03 April, 2018


Our much-loved cat Monty died today.

He joined Rochelle and me at the beginning of 2006 when he was just a six-week-old kitten who had never been away from the rest of his litter. When we went to pick him out he stood out from his tabby siblings because of his distinctive black and white tuxedo markings and his amusing half-moustache.

It was immediately apparent to us that this kitten had an adventurous nature. While we were still deciding whether to take him, he made the decision for us by making a bee-line for the front door even though he’d never been outside, as if to say, ‘What are you waiting for? Let’s go!’ The people we got him from had called him Sylvester, but we decided to name him Monty, short for Montgomery Horatio Scoones.

We got Monty as a companion for our other tuxedo cat, Chester, whom we’d had for many years. Chester was elderly and wasn’t expected to last much longer, but he hung in there, and the pair had two years together before Chester died in April 2008; coincidentally, ten years ago this month. In Chester’s absence, Monty soon asserted himself as the ‘alpha cat’ of our neighbourhood, and befriended or bested every other feline in the vicinity.

We later acquired two female kittens to keep Monty company but these free-spirited young cats were barely tolerated by him, and the threesome took quite some time to work out how to share the same house.

Monty had so much personality and was hugely affectionate. He would immediately rub up against most human visitors and demand to be petted, even complete strangers.

He loved to go for walks around the block. He never wore a collar or lead, he just happily trotted alongside us. When he got tired, he’d just flop down on the ground and was content to be carried the rest of the way.

Monty was a large, heavy cat with a corresponding appetite. His all-time favourite food was fresh beef heart. His hearing was keenly attuned to the exact sound made by the kitchen scissors as we cut the chunks of beef heart up for him. Even if he was roaming a neighbour’s property, he’d immediately come charging inside and demand to be fed. We had to be very careful never to use those scissors for anything else!

Over a year ago, Monty had surgery to remove cancer from the end of his nose. He initially seemed fine but complications later developed and our vet put him on medication. This kept him in good health for many months, but we were aware that he was on borrowed time.

His health rapidly declined in recent days and, after a particularly bad patch over the weekend, we realised with great sadness that it was time to let him go. We took him to the vet first thing this morning and he was peacefully put to sleep. We’ve buried him in a sunny patch in our garden alongside his old pal Chester.

03 March, 2017

Colour Cave Monsters

Whenever the Jon Pertwee story Doctor Who and the Silurians has screened on New Zealand television, the episodes have always been in black and white. March 2017's screenings on The Zone channel is the very first time that this story has been broadcast in New Zealand in colour.

Colour television began in New Zealand way back in October 1973, but many programmes were still broadcast in black and white for a while afterwards.

Doctor Who and the Silurians was first broadcast here in April - May 1975, a full five years after the UK. It was the last Doctor Who story screened in black and white before colour episodes (beginning with Day of the Daleks) were seen later the same year.

Doctor Who and the Silurians story was originally made in colour but the BBC junked the colour recordings of this story in the early 1970s. Australia had previous screened the story in black and white, and it seems likely that New Zealand's copies were sourced from that country.

Doctor Who and the Silurians was next seen here a decade later, in May - June 1985, at which time only black and white copies were available. The story was repeated in this form in August - October 1991.

The fourth screening, and the first time the story was seen on Prime, was in September - October 2000. By this time the BBC had produced colour-restored copies of this and other Jon Pertwee stories but the episodes supplied to Prime were in black and white.

I alerted Prime to the existence of colour-restored copies of this and later Pertwee stories, and as consequence colour episodes were sourced and screened, but it was too late to do anything about the Silurians story which had already screened.

Consequently, March 2017's screening of Doctor Who and the Silurians is the first time it has been seen in colour on New Zealand television.

07 February, 2017

Twin Peaks in New Zealand

Twin Peaks screened on New Zealand television in 1991. I was in my early twenties and watched every episode as it went out, read the books, and frequently discussed the plots with similarly obsessed friends. I haven’t thought about Twin Peaks in a long time, but the anticipated arrival this year of a television revival and continuation has re-engaged my interest in this much-loved cult classic. A long-time friend and fellow New Zealander, Morgan Davie, has created a Twin Peaks re-watch blog at The Ruminator that counts down to the new series debut.

Morgan notes on his blog that Twin Peaks arrived in New Zealand in April 1991, a year after the show’s US debut. Despite this long delay, and incredibly for a series that was slow to divulge its twists and turns, I didn’t find out who killed Laura Palmer until it unfolded on screen. This was of course years before the internet became commonplace, so perhaps this wasn't so remarkable. Good luck trying to avoid ‘spoilers’ when the new series airs.

This renewed interest in Twin Peaks got me thinking about my memories of watching the episodes on their original broadcast, so last week I decided to look up the screening dates in the New Zealand Listener. This weekly magazine, which has been around longer than television, most usefully publishes comprehensive television schedules. (The Listener was an enormously useful resource many years ago when I researched the entire transmission history of Doctor Who in New Zealand.)

Leafing through the bound volumes of 1991 issues, I discovered some interesting, long-forgotten facts about how and when Twin Peaks was screened here. The episode billings had descriptions, but not episode names or numbers so a bit of head-scratching and cross-referencing with online guides was necessary to work out exactly which episode screened on any given date.

Twin Peaks screened on TV3, New Zealand’s first privately-owned television channel. In 1991 it was still relatively new, having launched in November 1989. The pilot episode was scheduled to air on Tuesday 2 April 1991, in a two-hour primetime slot from 8:30-10:30 pm. The Listener took the unusual step of including a note in the billing: "At press time, TV3 were unwilling to confirm that Twin Peaks would definitely play at this time on this day."

In spite of this uncertainty the magazine promoted the screening with the front cover strapline, “Twin Peaks, Weirdsville, USA”, and a two-page article entitled ‘Strange Crew’ by Shelley Howells, profiling each of the main characters. This was the first of several feature articles about the series that appeared in the Listener that year. The others included interviews with Peggy Lipton and Julee Cruise, a look at the Autobiography of Dale Cooper book, and an item about Twin Peaks fandom.

