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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Doctor Who Rewind - Spearhead From Space

It's 1970. It's colour. It's the first of many re-imaginings of Doctor Who.

It's really strange when you see the iconic 70's opening title sequence in colour, after watching the monochrome era for so long it's kind of like a technicolor overload or a psychedelic trip with all that hypnotic spinning and such. I felt dizzy the first few viewings.

So, after Troughton is punished by the time lords to change his appearance, he is banished to Earth. Unfortunately we don't actually get a proper regeneration, which is a shame, we just see Pertwee emerging from the TARDIS on Earth and collapsing in a heap.

No matter though, cause things start move fairly swiftly in this first four part story, and soon enough meteorites are falling from the sky left right and centre.

With the Doctor in some confusion over who and what he is, and the hospital where he's taken is unable to explain his two hearts and alien blood, so UNIT's Chief, the Brigadier, is called in for a closer look.

Meanwhile the alien Nestene consciousness lurking inside the protective shell of the meteorites, which has the ability to shape and control plastic and mimic humanoid features, takes over a nearby toy factory, with a plan to replace key government leaders with Auton facsimiles.

When the Doctor becomes fully alert, he goes walkabout, takes a shower and finds the distinctive frilly shirt, black suit and cape that will become his trade mark over his tenure as the third Doctor.

Due to industrial action at the time of filming, locations were mainly used instead of studio sets, which means the whole story feels much more authentic and cinematic. It seems to have allowed the actors to really get a feel for the story, and it's a pity it doesn't continue after the strike has ended.

With the TARDIS out of action, the brigadier has it transported to UNIT HQ, he also tries to keep hold of the keys, but not for long, as newly recruited UNIT science officer Liz Shaw (Caroline John) is persuaded by the Doctor to get it back, so he can access some scientific equipment they require to analyse the meteor fragments. He disappears inside the TARDIS and tries to start the time drive but is dismayed to find that the retched Time Lords have tampered with it. Drat!! Plumes of smoke are seen to escape out the doors as the Doctor re-appears looking quite forlorn as he realises he's trapped in 1970's Earth. Eek!

Good job then that the Autons are about to make a take over bid against humanity, that'll give Doctor John Smith something to get his teeth into.

I was just six months old when this story originally went out so have never seen most of the Pertwee era. I can imagine the impact though of seeing lifeless inane shop window dummies come to life, with flip top hands that concealed guns. The whole scene is sublime, and although the budget didn't stretch to include smashing a shop window sized pane of glass, the shock of a seeing a seemingly normal high street turned into a kind of attack of the clones is pretty fantastic. I know if I was watching when I was smaller I would have been quietly having kittens.

Pertwee's performance as the doctor is re-assuredly calm and collect. He has a way of making you feel completely at ease despite the horrors going on around him. And when he does become animated, it's with equal enough confidence that you know this is the Doctor and everything will be ok, kind of.

The link between Troughton and Pertwee is provided via the Brigadier, who recalls his past adventures with the Doctor, and, while at first he finds it hard to accept this man could be the same Doctor who fought Yeti's and Cybermen, he is soon convinced otherwise when the Dictor gets his hands on an electron microscope!

Now, a word about Nicholas Courtney, who took the role of the Brigadier and really made it his own. His greatest acting assets, are without doubt his eyes, they have a child like ability to dart about in such a way that the audience really sympathises with him when he's trying to swallow the Doctors technobabble and warnings of imminent danger, which he simply throws off with a carefree glance to the sky. He's not like your typical Who assistant, as he takes the Doctor to task when he thinks he's right, as later episodes will reveal, so it's not all plane sailing between the two, but generally, he knows he's way out of the Doctors league when it comes to dealing with the alien threat.

As an introduction to the new format this opening story is well paced at four episodes. It rattles along nicely and doesn't sag like some later longer stories. The only slight let down is the finale in the factory, where Pertwee is required to have a wrestle with a giant octopus creature that the Nestene have created. Although Pertwee employs his best acting skills and pulls some fantastically silly faces reminiscent of his future Wurzel Gummidge years, the scene plays out like a comedy skit.

Next time in Doctor Who Rewind, we get all hot and bothered with a race of beings who claim the Earth as their own.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Homegrown Programme 215

Bossacucanova - Balanca (Nao Pode Parar!)
Tangled Eye - Drinking Again
Rod Picott - Just A Memory
D D Dumbo - Tropical Oceans
Alistair Atkin & The Ghost Line Carnival - Jess's Song
Carlene Carter - Little Black Train
Jim & Jesse & The Virgina Boys - Diesel Train
Jeff Black - 63 Mercury Meteor
Jo Hamilton - Laithach
Driftwood - The Sun Going Down
Cherrygrove - Wild One
Beth Rudetsky - The Victim Won't Be Me
Broadwing - Anodyne
Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys - My Side Of The Mountain
Hank Williams - Lovestick Blues
Damon Fowler - Sounds Of Home
The Pocket Gods - Night Lights
Methyl Ethel - Dogo Argintino
Mestre Cupijo - Mingau De Acai

Spoken Word:
Tess Gardener - Bang / We Sleep / Blood Signs & Body Tracks

Recorded at The Sunday Matinee Cholchester  by Adam Roxby

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