Story: Former 2nd Doctor Companion, Victoria Waterhouse, travels to Tibet, summoned by what she believes is her father. There she meets Professor Travers, secretly the Great Intelligence. Fast forward to London, a decade later, Victoria is the head of New World University, scientology-like cult with a secret agenda. Sarah Jane Smith, the Brigadier and his daughter are all drawn into a web of intrigue as the Great Intelligence plots world domination….




  1. @DenValdron The review is the longest I’ve ever read! Anywhere1 Wow, great.

    I’m not sure I’m going to watch it though -I can sense some ambivalence on your behalf? In between the lines. Certainly this is a very productive period in fan work.

    On another note, the Mormons are neither disturbing nor a cult.

    They’re simply a religious group emanating from the US -like the SDAdventists or the Baptists. They’ve been going strong since 1830. Ooh, yes, I know my History!  (:-}


  2. Considering that Reeltime seems to be actively engaged in shutting down unauthorized access to their products online, it would be extremely hard to find.    Sorry about that.

    I’ve checked Reeltime’s  website and while they’ve released a number of their documentaries for dvd or download, neither Downtime nor Daemos Rising nor Wartime is on the list.   Possibly it’s just a huge backlog of (mostly documentary) titles that they’re releasing slowly.

    A check with Amazon UK shows one (1) copy of Downtime for 500 pounds!

    In terms of ambivalence?  Yes, I think there’s some, but not that much.  This is as much a resume as a movie – you see it as much for its participants as for itself.  It’s one of those things, you almost need to see it because its good for you, or because its important, rather than for simple enjoyment or appreciation.   No one likes to be told to eat their broccoli.

    That said, it is definitely enjoyable.   It’s really a tour de force for Nicholas Courtney, who rings the Brigadier through a lot of paces – far and away, he’s the star, and he’s got some good scenes, including slumbering in retirement, slipping back into his old self, reconciling with a daughter and discovering a grandson, and kicking the Great Intelligence’s ass – he’s got some very good lines in his confrontation with the Intelligence.   In contrast, Sarah Jane Smith and Kate Stuart are supporting characters.  The Yeti’s are top notch – they’ve actually done a better job with them than the Troughton serials did.   The plot is actually fairly innovative.  I’m quite serious when I said that this could have succeeded completely divorced from Doctor Who.

    But really, if you wanted to identify two big flaws – 1) Writing,  2) Direction, , and neither of these are entirely bad.   Maybe that’s why the review is so long.  Marc Platt is simultaneously a terrific and terrible writer, there are things he does extremely well, and there are things he just doesn’t do – and in the six years between Ghost Light and Downtime, it’s still the same strengths and flaws – he hasn’t grown.   There are parts that are extremely well directed and put together, and I may be unfair to Barnfather in attributing all those to Chris Barry.  But the parts where direction seems to fall down may simply be poverty and schedules.

    There’s no obligation to watch any of these things.  😉    I’m just trying to kind of identify and discuss the better films out there, the ones that might be interesting or good enough to watch, and maybe where they’re flawed how to read these flaws.

    And oops, you’ve touched on my Militant Agnosticism.  Sorry, I’ll freely admit that the Mormons are not a cult.  Although I’ve also spoken to non-Mormons from Utah, and I’m told that it’s as close to a Theocratic state as the US constitution will tolerate.

    Coming up next, in no particular order:

    * Shakedown:  Return of the Sontarans (now that Downtime is inaccessible I feel kind of like I should review something in the genre that someone can actually watch – it’s either that or How Much…)

    * Project 50 –  a 12 part serial from 2013, featuring Daleks, Cybermen, Time Vampires and ….Zodin!

    * The Ginger Chronicles:  A Dame to Kill For – a much more recent vintage female Doctor tussles with the Master, heavily influenced by Matt Smith.  There’s a few other ‘female Doctor’ productions.  Rutan, The Alliance, another whose name escapes me.  I might do a series of reviews there.

    * The Forgotten Doctor – Season One –  A semi-serial, featuring the only black Doctor I’ve come across.

    * The Vortex Series –   The Persephone Complex through to Flight of the Daleks.

    * Millennium Trap – that one I’ve been putting off, genuine ambivalence there.  It’s extremely well done, I just don’t warm to the version of the Doctor.

    * The Puppet Doctor – a charming little stop motion animations series.

    * Dark Dimensions – Someone is actually doing this as an animation, can you believe it.

    * The Federation –  not the whole thing, but certainly the Reign of Turner, Realitywarp and Shadowcast.

    * Maybe an overview of Matt Lukas, Doctor Who 2012 series.

    * I’ll happily take requests and suggestions.

    On the whole, it’s been an interesting experience so far.  It really reinforces what an absolutely towering body of work Timebase Productions were in almost every way, and how absolutely brilliant Booth and Benedetti were as Doctors.   But I’m still finding stuff to enjoy and admire



  3. @DenValdron

    I wondered if you’d tackle Downtime and Shakedown. I actually bought the original releases on VHS simultaneously when they were both out in the 1990s and they are a peculiar pair. Well worth comparing as a microcosm of fan writing and drives to produce the old and current show. Unfortunately, I’ll need to discuss Ian Levine at some length to do this, which is something I’ve largely managed to avoid on this site.