As it transpired, the Listener were right to be uncertain: the pilot did not screen on this date, and instead went to air exactly a week later, in the same timeslot on the evening of Tuesday 8 April 1991. That date is curious because it is exactly a year to the day after the US premiere. 

Something prevented TV3 from screening Twin Peaks when originally advertised. No explanation was provided for the delay in the Listener, but I suspect that there may have been an embargo in place that prevented the series being screened here any earlier than the one-year anniversary. In their promotion for the series, the Listener mentioned the re-edited home video version of the pilot episode, advising viewers to “watch again – the telly version has a different ending”. So given that the video release was already available in New Zealand, were the rights surrounding this perhaps responsible for holding up the television broadcast?

Having effectively lost a week, TV3 seemed keen to make up lost ground, scheduling the first and second episodes of series one back-to-back in another two hour timeslot the very next day. From the following week, the series settled into a regular schedule of one episode a week on Tuesday evenings.

There was no break between seasons 1 and 2 as there had been in the US, which meant that NZ went from a year to only eight months behind. The double-length Season 2 premiere (episode 8) was split into two regular-length episodes here. A month later, the reverse occurred with two episodes (13 & 14) screened back-to-back. This reason for this appears to have been tied to the revelation of Laura Palmer’s killer at the conclusion of the latter episode.

The resolution of the ‘Who killed Laura Palmer?’ storyline in episode 16 appears to have put a massive dent in the series’ popularity, at least here in NZ. Episode 17 screened as usual on 22 July, but the following week Twin Peaks was abruptly absent without explanation (at least in the pages of the Listener). Taking its place was an episode of the new US crime drama Law & Order. TV3’s decision to yank Twin Peaks from the schedule might also have been precipitated by its recent cancellation in the US, with the final episode screening there on 10 June 1991.  

Twin Peaks was off air for nine weeks, and when it returned it looked as if TV3 had lost all confidence in it. The series resumed without any fanfare on Monday 30 September, shunted into a graveyard timeslot of 11:05-12:05, as the last programme screened before the channel’s midnight closedown. Effectively it had been buried in the schedule. The final 12 episodes screened in this fashion, with the last episode going to air on 16 December, just over six months after the US. 

An ignominious end for what had been, earlier that same year, a heavily-promoted primetime series.

Twin Peaks on New Zealand Television - An Episode Guide

(Episode descriptions from the Listener)

Pilot: ‘Northwest Passage’
NZ: 8 April 1991 (US: 8 April 1990)
A surreal murder mystery series which probes the secretive lives of the townsfolk who live in Twin Peaks, a small US northwestern timber town. Pilot: FBI agent Dale Cooper is called to Twin Peaks to solve the brutal murder of Laura Palmer, the high-school homecoming queen.

Episodes 1 & 2: ‘Traces to Nowhere’ & ‘Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer’
NZ: 9 April 1991 (US: 12 & 19 April 1990)
Cooper and Truman find out more about Laura’s secret life, and release James from jail – along with the malevolent Mike and Bobby. At the sheriff’s department Cooper demonstrates an unusual deductive technique.

Episode 3: ‘Rest in Pain’
NZ: 15 April 1991 (US: 26 April 1990)
Cooper uses the deductive powers of his unconscious mind to break open the case, the townsfolk gather for the funeral and Truman reveals the secret of the Bookhouse Boys.

Episode 4: ‘The One-Armed Man’
NZ: 23 April 1991 (US: 3 May 1990)
Cooper tries to match his dream with Sarah’s vision; Hawk stalks the one-armed man; Hank goes before the parole board and Audrey decides to conduct her own investigation of Laura’s murder with help from Donna.

Episode 5: ‘Cooper’s Dreams’
NZ: 30 April 1991 (US: 10 May 1990)
Cooper and Truman meet the Log Lady and find a gruesome crime scene in the woods. James and Donna take Madeline Ferguson into their confidence.

Episode 6: ‘Realization Time’
NZ: 7 May 1991 (US: 17 May 1990)
Agent Cooper and Ed pay a special visit to One-Eyed Jack’s while Audrey Horne works undercover as a host there.

Episode 7: ‘The Last Evening’
NZ: 14 May 1991 (US: 23 May 1990)
Cooper and Truman’s investigation moves towards a terrifying end, Dr Jacoby’s meeting with “Laura Palmer” has bizarre consequences and Hank Jennings’s evil spreads to Josie Packard.

Episode 8 (part 1): ‘May the Giant Be with You’
NZ: 21 May 1991 (US: 30 September 1990)
Scorching questions remain in the mill fire’s aftermath; Jacques Renault is found dead; Audrey becomes a terrified prisoner and Donna puffs cigarettes.

Episode 8 (part 2): ‘May the Giant Be with You’
NZ: 28 May 1991 (US: 30 September 1990)
The community is shattered as several lives hang in the balance, Audrey is taken prisoner and Donna receives a strange message.

Episode 9: ‘Coma’
NZ: 4 June 1991 (US: 6 October 1990)
Agent Cooper gets some uncalled-for help, and some unwelcome news; Audrey is in more trouble than she thinks; Donna plans to meet a stranger; and a distressed Leland Palmer makes a frightening discovery.

Episode 10: ‘The Man Behind the Glass’
NZ: 11 June 1991 (US: 13 October 1990)
The trail to Laura’s killer takes a new turn; Blackie O’Reilly sees a golden opportunity; James Hurley and Madeline Ferguson strike an unforeseen chord; and Dr Jacoby undergoes hypnosis.

Episode 11: ‘Laura’s Secret Diary’
NZ: 18 June 1991 (US: 20 October 1990)
Ben Horne baffles Agent Cooper when he asks him to save Audrey’s life, Donna goes on another picnic, Lucy’s love life becomes difficult and Josie introduces her cousin from Hong Kong.

Episode 12: ‘The Orchid’s Curse’
NZ: 25 June 1991 (US: 27 October 1990)
Cooper tells Truman where Audrey Horne is, Donna and Maddy plan to steal Laura Palmer’s secret diary and Benjamin Horne gets a surprise visitor and a business proposition.

