Sunday, 1 December 2013

At the End of the Day - A Fiftieth Anniversary overview

So the Anniversary is officially over, the Day of the Doctor has come and gone and it now feels a bit like that post-festive lull between Christmas and New Year.  Although if 'Christmas' was the 50th Anniversary then that makes 'New Year' the upcoming Christmas Special.  Which is confusing.

And what of the Anniversary?  Did it live up to or even exceed expectations?  In my opinion it was everything that one could have hoped for and then some.  Here's some of the highlights for me:

Destiny of the Doctor

An enjoyable series of audiobooks that ran throughout the year.  Beginning in January with the First Doctor and ending in November with the Eleventh,the series produced some great stories that did a good job of evoking their respective Doctor's eras while also being imaginative and original stories in their own rights.  My personal favourites of the series were Smoke and Mirrors (featuring the Fifth Doctor meeting Harry Houdini), Enemy Aliens (with the Eighth Doctor and Charley from the Big Finish audios) and Night of the Whisper (featuring the Ninth Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack).

For those who stuck with the series throughout the year there was the added bonus of an over arcing plot line that saw the Eleventh Doctor making a cameo appearance in each story, asking each of his predecessors to do something to aid on some secret mission that only becomes apparant in the final story of the series.

The only thing that slightly the whole experience is the unfortunate and unplanned demise of Audio Go, producers of many audio books, including Doctor Who.  As co-producers/distributors of the series along with Big Finish, Audio Go's sudden collapse at the end of October led to fears that the final story in the series would not be released.  Fortunately Big Finish were able to go ahead and release the story via their own website so the series is complete.  That said, I haven't actually got the final story yet so I can't say if it will be a fitting end to the series.  But I don't think I'll be disappointed.

Series 7b

With everything else that was going on this year, it's easy to forget that there were eight new episodes of Doctor Who shown in the Spring months.

For the most part it was a good series.  'The Bells of St. John was good, fun, if undemanding opening and was a good introduction to Clara.  I'm afraid that I have to agree with those who thought that 'Rings of Akathan was dull, although it was nice to learn a bit about Clara's background.  I was similarly underwhelmed by 'Cold War' although the re-designed Ice Warrior looked great.

Fortunately the rest of the series really seemed to pick up.  'Hide', 'Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS' and 'The Crimson Horror' were all very good and then, when I thought it couldn't get any better, we had 'The Name of the Doctor'. This episode tried to do three things all at once and, for the most part suceeded.  It served as a fitting finale to the current series (solving Clara's mystery and the final face off with the Great Intelligence), set up things for the future (John Hurt) and paid tribute to the show in its anniversary year.  A great way to end the series and get people excited for the anniversary special.

Peter Capaldi

I'm not sure if it happened by accident or design, but the next Doctor was announced right in the middle of this anniversary year.  And for the first time ever, he was announced as part of a special live television broadcast, shown around the world.  If you're going to make an announcement in that way, you're going to have be fairly certain that the man in question is going to be a popular choice.

Fortunately the man chosen as the Twelfth (or is it Thirteenth?) Doctor was Peter Capaldi, someone who many people hoped would be cast but few people believed would be.

The Proms

The regular Doctor Who Proms from the BBC are always very enjoyable but a personal highlight for me was the medley of music from the original 26 year run of the series.  It's nice to see the composers from that period of the programme receive their dues, particularly Dudley Simpson who's music was as much a part of Seventies Doctor Who as Tom Baker and Jon Pertwee.

The Return of The Web of Fear and Enemy of the World

As most Doctor Who fans are aware, there are a large number of black and white episodes missing from the archives.  As each year passed, it became increasingly unlikely that we would see any more of those missing episodes returned.  And then, just two years after the last find, a further 9 missing episodes returned!  The biggest find in over twenty years!  And the best thing about it was the episodes made up (almost) two complete stories.

Some rumours suggest that the episodes were recovered back in 2010 and that they were held back until the Anniversary year in order for the news of their recovery to make a greater impact.  Other information suggests that the find was much more recent and the fact that they've re-emerged now is just a conicidence.

Whatever the reason, they are back and they're available to watch either via ITunes or on DVD (Well, Web won't be out on DVD until 2014) and that's the important thing.  The question is: is there more to come?

The Light at the End


This was the perfect way to start off the Anniversary celebrations.  Big Finish released their celebratory story - The Light at the End exactly one month before the Anniversary date itself, presumably so that it wasn't overshadowed by everything that was happening on the TV.

Featuring Doctors 4 to 8 teaming up to take on the Master as well as some clever cameos from the first three Doctors and a host of companions, this was just what the Doctor ordered (forgive the pun) for anyone who felt that the 'classic' Doctors were under-represented in the TV special.

An Adventure in Space and Time

This docu-drama, recounting the early days of the series, was a highlight of many fans' anniversary celebrations.  I knew it was going to be good but it actually surpassed my expectations.

