The Doctor Who Blogs

What is canon? Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (SPOILERS!)

Is it a book? Is it a play? Is it even canon?

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a new play by the BAFTA winning writer Jack Thorne, with JK Rowling credited as co-writer on the story. The play has been praised as thrilling, ground-breaking and a triumph.

But the script has received mixed reviews from fans.

Can the fans define canon? Or is that privilege restricted to the author? Is it still canon when an author licenses another author to write a story set in their world? Does it make a difference if the original author is overseeing the new story? Is a story only canon when it’s in the original genre – do only Harry Potter novels ‘count’, rather than the play or the films?

This is a discussion blog about the nature of ‘canon’ – and, inevitably, discussion involves SPOILERS. However, if you haven’t read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, feel free to use examples from Doctor Who. This is, after all, a Doctor Who site. 🙂

Fan Film Reviews – The Auton Trilogy

As I have searched out and watched these fan films, one of the things that’s struck me is how well they’ve done Doctor Who’s monsters.

The Cybermen in Phase Four, Deconstruction, the Experiment, Trident, Gene Genius and Flight of the Daleks are used as effectively as the classic series ever managed. Then there’s Fire and Ice and the Holly Terror, which manage to do justice for the Ice Warriors, Downtime, which does a terrific job with the Great Intelligence and the Yeti. The Sontarans come off very well in Shakedown, Mindgame, Mindgame Trilogy and the Churchtown Incident. The Daleks in the Millennium Trap.

Why is that, I wondered? I think that part of it might reflect a level of commitment. You don’t get these things at the corner store. A cyberman or a dalek, an ice warrior or a yeti, they represent a serious and painstaking effort to build a really elaborate prop or costume. It’s not done overnight, it can’t be. It takes time and care.

And I think that there’s a lot more personal investment in the series and its lore.  It’s not a question of just dragging out whatever is available or marketing.  If you’re doing a Fan Film and sticking the Ice Warriors in it…. You really really want ice warriors.

Typically, these things are done on a shoestring, so if you’re going to the effort of doing something like that, that’s a huge commitment. You’re inclined to think about it, to work hard at it, and to take it seriously.

Which brings us to Autons, who are a surprisingly popular fan film monster. There’s there’s ‘Plastic Treachery’, there’s Westlake Film’s ‘Auton Diaries’, Planet Productions ‘Unit-Revival’ of course,   there’s a little Cameo in Chris Hoyle’s  Masterplan, and of course, there’s the BBV’s ‘Auton Trilogy’

The Autons are a surprisingly popular monster. They showed up twice in the seventies, leading off Jon Pertwee’s first two seasons – Spearhead From Space and Terror of the Autons.  They almost came back with Colin Baker for ‘Yellow Fever and How to Cure It’, and of course, they were the lead Monster for Rose.

So what is it about the Autons that works? I think it’s because they live in uncanny valley. Humans tend to see human faces everywhere, in smiley faces buttons, on mars, cartoon animals, you name it. But robotocists when they were trying to make robots with human faces discovered something…. People were creeped out. The robot faces were too close to human, but not close enough. The effect was called ‘uncanny valley’ that place between the completely human, and the vaguely human but comfortably nonhuman.

There is something genuinely creepy and off putting about Autons blandly handsome, immobile, blank features. There’s an indifference to them. You see an Auton coming at you, and you know that it could walk on by, or simply feed you into a woodchipper, and do either with complete indifference.

Is a blank mask really scary? Sure. Look at the mask that Michael Myers from the Halloween series uses, it has that same effect, bland, blank, dangerous indifference. To a lesser degree, there’s also Jason Voorhees iconic hockey mask, and all the rest of the slashers with their bags over their faces. No dripping fangs, no snarls, no furrowed muzzles, wild eyes or shaggy brows. Just…. bland indifference. No expression. Simply relentless steady malignance. Come to think of it, the Cybermen share that bland, expressionless quality.

There’s also an engaging simplicity to the Autons. Black suit, blank mask, and there you go. By comparison, just about any other alien – Cybermen, Sontarans, that’s just a costumers nightmare. But Autons can be chugged out in a flash. Never underestimate simplicity. The easier it is on the Actors and Costumers, the better its chances of being effective. Crazily elaborate and complicated costumes tend not to hold up to scrutiny and often are difficult to move in, and therefore difficult to shoot.

For whatever reason, they’ve ended up a surprisingly popular Doctor Who monster.  You’d almost think that if they’d have showed up in the 60’s, when the producers were desperate to find the ‘Next Daleks’ they might have been pushed much harder.

 

Auton 1, or perhaps just ‘Auton’ –  I’m skeptical that a trilogy was the hard plan, is actually quite watchable. It’s a limited production, a handful of speaking parts, what looks like a single or limited set of locations.

Apparently, what UNIT has been doing, is that following all those Alien Invasions, Subterranean Eruptions, Dimensional Hijinks and Mad Scientists, once the smoke clears, they gather up all the leftovers, stick it in crates and then send it off to some top secret warehouse…. Where they promptly forget about it.

That actually makes sense. Not the forgetting about it part, that’s daft. But the notion that someone’s got to take care of all those leftovers and put them somewhere. Anyway, in this case, it appears that UNIT has some low level research division puttering around the thingy’s, and one of the scientists, played by Bryonie Pritchard, triggers one of the things that should have been left alone, loosing the Autons once again.

At this point, Lockwood, played by Michael Wade,  and his clean up crew are summoned in, and the game begins, as they try to figure out what got out, and how to catch it and kill it before it escapes the building. It turns into a classic bug hunt, as soldiers and protagonists play cat and mouse with the monster, handicapped by not knowing what the monster is, or who exactly is the cat and who is the mouse.

Now, we have to swallow the idea that UNIT is so badly managed and its bureaucracy is so incompetent that they can’t properly keep track of or even maintain proper documentation of their alien remains. Ideally, all Lockwood should have had to do was look up a couple of serial numbers, and he’d know what got out. Hell, if the lab rats had been able to look up serial numbers, they’d have known what they were messing with. That’s a pretty big pill.

But if you can swallow it, what’s left is quite an effective little thriller. The direction is tight, the performances are competent. It’s a bug hunt, as I’ve said, but it makes maximum use of its assets – claustrophobic settings, the characters uncertainty as to what they’re dealing with, and the nature of that adversary when it acts, the whole ‘enemy within’ vibe. It’s modest but entirely competent and well done.

It’s all taking place inside a UNIT Warehouse/Research Lab. Everything is indoors. There’s no external shots, no wide angle stuff, no ‘vistas’ or glorious scenes. Instead, it looks like a warehouse, the walls are gray, everything is functional and utilitarian, the living quarters and research lab are drab. There’s a consistency to the look and feel which helps to sell the production.

The standout, however, is the character of Michael Wade’s  Lockwood. He’s everyone’s scary old schoolmaster, the voice of sarcastic authority, merciless, pitiless, judging. Everyone’s run across someone like that. The teacher, the supervisor, the investigator who coldly asks uncomfortable questions and has a sarcastic remark at your answer. …. Plays that part to perfection, probing, dissecting, questing.

But Lockwood is imbued with just enough humanity to make him compelling. He shows enough kindness, enough appreciation and humility, that we like him under his frosty exterior, and he exhibits enough vulnerability that we can sympathize with him. He is an appealing creation, and he steals the show.

Bottom line? Auton is a modest but genuine pleasure. It’s nowhere near the budget or the ambition of Downtime or Shakedown, but it knows its limits and it works effectively within them.

 

Auton 2: Sentinal, is the sequel to Auton. …..

Evolving Cybermen

This is a bit of an experiment.   As you know, I like to play around with the more obscure corners of Who-land.   I thought it might be fun to explore the cybermen.

Unlike the Daleks, who have changed very little since their first appearance, the Cybermen have morphed quite a bit over the years.   Broadly speaking, between the old and the new series, there have been four principle varieties of cybermen:

Tenth Planet Cybermen – the originals.  Cloth faces, sing song voices, and death rays mounted on their crotches.   No, that’s not suggestive at all, why do you ask.   The Tenth Planet Cybermen appeared only once, in the serial of the same name, on television.

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/tenth_cyber_3548.jpg

However, they appeared more regularly in the comics – largely because the comic artists seldom watched the show, and the publicity stills they used for cybermen reference were all tenth planet stuff.

Tomb Cybermen – seen in the Patrick Troughton serials ‘The Moonbase’,  ‘Tomb of the Cybermen’ and ‘Wheel in Space.’  These are leaner than the other varieties, their helmets are narrower, typically, they have lobster hands, with a thumb and grasping pad, their chest units tend to hang freely.  Their suits are somewhat form fitting, with lots of external piping.   There are two varieties of Tomb Cybermen –  the originals from Moonbase and Tomb are identical, and basically the same costumes.  Which is odd, since they were from two different seasons, 67 and 68.  Of course, Tomb was the first story of 68, so they likely just recycled the costumes.

The Wheel in Space variety are slightly different, notably, their eyes have those teardrop slots which were very distinctive, and show up in the modern era cybermen.   Also, you’ll note that they wear the chest unit upside down.

Invasion Cybermen – Appearing in Patrick Troughton’s ‘The Invasion’, close to the end of his tenure.  They bedevilled Tom Baker in Revenge of the Cybermen, harassed Davison in Earthshock, Colin Baker in Attack of the Cybermen, Sylvester McCoy in Silver Nemesis, showed up in the Five Doctors, and had cameo appearances in Carnival of Monsters and Dimensions in Time.   The Invasion Cybermen are slightly different in almost every incarnation – sometimes their head fires a gun, sometimes they have more tubes, sometimes their head-handles are different.   What they all have in common is they’ve got waffle-heads.  Their helmets look like they have waffle irons bolted on each side.  They’re also physically bulky and imposing, their chest-pieces extend over their shoulders, they look solid and dangerous.

