...with a look at The Mind Robber, a five part Troughton-era DOCTOR WHO story initially transmitted September-October 1969. This is one I’d seen alluded to on a number of ‘Making of...’ DW documentaries - it always looked interesting, so I thought it would be fun to check out at long last.
It’s directed by David Maloney, who’d go on to helm two of the greatest DOCTOR WHO stories ever made (The Talons of Weng-Chiang, Genesis of the Daleks) - and scripted by Peter Ling. And it’s a blast...
More on this in a bit. But first...
EARLIER THIS WEEK...BBC ANNOUNCED CASTING FOR THIS YEAR'S DOCTOR WHO CHRISTMAS SPECIAL!!
Richard E. Grant, who I always thought would be a highly respectable (full-on TV) Doctor in his own right, will join Tom Ward in this year's DOCTOR WHO Christmas Special. Which, if tradition holds, should air this year on December 25.
I'm not sure what it says about me that, out of all the amazing work Grant has brought to us over the years, I chiefly remember him for his role in THE LITTLE VAMPIRE (2000) - but there you have it.
Grant is no stranger to WHO, though. He's voiced the Doctor in animation called Scream of Shalka, and previously appeared in the Steven Moffat scripted DW adventure Curse of the Fatal Death for Comic Relief.
In a further bit of interesting symmetry, Grant also played Mycroft Holmes in a 2002 TV adaptation of SHERLOCK HOLMES. DW overlord Steven Moffat (who wrote Curse of the Fatal Death, mentioned above) is currently realizing BBC's breathtakingly modernized (and unrelated) SHERLOCK series - recently nominated for an insane number of Emmys, all richly deserved.
Tom Ward may be best known to audiences for roles in TV's MIDSOMER MURDERS and SILENT WITNESS, as well as his appearance in Phillip Kaufman's feature film QUILLS.
The 2012 Christmas Special - whose actual title remains unknown - will introduce Jenna-Louise Coleman's character to the show. She'll go on to become the new Companion to Matt Smith's Doctor.
More at BBC.
EARLIER THIS WEEK...BBC ANNOUNCED A NEW DRAMATIC SPECIAL ABOUT THE EARLY DAYS OF DOCTOR WHO!!
Current DOCTOR WHO overbosses Steven Moffat and Caroline Skinner will wrangle AN ADVENTURE IN SPACE AND TIME - to be scripted by frequent WHOtributor Mark Gatiss. This is in conjunction with next year's 50th anniversary of DW.
"This is the story of how an unlikely set of brilliant people created a true Television original. And how an actor - William Hartnell - stereotyped in hard-man roles became a hero to millions of children. I've wanted to tell this story this for more years than I can remember! To make it happen for 'Doctor Who's 50th birthday is quite simply a dream come true".
...says Gatiss in THIS piece over at BBC.
If you've spent any amount of time whatsover on the frequently voluminous extras on BBC Home Entertainment's DOCTOR WHO DVDs, or glanced through various publications or websites devoted to the matter, you already know that the early years of DOCTOR WHO are quite remarkable for a number of reasons - not the least of which is the 'unlikely' group of people Gatiss mentions above. Back in the day, these people included:
Visionary and beautiful producer Verity Lambert...
...first Doctor William Hartnell - who was cast against type...
...the dashing Waris Hussein - who spoke about the developmental days of DW at the Paley Center in New York recently (still kicking myself for missing that one)...
...the enigmatic Delia Derbyshire, who painstakingly and cleverly forged DW's Ron Granier-composed theme into the iconic and haunting melody we know today...
...the list goes on. An astonishing array of personalities and talent, gathered at a unique point time in time , supporting a undertaking many did not expect to endure. But 5 decades later it's still here, and shows no signs of slowing down. DOCTOR WHO not withstanding, that any of this was possible at al is a pretty great story in itself when you stop to think about it.
AN ADVENTURE IN SPACE AND TIME may well end up being not only staggeringly Geeky, but tremendously exciting and insightful recent WHO converts and die hards alike. Very much looking forward to seeing what Gatiss and company dramatise events whose rael world iterations are already quite intriguing.
