Companion (Short Trips: Christmas Around the World)

A cautionary tale about AI told with the voice of an eleven year old girl in Brazil. Set in 2672 (although it feels like it could be happening much sooner than that), Yarah's gifted a robot dog by her Dad at Christmas programmed to protect his little one.  Inevitably it goes on a rampage while it attempts to follow its instructions and it's up to the Doctor, who drops in towards the end, to fix the situation.  It is not a sophisticated story, but James Moran's writing is rich, amusing and poignant as the Brazilian teen navigates a situation just on the edge of her understanding.

Placement:  Another one for the pre-Dying Days slot. 

Venus (Short Trips: The Solar System)

  If World Distributors had still been publishing Doctor Who annuals in the Eighth Doctor era, this is just the kind of prose story you'd expect to find, probably with illustrations using Stephen McGann and Titanic era Kate Winslet as reference for Eighth and Charley (and later read on audio by Dan Starkey).  While the Time Lord gives the Edwardian Adventuress a science lesson about terrible and toxic surface of Venus, they become aware of a nearby anomaly and decide to investigate.  They land in a forest and meet a group of Golgafrinchan B-Arkers with a single, terrible purpose that should probably have come with a trigger warning.  But once the Doctor's asked sufficient questions to help explain the mystery from their leader and Charley's been suitably horrified, they decide that it's fair enough, no one's being coerced into anything and that he should leave these people be, and the TARDIS team wander off back to their time ship.  The two leads are pretty well characterised and there is some dialogue which India Fisher would probably adore saying but like a lot of these shorts, there's nothing in here which couldn't be told with a different TARDIS crew in exactly the same way.  Perhaps some illustrations might have helped.

Placement:  The incident on the R101 is described as happening some time previously, so lets drop it in the second season of the first run.

Far From Home (Short Trips: Past Tense)

Prose  Some of the themes in Big Finish's anthologies are looser than others.  Past Tense collects short stories which are all set in Earth's past, which is a handy way of putting together disparate ideas from a range of writers.  Alison Lawson's piece has the Doctor follow a distress call to rural Wales in 1928 in the hopes of averting an early Roswell incident.  It's presented mostly from the point of view two local schoolboys and has the atmosphere of an Enid Blyton novel or or a 1980s schools literacy programme (some of the grizzlier material would have almost certainly be granted a section in Scarred For Life) as they encounter numerous male authority figures while they truant from school to help the Time Lord in his mission.

Placement:  Feels like an early "life's champion" tale in the period when he's making up for past mistakes, so let's put it arbitrarily pre-Dying Days.

The End of the Beginning (The Main Range)

Audio  The final end ... of the monthly range.  When these began in 1999, they were Big Finish, some of the original actors in new audio stories released on a monthly basis.  It's where I became a Doctor Who stan and a McGann fan in particular but by 2021 they were beginning to look like an odd one out in a release schedule which elsewhere had largely shifted over to boxed sets, with Fifth, Sixth and Seventh rather stuck taking turns here, still trying to find ways of telling stories within the few gaps left by their television eras.

Bringing the range full circle, The End of the Beginning follows the structure of the first release, with the Eighth Doctor rather than Seventh in the third part of the anthology.  But whereas The Sirens of Time was about trying to be as authentic to the television counterparts as possible, this is about commemorating and enunciating how far the range had developed in the intervening decades, of having taken the licence and created a legacy of stories of a quality which far exceeds their visual precursors.

The Fifth Doctor and Turlough were the stars of Big Finish's second release Phantasmagoria so its fitting that they should return together here after creating their own mini season of about four or five stories across the years.  The Sixth Doctor story highlights how that incarnation has been reimagined in the audios with bold new eras and a range of companions who simply wouldn't have existed on television, Constance and Flip in this case (although Lisa "Flip" Greenwood is absent for health reasons).

The Eighth Doctor's era couldn't be represented by anyone other than Charley, his main range companion and where it all began (on audio).  Presumably recorded around the time of Charlotte Pollard: The Further Adventuress (yes, yes, I'll get to it), I'm in awe at how Paul McGann keeps track of the different tones he and the creators have brought to this same incarnation between the early releases through to the Time War.

We're in Vampire Science territory as the eighth Doctor's stopped off to check in with an undead frenemy from an unseen adventure, a vampire taking the slow way through London who the Time Lord presumably stopped from killing back in the day.  There's another vampire on the loose and together they head off into the metropolis in a bid to stop the fledgling from killing and eating or turning half the population of the city.

Its at the end of all this we discover how this Doctor's story is connected to the others and how he'll meet his other selves in preparations to uncover the final mystery, with a clever reversal, a homage to The Day of the Doctor (surely?) and an explanation as to why the Seventh Doctor's largely been absent (is the cover art supposed to imply that we're finally discovering what one of the visual elements of his title sequence actually is?).

The four Doctors and companions apparently recorded their sections separately, not that you'd know it with a hilarious moment (intentional?  unintentional?) where Charley and Constance are introduced and don't seem to have anything to say to each other, and the Sixth Doctor knows who the former is but can't work out why (which means we're post their travels together).  Does this mean she already recognises him at the start of The Condemned?  That would explain how she's not completely banjaxed by him.

It's all very well written by Robert Valentine, a relative newcomer to Big Finish (the TARDIS Datacore has him listed as being active since 2020) he nevertheless captures the Eighth and Charley's voices perfectly (as he does everyone across the episodes) and although the final solution at the resolution is pretty basic multi-Doctor fare, there are some neat reversals in the run up which take advantage of audio and how one of the audience's senses is of no help whatsoever.

