same time the Black Guardian arc is running through the story so periodically Turlough has to go off & have a chat with his 'employer', which makes things a little awkward. Especially as most of the rest of the time Turlough gets stuck with Tegan in some underfloor ducting. In fact Mark Strickson seems to spend a large chunk of this story looking at Janet Fielding's arse.

Then there's the Garm. Ah. A large man with a giant Yorkshire Terriers head waddling about the place trying to look terrifying & dignified. It just doesn't work & unfortunately is a real kicker to the credibility of the story, if you get upset by that kind of thing. Annoyingly I think there's an interesting character trying to get out of the Garm, who is as much as a slave as the Vanir & as much a victim as the Lazar's themselves.

I should also throw some credit the way of Andrew Burt (Valgard) & Tim Munro (Sigurd) who with Bors make up a fine triumverate of Vanir performances. Dominic Guard as Olvir & Liza Goddard as Kari play abandoned soldiers in some very 60's sci-fi costumes: all white & shiny. They do a competent job. Nothing more, nothing less. In fact Olvir & Kari seem to have been dressed for an entirely different television series. So when they appear it as if a couple of cast members from some slick space opera wannabee have stumbled into this dirty, rundown thing by accident.

So Terminus has some good, some bad bits. There are some good lines & some clunkers. And can only be described as either average or mediocre depending on whether you're a glass half full or half empty type.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

An Apple a Day Keeps The...

Morning all,

There's no proper blog today due to work commitments. We pick up tomorrow with 'Terminus', which I don't think I've watched again for years.

In the meantime new Doctor Who hit our screens on Saturday with 'Let's Kill Hitler', which I enjoyed even if it seemed to throw everything - including the kitchen sink - at us in 45 minutes. However more of the River Song story is revealed.

Once again though I kind of ache for a smaller scale story. Something a little less rushed & a little more intimate. Perhaps I'm just getting old. Perhaps it is the effect of watching Peter Davison stories.

As I work my way through the 'Classic' Doctor Who run I'm enjoying re-discovering stories that I've forgotten. Peter Davison in particular suffers from this. I was starting to go off Doctor Who towards this point & the era tends to slip through the net. I'm actually finding Davison's portrayal pretty interesting. He's certainly the template for the 'New Who' Doctor in my opinion (even if Matt Smith seems most influenced by Patrick Troughton).

I've been scoring the stories as I go out of ten. It's an incredibly arbitrary scoring system, which I would find hard to logically explain but in the words of the Doctor himself: "Logic...is only a way of proving yourself wrong with authority."

A bizarre side-effect of my Doctor Who quest-marathon-journey thing is that it has reawakened my general interest in science-fiction. I've started reading 'classic' science-fiction books again & picking up on recommendations from friends for newer stuff: China Mieville & Lauren Beukes (to name two of the top of my head). Further recommendations appriciated. So far I've read & enjoyed Alfred Bester's 'The Star's My Destination' (which is an incredible book btw if you haven't already read it); Hothouse by Brian Aldiss; Roadside Picnic by Boris & Arkady Strugatsky & Neuromancer by William Gibson (which I had read before but decided to read again).

I also read my first Neil Gaiman book, 'American Gods'. That I'll put down to enjoying 'The Doctor's Wife' so much. It's a brilliant book & I read somewhere that Gaiman is going to write an adaptation for HBO. I look forward to that.

The interesting thing about all this science-fiction reading is that it does raise interesting questions about how much of a science-fiction series Doctor Who actually is. Yes, it's got time travel & an alien at its centre but how often did (does) the series deal with hard science-fiction. Is it more of a fairy tale - as the Moff has suggested? Is it an adventure story with a science-fiction gloss? Would it be more or less successful as a hard science-fiction series.

I do know that even if it isn't a 'proper' science-fiction series it opened the door to science-fiction to me as a child (and again now), which can only be a good thing.

Anyway enough rambling.

The Patient Centurion returns tomorrow in 'Terminus'.