The #missingepisodes reviews: The Reign of Terror

I was very surprised when I realised I hadn’t actually reviewed The Reign of Terror, even though it is a DVD that sits proudly in my collection. The reason however is straightforward enough; as with The Moonbase and The Ice Warriors I was holding off buying the DVD under the mistaken impression that the animated episodes were sitting in a warehouse somewhere just waiting to be dusted off and handed to the Beeb. As with the other incomplete adventures, it is absolutely right I give my thoughts on the story!

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The #missingepisodes reviews: Marco Polo

Doctor Who fans are hugely fortunate. Thanks to the intervention of Ian Levine, the series first three serials were rescued hours before they would have been lost forever. While fans can get caught up in The Beginning DVD boxset, a jarring note hits the viewer as The Edge of Destruction fades to a close, and viewers are forced to the horrified realisation that we cannot see what happens next.

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14 – The Daleks

Universally recognised as the story that transformed Doctor Who into a nationwide hit, The Daleks is much, much more than a mere introduction story to the alien race that would go on to become the Doctor’s deadliest enemies. The series’ second story is a fantastic sci-fi adventure that stands up well more than 50 years after its initial broadcast, and is superb television, nevermind superb Doctor Who.

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44 – The Dalek Invasion of Earth

I have to confess to two heresies – that the first version I saw of this adventure was the movie version featuring Peter Cushing as the Doctor; and that I didn’t really enjoy this adventure when I first saw it on UK Gold. I think I expected more, having enjoyed The Daleks very very much indeed when I had first watched it. In time however, I have only come to enjoy and appreciate this story more and more.

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Thinking about TARDIS crews …

The TARDIS hasn’t had a crew for a long time. It has usually had the Doctor plus one companion, but very rarely has it had a crew – by which I mean the Doctor plus at least two companions. Of course, there are two people we can blame for this:

Jon Pertwee, who insisted that he wanted his doctor to be an ‘action’ hero (thus negating the need for an active male companion) and …
Adric, who made the Davison era ‘crowded TARDIS’ experience so miserable that JNT became convinced that Peri was a good step forward (er …)

And yet, I found myself reflecting that some of the episodes I have enjoyed best have been enjoyable principally because of the interaction between the members of the TARDIS crew. And so (tomorrow) I will be facing off the two TARDIS crews that I think are the prime contenders for ‘best TARDIS crew’ – but first I wished to pay tribute to those crews who didn’t make the cut …

We simply cannot know …
Steven and Vicki
Steven and Dodo
Ben and Polly (and Jamie)
Sadly, we just do not know how good these TARDIS crews where (although with Dodo we can begin to make an educated and despairing guess …) I have enjoyed Steven’s performances in every story that has survived featuring him as a main companion (sadly, that’s just The Time Meddler; The Ark and The Gunfighters) and would really enjoy the opportunity to see how he got on with Vicki and Dodo over a longer period. I have a slight suspicion that his three stories with Vicki would far surpass his four stories alongside Dodo.
As I remarked previously in my review of The War Machines, I wish more material of Ben and Polly survived, as they seemed to make for a good team – in the very least alongside William Hartnell’s Doctor. Having now watched The Moonbase DVD release, the jury is out as to whether they made such a good team with Patrick Troughton, especially after Jamie joined the TARDIS crew.
As it is … for these TARDIS crews we simply don’t know …

Please. In the name of Heaven. Stop.
Adric, Nyssa, and Tegan
As the extras feature ‘Crowded TARDIS’ on the Castrovalva DVD points out – this crew was too heavy by one member. In Arc of Infinity we see that Nyssa would have made a great solo companion to the Fifth Doctor. Adric arguably aquits himself quite well in Keeper of Traken, and Tegan was exceptional in Kinda. Which one should have gone? I wouldn’t like to choose, but suffice to say three of them was too many.

