Thursday, November 21, 2013

Doctor Who: 2001

After episode 696 (Doctor Who): Storm Warning
Released January 2001
<< back to 2000

The Big Finish Doctors face The Light at the End
Big Finish Productions Ltd began releasing new audio adventures for old Doctors Who in 1999. To begin with, they were new stories for the fifth, sixth and seventh Doctors. But late in 2000 they announced that Paul McGann's eighth Doctor would be joining them. As this fanzine article I wrote at the time shows, I was quite excited:

Lee Sullivan's preview for
Storm Warning in
Doctor Who Magazine
"During the 1990s, Doctor Who was, essentially, an ongoing series of books. Five TV specials – variously ersatz, variously not quite right – and as many new audio new adventures are nothing to just short of 200 full length, original novels (mostly) doing new and exciting things with the character and range. For Century 21, it looks like the Doctor is more an audio thang. The BBC’s Radio Collection is beefing up the old stuff they can’t put out on video, Radio 4 is promising a heavyweight, star-studded new series [Death Comes To Time] and Big Finish do enough 25 minute instalments of Doctor Who for every week of the year, as well as new Benny and Dalek spin-offs.

And audio Who will dictate to other-media Who. Big Finish’s Season 27 will knock on all the different Doctor-eight’s we’ve come to know; the BBC Books one, the Doctor Who Magazine model, the Mills-and-Boon-rogue who gets his oats in fan fiction. Finally he’s back... and about for more than 65 minutes, of which (as that Lance Parkin pointed out in the fanzine Matrix some years ago) most is the Doctor doing an uncharacteristic, post-regeneration thing.

None of the Doctors can be summed up by their first story, and only Hartnell ever is. And McGann, of course. But then there’s a reason for that. Five bloody years after the TV movie, we’re getting to the point Lance predicted – where the Doctor being written is a construct of McGann’s performance, his strengths and tendencies; rather than of generic Doctor traits and bits of Marwood in Withnail & I.Weirdly, in the last 18 months they’ve cribbed from The Curse of Fatal Death. Having ‘I’ll explain later...’ in the eighth Doctor books (and on several occasions, like it’s McGann’s catchphrase now) is like Jonny Morris fleshing out [fourth Doctor book] Festival of Death with the Doctor wearing celery.

My original artwork for this article.
It’ll take some time – the first books and comic strips in progress from January 2001 will just maybe get odd extra lines, flourishes added so they’re more McGann; tweaks that shoe the star of these crazy space adventures in his direction. It’s the epics we’ll read in the last days of ’01, moving on up to ’02 where the very structures and sorts of stories being told are structured around this essentially new Doctor’s own quirks and peculiarities.

People have been talking a bit about [eighth Doctor novel] The Burning ushering in a new age for the old Doc’. But compare that to the way that Season 26 (and the books that followed it) took Sylvester’s own performance, played to his strengths and thus shaped a Doctor of far more exciting range and scale than Time and the Rani ever dared suggest possible."

I'm not sure my predictions were quite right, but when McGann returned on screen last week, it was his audio companions he namechecked, not those of the books and comics.

Next episode: 2002

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