    Why did I buy them? Well, because I could at this point I suppose. I’d graduated in 91 and spent some time in the kind of graduate startup positions that existed at that time. It effectively meant you earned less than your contemporaries who didn’t go to University and who had just got on with life. You soon outstrip them though as you knuckle down, and at this point I’d changed jobs and effectively doubled my take home pay. I could have been responsible, but that wasn’t going to happen. I was in the mood to spend the excess on vital necessities (a new turntable) and frivolities (comics and stuff).

    Going into any Comic book shop in the UK you’d get your Marvel, your DC and your StarWars. Some independents and movie merchandise. Then you’d get to the Doctor Who display. Older, somehow furtive looking guys looking at the fanzines, VHS releases, the die-cast minature sculptures of characters and New Adventure novels. All the time keeping one eye on the display of Doctor Who action figures (by Dapol). Kids with their faces pressed up against the plastic packaging of the Figures knowing they couldn’t afford them, and that the old guys would buy them to keep them locked in their original packaging rather than playing with them, like the fascists they were. The kids would be going home with a reprint novelisation by Terrance Dicks, which was at least some consolation.

    My point is that the Doctor Who property was a thriving Cottage Industry in this period. It was fan led, but in that peculiar way that Peter Davison referenced in Five(ish) Doctors. “Why are we doing this?” “For the Fans”. By the fan, for the fan (and for profit) should be the motto engraved on this era. The UK was entrenched in Thatcherite thinking after all. The desire to demonstrate to BBC Enterprises (the forerunner for Worldwide) that you had the resources to produce and distribute a viable product that would not bring them into disrepute was a huge incentive in this new era of franchising. Virgin (at the time) had original content in novels stitched up, but other media are available, and there are plenty interested in looking at the potential. The network of comic book and speciality Sci-fi retailers were the main focus on distribution.

    So a lot of these film endeavours are attempts to demonstrate a level of competency. It was believed around this time that the future of the show lay in America. The past is thought to be ripe for exploitation, and revitalising old Doctors in new material is the ultimate goal. It happened eventually in Audio with Big Finish.

    So, we need to consider these not a true fan-films made for the hell of it, but as “straight to video” products that were sold at what were premium retail Video prices.

    Reeltime obviously needed funding to make this leap into original material and we get Ian Levine as majority investor if you like. In many ways this is a case of Vanity Publishing, with Levine, the Producer, getting a major say in what goes on.

    Levine is, as you say, a somewhat controversial figure. Russell T Davies told him to “fuck off” at a press meeting for Torchwood, and based Victor/The Absorbaloff in Love and Monsters on him. He’s the guy who leaked Matt Smith was leaving early after being copied inadvertently into a circular e-mail. His role in finding old episodes is greatly over-exaggerated and he has glory hunted credit from other people, when he should be asked some searching questions over his own conduct in that noble endevour. His time as a continuity consultant in the 80s tracks a huge amount of damage as he plays “the voice of fandom” while receiving kickbacks in terms of access and stage materials from producer John Nathan Turner. He turns fandom into a laughing stock over the 18 month hiatus issue, smashing up TVs at press conferences like a frustrated child and releasing the single “Doctor in Distress”. I think @JimTheFish introduced you to the ARSE (A Raging Sense of Entitlement) phrase. Levine is the personification of ARSE.

    One of the verses in Doctor in Distress (lyrics I. Levine) goes:

    We learned to accept Six Doctors with companions at their side,
    When they were faced with danger they didn’t run they didn’t hide,
    There was the Brigadier and the Master and a canine computer,
    Each screaming girl just hoped that a Yeti wouldn’t shoot her.

    Now, as tragically laughable as this is, it shows that the Yeti are the only monster that is really namechecked directly in the song, and screaming girls and the Brig get a mention too. So here with have the basic mix of constituents in the film. The Brig, Yeti and the ultimate scream queen, Victoria (whose exit story Fury from the Deep, makes her scream a plot point).

    Levine gets Mark Platt involved as writer. I actually like Ghost Light, and said as much when we covered it. That story was a replacement for one that Cartmel wouldn’t authorise though, a pitch later became Lungbarrow. At this point his work on the New Adventures have solidified a reputation of being one of those writers more interested in the continuity porn of the series – a natural working ally for Levine. It’s interesting to note that the character Daniel Hinton is a call-out to novelist Craig Hinton, at this point the undisputed king of continuity porn.

    I’d agree largely with your summary of the plot and attractions. This is a nostalgia fest for the faithful few, built on continuity points. It’s great to see the Brig back, but kind of horrible that they turn Victoria into such a thick plank of wood. But she’s just the screaming girl, isn’t she? The Yeti are kind of effective, but we should point out the change in design was a necessity – the Yeti are creator owned, as you say, but the original design is with BBC.

