Saturday, 23 March 2013

A Scary Present

What's in the box? Only Scary Cat is brave enough to investigate, in case it turns out to be Hoover!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013


If you've seen the film version of The Fellowship of the Ring then you'll know that one of the many, many, many changes they made from the book was that Glorfindel doesn't have the same role in the story.

In the book, Glorfindel meets Aragorn and the Hobbits on the way to Rivendell and helps save them from the Black Riders. In fact, he doesn't really do much else in the story.

In the film it is Arwen that meets Aragorn and the Hobbits on the way to Rivendell and helps save them from the Black Riders. After that, she doesn't really do much else in the story except for marry Aragorn at the end of Return of the King. And in the book that is basically all she is there to do.

So, essentially what has happened is that two characters who don't do much outside of their one very specific role in the story have been merged into one character - Arwen.

Not Glorfindel?

Poor Glorfindel.

I think it would have been much better if Glorfindel had been in the story instead of Arwen. The part before Rivendell could have been the same as in the book, and then at the end of Return of the King Aragorn could have married Glorfindel, who he had been in love with all this time but could not hope to marry until he was king of both Gondor and Arnor.

That would have been much better than any of the other pointless and arbitrary changes made to the story structure over the course of the films.

Or they could have just given both Arwen and Glorfindel's roles to Legolas.

Or maybe not.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Doctor Who: The Missing Episodes

Part Four: The Tom Baker Years

Season 12

Little of the lost classic Robot survives, save for a few clips from the closing minutes of part three. These give only a suggestion of the overall quality of the story. The surviving audio master tapes (which fortunately still exist for all Doctor Who serials) suggest that Tom Baker made a striking impression in his first story, with a portrayal of the Doctor very different from his predecessors from his very first scenes on. Robot also introduced the Companion Harry Sullivan, played by Ian Marter, who had a short tenure as a series regular and it is a great pity that so few episodes survive from his run.

No surviving film or video clips are know to exist for The Ark In Space. Production stills seem to show that the chief strength of this story lay in the design and realisation of the alien Wirrn, but because there are no extant parts of the story it remains obscure even within Doctor Who fandom, surrounded as it is by better-known missing stories.

The first complete existing episode in Tom Baker's era as the Doctor comes from the two-parter The Sontaran Experiment. The first part, and lengthy clips from part two, were recovered from Australian television in the 1980s when the reviving fame of the series prompted a search for episodes missing from the archives.

Few missing stories are as sought after as Genesis of the Daleks, arguably the best of the Dalek stories and one of the best Doctor Who stories of all time - so the legend has it - that put Tom Baker's Doctor on the map and gave the canon a new and enduring villain in the form of Davros, the Daleks' creator. Alas that no complete episodes are known to exist, but even in isolation the two surviving clips are effective in conveying the Daleks' power: the first shows the activation of the Daleks by Davros at the climax of part one (also reused as the cliffhanger reprise at the beginning of part two); in the second clip, which comes from near the end of part six, the Daleks turn on their creator and then deliver a chilling monologue to camera setting out their manifesto to conquer the universe.

Three of the four parts of Revenge of the Cybermen exist, and the missing episode (part one) has been animated for the release of the story on DVD. For a long time the entirety of this story was missing, but parts two, three and four were eventually recovered from a film collector, leading to them being rush-released as the last Doctor Who story on VHS video.

Terror of the Zygons is not missing.

Season 13

Season 13 is the most complete of all Tom Baker's era of Doctor Who, with only parts two and four of The Brain of Morbius missing. Part one was also missing until quite recently, and its recovery prompted release of the incomplete story on DVD. There have been suggestions that the missing parts could be animated at some point in the future, which would make season 13 complete (or as complete as possible under the circumstances) for the first time since the 1970s.

Season 14

One of the most recently recovered episodes of Doctor Who is part three of Masque of Mandragora, without which this would be yet another story with no surviving footage. While the recovery of any missing episodes - or even clips of footage - is an achievement to be celebrated, there are many in the fandom that would have chosen any of the other missing stories of season 14 rather than this one, had that been a choice which anyone could have made.

The Hand of Fear was the final appearance of Sarah-Jane Smith, one of the longest running Companions who spanned the Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker eras. But as a consequence of the many missing episodes and stories from their time, she is perhaps not one of the better remembered, and so it is typical that nothing exists from her final story (save for the soundtrack and a few production stills).

The Deadly Assassin is not thought of well in Doctor Who fandom, both for being an unusual story with no Companions accompanying the Doctor and for committing the cardinal sin of retconning the Time Lords, changing the way they were previously presented in stories such as Terror of the Autons or Colony in Space. Most of the story is missing, but the whole of part three and the first 10 minutes of part four were recovered by the BBC from a video recording made by the NVLA (National Viewers and Listeners Association).

No episodes are known to survive from either The Face of Evil or The Robots of Death, and while both enjoy status within the fandom as "lost classics" there are those who suggest that if they were ever found then the reality would not live up to the reputation, as happened when the long-lost Patrick Troughton story The Macra Terror was recovered.

