30 December, 2008

TSV 61

TSV 61 was added to the online archive earlier this month, eight years after its original publication in December 2000. This allowed the issue’s limited selection of festive content to once again appear seasonally relevant. Witness in particular the Karkus doing battle with a Cyber Santa; many years before the Cybermen got to appear in a televised Doctor Who Christmas story!

Alistair Hughes’ cover artwork is a superb pastiche of the film poster for Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and promotes the extensive coverage of the Prime television screenings of every complete Hartnell and Troughton story during 2000. I’m resisting calling them repeats since eight stories (The Keys of Marinus, The Aztecs, The Sensorites, The Web Planet, The Chase, The Gunfighters, The Dominators and The War Games), had never previously screened in New Zealand - and to date none of these have rescreened either. (How about it Prime - isn't it time for some fresh screenings of episodes made before 2005...?)

In the previous issue I put out a call to readers to write up their views having watched each of the stories on Prime. Vernon McCarthy and Gerald Joblin both sent in brief pieces, and Robert Boswell contributed the bulk of the issue’s coverage. Robert had written several pieces for TSV in the past, but as he was outside the regular pool of writers appearing in each and every issue, he brought a relatively fresh perspective to the subject. Robert did such a sterling job of critiquing the Sixties Prime stories that I invited him back to cover the 1970s stories for later issues.

The highlight of the issue though, and an item that continues to this day to attract much interest from readers, was the coverage of the Seven Keys to Doomsday play. The 1984 staging of this Doctor Who production in Porirua had been overlooked by fans for many years. It later transpired that several readers knew about the play and members of the Wellington Doctor Who club chapter had inherited props from the production, but I for one remained completely ignorant of its existence for sixteen years.

TSV’s intrepid investigative reporter Graham Howard discovered the facts about the play, tracking down and interviewing theatre director Brian Hudson. The interview arrived along with a stack of black and white photographs, photocopies of the programme booklet, newspaper clippings and adverts all related to the production. I was only able to use a limited selection of this material in the article (more of which appeared in a later issue when Graham interviewed actor Michael Sagar who played the Doctor in the play), but the addition of this issue to the online archive has meant that all of this material can at last be displayed for all to see.

In September 2000 a discussion thread about the play started on rec.arts.drwho. Alden Bates (who posted to the thread) recently linked to it in his blog and I was astonished to find a posting from myself on the thread. I have absolutely no recollection of writing that post (the memory’s obviously not what it once was), though I’ve no doubt it was me who wrote it. It’s obvious I think that when I posted that message I had no knowledge about the play’s existence, and my reply reads as if I’m sceptical about the veracity of the rumour. In hindsight this seems rather unintentionally rude towards Alden, who posted a couple of newspaper clippings as evidence that the play actually existed. I’m sorry, Alden - you were of course absolutely correct.

The timing of the rec.arts.drwho thread is intriguing, as Graham’s article about the play appeared in TSV just two months later. I don’t recall a late change to the content, but work on the issue must have been well under way at this point, implying that the play article was a relatively late addition to the line-up.

Elsewhere in the issue, the Disc-Continuity Guide column made its last appearance in print. At this point it was already in the process of transforming into a comprehensive online guide to the Big Finish audios. (The last update to the guide was in 2005.) It was also the end for regular book reviewer Brad Schmidt, who decided to call it quits following a two-year stint during which he wrote 46 book reviews, some of which were originally credited to ‘James Schmidt’. I initially shouldered the task of reviewing the books myself but struggled to find the time to read all of the new titles in time to review them on top of everything else I needed to do for the issue, so I was very grateful when Jamas Enright volunteered to take over as TSV’s regular book reviewer.

Read the issue here.

Fellow TSV 61 bloggers:
Alden Bates
Jamas Enright

24 December, 2008

120,000 words

As of tonight I've hit two targets in the writing of my book, The Comic Strip Companion.

I've just completed another chapter - that's eleven in total I've written now (another six to go before the book's finished). I've also just passed the 120,000 word mark. This is a significant personal milestone.

When I started writing the manuscript last year I estimated that the entire book would be 120,000 words long. The contract I signed with the publisher stipulated a 100,000 word minimum; I thought at the time that 20,000 words over this would be a comfortable margin.

It has long since become apparent to me that this was an hugely overly conservative estimate, and I now expect that the book will end up being somewhere around 185,000 words.