 

The design was pretty standardized by then.  Note the waffle heads, teardrop eyes.  The chest plates were still old style.  That was upgraded.  Cybermen were absent from the Pertwee era, except for a quick cameo (blink and you miss it) in Carnival of Monsters.

The Cybermen that confront Tom Baker in Revenge of the Cybermen aren’t too different, they’ve got  the waffle heads and teardrop eyes notably.   They still have external tubes and basically old style chest plates.  That will change…

This is Earthshock’s Cybermen.  Note that they dropped the ‘teardrop eyes’.  The Waffle Head look is still going strong.  But the handlebars are different, they started to play with that.  And the biggest difference:  The chest-plate is redesigned, and goes up and around the shoulders and neck.  That will become the standard chest plate.   This becomes the standard look through the Five Doctors, Attack of the Cybermen and Silver Nemesis, although there are considerable variations – notably in the handlebars, the underlying overalls,  and somewhat in the configuration of the chest units in some.

New Series Cybermen – Beginning with the Rise of Cybermen-Age of Steel, continuing through Army of Ghosts-Doomsday, this established the fully armoured variety.  The bunch in the first four appearances were alternate world cybermen.  But it turns out the Doctor’s main reality had Cybermen that looked almost identical, although their abilities and appearances differed slightly – Nightmare in Silver, and many more appearances.  There’s even been a Cyber-Woman (hot),  a Cyber-King (kaiju!), and Cyber-beasties.  But those will be pictures for another time.

*************

Now here’s the peculiar thing.   There’s no explanation whatsoever for all the different Cybermen.

In fact, Doctor Who is pretty damned aggressive about not explaining why the Cybermen are different.

For instance, in Revenge of the Cybermen, upon encountering Tom Baker’s Doctor, the Cybermen have a discussion, where they recap their encounters with the previous Doctors – which means their history incorporates all three versions.  They do the same thing in Earthshock.  And we get the same thing in the new series in the Two Doctors.

So…  it’s all the same cybermen….  I guess?

Technically, in Doctor Who-Earth time, the first appearance of the Cybermen is on Earth, Circa 1969-1970 in the Invasion.

The shittiest, most primitive original superman attack Earth in 1986.

But this is also the Time Frame that the WaffleHeads show up in Attack of the Cybermen and Silver Nemesis.

But then we go to the ‘Tomb’ style Cybermen in the near future of Earth in ‘The Wheel in Space and Moonbase.’

Then in Revenge of the Cybermen, its the far future, the Cybermen are on their last legs and they’re waffle heads.

Then even further in the future, we go back to the Tomb style Cybermen, in the Tombs of Telos.

But oddly, in Attack of the Cybermen, its the waffle heads in the Tombs.

Except for Attack of the Cybermen, they don’t get their hands on Time Travel, so that’s not an explanation.  Except in Attack of the Cybermen, where the Waffle Heads seem to be using it to go back to Earth to help out the Mondas Cybermen, while messing about on Telos.

But despite two different brands of Cybermen tombed on Telos…  they never meet.

So what’s the deal, do we have Cyber-Segregation?  Do the Waffle Heads and the  Narrow Heads have some weird Separate But Equal deal going on?

Fan Film Reviews: Resurrection of Evil

To start with, we have the the Doctor himself, played by Mark Bennett. Okay, he looks a little bit like a very young Rowan Atkinson in a powder blue leisure suit. I really wasn’t sure about him at first, he seemed like he was trying to hard. But then, oddly enough, he puts on a hat, and suddenly, he sells it. He’s gets this retro 60’s vibe, like you could spot him walking along in the background of a James Bond or Carry On movie. Suddenly, he’s confident, jaunty, brilliant and charming, with just a faint echo of the poise of a Tom Baker, or a more extroverted Davison, or a laid back Pertwee. Whatever the Doctor has going on, this guy has captured it, and having captured it, it helps to carry him across a lot of territory. This Doctor has a lot to do, even in terms of simple exposition, and at different points, particularly towards the end, he has to show different sides of his character.

 

 

Fan Film Reviews: Planet Video and the Spectre from the Past…

Planet Film Productions was a late 80’s, early 90’s, group of fan film makers. The core seems to have been Kevin Taylor, Nigel Peever and Nigel Windsor. Peever was an actor, Windsor had trained as a cameraman, Taylor was a writer, and at the time, they were basically all young men.

Their first production was ‘The Experiment.’ It was essentially a remake of the Sontaran Experiment, beat for beat, shot for shot, with new actors and swapping out a couple of Cybermen for the Sontaran, and appropriate adjustments in the dialogue. Which goes a way towards explaining the atypical behaviours of the Cybermen.

Having mastered ‘The Experiment’, they Planet Video team decided to proceed with a much more ambitious project, Spectre From The Past, released in 1989.

The story features two Doctors, the second and the fifth, who show up in the same location, separated by a half century or more, but are linked together. In the earlier era, a Victorian scientist is working on crude time travel apparatus, which allows him to travel temporarily and insubstantially to the future, where he’s seen as a ghost. Unfortunately, his experiment is tearing apart the fabric of time, letting … things in. The second Doctor struggles to stop the experiments, even as the fifth Doctor has to wrestle with the increasingly dangerous products of those experiments.

As to the review: Wow!

 

Robots of Death Prequel (8 minutes) (?)

Earthpark/Last Days of Rassilon (22 minutes) (?)

The Trial of Davros – Inserts (13 minutes) (2004)

 

 

Fan Film Reviews: Doctor Hoo

This modest little three and a half minute animated short may have the distinction of being the first Doctor Who Fan Film ever.

What have we got?   An extremely stylized and short Tom Baker Doctor, accidentally pokes a hole in the Tardis, sending it flinging out of control.   He and Leela end up in Egypt, where they go to a Dalek Disco and encounter the Bay City Daleks, Davros, Robot, Quark, a Sea Devil, and of course Sutekh, who it turns out was sitting on a flush toilet all around.  There’s no live sound, so it’s accompanied by the song “Doctor Who” by a group called ‘Mankind.”  It’s a simple little thing, juvenile but charming in its brevity.  There’s not a lot to say about it, just watch it.

This little gem  was shot on Super 8,  with a budget of 5 pounds (film processing) by Kevin Jon Davies at the age of sixteen, together with his friends, Andrew Harlow, Steven Harlow, David Beasely, Mark Fuller, Ning Lee and Gary Saunders, at Tottenham School, London, and was premiered at the World’s First Doctor Who Convention, at Battersea London, August 1977.

Kevin Jon Davies went on to grow up and direct ‘Thirty Years in the Tardis’   ‘Dalekmania’ and ‘Shakedown’ as well as having a pretty diverse career in the industry.  Here’s to you, Kevin Jon.

 

Watch it here (3 minute version)

Or here (four minute version)

 

 

Fan Film Reviews: Ian Levine’s Exquisite Corpse, Part One

I suppose if I’m going to review fan films, there’s no way to really cover the ground without acknowledging Ian Levine’s bizarre hidden mountain of work.

Now many of you might be familiar with Ian Levine. For those who aren’t, I’m probably doing you no favour by talking about him.

Ian Levine is one of these people who are best appreciated from a great distance – temporal, social, physical. Sadly, all too often, getting up close can be a profoundly unpleasant experience. Levine was possessed of a tempestuous personality which on occasion tended to run away with him and lead to him saying or doing unpleasant and possibly unforgiveable things. People are inclined to violently dislike him, and I gather they might have a point.

But like it or not, he’s an essential  part of Who history.  In 1978 he was instrumental in salvaging or helping to salvage as many as 79 of the Hartnell and Troughton serials at a critical point, and saving them from destruction, and for years lead searches or helped negotiate the recovery of as many as 19 more lost episodes. He was an unofficial continuity advisor for the series in the early 80’s, though he went on to have a major falling out with John Nathan-Turner. He’s unofficially credited with the story/plot for the Colin Baker serial Attack of the Cybermen. He did the music for the K9 and Company pilot, and he helped to produce and did the sound mix for Downtime. As late as 2013 he informally competed with Philip Morris in a search for lost episodes – Morris struck gold in Africa, Levine actually discovered as many as ten episodes in Taiwan, but they were already existing.

He suffered a stroke in 2014, at the age of 61, which has left him with paralysed on his left side, with limited ability to speak or write. I think for that alone, whatever his sins and outrages, he’s deserving a certain amount of compassion.

So what are we talking about here? Well, somewhere along the line, probably after 1989, Levine got the bug to do his own Doctor Who. The results were twelve fan films, and what fan films they were – new editions of Shada and Downtime, lost episodes like Mission to the Unknown recreated, productions of unmade serials like Gallifrey or Yellow Fever and How to Cure It or the fabled Dark Dimension. And what casts – Sylvester McCoy appeared a couple of times, Lalla Ward, Carole Ann Ford, Frazier Hines, William Russel have all shown up in person or on voice.

Even if it was all complete tosh, it would be an amazing body of work – several hours worth of material across twelve productions, with some very impressive creative talent It speaks, I think, to Levine’s deep pockets that he was able to do it, able to hire or recruit the cast members that he did, hire the animation, do the production. Maybe he got other people to volunteer money, maybe he did it all himself.

