DVD Review – The Doctors: The Pat Troughton Years (Koch Media)

DVD Review – The Doctors: The Pat Troughton Years (Koch Media)

The recent death of Deborah Watling, who played companion Victoria Waterfield alongside the late Pat Troughton’s Second Doctor, gives this DVD release an extra poignancy.

Watling died on July 21, aged 69, as I worked my way through the six documentaries in this excellent two disk set comprising a new introduction and six previously released Myth Makers documentaries. Sadly, Watling’s death means half of the actors featuring in this set are no longer with us.

Troughton died in 1987 and Michael Craze, who played companion Ben Jackson, in 1998. This DVD set features them in their own documentaries on Disc 1 alongside Anneke Wills, who played companion Polly. Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury, who played companions Jamie McCrimmon and Zoe Heriot, feature in their own documentaries on Disc 2 alongside Watling.

The set is rounded off with a new introduction from interviewer Nicholas Briggs and Producer Keith Barnfather.


Briggs and Barnfather, which sounds like an august legal firm, are absolutely delightful as they introduce this set filmed in the 1980s and 1990s. Some of these features were filmed before Doctor Who sadly left British screens in 1989, or before it returned bigger and better in 2005. It’s obvious from watching and listening to what they have to say that these are two very good friends united in their love for Doctor Who many moons ago.

“Patrick, unfortunately, we never interviewed for Myth Makers,” Barnfather reveals.

Briggs, probably better known for his work with Big Finish Productions and as the voice of the Daleks and other nasties in new era Doctor Who, fesses up to loving Troughton’s Doctor the most.

“He was the one who established, sort of, the character of the Doctor we know today,” Briggs opines. “Patrick Troughton was the prototype for every other Doctor that’s come since him.”

As well as being the name of the missing second story in the third series of original Doctor Who, Myth Makers was a series of documentaries celebrating the first seven Doctors and their companions. Each documentary featured Briggs interviewing one of the cast about their time on the show, and their career before and after it.

The Troughton documentary in this set, then, is the original Myth Makers documentary grabbed from footage of an interview conducted in Brighton in 1985 at a Doctor Who Appreciation Society convention. But this documentary is far more sophisticated than pointing the camera at the stage for 50 minutes focussed on the actor. The piece is balanced with interviews from other Doctor Who cast and crew, starting with former head of BBC TV Drama Shaun Sutton who had known Troughton before World War II.

“Even in those days Patrick had those same deep lines on his face, he had the look of a thousand-year-old leprechaun,” Sutton offers.

“He was just a great fun person,” informs Hines. “Everything could be turned into a joke.”

Anneke Wills’ Myth Makers opens to a Mark Knopfleresque guitar solo set against an idyllic Norfolk countryside, where Wills admits to being her happiest. It’s 1993 and Wills has returned to England after years overseas, including time in a spiritual community in India. She tells Briggs her story from the comfort of a living room, the ruins of a church left behind after its parish was devastated by the Black Death, from the sand dunes on the beach at Cromer, and from the flower garden.
It’s an intimate interview, and Wills is warm and wistful.

Craze is interviewed in 1985, at the Otter Bar in the Norfolk hotel he managed, and again in the Myth Makers studio surrounded by a Dalek, Cyberman and war machine, in 1996.

“We didn’t really quite know how they were going to do it,” Crave reveals of the first regeneration from William Hartnell to Patrick Troughton. “All I remember is it took a long time and in those old-fashioned days they literally superimposed the two heads on black backgrounds . . . It took a long time.”

Briggs does a Through The Keyhole intro to the Hines documentary, filmed at Hines’ home/horse stud in Yorkshire in 1994. This is probably the most relaxed of the Myth Makers interviews in this set, so it’s no surprise to learn in the introduction that Hines and Briggs are now great friends, and it’s nice to see a little of Hines’ horse stud in operation.

But the highlight is some behind the scenes footage of The Abominable Snowmen shot on location, in colour, at Snowdonia National Park.

Briggs turns to This Is Your Life for the inspiration for the opening of Watling’s Myth Makers interviews. They were conducted at Monster Con in Liverpool in 1986 on concrete pavers, with additional material shot in 1995.

“I didn’t want her to be soppy and silly and wimpy,” Watling says as she reveals she played against the script.” Of course, the girls in those days, they did tend to be like that . . . Purely because Jamie and the Doctor had to come and rescue them.”

