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Just Like Buses

Today is another anniversary. Again just about inescapable if you’ve been near any BBC outlet the past week or so.

You wait 50 years for an anniversary and then two come along at once….

On 23rd November 1963 a strange, spooky TV programme with a first episode entitled An Unearthly Child appeared on BBC 1.

The programme was of course Doctor Who.

On Thu, 21/11/13, BBC 2 showed a good drama about its genesis, An Adventure in Space and Time. It’s on the iPlayer here.

The BBC has got a bit of a cheek calling it the longest running TV programme, though, considering they axed it for years after Sylvester McCoy’s run finished – apart from the Paul McGann one-off.

For any nostalgia freaks here are all the different title sequences.

Elisabeth Sladen

I was saddened to read today of the death of Elizabeth Sladen who played Sarah Jane, one of the Doctor’s many companions in Doctor Who.

Sad too, that Elisabeth was only 63. It’s no age at all for these days.

I am by no means an inveterate Doctor Who fanboy but have watched the series from its inception up to the present day. Sarah-Jane was the first female companion to be more than just an adjunct to the Doctor. It was a pleasure to see her return to the updated show during David Tenant’s time as the incumbent. I must admit, though, that I didn’t bother with the spin-off Sarah-Jane Adventures; I don’t think they were meant for me anyway.

With the demise of Nicholas Courtney that means two fondly remembered Doctor Who characters’ actors have now gone in less than two months.

Elisabeth Claira Heath Sladen: 1/2/1946-19/4/2011. So it goes.

Nicholas Courtney

So farewell, then, Brigadier (lately Colonel) Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart.

This iconic character first appeared in Doctor Who in the Patrick Troughton era but became an integral part of the show during John Pertwee’s incarnation.

The actor who played him, Nicholas Courtney, had appeared in the programme in another role as early as 1965 opposite William Hartnell and – as Lethbridge-Stewart, in charge of the British arm of UNIT – with all the later TV versions of the Doctor up to Sylvester McCoy excepting that of Colin Baker.

As Colonel and Brigadier he was playing an essentially decent man who was (to my mind rather unfortunately) too prone to resort to his area of expertise, military means. The phrase most associated with the character was, “Five rounds rapid!” So much so that Courtney used that as the title of his autobiography.

While Courtney appeared in many other roles it is probably as Lethbridge-Stewart that he will be best remembered – certainly by fans of Doctor Who.

William Nicholas Stone Courtney: 16/12/1929-22/02/2011. So it goes.

2010 Hugo Awards

I found a list of this year’s winners over at Frederick Pohl‘s blog The Way The Future Blogs. This is because he won the award for Best Fan Writer.

Surprisingly the list isn’t up at the official Hugo site though there is a video of the award ceremony.

Edited to add (9/9/10):- The list is there (see comment.) The link I followed only took you to the video.

Other awards of interest to me were:-
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
Doctor Who: “The Waters of Mars.”
Hmm… I didn’t think that episode was particularly good.

Best Novella
“Palimpsest” by Charles Stross (Wireless, Ace, Orbit.)
Charlie is a one time and now somewhat detached member of the East Coast Writers Group. We bask in his reflected glory.

Best Novel (tie)
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade)
The City & The City by China Mieville (Del Rey; Macmillan UK)
I’ve read the Mieville.

Matt Smith’s Doctor Who…

…. has not convinced me, I’m afraid.

For me Smith doesn’t embody the role the way previous Doctors have. (As far as the new Who is concerned I was never taken by Christopher Eccleston, either, come to that.)

The character of Amy Pond, however, makes for a cracking companion, not merely an adjunct but substantially more pro-active than those who have accompanied the Doctor before (including Rose Tyler) and capable of carrying a sub-plot without reference back to the Doctor but in this sense she was underused.

And once again, a la Russell T, we had her friendships and relationships as a focus of the stories.