Episodes 13 & 14: ‘Demons’ & ‘Lonely Souls’
NZ: 2 July 1991 (US: 3 & 10 November 1990)
Cooper and Truman raid One-Eyed Jacks, Donna and Maddy are at the mercy of an angry Harold Smith, Shelly and Bobby “welcome home” Leo and Cooper’s bureau chief stops in Twin Peaks. With some vital help from the one-armed man, Cooper and Truman’s investigations finally uncover the identity of Laura Palmer’s killer!

Episode 15: ‘Drive with a Dead Girl’
NZ: 9 July 1991 (US: 17 November 1990)
The one-armed man helps Cooper and Truman’s search for Bob, Lucy returns home with company and Bobby sets out on a new money-making venture.

Episode 16: ‘Arbitrary Law’
NZ: 16 July 1991 (US: 1 December 1990)
Cooper asks Truman to give him 24 hours to prove who murdered Laura Palmer, Deputy Andy surprises Donna with his knowledge of French, Mrs Tremond disappears and Ben Horne’s fortunes hit an all-time low.

Episode 17: ‘Dispute Between Brothers’
NZ: 22 July 1991 (US: 8 December 1990)
Agent Cooper and Truman bid farewell and a wake is held for Leland Palmer. Nadine may be able to go back to high school, Tremayne embraces fatherhood, and Audrey tells a new-found friend all about her ice cream preferences.

Episode 18: ‘Masked Ball’
NZ: 30 September 1991 (US: 15 December 1990)
Truman defends Cooper’s activities at one-eyed Jacks, Mrs Briggs worries about Garland’s disappearance and Nadine is besotted with Mike Nelson.

Episode 19: ‘The Black Widow’
NZ: 7 October 1991 (US: 12 January 1991)
Cooper’s white glove test yields a clue, Deputy Andy and Dick Tremayne are concerned about little Nicky’s past and Bobby makes a quick buck.

Episode 20: ‘Checkmate’
NZ: 14 October 1991 (US: 19 January 1991)
Cooper and Truman arrange a trap for Jean Renault, Deputy Andy and Dick Tremayne pry into Little Nicky’s background and an old lover interrupts Ben Horne.

Episode 21: ‘Double Play’
NZ: 21 October 1991 (US: 2 February 1991)
Cooper tells Truman about the tragic history of his former FBI partner Windom Earle, Audrey sets up a business deal with Bobby Briggs, Leo Johnson comes back to vicious life and James is confused about Evelyn Marsh.

Episode 22: ‘Slaves and Masters’
NZ: 28 October 1991 (US: 9 February 1991)
Truman and Cooper try to track down Cooper’s former partner, Windom Earle, Ed Hurley cooks for Norma, Dr Jacoby changes the course of history, and James Hurley gets in trouble with the law.

Episode 23: ‘The Condemned Woman’
NZ: 4 November 1991 (US: 16 February 1991)
Truman watches as Cooper pleads with Josie for the truth, Ben Horne has a change of heart about the future of Twin Peaks, and James Hurley and Donna Hayward say goodbye.

Episode 24: ‘Wounds and Scars’
NZ: 11 November 1991 (US: 28 March 1991)
Agent Cooper and the sheriff’s department investigate caves at midnight, Truman wakes up to the murderous embrace of a naked woman and Audrey Horne and Donna Hayward witness a strange meeting.
(The wrong billing information was published - this was for episode 25. The error was noted in the Listener the following week)

Episode 25: ‘On the Wings of Love’
NZ: 18 November 1991 (US: 4 April 1991)
Cooper investigates caves at midnight, Truman wakes up to a murderous embrace and Audrey Horne and Donna Hayward witness a strange meeting.

Episode 26: ‘Variations on Relations’
NZ: 25 November 1991 (US: 11 April 1991)
Cooper and Truman try to understand the hieroglyph found in Owl Cave, and the local beauty competition draws hot competition.

Episode 27: ‘The Path to the Black Lodge’
NZ: 2 December 1991 (US: 18 April 1991)
Cooper and Truman continue their investigation of Owl Cave, Windom Earle takes a captive, Cooper and Annie find their romance blooming, and Donna discovers a scrapbook full of surprises.

Episode 28: ‘Miss Twin Peaks’
NZ: 9 December 1991 (US: 10 June 1991)
Cooper and Truman unravel part of the secret of the Black Lodge – but it might be too late. And the townsfolk gather at the Miss Twin Peaks pageant.

Episode 29: ‘Beyond Life and Death’
NZ: 16 December 1991 (US: 10 June 1991)
Cooper and Truman attempt to head off Windom Earle at the Black Lodge to save the life of Miss Twin Peaks. Nadine Hurley enrols in the school of hard knocks.

01 June, 2016

Adventures in Hardcover

My collection of Doctor Who hardback novelisations
The Doctor Who novelisations are to me powerful objects of nostalgia. Just a glance at the cover artwork has the power to trigger a memory of where and when I first acquired my copy of that book. These slim paperbacks were an obsession throughout my teens, as I gradually built a much-loved collection of the novelisations.

The books taught me to read, and by extension, to write. My mother gave me a paperback copy of Doctor Who and the Cave-Monsters when I was probably about eight-years-old. I remember that the book seemed daunting at first. It was long with many unfamiliar words and small type. I was intrigued by the fact that it was related to the television series I'd been watching. I read it many times over.

I then found to my delight that my local library had some of the books in hardback. I regularly borrowed these. I don't remember all of the titles they had, but I vividly recall that one of them was Doctor Who and the Time Warrior, because the disturbingly life-like cover artwork of Linx the Sontaran gave me horrible nightmares.

Around the end of 1980, I noticed a display bin full of Target Doctor Who paperback books in a local bookshop. My grandmother offered to buy me one, so I picked Doctor Who and the Genesis of the Daleks because it looked exciting and had Daleks. I got this book days before my family went off on a two-week summer camping holiday. During that time away, I made it my mission to look for more of the books in any shop I could find. By the time I returned home my collection had grown to seven books.

This was the beginning of my obsession. I had an overwhelming desire to own every book in the series. There were so many to collect (around 60 were available by the end of 1980), and I didn't have very much pocket money so limited myself to only getting the Tom Baker Doctor books at first. Once I had almost all of these, I set my sights on the rest.

