Dr Who – Big Finish

This is the last in a series on Dr Who, the previous was about watching the black & white era

In the previous post I referred to a rewatch of the classic 1963-89 series roughly over 2013-2020, so in lockdown in 2020 I was near the end of it (a few had to wait until I was going back into the city again to visit Galactic Video). I find myself wishing there was more classic Dr Who, and at some point realised that there was. I can’t really remember how I came across Big Finish audios, I definitely had seen the common notion that Colin Baker’s doctor was much better realised in audio than TV, and was aware that Paul McGann had done more stuff but I feel like I wasn’t really aware of that much of it, I probably had the impression that there’d been a few series here and there, it was just something I’d completely missed. So, casting around for some more Dr Who I ended up looking at what was out there, and I think it was really The Times Scales where I got the full idea of just how much there was. I was shocked at the shear amount of material they’d produced, but also the wide range, all of the classic doctors, most of their companions, plus various doctors and other companions from the new series. All easily available by download (so very lockdown friendly). So I started investigating.

I quickly found that I really liked it. At times they did a fantastic job of recreating various eras of the original series, the type of story, the tone, the music etc, but then at other times they pushed in new directions. They somehow negotiate the complicated continuity of a 50 year old show with respect but without getting bogged down in it. They add new dimensions to old characters in ways that complement their original appearances. The audio format has its limitations – for example people have to describe the monsters which is not always an entirely natural fit into the dialogue, but they are also freed up from TV budgets and the constraints of visual depiction. The actors can play their younger selves, but also they have provided many opportunities for them to play their characters at older ages as well. The companions weren’t always given good material to work with on TV, but have been treated excellently in audio.

I’ve watched over 100 stories, but still have only just touched on the vast amount of work they have produced in just over 20 years, I’ve taken a fairly random route through it, sampling various series. There are lots of recommendations out there, like “before you watch Z you have to watch A,B,C, …” and these can be sensible and useful, but can also go to far. Do you really need to see a companion’s introduction before seeing any of their episodes? Sometimes it can be fun to go back and see where they met the Doctor for the first time when you are already familiar with them, that’s what it used to be like watching TV before you could see things on demand, though on the other hand, there are certainly threads that benefit from an order, and I’ve got a few of them wrong in my viewing. Anyway, from my relatively small sample here is a selection of favourites. Definitely not an all time top ten because I’m still yet to see many highly rated stories.