Padbury is treading the boards with the Third Doctor Jon Pertwee at the New Theatre, Cardiff, in Superted And The Comet Of The Spoons in 1986, when Briggs catches up with her for Myth Makers. The interview is augmented with a more recent studio chat in which Padbury confirms her favourite story is The Mind Robber.

“I don’t think there was anything superficial about Pat and Frazer and I,” she says of the dream TARDIS team. “The friendship grew and working together became easier.”

The Doctors: The Pat Troughton Years is, in the best possible way, like two DVDs full of top quality extras. Except there’s so many of them that there’s no room for the main feature. It’s the first time that I had seen any of this material, and it made me feel nostalgic for an era of Doctor Who that aired before I was born in 1972.

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Review – Bold Worlds – New Zealand Symphony Orchestra at Claudelands Events Centre, Hamilton, conducted by James Macmillan

Bold WorldsBold Worlds was not your usual NZ Symphony Orchestra concert. In fact, it was so unusual that it included a piece featuring an aluphone, a tubular bells-like instrument only invented six years ago.

Artist in Association at London’s Southbank Centre Colin Currie proved to be a master of the unusual instrument in the second piece in the Bold Worlds concert, at the heart of Scottish conductor James Macmillan’s Percussion Concerto No. 2.

At times Macmillan’s Concerto felt a wee bit like a musical joke in the best of traditions, and it seemed second violins section principal Andrew Thomson thought so too, smiling his way through the Concerto as he played along. It was so good to see as well as hear. Either that or Andrew was just thoroughly enjoying himself. And quite right too.

It was hard to say where Macmillan’s 26-minute -piece belongs. Close your eyes, and drift away to the music and at times it felt like incidental music from Doctor Who of the 1980s. Coming from me that’s a compliment. But there were times when it was more like Murray Gold’s music from new Who, feeling even a little experimental in place. It sure kept the listener interested.

The opening piece, Polaris composed by Thomas Ades, was a disparate work, each section of the orchestra telling its own story in a collision of sound which unified for a short time before going their separate ways again.

Commissioned by the New World Symphony in 2011, Polaris is both dark and edgy, at times reminiscent of part of the incomparable John Williams’ score for Close Encounters of the Third Kind. If ever there was a short orchestral piece that sounded like incidental music for movie, this 14-minute piece was it.

After the break, it was much more business as usual, with the four movements of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No. 4 in F minor. Allegro , Andante moderato, Scherzo: Allegro molto and Finale con epilogo fugato: Allegro molto all conjured images of the British landscape, mostly because Macmillan explained that was what his music was usually about beforehand. A reading of the programme notes, however, still leaves experts divided. Regardless, it was exquisite.

A nice touch was associate principal trumpet Cheryl Hollinder introducing the programme before the orchestra struck up.

Bold Worlds plays in Auckland on Friday, July 7 and Wellington on Saturday, July 8. The NZSO is on tour with Alexander Shelley July 22-29 and the NZSO National Youth Orchestra July 14 and 15 in Wellington and Auckland with the Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra.

Review – Doctor Who – The Doctor Falls

Review – Doctor Who – The Doctor Falls

Falls2

What would you die for?

That’s the question the 12th Doctor confronts rival Time Lord the Master and Missy with as he goes up against an army of Cybermen in the hope that he might save a settlement of insignificant humans.

It would have been a beautiful moment had any of the previous Doctors issued the challenge, but it was made all the more wonderful coming from the lips of Doctor Number 12.

When Peter Capaldi was handed the role by Matt Smith in 2013’s Christmas Special, The Time of the Doctor, we got a grumpier, pricklier version of the character who described his companion. Clara, as his carer. “She cares, so I don’t have to.” Show runner Steven Moffat was emphasising the alienness of our hero, showing how hard it is for him to sometimes empathise with lower humans.

But in tonight’s Series 10 finale, The Doctor Falls, we saw the 12th Doctor continue his softening as he announced he was willing to die doing the right thing, being kind, as he put it. Oh what a journey Capaldi’s Doctor has been on these last few years. Was this part of Moffatt’s master plan, or is Capaldi finishing his time as the Doctor in this way by pure coincidence?

Moffat’s penultimate script (assuming he is on writing duty for the next Christmas special) might just be the best series finale in a long, long time.

This action packed story picked up after last week’s The World Enough and Time, in which companion Bill (Pearl Mackie) was converted into a Cyberman. It was laden with danger, horror and tragedy, not to mention the Master/Missy double bill, a marriage made in hell which ended, somewhat, predictably although you can guarantee we haven’t seen the last of the character(s).

