Category: The Doctors

The Trods of Trodos – Doctor Who’s ‘Also-Ran’ monsters…


The Trodos Tyranny -

Return of the Trods -

The Trodos Ambush -

Pursued by the Trods –

The Time Museum –

Take it with a grain of salt.  These comics are the products of a different era, a different culture.  The stories are brief, almost superficial.   They’re like potato chips, more food-like than food.  There’s a sense of brevity to the things, I think that an average story would be hard pressed to translate into a fifteen minute episode.  They weren’t great literature, even for their time.  But, I think for the people who grew up with them, they were probably pretty terrific.


Story: The Tenant and Smith Doctors end up materializing in at an empty school to solve a mystery and learn a thing or two about life…

Review: This is simply exquisite. Very well acted, great chemistry, well shot, well edited, the writing is terrific, and it captures both the humour and the sweetness that is at the heart of Doctor Who. It is an honest pleasure.

That’s really all the review you need.

Go watch it.










STORY: The Seventh Doctor and Ace are attending a breakfast at an old friends place. The Doctor reminisces about how, the last time he was here, in the 1970’s, things got quite sticky. As he flashes back, we see the Third Doctor, riding Bessie to his next adventure….

REVIEW: All right – I’m going to review this one out of order. Gene Genius is a product of a group or collective that goes by the name ‘The Projection Room’ – they seem to have formed around 1994, the same time as Timebase Productions, probably for the same underlying reasons, and their output is comparable in volume, if not necessarily quality. I assume they started for the same reason – the aborted revival and implosion of 1993. The key person seems to be Chris Hoyle, but really, it’s a collective effort.

Gene Genius is one of their later era productions. Really, I suppose I should be watching and reviewing their stuff in order. Why am I jumping the queu? A couple of reasons. First, it seems to be out of continuity with most of Hoyle’s work – you don’t miss anything by not having watched the previous adventures. It’s a safe stand-alone.

Mostly though, it’s because Sylvester McCoy plays the Doctor and Sophie Aldred reprises Ace in it. That’s right: The real actors are playing their characters in a fan film. WTF?

Aldred and McCoy are basically there for a framing sequence. They’re visiting for breakfast at some friends, and McCoy starts to reminisce about some adventure they had the last time they were there, back in the 1970’s. Cue flashback. At the end of the serial, the story returns to them, and they’re back again, to join the action and help wrap things up.

In the main body of the story, doing most of the heavy lifting, we have John Field playing Jon Pertwee, playing the Third Doctor. I had no idea who John Field was, but I googled he was known for dressing up as the Third Doctor, for the Doctor Who Experience in Llangollen.

I had no idea what that was, so I looked it up. It turns out that the Doctor Who Experience in Llangollen was one of the largest exhibition of original props from the series, covering 6000 square feet. Open year round from 1995 to 2003, it averaged about 50,000.00 visitors a year.

So I imagine that John Field was dressing up as the Doctor because at least part of his work was as a host for the Exhibition. It was an actual paying gig – so he has some credit as a semi-professional Third Doctor. John’s connection to the Experience might explain some of the props seen in Gene Genius. By all accounts, he seems to be a charming fellow, nice guy and longtime fan……………..



Episode 2

Episode 3



Synopsis: On the planet far, far away, two medieval Kingdoms, Desarn are attempting to seal a peace treaty with a royal marriage between Prince Germain and Princess Aldriana. It’s not working out well, the Princess is kind of butch, the Prince definitely isn’t. Things go wrong when the evil Wizard Utomu’s henchman, Formor, breaks in and kidnaps the Prince. The Doctor is enlisted to rescue the Prince, with the aid of some song and dance…

Review: Visions of Utomu trades a lot on the goodwill of Wrath of Eukor. Eukor is so well done, that we’ve built up an affection for the characters, we’re willing to be forgiving. If Utomu had come first, I’m not sure that it would have worked as well. Or maybe it might have worked better. Eukor casts a shadow, without it, maybe the flaws and faults of Utomu wouldn’t have been so glaring in comparison. As it is, Utomu suffers a bit from little brother syndrome, it’s always going to be seen as the lesser work.