Eventually I caught up. By mid-1984 I had around 80 titles but there were still three I was having great difficulty tracking down: The Abominable Snowmen, The Ice Warriors and Four to Doomsday. Months of fruitless searching culminated in a triumphant discovery - I chanced across all three sitting together on the same shelf, newly stocked in my local bookshop. At last I had a full set! Thereafter it was a matter of building up the collection at the rate of one a month as each new Target title appeared in the shops.

My interest in collecting the novelisations was re-energised in the late 1990s, long after I'd completed a set of the full run of Target paperback books. I had fond memories of the hardback editions of the novelisations that I had first encountered in the library before I started collecting the paperbacks. The first three hardbacks had been published in the 1960s. Two more were issued in early 1974. Thereafter, the books were only issued in paperback until late 1975 when the hardbacks resumed, beginning with Planet of the Spiders. The ten books that had only been published in paperback were all later issued in hardback editions. The hardbacks and paperbacks initially appeared simultaneously but from 1983 onwards the hardbacks were issued several months in advance of the paperbacks. The hardback range ended in June 1988 and the last 22 novelisations were only issued in paperback.

I'd acquired a handful of the hardbacks from secondhand bookshops and fellow fans. It was only when I started using the Ebay auction site that I realised that it might be possible to collect a set of these editions. Ebay had many of the hardbacks listed reasonably cheaply and also often in even more cost-effective assortments of four or five titles. The condition of the books varied wildly, from much-scuffed and faded ex-library editions to immaculate never-been-read copies, but this variable quality simply adds to the charm of the collection.

 Although I was placing low bids for these hardbacks, I rarely lost an auction. There was only one title that I had to pay well over the odds for, and that was The Wheel in Space, one of the rarest of the novelisations. The last hardback in publication order, The Smugglers, was exceptionally difficult to find. I noticed an auction that described the book as a paperback but featured a photograph of the hardback. Possibly due to the misleading description no-one had placed a bid, so I took a chance. It was only when the parcel arrived in the post that I knew for certain that I'd got the right edition!

I collected the hardbacks at just the right time. In the late 1990s interest in Doctor Who seemed to have diminished, something that was reflected in the prices of secondhand merchandise associated with the series. A couple of years later, possibly fuelled by growing interest in the DVD releases and then later the new television series, the prices for these hardback editions shot up dramatically, and many of them are now impossible to find.

I have one of every novelisation issued in hardback. The Crusaders and The Auton Invasion are the 1980s reprint editions, but otherwise the books are as originally published.

12 November, 2015

Acting in overruns - setting the record straight about Planet of Fire

Mark Strickson as Turlough in Planet of Fire (1984)
On The Underwater Menace DVD is a documentary called The Television Centre of the Universe - Part Two in which actors Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Mark Strickson and other personnel reminisce about their memories of working on Doctor Who at the former BBC Television Centre studios in London. During the documentary, Strickson, who played the fifth Doctor’s companion Turlough, recalls an incident that occurred on Planet of Fire, his last story, when he had to perform a scene with seconds to spare at the end of the day’s recording.

BBC Television Centre had a regulated shutdown each night at ten o’clock. The studio lights would be turned off at exactly that time regardless of the production’s progress. It was therefore imperative to finish recording before this deadline or else have the lights go out abruptly in the midst of recording a scene. Special arrangement could be made to go beyond ten o’clock if deemed to be absolutely essential, but these so-called ‘overruns’ were required to be documented in writing by the programme’s producer with an explanation as to why each instance had occurred.

The studio recording for Planet of Fire took place in two blocks totalling five days: 26 and 27 October in the large Studio One; and 9, 10 and 11 November 1983 in the much smaller Studio Six. It was a particularly demanding production for the crew, led by the highly-experienced director Fiona Cumming, because of the number of complex effects shots and difficulties with operating the robot prop Kamelion. These factors and other technical issues contributed to overruns on three of the five studio days.

Thursday 27 October, the second of the two days in Studio One, suffered the most significant overrun, lasting 35 minutes past ten o’clock. The scenes scheduled for recording on this date included all that take place on the Hall of Fire set. The overrun was necessary to complete these scenes because it would have been costly and impractical to not only retain and re-erect the large set on the next available studio day, two weeks later, but also re-hire the large group of extras playing the Sarns in these scenes. The Hall of Fire material was scheduled to have been completed early enough in the evening to subsequently record four scenes in the wrecked Trion spaceship and a further eight in the Master’s Laboratory, but due to the delay all of these material had to be rescheduled for a later date. The sets had been erected for these scenes in Studio One were dismantled without having been used.

The abandoned scenes were added to the next block of recording days, and provisions were made to erect the required sets in Studio Six. Fortunately the plan had always been to split the Master’s Laboratory scenes over the two studio blocks so additional room only had to be found to accommodate the Wrecked Ship set, which was erected alongside the TARDIS Console Room.

The Wrecked Ship scenes were now scheduled to be recorded last thing on the evening of Thursday 10 November, the penultimate studio day. On The Television Centre of the Universe documentary Mark Strickson recalls that these were the final scenes he recorded for the series. This was not the case: he was back the very next day, Friday 11 November, to perform scenes on the Ruins set, culminating in his final scene in story order, in which Turlough bids farewell to the Doctor and Peri outside the TARDIS. Once this scene was completed, recording continued with scenes in the Master’s Laboratory and on the Master’s TARDIS Console Room set. Turlough was not involved in any of these scenes so Mark Strickson was released from the production early on his last day.

On the previous evening it was a very different state of affairs as the cast and crew worked against the clock to complete the scenes on the Wrecked Ship set. Ten o’clock passed, and the production was again into overruns. As producer John Nathan-Turner noted, in a memo dated 15 November, the overrun on 10 November ran to 15 minutes ‘in order to complete scenes in a set that had to be struck [i.e. dismantled] over-night’. He was of course referring to the Wrecked Ship set.

Internal BBC memo from Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner, dated 15 November 1983, to explain the overrun on the evening of Thursday 10 November.

Recalling the the pressures they were under on the DVD documentary, Strickson says, ‘[it] was the last scene in the studio and the director Fiona Cumming said, “Look, get it in Mark. I don’t know how you’re going to do it, you’ve got so many seconds, the scene lasts this.” So I had to physically, as I was acting, cut lines because I knew the lights were going to go out.’