Close … but no cigar
Jamie and Zoe
Ian, Barbara and Susan/Vicki
Tegan and Turlough
Firstly (as you have noticed) I am counting Ian and Barbara’s time as one, since Susan and Vicki effectively played the same role in the TARDIS crew. Vicki was probably a more fun companion than Susan, but Susan certainly had more mystery – making them both an even match. Ian and Barbara certainly made for an excellent crew alongside Hartnell’s Doctor – but again there is a sense that they didn’t need a pretty young companion just to get into trouble.
Tegan and Turlough meanwhile are an interesting proposition – right numbers (finally) for the Fifth Doctor, but the chemistry doesn’t quite work. One suspects this is partially because one never quite learns to trust (or love) Turlough, and Tegan’s character was perhaps too abrasive alongside that ambiguous character. Could have worked … not sure it did.
Meanwhile, I have made Jamie and Zoe distinct from Jamie and Victoria. I was struck watching Seasons 5 and 6 that Zoe does make a big difference to the crew – as the Doctor says in The Krotons – “That’s the trouble with Zoe – she’s too smart for her own good.” It made for a jolly crew under Captain Pat … but not quite a happy ship. This is a theme I will revisit in due course …

Which leaves … the contenders

As you have by now deduced, that leaves two contenders – the Season 5 crew of Jamie and Victoria, and the Season 12 crew of Sarah-Jane and Harry. Which one wins? Tune in tomorrow to find out …

(The eagle-eyed will have observed that some ‘crews’ didn’t make the cut. These include Steven and Katarina/Sara; The U.N.I.T family; Romana and Adric; Tegan and Nyssa; Tegan, Nyssa and Turlough; and counting K9 as a crew member. This is principally because the ‘crew’ existed for so short a time that it is hard to count them with the crews above)

Why the BBC should animate … Marco Polo

In my second of three proposals for Doctor Who missing episodes the BBC ought to animate, I am completely changing tack to my previous proposal – which as you may recall involved taking a simple four-part story with the capacity to reuse the characters in other stories.

As with The Smugglers, I suggest that we should animate an entirely missing story from scratch – but instead of the careful investment proposed for that serial, I am proposing that the BBC could make a grand gesture, really push the boat out, and release not simply an animation, but a recreation – a re-animation if you will! And for that, there can be no better opportunity than that most eagerly desired and sought after of stories, Marco Polo.

Since I started drafting this post, another similar idea has cropped up on the web – which I think demonstrates that there is enthusiasm not simply to use animation to plug the missing episodes gaps, but to breathe new life into the Classic Series range. I think Marco Polo would be an excellent launchpad to demonstrate that this could be done really well, and to a fantastically high standard.

What then would the animation look like? Well, if The Smugglers is meant to be relatively cheap and cheerful, I propose exactly the opposite for Marco Polo. One of the biggest trends in video game production is the use of actors to map expressions on video game characters – which has especially come to my attention through Kiefer Sutherland playing Snake in the latest installment of the Metal Gear Solid series. Marco Polo would be a continuation of that theme – employing a Hartnell-esque lookalike to provide reference points for the animators.

Naturally this is a much bigger budget than anything done until this point – but in this scenario we are purposefully choosing to ignore the issue of cost, and instead embracing two ideas:

1. As the episodes are completely missing anyway, and need to be replaced, there is absolutely no harm in producing a high-quality reimagination that might appeal outside the ‘core’ audience.
2. If successful, the format would potentially serve as the prelude to animate other stories that (until now) have been non-canon – not least Big FInish productions such as Colin Baker’s originally intended Season 23.

The technology definitely exists – and I am pretty confident that the demand exists as well. And as technology becomes faster and more powerful, the capacity to take on such a massive project is quickly becoming more and more feasible. As I said for The Smugglers – the only good reason not to animate Marco Polo is if there’s a reasonable chance we might get the real thing …

76 – The Five Doctors

I really don’t know where to begin in describing this simply extraordinary story. Back in the days of yore the BBC would include other videos for sale on the inside of their VHS covers. From this I learned there was a story with all five doctors (I think in my vibrant youth Six and Seven didn’t count …), the Daleks, the Cybermen, and the Master! I had to get my hands on it! In fact, so desperate was I for the serial that I had a proper huff with my dad when he joked that he hadn’t bought it, when in actual fact he had.

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