Utomu, in terms of performance, production values and cinematography is simply a less polished work. Sometimes a lot less polished. I think it’s because they got ambitious here, and their ambition dramatically outran their money and abilities. Utomu had several key swerves from Eukor that, I think, undermined it. It switched from 16 mm film to 3/4 commercial videotape, for instance. That saved a lot of money on lab and processing costs, but perhaps lost a bit in image quality. They also decided to shift from a location backed story to a set-based production, and building sets, building good sets is hard. The cast is larger, there’s a lot of extras but often not used well, they play with a lot more ideas.

In terms of the fandom splash, the female Doctor was making, Utomu’s timing was on. Filmed November, 1985, and released January, 1986, the future of the Doctor was still up in the air. The hiatus would not end, and Trial of a Time Lord would not begin until September, 1986.

Let’s just tag our way through the good and the bad.

The Bad: Those sets! Ouch! What it looks like is a handful of flats, painted in a stylized manner to suggest brick work, with some styrofoam blocks thrown on here and there. What it reminds me most of is a theatrical set, stylized, lightweight, moveable and designed for a stage, and a more forgiving stage audience.

Except that we aren’t a stage audience, and we’re expecting a higher degree of cinematic realism. The artificiality of the flats really is jarring, its like biting on tinfoil. To make matters worse, initially, they shoot it in the worst possible way, just glaring lighting, flat and bright, that really makes it impossible to see it as anything but fake and artificial. It’s heartbreaking to think of how hard they must have worked to make something that looks so crap.

It’s particularly damning because this is actually the sort of sets or locations that the BBC was good at. England is lousy with castles and immense brickwork monstrosities, so they have a lot to choose from, and even when they’re shooting in studio, they have enough experience with how they look and how to shoot them effectively, that they carry it off. So they’re falling afoul of our subconscious expectations, as much as if they accidentally painted the Tardis orange.

Oddly, as the episode goes on, they seem to get better at it. They play with the lighting, darkening the flats, focusing on foreground characters and blurring the background, filming action to emphasize movement. It’s as if we’re watching them learn how to shoot these flats. The sets, for the most part, stop being disconcerting and jarring. Possibly we’ve been beaten into submission. Or more likely, they’re just doing it better – shooting and lighting them properly and focusing better on the story and characters, so that it’s generally stronger later on. But still, getting better later on only buys you so much, when you set your foot badly wrong on your first step, its hard to recover from.

That’s how it is when you’re working with sets. Sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you. Doctor Who has had its share of stylized or tosh sets. Sometimes you can dress them up, sometimes you can work around them, sometimes they just don’t work that well, but you have to forgive them. In this case, it slipped by them. It’s a medieval setting – back in those days, no central heating, people were always hanging curtains and tapestries and drapes off the wall, tarting things up by hanging weapons and clothes and tools. They could have tried that, but they didn’t. So I’ll tell you right now, be ready to dip into the pocket of forgiveness on this point.

To be really fair – remember that mostly, this was being shown on mid-1980’s, 12 to 24 inch colour television sets, not high def or high resolution, and often being shown in crowded rooms at gatherings of fans. So it may not have been as jarring back then. There’s a lot of stuff that looked okay on the old scan line/cathode ray televisions that is now pretty blatant on higher resolutions and higher definition.

What else? Randy Rogel’s choreography… Just not up to the job. Sorry. It’s one of those things where they bite off more than they can chew, when what carries in the script can’t carry in real. What hurts is that Randy wanted to do it. He was pushing to do a song and dance number. Kind of a mistake there.

Again, inexperience kind of hurts. Kinetic stuff, fight scenes, dance numbers, they’re tricky to shoot. You can’t actually just have the camera sitting there. It has to almost be a character, and the dancer or the fighter has to play to it as much as they simply do their stuff. From what I understand of the shooting, they didn’t really have the time or resources to do it right, and frankly, I don’t think they understood what they were getting into. Time to dip into that pocket of forgiveness again.

So that’s a pair of really harsh flaws to get caught between, and you really have to make the decision to let them slide in order to enjoy the story.

Beyond that, the acting is variable. Some of the performances and direction seem appropriate to a high school play, there’s some awkward blocking. There’s problems with the sound quality – there’s a point for instance, where Utomo’s voice seems patchy. In an early scene, they’ve got a crowd running around in panic – it’s just harsh.