Regardless, it’s a remarkable and incredibly expensive collection. Even if Levine is rich, well, a professional television season is millions of dollars. I don’t think Levine had or put in close to that, so shouldn’t expect to get professional quality. If you’re lucky, you might get some interesting stuff – the possibility of precocious or even brilliant amateur work.

Now, the thing is, it’s not released. It’s hidden away. Levine did all this stuff for his own and perhaps for his friends enjoyment. Perhaps for the fun of doing it.

There’s talk that he’s offered some of this to the BBC. That seems to be the recurring word, particularly with his version of Shada. But if he has, that speaks to a profound and abyssal ignorance of how the video and television business works. It just doesn’t work that way. The BBC doesn’t accept unsolicited fan videos, particularly of products that it owns the copyrights to anyway.

Hell, if it did, I’d be waiting in line for the Rupert Booth and Barbara Benedetti DVD releases with high end post-production clean up and all the wonderful extras.

So there’s this huge body of work, and it’s inaccessible. Or mostly inaccessible. Why bother talking about it?

Well, a few bits of peaked out. Apparently, Levine’s reconstruction of Shada can be found online, or it used to be found online, for those who looked hard enough. And then there’s Mission to the Unknown, which was also released or temporarily available.

Then there’s a fifty minute compilation that Levine himself released to Youtube, containing excerpts, mostly three or four minutes apiece, of his various projects.

Who knows, maybe eventually, it’ll all show up on the net, after all, everything else is.

So what can we say about it? Generally, looking over the body of work from what we know of it, it’s all over the map.

On the whole, my feeling is that Levine is not a Director. When it’s live action stuff, the staging and shots are stiff and awkward, the performances seem talky and rather sterile. Too much of it seems to be people standing around stiffly, exchanging expositional dialogue, and that’s pretty tough going.

There’s several different styles and approaches to animation, there’s live action stuff with greenscreen, there’s things that look like telesnap reconstructions. The sheer diversity of visual styles and approaches makes it hard to assess.

Worse, because they’re all compiled together, they tend to run into each other, making a whole much less than the individual parts. Indeed, after sitting through fifty minutes, the dominant impression is exhaustion. I think he’d have done better to release them as a series of trailers, so they could each be appreciated on their own, without the accumulating fatigue factor.

 

Shada

Shada, of course, is the infamous ‘lost’ Tom Baker serial. It was partially filmed, but interrupted by labour action. The season ended, the actors went their separate ways, it was never completed. From there, it passed into legend.

For a lost serial, it sure got found a lot.

In the 1980’s, BBC Enterprises released a VHS edition of Shada, consisting of the existing footage, with linking narration from Tom Baker.

Then somewhere along the lines, Big Finish working with BBCi released a semi-animated version of Shada, with Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor, returning to Gallifrey to pick up Ramona, played by Lalla Ward, to go back and work out some unfinished business. Both versions can be found on the DVD release of Shada.

Then of course, there was Douglas Adams, who cannibalized chunks of Shada for his Dirk Gently novels, before passing away, allowing his estate to recently turn a buck by having his script for Shada turned into a novel by Gareth Roberts.

After all that, Ian Levine’s commissioned his own version of Shada. This Shada consists of the live action scenes and footage, as per the VHS and DVD release. But here, instead of Tom Baker standing around in a museum and filling in the blank spots, we have the missing segments animated.

Visually, the animated segments aren’t bad. They’re full colour, full dimensions, slightly stiff, but the characters look like their live action counterparts, the mouth movements match up to the dialogue. It’s not at all bad. It even improves on some things – the villain, Skagra’s costume looks a lot better as a drawing than on a real person, and the monsters probably work better as animated slabs than they ever would have in live action.

If I have a criticism, it’s that the pacing of the animated sections needs to be faster. Stiff limited animation is nothing new. Hell, it was Hanna Barbera’s stock in trade. But they also worked hard to hide the limitations of their animation with cuts, close ups, and a rapid back and forth of dialogue. Japanese Anime often works hard to sneak you past the fact that a lot of times, their animation characters aren’t actually animated – just staring off soulfully or something. Here there are long shots when there need to be close ups, lingering shots when they need to cut quick, and there are subliminally painful pauses between lines of dialogue.

Basically, the animation is fine, even impressive. I’ve seen television productions that are worse. They are just not cheating the way that they need to, and the way that animators typically cheat. I think perhaps there’s a little too much fidelity to the original shooting script which was for live action. Part of it might be that the voice actors recorded their dialogue separately and been edited together.

What’s really remarkable is that Levine’s managed to reunite almost the entire cast, including Lalla Ward, except for Tom Baker, to reprise their roles. Baker’s voice is done by Paul Jones, who does a credible impersonation. That in itself is impressive.

I believe that Levine’s Shada is or was available via torrent on Pirate Bay. It’s possible that one might find it online if one hunted hard enough. If not, there’s the snippet on Levine’s compilation, running from 1:27 to 5:24.

Is it any good or not? Hard question, some people love it, some hate it. I think that perhaps for Ian Levine, it might be his personal masterpiece, the thing he’s most proud of. He actually offered it free to the BBC. It’s gotten some media attention, you can find articles and reviews on it, it’s quite well known. But then again, Levine is hated in some circles and it can be hard to separate out a loathing for the man, from the merits of his work. Then there are the purists who can turn their nose up at the classic star wars because you can spot the matte lines – those people are hard to satisfy. I don’t have a dog in the fight. So I’d like to say it’s worthwhile.

 

Evil of the Daleks

Starts at 5:25 to 8:15 An animated recreation of the Patrick Troughton serial. Black and White. This resembles those animated ‘fill ins’ for missing episodes you see on some of the Troughton and Hartnell DVD releases.

The original Evil of the Daleks was a seven episode serial, that aired from May 20 to July 1, 1967, the ninth and final story of the Fourth Season. Today, only episode two survives, the remaining six episodes are lost, possibly forever.

The story is notable for introducing the companion, Victoria Waterfield. It was originally intended to be the big send off for the Daleks, Terry Nation had hopes of selling them in the U.S., so they were thought to be about to move on to bigger and better things. So the story involved a sort of steampunk Time travel, shenanigans with antiques, and the Daleks trying to improve themselves with a lost ‘human factor’ that ultimately leads to their destruction. Back in 1993 it was voted as the best Doctor Who story ever by fans. It is probably the foremost lost Troughton story, the one everyone wishes most to find, and perhaps one of the best Troughton stories, period.

So what Levine seems to have done is taken the sound track, and the collection of still photos as a reference guide, and tried to animate at least six, maybe the entire seven. Again, I have the feeling that it suffers from being a two faithful adaptation of the live action stuff. With Shada, you have the sense that the directors notes and storyboard confined the adaptation, forcing them into making choices that weren’t necessarily the best options for limited animation. Here it may be even worse, because they may be referencing off of a series of actual photographs.

Look, I’ll say it again: Animation is hard. Animation is difficult and time consuming. It’s expensive. It’s thousands and thousands of drawings. So often what we get is limited animation. There’s nothing wrong with limited animation – we all grew up with it, from Fred Flintstone to Captain Harlock.

But here’s the thing with limited animation. To make it work, you have to learn to cheat your shots. You pan and scan, close ups, freeze frames, you do a bunch of things to distract from the fact that your characters don’t move much and move in limited ways.

Evil of the Daleks features limited animation, married to the original actor’s voices. That’s terrific. On the other hand, they don’t cheat at all, and that’s deathly. Instead, the images are framed the way the live action is shot, and that really draws attention to the limits of the animation. No way of getting around it. I understand why Levine did it this way, I can even respect that choice and get past it. For a layperson, might be harder.

 

 

Mission to the Unknown

8:18 to 9:50. This was the only single episode story in Classic Who history (apart from Feast of Steven – if that counts),  from October 9, 1965, in the third season, which served as a kind of backdoor pilot for Terry Nation’s proposed Dalek series, and an introduction for the Dalek Masterplan. It didn’t feature Hartnell or any of the regular cast. Instead, we meet two Earth space agents on some lost world dealing with Dalek machinations. Like large parts of the Hartnell and Troughton era’s, it is lost forever.

This one we actually have a bit of provenance for, courtesy of Starburst magazine. It begins with David Busch, who had been a production manager for Adult Swim’s Metalocalpse and a producer and voice artist on Marvel’s Black Panther cartoon series. Back in 2008, he was working in L.A. for an animation company called Titmouse and decided to take advantage of exchange rates between the UK and US to make a pitch for animating some of Doctor Who’s missing episodes. He created a ‘trailer’ and made a pitch, but nothing came of it. So he posted the trailer to Youtube and moved on.

In 2010, Ian Levine came across the trailer and rang him up. By this time, Busch was free lance, and since Levine was offering to fund the production, they struck a deal. Busch brought in Melissa Levengood to design the characters, Pam Friend for the backgrounds and Derek Handley provided photographic reference. They did a 90 second demo, Ian secured investors, and then they went with the project. By all accounts, this seems to have been an actual commercial demo – a half hour, self contained, proof of concept that was intended to pave the way to bigger and more ambitious things. It didn’t turn out that way.

This is one of the shortest fragments on Levine’s compilation. It’s not bad. The animation quality seems to be at the level of adult swim, there’s more motion, and more fluid motion, and even within the limitation of animation, the cheating is more effective.

Along with Shada, this seems to be the other piece or project of Levine’s that was released to the internet in its entirety. You can find it on Youtube.

 

The Dalek’s Master Plan

9:54 to 10:45. For a serial that ran twelve episodes, Levine’s put up a comparatively tiny clip. I’m not sure that this is a finished work. Levine seems to have commissioned it, or started in on it, within the last few years. I suspect that what has been animated is not the whole 10 episodes, but simply the missing ones.

