Monday, January 21, 2013

So Where Were We...?


My failed audition for the Ninth Doctor. Costume actor's own

OK, I admit it. There's been a bit of a gap between blogs: I've been ill, tired, hungover and generally not watching or listening to much Doctor Who.

I think I needed a break.

That & the pressing emergencies of real life. Work. Not work. Tax returns. Deadlines for articles I should have written two weeks ago or for ones coming up in ten days or so. Douglas Adams and I have a similar response to deadlines. In fact crapness with deadlines is the nearest I will ever come to being Douglas Adams so I've clung on to this trait as if it is somehow endearing when it is - in fact - annoying. Maybe once I've written a best selling novel and radio science-fiction comedy series people will be more forgiving of my ineptness. Or rudeness.

Perhaps they won't. But then they might be too scared to say anything to me directly.

Basically I've been stuck in a rut.

With 2013 being the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who - and don't pretend you didn't know that* - I'm semi-determined to get through as much of the Whoniverse (dreadful word but I can't think of a better one for now. Give me several hours and a bottle of vodka and there's a possibility that I might. Or I'll come up with something worse.) as I can.

That means finishing off the 8th Doctor Big Finish reviews, the 10th and 11th Doctors, Sarah Jane Adventures, Big Finish (5th, 6th, 7th etc) and Torchwood**. I may even try and do the Virgin New Adventures etc etc but I fear that may be a step too far for a single year. When something that is a hobby becomes a duty it tends to lose something. The fun bit probably. And if Doctor Who is supposed to be anything, fun is the least it should be.

Whether anyone cares about this objective or not (and I'm not sure even I do) is a moot point.

What has started to dawn on me is that I like the Big Finish Doctor Who a little more than I do the New RTD-Moff Doctor Who. This is I suspect purely because I am Big Finish's target market - ish - not New Who's. Which is as it should be really. Or should it. I know that a little, cold-hearted and bitter part of me resents this New Doctor Who with its proper budgets and implications of superiority even though that's what I wanted throughout the 80s and 90s. I feel like someone who followed a band from their beginnings, trekking around tiny gigs in obscure pubs who wakes up to find that he's now expected to fork out £65 to watch the same band at the O2 whilst advertising executives rip off their songs for advertisements. You know you're supposed to be happy about this but you feel that the best time has slipped away.

Feeling nostalgic for eighth generation VHS copies of 'The Mind of Evil' is probably not the right attitude to have but sometimes I miss the difficulties of collecting Doctor Who stuff. The dusty second hand bookshops where you might stumble across a yellowing copy of a Malcolm Hulke Target novel, the hissing barely comprehensible soundtrack of a missing Hartnell on C90, the Australian links on VHS Pertwee and Baker. Now it is just a question of what you want to pay. Want 'Lungbarrow'. It's yours. If you want to pay £50. Or £75. Perhaps I'm just a little strange.

I've no idea where I'm going with all of this. Suffice it to say the blog will be returning in proper style shortly. In the meantime talk amongst yourselves.



*It seems to be The BBC's objective (or The Moff's) to make the entire country aware of this fact to the point at which I suspect a chunk of the population will learn to loath the programme and its over-exposure. Something I never thought I'd say.

**Yes, god forgive me. Even bloody Torchwood.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Auntie Matter [Fourth Doctor + Romana I]


This is the first of the second series of Tom Baker Big Finish productions. It pairs up Tom with Mary Tamm. It is thus one of the last things that Mary Tamm did before her sadly early death. Unlike Caroline John's appearance in 'The Last Post' this feels less valedictory and more a traditional Doctor Who tale. Part of a series.

It's Doctor Who meets P.G. Wodehouse: a bit of Jeeves, a bit of Blandings and a bit of the Drones club. It takes P.G. Wodehouse's obsession with fearsome Aunts to an extreme degree. It's rather delightful to hear the magnificent Julia Mackenzie get her teeth into an Wodehousian Aunt with a twist.

Jonathan Morris, the writer also weaves a rather clever plot, which keeps both Romana and the Doctor occupied and plays with the idea of the necessity of separating Doctor & companion in a (slightly) unusual way, which adds to the fun.

This is the first Tom Baker Big Finish I've heard and it feels a little different to the others. Perhaps it is Tom, whose delivery is so Tom that it sounds a little less natural than the other Doctors, even if it feels quite spot on Tomish. I do adore Tom Baker. The Fourth Doctor is my Doctor and to hear him in full Doctor-ish flow again is a real pleasure.

Mary Tamm is magnificent too. Her Romana keeps that slightly superior tone of the television version, whose clearly unimpressed with being stuck on a primitive planet like Earth. Again. Her desire to go and explore, nudged along by the Doctor is what leads to....well a meeting with a perfectly written and perfectly cast pseudo-Wooster in Reggie (Robert Portal).

I can't praise Robert Portal enough for his joyful performance. It's perfectly homage to that upper class fool who manages to scrap through. Normally aided by a valet.

There's also Lucy Griffith's as Mabel, who is the Doctor and Romana's maid. Yes, maid. They begin this story as Lord and Lady Something in a London house. With Butler and Maid. The Doctor's done something to the TARDIS to distract the Black Guardian - thus explaining the additional Romana I adventure - and left them stranded in 1920s London. No one really explains the house and servants but lets go for it. Mabel finds herself dragged into the adventure, much to her bemusement.

If you want an hour of highly amusing Wodehouse Doctor Who then this will hit the spot.

There's also a rather nice tribute to Mary Tamm as part of the extras.

She'll be missed.