October 5th, 2013

doctor who

50 years of Who: 1970


Spearhead from Space
Doctor Who and the Silurians
The Ambassadors of Death

1971 Doctor Who Annual (3)

The first Who from 1970 that I encountered: I watched Spearhead from Space in 2006, quite early on in my rediscovery of old Who.

My favourite Who from 1970: Of the four stories, I do think that Spearhead from Space stands out - it looks different due to being entirely on film, we have the Brigadier at his freshest, we have Liz used well, and we don't have too much Pertwee. But I also want to shout out for the 1971 Annual, which is one of the best of that particular range.

Moving swiftly on from: Actually none of this is terrible. I think the plot in all three seven-parters rambles a bit, and I'm not a fan of the carefully choreographed fight scenes - not that I think they are bad, it's just not my thing.

So, what was your favourite of the above? What is the best bit? (And if you like, what is the worst bit?)

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The Sarah Jane Adventures

Having wrapped up Torchwood a few weeks back, I've now reached the end of The Sarah Jane Adventures in my New Who rewatch. I had previously seen only the first two and a half of the five series, plus the Matt Smith episode, so a fair bit of it was new to me. I strongly recommend them all; in a previous discussion the view was expressed that there is one episode that is a bit duff, but I actually enjoyed it, and Suranne Jones, guesting as the Mona Lisa, is clearly trying out for her role as the incarnate Tardis a few months later.

In particular, I want to single out the fourth season as a moment when the show really does hit the right note every time. This is the season that includes the Old Who meets New Who Death of the Doctor (watch it yourself - Part 1, Part 2), Katy Manning returning as Jo Grant (now Jo Jones, of course), Finn "Loras Tyrell" Jones as her grandson, and David "William Hartnell" Bradley as an evil vulture alien. There's a view that Matt Smith is at his absolute best in this story; he's certainly at the top of his game, and everyone is brilliant.

Without being too snarky, one of the strengths of Season 4 is that Tommy Knight, who plays Sarah Jane's adopted son Luke and is frankly the weakest of the regular cast, gets shuffled off to Oxford in the first episode and appears only occasionally thereafter, leaving the field to the much stronger Daniel Anthony as Clyde and Anjli Mohindra as Rani, plus of course Lis Sladen herself as our heroine. I still miss Yasmine Paige, who played Maria in the first series, but it's a strong line-up. The fifth and sadly truncated final season brings in twelve-year-old Sinead Michael as another human child created by aliens, adopted by Sarah, and she shows promise; though the best story of the three is the middle one, The Curse of Clyde Langer, where poor Clyde finds that he is rejected by everyone, a brilliant evocation of teenage isolation. (NB that Clyde's mother is played by an actress only eight years older than the cherubic Daniel Anthony.)

It's a shame that the Sarah Jane Adventures never quite got the wider fandom traction that Torchwood did - and I include myself in that criticism, having watched only a few more than half of the stories first time round. They do catch the sense of adventure of Old Who well, and they are comfortingly familiar in format for us old school fans, with roughly half-hour episodes and cliff-hangers. And they remind us old 'uns that we were right about Lis Sladen and Sarah Jane back in the 1970s, when so much else has changed since.

Where might we have gone? Luke was gay; Ace would have reappeared; the giant spiders were toyed with but discarded.

While we're on the subject, I also want to praise the ten Sarah Jane audiobooks, which are surely the only range of Who spinoff audios which made it into double figures without a single duff entry. Eight of the ten were read by Elisabeth Sladen, the last two by Daniel Anthony and Anjli Mohindra. They're a great way of passing a CD-length of time, especially with fans or potential fans of the appropriate age group.

I'll leave you with the last minute of the last episode broadcast during Elisabeth Sladen's lifetime. You may find you have something in your eye at the end.

September Books 19) Shroud of Sorrow, by Tommy Donbavand

'Yes,' said the Doctor, indicating the date at the top of the page. 'It's 23 November 1963. We're in Dallas, Texas - the day after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.'
This is the third of the three Eleventh Doctor novels published this year, and the first one to feature Clara - it may at this rate turn out to be the only Eleven/Clara novel, depending on the BBC's publication plans for the rest of the year. It's not the only story to be set on 23 November 1963, but it's also not the worst, using the backdrop of Kennedy's death for an alien being that feeds off sorrow, with some nice descriptive moments and considerable continuity service. It will set the scene nicely for younger readers wanting to sense the history of the show in advance of next month's celebrations.