Placement: This feels like late era 8+C, entirely comfortable in each other's presence, the Doctor happy to let Charley wander off into late 90s London on her own, safe in the knowledge that she won't get herself into trouble (even though she undoubtedly will).  It's probably set some time between Embrace the Darkness and The Time of the Daleks; you can imagine this being the next adventure after Living Legend or Solitaire.

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1956.

How do programmes survive?  We know that a vast amount of material has been returned to the BBC through off-air recordings but publicly we still don't exactly know everything which is missing, especially in radio (TV Brain covers television very well).  Ideally, there'd be a flag of some description in the BBC Programme Index to the effect so that if someone who was interested in these things stumbled across something which they own or which had been made available online, they could contact someone at the BBC and let them know.

Does the BBC Archive know about the recording of The Quest for Corbett that's on YouTube?  Have they downloaded it themselves or contact the owner of the recording to see if they can make a copy?  Or do they still retain an original copy and so this isn't the only one in existence?  If they knew it was there, why hasn't there been a copyright claim (although there's plenty of stuff in Alphabet's servers for which that question could be asked.

What about the material which is still held on vinyl records produced by the BBC Transcription Service which were used to send material to licensees overseas.  Although they were directed to destroy them after the licensing period ended, the BBC having already wiped their own tapes, looking at eBay and YouTube plenty of them survived.  Are their programmes here the BBC don't have themselves?  Judging by the Discogs page, there were a lot of them.

What does any of this have to do with this project?  The nagging question whether I should be linking to these materials or indeed any programmes which aren't directly about the making of the BBC, the product rather than the production.  My feeling has been that if it's from an "institution", a museum, library or university archive, then yes.  If it's just something someone has uploaded from an off-air recording to YouTube due to its inherent ephemerality, no.

But it still feels like there should be some exceptions and something from the mid-fifties preserved on reel-to-reel tape with a cool story behind it seems like one of them even if its only available for a short time.  It shows that even then, people were trying to find ways of keeping programmes they've enjoyed or have an interest in even though it wasn't the easiest endeavour, which feels in and of itself to be an important part of the BBC history.

Eurovision Begins

"The first ever Eurovision Song Contest took place in Lugano, Switzerland, at the Teatro Kursaal, on 24th of May 1956."
Reaching Eurovision the week after the actual event this year was entirely coincidental.  If it had been on purpose, this would have posted last Monday.

"No complete video footage of the entire contest is known to exist, with the only known footage being clips of the reprise performance of the winning song via newsreel and other recordings. Audio of most of the contest have however survived, missing only part of the interval act, and a large cache of photographs has also been uncovered in recent years. As such, this is one of only two editions of the contest, along with the 1964 contest, to not have video recordings of the full event retained."
[ESC Stuff]

"As Turin hosts the 66th edition, Italy’s 1956 contestant (pictured) recalls taking part in what would be world’s biggest music contest."
[The Guardian]


"The 1956 Suez Crisis caused long-simmering tensions between the BBC and the government to boil over – and, as David Hendy explores in part nine of our 13-part series on the history of the BBC, marked the start of a shift in the relationship between politicians and the public."
[History Extra]

"Nick Robinson, BBC Political Editor, continues his series on relations between broadcasters and politicians. In this programme he looks at the bitter clash between the broadcasters and Sir Anthony Eden, Prime Minister (pictured) during the Suez crisis in the autumn of 1956."
[BBC Sounds][BBC Programme Index]

"As the world’s oldest national broadcaster, The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is unique in its contribution to British life and its level of international influence."
[French Journal of British Studies]


"An enquiry for radio" by Harold Lang and Kenneth Tynan, first broadcast on the BBC Third Programme on Sunday 15th July 1956 at 10.15pm and repeated the following Thursday at 7.15pm.  Preserved on reel-to-reel tape by Allan Hailstone in Coventry, this is believed to be the only recording still in existence. The interference was caused by his father using a television in an adjacent room."
[Chris Goddard][BBC Programme Index]

"A varied selection of excerpts from the sound-tracks of musical films new and old
Presented by Desmond Carrington."
[Toothy TTP][BBC Programme Index]


"Sir Hugh Carleton Greene was Director-General of the BBC for over nine years. A champion of liberal values, his time in charge is often seen as an embodiment of the 1960s zeitgeist. At the height of his career he lived at 25 Addison Avenue in Holland Park, where he is now commemorated with a blue plaque."
[English Heritage]

We look at the extraordinary career of the inimitable Bob Monkhouse.
[BBC Clips]

"Sean Street delves into the archive of one of the most innovative and controversial BBC radio producers, reviewing Charles Parker’s work from the Radio Ballads to his sacking in 1972."
[BBC Sounds][BBC Programme Index]


"During the 1956/57 refurbishment of Television Theatre, production moved to the  King’s Theatre, Hammersmith."
[TV Studio History]

"... the studios began to have diminishing success around 1955 and were in financial difficulties.  This coincided with the realisation at the BBC that they had run out of room at Lime Grove to keep the film department working efficiently."
[TV Studio History]

"Visiting Lime Grove, Princess Margaret was received by Sir Ian Jacob and Sir George Barnes. The Princess's visit lasted three hours, during which many artists had the honour of presentation."


"In 1956, Panorama turned the cameras on BBC TV itself, with a focus on a decade’s worth of technological advancements in the medium."
[BBC Archive]


"The BBC's development plan was in full swing during the year 1955-56.  In its Report a year ago, the Corporation described in some detail the accelerated progress which had been made possible during the year 1954-55, following the Postmaster-General's statement of March 1954, in which he announced new arrangements for financing the BBC's services for the following three years."

"The information assembled in this book is intended to give a clear and authoritative picture of recent achievements in broadcasting, and to provide a guide to the policy and workings of the Corporation
[World Radio History]