The Magician’s Apprentice: Initial Reactions

Author’s Note: Although I released this incredibly late due to me having ZERO time this week, I wrote it entirely before I saw The Witch’s Familiar. As I type this is still haven’t gotten around to watching the episode. First world problems.


Where is the Doctor? When the skies of Earth are frozen by a mysterious alien force, Clara needs her friend. But where is the Doctor, and what is he hiding from? As past deeds come back to haunt him, old enemies will come face-to-face, and for the Doctor and Clara survival seems impossible.

In the world of Doctor Who, it seems we spend a disproportionate amount of time discussing three particular kinds of episodes: series openers, series finales, Christmas specials. The latter two are somewhat justified, but openers always tend to send the fandom into a flurry of over-analysis about the series to come and impending uphill/downhill (depending on who you ask) direction of the show. Why we can’t give it a few episodes before we come to a proper conclusion is anyone’s guess.

The fact is, this phenomenon has arisen purely in the last ten years; in the twentieth century, not nearly as much emphasis was placed on the first episode of a new series. Way back in the early days, an adjustment in the 1964 broadcasting schedule meant that some of the First Doctor’s least fan-appreciated stories – namely as Planet of Giants, Galaxy 4 and The Smugglers – went out as season openers instead of season finales as originally intended. In the 1970s, as the seasons became shorter and the show forcibly became more conscious of its’ peripheral audience, the openers became a little more organised and set the precedent for being the slot that welcomed new companions and brought back popular enemies. Even so, decisions such as the Fifth Doctor’s mid-series regeneration and Patrick Troughton’s bizarre 1985 appearance showed that the opener still wasn’t always seen as the go-to for marking a major event.

The point is, The Magician’s Apprentice had a feeling of contentment reminiscent of the Classic series. There wasn’t a new companion, the Doctor didn’t die in the first five minutes, and the Daleks didn’t burst through the door before the opening theme. Fans were told a relatively minimal amount about the story, which is a contrast to having half the plot spoiled on just about every possible news source. Sure, it marked the first appearance of Davros since the Russell T Davies era and furthermore looked in on his childhood and the supposed last moments of his life, and brought the team to Skaro in the middle of a group of very angry Daleks, but for a change almost every Whovian was caught by surprise.

And to make up for keeping the lid on all of that, the rock & roll Doctor set out to make a lot of noise. Literally.

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Posted in Doctors, New Series Reactions, New Series Tele-Stories, Projects, Series 9, Story Media, Twelfth Doctor

The Doctor Who Classics Guide: Series 2 (Part Two)

← Back to Series Two, Part One

Welcome to The Doctor Who Classics Guide! This is a special series that aims to take an objective look at each Classic Doctor Who story. If you’re new, please read the introduction first.

The Web Planet

Ian: What do you think they are, Doctor?
Doctor: Well, to use the term of Earth, I suppose we should call them insects.

013_by_willbrooksAlso known as: The Zarbi, The Webbed Planet, The Centre of Terror
Number of episodes: 6
Setting type: Sort-of-futuristic alien planet
DWM “The First 50 Years” poll ranking: 219th of 241 (bottom 10%)

(art by willbrooks)

A strange power drain forces the TARDIS to materialise on the planet Vortis. There, the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Vicki become involved in the plans of the butterfly-like Menoptra to reclaim their planet from the parasitic Animus that is slowly enveloping it with its web-like domain, the Carsenome.

I don’t want to say The Web Planet is awful, but…well…The Web Planet is awful. I mean that affectionately and out of no disrespect for the minority who I’m sure love this story, but as I sit here and try to conjure up nice and fair comments I’m coming to the realisation that it’s near impossible. Sorry.

Basically, this story is boring. I’ll be clear, normally I’m quite fair to classic stories (particularly the 60s ones) in this regard, because I understand that they were made in a different time for a different audience and designed to be watched in a different way. However, The Web Planet just feels like it drags on and on with a badly explained plot, a series of weak and poorly executed cliffhangers, and an apparently real-and-present danger which doesn’t really feel real-and-present at all. Emphasis is put in all the wrong places, and the protagonist and antagonistic alien races are totally don’t fit the story. I mean, giant insects at war? Give me a break.

