The Further Adventures of Lucie Miller: Volume One.

Audio Barring anniversary and special releases, of all the Big Finish Doctors, Eighth has had the most linear of release schedules rarely offering missing adventures at least in audio form. Although the era which follows on from the original Lucie Miller series and the Time War boxes have been released in parallel lately there hasn't been much in the way of trying to shoehorn stories into old gaps and even then they've been added retrospectively, as per the Mary Shelley trilogy. Now here we are with four new proper Lucie Miller adventures, wedged in after Human Resources and as I'm having it, before all the various Short Trips. While it was nice to have Sheridan reading a couple of those, there's nothing quite like hearing the bantz between her and Paul McGann, clearly enjoying each other's company both as characters and actors. The "VOLUME ONE" on the front cover implies more boxes are planned and that's excellent news. If it's good enough for Adric to have a host of new stories set before his demise, it's certainly good enough for Lucie Bleeding Miller.

The Dalek Trap

For Lucie's first show back, Nick Briggs offers us a Companion Chronicles style Doctor-lite episode of the kind which can only happen on audio because he doesn't speak for most of it. Returning to the role after six or seven years, Sheridan takes full advantage of the airtime to re-introduce the character at the moment when she'd broken through the shields of the more cantankerous Eighth from that first series leading to a return of the more adventurous man from the start of his Big Finish years. After stanning Charley for years, it took me a month or three to warm to Lucie back then, but now I can see how a character who originally seemed constructed to fit the Ace/Sam/Izzie/Rose formula has a more chaotic, relatable energy than those guys.  The story itself feels like a  purposefully formulaic mix of amnesia, being trapped inside a black hole and Daleks saying unusual things, lots of gracenotes (sorry) of the period.  Will the Darkness be revealed as the "big bad" of the boxset or something being set up for later in Eighth's timeline?  There are few things scarier than a known unknown.

The Revolution Game

God, this is refreshing.  Although both the ongoing boxes and The Time War contain stand alone episodes, they're always within the structure of a much wider story or lead in to one another, whereas this is a return to first principles, the Doctor and his plus one landing on planets and overthrowing governments.  Much as they did with the first few Baker series, there's been a real effort here to capture the feel of the original audios, with their quick pace, cinematic "visuals" and giant personalities.  Paul sounds like his in his element too, not having to deal with the baggage of a much older version of his character, a man who's seen too much (although of course if you count the books and comics as coming before the audios, he's already been around for a bit!).  Alice Cavender's play is in stark contrast with Kerblam!  Where that TV adventure ended with the status quo, the giant corporation still intact, here there's no question that the conglomerate ruling half the galaxy will go down, their infrastructural importance be damned.

The House on the Edge of Chaos

"***** ***** ** *****!" I shouted in the street on hearing the twist in Eddie Robson's superb little run around, but it's such a spoiler for this and another classic audio so you'll have to make do with asterisks. Another authentic episode which even without the mid-story cliffhanger from the olden days would fit perfectly in the tea time Sunday slot on BBC7. The Doctor and Lucie randomly find themselves on a colony world in which the cast of La Règle du Jeu live within an ever growing Winchester Mystery House, terraforming by house expansion. With strong themes about the arbitrary nature of the class system and how some justify their positions by explaining that it's the best way of keeping order, like The Revolution Game it coincidentally glances towards the upheavals in British life almost to second, something Doctor Who has always had a facility for. Some project business: Roger Vanisttart, whose last Big Finish credit was in a range of roles in Dead London which opened the second season of the "With Lucie Miller" stories, returns as the reclusive colony leader, just the sort of Roger Vanisttart role that Roger Vanisttart was born to play.

Island of the Fendahl

Definitive. With Alan Barnes writing and Nick Briggs directing, the Eighth Doctor equivalent of getting The Blues Brothers together, this had the potential to be something special and sure enough it's not just the perfect way to end this boxed set, but one of the best of this incarnations stories period. A Hinchcliffian remodel for The Wicker Man in the Whoniverse, with a police officer venturing from the mainland to isolated rock filled with cultists worshipping an ancient power this is also a prequel/sequel to a classic Who story, draws together threads from the rest of the boxed set and suggests a new bunch of unseen adventures for these two, it's catnip for a completist. Of special note: for various reasons two sets of characters are lost in a set of underground tunnels and through sound design alone we completely appreciate that they're in different areas but walking similar paths and criss crossing one another, cutting across the audio space in a chilling way. More please.

The BBC and World War Two.

History The History of the BBC pages have been updated with a huge archive of material from World War II in which corporation staff and others describe their experiences of the war and what it was like to work under those conditions, attempting to inform the public despite the pressures from government and the resources available.

