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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Doctor Who Rewind - The Keys Of Marinus

At the beginning of this Six part Terry Nation story, the Doctor and his travellers find themselves transported into a plot the resembles a computer game straight out of the eighties. If you think of classic computer game Manic Miner, you've almost got the plot of this one.

Five keys must be collected from four very different geographical areas of planet Marinus, which, by the way, has an acid sea and a glass beach. Not then, the kind of place you would want to go for your summer holidays.

These micro keys need to be collected in order for the computer, which holds the conscience of Marinus,(a kind of justice system), to be powered up. Why I here you cry? Well it seems the nasty amphibian Voord creatures (who either have a fetish for rubber wet suits or are starting a new diving fashion craze) have adapted to the conscience of the computer over thousands of years and are now threatening to overthrow the the planet with their rubbery goings on.

These keys were hidden many years back by Arbitan (the keeper of the computer) as a precaution to stop the Voord from taking back their power. Now it seems, they needed to be found so the computer can be upgraded and therefore stop the wet suited mask wearing rubberised monsters from regaining their power.

At first Hartnell refuses to do do Arbitans bidding but then when a force-field is placed around TARDIS, forcing some pretty ropey mime acting from the regulars, the Doctor has no choice but to comply.

One thing I did notice through out this story is how relaxed and chatty the TARDIS crew seem to be with one another. Have they been smoking pot? It's like their out to have a lovely picnic in the Lake District or something, so eager are they to get out of the TARDIS and explore this new world, despite the consequences.

Nation decided to go with quite a disjointed way of telling the story,despite it having an overall objective, the episodes are pretty much self contained stories in there own right.

There's the Velvet Web in which the travellers are bestowed riches and luxury but which turns out to be a hypnotic trance induced nightmare.

And the Screaming Jungle with its booby traps and dangerous foliage. It seems famed director Sam Raimi may have been influenced by the scene where Barbara gets her leg grappled by a fairly limp tree branch, for his celebrated 1980's film The Evil Dead. He just took the idea to the next level.

Its clear in this episode that the budget was severely retrained when you see that they had to resort to using a real pair of hands in the scene where Barbara examines a statue that grabs her. In fact throughout the story it's clear the fantastical ideas just could not be realised by the set designers, despite having tried their best.

The Snows of Terror don't really look terrifyingly cold. In fact they look positively balmy. Just how much polystyrene packaging they had to save up for that episode baffles me. Then there's the overgrown ape like trapper who tries to have his way with poor old Barbara. And I'm sure the cling film lined ice caves in which the key seekers find the frozen ice soldiers looked great on 1960's tv's but not brilliant on my 40".

One thing I've really been enjoying since i started watching these early DW's is the episode titles , some have been quite poetic. So I decided to try a few of my own making...

The path of pandemonium
The garden of grief
The car park of chaos
The alleyway of awkwardness
The tea shop of terror
The motorway of madness
The dual carriageway of destiny.

For two episodes the Doctor is absent completely (as in real life he was off on his hols). Therefore the show is completely carried by the rest of the crew, it's an idea DW will return to later in its life.

When Hartnell does return he looks much better for the break. And is raring to get on with things. Things like defending Ian against a sentence of death. Yes, loveable Ian has got himself right in the brown stuff when he is framed for murder. Ah, but don't worry the Doctor races to his rescue by becoming his defence lawyer. It's like Murder She Wrote in space. "Trust me", the Doctor tells Ian. Yes this coming from a man who several weeks ago was ready to kill a caveman in cold blood. And, if that's not enough poor Ian has to wait for his death sentence to be carried out in a room which sports a timepiece that makes an annoying beeping sound every second. It never rains when it pours!

Overall it's a shame that so many ideas were crammed into this story. Because they just couldn't be realised on screen. With budget constraints and a disjointed format I think this story just doesn't deliver where say, Marco Polo and the Daleks does. Perhaps if it were to be re-made now it would do much better.