The story of Doctor Who's genesis is a familiar one for long-standing fans of the programme but to see it brought to life (albeit with a bit of dramatic licence used) was truly fascinating.  And I really liked the final scene where William Hartnell gets a glimpse of the future of the programme and realises that his legacy will endure.

The Doctor Who Celebration 

This huge event took place over the weekend of the Anniversary at the Excel Centre in London.  I was there on the opening day, the 22nd November.

I can honestly say that I don't think I've seen so many Doctor Who fans gathered together in one place.  I don't know the exact numbers but I understand that there were about 7000 fans there each day.  Fortunately the attendees were split between two groups (Ice Warriors and Weeping Angels) and the day was organised in such a way that it was near-impossible for all 7000 people to be in the same place at the same time.

One of my personal highlights was the entrance to the main exhabition hall itself:

Granted, this may not look too impressive in the picture but the idea was a good one.  You walked into a black and white television set (you can probably tell that the street backdrop is in black and white).  You then take a short walk down the street that gradually changes from black and white to colour before arriving at the gates to I.M Foreman's junkyard, as seen in the first episode.  You then walk through the gates into the hall itself. 

The hall was absolutely full of displays, exhibits, talks and various other activities, too numerous to mention.  I particularly enjoyed a talk by Dick Mills, formerly of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.  He gave an overview of how the original Doctor Who theme was created.  I also liked a session with the people from Big Finish Productions, who showed what it was like making Doctor Who audios.  They also gave a few people from the audience the chance to have a go themselves.

The highlights of the event, though were the three talks that took place on the Main Stage.  The first was an interview with Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy.  They seemed to having a lot of fun and, amongt other things promoted their own special film, The Fivish Doctors Rebooted.

The second panel featured Matt Smith, Jenna Coleman and Steven Moffatt, none of whom I'd seen live before so that was interesting.  Not surprisingly they wouldn't anything slip about either the Anniversary Special or the upcoming Christmas episode.

The final show on the Main Stage was a Special Effects show.  Whilst not quite up to the standard of the previous two shows, it was still very entertaining and some of the explosions made a few people jump!

Overall it was a great day and no one else who went seems to have had a bad experience either. It was certainly the perfect way to build up the anticipation for the Anniversary Special. 

Night of the Doctor/Day of the Doctor

 After everything else, this could have been something of an anti-climax.  Furtunately it wasn't.

It may not have been to everyone's taste but Steven Moffatt's take on an Anniversary story not only celebrated the past but also filled in a few gaps in the Doctor's long history.  The prequel, 'Night of the Doctor', finally gave us the long awaited return and regeneration of Paul McGann whilst also introducing us to John Hurt's 'War' Doctor.  'Day of the Doctor' itself finally showed us the final days of the Time War, that has been such a large part of the past 8 years of the series, as well the Doctor's involvement with the War. We even get to see the beginning of the regeneration from John Hurt to Christopher Eccleston.

As well as celebrating the past (including cameos from all the past Doctors) Moffat also sets things up for the future. Not only was there the relevation that Gallifrey is safe, but lost, we then get Tom Baker playing a future incarnation of the Doctor who's retired to be curator of the National Art Gallery. And then, of course, there was this:

A brief glimpse of the next Doctor. Was there a better anniversary present than that?

The Five(ish) Doctors Rebooted 

For many fans there was something better than seeing Peter Capaldi in Day of the Doctor and it was this. Tucked away on the BBC Red Button channel, this 30 minute comedy film, written and directed by Peter Davison, was the perfect way to end the Anniversary weekend.

At the Celebration event at the Excel, Peter Davison had boasted that his film had an even better cast list than Day of the Doctor and he wasn't wrong. I won't spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it yet but it's well worth watching to see famous peoppe making fun of themselves.

Well that was the Fiftieth Anniversary for me. There's so much more that I could have mentioned and more still that I didn't have the chance to experience for myself. One thing's for sure: this was the biggest anniversary celebration that the series has had. I don't think we'll see one bigger.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

The Doctor Who 50-50: Part 30 - 1991

On Screen
There was thing of interest on TV this year.  Lime Grove Studios, in which many a Sixties episode of Doctor Who had been recorded, was closed down in 1991.  To commemorate it's passing BBC 2 decided to dedicate a whole day to classic programmes made in the studios.  So many classic programmes were re-shown that day: Bill & Ben, Z Cars even Quatermass.  And amongst all this was something never shown on TV before: the original pilot episode of Doctor Who.

The Doctor and Susan in the pilot episode

Those who had already bought 'The Hartnell Years' on video (see below) would have already seen a version of the Pilot but seeing it on TV was still something special.  The Pilot more or less follows the plot of the first episode that was shown on 23rd November 1963 but there are a few differences.  Susan is more quirky and 'alien', the Doctor is a lot less likable and, due to a technical error, the TARDIS doors refuse to close and bang about in the background for much of the second half of the episode.  Due to various reasons, not least technical issues, the episode was re-made but it was interesting to see what kind of series we could have ended up with.