  • Spare Parts (Monthly Adventures) – An early entry in the monthly range, this one with the 5th doctor, and one which makes regular appearances in “Best of Big Finish” lists. A short description might be like Genesis of the Daleks but for Cybermen. It relates very closely to the first Cybermen appearance on TV, The Tenth Planet from 1966. I’ve always found that story to be a bit mixed, they brought on board Dr Kit Pedler as science advisor, yet I find most of the ideas around the planet Mondas to be a bit rubbish, on the other hand the concept of the Cybermen is excellent, and the body horror aspects of the early Cybermen get a bit lost in the original series as both in design and behaviour they come to more closely resemble robots. In exploring their origins, this story brings back what was strong about them in the start but also deals with the whole Mondas issue in a way that I find works – often Big Finish do this, take an aspect of the original series I’m not too keen on and make it work (I’ve yet to listen to the Gallifrey series but I am curious to see what they can salvage from the whole “Leela stays on Gallifrey to marry Andred” debacle). Spare Parts is not just a nice complement to the Tenth Planet though, it is a very well told and interesting story with great material for both Peter Davison’s Doctor and his companion Nyssa. Would be a top starting point for entry into Big Finish.
  • The Fearmonger (Monthly Adventures)– An even earlier monthly range one with the seventh doctor and Ace. Whilst some write off the late 80’s for some of us who were watching at the end the show was heading in a good direction, the last couple of series has plenty of great stuff and it was a shame that the adventures of the seventh doctor and Ace ended so abruptly, so it’s a pleasure to hear them resume again here. This one really stands out as something that could be written quite recently rather than 20 years ago, with the sort of timeless appeal that great sci fi can have, set in a paranoid Britain with society fracturing and the populist right on the rise.
  • The Girl Who Never Was / The Condemned (Monthly Adventures)– These are the latest episodes I’ve listened to, they are from the Monthly Range just after it passed 100 stories, so it was well established and they decided to do something rather interesting. The Girl Who Never Was is the final story for the 8th doctor with companion Charley Pollard, who was I believe the first Big Finish original companion to be introduced back with the first 8th doctor story. It is also the last regular monthly range story with McGann as he went on to a separate series, transitioning from the 4 episode format of the classic series to 1 hour stories like the new one. The story gets off to a flying start with lots of mystery and making good use of time travel, with lots of call backs to Storm Warning, where the doctor and Charley first met (it is the only real prerequisite for this, though hearing more of the doctor and Charley together would help). I found the whole story to be quite gripping right through the 4 episodes, with the return of some old enemies half way through (which you know if you look at the cover image!) On the down side there is an over the top Australian accent which is a bit trying (and a bit of mystery to that character which wasn’t very satisfactorily resolved) but overall very enjoyable, and make sure to listen for the extra scene after the end music! The Condemned continues the Charley story with her travelling with the 6th doctor played by Colin Baker. It is a fascinating idea, and well executed for a companion to end up with an earlier doctor with lots of mystery to be resolved in my upcoming listening. On first metting the dynamic between the two of them, each standoffish and wary of the other is a lot of fun, but apart from that, it also was a good tale of the doctor getting caught up in a murder investigation and teaming up with a police officer to solve the mystery in a well paced story. There were some serious issues with the characterisation of the sixth doctor on TV, and this is something that Big Finish and Colin Baker have done a great job of fixing – he certainly is still the same doctor from TV, but with the character just tweaked in the right places to really make an improvement (he’s even got a more sensible coat now too!).
  • Alien Heart / Dalek Soul (Monthly Adventures)– I’ve not listened yet to much of the later monthly series but this is one I picked up on special which I really liked. It is the second part which really stands out, but I like the first as well. Dalek Soul is a really interesting and different story with some great material for Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton, in particular I think that Nyssa often wasn’t well utilised as a character in the TV series, they just didn’t really seem to know what to do with her, so it’s good to get some good writing for her character in Big Finish. I won’t say any more because there’s some big twists I don’t want to spoil.
  • Justice Of The Jalxar (Fourth Doctor Adventures) – One of my first listens to test the waters of Big Finish, and one that helped get me hooked. For a start, it was immediately just brilliant hearing Tom Baker as the doctor and Mary Tamm as Romana together again. Tamm can be a little overlooked amongst companions as she only did one season on TV, but I’ve always thought she was excellent. It gets even better with the return of Jago & Litefoot from 1977’s The Talons of Weng Chiang. Pretty much universally regarded as some of the absolute best guest characters of the whole original series, it is such a pleasure to hear Trevor Baxter and Christopher Benjamin back in the roles and reuniting with Tom Baker’s doctor, they are just so much fun together. I’ve just recently started on the Jago & Litefoot spinoff series too and it’s great.