In the next Doctor Who Rewind Barbara gets mistaken for a god in 15th century Mexico. Quick scarper, its the bloody Aztecs.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Doctor Who Rewind - Marco Polo

For the past week I've been up to my neck in Tele-snaps. No it not the latest kiddie cereal to hit the market, but the only remaining visual imagery from many lost Doctor Who episodes.

Back in the 60's a guy by the name of John Cura began keeping a permanent record of many BBC TV programmes with a specialist camera that captured still full frame images of broadcast material. As video tape was still in the experimental stage and very expensive, this offered both the BBC and its actors a way of keeping a record of their output. Many programmes were recorded in this fashion, but DW has become linked with Tele-snaps as many fans have now combined the snaps with home taped audio recordings of transmissions to recreate the lost stories. These then, are the famed DW reconstructions.

It's a great pity that this first great historical Doctor Who expedition has been lost, as the production is quite lavish. It seems like the Beeb spared no expense in the sets and the costumes. As its a big seven part story I suppose they felt they had to. Not only that, but the duration of the piece gives the characters we meet time to develop.

After landing in a cold mountainous area the TARDIS conveniently (for our story) breaks down. Some dodgy circuitry is blamed. With not an intergalactic AA man in sight, and no warmth or water available, Ian suggests he go of and find some fuel. That's what I like about Ian, he's ever the optimist. Even at the top of the Himalayas, he thinks he'll be able to find a service station. What he doesn't realise is that this is the year 1289, and the TARDIS has brought them to China in the rein of emperor Kublai Khan.

Soon enough the crew meet up with Venetian traveller, explorer and merchant Marco Polo and his caravan, which is journeying along the famed Silk Road to see Khan. Initially he agrees to help the stranded crew by taking them in and transporting the TARDIS while it is out of use.

It isn't long however before Polo realises that the blue box must be some kind of magical item that is capable of many wondrous things and the Doctor a magician from far away. It may even perhaps, impress the mighty Khan enough to allow Marco to return home to Venice.

Polo takes the TARDIS key and intends to let no one enter until they arrive at the palace of Khan. Therefore subjecting the crew to endure the arduous journey through the Gobi desert toward Peeking.

While all this is playing out the ambitious Mongol warlord Tegana, who is travelling with Marco, plots his own selfish plan to sabotage the caravan and ultimately assassinate Khan, in order to take his place and seat of power across all Cathay.

In the early days of Doctor Who, one of the main remits of the programme was to be an educational device for young children. By focusing on historical characters and places and building a story around them the programme could secretly educate under the banner of science fiction. This was a master stroke by its creators and it works surprisingly well. It's a pity that as the show progressed the monsters took prominence more and more.

In this story the evil Tegana and his tribe get to replace, say, The Daleks, to bring a more earthly threat to the Doctor and his travellers. Though at first this isn't obvious to them.

I found that a couple of episodes into the story i didn't really miss the mutants and the monsters, being immersed into a historical world where the story really took its time to let the audience get to know its characters.

In modern DW we rarely get a chance to revel in the depth of the characters with the pressure of exciting effects and plot turns and twists. These are all well and good, but if the writing isn't up to scratch its all pretty much an anti climax. Here the gentle meandering story lets you fall into it. And having Polo narrate it via his journal entries really helps to move things along.

For instance, we see a strong friendship between the two young women Susan and Ping Cho (who is on her way to Peeking to marry a man who she has never met and is three times her age). This alliance will turn out to pay dividends later in the story when the crew regain the TARDIS key. But because of the time invested in this story (some three hours plus) we get to see their friendship develop, over nearly two months if you were watching back in the 60's.

Elsewhere we get to learn the reasons why Marco desperately wants to return home to Venice, and the why he has taken such drastic action against the TARDIS travellers from a far. For the most part he's a gentlemen who happens to be in a bad situation and seizes the opportunity to change his destiny. He's honest, friendly and speaks with the queens English! And it's hard to hate him really.

Ping Cho's delightful telling of Aladdin and the Hashashin during the third episode is further evidence that this story is allowed to breath. Everything is allowed to stop while she takes centre stage for a good five minutes to recite the story within a story.