More as we know more....
ASYLUM OF THE DALEKS...
The first episode of Season/Series 7, will screen next Tuesday, August 14, at BFI. Matt Smith, Arthur Darvill, Karen Gillan, Steven Moffat, and Caroline Skinner will take part in the proceedings. Not being present for such events drives me out of my mind. Rather, further out of my mind than I've alrerady been driven.
ASK WHO BOSSES STEVEN MOFFAT AND CAROLINE SKINNER QUESTIONS!!
But here’s the bit we can’t stress strongly enough: we’re looking for the most interesting and imaginative questions!
...say the details, HERE.
BBC AMERICA WANTS TO HEAR YOUR DOCTOR WHO STORIES!!
So says this embed. Go Tweet!
The Mind Robber
“We’re staying on, and fighting on.” - The Doctor, The Mind Robber, Episode Four
While escaping imminent danger, the TARDIS is thrust into a zone of apparent nothingness. But nothingness is very much something - a place where the lines between fiction and reality blur dangerously. The Doctor and companions Zoe (Wendy Padbury) and Jamie (Fraser Hines) must learn how to impact events around them via the power of their own minds and imaginations...before an unknown force decides their fates for them.
Throughout the entirety of its running time, The Mind Robber is an episode which flirts with “classic” status almost as much as I flirted with an insanely hot girl named Thelma back in college. I flirted with Thelma quite a bit, but it never got me anywhere. Fortunately, The Mind Robber fares better when all is said and done - emerging as a stylishly directed, ingeniously conceived, intellectually hinged little ditty which suggests something of a compelling visionary path-not-taken for WHO. The vibe and approach to Mind Robber is markedly different than many other DWs...implying a flexibility of concept and artistry which was seldom, if ever, explored previously or since.
An a-typically severe Troughton-Doctor is concerned that he and his companions have arrived Nowhere...
...because Nowhere is somewhere very, very dangerous...
My personal belief,, as a creative kinda guy, is that great television (series) storytelling should never remain ‘boxed in’ by an abundance of precepts - an innately great concept can withstand, and benefit from, being told in any number of ways. Alas, television shows, for a variety of reasons both political and practical, tend to stay an established course...thus certain tenets remain in place, and shows tend to grow inflexible or stagnant. Examples of shows where format and stylistic approaches were often varied to amazing result? BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (One More With Feeling and Hush), and many installments of THE SIMPSONS. I see The Mind Robber in a similar vein: its characters are tried and true, but interacting with the ‘universe’ they’re occupying in interesting, unexpected, thoughtful ways. A part of me wishes DOCTOR WHO had been as bold as The Mind Robber more frequently - ‘twould be fascinating to see how doing so would’ve altered the show’s history (for better, or for worse), and/or shifted the public perception of WHO in general (for better or worse).
The fantastic circumstances envisaged by Ling are skillfully conceived and strategically shaped to accommodate the episode’s limited budget. While a few gags would’ve been fun to see with enhanced grander visual effects and more complex design, the minimalist surrealism by which Ling and Maloney convey their intent is often quite effective, and often manages to be downright clever. As we’ve seen over and over again on larger-scale, non DW projects, sometimes the compromise and ingenuity mandated by diminished resources can result in far more well-rounded and conceptually solid filmmaking than larger budgets and less restricted resources - a truism very much apparent here. What The Mind Robber lacks in ‘wow’ factor is more than made up for with visual artistry, fun design, well-targeted editing, a deliberate tone, and wholly invested performances. In other words, in spite of its obvious shortcomings, The Mind Robber sells its illusions quite nicely.
An Episode Four tussle in which a catsuited Zoe subdues The Karkus (a cartoonish character originating from fictitious comics strips, played by Christopher Robbie) by way of a pseudo-wrestling match is sure to raise the eyebrow of many Zoe fans and Future Babe fetishists in general. It’s simple, but it’s hot. Emrys Jones’ performance as The Master (a ‘Master’ completely unrelated to the Moriarty-esque Master the series would untimely introduce) strongly portends Helmet Bakaitis’ appearance as The Architect in THE MATRIX RELOADED/REVOLUTIONS.
