The Friday Docback Undertakes A 'Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS'!! A Spoiler-Free Review of This Week's DOCTOR WHO!! + A WHO-Centric Excerpt From Titan's PETER CUSHING Book, Trenzalore, and More!!
[via BBC’s DOCTOR WHO Twitter feed - thanks MOV!]
...with a quick look at Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, this week’s installment of DOCTOR WHO Season/Series 7. Scripted by Steve Thompson (SHERLOCK, DOCTOR WHO’s The Curse of the Black Spot), JTTCOTT finds the TARDIS in a bad way, Clara in a bad place, and the Doctor struggling to seize control of a rapidly worsening situation.
THIS WEEK’S WHOTININNIES IS NOW ONLINE
Links to this week’s show, in which...
** Ken and Glen discuss Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS
** Address recent theories/rumors about that SFX picture of John Hurt from the 50th Anniversary episode shoot.
Could he be a ‘missing’ Doctor...a ‘banished’ Doctor?...one we’ve never heard about? After all, we never pointedly saw the Doctor who regenerated into Eccleston’s variant. Maybe this was a move to plug the hole left by Eccelston’s apparent non-involvement in the 50th?
** Ken and Glen expand their ongoing Deependers Amy/Rory in the 1930’s sitcom, with Davros now appearing as the nosey, intrusive, bitchy landord and Adric being cast as the annoying and slippery neighbor.
** Ken tries to rap while Glen beatboxes - both quite poorly.
** and more!
...can be found HERE.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: CHECK OUT THIS COVER OF DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE
...'s June issue. Revealing that The Name of the Doctor, the final episode of Season/Series 7, will at long last take us to Trenzalore. You may recall that fateful events were teased to take place on Trenzalore in the conclusion of Season/Series 6 last year.
A NIFTY NEW ACTION FIGURE SET
Based on the Pertwee-era The Daemons(Story #59).
[via Articulation Times]
AN EXCLUSIVE WHO-RELATED EXCERPT FROM TITAN’S PETER CUSHING: A LIFE IN PICTURES
The lovely folks over at Titan Books have a new Peter Cushing biography out, which covers the amazing actor’s lengthy an varied career.
As we’ve previously discussed here in the Docback, long before Cushing played Death Star boss/Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin in STAR WARS EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE, he appeared as ‘Dr. Who’ (literally called Dr. Who) in two officially licensed, big-screen adaptations of Dalek episodes. The films were called DR. WHO AND THE DALEKS (released in 1965) and DALEKS’ INVASION EART 2150 A.D. (released in 1966).
The new biography features some insight into Cushing’s time on those films, and Titan has generously sent along an excerpt...
In the early 1960s, Hammer had scored a considerable hit by issuing pirate movies (The Pirates of Blood River, The Devil-Ship Pirates) specifically timed to meet the demands of children on the school summer holidays. Milton Subotsky, who had successfully taken on Hammer at the horror game, saw the potential to rival these holiday films too. He acquired the rights to the first Dalek story from the BBC’s Doctor Who series and gained co-financing from another American, Joe Vegoda, whose chief specification was that the films go out under the Aaru name rather than Amicus. Realising that they still needed an international name to front the picture, Subotsky cast Cushing as Dr Who without an audition.
Cushing considerably softened William Hartnell’s portrayal of the mysterious alien time-traveller, making him everyone’s favourite Uncle, a kindly, dotty, distinctly terrestrial boffin, though in his white wig, corduroy jacket and with perpetually bowed legs, he looks something like an elderly Wild West sheriff. Subotsky revised and simplified Terry Nation’s TV script, making it unequivocally family entertainment. While missing the intensity of the black-and-white television serial, it remains a charming and endearing children’s film, bursting with colour and spectacle and catching, at several moments, a real sense of the magic of outer space.
In his home-made time machine TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space) the eccentric Dr Who transports his grand-daughters Barbara and Susan, plus Barbara’s accident-prone boyfriend Ian, to the distant planet Skaro. Here they encounter the mutated Daleks, who inhabit robotic shells, and the blond, humanoid Thals. Thousands of years of war have reduced the planet to ashes, and the Thals have become pacifists. But now the Daleks plan to explode a neutron bomb to wipe out the Thals once and for all.
The film was shot between 12th March and 23rd April 1965 at Shepperton Studios. The director was Gordon Flemyng, with Roy Castle as Ian, Jennie Linden as Barbara and Roberta Tovey as Susan.
There is some childish comic business at the beginning with Castle (Cushing’s co-star in Dr Terror’s House of Horrors) but once in his stride, Cushing is in total command. He gives an expression of undiluted wonder on seeing the surface of Skaro for the first time, and a terrific wink to Susan as he suggests they explore the futuristic city that they have seen in the distance. The petrified jungle set filled the whole of Stage H at Shepperton, at that time the biggest sound stage in England. It was partly lit from below with concealed lighting, and the anamorphic lenses were removed from the cameras for the jungle scenes to give a weird distortion to the picture. Director of photography John Wilcox came straight to the picture after finishing The Skull.
Roberta Tovey remembered that there was a magical atmosphere on the set. ‘Peter Cushing was a great flower man,’ she recalls. ‘For the scene when Susan finds a flower in the forest, he phoned up the Royal Horticultural Society and found the name, which I then had to remember.’ Before finishing the film Cushing agreed to do a sequel, on the condition that Tovey return as Susan.