The actor Darren Nesbit,who plays the villain Tegana kept on reminding me of James Mason for some reason, something about his face. For such a treacherous blood thirsty person he also speaks with a text book English accent, and an almost hypnotising voice at that, which lulls you into a false sense of security. You want to like him, but then he goes and sabotages all the water gourds, or abducts Barbara or tries to poison Marco Polo. Poor fellow, I think he's just misunderstood.

In a story dominated by history it's also nice to see science still playing a little part. When for instance there is no water, and condensation forms on the inside if the TARDIS walls, the Doctor and Susan collect it for Marco, who upon seeing it - is furious that they have been keeping it to themselves. Ian, steps in and gives Marco a little lesson in the change of the physical state of matter from gaseous phase into liquid phase, but in lay mans term of course.

Hartnell's performance again is eccentric and confident, despite a few line fluffs (which only add to his dotty nature). He tells Polo he is dealing with a superior intelligence. He shouts and protests when the TARDIS key taken from him and goes off for a good sulk. And, he makes friends with the much hyped emperor Kublai Khan when they compare notes on the frailties of old age. He even plays Khan at backgammon and despite winning thirty three elephants, four thousand white stallions and the sacred tooth of the Buddha, fails to win back the TARDIS.

Also worth mentioning, sound on this story really plays another important part in bringing the story to life. Tristan Cary does a wonderful job with the Chinese incidental music and the BBC Radiophonic workshop create one hell of a sand storm that seems to have originated in the depths of hell itself. It's like they've given the sand a voice, and its shouting obscenities at the top of its register.

All in all I really enjoyed this story, despite only experiencing it through photos and sound. I just hope that maybe one day a copy of it might turn up somewhere.

Next time on Doctor Who Rewind we travel to Marinus for a quest like no other.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, June 17, 2013

Doctor Who Rewind - The Edge Of Destruction

After no expense was spared on The Daleks, what with the price of sink plungers, gallons of peroxide and plastic trees, the production crew needed an even cheaper two part story to pad the series out a little before the next script and sets were ready. Nation had made the most he could out of his creations and adding a further fifty minutes (2 x 25 minute episodes) would have been really asking a lot of the audience. So until a better story came along we get this ensemble piece that feels more like a play than a TV programme. All the action is in the TARDIS and to get away with that more of the TARDIS needed to be explored.

So, what magical parts of the TARDIS do we get to see? A sleeping area with two pull down beds and a side table! Oh we'll suppose the budget was non existent.

Everything about this story is completely mad. The TARDIS is flying through time when suddenly it seems to hit something and everyone falls to the floor unconscious. When they come too, they seem to be possessed by something. Did they all ingest some pot or LSD? It sure seems so.

There are some brilliant flashes of acting in this two parter, but they are mixed into a story which really doesn't know where it's going. It's like an actors workshop were the director has come up with various scenarios to test their abilities.

I loved the bit were Barbara, who is normally the voice of reason looses it with the Doctor, and rips into him with a torrent home truths about just how self centred he is. He looks genuinely shocked at her outburst. Does he take on board her criticisms? Well, he kindly goes off and makes everyone a nice cuppa - but it's laced with something that puts everyone to sleep. God knows, Barbara is going to be livid when she wakes up.

And Susan looks truly evil as she tries to lunge at Ian with a pair of rather large scissors. She then proceeds to stab repeatedly at the mattress on the wavy pull down bed thing. Bet the set designers were pissed at her. 

Even the TARDIS is acting out of sorts. The console panel has become electrified, the doors keep opening and closing, the monitors show photos of picturesque English countryside and the clock is melting.

The cliff hanger at the end of part one is someone creeping up on the Doctor and putting their hands around his neck. Who could it be? Well any of them as they all have reason to want to do him in after he nearly killed them off in the Daleks.

In the second episode the four of them try to unravel the great mystery that is surrounding them. This episode has been sighted as the one where the Doctor's relationship with Barbara and Ian turns a corner. For it is  Barbara that works out the clues as to what is going on. Therefore creating a bit of a pattern for future Doctor - companion relationships.

