Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Doctor Who Magazine #581

Bit late on this as I've been away, but the new issue of Doctor Who Magazine boasts an extraordinary cover by Oliver Arkinstall-Jones, and a lovely tribute to Bernard Cribbins by Russell T Davies. How lovely, too, to see my former colleague Mark Wyman back in the pages of DWM.

There are a couple of things in this issue by me, too. First, me and Rhys Williams detail the studio sets used for Episodes 1 and 2 of The Abominable Snowmen, recorded on 15 and 16 September 1967 - the latter the day on which my mum and dad got married. Rhys and Iz Skinner have then recreated this set-up in CGI. Truly, the set designers made those old TV studios bigger on the inside.

Then, to accompany the series of articles by Lucas Testro on writer Donald Cotton, including his original, hand-written drafts for 1965 story The Myth Makers, my latest "Insufficient Data" infographic is the Trojan horse as designed by the First Doctor. Ben Morris' illustration, of an outline scratched into an ostracon, is a delight - and more real history than myth.

Monday, August 22, 2022

LokI: A Bad God's Guide 1 and 2, by Louie Stowell

A couple of long car journeys have been greatly aided by this pair of excellent books written by Louie Stowell and read by Ben Willbond. The Norse god of chaos, Loki, is in trouble for playing yet another prank on Sif - this time cutting off all of her hair. As punishment, Odin (or "poo-poo head" as Loki calls him) exiles Loki to Earth, in the puny body of a schoolboy. Worse, Loki must go to human school with oh-so-perfect (but dim) brother Thor, with other gods pretending to be their human parents. And then there's some bother with Frost Giants.

They're two fun adventures full of good jokes - not least where the diary Loki is keeping responds to any dishonesty in his account. There's also lots of comedy at the expense of our mundane, human world as seen by immortal gods. Loki, for example, is astonished by our "crime scenes" full of stolen loot - or, as we know them, "museums".

But there's something deeper here, in a story about a boy who wants to be good but doesn't always think about other people or consequences of actions. In the first book, there's a moral dilemma in his being able to raise a huge sum of money for charity - but only by humiliating his timid friend. The Lord of Chaos wanted to talk about that afterwards, and other bits of the story.

The second book gets into the matter of who tells heroes' stories, and which heroes are left out of these narratives. I'd very much like to see the hinted-at exploration of Cif's previously untold adventures. There's also something on the complex, tricky emotions of friendship that my children found very relatable.

Ben Willbond is a perfect narrator for this, and as well as him doing the different voices (I think there's something of Timothy West in his Odin), sound effects nicely underline some of the jokes - ie when some animal does a poo. All in all, a really good production and a good escape from the traffic.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Here lies David Whitaker

Today, Matthew Sweet and I journeyed out to Chiswick to find the grave of David Whitaker (1928-80), original story editor of Doctor Who and the subject of the book I'm currently writing. It's taken me some time to track down the location of the grave and I wanted to pay my respects.

Having researched David's life for so long, it was oddly emotional to actually find and stand with him. And it was a far grander grave than I'd expected, with an aptly book-shaped headstone. Matthew, who has done this sort of thing before, was ready with a bottle of water and a sponge.

Afterwards, we took the bus up to Hammersmith Bridge, on the way Matthew pointing out the house where Jon Pertwee used to live. We crossed the river -- over the spot where the TARDIS lands in The Dalek Invasion of Earth -- and went for a pint in the pub opposite Riverside Studios, where Doctor Who used to be recorded. There's a blue plaque to Verity Lambert, original producer and David Whitaker's boss. What wonders they created together. We raised a glass to them, just as the storm broke.



David Whitaker's grave

Verity Lambert's blue plaque

Chris Chapman and Toby Hadoke's documentary Looking for David - on which I was researcher - will be included in the forthcoming Doctor Who Season 2 Blu-ray set, announced yesterday. Details of my biography of David Whitaker will be shared in due course, but yesterday Obverse Books announced that my book on The Edge of Destruction, the two-part Doctor Who story from 1964 by Whitaker, will be published in October 2023.

Doctor Who: Season 2 Blu-ray

Yesterday at 3 pm the masters announced that the next Doctor Who Blu-ray set will be Season 2, the 39 episodes originally broadcast between 31 October 1964 and 24 July 1965. The trailer, below, includes a brief clip of me in what the official blurb refers to as,

"a deep dive into the life and career of story editor David Whitaker in LOOKING FOR DAVID."

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Doctor Who Magazine special edition - Guest Stars

The new special edition of Doctor Who Magazine is devoted to the subject of guest stars in the series. I've written the entries on:

  • Jean Marsh (Sara Kingdom, The Daleks’ Master Plan)
  • Mary Peach (Astrid Ferrier, The Enemy of the World)
  • David Troughton (King Peladon, The Curse of Peladon)
  • Peter Miles (Nyder, Genesis of the Daleks)
  • Simon Rouse (Hindle, Kinda)
  • Pauline Collins (Queen Victoria, Tooth and Claw)
  • Georgia Moffett (Jenny, The Doctor’s Daughter)
  • Faye Marsay (Shona, Last Christmas)
It was a fun but fiddly assignment, with just 175 words for each one - plus a sentence on other roles they might have played. The sort of thing that flexes the writing muscles.

My copy of the magazine arrived today, and flicking through I was struck by the double-page spread on  the great David Warner, acknowledging his sad death just last month. That's quick work, I thought; his funeral was held on Monday this week. What a funny, kind fellow he was, as well as such a brilliant actor, and how sorely he'll be missed.