Tales of the TARDIS.

TV  When The Whoniverse was announced just a few short weeks ago the magnitude of it didn't quite land with me.  All of the big numbers, 800 episodes of Doctor Who all in one place, most of the surviving episodes of the franchise on the iPlayer permanently.  How?  Now it's here and oh my.  No need to reach for a DVD on the off chance you want to watch The Space Museum, there it is in a special section of the BBC's streaming service between the two extant episodes of The Crusade and the version of The Chase without The Beatles.  The programme pages on the BBC website we used to look at longingly with their episode guides but nothing to watch are now largely full with The TV Movie with the Pertwee logo representing them on the landing page.  By the way the clips page for 2005-2013 is still there, but hidden.  Link here.

Partly as a way of introducing viewers to some of the classics and to give fans something new to watch on launch day, Tales of the TARDIS reunites various combinations of Doctors and companions to reminisce about their time in the travelling machine and introduce stories from their eras.  You've probably seen them already, but just in case, they're here.  Coming back afterwards.  Am I disappointed there isn't an instalment with Paul McGann snogging Daphne Ashbrook again around the The Enemy Within?  Of course, but there isn't one for Tom either perhaps because he's 89 years old now and with him still alive it would have been odd for Lalla and Louise wrap around Genesis of the Daleks (because it's always Genesis of the Daleks), a story within which neither of them appeared.

Mostly written by Phil Ford with a couple of episodes by RTD2 and Pete McTighe, they're almost review proof for anyone emotionally invested in these characters.  They're an opportunity to complete some emotional beats which the classic series wasn't designed for and/or haven't been covered by Big Finish.  So we finally see the emotional toll the Time Lord's removal of Jamie and Zoe's memories of their time with the Doctor had going forward with them apparently returning as an anniversary gift.  More hints as to how the Seventh Doctor and Ace parted continuing the thread from The Power of the Doctor (perhaps one of the multiple options presented in the novel At Childhood's End.  Steven and Vicki wondering if they were right to leave the TARDIS when they did.

Perhaps the strongest are those which flirt with the para and intertextuality of the show.  The Sixth Doctor we meet is the much more approachable, avuncular reimaging from Big Finish showing Peri much more warmth than he did previously on-screen (and vis-versa) whilst also making their cutaway a prequel to The Eternal Mystery by having them fly off together at the end.  When the Fifth Doctor and Tegan reunite, RTD2's script cheekily eludes to the lack of hanky-panky in the TARDIS whilst simultaneously throwing us Nygan shippers a bone ("I was fast asleep, in bed, I said goodbye to Nyssa and ...").  Their story is about finally dealing with the death of Adric, but it's the decades of friendship between Davison and Fielding which shine through.  

Perhaps the most moving is Phil Ford's return to The Sarah Jane Adventures era in his wrap around for The Three Doctors featuring Daniel Anthony and Katy Manning.  There's a version of this with Jo and one of her ex-UNIT colleagues but by drawing in Clyde, younger viewers with an affection for the 00s era are allowed the Proustian punch some of us with an aging physiognomy might have found elsewhere.  Like the Pete and Janet instalment, it's about grief, the loss of Sarah Jane (and Lis), the recent death of Cliff (and Stewart) but also moving forward, with Jo imploring Clyde to tell Rani about his feelings for her (in a way I'm reliably informed doesn't contradict anything at Big Finish).  As with all these vignettes, the performances are impeccable.

What of the nature of these encounters?  Some have interpreted it as the TARDIS having a nap and remembering these former inhabitants in her dreams.  But too many of them have memories of where their life is up until that point, many years of experiences and this TARDIS interior with its many consoles stacked on top of one another and knick-knacks from across the era like some time/space equivalent of Brian Cant's Bric-a-Brac shop are too tangible for none of it to be real (and a bit of a cheat if they aren't).  Not to mention a couple of the crews decide to borrow this TARDIS at the end for more adventures.  The ambiguity is the point, like some of the best stories, especially Doctor Who stories, it's up to the audience's imagination to complete the poetry.

