Sunday, 9 March 2014

The Doctor Who 50-50: Part 31 - 1992

On Screen

The year began with some good news. Doctor Who was back on terrestrial TV! Admittedly it was repeats and it was on BBC 2 rather than BBC 1 but the mere presence of Doctor Who on TV again after two years of nothing was a reason to be cheerful.

And this wasn't just a one-off repeat, this was a full season of repeats with one story due to be shown for each Doctor. The season began with a specially made. clip show called by Resistance is Useless. This programme, which was crammed full of clips from throughout the series, was presented by The Anorak. The Anorak was just that - an talking anorak with a Birmingham accent. It was a little dig at the stereotypical, geeky fan.

The Anorak

After Resistance is Useless came the first of the repeats: William Hartnell in the first episode of 'The Time Meddler'. The story had never been repeated since it was first shown in 1965.

Over the next few weeks, more classic stories were repeated.  Following The Time Meddler came the Second Doctor's story 'The Mind Robber' and 'The Sea Devils' as the story chosen for the Third Doctor. The remaining stories for Doctor's Four to Seven were to be shown in 1993 but Third Doctor fans were able to enjoy a bonus repeat in November 1992 as The Daemons from 1971 got another showing.

The years had not been kind to The Daemons.  The original colour copies of four of its five episodes were missing from the BBC archives, replaced with inferior black and white prints.  However, by 1992, the wonders of modern technology meant that it could be re-colourised.  The re-colouring process was featured on an episode of BBC science programme Tomorrow's World and the story itself was repeated shortly after on BBC 2.

On Video

There were a number of video releases this year including a few that were a bit special...

The regular releases continued throughout the year with releases for   The Aztecs, The Claws of Axos, Robot, Logopolis, Castrovalva, Earthshock, Mawdryn Undead, The Caves of Androzani and The Twin Dilemma.  One unexpected addition to the release schedule was 'Tomb of the Cybermen'.  This story had been missing from the archives for many years, believed destroyed.  However a copy of it was found in a TV station in Hong Kong and returned to the BBC at the end of 1991.  It was rushed on to video in May 1992 so that fans could enjoy it as soon as possible.

Another special release was Shada.  You may recall that Shada was a story that was partially filmed back in 1979 but was ultimately abandoned due to a strike and never completed or broadcast.  Well, what had been filmed was finally released on video in 1992.  Obviously there were gaps in the story which were filled with newly-recorded narration from Tom Baker.

The 'Years' series of videos also continued with four releases: 'The Pertwee Years', 'The Tom Baker Years', 'Daleks: the Early Years' and 'Cybermen: the Early Years'.  The Pertwee, Dalek and Cybermen tapes had similar formats to the previous Hartnell and Troughton Years and included complete episodes from various stories.  The Tom Baker Years were different.  Here, Baker sat and watched clips from each of his television stories and then talked about each story.

Finally, there was another release in the Myth Makers series of interview tapes, this time focusing on Ace actress Sophie Aldred.  Sophie also appeared in 'More than a Messiah',  the second of the series of straight-to-video films starring Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant as the Stranger and Miss Brown.

On Audio

1992 proved to be a good year for fans of the black and white era of Doctor Who and of the Troughton era in particular.  Not only had 'Tomb of the Cybermen' been returned to the BBC archives and released on video, but two other 2nd Doctor stories were also released as soundtrack cassettes.

To explain: back in the 1960s, you usually had just one chance to enjoy a particular television programme. There were few repeats and, of course, no such thing as VHS or DVD.  So when an episode of, say, Doctor Who was shown there was a good chance that you'd never get to see it again.  However, a number of enterprising young fans realised that they could stick a microphone next to the TV and record the soundtrack of an episode on to tape.  That way, they could at least listen to their favourite Doctor Who stories over and over again.

The soundtracks of a good many Doctor Who episodes were recorded in this way, including all of those episodes that were missing from the archives.  In the early 90s, those same enterprising fans (now somewhat older) donated their recordings to the BBC, meaning that soundtracks of some of those missing stories could be released and enjoyed by fans.