Parts five and six are all that remain of The Foe From The Future, and it is neither as racist nor as good as some people say. By which I mean that some say it is racist and some different other people say it is good.

Season 15

Horror of Fang Rock is another missing story that often tops fans' "most wanted" list. The soundtrack is effective enough - tightly written, claustrophobic, and with one of the all-time-great cliffhanger moments. Unfortunately this is another story without any surviving footage; without even Telesnaps - only production stills of the cast and sets, taken in black and white.

The Invisible Enemy is a wacky, knockabout romp that allowed Tom Baker to show his comedic side and introduced K9 as a Companion. It is not missing.

Image of the Fendahl is not missing. However it may as well be since the BBC refuse to allow it to be released commercially or broadcast on any television channel. Bootleg copies that have made it to the internets are quickly suppressed with a vigour not shown for any other BBC production. The reason for this has never been made clear, and rumours that it is because watching Image of the Fendahl can drive the viewer irrevocably insane have been officially denied. The serial's original writer, Chris Boucher, is currently being kept in a secure facility for the criminally underrated, and so was unavailable for comment.

The Sunmakers is another wacky comedy story that is not missing. There is no justice.

Only part one of the classic story Underworld is known to exist, though fans are ever hopeful that parts two to four will be recovered some day so that they can be seen in all their undoubted glory.

The Invasion of Time is not missing, although part one had to be recoloured for DVD release since no original colour copy survived. There is speculation that the colour copy of part one was junked by the BBC at the same time as Invasion of the Dinosaurs.

Season 16

The Ribos Operation is the only complete story from season 16, a.k.a. the "Key to Time" season. This season is somewhat notorious for its repetitive plot structure - the Doctor and (new Companion) Romana arrive, look for a segment of the Key to Time, get involved in hijinks, find a segment of the Key to Time, leave. The Androids of Tara is the only story of the season to significantly deviate from this formula, in that they find the segment before they get involved in hijinks.

The Pirate Planet - only part two exists.
The Stones of Blood - parts one and four exist.
The Androids of Tara - only part three exists.
The Power of Kroll - only part one exists.
The Armageddon Factor - no complete episodes exist, and although a few clips survive they make the story look awful.

Season 17

Part three is all that we have of Destiny of the Daleks, enough to get a taste of how good this story is, and how bad the actor playing Davros is in it.

City of Death is not missing. Maybe there is some justice after all.

The Creature From The Pit is almost entirely intact - while there are no missing episodes, some scenes with the Doctor and Erato were censored by the BBC for being unintentionally (some would say intentionally) sexually suggestive, and the masters are believed destroyed or in the hands of a private collector with weird tastes.

Nightmare of Eden is not missing, because I couldn't think of anything funny to say about it.

The Horns of Nimon is the last completely missing story in the Doctor Who canon at this time. There is a conspiracy theory within fandom that it was lost deliberately by Script Editor Douglas Adams, who was said to be "disappointed" with the production and the story's critical reception.

Shada was, for a long time, the most missing Doctor Who story of all. Due to industrial action at the BBC the finished serial was never broadcast on television and the master tapes almost immediately pounced on and destroyed by Pamela Nash. It was only through years of painstaking research and investigation by Ian Levine that a single surviving copy was found and triumphantly returned to the BBC. Fans await its release on DVD with considerable excitement, as the BBC have taken the decision that it should never be shown on BBC TV when there's money to be made some other way.

Season 18

Tom Baker's final season was overseen by a new Producer, John Nathan-Turner (JNT), who was to go on to become the longest lasting and most successful Producer in Doctor Who's history. Unlike all of his predecessors, he saw the value in retaining the old episodes and pressed the BBC to repeat some of the old classics. "The memory cheats," he said, "so lets remind people how good Doctor Who was... and is."

It was at this time that the full extent of the glaring and gaping holes in the archives first became apparent within the BBC, and JNT did his best to put a stop to further losses. This is why only five episodes from season 18 onwards have ever been missing, and of those one has now been recovered.

The five missing episodes in question were Earthshock part one (a Peter Davison episode, so beyond the scope of this article) and the four parts of Warriors' Gate.

There are many theories as to how Warriors' Gate was lost after the point at which the wanton destruction of the Doctor Who archives should have ceased, but by far the most plausible suggestion is that Pamela Nash, ignominiously sacked and harbouring a grudge against those who put a stop to her pyromaniac tendencies, hired a professional thief to steal the Warriors' Gate master tapes at a Doctor Who Convention, practically from under JNT's nose, which he did while in costume as a character from The Sunmakers.

Warriors' Gate part four was recovered at the same time as part three of Masque of Mandragora, making them the two most recently returned episodes at the time of writing. The full details of how they were returned to the BBC are not yet known, but they are said to involve Ian Levine, a William Shatner mask, a cheese-grater, a single boxing glove, a velvet hat, and at least two telephones, possibly more.

It gives us all hope that more missing Doctor Who episodes will be recovered in the future.