Here's a page about celebrity during the period, with audio of General Charles De Gaulle broadcasting in French to his people from BBC Forces Radio:
"France had fallen, and the military commander had just arrived in London post-haste from Bordeaux. Now, in exile, he entered the BBC’s studios and sat before the microphone to broadcast to his fellow countrymen and women a fierce repudiation of Pétain’s armistice agreement with Nazi Germany.‘As the irrevocable words flew out upon their way’, he recalled, I felt within myself a life coming to an end’. Broadcasting, he said, had provided him with ‘a powerful means of war’.De Gaulle would broadcast from the BBC studios on several more occasions. But for him, the people of France, and for the BBC, this first broadcast represented a dramatic and vivid moment in the war."
There's a mountain of material here and I can't wait to set aside a day to work my way through it all.

"If we fight like animals, we die like animals!"

TV Details have been announced for the fourth quarter Doctor Who blu-ray release and it's to be season 26, Sylvester McCoy's finale and the franchise's last television gasp before it headed into a television coma for a while.

Here's the all important pre-order page on Amazon, the link to which I've remembered to add an affiliate code to for once.  Here it is again.

Here's a tablet friendly picture of the box which you can also click on:

Isn't modern technology great?  Yesterday I sent a copy of our phone bill to the printer from a Kindle Fire while I was sat on the toilet.  Cuh.

The gubbins:
Rare Restored Extended Cuts
• The Curse Of Fenric VHS Extended Version
• The Curse Of Fenric DVD Special Edition
• Battlefield VHS Extended Version
• Battlefield DVD Special Edition

5.1 surround sound & isolated scores
• On all 14 broadcast episodes, plus 5.1 sound on all extended versions of The Curse Of Fenric and Battlefield.

Behind the Sofa
• New episodes with Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred, plus companions Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton, Anneke Wills and Jodie-Whittaker-era writers Pete McTighe & Joy Wilkinson.

Showman - the Life of John Nathan-Turner

• A feature-length look at the life and career of Doctor Who’s longest-serving producer, who fought to keep the programme on-air during the 1980s. Contributors include Peter Davison and Colin Baker.

Making ‘The Curse of Fenric’
• A brand new documentary featuring Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred, Tomek Bork, Nicholas Parsons, Cory Pulman, Marek Anton, Ian Briggs, Andrew Cartmel, Mark Ayres and Ian Collins featuring unseen behind-the-scenes footage and photographs.

In Conversation
• Matthew Sweet chats to companion Sophie Aldred.

The Writers’ Room
• Ben Aaronovitch, Marc Platt, Ian Briggs, Rona Munro and Andrew Cartmel discuss their work on Season 26.

Becoming The Destroyer
• Actor Marek Anton and prosthetics designer Stephen Mansfield recall the creation of one of Doctor Who’s best ever monsters.

Blu-Ray trailer
• Sophie Aldred back in character as Ace.

Brand new Ghost Light extended workprint
Unseen studio footage
Rare archive treats
Convention footage
HD photo galleries
Scripts, costume designs, rare BBC production files
and other gems from our PDF archive

And lots more!
It's curious that the "brand new" Ghost Light extended workprint isn't listed with the other extended cuts. Perhaps it's due to it being unrestored? Has a timestamp on it like the original deleted scenes on the dvd release?

 Either way, we now know how the producers of these treasure troves will be bulking out four story seasons so that they boxes match the others on the shelves and justify people buying these stories over again. This thing is across seven discs.

Curiously, half the boxsets released so far have been the final seasons for Doctors.  It would make sense if that was also the case for Troughton.  It's the most complete of his seasons, with the missing episodes of The Invasion adequately animated.

Lawk knows what they'll do about The Space Pirates; John Cura left us before the story went out so there aren't any telesnaps and precious few production stills to work from (which makes animating them difficult too due to the paucity of reference images).

My guess is that they'll have a go with what they have.  The narrated audio soundtrack with production stills and the fragments or screenshots from fragments when necessary.  The film trims of the spaceships shots should look spectacular on bluray.

Anyway, Season 26 is due for release on Christmas Eve Eve which given that every boxset has been pushed back from its original release date so far seems incredibly ambitious.  So I won't be expecting it for Christmas.  January probably.  All together now ...

Oh Terry. :(

TV There's not a lot more that can be added to the tributes to Terrance Dicks, one the key architects on Doctor Who, whose death was announced today.

 I didn't meet him and only really understood who he was once I began reading Doctor Who Magazine on a regular basis in the early noughties and purchasing all of the DVDs.