There is also a fair bit of falling to floor in this story. Nearly everyone gets to have a go by the end. And it's not ordinary falling. No, actors love a bit of dramatical creativity and they really go for it. Rolling about. Leaping up and crashing to the ground. I think they may have been bored.

What's hinted in this episode is further explored much later in the shows future. That the TARDIS is conscious and can help protect its inhabitants. It's a good idea and with more of a budget and a decent ending it would have worked.

Toward the end of the episode the Doctor delivers a soliloquy to camera which is almost Shakespearean, about the beginning of the universe, it's expertly executed by Hartnell. And we get a sense of the Doctors enthusiasm for  astronomy and science.

The ultimate cause of the entire story really doesn't explain the psycho type mood swings of some of the TARDIS crew though, especially Susan. I think she isn't the Doc's granddaughter at all but an escaped looney who he's picked up on his travels. I'm going to be keeping my eye on that one.

Next time on Doctor Who Rewind a seven part historical adventure involving a trip back to Central Asia in 1289 where all of the episodes have been lost by the BBC! Could be a little challenging that one.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Doctor Who Rewind - The Daleks

This is it, the first appearance of a design classic. Terry Nation's tin pot metal meanies who'll stop at nothing until humanity is eradicated from existence. But will their debut outing be a terrifying tale of evil or a giggle fest of embarrassing attempts at extermination.

There's so much resting on the first episode of seven,"The Dead Planet", if you come at it from Eleven Doctors later. But just imagine what it would have been like watching this back in 1963, with no idea what this strange desolate planet had in store for the Doctor and the TARDIS crew.

At the beginning of the episode the audience knows something terrible is going to happen, as the TARDIS radiation counter displays worryingly in the danger zone. Unluckily, nobody clocks this as their all too busy getting a wash and brush up after the last adventure. Got to look clean for those Daleks.

It's then that the Doctor becomes a kind of Willy Wonker type character, producing some amazing contraption that produces little tablets, that when consumed, provide a full meal. Just simply dial in your favourite food and hey presto. Of all the exotic culinary delights Ian and Barbara could test on this kitchen marvel, they opt for good old fashioned bacon and eggs. Nothing like a full English before exploring a strange new planet.

What you realise in this story is the scope and diversity that was required and what the set designers were up against. And all from one studio with no exteriors. They are asked for a dense other worldly jungle - and what we get is just that. Probably concocted out of paper, plastic and toilet roles (more on those later) but in the monochrome world of 1960s tv it works amazingly well. It's both threatening and wondrous. What prey, is in the canopy of those pole like trees that grow straight up - we never find out of course, but that's the beauty of tv in this era. It's like reading a book, but here what we only partially see fires the imagination to fill in the rest.

Again in this story the Doctors bedside manner is as self centred as ever as he selfishly considers the strange great city that lies before them when the edge of the forest is reached. He wants to go down there straight away and investigate but is talked out of it by the rest. And then, when they all have him outnumbered in their desire to leave the planet he decides otherwise. Deciding to sabotage the TARDIS by removing a some inner part called The Fluid Link, and kidding them he needs to refill it with mercury or they won't be going anywhere. That they don't smell his little ruse is beyond me given his track record to date but there is an off hand remark between Barbara and Ian that implies that it wouldn't be an altogether bad thing if something were to happen to this so called Doctor chap.

The upshot of the Doctors little ploy is that the four of them venture out again into a planet steeped in radiation and by the time they reach the Dalek city of corridors they are all but spent.

These seven episodes are full of inventive camera work. The first view of a Dalek is from its point of view as it corners Barbara when she gets lost. We just see the camera approaching her with the Dalek stalk and plunger waving in front. It's crude but effective. Also the use of reverse negative when the Daleks fire their weapons holds up really well. So much so that when Ian's legs get partially paralysed we really do feel his frustration at being utterly useless.