  • The Rocket Men (Companion Chronicles) – this is from the Companion Chronicles series, which is a bit closer to an audiobook in style than a full cast drama, typically there is one main character narrating as well as doing lines for their own character, the doctor and other companions, as well as one or two guest characters. This one is narrated by William Russell as Ian Chesterton, who was one of the original cast from 1963-65. As well as being fantastic to hear him playing Ian again, it is a masterfully written story which is told in a very clever out of order sequence that gradually reveals various twists and turns, as well as providing further depth to the character of Ian and his relationship with Barbara.
  • The Sontarans (Early Adventures)– Part of the Early Adventures series, which has the actors who played companions in the black and white era of the show narrating stories in similar style to the companion chronicles. This one features both Peter Purves as Steven and Jean Marsh as Sara Kingdom, and is set in the time period in the middle of the epic TV serial The Dalek’s Masterplan where is it implied that the doctor travels for some time with Steven and Sara in untelevised adventures. The idea to meet the Sontarans is a good one, when they first turn up in the TV series the doctor is already familiar with them so he must have met them sometime. This is done very much in the style of the era (note the title The Sontarans is a very plausible one for a 60’s story introducing them, much like The Daleks) and is a really fun and imaginative adventure. It was my first exposure to the narrated style, and initially Purves doing the doctor’s voice was a little weird to me, but I found that I very rapidly got used to it.
  • UNIT Dating (Stranded)– The Stranded series is the current 8th doctor series and is one of a string of 4 box set collections. It’s currently half way through and I’ve really enjoyed all of it. It does follow directly from the previous one, Ravenous, which itself followed from earlier ones but actually I just jumped in with Ravenous and got through it without too much confusion, I think the same could be done with Stranded. It’s very interesting in that unlike some series where they very successfully match certain eras of the classic show, this ones really does something quite new and different. In having the doctor stranded in contemporary Earth it does have some echoes of the early 70’s UNIT era, but whereas there the doctor slotted straight in to work for UNIT and got on with thwarting alien invasions, here there is much more consideration given to the difficulties of the Dr and his companions – one a Londoner but from the 1960’s and the other a human from an Earth colony in the distant future – in dealing with life stranded in modern day London. Plus there is a great extended supporting cast of characters who have been developing in all sorts of fascinating ways across the stories in the set. It has a very different, modern feel, but still very much being Dr Who. Plus Tom Baker turns up as the Curator, something which in advance I wouldn’t have thought a good idea – his appearance in Day of the Doctor was perfect and I thought it best for the Curator to remain an enigma, but as soon as he turns up in Stranded I immediately changed my mind and was happy for more of him! As I say, I’ve very much enjoyed all of it, but one of the last ones so far was UNIT Dating which was a real standout in delving into some of the characters’ past connections with the doctor and an appearance by the Brigadier and some very strong emotional moments.
  • The Good Master (The War Master)– I first encountered Derek Jacobi’s War Master in audio in the brilliant Day of the Master in the 8th doctor Ravenous set (which has another good example of Big Finish taking something I’m not that keen on in the original series – Eric Roberts as the Master, and making it something I enjoy), and followed up with the first set of the spinoff series The War Master. This is the first episode but the whole set is great. I particular like his introduction here, whereas too often the Master is turned into too much of a cartoonish supervillain, here he much more subtle, the parallels with the doctor are made explicit, there’s times where it almost could be an incarnation of the doctor until key moments where the evil of the master is revealed. Of course Jacobi is brilliant in the role as well.
  • Toos and Poul (The Robots) – This is from the second series of The Robots, a spinoff set on Kaldor, where the robots from the 1977 story Robots of Death come from. The protagonist is Liv Chenka, companion of the 8th doctor, who takes a year out from the Tardis in the midst of the Ravenous boxset, but I think that you could easily just jump into The Robots without anything else in advance. It’s interesting to see how they go in a series without the Doctor (of which there are quite a few) and they do an excellent job at a standalone sci-fi series that gradually develops and explores issues around robotics and AI. Also as 70’s Dr Who fans will recall, the robots in Robots of Death were awesome, and they still are in audio. This episode Toos and Poul sees the return of Toos (Pamela Salem) and Poul (David Collings) from Robots of Death (which I think isn’t too much of a spoiler since it’s in the episode name) and I was genuinely surprised at how exciting it was to have these one off characters from 1977 turn up again, I was already a fan of The Robots but this took it up a gear for me. I look forward to getting on to series three soon.