The first two titles released were 'The Macra Terror' and 'Evil of the Daleks', both from Patrick Troughton's first season as the Doctor.  Because both stories had originally been intended for the visual medium of TV there were certain sequences in these recording that would make little sense to someone listening to them.  One episode of 'Evil of the Daleks', for example has a lengthy fight scene which doubtless looked great on screen but would be just random noise if listened to.  To get around this problem narrators provided specially recorded links to aid the listener by giving some background description.  The two narrators were Colin Baker for 'The Macra Terror' and Tom Baker for 'Evil...'.

Also released this year were a number of music titles.  Following on from the release of the 'Ghost Light' soundtrack in 1991, Mark Ayres music for Season 25's 'Greatest Show in the Galaxy' received the album treatment.  Also released were 'Earthshock' and 'The Five Doctors'. These were not, as you might expect from the titles, the soundtracks of those two particular stories.  These were the 'Doctor Who: The Music' albums from the early 80s repackaged and re-released with one or two new tracks that didn't appear on the original albums.

In Print
The New Adventures continued throughout 1992, the series starting to create its own unique identity, quite different from the television series that had spawned it.  Although this new, more adult version of Doctor Who didn't well with everyone, the series did have its fair share of fans who were keen where the books would take them.

The first three books released in 1992 were a linked trilogy of novels.  Under the umbrella title of  'Cat's Cradle', the three books were linked by the fairly straightforward premise that the TARDIS has been invaded by something.  For the duration of the trilogy, a silver cat follows the Doctor and Ace around.  The cat is a projection created by the TARDIS and acts as a warning of the damage caused to the time machine.

This linking theme was a very loose one with only the first and third books ('Time's Crucible' and 'Witch Mark' respectively) really dealing with the issues of the ailing TARDIS.  The second book, 'Warhead', was written by the last script editor of the TV series, Andrew Cartmel.  It saw the Doctor and Ace tracking down a young couple with psychic powers named Vincent and Justine in a bleak looking early 21st Century. Vincent and Justine would also appear in later books, also written by Cartmel.

Something else that would reappear in later books was the Doctor's house in Kent. Revealed in a later novel that it was bought in the 1970s by the Third Doctor 'the house in Allen Road' as it was referred to makes its first prose appearance here and would feature several more times as a base of operations for the Doctor. Interestingly, I've discovered that, had the TV series continued into the 1990's, then the house would likely have appeared on screen.

Following the Cat's Cradle trilogy and with the TARDIS more or less restored to full health, came 'Nightshade', written by someone now very well known to modern TV viewers: Mark Gatiss.  'Nightshade takes the Doctor and Ace to the late 1960s and a small village that is under attack from an alien entity  The entity feeds on emotions and people's darkest memories are coming back to haunt them.  The Doctor and Ace find themselves teaming up with aging actor Edmund Trevithick, who once played a character on TV called Professor Nightshade (Gatiss' own version of Professor Quatermass) to stop this entity.

Paul Cornell returned with his second novel, 'Love and War', which hearlded a major change in the series.  The novel sees Ace leave the Doctor after he manipulates her one time too many, causing her new boyfriend, Jan to go to his death.  It also introduces the Doctor's new companion, Professor Bernice Summerfield, or Benny to her friends.  Benny is an archaeologist from the 26th Century who is particularly interested in the 20th Century.  She's smart, funny, likes a drink and thinks that she's able to handle the Doctor.  She only agrees to travel with him if he promises not to mess with her life the way that he has with Ace's.

Benny's debut was something of a big deal.  By this point, the New Adventures were more or less seen as the official continuation of the TV series so Benny was seen as the next 'official' Doctor Who companion.  She even got a two page article in the Doctor Who Magazine to introduce her.  She was very popular with the fans at the time and her debut novel is widely considered to be one of the best of the New Adventures range.

Sadly, a lot of the good feeling evaporated with the next book, and the final novel of the year: Transit.  Transit was written by Ben Aaronovitch who had previously the highly regarded 'Remembrance of the Daleks' and less well regarded 'Battlefield' for TV.  He'd also novelised 'Remembrance' for the Target range which proved very popular.  People were expecting big things from this book and were left disappointed.  Some simply didn't like the story, which featured a futuristic train network spanning the solar system being invaded, but most took exception to the bad language, explicit sex and extreme violence.  The New Adventures had always boasted of stretching the boundaries of Doctor Who but many felt that this book took things too far.  It's significant that the books were toned down somewhat after this.