What also works well is the sense of claustrophobia in that Dalek city, made up of a maze of corridors, doors and lifts on multiple floors. When the travellers are held captive by the Daleks, and they are literally dying of radiation poisoning, the sweat on their faces (generated by the heat of the studio no doubt) only adds to the realism that they are on the very brink of death.

The scene in which the four brainstorm ideas for escape is well played as well. A number of ideas are discussed before they agree on a plan. Again this builds on the realistic approach and I doubt that would happen now in the age of DW where everything moves along at a hundred miles an hour.

One of the more bizarre scenes is where Susan is taking dictation from the Daleks, as they get her to write a letter to lure the Thals into an ambush. She has trouble keeping up and even shouts at them, telling them to slow down. When they take the note from her to check it, stuck on the end of a plunger, I couldn't help thinking how limited these creatures really are. You can just imagine them saying, "You-have-spelled-exterminate -incorrectly!!!"

Then what of the Thals themselves. Void of any violent outbursts or acts of aggression, until that is DW turns up. The blonde tall headed scantly clad Thals want a peaceful resolution at all costs. They go bounding into Dalek city with the promise of food and provisions from the Daleks. On a table in the middle of the room, with the Daleks hiding our of sight round the corner (there plungers in full view), we see gifts of fruit and veg, and what look like several rolls of loo paper? Are those for when the Thals shit themselves on sight of the wheeled pepper potted pests?

When the remaining Thals and humans escape back to the TARDIS though, its all laughs as the consensus is that they had better leave this place pronto. The cliff hanger at the end of episode four had me in stitches. DW asks Ian for the fluid Link for the TARDIS and Ian suddenly realises the Daleks had confiscated it while they were held captive. The camera slowly pans from Ian to Barbara, to Susan and finally to the Doctor as he turns to face the camera and pull a face of sheer anguish. They should have gotten him to say "FUCK!!!" and it would have been genius.

Help is needed to get back into Dalek city and despite a short moral debate on the pros and cons of getting the Thals to man up a bit. It's agreed the only way to get that fluid link is to inlisted the Thals help. Therefore our Mr Who has not only almost killed his friends, he's now ready to use the Thals for his own means as well. We clearly know now that his moral compass is not really been developed yet.

Luckily, after Ian threatens to take one of the Thal women to the Daleks, they suddenly discover the ability to inflict violence and agree to help.

After a lengthy period concentrating on the journey back to Dalek City, and the threats it poses, they finally arrive.

The Daleks have already initiated a countdown to explode another neutron bomb. Bad news. Or is it?

Lucky again for our time travellers the countdown starts at about one hundred and goes on, well, forever. Long enough time for the Daleks to be overthrown and be put out of action. If only they had started from ten. Maybe next time. Even the poor Dalek announcing the countdown seems bored after a while and ready to give up.

Another thing that impressed me about this story was the sound fx and back ground noise of the city. It sounds fantastically unfriendly, atonal and threatening and really adds to the tension as the story goes on. It's echoey too. Like Someone sliding a mallet up and down a xylophone over and over again. It's terribly effective and the kind of thing we would now take for granted.

All in all we have this story to thank for the eventual continuation of DW, as the Daleks were so popular another story was soon written for the next series. There was no stopping DW now, the stage was set, and although the character of the Dictor was still forming, all the main ingredients were there.

Next time on Doctor Who Rewind a weird two part story set entirely on the TARDIS, where things get decidedly strange, and then some.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Doctor Who Rewind - An Unearthly Child

Six years before I arrived on planet Earth, Doctor Who made his debut on tv. Around tea time on Saturday evening November 23rd 1963, his very first story, An Earthly Child was screened. I've only seen short clips of this era of DW so watching the four episodes that made up this story during the past week was always going to be an interesting experience.

I was excited at the prospect of watching the very first episode and waited till the wife was safely in bed to whip it on the DVD. I turned the lights down low and took a deep breath...

First off you really do feel that you are descending into the dark realms of yesteryear . The swirly psychedelic wave forms moving across the screen combined with that unmistakeable theme tune produced by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, with its pulsating bass line and soaring sonic melody, really help to create an other worldly atmosphere.