Dr Who in Black & White

This is third in a series looking back on Dr Who, the first deals with my earliest memories, and the second with books. The next after this is about Big Finish audios

When I think back to the most memorable Christmases of my childhood it’s funny to think that a couple of them were about watching black and white TV from well before I was born, but it’s really true, I can remember them very clearly.

To take a step back, in the previous posts in this series I mentioned that growing up watching new Dr Who in the 80’s and repeats from the 70’s I was really fascinated by the mysterious 1960’s era which we never got to see. There were exciting glimpses in the few multi-doctor stories of both the earlier doctors and a few of their companions, and then I read about them in books about the series, and started reading novelisations as well, but I really desperately wanted to see them. Weirdly I don’t have strong memories of the 1986 screenings of The Mind Robber and the Krotons, but I’m quite sure that I did see some of them because a few years later when I got them on VHS I recognised some of it, in particular the episode in the Mind Robber when Jamie’s face gets changed and he’s played by a different actor. I do very much remember my next chance to watch Troughton though.

Looking at VHS release dates I think it must have been Xmas 1987 when The Seeds of Death had just been released on VHS. I can only assume I saw it in the ABC Shop and put it high up on my list because it was under the tree on Xmas morning. I remember being up early and starting my Xmas day watching the whole thing (there were no episode breaks, it was edited together). I just loved being able to watch black and white Dr Who. It was certainly the same show I knew, the story was from the last black and white year, so only a year before episodes I was faimiliar with, and while there was a bit of a change in style along with the change to colour there were the Ice Warriors I knew from the Peladon stories in the Pertwee era, and Jamie who had appeared fairly recently in The Two Doctors, and Zoe who I’d seen with Jamie in the Five Doctors – a brief appearance but a story I’d watched many times thanks to taping it off TV. I still think Seeds of Death is a great story, the Ice Warriors are classic Dr Who monster, there are memorable guest characters and I love that right when the first trip to the Moon was happening they had a story set in a future where rocket travel to the moon was an old-fashioned curiosity.

I don’t think I really got any more VHS releases after than, though I may have taped some episodes off TV, but I was only interested in buying black and white ones and for two years they didn’t release any more, but then at Xmas 1989 the top of my list was the double VHS release of The Daleks. Once again I have memories of being up early, finding it under the tree and beginning my Xmas day watching it. By now they were no longer editing together omnibus versions and I reckon I made some effort to space out the episodes a bit to watch as intended but would have watched all 7 by the end of the day. I absolutely loved it. For a start this was really the first I’d seen of William Hartnell, the original Doctor. It was also just so strange, a really different era of television. It was recognisably Dr Who – the amazing theme music and not too unfamiliar opening credits (though with no face), the Tardis, the daleks – but also the whole feel of it was quite different, it was more of an ensemble cast with the four main characters, with the fascinating dynamic of them not quite trusting each other yet. This was not only the first time daleks appeared but was the first time that an alien planet appeared in the show (it was only the second ever story). I liked the leisurely pace – spending the first episode gradually taking in the strangeness of the alien planet, the way they develop the guest characters and their relationship with the Tardis crew over the 7 episode length, and the daleks – it is not a surprise that they were a bit hit. In fact in some ways they work better here than ever again, later on you have to just pretend not to notice the ridiculousness of them moving over rough terrain, jungles etc which doesn’t really make sense, but here they are in their own city – a perfect environment for them, and are unable to leave it. They are perfectly evolved to live there, everything is designed for them.

I imagine the conventional wisdom was that it was no good broadcasting these stories because they were black and white, too slow and old-fashioned, yet there was me as a teenager in the late 80’s and my favourite thing that Xmas was watching TV from 1963.

After that they released more black and white on VHS – I remember having An Unearthly Child (and how amazing was it seeing the first ever episode of Dr Who – the first time people heard that music or saw the inside of the Tardis), The Aztecs, The Dalek Invasion Of Earth, The Web Planet, The Chase, The Tomb Of The Cybermen (rushed to video after being rediscovered in Hong Kong after being long lost), The Dominators, The Mind Robber, The Invasion, The Krotons, The War Games. I also really liked the Early Years compilations which included orphaned B&W episodes from incomplete stories. At some point I lost track and stopped buying them, but then in 2003 the ABC finally did what I’d been hoping for all through the 80’s and early 90’s – they showed all of Dr Who from the start, or at least all of the existing ones (barring a few that hit some sort of licensing problem involving Daleks). So this meant I saw many more B&W episodes for he first time, everything existing at the time.