So what have we got? Black and white, as per the original. He seems to use photographs or telesnaps for some of the backgrounds, and uses the original dialogue and sound track. The animation is much more fluid and the ‘camera’ more lively than Evil of the Daleks.

Honest to god, I could get used to this. The learning curve is there, Levine, or whoever he’s got working for him or with him, have mastered a lot of the art of cheating within the limitations of animation. It’s helped by the fact that Levine’s snippet contains a piece of lively dialogue by Hartnell, and the animator’s managed to capture Hartnell’s mischievousness. So there’s actually a bit of soul on display. That’s tricky – it shouldn’t matter, but you can spot the difference between an animation with a bit of soul and one without.

The Dalek’s Master Plan needs no introduction, but for the record… The original live action serial was one of the longest in Doctor Who’s history, running between November 13, 1965, to January 29, 1966. It featured the Doctor and his new companions battling the Dalek’s across time, from ancient Egypt all the way to the Interstellar Empire of Mavic Chen. Along the way, the Meddling Monk returned, looking for payback from his last run in with the Doctor, and the death of the Doctor’s companions, Katarina of Troy and Sarah Kingdom. It’s epic.

Most of it is now lost. Only three of the twelve episodes – numbers two, five and ten remain. The remaining nine are lost. As far as Doctor Who lost serials go, this one really is the holy grail.

That said, there are at least two other fan versions of the Dalek’s Master Plan extant out there. One is a telesnaps/audio reconstruction by Loose Cannon, a fan group that seems to be the leading light of the telesnap reconstruction genre. The other is a photo-animation by Josh Snares, a hardcore fan, who uses photo collages to move and pan and scan images.

This is a recurring theme – there are at least two other versions of Shada, another version of Dark Dimensions, two versions of Master Plan, another Loose Cannon reconstruction of Evil of the Daleks. Do the presence or existence of these other versions undermine Levine’s. I don’t know. I’d prefer to think of it as evidence that there’s something compelling about these works that draws people.

I have the impression that this is one of Levine’s final works, it seems to date from around 2012/2013. It definitely follows after Mission to the Unknown. It’s not clear though, whether David Busch was involved this time or whether his relationship with Levine continued.   Levine’s apparently arranged his videos by subject matter, not chronological order, so it’s difficult to assess artistic or technical progression, or gauge who else was involved.

Still, given the significance of Master Plan in Doctor Who’s classic history, this seems a worthy effort.

 

Fan Film Reviews: Ian Levine’s Exquisite Corpse, Part Two

Gallifrey

This is found at 10:48 to 16:05 on Levine’s compilation. This one is entirely original. Up to now, on Levine’s compilation, we’ve only seen his efforts to recreate lost serials, or at least fill in the gaps of lost serials – of shows that were actually produced and aired (except for Shada) but are now vanished. Here, he’s moved on to something completely original and unique.

According to Ian Levine, Gallifrey was the final serial of the aborted version of season 23. The season that got cancelled, then uncancelled, then put on hiatus and cut back and shortened and morphed eventually into the Trial of a Time Lord.

But before Trial of a Time Lord took shape, the original season 23 was supposed to be 13 one hour episodes, divided up into six or seven two or three part serials, starting with the Nightmare Fair, running through Mission to Magnus, the Hollows of Time and eventually concluding with Gallfrey. Most sources seem to have the final episode as Children of January, but Levine disagrees:

“The Children Of January was a spare script and would only ever have made it to season 24, if ever used at all. Eric hated it.”

“Eric was writing Gallifrey. After the cancellation, JNT and Eric had a furious row because John wanted to carry on with the same scripts. Eric said that it needed a new fresh approach so he refused to complete Gallifrey. In a classic fit of pique, John commissioned Pip and Jane Baker to write it to Eric’s storyline. After one week, Eric made such an almighty stink that the commission was withdrawn,”

According to Levine, the story was about “con men, deposed Presidents, and sleeper agents with a hint of The Manchurian Candidate thrown in. Eric discussed the entire plot with me prior to the cancellation, but it never made it past the original story ideas as it would have been the last of the six stories to go into production, but Julian Glover was considered as the machiavellian arch villain President.”

That’s Levine’s take, so far as I can tell. Now, the problem seems to be that Story Editors were generally not supposed to be writing serials, that was sort of a conflict of interest. But there were occasions where that was bent. So…. maybe.

Other sources confuse the issue slightly. Shannon Sullivan’s incredibly well researched Doctor Who site had this to say:

“This was the first story to go into development after the yearlong postponement of production on Doctor Who’s twenty-third season. The Bakers — who had recently completed The Mark Of The Rani — were commissioned to write the scripts on March 11th, 1985 (under the misspelt title “Gallifray”). However, no work appears to have ever been performed on the project, and it was soon supplanted by The Trial Of A Time Lord. Doctor Who: Magazine Special Edition #3, Doctor Who: The Eighties.”

Then there’s Wikipedia:

Gallifrey was a Pip & Jane Baker script for four 25-minute episodes that was commissioned on 11 March 1985 in the wake of the hiatus announcement, that reportedly would have dealt with the destruction of the Doctor’s aforementioned home planet.”

The stuff about four 25 minute episodes doesn’t make sense. Doctor Who had switched to a new format of 45 minute episodes, with serials typically lasting two episodes. It wouldn’t be switched back to 25 minute episodes until May, 1985, as part of the BBC’s ongoing ‘screw you’ to the show.

My own view is that the end of the season probably hadn’t fully been nailed down.  Some episodes had been commissioned and had reached script state, like the Nightmare Fair.  Some like Yellow Fever were pretty much locked in.  But the back end was probably pretty vague.

Now here’s the thing. Where’d this script, the one that Levine produced, come from? According to Shannon Sullivan, Gallifrey didn’t get past a story outline. Best evidence is that the Baker’s were commissioned late, literally commissioned one month, abandoned the next. I don’t think that’s enough time, realistically to put in a full script – although the Baker’s were legendary for being fast. Levine indicates that Saward was writing it beforehand, but also definite that Saward abandoned it.

But obviously Levine’s made his animation, there had to have been a script, so who wrote it? Saward? The Bakers? Did Levine excavate abandoned drafts? Did he write something himself based on original materials, the way August Derleth was prone to ‘finishing’ Lovecraft’s stories? Or did he commission someone? Bit of a mystery there.

Again, from what I can dig up.  It looks like Levine wrote it himself, based on either written materials or his memories from either or both Saward and Pip and Jane Baker.  Levine’s an inveterate collector, so he may well have obtained and kept stuff from there – proposals, outlines, pieces of script.  Or he may just be going on his memory.  In terms of the provenance, while we can’t verify his recollection, the fragment we see does contain a pair of ‘Sawardesque’ characters – a colourful, amoral duo who seem to shove the Doctor into the background.  That seems to support Levine’s history, as I don’t recall the Baker’s treating the Doctor like that, but it’s very much Saward.

Okay, so that’s the background, what we have of it. What’s it like?

Well, let me start off with “Holy Cow Batman!?!” This is visually really strange.

What it consists of appear to be still photos of people talking to each other. It looks like computer animation is used to make mouths move to the dialogue, eyebrows lift occasionally and figures tilt or nod. But backgrounds, including people in backgrounds are absolutely immobile. It’s very very peculiar looking. On the one hand, you’ve got that photo image quality that you associate with live action, and just a hint of movement, which oddly draws attention to the utter stillness of the scenes. Mostly the ‘camera’ frame doesn’t move that much, so it reinforces the odd still quality.

There’s a certain visual richness. You have people standing around in Gallfreyan Time Lord cowls and capes plotting away. It looks like the faces may have been repasted. After the Gallifreyan conspirators piss and moan for a bit, the scene changes to some gala somewhere, and a couple of con artists in 18th century French wardrobe attempting to bilk what seems to be an Arab sheik. All around are Silurians, Harem Girls and Argolians, all still as statues, to add colour.

I’m really not sure what to think of it. Five minutes is pretty jarring. If I were to watch an hour and a half, would I get used to it and just get into the story? Or would it stay jarring all the way? I’d hope for the former. But I’m not sure at all.

A weakness here is the voice cast. Everyone talks the same way, with these looping drawls, that are barely one step up from a monotone. On the other hand, the voice work is quick, no awkward pauses between lines of dialogue. There’s the sense that the voice actors may actually have been in the same room playing off each other. On the down side, whatever his connections, Ian didn’t get Colin Baker in for this one, and the voice actor who plays the 6th Doctor puts none of the Doctor’s clipped operatic style into it, so that hurts.

Bottom line? Hard to say. It’s peculiar looking, I’ll give it that, and visually arresting. But I have the feeling that this one will stand or fall on the voice performances, and I’m just not sure about that.

 

Yellow Fever

Another original production, this one with a firmer position in Doctor Who lore, appearing at 16:04 to 22:50 of Levine’s compilation.

Yellow Fever and How to Cure It is another of the lost season 23 serials. This one has the distinction of being written by Robert Holmes, and was intended to feature the return of the Autons, along with the Master and the Rani. It was going to be the centerpiece of the season, with three 45 minute episodes.