Can we have a bit more universe spanning please and stop relying on entanglements such as these to create a sense of empathy and emotional impact?

Another quibble was that I wasn’t entirely happy with the story arc of the series. What with all the “will never have existed” malarky, it skirted dangerously close to “it was all a dream.”

I know it’s all fiction, but fiction requires rather more substantial backing than this, otherwise it’s not worthwhile people investing their time in consuming it.

Seven Seconds

I was watching Doctor Who so I didn’t catch the build up to tonight’s game. I switched over just in time to catch the kick-off.

And seven seconds later?

Mark it: seven seconds.

That’s all the time it took for the commentator (Clive Tyldesley?) to mention a certain event in 1966. I think that makes some sort of record.

Not as satisfying a record as the original 7 seconds, as by Youssou N’Dour and Neneh Cherry, which I append below for your pleasure.

7 seconds is, I believe, the only song to feature a lyric in Wolof to trouble the British charts.

Doctor Who Again

Three episodes in and I’m magnificently underwhelmed.

It’s mainly bish-bosh action and rushing on. The dialogue isn’t coming over well, at least to me. Is it the actors’ diction, or too much background noise, or am I going deaf?

And Karen Gillan ought to have refused to utter the line, “Well, I’m still here, aren’t I?”

As a Scot she should have insisted on, “Well, I’m still here, amn’t I?”

The New Doctor Who

Okay. Charges of gingerism dropped for the moment since no new mention of it was made. Plus the latest companion (like Catherine Tate before her) is a redhead.

Except… The child she was when she first met the doctor was not redheaded. Now how is that exactly? I know this is loosely Science Fiction but usually hair colour diminishes on ageing.

As a setter-upper the episode was passable but no more. A bit harum-scarum. And what is it with Who and creatures with fangs?

I’m not yet convinced by Matt Smith in the role. Full marks for the new assistant’s Scottishness, though.

The acting of the wee lass playing the young Amelia was excellent. Don’t suppose the doctor could have such a callow companion, though. Not nowadays anyway. (The original Doctor had his granddaughter, Susan, An Unearthly Child, with him, of course. She was supposedly of school age but was played by someone much older than that.)

The BBC has been showing trailers for the series – some scenes appeared before the end credits of Episode 1. I was tickled by the khaki Dalek (complete with canvas webbing belt) emerging from the sandbag enclosure.

Pity it can’t carry a swagger stick. That would have been even funnier.

Russell T Davies

It seems I may have done Russell T something of a disservice. According to the comments in a blog which I frequent, the dialogue for the new Doctor’s scene was actually scripted by Steven Moffat, the new overall supremo for the series.

Also the line, “And still not ginger,” seems to be a reference to one of David Tennant’s first utterances in the role. I had forgotten he was given that to say but now I’ve been reminded I do vaguely recollect it. As I recall now, Tennant said it in a regretful tone, though, which I did not think Matt Smith did.

For me, the new doctor has got off on the wrong foot.

The New Doctor (And The Old)

I’ve just watched the second of the Doctor Who specials which were on over the holiday season.

The story was pretty much awful. (Thank you, Onebrow, for this pithy summing up.)

The coda epitomised everything that was wrong with Russell T Davies’s oversight of the series. It was so far up itself it was excruciating. All of the Doctor’s companions since the programme’s resurrection (and their families!) made an appearance merely in order that Tennant’s Doctor could say farewell. Ladle on the treacle why don’t you?

And the new Doctor didn’t get himself off on the right foot, either. Examining himself for changes in appearance he dragged a lock of hair down past his eyes and said in a pleased tone, “And still not ginger.”

And still not ginger? And still not ginger?

Would you think it acceptable, Russell, if your character had said, “And still not black?” or “And still not gay?”

To pose this question is to underline the gratuitousness – not to mention offensiveness – of the comment.

The Doctor surely ought to be above such things, Russell, even if you’re not.

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