On Video

Just as the novelisations had come to a natural end so the VHS releases start to speed up.  There were no less than ten video's released this year.  The stories released were: The Krotons, The Curse of Fenric - Special Edition with deleted scenes reinstated into the story, Planet of the Spiders, City of Death,The Three Doctors, The Masque of Mandragora, The Deadly Assassin and finally The Sontaran Experiment and Genesis of the Daleks that were released together in a double pack.

In addition there were two special releases from the BBC: The Hartnell Years and The Troughton Years.  These videos were presented by Sylvester McCoy and Jon Pertwee respectively and their chief purpose was to showcase some of the surviving episodes from the black and white era of Doctor Who.  It was obviously felt that, with so many black and white episodes missing from the archives, these compilations were the best way of releasing some of the remaining episodes on VHS.  'The Hartnell Years' contained the original Pilot episode, the third episode of 'The Crusade' (at the time its sole surviving episode) and the fourth episode of 'The Celestial Toymaker'.  'The Troughton Years', meanwhile contained episode 2 of 'The Abominable Snowmen', episode 3 of 'Enemy of the World' and episode 2 of 'The Space Pirates'.  In all cases these were the only surviving episodes of those particular stories.

Meanwhile, with the lack of new Doctor Who on TV, independent film and video makers were stepping in to try and fill the void.  One such person was Bill Baggs whose BBV company released  'Summoned by Shadows'.  This Doctor Who-ish short film starred Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant, who had played the Sixth Doctor and Peri.  Here, Colin played a mysterious traveller with no name (although the credits refer to him as 'The Stranger' while Nicola plays his companion/assistant Miss Brown.  It all sounds quite familiar and with good reason as the film was intended as an homage to the series.  The film proved popular so, not surprisingly a sequel was soon in the works.

Finally a number of non-fiction videos were released this year.  'The Panopticon tapes' (of which there were five) were released by the Doctor Who Appreciation Society.  These tapes contained highlights form a number of conventions organised by the group, not least of which was the huge Paniopticon events that ran regularly throughout the Eighties and Nineties. Also released was 'Just Who on Earth is Tom Baker?' which, as its title suggests, provided an insight into the somewhat bizarre life of Tom Baker.

On Audio

There were a couple of music CDs from TV series composer Mark Ayres.  The first was a CD of the music from The Curse of Fenric.  The second, while not specifically a Doctor Who CD, did contain some Who related music.  This was 'Myths and Other Legends' and, for the most part consisted of music that Ayres composed for the Myth Makers series of interview videos.

Also worthy of mention is that 'The Pescatons', the Tom Baker audio story first released in the mid-70s, was re-released this year. Almost certainly this was in order to tie-in with the publication of the novelisation of this story.

In Print

In the world of Doctor Who books it was the end of one era and the beginning of another.  After almost 20 years, and with almost all TV stories published, the Target novelisations came to an end.  The final two books were the Seventh Doctor story 'Battlefield' and the 70s audio adventure 'The Pescatons'.  Although there would be further novelisations in years to come (indeed 'City of Death is due for 2014), these would be the last under the Target name

Happily, though, fans were not deprived of Doctor Who fiction for long. Virgin Publishing had purchased Target's parent company W H Allen and they decided to publish their own original novels featuring the Seventh Doctor and Ace.  This new series was called The New Adventures and was intended as the official continuation of Doctor Who albeit in print rather than on TV. The books were also aimed at an older audience than either the TV series or the novelisations and intended to tell "stories too broad and too deep for the small screen."

The first four novels in the series were published in 1991 and were linked by a new enemy for the Doctor - the Timewyrm. The first book is called, appropriately enough, Timewyrm: Genesys and sees the Doctor and Ace encountering an alien posing as a goddess in ancient Mesopotamia. In attempting to stop the alien the Doctor inadvertently gives her some of the powers of the TARDIS and ends up creating the Timewyrm.

The next three books in the series see the Doctor and Ace hunting the Timewyrm through time and space. In Timewyrm: Exodus they travel to alternative timeline where the Nazis wons World War Two, then they travel to the far future in Timewyrm: Apocalypse. Finally, in Timewyrm: Revelation, the debut novel for one Paul Cornell, the Doctor takes a trip into his own mind for a final showdown with the creature.

In other book news, 1991 also saw the publication of 'Time Lord', a new attempt at a role playing game from Virgin Publishing. This book was a new attempt to create a Doctor Who roleplaying after the somewhat unsuccessful attempt in the mid 1980s. Sadly this attempt didn't fare much better.  Also published this years was 'The Gallifrey Chronicles' -  a coffee table book that looked at the history of the Time Lords and Gallifrey - and 'The Terrestrial Index' by Jean-Marc L'Officier.  This was the follow-up to the re-printed 'Programme Guide' and contained details on all of the comic strips and short stories published to date, other spin-off merchandise as well as a fictional history of the planet Earth as seen in the TV series.