According to Shannon Sullivan’s web site:

The Master and the Rani are in Singapore, disguised as street performers, and working with the Autons. John Nathan-Turner hoped to take Doctor Who on a location shoot to Singapore, where two episodes of the BBC drama Tenko had been filmed. He and production manager Gary Downie travelled there on October 19th, 1984. After viewing their footage, Robert Holmes was commissioned to write the first episode of “Yellow Fever And How To Cure It” on October 26th. Shortly thereafter, Nathan-Turner asked Holmes to add the newly-introduced Rani to his storyline, alongside the Autons and the Master. All three episodes were commissioned together on February 6th, 1985. On February 27th, 1985, production of Doctor Who suspended until Spring 1986, with the programme then returning for a season of twenty-five-minute episodes. Holmes was asked to rework his storyline for this format, with the Master no longer appearing, but the programme’s reduced budget precluded location filming in Singapore. Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition #3, Doctor Who: The Trial Of A Time Lord DVD Production Subtitles.” (Abridged quotes)

Ian Levine has a very different take on it:

“As for Yellow Fever, I had a photocopy of the original scene breakdown of all three episodes, given to me by Eric. Indeed at one point Eric was hired to write it for the Doctor WHO book range, and got paid an advance, which he later returned.

The Rani was never to be in this story. Kate O’Mara was still doing Dynasty, and there was no mention of her in the story breakdown. This was a story about The Master, The Brigadier, UNIT, and Benton. The first half was set in London, with an Auton Prime Minister, the second half in Singapore. It would have been wonderful, especially with Graeme Harper directing.

I reconstructed three of the missing stories myself on audio, and did detailed visual recons on DVD of all six stories, with Nicola Bryant, Julian Glover, Milton Johns, Jon Levene, Waris Hussein, John Leeson, Nigel Plaskitt, Ian Fairbairn, and many many more. I am incredibly proud of them. Both Yellow Fever and Gallifrey were totally faithful to the original storylines.

I can 100% assure you all, no matter what anyone says to the contrary, that Gallifrey WAS to be the sixth story of that aborted season. And Yellow Fever’s tag “And How To Cure It”, was a Bob Holmes joke and never seriously intended to be a part of the title. That imagined cover featuring The Rani is just plain WRONG on so so many levels.”

I think he might be correct on the Rani. Certainly Holmes was concerned over Kate O’Mara’s availability, according to Shannon Sullivan, and the best information I have suggests that O’Mara was actively involved with Dynasty during the periods that they would have been looking at production. I don’t see how she could be available.

According to fan, Richard Bignell, however, Levine is wrong on both counts. The title “Yellow Fever and How to Cure It” actually does appear on BBC production documents, at least for a period of time. And as for Kate O’Mara “In the autumn of 1984 she was appearing in ‘An Evening with the Macbeths’ in Colchester and then in May 1985, she began a run in ‘The Ghost Train’ at York. Had ‘Yellow Fever’ gone ahead, it would likely have been made around June of that year. “

You know what? I don’t care. In any event, the Autons, the Master and the Rani, that’s a bit too much. Whether or not Levine is correct about whether the Rani was ever part of the consideration, his instincts were right on the mark to leave her out of his version. And this is his version.

In some alternate universe, maybe season 23 actually got made the way it was planned and with a dimensionscope we could see for ourselves how it turned out and whether O’Mara ended up in it. But here and now, this is Levine’s vision, based on a might have been, and it’s Levine’s project, he’s entitled to make creative decisions. I’d have to say it’s probably a good decision.

The entire script was never completed. The project died at outline stage. There is some reference that Holmes may have written the first 45 minute episode – there would have been time for that. He passed away a year later and it was never completed. The script, story outline/breakdown was apparently lost. The story was never novelized for Target books. I don’t believe that it was ever one of Big Finish’s adaptations.

As I’ve said, the episode script, if it existed, and the story outline/breakdown are now considered lost, and there was never a complete script which raises the question of what exactly Levine’s version is. He does claim to have a photocopy of the original scene breakdown, or he did. That’s not implausible, given that he’s an inveterate collector.

This seems to be Ian Levine’s own work based on either documents he collected then and used for this, or his recollections of that time. He would have been talking a lot with Holmes, Saward and Nathan-Turner. Levine claims to have a photographic memory, so it’s possible that he absorbed enough to write his own version, or to create notes for someone else to write.

This is another photo-animation. The photographs themselves are collaged together, you can tell that the photographsh are taken from all over and just mashed together, the lighting and shadows of the faces are wildly inconsistent.

This time, they’re not using computers to make the lips move. Lips don’t move at all. Instead, they just cut from one expression to the next.

But they’re marching about, leaning, and displaying more of a sense of physical motion. Not much, but it’s enough. Characters tend to be static and posed, but a bit of computer pokery gets them to lean forward or back, shift positions slightly, reminiscent of people’s natural fidgetiness. So it feels more… authentic. It’s much more kinetic than Gallifrey. The voice work seems to be more effective.

Once again, voice actors fill in for the 6th Doctor and Brigadier who don’t even try to sound like them. Oddly, the voice actor for the Master sounds and inflects very much like Anthony Ainley. Unless they sampled his old dialogue, it’s probably not him.  Ainley died in 2004.  According to Levine’s facebook posts, he was working on Gallifrey and Yellow Fever in 2012.

Some of the shots and compositions are awkward – the scene with the Master and the Doctor on the tower has them supposedly fighting, but visually, there’s little sense of that – at points it looks like they’re humping. But that’s the thing with fan films, there’s not unlimited time or resources to get everything just right. You forgive and move on.

Overall, it’s not perfect, but there’s a certain engaging quality to it. I actually found myself being drawn in. I was watching, I was intrested.

One thing that strikes me, watching both Gallifrey and Yellow Fever is that they seem to be overly written. The dialogue seems to go on just a little too long or to be too windy. Possibly that’s just the way Levine writes.

The thing is, scripts go through a process of tightening, moving from story editor, director, to the actors, to read throughs and finally shooting. What usually shows up on screen has often gone through a pruning process. Here, we might be getting unfiltered, untightened script. Go figure.

Personally, and I’m going out on more of a limb than I expected to, here. But you know what? I’d watch this. The story seems engaging, the construction is visually interesting with enough animation and well enough designed to keep engaged, and even the voice acting seems tolerable. Love to see it. I’d give it a fair shot, sit down, watch the whole thing.

That’s not necessarily a guaranteed thing with me. I’ve had Big Finish’s pseudo-animated version of Shada, on my DVD shelf for a few years now, and I’ve managed to avoid watching it. Sat through the first few minutes, and that’s been it. There’s lots of stuff I actively avoid sitting through.

But this… This looks like it deserves a shot.

 

Lost in the Dark Dimension

This one appears at 22:50 to 27:34 on Levine’s compilation.

I’ve already gone over this ground in a previous review, so I’ll be brief. Back in 1993, coming up on the 30th Anniversary, Tom Baker let it be known that he wouldn’t mind playing the Doctor again. BBC Enterprises jumped on that, and a rather sketchy fellow named Adrian Riglesford wrote a script for story that would star Tom Baker and incorporate all of the surviving Doctors.

Ultimately, the project imploded, and was replaced by John Nathan-Turner’s 13 minute, two part, ‘Dimensions in Time’ – the less said about that, the better.

Dark Dimension was lost in the valley of time, becoming one of those great ‘might have been’s’ that people like to talk about. Adrian Riglesford eventually wrote a book about it, which ironically, never saw publication. Riglesford himself eventually ended up in trouble with the law. Some of the production design – notably reimagined Daleks and Cybermen, wound up on the internet. Eventually, the script itself turned up, floating in cyberspace.

With an available script and a certain mystique, it’s not surpising that there were two separate fan projects to recreate the Dark Dimension.

The first one, James Walker’s project. we’ve already talked about. It’s a straightforward animation, and entirely impressive.

Levine’s project is the second, and it’s gone off in quite a different direction.

Paul Jones assays the role of Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor. The big wrinkle is that Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred actually voice/play their characters in the story. McCoy has participated in some of Levine’s other fan creations, which is fairly mysterious to me – either Levine is writing big cheques, McCoy is incredibly fond of the gentleman or there is the matter of a certain amount of blackmail. Peter Miles stars as Hawkspur.

Levine’s animation takes the form of a ‘Reconstruction’ – which is another strange corner of Doctor Who history.  If you’d like, you can skip over this part, I’ve written it as an addendum to my review of Walker’s Dark Dimension.

Let’s just take a moment out to look at the ‘Reconstructions.’ I’ve referred to them a couple of times now in Evil of the Daleks and the Dalek’s Master Plan. Here’s what this is about.

Okay: Everyone knows that a whole pile of Troughton, Hartnell and Pertwee serials were junked by the BBC. Over the years, episodes and footage was recovered from here and there. But a lot was never recovered. The current tally stands at 96 missing episodes, and eighteen lost serials (give or take).

They weren’t completely and utterly lost. There were separate audio recordings, and fan audio recordings, and so we have a relatively complete set of the audio portions.

Then there were telesnaps. Technically, telesnaps were the name for photographs taken by a fellow named John Cura. He’d perfected a means of matching exposure length to the television scanning line, and focal depth to the curvature of the television, so he could take photographs right off the Television. He offered this service to the BBC, and so a lot of the Doctor Who serials from this era commissioned them. Cura would take an average of 60 photographs, for a 25 minute episode, or roughly one every 20 seconds.

Not technically telesnaps, but now going under the same name – for continuity purposes, television productions retained still photographers while shooting. You had to make sure that peoples hair was right, the clothes were right, the particular make up for a scene was correct and in order, the actors were standing in the right spots or doing the right action. So there was a lot of shooting going on. Then there were publicity stills that you would take for the set.