This was by no means the first time Strickson had told this particular anecdote about his final story. On the Calling the Shots feature on the Planet of Fire DVD, he says, ‘… we were running very, very late, we had something like thirty seconds left before the lights were turned out and Fiona Cumming … said to me, “Mark, I don’t care how you do it, get the lines in, get the plot down because we all lose light in thirty seconds”, and I just edited and cut it as I went, and almost the moment we finished the whole of television centre went black.’ The incident is also mentioned by Strickson on the Planet of Fire DVD commentary (during the first Wrecked Ship scene in Part Two). Furthermore, when Jon Preddle and I interviewed Mark in 1990, he said, ‘This scene lasts about a minute and a half in the script and there was about forty-six seconds of studio left to get it in. So we started this scene and Fiona says, “I don’t care what you do, but get the plot in.” We just went for it - and I got the plot in.’

Mark Strickson (Turlough) and Jonathan Caplan (Roskal) in the final scene recorded on the Wrecked Ship set on 10 November 1983

The common thread running through these accounts is that under pressure Strickson improvised the last scene to some extent in order to get the relevant details across in the briefest time.

So what was altered in the heat of the moment? The camera scripts offer a detailed record of what was to be performed in studio. A comparison between the scenes on the Wrecked Ship as written and on screen reveals a surprising fact. They all play out as scripted. There is one dialogue edit, a cut lasting four seconds, at the start of Part Four’s Scene 22 (Roskal: ‘Is it still working?’ Turlough: ‘I don’t know.’), but these lines were definitely recorded as evidenced by their inclusion on a longer, time-coded edit of this episode.

Pages from the camera script for Planet of Fire Part Four, showing the last two Wrecked Ship scenes
(click on the image to enlarge)

The scenes in the Wrecked Ship were recorded last thing in the evening, just before the studio shut down. In that respect Mark Strickson’s recollection is undoubtedly correct. However the notion that this was his final work on Doctor Who or, more significantly, that he cut lines and edited dialogue on the fly in order to complete one or more of these scenes in the time available is wrong. All four scenes were all performed as written in the camera scripts. What Mark Strickson deserves credit for here is of course that he did a sterling job of managing to deliver the lines accurately under such pressure.

Stephen James Walker offers his recollection in response to my article... ‘I was in the studio when those wrecked ship scenes were being recorded at the end of the day, and they certainly were done very much under time pressure. I remember Mark accidentally dropped the Trion pendant prop at one point, and had to scrabble around on the set to retrieve it, while still acting.’

10 September, 2015

Ever Decreasing Delays

Good news! Prime has announced that Series 9's episodes of Doctor Who will be screened in New Zealand at 7:30pm on the Sunday after the UK Saturday broadcast. That means that we are only a matter of hours behind. A simultaneous broadcast would be 6:30am, so Prime’s screening will be 13 hours later.

Although one-off specials have appeared on Prime soon after the UK in the past, this will be the first time that a full series of Doctor Who has aired here so promptly.

Looking back over the past decade of Doctor Who, New Zealand fans have not always been so fortunate.

Back in 2005 when the revived series launched with Rose in the UK on Saturday 26 March, there was no indication of when New Zealanders would get to see it. The series finally arrived here on Thursday 7 July, 103 days later.

If this long delay seemed intolerable, there was worse still to come. The first Christmas special, introducing David Tennant’s Doctor, was delayed by more than six months. The Christmas Invasion was held back to open the second series, so New Zealand finally got to see it on Thursday 6 July 2006, 193 days later! Series 2 (New Earth to Doomsday) began screening the following week, 89 days after the UK. This was a slight improvement on the treatment of the 2005 series, but only by two weeks.

In 2007 the Christmas special was again held back by Prime and stuck on the beginning of Series 3. Whereas the first two series had both opened in July, Series 3 did not commence until late August, resulting in an even longer gap between UK and NZ transmissions. When The Runaway Bride screened on Sunday 19 August 2007 it set a new series record delay of 237 days.

The first six episodes of Series 3 (Smith and Jones to The Lazarus Experiment) had a delay of 148 days. This gap was reduced by a week to 141 days for the latter half of the series (42 to Last of the Time Lords) simply because the UK took a one-week break mid-series.

2008 was the last to have such long delays for a run of episodes. Once again the Christmas special was held back to open the new series. Voyage of the Damned screened on Sunday 13 July 2008, a delay of 194 days. The first half of Series 4 (Partners in Crime to The Unicorn and the Wasp), had a gap of 99 days, that reduced by a week to 92 days for Silence in the Library to The Stolen Earth, and a further reduction to 85 days for the series finale, Journey’s End, as the last two episodes were screened back-to-back in New Zealand on 28 September 2008, 12 weeks after Series 4 concluded in the UK.

There was no new series in 2009. The Next Doctor, 2008’s Christmas episode, was scheduled as a one-off special on Prime, however it still suffered a long delay before screening on Monday 13 April 2009, a delay of 109 days.

Thereafter, the situation began to improve as Prime gradually moved its screening dates closer to those in the UK. The lack of a full series in 2009 to have to find room for in the schedules may have helped in this regard. The next special, Planet of the Dead, aired on Monday 1 June 2009, 51 days after the UK.

The gap closed considerably for The Waters of Mars, which aired on Sunday 29 November, just 14 days after the UK. In fact New Zealand appears to have been the very first country outside the UK to screen this story (Australia first screened it a week later, and Canada and the US both aired it the following year).

David Tennant’s last story, the two-part The End of Time, wasn’t quite as prompt to arrive here, screening on 7 and 14 February 2010, 44 days after the UK.

The arrival of Matt Smith’s Doctor saw Prime making further inroads into the delay for a run of episodes. Series 5 (The Eleventh Hour to The Big Bang) screened from Sunday 2 May 2010, 29 days behind the UK.

A Christmas Carol was slightly more delayed, screening on Sunday 30 January 2011, 36 days later.

The 2011 series was split in half for both the UK and NZ. The first half, The Impossible Astronaut to A Good Man Goes to War, screened here from Thursday 19 May 2011, a delay of 26 days. The second half, Let’s Kill Hitler to The Wedding of River Song, screened from Thursday 15 September and had only a 19 day gap.