Finally, after an absence of some years, the Annual was back.  It was called a Yearbook rather than an annual and was published by the same people behind the Doctor Who Magazine so at least readers could be confident that the book would be factually accurate.  Just like the Annuals of old, the content of the Yearbook was primarily made up of short stories and comic strips with some factual articles thrown in. 

In Comics

By 1991, Doctor Who Magazine was publishing 13 issues a year rather than 12 which, of course meant 13 comic strips as well.  The year kicked off with The Mark of Mandragora.  Continuing on from the two prelude strips published at the end of 1990, this story saw the entity called the Mandragora Helix using the TARDIS to return to Earth.  Once on Earth, the Helix creates a new drug that transforms innocent night club goers into its slaves.  The Doctor and Ace, assisted by UNIT under the command of a new character called Muriel Frost, have to stop it from taking over the world.

Following this somewhat epic adventure comes the culmination to a long running storyline.  'Party Animals' finally sees the Doctor arriving at the birthday party of his friend Bonjaxx.  Amongst the guests is Beep the Meep, Death's Head and a supposed future version of the Doctor. 

In 'The Chameleon Factor' the TARDIS is somewhat out of sorts following recent events.  As part of its recuperation it creates a new look for the console room that stays with the comic strip for good few years.

The two other main strips this year were 'The Good Soldier' which featured the Cybermen invading 1950s America and 'A Glitch in Time' which saw the Doctor and Ace investigating a temporal paradox in Earth's pre-history.

Issue 180 of Doctor Who Magazine saw the beginning of a new strip called Evening's Empire.  It promised to be something quite special with some quite impressive artwork and the return of UNIT and Muriel Frost.  But that first part was all that readers got to see for some time.  In issue 181 we were told that the strip was delayed and a re-print took its place.  The final issue of the year (issue 182) saw another apology and another reprint.  This situation would continue into 1992 and, in the end 'Evening's Empire' was never published in the Magazine.  That's not to say that it was never published at all.  But readers did have quite a wait...

Marvel also published two 'Specials' this year.  The first was released in the Summer and was, primarily a guide to the locations used for filming Doctor Who.  It also included a comic strip pitting the Doctor and Ace against a sand monster on the beach.  The second was a UNIT-themed Winter Special.  As well as articles and fiction focussed on UNIT there was a comic strip, 'The Man in the Ion Mask' featuring the Third Doctor, the Master and UNIT.  This was the first time that the Magazine had published a new comic strip featuring an old Doctor.  It wouldn't be the last.

Friday, 20 September 2013

The Doctor Who 50-50: Part 29 - 1990

"Hold on to your seat because you've got a new challenge to meet!"
  - The Doctor, Search Out Science

In 1990 Doctor Who entered a period called by many fans the 'Wilderness Years' due to the lack of new Doctor Who on television.  And while it's true that between 1990 and 2005 there was little new Who on TV, there was still plenty going on elsewhere as we'll see...

On Screen

For the first time in over a quarter of a century there was no new Doctor Who on television. The closest we got was an episode of a schools science programme called Search Out Science.  This particular episode was called Search Out Space and featured Ace and K9 along with an alien called Cedric taking part in a quiz about space, with the Seventh Doctor asking the questions. With the characters being played by the regular actors and the being programme being aired on 21 November, perhaps this could be classed as the 27th anniversary story.

Doctor Who also moved away from the BBC in 1990.  A new network of satellite channels was starting up called British Satellite Broadcasting (BSB). Doctor Who became a regular fixture on the main entertainment channel, Galaxy, with the series being repeated from the beginning. One weekend in September saw the channel host a Doctor Who weekend, with the focus on the first ten years of the series. One of the hosts of the weekend was the most recent producer, John Nathan Turner.

Sadly, BSB didn't last long and it was sold to Sky TV.  But for a brief while it was the place to go to for fans who were starved of new Doctor Who and needed something to sate their appetites.

On Video

As well as repeats on satellite TV, there were also plenty of videos to buy.

For fans of the first two Doctors this was a bumper year for videos. An Unearthly Child, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, the Web Planet, The Dominators, The Mind Robber and the War Games were all released this year.  In addition, Fourth Doctor story 'The Brain of Morbius was re-released.  This story had been hacked to pieces when it was first released on video.  Now it was fully restored to its original state.  Finally, 'The Five Doctors was also re-released.  There had apparently been some small edits on the original release of this video as well and, as with 'Morbius', all edits were restored.

Reeltime also continued their seemingly ongoing quest to interview everyone involved with Doctor Who by releasing three further Myth Maker tapes.  This time the subjects were the First Romana, Mary Tamm, Cyberleader actor David Banks and the last Producer of the series, John Nathan Turner.