 I was only ever really a casual viewer during the show's first heyday and certainly didn't read any of his TARGET novelisations growing up - Star Trek and Transformers were more my thing. 

But over time I began to appreciate what a presence he was and how much he'd shaped this franchise which I'd grown to love. 

So if you'll forgive me, in tribute I offer this reprint of a review of his seminal non-fiction work, The Making of Doctor Who, co-written with Malcolm Hulke.   

I like to think that he's just stepping in to a celestial production office were Hulke and Barry Letts are pleased to see him because another script's just fallen through and they need a replacement as quickly as possible.

Originally published Friday, February 18, 2011.

The first non-fiction book published about the series, Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke’s The Making of Doctor Who is mythologised by fans of a certain age as the moment when they properly realised the breadth of the history of the series, thanks to a thorough episode guide and biographies of the all the Doctors and companions who had appeared on the show prior to the then current incumbent Tom Baker. How they must have trembled, suddenly desperate to read the Target novelisation of The Ark with the horrific sounding Monoids and coming to terms with their newly acquired deep knowledge of Mike Yates and Anneke Wills.  All of which I missed because I was only two years old.  Time to catch up.

Reading the book, written by the outgoing producers at this late stage is a strange business, especially after twenty odd years of Doctor Who Magazine and another overlapping decade of dvd releases. Most of the anecdotes herein have been worked over dozens of times since by franchise archivist Andrew Pixley with increasing accuracy, yet it’s impossible not to be swept away by Dicks and Hulke’s interpretation of events which desperately strikes a balance between offering some insight into television production but without losing any of the magic of what’s on screen, a world were Tom isn’t difficult to work with, script editing is a relatively easy business and the technical unions don’t turn the lights off at inopportune moments.

Both authors are well chosen.  Hulke wrote many of the most popular Doctor Who stories, including The War Games, Doctor Who and the Silurians and The Sea Devils.  Dicks was a producer on the show right through the Pertwee era and continued to be a writer not just of the scripts for television but also, as he notes within The Making of ... enough Target novelisations that he could give up the programme to concentrate on those.  Eventually Dicks would go on to write most of the Target books, the former covering most of the eras of the show in his trademark style.  "Teeth and curls" "Open face" that sort of thing.  It's a testament to their legacy that these novelisations are still being turned into audio books.

The first section traces the inception of the series, introduces all of the characters and the actors who played them and lists the monsters who’ve left an impression of the show in the previous decade (sorry Rills). Much of this still serves as the blue print for Doctor Who Magazine’s approach all of these years later, even taking time to debunk the myth of where the Dalek name came from (even though Trivial Pursuit were still using the encyclopedia explanation as a question years later). Each of the companion actors is gives a quote about their time working on the show, including Frazer Hines who informs us that he’d wear football shorts under his kilt so he could get a game directly afterwards.

This was for years the main the source of the collective fan knowledge about how the show started. It’s impossible not read the section about the meeting between Sydney Newman (initial creator) and Donald Wilson (head of series) without thinking of the notorious Doctor Who night sketch with all the swearing, isn’t it about time they finally grant its author Mark Gatiss his wish to bring this chapter properly to television in dramatic form? Certainly there’s enough here for a fiftieth anniversary special in which a brave female producer Verity Lambert battles with the resources available to her then watching as the limelight shines on Terry Nation for creating the Daleks, the moment when the show really took off?

The middle chunk is appropriated by the aforementioned episode guide, which was also the first time many of the stories were collected under single story names for the first time – for the first couple of years individual episodes had often wildly inaccurate titles all to themselves. Culled, I believe, from BBC documents, many of these collective nouns have stuck until the present day appearing on dvd spines but there are still some surprises. The Daleks is given the title of its first episode “The Dead Planet” and it’s “The French Revolution” instead of “The Reign of Terror”. The first story is listed as “An Unearthly Child” the ramifications of which would drag on for many years with fandom fracturing between the "100,000 BC" believers and The "Tribe of Gum".

Like the pagination of the Target novelisations, there’s little consistency as to the length of accompanying synopsii in relation to story length. The Moonbase (4 episodes) nearly fills a page while all twelve episodes of The Dalek Masterplan fill about seven lines which might well be a comment on the amount of padding which would appear in some of these stories. Galaxy Four (4 episodes) is gifted five lines and shockingly it doesn’t seem to miss anything out including the race relations subtext. Brilliantly, one of the previous owners of my copy has gone on to scrawl in pencil all of stories from after “The Hand of Fear” up to and including “Shada” which suggests it was before that story failed to be completed. They’ve also numbered them all, and added crosses, presumably next to the ones they’ve seen. We've all done it.