In 2013 the discovery of all of Enemy of the World and most of Web Of Fear in Nigeria sparked my interest again. I started a watch through of the whole series but in a fairly random order so as to mix up all the different eras. This ended up taking 8 years or so as I stopped and started quite a bit, by the end a number of missing stories were released as animations, and also for the first time I watched recons of episodes that were otherwise unavailable. (Much of this viewing was thanks to the superb Galactic Video – yes we still have a Video Store in Adelaide in 2021 and it’s awesome). Early this year, with a viewing of the animation of the excellent Fury From The Deep I finally managed to see all of the original series of Dr Who in some form, some 40 something years after starting. Of course like all fans I still hold out hope of more missing episodes turning up some time. If interested in the missing episodes I highly recommend the missing episodes podcast https://missingepisodes.podbean.com/

Dr Who books

This is the second in a series reflecting on my background with Dr Who, the first on my earliest memories is here The next in the series looks at my experiences of finally getting to see the black and white era.

I can remember the exact circumstances of the change from Dr Who being a show I liked watching on TV to being a show I was a fan of. This was the 80’s, you generally just waited for shows to turn up in the schedule (as it regularly did) and watched whatever episodes they had for you – sometimes new, sometimes repeats, sometimes out of order. Your average viewer would know nothing of seasons or behind the scenes details. The catalyst for change was that I won some sort of award at school, my best guess would be for something like spelling – or perhaps something to do with things called merit certificates we used to get for various achievements and good behaviours – but the prize was a voucher for a bookstore. Probably for $10 but that’s a bit of a wild guess, and I’m pretty sure the shop was in Church St Parramatta, I can’t recall what shop that would have been though. In there I spotted a book about Dr Who. It was The Tardis Inside-Out by John Nathan-Turner, who was the producer at the time, I guess I didn’t study the end credits of the show too closely though so this was the first I knew of him. The first exciting thing was that he went through all of the Doctors – ever since seeing both The Three Doctors and The Five Doctors I was fascinated by the fact that there were two earlier doctors that the ABC never showed, presumably because they were in black & white (the sad discovery that there was more to it than that was still a couple of years away for me). Any information on these mysterious doctors was most welcome. I can’t remember that much else except that it was lots of anecdotes from his time working on the show, there was some optimism about the upcoming Colin Baker Era and for each Doctor he gave his favourite story – I think they were An Unearthly Child, The Space Pirates, The Daemons, The Talons Of Weng Chiang, … I’m not sure for the fifth, now I’m think surely it was Caves of Androzani but also think that may just be because it’s everyone’s favourite, and Vengeance on Varos for the sixth. Fans will find The Space Pirates to be an unusual choice, but it was for personal reasons, being the first story he’d worked on as an assistant floor manager. Apparently the book came out in 1985, it was probably 1986 by the time I got it.
It’s a bit of a weird starting point for fandom, not really a lot of info about the show, and a lot of JNT anecdotes (possibly unreliable) but it’s importance was in making me realise that there could be such a thing as a book about a TV show – Dr Who wasn’t just something that I had to wait to turn up at 6:30pm on the ABC, I could seek it out in other ways, and I could maybe find out more about those mysterious early years.

I did find out much more with the publication of Peter Haining’s 25 Glorious Years to celebrate the show’s 25th anniversary in 1988. This had more information on all of the doctors and the companions, and lots more. It was an absolute treasure trove, including loads of photos from throughout the 25 years. There were two really big things from it that stick in mind.

One was absolutely devastating – the section on missing episodes. Until then I’d assumed that the ABC simply did not want to show something in black and white (which I expect was true – though they did show two Troughton stories in 1986), and I hoped that eventually I’d get to see them, but it turned out that over 100 episodes from the 1960’s were no longer in archives, and quite likely destroyed. The situation has improved slightly but will be tied in with the next post in this series, so I’ll leave it for now.

The other big thing in the book was the episode guide at the end. I spent so much time studying it that I can still list off all of the episodes today over 30 years later – not just the list of episodes I can still picture the pages clearly in my mind. I would try to work out how each episode matched to my memories based on titles and details of guest stars, and wonder at the 1960’s titles and what they might have been like.