The impression we're left with is just how respectful all of this is, to the characters, the writers who created them and the cast themselves.  This is in sharp contrast to most of their main appearance on television ten years ago in The Afterparty mostly there as background dressing to interviews with the current stars, a disastrous delayed interview with 1D, being referred to by their character names when they weren't otherwise being knocked almost out of their chair.  The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot (still online folks) is very funny and Tom's emergence as The Curator a gut-wrenching surprise, but the history of the show felt relegated to something for the older fans, hidden behind paywalls.  Now everyone has access to (almost) all of TV's tales of the TARDIS.

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1981.

The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book, radio and television series (there was also a film) and since it was the 1987 repeat of the TV series which brought me to all of it, as far as I remember, it seems only right that it's on the first broadcast of this masterpiece in 1981 that this short appreciation should appear.  Although it's entirely possible I heard the radio series or even saw the TV series before then, but Hitchhikers has been thrumming away in the background for so long in all its versions that anything is possible.

The reason the 1987 repeat is at the forefront is because it was one of the first series I recorded on VHS.  We'd recently been given a VHS recorder and I knew I wanted to have this on tape.  But I was late home on the evening of the first episode broadcast, 15th May, so missed off the first fifteen minutes with the recording beginning just as the bulldozer is in the process of demolishing Arthur's house.  Not until I was able to afford a copy of the sell-thru release (the one in the double box) did I see Mr Prosser, Ford's introduction, the guide entry about alcohol and the initial arrival of the Vogons.

It's impossible for me to really explain why I latched on to Hitchhikers in particular, especially in a period when I was more of Transformers and Star Trek fan and only casually watched Doctor Who.  I think it's because everything Douglas was satirising - bureaucracy, home county values and academia -  were nevertheless fairly aspirational for a teenager brought up in Speke but somehow going to a grammar school despite not being particularly academic (and struggling at that).  It opened me up intellectually at an impressionable age, offering access to huge ideas and Sandra Dickinson's Trillian.

The guide entries really left their mark and I remember spending hours playing those backwards and forwards and freezeframing (as best you could on VHS) looking through all of the little details.  Around this time I side-graded from an Acorn Electron to a Commodore 64 and the graphics, which I'd later discover were cell animations, seemed like they were straight from the latter.  That's why the recent blu-ray release was disappointing.  Having scanned the surviving animations and other footage in high definition, why weren't they edited back into the programme rather than simply added to the third disc in one chunk lacking context?

Tomorrow I turn 49, the same age Douglas Adams was when he left us and his death still hurts because he didn't live long enough to see so many of his ideas and predictions become more than the props on display in the television series.  Even at the age of 71, he would most certainly still have been at the forefront of publicising and discovering new innovations and might even have written some more books and failed to make the deadline for the revival of Doctor Who.  But his legacy is all still there and now that the new television version announce in 2019 doesn't seem to be going forward, the 1981 version is still the purest and most watchable of the screen versions ... 

The Hitchhiker's Guide

"Kieran Prendiville exposes the animatronic workings of Zaphod Beeblebrox's prosthetic head."
[BBC Archive]

"John Lloyd unearths the private papers of his friend and colleague Douglas Adams, and discovers more about the agonies he went through to write The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."
BBC Sounds]

"Patrick Moore, Julie Welch and Alan Plater join Ludovic Kennedy to review the television adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."
[BBC Archive]

"Life, the universe and everything - just three of the topics that author Douglas Adams fails to adequately explain in this Newsnight interview about life, the universe and everything."
[BBC Archive]

"Douglas Adams chats to Terry Wogan about comedy, science-fiction and lying drunk in a field in Innsbruck."
[BBC Archive]

Absolute gold.  Features Simon Jones and David Dixon over a decade after their original TV appearance discussing the nature of their existence.
[Tim Drury]