The stars of the film are undoubtedly the Daleks themselves, possibly the most malevolent and certainly the most melodramatic robot-creatures in science fiction. (‘The Daleks are beyond reason,’ states the Doctor, ‘they wish only to conquer!’) £4500 of the budget was assigned for building the Daleks from the BBC’s plans and they look magnificent. Most importantly, the Daleks’ easily-imitated electronic voices were preserved intact from the television version, and in the echoing city they are genuinely unnerving.
Bryan Hands was one of the Dalek operators and had to control the Black Dalek during the climactic battle. ‘I suppose being the Dalek leader was a kindof honour,’ he said, ‘except that I was still inside it when it exploded!’ He remembers that Cushing was enthusiastic on set, and was concerned that the ‘Dalek boys’ were looked after. ‘He would occasionally join us in the canteen but would generally take to his dressing-room when not required.’
There are some breathtaking mattes for the crags of Skaro, Malcolm Lockyer’s music is equally monumental and at times strangely moving. There is also a grim moment when the Doctor realises that the travellers are dying of radiation sickness from the planet’s poisonous atmosphere. While this revelation is not quite as harrowing as it was on television, it is still a chilling touch for such an upbeat film.
Cushing provided a bewitching narration for the trailer – ‘Come with us into that strange new world. I cannot guarantee your safety ... but I can promise you unimagined thrills!’ – and, riding on the success of the Daleks on television, the film was one of the top ten British films of the year. Like Dracula, there were queues round the block at cinemas. ‘Kids will love it,’ said the People. ‘Their parents will find this gigantic schoolboy lark Dalektable!’ ‘The dotty Doctor is played by Peter Cushing rather in the manner of a mad hatter looking for a lost tea party,’ wrote Leonard Mosely in the Daily Express on 23rd June.
Although Terry Nation had reservations about the big-screen version of his story, his contract gave him a percentage of the profits. Nation recalled with some amusement that the film’s blockbusting success meant that Subotsky was forced to pay up with the royalties after the first year.
JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE TARDIS (SPOILER FREE REVIEW)
Sometimes DOCTOR WHO is a victim of its own publicity. And this...to some degree...appears to the case with Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, scripted by Steve Thompson and directed by LAW & ORDER: UK’s Mat King.
To be clear, this is a great deal of fun; this narrative’s timey-wimey, twisty-turneys manage to effectively thwart audience perceptions, disorient our characters, and call-back WHO that has come before (both visible and unseen) - while also remaining firmly planted in its own immediacy. No insignificant balancing act to be sure.
Where Journey stumbles, one might argue, relates to the ‘journey’ itself. We’re plunging into the “heart” of a vessel/device whose breadth (as described by the Doctor) is “infinite” - and whose capacities have yet to be fully defined, even after fifty years of television shows, books, comics, and audios. Yet there’s a certain tepidness to the proceedings here - a slight lack of majesty to the affair. There’s no one moment in this episode which anywhere near as impactful or awe inspiring as the Doctor and Clara facing down the terrifying, blazing, ultra-baddie in Rings of Akhaten...
...or as touchingly sublime as Brian’s picnic over earth in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.
What happens here, by and large, is shorter on spectacle and concept, and does not ever quite achieve the awesomeness suggested by the publicity afforded this episode upon its announcement, or even the ‘move poster’ image seen above.
My immediate, knee-jerk reaction to Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS was that the episode is being presented at the wrong time, and was made in the wrong way. What I’m about to say, I say with little knowledge of what’s actually happening in DW’s upcoming 50th Anniversary spectacular - thus what’s in store for us may far transcend the impression I’m about to convey. With this in mind: my initial impulse was that Journey, as a concept, should’ve been re-purposed and enlarged, and rolled out as a/the 50th Anniversary special. With money thrown at it - making the TARDIS a genuinely ‘What. The. FUCK?!?!?’ kind of device. One shot alone might’ve accomplished just this...but such a scene is not present here. Explore the TARDIS more fully - make it truly wondrous. Every Doctor and every companion who every was, or ever will be, has travelled or will travel in it - imagine the history and memory in the place (hinted at in this episode, by the way). How natural it would’ve been to incorporate some iteration of previous (and future?) Doctors, accordingly!
Look for some enjoyable guest shots by Mark Oliver, Ashley Walters, and Jahvel Hall as the Van Baalen brothers salvagers - their spaceship is awesome, their costumes and theme music are dope, and they handle their roles with agreeable chemistry. Their driving subplot is afforded a bit too much screentime, however, and I’m not entirely sure it actually makes sense when one steps back and considers it objectively. I look forward to seeing more discussion about this in the Docback below.
Matt Smith is totally ‘on’ as the Doctor in this one, and utterly sells his hellbent drive to retrieve Clara from the the unpredictable and labyrinthine TARDIS interior - and JLC once more rises to (and transcends) the occasion. As much as I love to pontificate on her obvious hotness, she truly is a wonderful performer. Very wonderful. Like Smith, one gets the sense that JLC’s up to whatever her role may eventually throw at her. I can’t wait to discover exactly what that might be...
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