    I don’t really think, as a viable product, that it stands on it’s own feet. @Purofilion pointed out this is a long review (now augmented by a long reply) and surely this is because you’ve needed to set a lot of its content in context. It relies too much on the great weight of history that lies behind it. It’s certainly not something that you could show to a newbie and have them get that much out of it. It’s also telling that this is effectively a sequel to two stories that are absent from the archives at this point.

    So – as you say it’s a limited success. It didn’t stop a lot of the fanzines proclaiming it something special though, and you could buy the video, the music score album (by I. Levine) and the novelisation by Mark Platt, which became a Virgin Missing Adventure bookended by appearances by the second and third Doctors.

    Did it make money? Well, no one knows but I’d suspect not. I’d also suggest that the reason it has never seen a DVD release is probably that Levine had an argument with fellow producers (as he tends to do) and is busy forever remixing it with, as you say, bits of Sylvester McCoy.

    The news that it may actually have some resale value is welcome though. I don’t so bad about wasting my money. 😉

    For my money (which I spent), Shakedown is superior to this, but I’ll discuss why when you get to cover it.

  4. @phaseshift   Thank you for that further bit of historical context.  I think limited success is an apt description for all of the major productions around this time – including the McGann movie and Shakedown.

    As to Levine, I’m well aware of just how controversial and how disliked he is in some, perhaps many, circles.  This isn’t really the forum to defend him, but I’ll offer a couple of comments –  First, he’s suffered a severe stroke – I know what this is like firsthand from my own close family members, so deserved or not, my compassion is automatic and reflexive.  Second, from my vantage point he is thousands of miles away and many of his excesses and outrages are in the relatively distant past, so while I can appreciate what went on, I don’t really invest in it.   In my experience, there’s a certain sort of person who is best contemplated from a distance, because it can really suck to be up close.

    As to the rest – Levine himself admits his ‘Save Who’ campaign in the 1980’s and particularly that song was utterly wretched.  So give the man credit for wising up and admitting to his failures.  Regarding his role as ‘continuity porn’ guy in the 1980’s, that’s certainly open to criticism, but I really have to lay the blame for the problems of Who during 80’s at the feet of John Nathan Turner – Levine’s a symptom in this period.

    Finally, with respect to tinkering bits of Sylvester McCoy into Downtime, I actually tracked down a bit of it.  It’s on Ian Levine’s 48 minute showreel on youtube.  You can find it at 33.30 though maybe 36.30, but I wouldn’t bother.  It’s awful – technically, the image quality simply doesn’t match up, McCoy is clearly only going through the motions – cashing a cheque with a certain amount of distaste, it’s poorly shot and consists of a rather flat meandering dialogue with a hyper-latexed up actor that doesn’t go anywhere.  Painful and unnecessary.  Levine, whatever his strengths and weaknesses, does not have a cinematic eye.

    Levine doesn’t strike me as a ‘hands off’ producer, no way would he be the type to just put up money and be quiet.   Particularly not given his emotional investment in the series.  As to what he actually did.  Well, we don’t know.  We do know that Barnfather never collaborated with him again, which might tell us something.  I’m fascinated by this kind of thing, how these productions get made, which often involve quite surprising twists.  There are a number  of movies out there where its been said that the story of how they came to be was more interesting than the story they actually told.  I’d love to see a DVD release that featured a couple of good honest commentary tracks.  You may well be correct about the reason there was never a DVD release – I have seen that type of thing before.  It’s why you get the rights issues locked up early, when everyone is still friends.

    As to continuity porn – I’m not necessarily offended, and truth be told, I quite like that stuff.  I think that it’s inevitable in any ‘shared universe’ – consider Faulkner and Yoknapatapha (sic) County – the past starts to get referenced, minor characters reappear, past situations weigh on the present.   As an alternative, we have any number of American television series from the mass market era which go the other way and where each episode depicts characters in an endless timeless present without true pasts.

    Continuity porn did make this a very long review.  As I’ve said, it felt as much like a resume as a review, and that seemed inescapable to me.   I suppose that’s why, watching it I found myself asking  ‘what if you stripped out all the continuity crap, divorced it completely from Who, and tried it as a standalone.’

    I think it would have.  Possibly it might have worked better.  The basic elements – unearthly force infiltrates Earth through its computer systems, brainwashing humans into a cult – that works, it’s similar to things we’ve seen before, but different enough to be interesting.  The intrepid reporter on the story, the old war dog coming out of retirement and simultaneously reconnecting with his estranged family, even the key human henchman realizing they’ve been duped – all worthwhile plot elements.  The Yeti lose their shag and simply become big lumbering shapes…  You’d trade away all the baggage of recognition and familiarity.  But there’s a lot to be said for the freshness and surprise of faces without history, of learning about people we don’t know.   As peculiar as it sounds, that helped to decide it for me, the conclusion that the underlying structure was viable.

    I was actually thinking of doing Shakedown next.   But honestly, writing resumes are exhausting.  So I’ve decided to mix it up a little with something more modern.  Shakedown will be coming up soon.


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