I dunno though, maybe I’m too critical. I could see some people not even noticing these things, just delving right into the story and grooving to the light, breezy touch.

With a little forgiveness, Visions of Utomu is actually quite good. A major strength: The costumes and props. We got medieval stuff coming on strong here. Initially, I looked at the great costumes and the fake set flats, and thought maybe he’d hooked up with some kind of stage company that had done a medieval or shakespearean production.

But no, Johnson managed to link up with the Society for Creative Anachronism, so the result is that we’ve got some very sharp, nice quality costumes, and an impressively large cast of extras that, sadly are not used to full effect.

As I’ve said, the cinematography does pick up as we go along, with increasingly effective use of light and shadows. The production overall, seems uneven. There’s shots and scenes and transitions that are amazingly good – the zoom in on the henchman as Carl does his dance routine, shows us a man being captivated – that’s beautifully done. Or almost every scene or shot where Rice is playing the villainous Utomu. The first scene between the Prince and Utomu, there’s a wind sound foleyed in, it’s subtle, but chilling. The background music is well used, never so loud as to call attention to itself, and almost always just right for whatever they want to convey in the moment.

The script is equal parts witty and convoluted. But it works, and on the whole, I think it works a lot more often than it doesn’t. Does it transcend its flaws? That’s a judgement call.

For the most part, the actors acquit their roles nicely. Benedetti and Rogel as the Doctor and Carl have some really nice chemistry going on. It’s amazing to see how well they work together, putting in all these little visual gags and witticisms. That really is the consistent highlight of the whole series. Benedetti is one of the best fan Doctors. I don’t think she’s the best, that goes to Rupert Booth. But the Doctor/Companion thing she has going on with Rogel, that’s unparalleled.

Wesley Rice as the evil wizard Utomu is also a standout, he manages to convey intelligence and menace, and he’s got some very nice bits of stagecraft going on, despite not moving around too much. That’s the lovely thing with stage actors. They know how to work business.

There’s a nice bit of gender role reversal – the Prince, played by Robert Eustace, is in the essentially feminine role, he’s quiet, bookish, all about feelings, physically tentative and is the one who gets kidnapped. The Princess, played by Stasia Johnson, is active, joins in the rescue and is a bit of a hellion. The performance of Jim Dean as the King is a mirror opposite of Rice’s – he’s doing a light comedy character with a very deft touch. Jim Dean, by the way, played the survivalist/vietnam Vet, Grant, in Eukor.

There’s a strong sense of fun – people are dressing up and going in disguises, and seeing through each other’s disguises. Everyone’s got a smart line they’re tossing off, there’s double takes, and ‘oh whoops’ moments, and a whole series of visual gags. What can you say when the plot hinges on sneaking into the Wizard’s castle disguised as a song and dance duo? This is Bob Hope and Bing Crosby territory.

Thats saves Utomu, what makes it work for me. Its tongue is firmly in its cheek. It’s a light comedy, good hearted, with a wink and a smile. Eukor was a serious story with a few comic touches – let’s face it half the cast dies and the story is about a body snatching alien menace. Utomu, in contrast, is light – the opening scene is a clip from Singing in the Rain, it’s full of comic touches, and the climactic battle is outright slapstick. It’s got just enough darkness, in the form of the wizard Utomu to keep it grounded and moving, otherwise it might have floated away on its own lightness.

Visions of Utomu finishes up as a pretty good Doctor Who story. On its own merits it has real strengths. It’s imminently watchable. Utomu doesn’t do everything well, but it does a lot well. What it comes down to, do we notice and work to the terrific costumes and performances, or do we dwell on those awful faux walls, or the flubs in the sound or an awkward edit? Take your pick. For me, the cheerful amiability rules, it’s a Gene Kelly sort of story. Eukor you appreciate, but somehow it’s Utomu that puts a smile on your face.

Statistics:  32 minutes. 3/4″ videotape. Filmed November 1985, released January 1986.
Cast. . . Barbara Benedetti as The Doctor, Randy Rogel as Carl Evans, Wesley Rice as Utomu, Stasia Johnson (no relation) as Princess Aldraina, Robert Eustace as Prince Germain, Jim Dean as the King, Randy Dixon as the M.C., Joseph McCarthy as Formore, and an orange. Written, Produced and Directed by Ryan K. Johnson.