"Ape descended Islington rate payer Douglas Adams explains why he feels that The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a natural fit for computer game adaptation, and why he is especially looking forward to the days when voice recognition and compact disc technology combine to make a truly interactive radio drama."
[BBC Archive]

""It is the first game that moves beyond being user-friendly... it's user-mendacious."  Douglas Adams tells Micro Live about the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy game."
[BBC Archive]

"You wake up.  The room is spinning very gently around your head.  Or at least it would be if you could see it which you can't."
[BBC Programme Pages]

"Jon Canter shared a flat with Douglas Adams while the latter struggled for success."
[BBC Sounds]

"In a special edition of Bookclub, James Naughtie and a group of readers talk to author Douglas Adams about his classic worldwide bestseller The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."
[BBC Sounds]


"This series aimed primarily at small businesses and further education colleges was fronted by the much respected Radio 4 'Today' presenter Brian Redhead. It showed examples of what can be done by looking at companies which had embraced the new technology in manufacturing or services. A typical example was the new use of bar codes in Tesco's supermarkets."
[BBC Computer Literacy Project Archive]
"Documentary profile of the life and career of Norfolk-raised footballer Justin Fashanu, just the second black player to represent Norwich City Football Club."
[East Anglian Film Archive][BBC Programme Archive]

"Yet another gem from the BBC Arena documentary series, this time on the French film director, René Clair.  Features archival interviews with Clair and more recent interviews for the programme with Claude Autant-Lara, Gina Lollobrigida, Claude Chabrol, Leslie Caron and Jean-Pierre Cassel."


"Text of an interview held at ‘Television Drama: The Forgotten, the Lost and the Neglected’ at Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham on Friday 24 April 2015."
[Forgotten Television Drama]

"Today, we welcome the writer of one of my absolute favourite Tolkien adaptations - the 1981 BBC Radio Dramatization of The Lord of the Rings - Brian Sibley!"
[The Nerd of the Rings]


Residents of Tweedsmuir, Scotland, have clubbed together to buy a new TV mast to improve reception, in time for Prince Charles' wedding.
[BBC Clips]


"Language translators for TV stations across the globe gather in the BBC studio to prepare their coverage for Charles and Diana's wedding."
[BBC News]

"Greendale was the perfect village. It had a beaming vicar and smiling children. Then John Cunliffe created Postman Pat."
[The Guardian]

"Kate O’Mara lies, topless on a grey ferry deck."
[Off The Telly]

"Interview by Eric Waugh with James Hawthorne, BBC Northern Ireland controller, regarding series of Irish language programmes that are to begin in October on Radio Ulster."
[BBC Rewind]

"The need to redress the balance in terms of political and social representation has informed some of the most powerful and influential television dramas screened on British television over the past 20 years."
[Off The Telly]

"Duttine on the BBC's acclaimed adaptation of the classic science-fiction story, the collapse of society... and the secret of Triffid power!"
[Radio Times]

"Although only a handful of stage adaptations for British television were ever made on location on outside broadcast (OB), the technologies and working practices could also be used inside, as well as away from, the studio. This unusual method of production was utilized in a BBC version of Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard  broadcast on 12 October 1981."
[Spaces of Television]

"Whilst comedies of the 1980s such as Never The Twain can be marked out as being successful yet little remembered, there are a whole class of situation comedies from the same period which were also hugely popular and still well remembered – indeed often fondly so – but which never quite claw their way into that mystical élite whose denizens remain the byword for sitcom quality."
[Off The Telly]

"What was it like growing up when your dad just happened to be writing one of the greatest sitcoms of all time? We spoke to John Sullivan's son, Jim, about his father, the show and his own involvement in the Only Fools legacy."


"The public looks to the BBC for programmes of range and quality.  It expects both variety and excellent from the BBC and we believe that in the last year these expectation have not been disappointed.  The next year will be a difficult one but we see the maintenance of out standards across all out output as the Board of Governors' prime aim for 1982."
[World Radio History]