Bottom line is that there was a large library of photographs that became accessible to fans. So, some enterprising fans and fan groups began reconstructing the lost serials by merging the photographs with the audio tracks. I guess it was sort of like an audio-comic book-video. Still pictures moving from one to the other in sequence, with helpful captions and intertitles, while the audio played.

This was picked up by BBCi, the BBC’s internet based arm, back in the 1990’s, which eventually lead them to work with Big Finish for original semi-animated Doctor Who stories – Shada, Realtime, and Death Comes to Time, and eventually, to their Scream of the Shalka serial and a briefly official new ninth Doctor in Richard E. Grant. BBC enterprises itself dabbled in reconstructions, either as a one off project, or to fill in gaps in some of the mostly complete serials, or as extras on the DVD’s.

However, most of the Reconstructions are fan created, or re-created. The most notable ones are from Loose Cannon, which seems to be an unincorporated group of fans who have made these recreations their forte.

They’re a peculiar thing, a strange little lost corner of the Who-niverse. But they’re really the only way to see the lost serials.

Anyway, this is the approach the Levine has taken. He’s done the Dark Dimension in the physical manner of the Reconstructions. So, it’s mostly a series of photographs, with a lot of pan and scan, close ups, fade ins and outs, and some fairly limited and careful animation done here and there.

From what I can tell, this is unique. He’s taken a genre based around reconstructing old lost serials, and used its techniques and language to create a new and original work.

I can see why. It simply isn’t possible to put on any version of the Dark Dimensions as a live action product. You have to find another way to tell the story. For James Walker, it was an animation. For Levine, it was… this.

Okay, so the question is…. Is it any good?

That’s actually a complicated question, for several reasons.

First, let me say that I admire the particular and peculiar route they’ve taken, in basically, treating the Dark Dimension as simply another ‘lost serial’ and trying to recreate it in the form and format of a unique genre within the the Doctor Who oevre. I appreciate both the practical considerations, and the artistic factors that went into that decision and into the production.

On the other hand, I haven’t ever watched any of the reconstructions. Apart from abstract knowledge, I have no real insight into or appreciation of the Reconstructions genre. We actually have to learn to understand something, to appreciate something. It’s not necessarily an automatic thing. So without being able to appreciate or watch Reconstructions, could I really give a fair assessment of Ian Levine’s ‘Reconstruction-style’ version of Dark Dimension?

I don’t know. I think I’d have to go back and do a lot of aesthetic homework.

 

The Eight Doctors

Appearing at 27:40 to 33:25 of Levine’s compilation.

This is not a lost episode like Evil of the Daleks or Dalek Masterplan, or an orphaned script or story, like Dark Dimensions or Yellow Fever. Rather, this one is based on a novel by Terrance Dicks.

Go ahead, look it up. I imagine you can find it on Amazon or Abebooks or Ebay or something. It was written shortly after the McGann movie, and was the start of the 8th Doctor Adventures series of novels.

Only problem? Dicks hated the movie. He apparently loathed it. Anyway, the 8th Doctor, shortly after the events of the movie, falls into a diabolical trap and loses his memories. The Tardis brings him back in time, retracing the steps of his life, and he ends up visiting each of his previous selves in order at some crucial time in their lives.

From what I gather, it’s pretty dire stuff. More cruel and unusual punishment than an actual novel. I dunno. I haven’t read it, no immediate plans to.

There’s a theory that the novel might have been considered at one point for a Doctor Who special during the wilderness years. That would have had to have been between 1996 and 2003. I’m skeptical. But the theory holds, this is why Levine decided to render it.

This starts out more ‘live’ than previous fan films. We have a long opening ‘star wars’ expository role, a lot of smoke blowing, figured fading in and out. We even have a bit of live action, before reverting to the Telesnaps/Recon format.

From there we go to the 1st Doctor and his Granddaughter in full time lord regalia. Pretty much the whole clip is set on Gallifrey and features Time Lords arguing with each other.

Hartnell’s face is composited clumsily onto a Time Lord costume, with a really inappropriate expression. He’s having a serious conversation with his granddaughter, Susan, but he looks like he’s about to burst out laughing. His voice is certainly sampled, it’s not clear whether Carole Ann Ford’s dialogue is new or filched from old episodes.

So, we’re back to the Telesnaps/Reonstruction format that Levine used for Dark Dimensions. Telesnaps format is pretty hard core, lots of still pictures with dialogue going on over them. Obviously, since they didn’t have real telesnaps to work with, they’ve composited a lot of pictures, some smoothly, some not so much.

Peculiarly, while the foreground and dialogue characters are absolutely frozen still pictures, with dialogue running over them, a lot of the backgrounds are lively. As two characters talk, a computer monitor in the background flickers merrily away with rolling lines of data. It’s a peculiar effect, not least because it sort of steals the eye away from the main characters and reinforces the artificial stillness of the frames. I’m not sure what to call it… Deanimation?

One good thing is that freed from the burden of actual telesnaps, Levine, or whoever he is working with, have free rein to compose their still images and ‘cheat’ the animation, using framing, zooms, pans and close ups to convey a sense of life. It may actually work better because of that, than the genuine Reconstructions – which are hindered by the physical constraints of the formal stock of photographs. Here, Levine is using and compositing whatever photographs he wants to create something new, and he’s willing to use animation ‘cheats’ to enhance his visual impact.

As with Lost in the Dark Dimension, Levine is working with a kind of medium or format – Telesnaps/Reconstructions that I’m really not familiar with. The Reconstructions, the synthesis of photographs and sound tracks, are essentially the only way now to get a sense of what the lost serials were and were like, and they’ve become their own unique genre or art form within Doctor Who. It’s fascinating that Levine’s decided to use this format to try and show us new works. But I’m not really qualified to judge.

I’d have to leave this up to the Recons afficionados to assess.

Fan Film Reviews: Ian Levine’s Exquisite Corpse, Part Three

Downtime

Showing up at 33:28 to 38:15, the first part seems like new material, the rest of it is just clipped from the original downtime.

No, no, no, no!

Okay, let me be blunt. Downtime is it’s own little low budget masterpiece. A flawed work, surely, one which shows the limits of its budget here and there. But also one that often transcends that budget. It’s a Doctor Who adventure without the Doctor, one that beautifully showcases the Brigadier, brings back Sarah Jane, introduces the Brigadier’s daughter, gives us the best use of the Yeti ever, and tells a good story. As far as I’m concerned, anyone associated with it can be justly proud of it. It doesn’t need to be improved. It’s fine.

Complaint out of the way, what do we have?

Sylvester McCoy! That’s right, Ian Levine got Sylvester McCoy to come back and reprise his role as the Doctor. Either they’re good friends, Ian’s paid a lot of money, or Sylvester McCoy is honestly that nice a guy. Take your pick.

Anyway, the 7th Doctor makes a visit to the Dat Sun Monastery, where he has a converstion with a leathery animated corpse of Padmasavamba, the host of the Great Intelligence from the Abominable Snowman. It’s not as exciting as it sounds. The conversation seems to meander pointlessly. It feels like an unnecessary set up, referring to past history, hinting at things to come. Pointless exposition. Visually, it doesn’t really match up – it’s clearly shot on video, as opposed to the rest of downtime, which seems to use a film stock.

It’s nice to see Sylvester McCoy play the Doctor, and it may be as simple a thing as the fact that Ian Levine could get him in to do it.

But really, Downtime’s fine the way it is. I don’t know that inserting the Doctor into it adds all that much.

 

Death Comes to Time

This is a peculiar one, appearing at 38:18 to 44:23.

Okay, here’s how I understand it. Back in the 1990’s, the BBC set up an online or web based presence known as BBCi. BBCi discovered that it could carve out an internet niche by focusing on cult classics, which necessarily included Doctor Who.

Pretty soon, they were doing all sorts of Doctor Who stuff, including running Loose Cannon’s Doctor Who reconstructions. It was the first real opportunity that many viewers had to see these lost classics in decades. And it was within the available bandwidth.

Emboldened, BBCi hooked up with Big Finish, to produce and air a series of three original Doctor Who stories which were sort of animated. Sort of animated is the right word. Basically, these were audio stories, accompanied by a handful of colour drawings. A crude animation was achieved by zooming in and out, or by panning across the the drawings.

The first of these, I believe was Death Comes to Time, starring starring Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred and Stephen Fry (that Stephen Fry) as the Minister of Chance, which ran 2001 – 2002.

Then there was Real Time, in late 2002, starring Colin Baker. Not bad, ended in a cliff hanger which was never resolved. Then Shada with Paul McGann and Lalla Ward in 2003, which tried to patch together a new version of the lost Tom Baker classic.

Eventually, in 2003, BBCi ended its relationship with Big Finish and decided to go with Cosgrove Hall to create an absolutely original Doctor, to be played by Richard E. Grant. This Doctor was to be the new, official, canonical Ninth Doctor – appearing in Scream of the Shalka. A second serial, Blood of the Robots was in production, but was cancelled when they restarted the live action series with Christopher Ecclestone. Grant’s ninth Doctor was subsequently de-canonized.

Anyway, back to Death Comes to Time. I’ve never watched it. I liked Real Time, drew the line at Shada, and ran screaming from Death. It’s five episodes, all of which run long, so you’re looking at about three hours of some pretty limited and slow animation. Sorry, I have limits.

Anyway, the story is that the 7th Doctor is still out saving the universe, and gets embroiled in a fight with renegade Time Lords using their ‘Time Powers’ for evil. There’s vampires, alien warlords, Ace shows up, the Minister of Chance (another Time Lord) gets involved. Eventually Ace becomes a Time Lord and the Doctor dies, sacrificing himself to use his ‘Time Powers’ to blow up the bad guys.