I don’t like to sit here and bash particular Doctor Who stories, because I know that there’s people out there that love them in the same way I love The Sensorites or Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS. For this reason I’ll mention that this story does have a few decent points – for example, episode one features some cool continuity stuff that follows on from The Romans, even to the point where it becomes pivotal to the plot (which was a first for Doctor Who). However, I just feel that the positives of this story far outweigh the negatives, and the contribution to the legacy just doesn’t justify the time commitment it demands.

Is it worth your time? Look, this is one where it’s up to you. Does a giant alien insect war sound cool? Go for it – I will admit that this story is far more entertaining the first time around when you don’t know what to expect. But will you miss anything if you skip it? Not really – it offers little to the characterization of the TARDIS crew and the overall continual narrative, bar the heavy references to The Romans in the first episode. The Zarbi are, in fairness, a surprisingly popular 60s monster, but if you take a few minutes to read the plot on TARDIS data core then you’ll be filled in on that legacy aspect as well.

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Posted in Classic Series Tele-Stories (does not include DVD photo galleries), Doctors, First Doctor, Projects, Story Media, The Classic Who Guide

The Doctor Who Classics Guide: Series 2 (Part One)

 ← Back to Series One, Part Two

Welcome to The Doctor Who Classics Guide! This is a special series that aims to take an objective look at each Classic Doctor Who story. If you’re new, please read the introduction first.

series two cover

I’ve got a friend who specialises in trouble; he dives in and usually finds a way.

— Ian Chesterson, The Romans

In many ways, the underlying theme of Doctor Who‘s second series was something the show has subsequently thrived on for over 50 years: change. The 1964/5 series represents some of the first major changes for Doctor Who, many of which began to push the show in the direction of the series we know and love today. Kicking it off was Susan’s departure and her subsequent replacement in the form of a teenager from the 25th century, and later beloved schoolteachers Ian and Barbara choosing to follow a similar course and leaving the TARDIS, replaced by a great looking astronaut from the future. It was the year writers began to really experiment with the show’s style; the TARDIS was no longer simply a vehicle that served to transport the travelers between serious, life-threatening adventures. 1965 was the year we got (among other things) a timey-wimey plotline, a story that thrived on black comedy, bizarrely comedic Daleks, the first pseudo-historical plot, and a girl with a pet alligator. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t, but each success and failure served as precedent for Doctor Who writers to this day. The first series had been about establishing in the show, and now series two was about discovering where it most comfortably sat in the TV world; Doctor Who had found it’s feet, and it seemed like it was really here to stay.

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Posted in Classic Series Tele-Stories (does not include DVD photo galleries), Doctors, First Doctor, Projects, Story Media, The Classic Who Guide

Becoming Whovian: The Eleventh of April 2010

“I’m writing a computer virus. Very clever, super fast, and a tiny bit alive, but don’t let on. And why am I writing it on a phone? Never mind, you’ll find out.”

Very, very occasionally, I look back and think about how I got into all of this – the Doctor Who thing, I mean. I always resolved to write about it, because I’m terrified of the memory fading and – even worse – warping (I’m slightly concerned that it already has). When I realised the 11th April 2015 was upon us, I knew that it was now or never. So, ten years on from the beginning of the New Series and five years on from the beginning of my love for it, it’s time to tell my Whovian story.

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Posted in Doctors, Eleventh Doctor, Insightful Ramblings, New Series Tele-Stories, Other Post Types, Story Media

The Doctor Who Classics Guide: Series 1 (Part Two)

← Back to Series One, Part One

Welcome to The Doctor Who Classics Guide! This is a special series that aims to take an objective look at each Classic Doctor Who story. If you’re new, please read the introduction first.

The Keys of Marinus

Through the years all my friends, all my followers, have gone. Last year I sent my daughter; she has not come back. But now your coming’s brought new hope. Oh yes, you must find the keys for me.

— Arbitan


Also known as: The Seas of Death
Number of episodes: 6
Setting type: Futuristic alien planet
DWM “The First 50 Years” poll ranking: 193rd of 241 (bottom 20%)

The TARDIS arrives on the planet Marinus on an island of glass surrounded by a sea of acid. The travellers are forced by the elderly Arbitan to retrieve four keys for a powerful justice machine hidden in different locations around the planet, before they fall into the wrong hands.

Sandwiched between Marco Polo and The Aztecs comes the forgotten gem in the form of The Keys of Marinus. Put simply it’s a quest story, with the Doctor and his companions forced on mission to recover five keys to a mysterious machine. Now, I’m going to be upfront here: I like this serial, and a lot of others don’t. Just keep that in mind.