On Audio

Beyond the 'Variations on a Theme' album being released on the relatively new format of CD, the audio releases this year dominated by David Banks.  You will recall that, in 1989 he released two tapes of readings from his 'Cybermen' book.  In 1990 he released two more.  These 'ArcHive' tapes were titled 'The Cyber Nomads' and 'The Ultimate Cybermen' respectively.

In addition to these, Banks also released two interview tapes.  Again, in 1989, he has released an interview that he'd recorded with Colin Baker. Well, in 1990 he interviewed two other Doctors.  Sylvester McCoy was interviewed in 'Who's the Real McCoy?' while Banks talks with Jon Pertwee in 'Pertwee in Person'.

Finally, one slightly unusual audio release came free with the December 1990 issue of the Doctor Who Magazine.  Abslom Daak - Dalek Killer had re-appeared in the pages of the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip in late 1989.  His return had obviously sparked a mini-resurgence of interest in the character, as you'll see further down this post.  One of the results of this sudden popularity was the recording of a theme tune for the character by a group called The Slaves of Kane.  The record, in flexi-disc format was given away with the magazine.  Sadly, I've never heard it so I can't vouch for its quality.

In Print

The Target novelisations were beginning to wind down by 1990, not surprising given that nearly all stories had been novelised and that the TV series was no longer on air.  Perhaps also not surprisingly most of the novelisations released this year were Seventh Doctor stories.

The Happiness Patrol, Ghost Light, Remembrance of the Daleks, Survival and the Curse of Fenric were all released this year to great acclaim.  Unlike the majority of the novelisations, these books were not just straight adaptions of the TV scripts into prose form.  These three books read more like novels in their own right, greatly expanding upon what was seen on TV.  For instance there are several passages in the 'Remembrance of the Daleks' novelisation that take us inside the mind of the Special Weapons Dalek.

Perhaps fittingly the man who had written some of the earliest novelisations and had written more than anyone else also wrote some of the last.  Yes, Terrance Dicks was back with novelisations of two early stories 'Planet of Giants' for the First Doctor and 'The Space Pirates' for the Second Doctor.

Target also released the third, and ultimately final, of the Missing Stories for the Sixth Doctor.  This story was called Mission to Magnus written by Phillip Martin.  Had it ever been made for TV we'd have seen the green slug-like Sil teaming up with the Ice Warriors to take on the Sixth Doctor and Peri.

Beyond this, there wasn't much else in the way of new Doctor Who books, although Target did begin reprinting some of the earlier Doctor Who novelisations with brand new cover designs. We did see the belated release of the third part of the Encyclopedia of the Worlds of Doctor Who.  The book covered the letters L to R but, unfortunately, poor sales meant that we never did get to see letter S to Z.

Finally, Abslom Daak (yes, him again) was given the graphic novel treatment by Marvel UK.  There was no new comic strip material in the book, although there was a short story.  This book reprinted all of his previous comic strip appearances from DWM.

In Comics

In 1990 the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip was the only source of new stories. That being said, the year began with 'Hunger from the Ends of Time' which was a story that had previously been printed in 'The Incredible Hulk Presents' the previous year. The story saw the Doctor travel to the library world of Catalog where the planet's collection of books was scattered throughout time in order to save on space. The story also reintroduces the futuristic UNIT type organisation, the Foreign Hazard Duty (FHD) group that first appeared the previous year 'Echoes of the Mogor'.

The next story was called 'Train-Flight' and featured a special guest appearance by Sarah Jane Smith.  By this point in time Sarah had long-since established herself as the most popular companion in the series' history.  So it's no real surprise that she should be reunited with the Doctor, albeit in comic strip form.  We'd have to wait another sixteen years for her to appear again on television. 

Speaking of her televised return, that episode 'School Reunion' does seem to contradict 'Time-Flight' somewhat as Sarah seems fair less angry and bitter at the Doctor for abandoning her in the comic strip then she does in 'School Reunion'.  Plus, of course, in 'School Reunion' both the Doctor and Sarah claim not to have met up since she left the Fourth Doctor in 'The Hand of Fear'.  Still, stories contradicting each other is hardly a new thing in Doctor Who and it doesn't take away from the fact that it's nice to see Sarah and the Seventh Doctor teaming up here.

Following 'Train-Flight' was 'Doctor Conkerer', a strip that was originally intended for 'The Incredible Hulk Presents', had it not been cancelled.  It featured the Doctor playing conkers against a group of Viking invaders in medieval Britain.  Then there was another one issue break for the comic strip as it was replaced with a text story called 'Teenage Kicks', written by Paul Cornell and featuring Ace alongside the Doctor.

The comic strip was back in the next issue with 'Fellow Travellers'.  This three-part story was written by the most recent script editor on the TV series, Andrew Cartmel and was also Ace's debut in the comic strip.  The story sees the Doctor and Ace dealing with a pair of creatures called 'Hitchers' that  possess people and animals with high levels of rage and hatred.

