August 29th, 2020


Whoniversary 29 August: Peter Miles, Lenny Henry, Terrance Dicks, The Reign of Terror #2

i) births and deaths:

29 August 1928: birth of Peter Miles, who played Dr Lawrence, the obstructive director of the Wenley Moor nuclear research facility, in Doctor Who and the Silurians (Third Doctor, 1970); Professor Whittaker, the inventor of time travel, in Invasion of the Dinosaurs (Third Doctor, 1974); and most memorably Davros's sidekick Nyder in Genesis of the Daleks (Fourth Doctor, 1975).

29 August 1933: birth of Clifford Earl, who played the station sergeant in the (lost) Christmas episode of the story we now call The Daleks' Master Plan (First Doctor, 1965), and Major Branwell in The Invasion (Second Doctor, 1968).

29 August 1958: birth of Sir Lenny Henry, who could be said to be the first black actor to play the Doctor in a 1985 comedy sketch, and was also Daniel Barton in Spyfall (Thirteenth Doctor, 2020).

29 August 2019: this one is still raw - death of Terrance Dicks, who began in 1968 as script editor for the last four Second Doctor stories, remained as script editor throughout the Pertwee, wrote or co-wrote six TV stories for five Doctors, and most crucially wrote 82 novelisations and spinoff novels, a total which is unlikely ever to be surpassed (Justin Richards is only on 35 by my count).

I met him only once. One afternoon in 1980 or 1981 (I remember his grimace at mention of the then recent Nightmare of Eden) my brother (aged 12) and I (aged 13 or 14) got wind that he was speaking in, of all places, Suffolk library, a mile or so from where we lived. I am pretty sure that it was the first time I had ever met a celebrity, let alone a Doctor Who celebrity. (Little did I know that my little cousin Brian, then aged two, would grow up to be the producer of the show.)
I don’t remember much about what he said (I asked why Nicholas Courtney wasn’t in The Android Invasion, he said that it was probably due to other acting commitments). But I do remember that he was very pleasant to and patient with a crowd of excited young Belfast fans, and set a standard of behaviour that I still expect from celebrities dealing with the public (or with me); and I deal with a lot more celebrities now than I would have ever expected back then.
A little kindness can go a long way, and Terrance Dicks showed a lot of people a lot of kindness in his life, and not only through his writing. An example to follow.

ii) broadcast anniversaries

29 August 1964: broadcast of 'The Tyrant of France', fourth episode of the story we now call The Reign of Terror. The Doctor, in disguise, confronts Robespierre; Susan and Barbara are recaptured; Ian is trapped by Leon's co-conspirators. It's one of the lost episodes that has been animated.

29 August 2012: release of third episode of Pond Life.

iii) date specified in-universe:

29 August 2010: close of a Vincent Van Gogh exhibition at the Musée d'Orsay, as seen in The Lodger (Eleventh Doctor, 2011).

My tweets



Rocky won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1976, and won just two others, Best Director and Best Film Editing. All the President's Men and Network both won four. I don't think (though will check later) that any other Best Picture winner was beaten by two other films in the total number of statuettes it brought home.
All the President's Men, Network, Bound for Glory and Taxi Driver were also nominated for Best Picture. I have only seen the first of these. I have seen eleven other films released in 1976, which is (so far) a record for me: Carrie, The Outlaw Josey Wales, The Pink Panther Strikes Again, The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Eagle Has Landed, Bugsy Malone, Silver Streak, At the Earth’s Core, The Shaggy D.A., Treasure of Matecumbe and Don’s Party. The last of these is way down the IMDB ratings, which I think is a real shame; it's a wee jewel of a film, adapted from a play about a group of friends watching the Australian election results coming in on election night in 1969. One of the leads is played by Ray Barrett, who voiced John Tracy in Thunderbirds and was also Bennett/Koquillion in the Doctor Who story we now call The Rescue (he is credited under a false name in the first episode to avoid revealing that the two characters are in fact the same; sorry if that is a spoiler for a Doctor Who story from 55 years ago). Hugo voters, given the choice of Carrie, Logan's Run, The Man Who Fell to Earth and Futureworld, incomprehensibly voted for No Award, and there was no Nebula for that year. Anyway back to Rocky; it is second behind Taxi Driver on both IMDB ratings (here and here) but ahead of the rest; and, with some reluctance, I think I'd rate Rocky as the best of those that I have seen. Here's a trailer.
Incidentally, the stall owner who throws Rocky an orange at the beginning of the trailer apparently had no idea that a movie was being filmed and that he would be in it.