I suppose this is problematic for continuity, given that McCoy’s seventh Doctor is killed off, but a few years before, McGann has already come in as the Eight Doctor. Then there’s all this stuff about ‘Time Powers’ and the Time Lords being rather more godlike than the series has ever shown.

So why is Ian Levine bothering to do a fan revision of Death Comes to Time? Does he have some hope of making the primitive animation slightly less primitive? Who knows.

Thinking out loud, and this is completely speculative on my part, it may be that Levine was put off by the ‘continuity raping’ of the original story, and he’s adding or editing in new story to try and bring it back into continuity. That’s just a guess, given that elsewhere, as in Music of the Spheres and Destiny of the Doctors, he seems compelled to ‘fix’ these productions. I’m wondering if he was able to recruit McCoy and Aldred again.

Feel free to consider me a jerk, but I’m not watching the original version. I’m not interested in watching Levine’s version.

Mind you, that’s just me, and for the record, you dear reader might well enjoy and derive considerable satisfaction and pleasure from either or both.

 

Destiny of the Doctors

We’re almost to the end of Levine’s marathon compilation. This one 44:26 to 47:03. Really, Ian did himself no favours by running all his shorts as one godawful marathon. Watched individually, they’re tolerable, even engaging. All together… just brutal.

Live action. Ian Levine plays a Time Lord, Castellan Cramdor. Ian Levine owns a Time Lord costume. Okay. Sylvester McCoy once again shows up, establishing once again that he’s either (a) a close friend; (b) well paid; or © just a really nice guy. They hang out in a big gallery on Gallifrey, which seems to be rendered by some decent greenscreen work.

The Master is up to his old tricks. He’s gotten into the Gallifeyan Matrix once again, and he’s created his own world in there, where he’s summoned up analogues of the Doctor’s seven incarnations and is busily torturing or playing games with them. Same thing really, where the Master is concerned.

This seems to be a wraparound plot for a 1997 computer game called ‘Destiny of the Doctors.’ In that game, the Master has taken over the planet Siralos, a world made from ‘pure psychic energy’ where he kidnaps the seven incarnations of the Doctor. Luckily, the Doctor (Doctors?) create a psychic being called the Graak, a sort of agile jellyfish who is the player’s character, to get them out of the jam. The Graak wanders around the Tardis, performing various tasks and trying to stay out of the way of, or defeat, Sontarans, Yeti, Zygons, Sea Devils, Silurians, Cybermen, Daleks, Ice Warriors, Quarks, Autons and Raston Warrior Robots.

Anthony Ainley appeared in voice and video clips as the Master. His collected clips from the game appear on the DVD for survival. All of the surviving Doctors except McGann – Tom Baker, Colin Baker, McCoy and Davison appear (audio only) in the game, as does the Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier. Pertwee was represented by dialogue snipped from his serials, while Troughton and Hartnell’s Doctors voices were played by David Coker.

The game sounds nifty enough. Never played it, but I did watch Ainley’s clips on the DVD.

It was designed for Windows 95, so I don’t think it can be played on personal computers. Who knows though. It might be online, or on ebay. You might be able to download a Windows 95 emulator that would handle it. It’s all cyber stuff.

What we have here is Ian Levine’s attempt to incorporate the game into a narrative based episode or fan video by shooting extra footage and wrap around footage, and maybe editing the heck out of it all.

Okay.

I’m really at a loss here.

It seems like an interesting effort. I’m just more bemused than anything, really. How does he turn a computer game, even with some additional footage, into a standard episode? Is there a lot of extra footage? How is it melded together? I couldn’t guess. I couldn’t even venture whether the resulting product is brilliant, peculiar or simply a mess.

After a lot of different approaches to animation, it’s nice to see live action, and I’ll give Levine credit for both recruiting McCoy and putting on a Time Lord outfit.

It is at least intriguing. I’ll say that much.

 

Music of the Spheres

The last one, running from 47:06 to 49:12, and concluding Levine’s showreel.

Well now. Okay. Let’s see. Back in 2008, you see, David Tenant was inconveniently doing a production of Hamlet with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

I say inconvenient, because this meant that he wasn’t available to appear in person for the Doctor Who Prom at the Royal Albert Hall. Which is awkward, if you’re having a Doctor Who Prom and the Doctor isn’t showing up.

As I understand it, by the way, the Prom was some sort of musical event which had nothing to do with High School Graduation in the North American tradition. It seems to have been some sort of classic music review by the BBC Philharmonic showcasing the work of Murray Gold among others. Freema Agyeman (played Martha Jones) and Catherine Tate (played Donna Noble) showed up to give presentations or introductions, people were in Doctor Who costumes. It all seems very peculiar to me, one of those strange little hybrid performance pieces which happen when two art traditions intersect and try to cross promote to each other’s audiences – like Boy George’s appearance on the A-Team.

Anyway, Tenant isn’t available to appear in person as the Doctor, so what they do is shoot a live action short segment of Tenant playing the Doctor, breaking the fourth wall, composing music and looking in at and talking to the audience in Albert Hall. Are you with us so far.

Well, someone has the idea that this is kind of dull, and so to complicate and liven up proceedings, the Doctor is bedevilled by a mischievous little alien called a Graske, which is out to screw over the concert in some mysterious way for some mysterious reason. The Graske a dwarf or child in a little three horned reptoid costume.

Okay, it worked well enough. You can find it on youtube. It’s a peculiar little sidetrip in Doctor Who lore. No big deal.

The Graske originally appeared in ‘Attack of the Graske’ a fourteen minute interactive game thingy that the BBC did. It would go on to appear in a crowd scene at the end of End of Time. And it would bedevil Sarah Jane Smith a couple of times in Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane, and The Temptation of Sarah Jane. Basically, the Graske are not so much scary monsters, as mischief makers, little reptoid dwarfs who seem to pop in and out of reality to screw with people.

The Sarah Jane series was something of a cosmic dustbuster, hoovering up leftover costumes, special effects and plot elements from Doctor Who sometimes. If you wanted more Judoon or Slitheen, or another whiff of Sontaran, well… Sarah Jane. Not necessarily a bad thing.

And yes, if you are asking, this is a godawful lot of preamble, but we’re coming to a point.

So, Ian Levine’s ‘Music of the Spheres’ fan film, what is it, and how does it fit?

Well, oddly enough, it’s full on CGI which we haven’t seen before from Levine. The clip that we see amounts to three Graske, over in Graskeland or Graskworld or Graskedimension. They look pretty high ranking. Anyway, they’re standing around conspiring, so there’s a lot of static talking head stuff. On the other hand, the CGI is not bad, the aliens look alien and the whole setting is peculiar and moody.

Of course, if you don’t know what the Graske are to start with, you’re pretty much screwed. It’s just funny looking reptoids standing around talking about their plot. What does that have to do with Doctor Who? That’s why I’ve taken time out to explain about them. It doesn’t help that these Graske all seem to be regular size – it throws you off a little so you don’t recognize them automatically (that and the CGI rendering which stylizes them a little).

The Graske are talking about the Doctor, seems the Doctor is doing some musical thing which turns out to be the whole Music of the Spheres Prom that I just talked about, and the Graske are sending an agent to screw with them.

Basically, it’s a wraparound scene to try and make an overall sense of the Tennant performance and turn it into something resembling an episode or that fits into the normal continuity and format. So kind of similar to the Destiny of the Doctors.

Why? I suppose Levine felt it needed doing, it satisfied some sense of completion. I have to wonder how much of it there is. What we have here is a two minute segment which seems to serve the wraparound purpose. Is there any more? Is there any need for any more? Does Levine come up with more plot, more CGI, does he attempt to incorporate the other Graske appearances? I dunno. Maybe.

Verdict? On the one hand, it’s just another set of talking heads standing around, mouthing a lot of windy exposition to each other. That seems to be a running theme with Levine. On the other hand, the CGI characters and perspective are kind of interesting.

 

So What Does It All Amount To?

Well, first, let’s get a few things out of the way.

This bears repeating: Ian Levine is a controversial and polarising figure, and in many quarters, he’s despised. So if you want to, you can despise these fan films because they’re Levine. Get over it. Seriously, get over it. The reality is that often people are shocked when artists, actors, writers, performers whose work they love turn out to be despicable, unlikeable people.

The first rule in this business is never confuse the artist with the work. You can have lovely people who do terrible work, and terrible people who do amazing work. Here: We are looking at the work.  It’s not about whether or not Levine is a good person.  It’s about whether these fan films are worthwhile.  Separate issues, folks.

In terms of authorship – a lot of these things seem to have some tangled provenance. Levine is certainly not doing it all alone. Up front, there’s a lot of voice talent and actors being recruited, starting with Sylvester McCoy and Lalla Ward. In terms of production, we know that David Busch is really the active force for animation at least for Mission to the Unknown. Busch may have been a principal guy for some or all of the other animations. We don’t really know what Levine’s specific contributions or work was – is he just a producer, does he direct, is he writing dialogue and scripts, did he do animation himself. We know he acts in Destiny of the Doctors. And a lot of the dialogue and the talking heads expositing format is consistent enough from one clip to the next I suspect that there’s the same guiding mind. But regardless of specific role, these all seem to be Levine’s in some fashion. So I’m not going to worry over it.

As far as snobbery goes – get over it.  This isn’t Pixar or Disney, and a work shouldn’t have to be Pixar or Disney to have some merit.  Judge it on what it is, rather than in comparison to some hundred million dollar production with a small city’s worth of technicians.

So how’s it rate?