Following this story came two shorter than usual strips which were preludes to the next big story: 'The Mark of Mandragora'.  You may recall that the Fourth Doctor story 'The Masque of Mandragora' introduced the Mandragora Helix, an evil sentient form of energy that tried to take over the Earth.  'The Mark of Mandragora' was to be a sequel to that story.  The first of the preludes to this story features a guest appearance by the Brigadier, while the second sees the Doctor and Ace discovering that part of the Mandragora Helix is inside the TARDIS, years after the Doctor thought he had originally defeated it.  The story proper started in the final issue of 1990 but ran on well into 1991 so I'll look at it in more detail then.



Saturday, 14 September 2013

The Doctor Who 50-50: Part 28 - 1989

"Can this world do no better than you as its champion?"
"Probably.  I just do the best I can"
 - The Destroyer and Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart, Battlefield

 On Screen

And so we reach the final season of Doctor Who which begins with the return of an old friend.  'Battlefield', written by Ben Aaronovitch who had also written the opening story of the previous season, reunites the Doctor with his old friend Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart, retired head of UNIT.

UNIT itself is also back in action for the first time since the mid-seventies. This new look UNIT, which is now capable of taking down anything from Cybermen to werewolves, also has a new leader, Brigadier Winifred Bambera.

Lethbridge Stewart is called out of retirement to assist UNIT and the Doctor against figures from Arthurian legend who have travelled 'sideways in time' from another dimension where those legends are true.

Chief villain is Morgaine, half-sister of King Arthur and wielder of great magical powers.  She and her son, Mordred have travelled to 'our' Earth to find Excalibur which is buried at the bottom of a lake in an ancient spacecraft.

Whilst 'Battlefield' was criticised at the time for, amongst other things, some very dodgy acting one cannot fault its ambition.  Despite its small budget it's a fast-paced adventure with a lot of action and explosions, exactly the sort of thing you'd expect from a UNIT story.

In terms of characters, there's a real effort being made in both the previous season and this one to make the Doctor mysterious again.  Here we discover that, in his future, the Doctor may just possibly become the Merlin of Arthurian legend.  It's all left open to speculation but this unseen future Doctor leave his Seventh incarnation a note that basically explains the plot.  Of course this possible future for the Doctor has never been referred to again on TV so time will tell whether he really will become Merlin at some point.

And then there's the Brigadier. Originally this was to be Lethbridge Stewart's swansong and he was to have been killed off.  However, wisely as it turned out, Producer John Nathan Turner changed his mind.  Nevertheless it is the Brigadier that saves the day as he faces off alone against the demonic blue-skinned Destroyer that Morgaine has let loose on Earth.  This would be the Brigadier's final appearance, in the TV series at least, and this story feels like a fitting finale.

After the action-packed season opener that was 'Battlefield' things settle down a bit with the next story, 'Ghost Light'.  Although shown second in the season this was actually the last Doctor Who story to be made in the programme's original 26 year run.

This story is also the first in what is a trilogy of stories focusing on the character of Ace.  Here, the Doctor takes Ace back to her home of Perivale, albeit a hundred years early.  The setting a large Victorian house called Gabriel Chase inhabited by a bizarre assortment of character headed up by one Josiah Samuel Smith who is not all he appears to be.

The story was quite heavily criticised at the time for being too complex to follow which is fair assessment at least until the final episode which literally throws some Light on events.  Light is an angelic looking being who has been hibernating in a crashed stone spaceship beneath the house.  He had been travelling through space cataloguing species on different planets and crash landed on Earth millions of years earlier.  Josiah Smith is one of Light's catalogue of creatures who has got loose and evolved himself into a Victorian gentleman who wants to take over the British Empire.  Light, on the other hand, now wants to destroy the Earth and the Doctor has to stop both of them.

There, it's as simple as that.  I think.

Next is 'The Curse of Fenric' which sees the Doctor and Ace travel to an army base in 1942 and face the Haemavores, vampire creatures from the far future that have been brought back in time by a being called Fenric.  Fenric is a force of 'pure evil', according to the Doctor, that was once imprisoned by the Doctor in an ancient flask. Fenric has now escaped his prison and wants, amongst other things, revenge on the Doctor.

This is a big story for the character of Ace, not least because unknowingly she meets both her grandmother and the baby who would later become the mother that she hates.  It's also revealed that it was Fenric who caused Ace to shot across time and space to meet the Doctor in her debut story, 'Dragonfire', which would in turn lead to the Doctor arriving at this point in time to meet Fenric.  It's doubtful that this little story arc was in anybodys head when Ace first appeared two years earlier but the production team have certainly done a good job in weaving various elements of the last two season together to give the impression that it was all pre-planned.

Ace also has another doomed romance with a soldier.  This time it's with Russian Captain Sorin who has come to the army base to steal a top secret encryption machine.  He ends up siding with the Doctor and Ace but, unfortunately, it turns that he's as much a pawn of Fenric as most of the other characters in the story.  Towards the end of the story Fenric takes over the body of Captain Sorin in order to have his final confrontation with the Doctor. 