Rocky is the story of a part-time boxer and occasional hoodlum who gets the unexpected break of fighting the world heavyweight champion in his home town of Philadelphia, written by and starring Sylvester Stallone; rather like the main character, this provided his . (I think this is the first Oscar-winning film we've had in Philadelphia, which is incidentally where my grandmother was born. Compare 14 Oscar winners out of 49, so far, set in and around New York, only 160 km away.) There are a vast number of legends about the film, including the story of the orange mentioned above. Other glorious legends include that the poster showing Rocky wearing the wrong shorts, and his robe being too big, were actual mistakes made by the props department that the film then lampshaded; and that the reason he and Adrian have a solo date at the ice rink is that the 300 extras who had been booked failed to show up, so they had to improvise on the spot. I found it a charming character-driven film, but I still don't like boxing much, so I'm putting it just about halfway down my table, ahead of Marty (which is quite similar in a lot of ways) but behind Laurence of Arabia.

There are a few returnees from previous Oscar-winning films, most notably Talia Shire, who was in both The Godfather and The Godfather II, films made by her real-life brother, playing the on-screen sister of Al Pacino and the daughter of Marlon Brando and Robert de Niro (surely a marriage made in heaven). Here she is Rocky's girlfriend Adrian, who becomes sexy when she takes her glasses off. (Try it, girls. Or not, as you please.)

The two others I spotted don't really merit pictures. Bill Baldwin is the fight announcer on the left during the big fight, and is the unseen TV movie announcer in The Apartment. Al Silvani (credited here as Al Salvani) is the cut man who tends (if that is the word) to Rocky during the big fight, and was an extra in From Here to Eternity.

So, to go through my usual list. Rocky is a film about a white man, and there are three named women characters, two of whom are in only one scene each, and the other is played by Talia Shire. (In her first scene she and her boss, both women, talk to Rocky, which I don't think passes Bechdel Two.) Talia Shire is a versatile actor and does a lot with not much here.

On race, it's a different matter: the whole setup of the film is for the culminating fight between Rocky and the champion Apollo Creed, played by Carl Weathers (currently to be seen in The Mandalorian). Creed is supported by a vibrant black community in and outside Philadelphia, with Joe Frazier turning up as himself at the start of the fight. Creed literally wraps himself in the American flag as he makes his entrance.

The music is good, but not obtrusive, and the theme song ridiculously catchy. And I think the cinematography is really very effective, telling a simple story simply and effectively.

Plus I have to salute Stallone's acting. This project mattered a great deal to him, but he manages to free Rocky of the burdens of producing and writing the film and portray a not very bright guy who is put in a situation where he has to rise to new challenges, and succeeds in meeting his own expectations, while undergoing heavy physical abuse. I thought the ending of the film was well delivered.

IMDB says that the two pet turtles Cuff and Link actually belonged to Stallone (as did the dog) and were still alive and well as recently as last year. That made me smile.

Well, next year is the year of Annie Hall; but if the Hugo-winner for a particular year scores higher than the Oscar winner on IMDB, I'll watch it first, so you'll have to wait a bit for Woody.

1920s: Wings (1927-28) | The Broadway Melody (1928-29)
1930s: All Quiet on the Western Front (1929-30) | Cimarron (1930-31) | Grand Hotel (1931-32) | Cavalcade (1932-33) | It Happened One Night (1934) | Mutiny on the Bounty (1935, and books) | The Great Ziegfeld (1936) | The Life of Emile Zola (1937) | You Can't Take It with You (1938) | Gone with the Wind (1939, and book)
1940s: Rebecca (1940) | How Green Was My Valley (1941) | Mrs. Miniver (1942) | Casablanca (1943) | Going My Way (1944) | The Lost Weekend (1945) | The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) | Gentleman's Agreement (1947) | Hamlet (1948) | All the King's Men (1949)
1950s: All About Eve (1950) | An American in Paris (1951) | The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) | From Here to Eternity (1953) | On The Waterfront (1954, and book) | Marty (1955) | Around the World in Eighty Days (1956) | The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) | Gigi (1958) | Ben-Hur (1959)
1960s: The Apartment (1960) | West Side Story (1961) | Lawrence of Arabia (1962) | Tom Jones (1963) | My Fair Lady (1964) | The Sound of Music (1965) | A Man for All Seasons (1966) | In the Heat of the Night (1967) | Oliver! (1968) | Midnight Cowboy (1969)
1970s: Patton (1970) | The French Connection (1971) | The Godfather (1972) | The Sting (1973) | The Godfather, Part II (1974) | One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) | Rocky (1976) | Annie Hall (1977) | The Deer Hunter (1978) | Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
1980s: Ordinary People (1980) | Chariots of Fire (1981) | Gandhi (1982) | Terms of Endearment (1983) | Amadeus (1984) | Out of Africa (1985) | Platoon (1986) | The Last Emperor (1987) | Rain Man (1988) | Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
1990s: Dances With Wolves (1990) | The Silence of the Lambs (1991) | Unforgiven (1992) | Schindler's List (1993) | Forrest Gump (1994) | Braveheart (1995) | The English Patient (1996)
21st century: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)