I’ve been away from this blogging business for some time. Next year will change that, as I plan to start making vlogs on my YouTube channel. Talking about writing, editing, my latest projects and everything in between. But right I just want to let you all know that over the festive period I shall be reading and making revision notes for the tenth-anniversary edition of my novel, Seeker, which is due for release in March 2021.
Those of you who have read the original 2011 edition (and I know that’s a lot of you, since it continued to sell right up until Untreed Reads lost the digital rights a couple of years ago) I would advise to pick up the new edition as it will contain some sutble and some huge changes, changes you will need to know to truly appreciate book two, which I shall finally (ten years later!) be writing next year.
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Possibly the best season of the 1970s, which tells you that I clearly loved season thirteen. It’s the second year of Hinchcliffe/Holmes, no longer in the shadow of the successful team of Letts/Dicks. (With one exception, but that’s Hinchcliffe’s fault for asking Letts to direct and Nation to write a script.) But I digress…
This season brings to the fore all the hints we got in the previous season, with the darker aspects found in such stories as The Ark in Space and Genesis of the Daleks. It starts on a high with the impeccable Terror of the Zygons, the last full bona-fide UNIT story. But this is the UNIT of Hinchcliffe/Holmes, not the ever-cosy family of the Pertwee Era. There’s a different kind of spark between the Fourth Doctor and the Brigadier – a very strong friendship, although it’s very clear the Doctor is, at least initially, sulking at being brought back to Earth by the Brigadier. Throughout this season there’s a definite ongoing acknowledgement that the Doctor is no longer interested in being UNIT’s scientific advisor – it’s explicitly stated in Pyramids of Mars for a start – although he does keep on coming back. Partly this is due to Sarah’s presence, since she made him promise to return her home at the end of Terror of the Zygons, which explains why in Pyramids of Mars they arrived in the correct location, but the wrong time, and why they appear to return to Earth in The Android Invasion. It doesn’t, however, explain why the Doctor was on hand to help out in The Seeds of Doom.
Philip Hinchcliffe has gone to great lengths in interviews to explain that he doesn’t dislike UNIT, and would have been happy to keep on using them once a year, but it seems things worked against him. Certainly Nicholas Courtney’s availability became an issue, so in this season twice he’s replaced by a lesser character while the Brigadier is in Geneva. Intentionally or not, this serves to phase UNIT out. In The Android Invasion the only regular UNIT character is Benton, and Harry, and in The Seeds of Doom there’s not a single UNIT character previously known. It’s a shame in some ways. The Brigadier got a lovely final scene in Terror of the Zygons, although they did not know it would be at the time, but poor Benton doesn’t get a goodbye scene at all in The Android Invasion. The last we see him he’s knocked unconscious and replaced by an android duplicate – he could be dead for all we know. Another character who doesn’t get a goodbye scene is Harry – a companion! If he hadn’t been brought back for a needless role in The Android Invasion, then his final scene in Terror of the Zygons would have served as a lovely send-off (alongside the Brigadier). Alas, nobody knew that The Android Invasion would be the last appearance of either Benton or Harry, and both simply never appear again. No goodbye, no fond farewell.
This is the season that people think of when they talk ‘gothic’. With the exception of The Android Invasion (which is a horrible, although fun, throwback to the Pertwee era), every story this season screams gothic horror, and as a result we have five of the strongest stories ever seen in Doctor Who. Very strong scripts, with cracking dialogue, great performances (some of the best guest stars ever!), interesting direction… the list of accolades goes on. Of course, nothing is perfect, and despite being a very interesting idea and a well directed piece, I find Planet of Evil extremely dull to watch. I can’t place my finger on why, but it’s the one story this season that makes me want to sleep while I watch it. Even The Android Invasion is fun to watch, and it’s easily the weakest script Doctor Who has had in years – insane plot holes, motives that make no sense, over-reliance on coincidences, another self-mining of ideas from Terry Nation, and a direction that is competent and safe, and as such it stands out among one of the best directed seasons ever. But for all that it is great fun to watch. Every actor in the show gives it their best, there’s some wonderful location work, but none of this can hide the glaring plot issues. Still, among such greats as Terror of the Zygons, Pyramids of Mars, Brain of Morbius and The Seeds of Doom it was never going to stand out as a great example of Doctor Who. It would have been at home in seasons ten or eleven, but at this point, it just feels like a mis-step and a redundant throwback to an era well and truly over.
Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen continue to shine, going from strength to strength, developing the closest and most enjoyable Doctor/Companion dynamic since the Second Doctor and Jamie, if not the best yet. When, in The Seeds of Doom, the Doctor says ‘this is Sarah Jane Smith. She’s my best friend’, you do not question it. Arguably for the first time ever, the companion really is a friend. Before us are two people who love each other’s company, and have no intention of splitting up. Alas, all good things must end, and soon it will be ‘time’ for the Doctor and Sarah… But not just yet. Three years and they are going strong.