I suppose I can see where the hate for this story lies, but I personally believe The Keys of Marinus is a fantastic, well-paced adventure that was well ahead of it’s time. It’s ambitious – with a tiny budget the production team managed to create entirely different sets for each episode, which was a big change from stories that tried to reuse their sets as many times as possible. On top of that, William Hartnell took a two week holiday in the middle of filming, so writer Terry Nation had to find an excuse to create two Doctor-lite episodes; the explanation for the Doctor’s absence is completely plausible, and it sort of gets to the point where you forget about it and just enjoy watching Ian and Barbara (and later Susan and her newfound friends) getting themselves in and out of trouble. Along with the four main cast members the team enjoys some temporary teenage additions, to the point where it feels like the “Doctor Who Brady Bunch but giving our heroes new allies to interact with really adds to the charm of the story. The whole thing is a refreshingly welcome change to the normal format, and is a lot of fun to watch.

Is its worth your time? I’ll be fair and admit that at six episodes this story is on the lengthy side, but it really feels more like five separate ‘adventures’ with an underlying arc as opposed to a full on story. On top of that, The Keys of Marinus sort of has an exciting “quest movie” feel, so all the episodes easily be viewed in one or two sittings without boredom setting in. While it doesn’t do a huge amount from a legacy standpoint, it’s interesting to observe writing styles and story formats as they evolved over the years. Of the eight stories in this series, I believe this is one that really should be watched.

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Posted in Classic Series Tele-Stories (does not include DVD photo galleries), Doctors, First Doctor, Projects, Story Media, The Classic Who Guide

The Doctor Who Classics Guide: Series 1 (Part One)

← Back to the Introduction

Welcome to The Doctor Who Classics Guide! This is a special series that aims to take an objective look at each Classic Doctor Who story. If you’re new, please read the introduction first.

series one cover

“It all started out as a mild curiosity in the junkyard, and now it’s turned out to be quite a great spirit of adventure.”

— The DoctorThe Sensorites

The early 1960s were a turbulent time for the BBC. What was once a comfortable television monopoly was now being terrorised by commercial competitor ABC (now ITV), and trusty, long-running shows were rapidly losing viewers. In order to combat this issue, the business undertook a total restructuring and overhauled their programming – a venture which created gaps in many timeslots that needed to be coloured with fresh, new ideas. One particular space on Saturday afternoon between Grandstand and Juke Box Jury needed to be filled with something appealing to children, teenagers and male and female adults alike, and Head of Drama Sydney Newman had an idea…

In essence, Doctor Who can’t be credited to a single creator. It could be said that Sydney Newman had the idea, C E Webber played a huge part in fleshing out the characters and overall details, Anthony Colburn set some of the specifics such as the TARDIS being in the shape of a police box and the first episode’s iconic lines of dialogue (“wanderers of the fourth dimension”, etc), and Verity Lambert carried the show through production when it was doomed to fall apart. But regardless of who was responsible, whatever that group of people did became a legacy that would last far longer than anyone imagined.

On the 23rd of November 1963 at 5:17 pm, the show that would change British sci-fi forever saw it’s first moments in the world of television…

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Posted in Classic Series Tele-Stories (does not include DVD photo galleries), Doctors, First Doctor, Projects, Story Media, The Classic Who Guide

Introducing…The Classics Guide

So there’s the thing that I’ve been working on for a long, long time. I didn’t think I’d start publishing it any time soon, and then last night an absurd thought crossed my mind:

Just do it.

And suddenly I’m sitting here, preparing to present something that’s been a whole year in the making – and will probably still be in the making for a long, long time. I’ve started it, but I might not ever finish it; I’m not about to make any promises. But I can say that I’ve already invested countless hours into it, and I’m proud of what I’ve achieved.

It’s a Classic Who guide – but not just any Classic Who guide. It’s the guide I wish I had when I started watching Classic Doctor Who. It’s the guide I hope will help people come to adore 20th century Who the way I do.

Before we get started, there’s a few important things to note. Firstly, I can make no promises regarding the frequency of my guide releases. I’ll publish each part when it’s ready, and not a day sooner. Also, consider the posts and pages ‘volatile’ and prone to change – I’ll be updating them where I see fit.

But enough of my enigmatic ramblings. The proper introduction – the “guide to the guide” – is here. Part one will be posted within a few hours. Please read, share, and enjoy.

Posted in Guides, Other Post Types, The Classic Who Guide

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