The final section covers the production of ROBOT, Tom Baker’s first story. This is a major rewrite from the first edition of the book which covered The Sea Devils (and had a constipated looking John Pertwee on the cover) forcing some fans to buy this twice because of new material, a technique which is still being employed on the dvd range even today. In this version, there’s much talk throughout of how this is a show in transition with a new production team, new lead actor and a shift towards telling stories in time and space away from Earth. Which is quite refreshing considering that now, David Tennant was barely off-screen before his incarnation was assigned to merchandising history (with the approach to Christopher Eccleston genuinely Stalinist).

After the subsequent DVD commentary revelations this is pretty tame stuff, it’s not The Writer’s Tale (or The Devil’s Candy for that matter), there are no stories of Dicks, who also wrote Robot, face pressed against a typewriter at 3 o'clock in the morning handwriting a telegram to fanzine editor Jan Vincent-Rudzki revealing his inspiration for turning the story into a King Kong homage or why he took his name off The Brain of Morbius.  The most we discover about the writing process is how it would be an interesting choice to make "the power-mad leader behind the whole scheme" a woman "in these days of women's lib" (which as you can see isn't to say these passages don't sound like Dicks speaking out loud).

Curiously most of the team are referred to by their job title not their name and there are precious few proper anecdotes about the production itself, other than the decision to shoot the whole thing on video though the authors do mention how a producer thought one actor was overplaying the comedy at the expense of the drama, something the director agreed to do something about. I’m assuming that was Tom and I’m assuming he didn’t take any notice.  Some of the episodes overran, some underran but generally the shoot appears to come off without a hitch.  My favourite part is the opening paragraph which prosaically sets about explaining production codes "no one had allowed for the show's amazingly long life".  You're not kidding.  Now we've reached proper numbers and no one can agree exactly how many stories there have been.

The book almost ends on a fairly downbeat note. Under the hopeful sounding chapter title “A New Life for the Doctor” we’re told that new producer Philip Hinchcliffe and Script Editor Robert Holmes are “confident that in the dangerous and disturbing world of today there is a real need for a show like Doctor Who”. Then Dicks and Hulke stick the knife in by informing us that “many of the Doctor’s early adventures are lost forever. Enormous pressure on storage space forces the BBC to “wipe the tapes” "which means that many of the stories they’ve previously listed in the middle of the book, with the exception of those preserved for the Television Archives, “are gone for good”.  Notice the present tense in the word “forces”.  It was still going on.

I believe this was also the first inkling that even the clued up fans had that any of these stories had gone never mind that whoever was making the selection lacked the ability to discriminate between a stone cold classic like Marco Polo and The Sensor-bloody-rites. The authors try to cushion the blow by adding a sales pitch that suggests it’s ok because the adventures were being “preserved in more permanent form” as Target novelisations. As many would discover later when some of these stories were found and the secondary market opened up, the Target novelisations often wildly rewrote what had been on screen. 

The book ends on a three page glossary which has room for “ratings” but not “budget”.

So the history of Doctor Who was formed.

Art in Bath.

Art The BBC Archive pages have been updated with this silent footage of the Bath Academy of Art.

The material covers all the areas you might expect to see in an art school and is bathed (sorry) in the aesthetic of the 1960s.  One of my great regrets is that I wasn't brave enough to apply for art school from university, held back slightly by my inability to draw.

The unrestored nature of the footage which looks like its been shot via telecine creates an extra level of atmosphere. If you're looking for a soundtrack and want to go for the Adam Curtis approach, can I recommend some Brian Eno? The Pearl perhaps?


Politics As you probably know, one the few podcasts I listen to all year round is the FiveThirtyEight politics podcast, in which Nate Silver and the gang chat about the bigger US politics stories of the week from a polling angle.

 At the moment they're heavily in the Democratic primary thickets but every now and then they stick their head out from under to see what's happening elsewhere on the globe, which include frequent glances towards the UK.

In this week's Thursday edition (embedded above), presenter Galen Druke, sans the rest of the team, interviews political scientists Helen Thompson and David Runciman about the Brexit news of the week, the prorogation of parliament and what opposition politicians and the rest of us can do about it.

Some of this stuff will seem remedial, especially for Brexitcast listeners, but it's nevertheless useful to hear a couple of experts work through the implications point by point, and hear Druke's reaction to just how ludicrous this all seems even from someone who's own country is in crisis.

There are a couple of clangers, Thompson has a pretty naive expectation of what the current PM wants from Brexit suggesting that he still wants a deal if possible when every indication is that's a fantasy, but overall its an excellent primer on the weeks and months ahead.