The next Christmas special, The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe, screened here on Thursday 19 January 2012, 25 days after the UK.

The first half of Series 7, Asylum of the Daleks to The Angels take Manhattan, screened from Thursday 13 September 2012, a gap of just 12 days, which was at the time the shortest delay NZ had experienced with the new series.

Even better than this, the 2012 Christmas special The Snowmen screened less than a day after the UK, on the evening of 26 December. This next day arrangement has been repeated for successive Christmas specials.

The latter half of Series 7, The Bells of Saint John to The Name of the Doctor, was again a 12 day delay, with the run of episodes commencing on Thursday 11 April 2012.

The 50th Anniversary Special, The Day of the Doctor, was simulcast in many countries around the world, but New Zealand was very slightly delayed. Had this country joined the simulcast, the story would have aired at 8:50am but instead it went out just 10 minutes later, screening at 9am, on Sunday 24 November. This time delay was apparently because Prime's schedules dictated that the programme started on the hour.

The 2013 Christmas special, The Time of the Doctor, screened less than a day after the UK, on the evening of 26 December.

Peter Capaldi’s first series, Deep Breath to Death in Heaven, screened from Sunday 31 August 2014, only a week after the UK.

Finally, Last Christmas screened less than a couple of hours after the UK, going out on Prime at 9am on 26 December 2014, and making New Zealand once again the first country outside the UK to screen the story.

Which brings us up to date. Until now, next day screenings (which are effectively the same day given the timezone difference), have been the province of one-off specials, but with Series 9 screening from Sunday 20 September, Prime has committed to giving full series the same treatment. The time when New Zealanders had to wait days, weeks or even months to see new episodes of Doctor Who are hopefully gone forever.

02 July, 2015

Gallifrey Magazine

I was sorting through a box of assorted old items recently when I discovered eight copies of a thirty-year-old Doctor Who fanzine I produced in the mid-1980s when I was a teenager.

Doctor Who - Gallifrey Magazine ran for thirty monthly issues between June 1983 and December 1985. Each issue was A5, between 8 and 12 pages long and produced on a manual typewriter with Letraset, felt-tip pen, and photocopied pictures. My father ran off a handful of copies of each issue for me on a photocopier at his place of work and I distributed these free of charge to friends at school. At most, I perhaps had five or six readers. By the end I was only keeping it going for my own interest.

These recently rediscovered issues are the final eight from 1985, numbered #23 to #30. I produced these issues when I was aged 16 and 17, thirty years ago. They represent the earliest surviving examples of my creative output as a Doctor Who fan. I once owned a complete set of all thirty issues, but sold these to an Australian fanzine collector in 1988 when I was a poor student in need of funds. (I wonder if that collector still has them?) These last eight issues were duplicate copies that somehow survived when so much of what I did as a fan in the 1980s has long since been either purposefully or accidentally discarded.

It is both humbling and embarrassing to look back over these issues with so much distance. I'd like to think that my 17 year-old self would be absolutely thrilled if I knew what I’ve achieved in those intervening decades. So what do I make of his efforts...?

#23 - May 1985 

The cover is made up of shots from the Pertwee era title sequence (sourced from the Radio Times Twentieth Anniversary Special), and announces ‘Jon Pertwee is the Doctor!’. The focus was very much on the stories that were currently screening on television in New Zealand. A month before before this issue was published, TVNZ began screening a massive retrospective, beginning with The Mind Robber and The Krotons followed by every story from Spearhead from Space onwards. In the magazine I refer to these screenings as the ‘Repeat Season’ as I was unaware that this was the first time many of these stories, especially from Pertwee’s era, had been screened in New Zealand.

The issue includes a preview of Spearhead from Space, reviews of the Target novelisations The Highlanders (the latest release) and The Auton Invasion; a profile of writer Robert Holmes, an ‘Archives’ feature that was a short synopsis of The Invasion, and a quiz based entirely on the recently-screened The Mind Robber. The back cover had the tenth part of an ongoing 'Programme Guide' listing a brief synopsis of every story. This issue’s instalment covered The Androids of Tara to Meglos. I was clearly heavily influenced by Doctor Who Magazine; the Robert Holmes feature for example lifted sections from an interview that had only just appeared in issue #100.

#24 - June 1985

Judging by the ‘Second Birthday Special’ strap line, I was obviously proud of the fact that my little magazine had been going for two years, Perhaps I was inspired by Doctor Who Magazine’s recent 100th issue milestone. The trio pictured in the montage photograph, Troughton, Pertwee and Davison, were the three Doctors who had appeared on New Zealand television during the two years that the magazine had been around.

In the ‘From the Editor…’ column I talked about a page increase, from 10 to 12 pages. I asked for writers to contribute articles and/or reviews. No one among my small readership accepted this invitation, which must have been disheartening, and may have contributed to my later decision to cease production. I reported that the readership had increased since the series was back on television, and that the issue had taken ‘over two full days to research and write up’.

The issue’s contents included a book review of Frontios, just one of many recent television stories I had never seen but I absolutely adored the book, calling it a masterpiece and awarding it 10/10. I was much less kind to The Cave Monsters, harshly criticising it for not strictly the television serial and only awarding it 4/10. I previewed Doctor Who and the Silurians and The Ambassadors of Death. The first of these would have been halfway through by the beginning of June, so the preview was a little late. I apologised for this in the issue, explaining that ‘until the story appears in The Listener, I have no idea what the next one to be shown is’. The Ambassadors of Death preview opened with the hope that this would be the next story screened as I couldn’t know for sure. The ‘Archives’ featured The Seeds of Death. The idea with this feature was to cover the unseen Troughton stories from the same season as the two that had been recently screened. Those two stories, The Mind Robber and The Krotons, were both reviewed in this issue. It seems I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about either of them. I judged The Mind Robber as suffering from a reduced budget and an overly padded plot. I thought The Krotons was well written but was let down by both the visuals, and the performance of the Krotons and the Gonds. The back-page Programme Guide reached Black Orchid.