One point in Transit's favour is that it introduced a new recurring character: Kadiatu Lethbridge Stewart.  She's a genetically engineered soldier from the early 22nd Century who is distantly related to the one and only Brigadier Lethibrdige Stewart.  As Bernice is incapacitated for much of this novel, Kadiatu acts as the Doctor's temporary companion.  She will appear again in future novels.  

Alongside the novels there were a number of non-fiction books also released in 1992.  On the paperback front there was 'The Universal Databank', the third book from Jean-Marc L'officier and The Fourth Doctor Handbook by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker.  The Universal Databank was an A to Z of everything in Doctor Who although, unlike previous A to Z efforts, it did actually manage to get through the whole alphabet.

The Fourth Doctor Handbook was the first of a series of such books that covered each of the seven Doctors.  The series is widely regarded as being one of the most detailed and scholarly overviews of the TV series and its been reprinted at least twice to my knowledge.  This particular volume examined the genesis of the Fourth Doctor, examined the actor who played him, looked in detail at each of the Fourth Doctor's TV stories and also examined what went on behind the scenes.

From those same authors this year came a large hardback book titled simply: The Sixties.  The first of three books, The Sixties perhaps not surprisingly took a look at Doctor Who during the 1960s.  It was an indepth look at the making of the series during that decade as well as the two Peter Cushing films and the Dalek stageplay, Curse of the Daleks. One other major selling point was the huge amount of photographs included, many of which had never been published before.

The other major hardback release in 1992 was The Monsters written by Adrian Rigelsford.  The book detailed the background of several of Doctor Who's most popular monster races, excluding the Daleks and Cybermen who already had their own books.  These histories are described in a series of fictional accounts that take the form of UNIT reports, ancient legends or books supposedly written by characters from the TV series.  As with The Sixties, the illustrations are a major selling point of this book with many of the illustrations provided by Andrew Skilleter who was one of the major Doctor Who artists during the 80s and 90s.

1992 also saw the return of The Scripts books. Four books had previously been released in the late 80s but nothing more had been released for a couple of years.  Now two of those original books, The Tribe of Gum and Tomb of the Cybermen were re-released alongside two new books: The Daemons and The Masters of Luxor. This last book was especially interesting as it was the script of a story that was never actually made.  The Masters of Luxor, had it been made, would likely have occupied the slot that was taken by the very first Dalek story.  These scripts showed fans what we might have had instead of the Daleks.

Finally, the Doctor Who Magazine continued the old Annual tradition by releasing their second Yearbook, containing articles, comic strips and short stories.

In Comics

At the end of 1991, Doctor Who Magazine published the first part of a comic strip titled Evening's Empire.  For one reason or another the rest of the strip was delayed and reprints were presented in its place. By April the story had been scrapped entirely and DWM moved on to 'The Grief' - a three part story that saw the Doctor and Ace encountering more space marines being menaced by alien monsters long since thought dead.

From here on, the strip tied in closely to the New Adventures novels.  As mentioned above, the New Adventures were seen to be the official continuation of the TV series so it made sense for the comic strip to join in too.The Grief made reference to the Timewyrm novels and saw Ace starting to doubt whether the Doctor cares about her any more, something that comes to a head in the novel, Love and War. 

The next strip, Ravens tied in with the novels even more closely.  It's set during the second Cat's Cradle novel, Warhead, and written by Andrew Cartmel who also wrote the novel.  This story sees the Doctor enlist the aid of a Japanese warrior from the past called the Raven to help save a kidnapped woman and her daughter from a street gang in the 21st Century.  It's a rather unusual take on the Doctor who basically uses the Raven as a hired sword to kill the gang.  It was somewhat criticised at the time.

The next two stories were 1 parters and saw the return of popular artist John Ridgeway, who had previously illustrated all of the Sixth Doctor comic strips.  The first of these,  Memorial, is the story of the Doctor helping to save the last remnants of dying race while also helping an old man deal with the loss of his brother during World War II. 

Cat Litter was Ace's last appearance in the comic strip for the time being as Benny Summerfield had just made her New Adventures debut. This strip set up Ace's departure as it saw the TARDIS  randomly deleting rooms including, ultimately, Ace's own bedroom. Her room has been replaced by someone else's and the Doctor wonders if the TARDIS is preparing for the future...

The year came to an end with the first two parts of Pureblood, the debut strip for Benny and the long-awaited return to the comic strip of the Sontarans.

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