The Doctor and Ace are also ably assisted by Nicholas Parsons as the Reverand Wainwright, a priest who has lost his faith thanks to the War.  As well as being a very likable character, Wainwright is also there to emphasise the power of faith as a weapon against the Haemavores.  Things come to a head when Ace uses her faith in the Doctor to hold back the Haemavore leader whilst the Doctor is in facing off against Fenric.  This is unfortunate as the Doctor had earlier persuaded the Haemavore to turn on Fenric which Ace was unknowingly preventing it from doing.

The only solution is for the Doctor to destroy Ace's faith in him by unleashing some truly vicious and hurtful insults about her.  Damage done, the Haemavore is able to turn on Fenric and finish him off once and for all.     

And so we come to 'Survival', not just the final story of the season but, for some years, the final ever Doctor Who story on TV. Of course, at the time it was made no one knew that this was going to be the final story which is actually a good time.  There's no sense that this is a series that is winding down or coming to an end.  Instead it's just the Doctor and Ace doing what they do best, getting into adventures and fighting monsters.

The Doctor takes Ace back to Perivale for the second time this season, except this time its Perivale in the 1980s rather than the 1880s.  Ace is finally home but she finds that all her friends have gone with no explanation.  Investigating, the duo find that residents of Perivale have been abducted and taken to the remote planet of the Cheetah People.  And the person behind these kidnappings?  None other than the Master.

As seems to be typical for the Master, he's got himself into trouble and is using others to get him out of it.  He's somehow become trapped on the Cheetah's world and cannot escape it.  He's also becoming a Cheetah person himself which is a curse of the planet.  The only way for anyone to escape the planet is to wait for someone else to become a Cheetah and then use their powers of teleportation (which all the Cheetah's have) to escape.

Ace begins to transform and is therefore able to use her new abilities to rescue herself, the Doctor and her friends from Perivale.  But the Master escapes too and this leads to a confrontation between him and the Doctor, first on the streets of Perivale and then back on the planet of the Cheetah People.  The last we see of the Master is him helpless on the planet of the Cheetah People as it's about to explode.  As we will see in the future, clearly escapes this fate but it's never explained how.     

As for the Doctor and Ace: they go walking off into the sunset together, looking for new adventures.  Shortly before the final episode was broadcast (just 2 weeks in fact), John Nathan Turner decided to change the end of the episode as it seemed likely that this was to be the final ever episode of Doctor Who.  To that end a new speech was written for the Doctor at the climax of the episode.  Sylvester McCoy recorded it and it was dubbed over the visuals that had been shot some months earlier.  The end result was one of the most famous speeches in the history of the series.  Although slightly melancholy it also has a positive note to it.  The series might be over but the Doctor and Ace still have work to do.

On Video

1989 saw three stories released on video by the BBC.  Fourth Doctor story The Ark in Space, Third Doctor tale The Time Warrior and the First Doctor's first encounter with the Daleks were all released this year.  'The Daleks' wasn't just the first William Hartnell story to be released on video, it was also the first to be released completely uncut. Previous releases had been edited into 'mini-movies, for want of a better term, with the beginning and end title sequences removed. This story was the first to leave all the episodes intact with nothing edited out. Due to its length this story was also the first to be released on two tapes.

Reeltime also released a number of new interview tapes in the Myth Makers series. The impressive selection this year included Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Colin Baker, Richard Franklin (aka Captain Mike Yates) and a special release all about the Doctor Who Magazine.

On Stage

For only the second time in its life Doctor Who found itself treading the boards.  Touring the country throughout the summer of 1989, Doctor Who: The Ultimate Adventure, written by the ever-reliable Terrance Dicks, was a lavish stage show which starred Jon Pertwee as the Doctor initially before Colin Baker took over the role for the latter stages of the tour.Also, for one performance only, David Banks - who played a mercenary in the play and had been the Cyberleader on TV - took over as the Doctor when Jon Pertwee was ill.

Jon Pertwee

Colin Baker
David Banks

The show included Daleks, Cybermen, an impressive light show and even a couple of musical numbers so it's perhaps not surprising that it did well at the box office.  There were apparently plans to take it abroad at one point but, in the end that didn't happen. 

On Audio

One of my favourite audio releases came out in 1989.  Variations on a Theme was an EP record which, as its title implied, included four different versions of the Doctor Who theme.  The four themes were composed by the three men who had composed the music for the last three years of the series - Keff McCulloch, Dominic Glynn and Mark Ayres.  All four themes are very different and really try to do something different with the familiar tune.  My personal favourite is Keff McCulloch's jaunty Latin Mix although the whole album  is worth hunting down if you can find it.

Meanwhile, former Cyberleader turned author David Banks appeared in not one but three audio releases.  The ArcHive Tapes were based on his 'Cybermen' book that had been published the previous year.  Banks adapted and narrated this series of four tapes, the first two of which were released in 1989.

