Surviving the Doctor Who Drought

I’m getting severe Doctor Who withdrawal now. Two Saturdays with no new episodes! But the BBC are doing their bit:

Eighth Doctor Audios

BBC7 are repeating the Eighth Doctor stories made by Big Finish starting with Douglas Adams’ Shada (episodes 1 & 2 have already been broadcast, but it was produced for the BBC to webcast so you can catch up with it at the website). These stories follow on from the TV Movie and, since that was a one off, are the only serials to star Paul McGann. They’re half hour episodes, very much in the traditional style of Doctor Who, but with writers including Robert Shearman and Mark Gatiss, who have written for the ninth and tenth doctors (Dalek; and The Unquiet Dead and The Idiot’s Lantern). Recommended.

“Classic” Doctor Who DVDs

I hate this “classic” thing, since it’s still the same series, but unless you’re a dedicated Whovian, there are probably episodes you haven’t seen, and there are an increasing number available to buy or rent on DVD. So instead of going cold turkey, you could pick up on your favorite characters from this last season: for the Cybermen Tomb of the Cybermen and Earthshock are available; for the Daleks The Beginning, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, Genesis of the Daleks, Resurrection of the Daleks, Revelation of the Daleks or Remembrance of the Daleks; if you want more Sarah Jane The Ark in Space, Genesis (again), The Pyramids of Mars or (from 24th July) The Hand of Fear, when Sarah Jane is left (as we now know) in Aberdeen in her last story (ignoring, as we will, The Five Doctors) before she meets the Doctor again in School Reunion; or K-9 in The Leisure Hive.

Or you could sample one DVD for each Doctor – I’d suggest The Daleks for William Hartnell (part of a box set that includes the first episode too – bonus!); Tomb of the Cybermen for Patrick Troughton (great early Cyberman serial); Spearhead from Space for Jon Pertwee (original Auton episode); City of Death for Tom Baker (taking lovely regenerated Time Lady Romana to the City of Love); Earthshock for Peter Davison; Revelation of the Daleks for Colin Baker (wierd but strangely wonderful); The Curse of Fenric for Sylvester McCoy; and Doctor Who for Paul McGann (not much choice there!)

BBC Soundtrack Audio

Some TV episodes have famously been lost, but the audio for every story has been recovered. These are released with linking narration recorded by an original cast member. Strictly for the hard core fans; the rest of us will be waiting for animated versions such as in the forthcoming Invasion DVD. Or if we can’t, at least the “reconstructed” CD-ROM with telesnaps and MP3 Audio as in The Power of the Daleks might do. There have also been specially recorded BBC soundtracks, such as The Genesis of the Daleks LP.

Novels

There are tons of these and in the post-cancellation years all sorts of fanwank was published commercially, so I don’t even want to go there. I read some of the Target Novelisations of the original stories many years ago, including Doctor Who and the Crusaders which the TLS lamented introduced “an 007 sexual-sadistic element” and that had quite an impression on me (I must have been about eight). But forget the rest.

Big Finish Audios

I was expecting more fanwank since even the officially produced radio series with Jon Pertwee was a disappointment, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by these stories featuring the Fifth through Eighth doctors, with some of their original companions. Unlike the new TV series, they are unashamed in appealing to the fans with the traditional four half hour episodes with cliff-hanger format, and overt references to continuity (indeed, they are squeezed in between TV serials – sometimes more successfully than others). I thought they’d need narration (voiceover as in The Deadly Assassin or Doctor Who) but they generally work well on radio with only occasionally the “let me describe what’s happening visually here” dialogue intruding into the plot. Furthermore, they give Peter Davison and Paul McGann, who were never really given a chance fully to do justice to the role on TV, the opportunity to be just fabulous on the radio, and the special effects are in the mind and therefore are better than ever. Spare Parts (remade as Rise of the Cybermen on TV) or The Chimes of Midnight are my recommendations for starters.

About Simon Wood

E-learning officer, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more...

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