In fact, those films recall a number of Mind Robber elements (deliberately or not), including a shared reliance on ‘reality is not what you think it is’/‘create your own reality by power of will’ motifs.
The Mind Robber does succumb to a bit of mid-section sag - there’s a sense of unnecessary repetition roughly half-way through which dampens otherwise brisk proceedings. Said repetition may be due, to some extent at least, to the fact that this story was initially conceived as a four story arc, but expanded by way of compensation when The Dominators (Troughton, Story # 44) reduced its episode number by one installment. Such unplanned expansion rarely assists storylines.
The Mind Robber is smart and fun, packaged and delivered with infectious earnestness. I’ve yet to experience much of the Troughton era (what little remains of it, that is), but...based on what I’ve seen so far...Troughton tales seemed to excel at finding the ‘truth’ of a story, and presenting it with visual flare and a certain gusto, no matter how flimsy certain trappings may occasionally have been. TMR seems to support this assertion nicely, and any shows today could learn a few lessons from stories like this. I truly wish they would.
Ahem. OK, so this shot could've been blocked better...
IN THE COMING WEEKS
Spearhead from Space (Pertwee, Story # 51)
The Greatest Show in the Galaxy (McCoy, Story #151)
[SEASON / SERIES SIX DOCBACKS]
"The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe" (2011 Christmas Special)
[RETRO-WHO DOCBACKS - MOST RECENT DOCBACK IS HIGHLIGHTED]
"An Unearthly Child" (Story #1)
"The Daleks" (Story #2)
"The Edge of Destruction" (Story #3)
"Marco Polo" (Story #4)
"The Keys of Marinus" (Story #5)
"The Aztecs" (Story #6)
"The Sensorites" (Story #7)
"The Sensorites" (Story #7 - full DVD release)
"The Reign of Terror" (Story #8)
"Planet of Giants" (Story #9)
"The Dalek Invasion of Earth" (Story #10)
"The Rescue" (Story #11)
"The Romans" (Story #12)
"The Crusade" (Story #14)
"The Space Museum" (Story #15)
"The Chase" (Story #16)
"The Time Meddler" (Story #17)
"Galaxy 4" (Story #18)
"Mission to the Unkonwn" (Story #19)
"The Myth Makers" (Story #20)
"The Gunfighters" (Story #25)
"The Tomb of the Cybermen" (Story #37)
"The Krotons" (Story #47)
"The Seeds of Death" (Story #48)
"The Colony in Space" (Story #58)
"The Daemons" (Story #59)
"Day of the Daleks" (Story #60) + Preview of the DotD Special Edition
"The Three Doctors" (Story #65)
"Carnival of Monsters" (Story #66)
"Death to the Daleks" (Story #72)
"The Robots of Death" (Story #90)
"The Talons of Weng-Chiang" (Story #91)
"The Sun Makers" (Story #95)
"The City of Death" (Story #105)
"Nightmare of Eden" (Story #107)
"Kinda" (Story #118)
"Snakedance" (Story #125)
"The Five Doctors" (Story #129)
"The Awakening" (Story #131)
"Frontios" (Story #132)
"Resurrection of the Daleks" (Story #134)
"The Caves of Androzani" (Story #136)
"Time and the Rani" (Story #144)
"Paradise Towers" (Story #145) + New WHOvian Documentary / Newsbits
"Dragonfire" (Story #147)
"The Happiness Patrol" (Story #149)
"Doctor Who: The Movie" (aka TVM) - McGann)
Merrick's Personal Journey With The Doctor (How Merrick Got Hooked On DOCTOR WHO)
"The Crash of the Elysium" (Manchester version - interactive DOCTOR WHO adventure)
[Season / Series Seven Docbacks]
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