#25 - July 1985

The Pertwee-fest continued with cover-promoted previews of Inferno and Terror of the Autons. I presumed (correctly as it turns out) that these would be the next two stories screened. The cover photo is from The Ambassadors of Death, the then-current television story, although there was nothing about this particular serial in the issue. The magazine's masthead got a revamp, with the lettering of the word ‘Gallifrey’ traced from an article heading in Doctor Who Magazine, and a screengrab of Pertwee’s face from the opening titles (previously used on #23) was introduced in the top right cover, where it would remain for the rest of the magazine’s run. This was to denote the current Doctor’s era on television.

In the ‘From the Editor…’ column I discussed the magazine’s future, observing that I thought it ‘extremely unlikely we will reach issue 100’, but that it would ‘definitely be going until the end of this year. After that, no definite plans have been made’. It would appear from this comment that I was already thinking about winding up the magazine.

The issue features a Target Books news column, using information from Doctor Who Magazine. I reviewed the new novelisation of Planet of Fire, praising it as ‘fantastic’ and awarding it 10/10. ‘This Month’ was a new regular feature, listing key events that happened in the current month through the series’ history. I think the source of most of my information for this was the Peter Haining book The Key to Time. ‘Saga of the Silurians’ was an attempt to explain the continuity links between Doctor Who and the Silurians and Warriors of the Deep. ‘Archives’ covered The Space Pirates, and the television reviews section looked at the first two Pertwee serials. I described Spearhead from Space as a ‘classic’ and described the Autons as ‘effective and far more believable killing machines’ (compared to the clockwork soldiers and the Krotons of the two previous Troughton stories). I thought Doctor Who and the Silurians wasn’t quite as good, but liked that it was effective in eliciting sympathy for the Old Silurian. An ‘Advance TV Preview’ listing noted the episodes due to screen on each Friday evening for the remainder of 1985. This must have been an educated guess as I had no access to advance television schedules, but turns out in hindsight to have been exactly right. The back-page Programme Guide reached Warriors of the Deep.

#26 - August 1985

The Terror of the Autons photo on the cover came from the book The Adventures of K9 and Other Mechanical Creatures – you can even spot the page join on the left.

The issue features previews of The Mind of Evil and The Claws of Axos. By now I was confident enough of the upcoming television schedule to provide advance airdates for these stories. ‘Collecting Target Books’ was a guide to starting your own collection, and I noted that it had taken me over five years to complete my own set of the first 93 books. One thing that comes through in all of these issues is that I regarded the Target novelisations as almost equal in status to the television episodes. I addressed this in the ‘From the Editor…’ column, explaining that while the series was ‘this magazine’s first priority', the 'mammoth number of books available' came 'a close second.' I rated the latest novelisation, The Caves of Androzani 8/10, noting that it was ‘a little overshadowed by the extraordinarily good Frontios and Planet of Fire. I also reviewed the novelisations of Terror of the Autons and The Claws of Axos, rating them 9/10 and 8/10 respectively.

‘The Doctor’s Celery’ was an article inspired by the information provided on the subject in The Caves of Androzani novelisation. The first in a new series of articles covered the behind-the-scenes details on the production of Jon Pertwee’s first season. ‘Archives’ covered the final Troughton story, The War Games, and the back-page Programme Guide reached its thirteenth and final instalment, concluding with Revelation of the Daleks, which was at the time the most-recently produced story. What I find particularly striking about this list of twelve stories (that begins with The Awakening), is that at the time I wrote it I had not seen any of them. Now I look at it and not only are they all familiar to me, but I've also worked on the DVDs of six of these titles.

#27 - September 1985

A photograph from The Claws of Axos appears on the cover. Inside, are previews of Colony in Space and The Daemons, and ‘A Special Advance TV Preview of Upcoming Stories’ with details of the next fifteen stories (Day of the Daleks to Planet of the Spiders), including airdates for each calculated on the expectation that the series would continue to screen at the rate of two episodes every Friday. In hindsight I can see that I was correct but only up to the end of January 1985 when the schedule changed. Ah well. This advance preview was purportedly ‘due to popular demand’. I think one of my classmates at school who read the magazine must have asked for such a listing. I noted at the end of this preview that I wasn’t sure what would happen once all the Pertwee stories had screened, but hoped that the series would continue with old stories before catching up and carrying on with previously unscreened stories, which was indeed what happened.

‘The Six Doctors’ was a new serialised feature looking at the characters of each of the Doctors. I'm embarrassed to admit that this wasn’t my own work but an edited rehash of a feature by Richard Marson from Doctor Who Magazine. Oh dear. At least I credited Marson at the end of each instalment. Marco Polo was the latest book received, and I wasn’t impressed, judging by my review. I thought the story was ‘boring’ and that the novelisation bore ‘little resemblance’ to the television version. I’ve no idea what I based this judgement on. The Doomsday Weapon was also criticised for straying too far from its source, but I praised the novelisation of The Daemons.

Turning to the television stories, I was clearly impressed with The Ambassadors of Death, describing it in my review as ‘nothing short of a masterpiece’. Inferno and Terror of the Autons also received effusively positive reviews. What's curious about my review of the latter story is that I wrote the following about Roger Delgado’s Master: ‘his evil pitted against the Doctor’s good is the strongest memory I had of the Pertwee years of the series’. Although I have memories of watching the Pertwee era first time around, none of the Delgado Master stories screened in New Zealand prior to 1985 so I cannot possibly have seen them as a child. What was I thinking? Had I concocted a set of false recollections based on reading the books? I have no recollection of this.

#28 - October 1985

Not my most successful cover design, this features a photograph of Azal from The Daemons backed by black bands coloured in felt-tip pen. Inside was a preview of Day of the Daleks, and a summary of the rest of Season Nine (‘Story 3 features the return of the Master. Don’t ask how he escapes, because I want to keep that secret…’).

The latest book release was the reissue of The Doctor Who Monster Book. My review compared it to the original edition, but as I didn’t own a copy I must have lifted that information from Doctor Who Magazine’s assessment of the book. The novelisations of Day of the Daleks and The Curse of Peladon received brief but uniformly positive reviews.