Of course the other main component of these early episodes is the fact they are black and white. I found that this only added to the sense of strangeness. It's hard to believe here in 2013 with HDTV and 3DTV, that all tv used to be B&W. It must have been like watching TV through a pair of binoculars whose lenses are smeared with dirt.

We see a Police man waving a torch about outside a junkyard of some kind. What's he looking for? Have there been reports of a strange old man keeping a young school girl held captive in a small blue box? Luckily it's the 1960's and those kind of thoughts were not entertained back then.

The camera leads us through the haze of the darkness and out of the shadows we see it, a blue Police telephone box. I'd love to have had the surprise of finding out with that first audience what lay inside that magical box.

I won't be going into the plots of the stories in much detail here, I'd encourage you to view them yourself. But as an outline, this episode focuses firstly on a strange girl, Susan, who is the concern of her teachers (Barbara and Ian) for knowing things that she frankly shouldn't. They are concerned so much the decide to pay her a visit at her grandfathers residence in the junkyard.

When they, and we eventually meet the old man who calls himself the Doctor their concerns only grow. And I for one don't blame them. The first doctor, portrayed brilliantly by William Hartnell, is the Doctor like we've never seem him before.

He's highly suspicious of their motives. He finds pleasure in mocking and criticising them at every opportunity. There is definitely and air of smugness about him, he feels that they wouldn't possibly understand the complexities of time travel being but puny humans, and would only take advantage of him for their own means.

Suffice to say, he's very easy to dislike, which is a strange sensation coming from an age of nice warm friendly Doctors. But we have to remember that this is a man, or alien, who has been made an outcast by his own people. So it's only understandable that he would be reluctant to trust his newfound friends.

At the finale of the first episode he has managed to hold them captive in the TARDIS against their will and to prevent their escape by activating the console and sending the ship into the swirly wirley time vortex.

What I love about this episode, is that the BBC, did not attempt to show the viewer the transition to the time vortex, to dangle the TARDIS on a bit of string in a blanket background of stars. What we get is reaction shots of the main characters as the ship goes into the unknown. And this works beautifully to build the suspense of the scene.

The TARIS lands on a seemingly deserted planet but out if the edge of the shot comes a shadowy figure. Cue titles and we are left dangling over the very first DW cliff hanger.

The three remaining episodes in this story, The Cave Of Sculls, The Forest of Fear and The Firemaker see the four characters having to form an alliance to overcome being held prisoners by a tribe of nasty hairy grunting caveman who only have one concern in life, who is going to make fire.

There is little story here, and a hell of a lot of testosterone flying about between the male cave dwellers. The Doctor doesn't really redeem himself. He only seems to want to escape by any means. At one point the four disconnected friends try and help a wounded caveman, the Doctor picks up a rock suggesting he's going to brain the poor fellow, he suggests they just leave the savage to die and make with the feet to the TARDIS. In another scene as they run for freedom he seems to trample over Barbara when she falls over. To be honest, he's a bit of a bastard.

While not as good as the first episode, the other three do, in some way bring the four characters together as they fight for their lives. There is also a lively scene (on film if I'm not mistaken) where the two opposing leaders of the tribe try to kill each other in cold blood. It's all very blood thirsty and primordial. And we certainly know that the loser is dead, as the stone he is killed with is the size of a small house.

Summing up I would say I have enjoyed this first Who outing very much, mainly as the first episode was so well put together, despite the inability of large amounts of editing and special effects due to cost. The story is pretty much non existent, but what the heck, this is Doctor Who.

In the next Doctor Who Rewind, I'll be reflecting on the first appearance of non other than the Daleks.

Doctor Who Rewind - Introduction

I recently wrote a lengthy piece about, among other things, the relationship between tv science fiction and real life. How the seemingly inconsequential events of a tv drama programme can have a profound and influential role in our lives by connecting with memories, emotion, and creativity in a deep and powerful way.