Capaldi really shone as the Doctor, perhaps delivering his most powerful performance yet. This meant that the rest of the cast brought their A game to the table, particularly Mackie and Matt Lucas who, as Nardole, had some wonderful moments. You can’t help wondering if his story is at an end.

The Doctor Falls surely evoked tears, but the beauty of Doctor Who means that anything is possible. Where there are tears there is hope.

Review – Doctor Who – The World Enough and Time

DW11.1In The World Enough and Time, clever, old, Steven Moffat has delivered both a sequel and a prequel to the first ever Cyberman story, The Tenth Planet.

At the end of that first Cyberman story, which aired in October, 1966, first Doctor William Hartnell regenerated into Patrick Troughton. The World Enough and Time is a prequel, because it shows the genesis of the Cybermen, while being a sequel, because the 12th Doctor is there to witness it.

Who, except for clever old show runner Steven Moffat who wrote this episode, could ever have imagined that the 12th Doctor, and his companions, could ever have played such an integral part in their creation? It’s 1975’s Genesis of the Daleks, ala Tom Baker, all over again!

We’ve known Series 10 would be Capaldi’s last for a long time, so including what appears to be his regeneration ahead of the title sequence this week only serves to remind us of this Doctor’s walk to the gallows. Now it’s coming, every moment with 12 seems bittersweet. One wonders whether we’ll see the 12th Doctor (Peter Capaldi) regenerated at the end of this story, or whether we’ll have to wait until the 2017 Christmas Special.

Moffat’s script, under the skilful direction of Rachel Talalay, hooked the viewer from its opening moments, exploring the narrative like a TARDIS that has jumped a time track.

The TARDIS crew, and Missy (Michelle Gomez), arrive on a mysterious generational spaceship stuck on the event horizon of a black hole. Bill (Peal Mackie) is seemingly killed on the top deck of the ship, before we flash back further to a conversation between her and the Doctor in which he cannot guarantee her safety.

It was lovely to hear reimagined strains of composer Murray Gold’s This is Gallifrey strike up as the Doctor describes the Master/Missy as the person most like him in the universe. After all, they were young Time Lords together. Here, we learn, the Doctor wishes to discover if Missy is truly reformed by sending her on a mission of his choosing with Bill and Nardole (Matt Lucas).

Back to the generational ship, and Bill has been taken below decks by mysteriously bandaged humanoids serving a battle axe of a nurse and a skittish, yet familiar, little man. They’ve repaired Bill, and revived her, after inserting a mechanical heart, but she must stay within the confines of the hospital if she is to survive.

It’s pretty clear, at this point, that there’s more to the skittish man than meets the eye, and all will soon be revealed. Bill, as predicted, is well on her way to becoming a Mondassian cyberman or woman.

The penultimate episode of Doctor Who: Series 10 is an instant classic and next week’s episode looks set to be heart breaking.

 

 

 

Review – Doctor Who – The Eaters of Light

Review – Doctor Who – The Eaters of Light

EatersThis week’s Doctor Who episode achieved a first.

It’s the first time, since Doctor Who returned to television screens in 2005, that the reimagined show has really felt like what is now known as the classic show it was based on.  For the most part that’s down to this script being written by Rona Munro, the Scottish writer credited with the last Doctor Who story of the classic era.

For a good portion of this story team TARDIS find themselves on different sides of the war for Roman Scotland, a story which could just as easily been told in the classic era. In fact Munro calls back to the First Doctor (William Hartnell) story The Romans early on in the script.

Bill (Pearl Mackie) is trying to impress the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Nardole (Matt Lucas) by finding the legendary ninth legion, which vanished from history. The TARDIS crew separates as she heads one way, and the Doctor and Nardole another. As Bill stumbles across what remains of the legion the Doctor and Nardole are captured by Pictish warriors. But there’s something far more sinister going on than human battles, there’s a killer alien monster on the loose, and the future of humankind depends on what happens next.

The Doctor must unite the two sides, at the satisfying climax of the story, if the world is to be saved.

The Eaters of the Light is a clever script, it’s fun who it uses the lore of Doctor Who to explain Scottish folk tales of music coming from below the ground as heard in the opening and closing scenes in modern Scotland.

But there’s another, broader, story going on here, as the TARDIS crew discover Missy (Michelle Gomze) waiting for them in the Doctor’s space-time ship upon their return. The scenes between the Doctor and Missy are just so watchable, as he (and we) are led to believe that she is a reformed character, and not the megalomaniac Time Lord the Master/Missy has always been.