‘The Six Doctors’ continued with a look at the Second Doctor. Three of the photographs used in this two-page spread were recycled for a similar-looking couple of pages for Troughton’s obituary in the first issue of Time Space Visualiser a couple of years later. The second part of a ‘Guide to the Pertwee Stories’ covered the production of Season Eight. The first of the television stories reviewed this issue was The Mind of Evil. I described this as ‘a high-tension action-packed drama’ but lamented the loss of the colour episodes. My family had recently acquired our first colour television, so after many years of having no choice but to watch Doctor Who in black and white, it was particularly irksome that many of the early Pertwee episodes were not in colour. The review of The Claws of Axos praises the location filming and the sets, but criticises some of the characters as ‘unconvincing’, singling out including Bill Filer and Mr Chinn. I can pinpoint exactly when this review was written, because it opens with the line, ‘Less than an hour ago, the final credits rolled for the last episode of this story’, which means that I must have written it on the evening of Friday 20 September.

#29 - November 1985

In a departure from the usual photo covers, this issue has a rather nice drawing of Jon Pertwee. I drew this by copying an illustration from The Key to Time book (the original by Vitaly Sabsay appears on page 89). The cover announced ‘Doctor Who is Twenty Two!’, and the issue celebrated the twenty-second anniversary of the series. Inside I wrote in the introduction: ‘Twenty two years is a long time. If you were just old enough to watch it when it started, you could have children of your own watching it today.’ Twenty-two years may indeed have seemed like a long time to a 17-year-old, but imagine how I feel reading them now. I typed those words thirty years ago.

An article titled ‘In the beginning...’ described how the series started, and a re-vamped ‘Archives’ feature set out to document the stories in order from An Unearthly Child onwards. The wording of the first synopsis appears to have been lifted directly from Jean-Marc Lofficier’s Programme Guide. The Curse of Peladon and The Sea Devils, which screened during November 1985, were previewed, and ‘The Six Doctors’ series continued with a look at the third Doctor, still shamelessly borrowing from Marson’s article. This wasn’t the only copying going on here. The review of the latest novelisation, The Awakening ends with the footnote ‘Taken from Doctor Who Magazine Review’. I’ve compared this with Gary Russell’s review (which appears in DWM #97) and although ‘my’ review is a lot shorter, much of the wording is copied more or less verbatim. I’ve no idea why I did this. Did the book fail to arrive in time, or was I incapable of forming my own opinion about its merits...?

A new column called ‘Update’ set out to summarize what had gone on in the series since New Zealand television left off with Mawdryn Undead in November 1983. As I hadn’t seen these stories, the information provided about Terminus, Enlightenment and The King’s Demons would have undoubtedly have come from Doctor Who Magazine. This was accompanied by another new feature, ‘Photo of the Month’, featuring a photo of Peter Davison that had originally appeared in a 1983 issue of The Listener. Judging by my review, I wasn’t overly thrilled with Colony in Space, calling it ‘a less than totally successful story.’ I was clearly more impressed with The Daemons, writing that it ‘never suffered a dull moment’.

#30 - December 1985

The cover features a photo from Day of the Daleks overlaid with another from The Sea Devils, reflecting the coverage of the Ninth Season that was on screen at the time.

Significantly, there is no hint anywhere in this issue that it would be the last. My ‘Editor’s Note’ confidently claims that issue 31 is coming in January 1986. The issue was shorter than usual, just eight pages rather than the usual twelve. This was explained away with a vague reference to ‘publishing deadlines and other commitments’. In December 1985 I was finishing my Sixth Form year at school, so I expect that my studies were occupying much of my time and attention.

Despite the reduced page count I managed to include most of the regular features in the issue, including synopses for The Edge of Destruction and Marco Polo in ‘Archives’, and previews of The Sea Devils and The Mutants. ‘The Six Doctors’ covered the Fourth Doctor, and ‘Photo of the Month’ featured a photo of Tom Baker from a 1982 issue of The Listener. A new feature called ‘Databank’ documented fictional information about the Ice Warriors. ‘Update’ continued with coverage of The Five Doctors. As noted in the article, this was the one new story that I had seen, as it was played at a science fiction exhibition in Auckland that I’d attended the previous year. This item ended with a promise that coverage of the next season ‘starts next issue’.

And that was where it all ended.

Clearly I had plans to keep going with the magazine, but I do not recall if I even made a start on assembling issue 31. Why, after two and a half years of uninterrupted production, did Gallifrey abruptly come to an end?

I remained a devoted fan of the series after this point. I still watching the series every week on television and collected the books and Doctor Who Magazine. I think the so-called ‘cancellation crisis’ that led to the series’ suspension for eighteen months during 1985-86 perhaps knocked my confidence in the series. I remember believing for a while during 1985 that it wasn't coming back. I also found it hard to maintain interest in the new series, not having seen any of Colin Baker’s episodes. I only ‘knew’ his Doctor through reading the comic strips and the books.

Outside of Doctor Who, there was now a lot more going on in my life. 1986 was my final year of school. I was socialising a great deal more with friends and going out on evenings and weekends. None of these friends shared my interest in the series.

Although I had given up editing a Doctor Who fanzine, the thought of one day reviving it much have kept niggling away at the back of my mind. I recall thinking if I could just meet some fellow fans who shared my passion for the series, that maybe we could produce something together, perhaps even start up a club. At the end of 1986 I left school and in 1987 I started studying at the University of Auckland. I initially hoped to meet fans through the science fiction club on campus, but I was discouraged by the dismissive attitude I encountered at the one meeting I attended (perhaps I just caught them on a bad day?). One day in May 1987 I decided to put up a notice on the campus clubs notice board asking for any Doctor Who fans to get in contact. I received one response, a letter from a fellow first-year student called Paul Sinkovich. We met up and I discovered to my delight that Paul had off-air VHS copies of all of the new series episodes I’d never seen, and a large stack of UK fanzines. I showed him my copies of Gallifrey, and we decided to collaborate on a fanzine. I initially wanted to resurrect Gallifrey and continue on with issue 31, but Paul wisely persuaded me to create a new fanzine, which we called Time Space Visualiser. The first of 76 issues and numerous spin-off specials, published over more than twenty years, appeared in June 1987.

Once again, I was editing a Doctor Who fanzine.