“Welcome to my world”: a dialogue on choices

Clara: I just hope I can keep them alive.
Doctor: Ah, welcome to my world.

And welcome, one and all, to a debate which drifted across several episodes and at least two episode forums. For the ease and edification of those who were trying to follow it, and with the agreement of the main participants, I’ve now compiled it in one blog.

Have fun. And remember: always consult The Doctor before ingesting hemlock. 😉

Jimbo McMaster
Just like to say that I’m happy that this episode (and this series) has dealt with the whole sometimes-you-have-to-do-bad-things-for-the-greater-good issue, which I think is ignored in earlier eras of the show. The kind of life the Doctor leads would require him to sometimes make these sorts of choices a lot more often than, say, the Russell T Davies era ever made him do (I don’t think there are any examples at all in Nine or Ten’s adventures, although admittedly the destroying-all-the-Time-Lords-thing is a good example of that sort of decision-making, albeit off-screen). Read more…

Paul McGann : Doctor What Now?


Time moved slowly in The Cancellation Years.

My son and I got on with life and it is fair to say we became closer because of what we had lost. Equally, though, it was at least 1990 before I laughed properly again since that Wednesday afternoon during Curse of Fenric.

Much irritated me – all too easily. When they deviated from what I remembered from the broadcast series, the Target novels irritated me. When the VHS releases did not contain separate episodes with their cliff-hanger endings, the BBC irritated me. When Doctor Who Monthly set about creating the opinions it expected fans to have, it irritated me.

Fandom itself irritated me.

Read more…

Sylvester McCoy: The Enigmatic Philosophic Warmonger


It was a very strange time, that long period between Ultimate Foe and the start of Time and the Rani.

Four children, a remarkably happy and thriving career in theatre and television (now more writing, directing and producing rather than acting) – and no Doctor Who. I missed it – but I preferred it ended to continuing as it had been under JNT and Colin Baker.

Then three things happened within the space of 6 months.

Read more…

Colin Baker: The Garish Bully


Posted by Craig in HTPBDET’s absence

DOCTOR: You may not believe this, but I have fully stabilised.

PERI: Then I suggest you take a crash course in manners.

DOCTOR: You seem to forget, Peri, I’m not only from another culture but another planet. I am, in your terms, an alien. I am therefore bound to different values and customs.

PERI: Your former self was polite enough.

DOCTOR: At such a cost. I was on the verge of becoming neurotic.

PERI: We all have to repress our feelings from time to time. I suggest you get back into the habit.

DOCTOR: And I would suggest, Peri, that you wait a little before criticising my new persona. You may well find it isn’t quite as disagreeable as you think.

PERI: Well, I hope so.

DOCTOR: Whatever else happens, I am the Doctor, whether you like it or not.

And there it was, the end of Twin Dilemma the first story of the Sixth incarnation of the Doctor and a direct challenge to fandom and viewers generally: JNT saying in very unequivocal terms: “Tough luck if you don’t like the new Doctor – just put up with it”.

Read more…

Davison: The Honourable Assassin


By the time Castrovalva came along, I was a father and my first son ( then 2) reacted very favourably to the Doctor Who theme tune and so my memories of the Davison era are indelibly linked to him sitting on my lap, pointing at the screen, burying his head in my chest or calling out “Doc-Doc Whooooo”.

I was ready for change, had been really since Armageddon Factor. Tom Baker stayed too long and people seemed to think he WAS the Doctor.

He wasn’t.

And Peter Davison, quietly but forcefully, showed precisely why.

Read more…

Tom Baker: The Eccentric Alien Infant


Posted by Craig in HTPBDET’s absence

Just before Christmas in 1974, I won a scholarship to a prestigious London drama school and, in my mind, made my pact with my Nanna complete. She had been gone for 2 years, but I still missed her a lot.

At the final round of auditions for the scholarship, there was this girl who had my Nanna’s name. She was slightly taller than me, with flaming red hair that cascaded down her back and tickled her thighs. She had a laugh that would dazzle and a voice that crackled with challenge and assuredness. She was Scottish. And gorgeous.

We had to do several audition scenes together, including the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet and the handbag scene between Lady Bracknell and Jack from The Importance of Being Earnest.

Playing opposite her was both the scariest acting I ever did – and the easiest. She just lit me up.

Read more…