This dance of the Time Lords, which really shone through this week, isn’t a stone’s throw from the relationship between Third Doctor Jon Pertwee and The Master’s originator Roger Delgardo.

Next week looks promising, with a return of John Simm’s Master and the Mondasian Cybermen first glimpsed in the Hartnell story The Tenth Planet. Doctor, what the heck?

Review – Schumann and Barber – The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra at Claudelands Arena, Hamilton.

American conductor James FeddeckYou’ve got to take your hat off to the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

Just moment into its latest concert at Claudelands Arena, in Hamilton, the audience was transfixed and you could have heard a pin drop. But more of that later.

First up was Brahms’ Tragic Overture. Written in 1880, perhaps to commemorate the death of his friend and neo-classicist painter Anselm Feuerbach, In the hands of the NZSO, conducted by James Feddeck, the piece felt like it belonged to an earlier age. Close your eyes as the music plays and images of a Jane Austen like romance turned to tragedy is what is conjured up in just 13 minutes.

You have to see, and of course hear, cellist Danile Muller-Schott play Schumann’s Cello Concertto in A minor to believe it. It was as though the musician was wrestling every note out of his Ex Shapiro cello, made in Venice in 1727, which had almost as much stage presence as he did. It was a joy to watch the exquisite dance of pain and pleasure expressed on his face, and through his fingers, as man and instrument produced an aurally mesmerizing 25 minutes of music.

It got even better, after the interval, when the NZSO turned to Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, composed at the end of the Great Depression and the rise of Nazism. Wave, after mournful, wave of music hit the audience over the eight minute piece, bringing to mind those loved and lost. No wonder this is a piece played at the funeral of presidents and princesses.

Contrasting that beautiful piece was Barber’s loud and bombastic 19-minute Symphony No.1, Op. 9, memorably all drums and brass in parts, despite there being plenty for the whole orchestra to do. If the late film and television composer Leonard Rosenman didn’t take some inspiration from this last piece, I’ll eat my hat.

In the absence of the Founders Theatre, closed because it does not meet earthquake safety standards, Claudelands Arena is a reasonable second best. But back to that pin being dropped. Claudelands would be better still if some soundproofing could be done to prevent such concerts from being interrupted by the creaks of the building as it expands and contracts in reaction to the temperature.

The NZSO continues its Schumann and Barber tour around New Zealand.

The NZSO is back in Hamilton on July 6 for Bold Worlds.

Review – Doctor Who – Empress of Mars

Review – Doctor Who – Empress of Mars

Mark Gatiss take a bow.

Empress of Mars, the ninth episode of Series 10, was everything a Doctor Who episode should be.

It started pre-credits with quirk with the TARDIS crew gate-crashing a NASA mission control room as a robot probe beams back a message written in English below the ice on Mars: “God save the Queen”.

It continues, post-credits, with mystery. We’re below the surface of Mars with the Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Bill (Pearl Mackie) and Nardole (Matt Lucas). It’s 1881 which is when, apparently, the message was written.

Soon the TARDIS trio discover an ice warrior with an encampment of pith-helmeted red coated British soldiers who call him Friday. He crashed on Earth, you see, and they joined him on his return to Mars. (Gatiss bought the classic ice warriors back in Series 7’s Cold War featuring 11th Doctor Matt Smith).

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Surprise is up next, when we learn technology from Friday’s ship is helping the soldiers tunnel for treasure. It’s their reward for helping him, only it turns out that the treasure is the tomb of the Empress of Mars.

Like Gatiss’ Series 1 script, The Unquiet Dead, it turns out it’s not her tomb. The Empress and her retinue of warriors are hibernating. The Doctor warns she’s about to be woken by an army which is primitive by comparison.

Things could have been highly predictable from there, and Gatiss doesn’t disappoint with the clash of armies, but the story takes a few unexpected turns, particularly for the supposedly cowardly commander of the British expedition.

The upshot is one of the best episodes of the series, which is no mean feat this year.

Gatiss’s pedigree as a Doctor Who fan in its early days is well known, so it’s lovely to see the writer bring back the ice warriors who were first seen 50 years ago in Second Doctor Patrick Troughton story The Ice Warriors.

The surprise appearance of Alpha Centauri at episode’s end was the flashing light on top of the TARDIS, especially as this most peculiar of aliens was voiced by Ysanne Churchman. The actress played the character in two Third Doctor Jon Pertwee stories The Curse of Peladon (1972) and Monster of Peladon (1974).

It’s been a long time since we’ve had a Gatiss script as good as this. I absolutely adored it.