The process of writing the book has been governed by setting targets and planning ahead. I have mapped the book out on an Excel spreadsheet and I update this each day. My aim has been to write about at least one complete comic strip story each day, though of late my writing time has been reduced to three days a week due to other commitments.

I wanted to complete the latest chapter before taking a few days off over Christmas, and I've managed this with a few hours to spare; next week it'll be time to open another Word document and start work on another chapter, every day a step closer to completion!

14 December, 2008

Who is... The Next Doctor?

This is the burning question for many Doctor Who fans right now, mere days away from the broadcast of the new episode due to screen in the UK on Christmas day.

The Christmas special, entitled The Next Doctor, features David Tennant's Doctor encountering another individual also calling himself the Doctor, played by David Morrissey (and thus reuniting the two Davids, who were previously seen together on screen in the wonderful Blackpool mini-series).

A brief preview clip from the story (which I'm assuming is the entire pre-credits sequence) screened as a fundraiser for the Children in Need charity appeal a couple of months ago, showing the Doctor's initial encounter with this other Doctor.

But is Morrissey really the Doctor...? The BBC isn't saying - and speculation is especially rampant in light of the recent news that David Tennant is stepping down from the role in 2010. Despite intense media speculation, his successor has yet to be announced, and it's likely that any casting revelation is deliberately being held back until sometime after the screening of The Next Doctor, in order to maintain the air of mystery and anticipation surrounding this episode. There doesn't seem to be likely though that David Morrissey will take over from David Tennant as the new star of the series as the episode was recorded many months ago, long before Tennant announced that he was leaving.

So assuming that this is a one-off role for Morrissey as the Doctor, it seems to me, based on the preview clip - and absolutely no insider knowledge - that there are four possible scenarios regarding the question of the Next Doctor's identity:

1) The Imposter Doctor: He’s someone else, a con-man knowingly masquerading as the Doctor for some reason. This would appear to be the most obvious answer, were it not for the fact that in that preview clip the Next Doctor doesn't seem to recognise the Doctor as anyone special, at least initially treating him as an ordinary bystander. He mentions the TARDIS to his companion, Rosita, has his own sonic screwdriver, and appears to be aware of the Cybermen. If he's a ordinary guy pretending to be the Doctor, he's rather too convincing. So I don't think this is the most likely scenario.

2) The Arch Doctor: He’s someone else, but genuinely believes himself to be the Doctor, having been exposed to the Doctor’s memories. There’s a precedent for this in Series Three when the Doctor used the chameleon arch to place his memories and personality inside a fob watch (in the episodes Human Nature / Family of Blood), and when this watch found its way into the possession of a human school boy, Tim Latimer, his limited exposure to the watch provides him with some of the Doctor’s memories. What if the Next Doctor has one of these watches and has had his mind altered so that he thinks and behaves as if he really is the Doctor? It’s a theory given weight by a couple of advance publicity photos, which shows the Next Doctor with a fob watch. If this is the case though, where does he get his TARDIS (the one he mentions to Rosita), from…?

3) The Rift Doctor: He really is the Doctor, but from an alternate universe. The presence of the new series version of the Cybermen in this story makes this scenario all the more plausible. The Cybermen originated in a parallel reality and crossed over into ‘our’ world through the rift. In the previous story, The Stolen Earth / Journey’s End, the walls between dimensions broke down, enabling Rose Tyler, Mickey Smith and Jackie Tyler to return to our world from where they had been sealed off in an alternate reality. What if the Next Doctor is from that reality (or another one), and has come through the rift with the Cybermen? I’m favouring this scenario being the mostly likely one, but there’s another to consider…

4) The Real Doctor: He is actually the Doctor. Not someone pretending, not transformed by a watch, and not from another reality. Well and truly the Next Doctor; the Eleventh Doctor, the one that the Tenth Doctor will one day regenerate into. This scenario is possible if, in the course of events in this story, the Doctor does something to change his future so that this Next Doctor is wiped from history and never comes into existence. It’s an appealing idea, but perhaps not the most likely outcome.

If I were a betting man my money would be resting on scenario #3, but anything’s possible. The answer may even turn out to be something I haven't even considered above. For some time in the lead-up to last year's Christmas special, Voyage of the Damned (AKA The One With Kylie Minogue), fans thought that the story was set in the past aboard the actual Titanic, rather than - as it transpired - a replica spacecraft version of the ship in the present day. So this wouldn't be the first time that we've been led to believe one outcome when the truth is something quite different...

Less than two weeks from now we'll know for certain. Can't wait!