I first encountered Star Trek on the afternoon of Saturday, 12 July 1969, just four days before Apollo 11 set off on its quarter-million-mile journey to the Moon. The BBC, unlike NBC in the United States, chose to run the series in the intended order, which meant its UK premiere was ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before’. We’re only a couple of months away from the fiftieth anniversary of both that broadcast and Neil Armstrong’s tentative first step upon the lunar surface, and I will confide it was the former which had a greater effect upon my life.
Incidentally, another early fan via those BBC screenings was Janet Quarton, later to run the Star Trek Action Group (which I joined soon as I heard about it circa 1977) and later still to be honoured by Gene Roddenberry himself through the naming of the Next Generation character “Q”.
The Doctors: Villains! (2018)
Koch Media, certificate E
Review originally written for UK magazine Infinity
Hot on the cloven heels of the Myth Makers compilation Monsters!, producer Keith Barnfather and his team turn their attention to the Doctor’s arch-nemeses.
Sadly, of course, the best-loved of those actors, Roger Delgado, was tragically taken from us 45 years ago in a car crash whilst filming in Turkey, but this two-disc set includes a tribute to him from many of his former colleagues (a number of whom have sadly also now left this plane).
The remaining five places in this nefarious Who‘s Who are taken up by David Gooderson (Davros in Destiny of the Daleks; interviewed this year by Robert Dick), Bernard Archard (Marcus Scarman in Pyramids of Mars; interviewed at a 2006 convention), Julian Glover (Scaroth in City of Death; ditto); Ian Collier (Omega in Arc of Infinity; filmed at home that same year) and Peter Miles (Nyder in Genesis of the Daleks; likewise). In a misguided attempt to give the older material a sense of continuity, questions from regular interviewer Nicholas Briggs were inserted into the footage; the result is both clumsy and jarring.
Whilst Glover provides the most entertaining segment, arguably the best line comes courtesy of Collier, confiding how his 1988 HIV diagnosis made it difficult to get regular work: “If it wasn’t for Big Finish, my career would have been finished!” Another reason, whilst the broadcast series suffers the attentions of the vacuous Chris Chibnall, to be grateful at least one company still knows how to make an authentic Doctor Who adventure.
Surprises are part of the Halloween tradition, but I was still caught off guard on Wednesday evening when the BBC telephoned to invite me about the late night show which is broadcast on BBC Radio WM and seven of its sister channels. Apparently, host Graham Torrington likes to chat with “remarkable people”, and his producer Nicole Pullman bizarrely considered I qualified for that nomenclature.
Much has been written about the casting of Jodie Whittaker as the new lead in Doctor Who, and no doubt a great deal more will follow the launch of the new season on 7 October.
Personally, I consider it a pity the role hasn’t been played by a woman before, or that the Doctor’s ethnicity hasn’t been adjusted during one of his — sorry, her — previous regenerations. After all, the Third Doctor revealed in his debut episode he’d arrived with a tattoo, and one of Romana’s potential reboots in ‘Destiny of the Daleks’ had blue-grey skin, so pigmentation clearly isn’t an issue for Time Lords (a term, incidentally, applied to both sexes during the original series).
No, my disquiet with all the heated hullabaloo over the new season began with the sheer inevitability that the Tardis would have a female pilot, and the smug self-satisfaction exhibited by both the BBC and incoming showrunner Chris Chibnall. His more recent comments about returning Doctor Who to the educational approach laid down by its first producer, Sydney Newman, and nebulous references to ‘diversity’ (an angle reiterated ad ennui in the latest Radio Times coverage) hardly boosted my optimism. Can he be unaware that Newman had to rethink his approach almost immediately, and that most of us do not need a weekly lesson the history of racism, sexism and homophobia?
I certainly wish Ms Whittaker no ill, and hope my concerns are unfounded. It would be unfortunate indeed if the number thirteen proved unlucky for a show which has aired thirty-nine of the past fifty-five years.
Back in the autumn of 1993, I made several appearances on The Way Out, broadcast live on BBC Radio 5 each Friday night from Birmingham’s famous Pebble Mill studios. Shortly afterwards, Radio 5 was re-engineered beyond all recognition into 5 Live, ending my blossoming career as the show’s resident horror and science fiction pundit, whilst the studios were closed in 2004 and demolished the following year.