Well, as bodies of work, it’s impressive. Even acknowledging that several of his projects are add ons or extensions to existing work, there’s still a dozen projects and the total volume of new material may extend to hours, possibly several hours. That’s very, very impressive.

Technically, it’s also a diverse body of work – we’re looking at classical (if limited) animation, photo-animation, telesnap/recon format, CGI, live action. It might or might not all succeed, there’s likely quite a few bad decisions or flawed executions in there. But I’m inclined to respect the diversity of approaches.

That technical diversity might hurt him. I mean, if you have a large body of work in a consistent format, people get used to it. They start to accept the format, focus on the content. You develop proficiency with the format. Technically diverse? It can be hard to master your technique and content if you keep changing your media or method. And even worse, it can be hard to bring your audience along with you, because every time out, you’re asking them to learn how to watch it all over again. That can be tough. I won’t fault him for it. But then, I can’t fault an audience if it gets lost over it.

As to content, it’s hard to generalize given the diversity of sources. Levine’s corpus includes recreations of actual aired episodes with their scripts and sound tracks, unmade but professional scripts, and new work based on novels, story outlines or simply invented stuff inspired by one thing or another.

On the whole, there does seem to be a consistent penchant for talking heads or roughly static characters blabbing exposition at each other. That’s an easy trap for a lot of the formats that he uses. Characters actually doing something is expensive and difficult to shoot, animated characters actually doing something incredibly time consuming and difficult. So a lot of stuff falls into this category in both animation and live action – a lot of talent goes into either getting away from that, or getting away with it.

So it’s not that Levine should be faulted just for talking heads reciting exposition, almost everyone does. The question is, does get away with it, does he pull it off. It’s tough. The sheer volume of the 49 minute compilation gets to you, you get worn down by the relentless succession of talking headism. This may be an effect of the package, rather than the individual elements.

There’s a sameness to the dialogue, a kind of long winded rambly quality, which might be difficult. I have the impression that Levine did a lot of writing, and that windy quality may be his writing style. Which might be hard to take. On the other hand, he’s working with actual scripts by other people, and they come out sounding much the same. So voice acting? Direction? Hard to day.

There’s some stuff here that I find really interesting and compelling, and I think I’d love to see. Most notably, Yellow Fever and Shada…. Maybe Gallifrey.

There’s stuff that might be genuinely worthwhile, but I’m not terribly into personally, or at least not enough to make allowances – Evil of the Daleks, Mission to the Unknown, The Dalek Masterplan.

There’s stuff I find absolutely unnecessary – Downtime? Why, oh why?

Music of the Spheres and Destiny of the Doctors? Leaves me bemused and a bit curious.

As for the telesnap stuff, The Eight Doctors, Lost in the Dark Dimension, I’m knowledgable enough to understand what he’s doing, but I’m not immersed in the genre sufficiently to appreciate or assess it.

Looking over the whole thing, I really do get the sense that Ian Levine is a major closure junky. Almost all of this work, in one form or another, is about completing Doctor Who, about filling in the gaps.

It’s closure junky stuff – a compulsive filling in of gaps that leads to animating the unfilmed parts of Shada, or the lost episodes of Dalek Masterplan, to adding the Doctor into downtime, or trying to make Music of the Spheres or Destiny of the Doctors into full stories. Or for that matter, in creating iconic unmade stories – Gallifrey, Yellow Fever, Dark Dimension, Eight Doctors.

As I’ve said, the best fan films often seem to be about addressing gaps in the series. The Benedetti stories made their mark during the hiatus. Downtime, Shakedown, the Booth stories all come about following the anniversary failure. Gene Genius and Death Takes a Holiday are both on the cusp of revival. Fire and Ice is a response to the gap created by Tennant’s specials and deparpture. Project Fifty is for the anniversary. It’s like these fan films represent a kind of dialogue with the BBC show.

Levine’s work very much fits into that tradition, although it’s much more wide ranging. Levine sees gaps, he sees incomplete stories, or lost stories, or parts of things that should be stories, and he seems to feel compelled to fill those gaps. I can see why, irregardless of actual quality or outcome, he’s proud of them. He’s addressing something that, on very deep levels, he feels compelled to address.

And in that sense, he’s got a lot of company. Making a film of any sort is a lot of work. Making a fan film is a lot of unrewarding work. The ones who do it, and do it well, they’re compelled, I think, on very deep levels.

Ultimately, these things are a labour of love. You have to respect that. Love doesn’t guarantee perfection or competence. Love can lead you off a cliff as easily as it leads you to success. Love often lacks technical polish. Sometimes you just can’t overcome limits of budget and resources and time. A film is produced by an army of people with all kinds of money and multiple takes of everything to work with. Often, these things are produced by a small handful of people with little in the way of resources, and they only get one or two shots to get it right, and if they don’t, they live with it. For me this leads to a certain forgiveness that I won’t extend to Jurassic World or Terminator Genesys.

Whatever you think of Levine, he’s tried to do something, he’s produced this impressive body of work, and a lot of it looks really cool and interesting.

I have the impression that he craves some kind of official recognition. I heard he offered his Shada to the BBC for free. Mission to the Unknown is a real demo for a commercial proposition. I think he desperately wants to somehow become a small part of BBC canon, that’s why he wants them to accept it, maybe why he won’t release it generally. He’s like a kid with his face pressed to the window at the toymaker’s shop, desperately wanting to be in there, playing.

If so, he’s dreaming in technicolour. It’s never going to happen. The BBC is a corporation, it’s a bureaucracy, it’s got its own culture, its history, its ways of doing things. You don’t just walk through that door. And even if there was a snowball’s chance in hell, I think his reputation and his prior antics damn him. They won’t touch him, the well is too poisoned. He’s go his little niche in history, wormed his way to a point, and they won’t let it go further. He’s his own worst enemy.

But that doesn’t mean that these fan films of his are not worthy and worthwhile in their own right, as significant contributions to a genre of Doctor Who fan films, many of which approach the series, and offer meaningful dialogue.

So, for what it’s worth, I hope that we’ll eventually see these released.

Fan film reviews: Hark! The Harrold Doctor Trilogy!

Graham Quince and Paul Vought are a pair of independent film makers, or perhaps amateur film makers. They seem to have almost no presence in the Internet Movie Database. But if you look them up in youtube, you’ll find they’ve produced an impressive number of films under various banners – Bikini Zombies from the Moon, an Australian Vampire in London, a set of James Bond Fan Films, and so forth. They’ve also produced between 1995 and 2008, six Doctor Who fan films which break loosely into two trilogies. The Harrold films are the second trilogy.

So what about A.F. Harrold. Well, basically, he’s one of these ginger bastards, who likes to show off with facial hair. Born 1975, to apparently sensible parents, he went on to become a poet, a novelist, a children’s entertainer and many other things in that vein. His biography on bloomsbury notes “He writes and performs for adults and children, in cabaret and in schools, in bars and in basements, in fields and indoors. He was Glastonbury Festival Website’s Poet-In-Residence in 2008, and Poet-In-Residence at Cheltenham Literature Festival in 2010. He won the Cheltenham All Stars Slam Championship in 2007 and has had his work on BBC Radio 4, Radio 3 and BBC7. He is active in schools work, running workshops and slams and doing performances at ungodly hours of the morning, and has published several collections of poetry. He is the owner of many books, a handful of hats, a few good ideas and one beard.”

I think he may have written that himself.

He’s also got a number of his own youtube videos up, should you go looking for them. I don’t see a lot of acting on his resume, but he’s got an extensive background in performance, and he knows evolved his own style of delivery, which he brings to his version of the Doctor. Bottom line, this is an interesting, and likely quite likeable guy.

I have no idea how he ended up becoming the Doctor in the Vought/Quince productions. Truthfully, I have no idea how he feels about his turn as Doctor Who. Proud? Chagrined? Frustrated? Embarrassed? I emailed him, but I never heard back. So I’m hoping that it’s a fond memory.

His take on the Doctor is interesting, and at first I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. He’s got such a peculiar low key delivery. The only thing I can really compare it to is the sort of calm, unhurried monologue you might find on a cooking show, as they walk you through the recipe. Confident but not arrogant, in control, measured, knows exactly what he’s doing. There’s an almost weightless quality to it.

He conveys no sense of importance or gravity, the Tardis is tumbling out of control, an alien ship is crashlanding on Earth, the fate of the planet is at stake… and to him, it’s basically small talk. Informed and informative, calm, chatty. It’s odd, and kind of interesting. And it makes a sort of sense. I mean for us, the end of the universe is a big deal, for the Doctor… it’s Tuesday.

Of course, we’re used to bombastic over the top Doctors. Starting with Tom Baker, through Colin Baker, and then with Tenant, Smith and Capaldi, each has gone bigger and bigger to the point where Capaldi’s really somewhere between the stratosphere and low earth orbit.

We’ve had only a few relatively low key Doctors, mainly Davison and Ecclestone. Harrold is low key to the point of somnolence. When two of the Doctor’s associates meet up unpleasantly in Flight of the Daleks, he’s almost washed out of the room.

And yet, as a Doctor, he’s entirely competent, he knows what he’s doing, and more importantly, he knows what to do. He’s just not pushy or boisterous about it. He’s the smartest guy in the room, but very careful to not make a big deal out of it or to allow anyone to feel badly about it. He’s never less than unfailingly polite, but he also never shows a drop of fear.

THE REST OF QUINCE AND VOUGHT

https://www.youtube.com/user/shpfilms/videos

A BIT MORE OF A.F. HARROLD

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=A.F.+Harrold