Banks was also one half of 'The Ultimate Interview', a 60 minute tape which saw Banks and Colin Baker interviewing each other whilst they were both on tour performing 'The Ultimate Adventure'. 

In Print

By 1989 the majority of the TV stories had been novelised and, with the TV series coming to an end, the editors at Target books were looking for ways to extend the range. One idea was to novelise scripts of stories that never made it to screen, in particular those stories that had originally been intended for Colin Baker's second season in 1986 before Michael Grade intervened and they dropped in favour of 'Trial of a Time Lord'.

The first two of these were published in 1989.  'The Nightmare Fair' was written by Graham Williams, who you may recall was the Producer of Doctor Who in the late Seventies. The story, had it been made, would have been set in Blackpool Pleasure Beach and featured the return of the Celestial Toymaker, not seen since 1966. The second book, 'The Ultimate Evil', was written by well-known science fiction author Wally K Daly and saw the Doctor going up against an alien arms dealer.

In terms of the other novelisations released in 1989, the majority were either First or Seventh Doctor books. For the First Doctor we were given 'The War Machines', 'The Chase' and 'The Daleks Masterplan'.  On TV 'Masterplan' was twelve episodes long (thirteen including the prologue episode, 'Mission to the Unknown'). As a result the novelisation was split over two books.

Seventh Doctor fans were treated to novelisations of 'Delta and the Bannermen', 'Dragonfire', 'Silver Nemesis' and 'The Greatest Show in the Galaxy.' Finally there was a pair of Sixth Doctor novelisations published, 'Attack of the Cybermen' and 'Mindwarp' - part of 'The Trial of a Time Lord'.

Beyond the novelisations there was little else new in the way of books. The series of script books that had begun in 1988 continued with 'The Daleks', 'Tomb of the Cybermen' and 'The Talons of Weng Chiang' all being released as scripts.

We also the had the much anticipated second volume of the Doctor Who Encyclopedia, covering the letters E to K.  Finally, Jean-Marc Lofficier's Doctor Who Programme Guide, previously published in 1981, was updated and republished, now covering everything up to the end of 1989.

In Comics

In the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip, much of the year was taken up with the Doctor trying and failing to get to the planet Maruthea in order to attend the birthday party of his never before mentioned friend Bonjaxx.

The Doctor's first stop on his way to Maruthea is a planet that is experiencing flooding of Biblical proportions in the 2-part story 'Time and Tide'.  The Doctor aids the sole surviving member of the planet's race and their unborn child to build a raft and ride out the flood.

Following this comes 'Follow That TARDIS!'  another of the Doctor's occasional crossovers with other comic book characters.  This time he meets the Sleeze Brothers (basically a sci-fi version of the Blues Brothers).  The Sleeze Brothers were about to debut in their own comic book so this was an attempt to attract some new readers.

The story sees the Brothers and the Doctor chasing the Meddling Monk through time and space, travelling to various different periods in Earth's history and causing havoc along the way.  This strip was pure comedy and, according to some, is more like a spoof of Doctor Who than anything else.

The next story was a little more serious. 'Invaders from Gantac' saw the Doctor travel to Earth in the year 1992 to find that it has been invaded by aliens from the planet Gantac.  The Doctor teams up with a homeless man called Leapy and it's Leapy's fleas that save the day and defeat the invaders. Well I did say it was only a little more serious.

'Invaders from Gantac' concluded in issue 150 of DWM. The following issue saw the comic strip replaced with a text story titled 'The Infinity Season'. This was the first of only a handful of times where the comic strip did not appear at all in the magazine.

The next comic strip story saw the long awaited meeting of the Doctor and a popular character from the early days of the magazine - Abslom Daak: Dalek Killer. Although he had appeared in the back up strip of the magazine back in the early 80s, Daak had never met the Doctor until now.  Here the two of them team up to take on the Daleks who are building a Death Star type battle station called the Death Wheel.  Sadly their partnership proves to be short lived as Daak sacrifices himself to destroy the Wheel.

The final story of the year was a one-part tale titled 'Stairway to Heaven' that was co-written by Paul Cornell who was destined to write some of the most original and popular Doctor Who fiction in the years to come.

Finally I have to mention 'The Incredible Hulk Presents' which was a short-lived children's comic that ran for 12 weeks at the end of 1989.  The comic included several comic strips such as The Incredible Hulk, Indiana Jones and of course Doctor Who.  Because 'The Incredible Hulk Presents' was aimed at a younger age group than the Doctor Who Magazine, the Doctor Who strips were simpler and shorter than those in the Magazine.  That being said, one of the stories - a 2-parter called 'Hunger from the Ends of Time' - was reprinted in the Doctor Who Magazine in 1990.  One other story, 'Doctor Conkerer' was intended for issue 13 of 'The Incredible Hulk Presents' but when the comic was cancelled with issue 12, the strip instead made its debut in the Magazine.