If you'd like to read my thoughts on that you'll find it here:
http://letters-from storyville.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/the-memory-of-blood.html

In response to it, and by way of a diversion, I've been inspired by my relationship with a science fiction programme that has spanned mine, and many others lives over the years, to explore my own perceptions, memories and expectations of it, by going back and re-watching.

Whether the other worldly theme tune echoed into your psyche when you were but a baby, or the iconic time machine fed your imagination as an adult, or the endless parade of hairy scary slimy bug eyed robot automatons filled you with fear as a child. It's hard to escape the timeless pull of the worlds longest running sci-fi show.

Doctor Who, in some form or another, seems to have always been there, like a Bob Dylan or a Neil Young. Not always making good television mind, but always delivering new worlds and landscapes to explore. I can't claim to have been a fanatical fan of the show over the years, I didn't know how many episodes were lost or what happened to K9, or how the Daleks managed to squash any civilisations when they couldn't even conquer getting up a curb. But, I have been a loyal viewer of the show since my indoctrination sometime in the early seventies.

I was born in 1969 when the show was already into its second doctor, Patrick Troughton. I have vague memories of number three, John Pertwee bumbling around in that ridiculous cape and frilly shirt, but the Doctor I remember most, sweating buckets on some tropical planet with his scarf wrapped around him, was Tom Baker. I think him, more than anyone else, cemented the magic of time travel into a young Treadwell. Of course others followed, some with endearing qualities, and others without. I watched them all, and although I wasn't devastated by the BBC's decision to pull the show in 1989, I did feel it's absence. Saturday nights were just not the same.

When it returned in 2005 after only a TV movie in 1996, I was like many others, holding my breath for greater things. Gone were the dogy monsters, long drawn out stories, and wobbly sets. Replaced with authentic aliens, shorter snappier stories and special effects that we'd all been waiting to see since the mid-seventies.

The new rebooted series has explored the Doctor in new ways, both emotionally in his relationships with his companions and mentally, by giving him some difficult decisions to make regarding humanity.

And now, time has caught up with the Doctor and us. As if you didn't know, but this year marks the 50th anniversary of the very first episode in 1963. A generation of viewers has grown up, and now watchers with their children. The baton is been passed on.

During the last half of the present series, with Matt Smith in the Doctors chair, I've enjoyed more than ever the mystery surrounding just who the Doctor is. And, that amazing cliff hanging climax with the final episode left me wanting more. I found that to help span the gap between now and November 23rd, I've had to go back to the start of the reboot and educate young Treadwell on all things Who. As, being all of 4, he really needs to get a move on and get up to speed.

But even that hasn't been enough to quench my thirst for more. I wished I could watch some new stories. But I've seen them all.

Or have I? Then it hit me.

I've never seen those early years from the classic series, With Hartnell and Troughton especially. It would be like watching new episodes, well old new episodes. And, even the later Pertwee and Baker episodes would be interesting to watch as I've now forgotten all the stories from back when I was but a boy. But how would such episodes measure up, in 2013?

Nearly all of the classic Who stories have now been released on DVD, except for the lost deleted episodes which have either been reconditioned by the BBBC or by fanatical fans, by using existing audio (recorded by viewers at the time of transmission) and archive material which still survives or animation sequences.

So, with no particular plan in place but to clear a load of shelf space, go back to the very beginning, watch the episodes in order at my own pace, to see how they and the Doctor stand up today, I'm beginning my odyssey.

I'm not the only one attempting this this year. Others are making their own personal journeys through the Who archives. One of my favourites is by Neil Perryman who has managed to persuade his wife to watch all the episodes with him. The result is very funny and can be read here: http://wifeinspace.com/

It's quite a daunting task to attempt every classic Doctor Who, after all there are 690 odd episodes and the first several years are all fuzzy black and white. But that's the challenge. It may take me a few years to get to the end, but rationed properly, I'm sure it will be perfectly do-able.

I'm going to be writing little observations and thoughts on the stories too, and I'll be posting those on Facebook and my blog at: http://letters-from-storyville.blogspot.co.uk/

So, rewind the tapes, I'm going back to 1963.