Now, for the first time since beginning this rewatch I honestly can’t pick a favourite. I’ve tried, but I cannot pick between three titles. Every time I try, I think of another reason why each of them are so damn good. So, these are my least favourites…
Planet of Evil
The Android Invasion
The Brain of Morbius
Which leaves these three as equal best:
Edited to add:
The above was posted five years ago, and right now I’m in the midst of another entire rewatch (with an added five years worth of televised Doctor Who, including associated spin-offs produced since 1987 – the first of which is coming up).
My views largely remain the same, although the least favourite stories of the season have switched places. This time around I’m watching the stories episodically, the way they were intended to be watched, in an attempt to view them afresh and, hopefully, to reassess those stories I’ve never really been overkeen on. It has largely worked out well, highlighting the strengths of some stories I’ve always found dull and plodding, while it’s highlighted the weaknesses of stories that feel fun and speedy when watched in one sitting.
This leads me the new line-up, although once again I honestly cannot choose between the winning three. Each has great strengths and very little weaknesses.
So, my 2020 list of season 13 is thus:
The Android Invasion
Planet of Evil
The Brain of Morbius
Terror of the Zygons/Pyramids of Mars/The Seeds of Doom
Some time ago I revised my novel, Seeker, for publication by Candy Jar Books. (It will be released in a new paperback format soon – just working out the details.) And after seeing the way people are struggling with the isolation brought on by the Coronavirus outbreak, I made the decision to release the book digitally in the meantime. And completely free!
So, one chapter at time, I’m giving you all access to the book. For a limited time. It won’t be here forever, but it will be here for a short while. Thus far chapters one to five have been released, and they’re all collected below.
Like really long. Nigh on five years since I posted anything on this blog. A lot has happened since then. Back then it hadn’t even been a year since the Lethbridge-Stewart range was launched – indeed, it had only been just over three months. Wow! And now it’s been over five years. Fives years, twenty-five novels, seven short story collections, four novellas, and a spin-off series for young adults, later. That’s an insane amount of work in five years.
I didn’t write all of it. Indeed, I can count the novels I wrote on one hand. It’d take a couple more hands to add the short stories, and a country of hands if I included the rewritten and brand new scenes I wrote in every single release.
Fact is, I couldn’t do it alone. And that’s my whole point. A point even more important today, in a time when the entire world is threatened by the expansion of the Coronavirus. Things have escalated in an exponential way – people are dying. All over the world, in their thousands. The expected death toll before a vaccine is found is estimated to be in the millions – all over the world. So, don’t fret too much by that estimate. It’s high – shockingly so, but that’s a worldwide estimate.
But, please, continue to be cautious. The government (certainly in the UK) has made it plain as day. DO NOT GO OUT unless absolutely necessary. It’s difficult, especially with the weather turning out as well as it has. We are, generally, social creatures. We’re solar powered! We love to be out in the sun. We love to interact with each other – but right now the risk isn’t worth it. Every time you go out, every time you interact with someone new, you risk either contracting the virus or spreading it. Nobody is 100% safe. Nobody.
We are all in this together. Now more than ever. We can’t survive this without everybody obeying the simple rules put in place.
Possibly the best season of the 1970s, which tells you that I clearly loved season thirteen. It’s the second year of Hinchcliffe/Holmes, no longer in the shadow of the successful team of Letts/Dicks. (With one exception, but that’s Hinchcliffe’s fault for asking Letts to direct and Nation to write a script.) But I digress…READ MORE!
A brand new era begins with the arrival of Tom Baker and it is, in my view, one that out stayed its welcome. Even today, ask almost anybody to describe the Doctor and it’s Tom Baker they describe… despite the popularity and presence of David Tennant and Matt Smith, Tom Baker is still widely regarded as the Doctor. I’m not sure if I’d agree, but I do feel that Baker owned the role for so long that he had something of a schizophrenic time, many eras within his era. For me, the best three years of Doctor Who are those produced by Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes, and they start with season twelve.
Season eleven… Such a breath of fresh air. And just in time, too. It’s the end of an era – an era that had two beginnings, and quickly settled into something very cosy and safe. Yet, back in the early ‘70s, an era that was incredibly popular. Alas, all good things come to an end, and now Jon Pertwee plays his final game… MORE
Which may seem an odd thing to say, as I’m obviously typing this, but honestly, I’m finally at a point in Doctor Who where I am a living person. Only two months old, mind, when episode one of The Three Doctors was transmitted, but alive nonetheless! Woo! So, onto the review… Um. First of all, despite all protestations to the contrary, The Three Doctors is not the tenth anniversary story. For one thing it began transmission just under a year before the tenth anniversary, and season ten itself finished transmitting a good five months before the anniversary. If anything, it’s a celebration of nine years. Sorry, but it is. Who celebrates a birthday eleven months early?
Season nine, it starts of very well. And, for the first time since the Third Doctor appeared, it feels like a follow on from the previous season, instead of another slight reboot. Although this feeling doesn’t last very long… see more
Guys and gals, we need your help! We, at Candy Jar Books, are in the process of putting together a brand new website for Lethbridge-Stewart. One section will be a memorial where fans and professionals can share their memories and pictures of the late, great Nicholas Courtney, the man behind the Brigadier.
If you have a story, or a picture, to share, then please email them to me on firstname.lastname@example.org (subject: Nick Courtney Memories). Look forward to hearing from you. 🙂