I went on to collect a few other books about Dr Who, but it must have been around this time that I found out about the novelisations. I can’t remember for sure if it was before or after reading 25 Glorious Years but I remember going into Dymocks at Westfield’s Parramatta and finding a whole selection of Dr Who novelisations. I didn’t have to wait for episodes to turn up on TV in repeats! I bought two of them, The Dominators and Mawdryn Undead. The former, which I now know to be widely derided as boring, at least in televised form, by fans, because it was the Second Doctor with Jamie and Zoe – companions who’d been glimpsed so briefly in The Five Doctors, the latter because the blurb on the back would have revealed that it was the 5th doctor story where he meets the Brigadier again, which I remembered fondly. These two started a collection that went to well over 100. For a while I was probably saving up pocket money for the new releases in bookstores (a more local small bookstore at Wentworthville usually had a small number in stock, and at some point I started visiting Galaxy Bookstore in the city), but I really hit the jackpot one day at the second hand book and record store by Blacktown station. In a little alcove at the back they had a huge Dr Who book collection. I think that day Mum chipped in so I could buy about 6 of them, but I often went back for more, and then started scouring every second hand bookshop I could find, I remember visiting another in Blacktown, one in Seven Hills, at least one in Parramatta, some in the city and even venturing further afield to Chatswood and Hornsby (a long train ride was always a bit of a bonus). In the end I collected almost all of them, there were a few that were elusive (fairly sure I never got The War Machines, The Underwater Menace, Fury From The Deep, Androids Of Tara and Mindwarp, of those released at the time). They got a bit of extra use too, I can remember lending them out to at least two different school friends who went through the collection in story order. Being able to gradually fill in the details behind the episode guide that I’d memorised was very satisfying, and encountering all of the companions from the 60’s was exciting – I knew Susan, Jamie and Zoe from the Five Doctors, and then Ian and Barbara through VHS releases (more next time) but one of the first Hartnell novelisations I got was The Gunfighters and there was Steven and Dodo as companions, and distinctly remember the first book to mention Ben and Polly (probably The Tenth Planet) and thinking “Wait, who are they? There are even more companions!”.

Around the end of the TV run I was reading Dr Who magazine as well, which was available at a local newsagency. I definitely remember reading some behind the scenes stuff about Season 26 before it aired, but also was keen for anything about the older days. I don’t think I read it for long, after the show stopped being on TV I lost interest. By this time though, I’d also moved on to another way of watching it – VHS. That will be in the next post in the series.

Early Memories of Dr Who

This is the first part of a series on Dr Who. I have recently started listening to Big Finish Dr Who audio plays and intended to write a post about them but decided to explore a bit of background of my history with Dr Who first.

My earliest memories of Dr Who must be some of my earliest memories of anything. My brother is 4 years older than me and must have already been watching it when I was very young. I do know that when the 20th anniversary special The Five Doctors screened in December 1983 I was already a big fan and it was a major event for me. (In fact there was a big electrical storm on that night in Sydney which interrupted it for many, and so they scheduled a repeat the following month, though I’m fairly sure we didn’t get the blackout at our place).

Most likely I was already watching by 1979 or 1980 at least, I certainly remember Peter Davison becoming the new doctor, which in Australia happened in April 1982, but definitely always viewed him as the new guy replacing the “real” doctor, Tom Baker, so I must have already watched for some time. I’m reasonably sure that I watched it at times at my Grandmother’s house, which would have been 1980 at the latest. By the way, I know the broadcast dates in Sydney from the incredible Broadwcast website – https://broadwcast.org/index.php/Main_Page. I’m not one of those people who can cite their first episode though, I was mostly likely too young and also the regular schedule of repeats in Australia means that memories of particular episodes get mixed up with repeat viewings over the years. Interestingly there was no Dr Who at all in Australia in 1981, which was the year I started school, so I guess I had a lot going on to distract me anyway – I have no memory of this long drought of my favourite show – though I do wonder what they put on in it’s place, that would perhaps jog my memory. Maybe it wasn’t yet my favourite show at that point, but it certainly was by 1983.

So I would have first started watching with Tom Baker as the doctor, but with frequent repeats of earlier Tom Baker seasons as well as Jon Pertwee seasons. I can vaguely remember episodes with Pertwee being a bit confusing but I think my brother told me “that’s the old doctor” or something to effect and I would have just accepted it.

I find it interesting that by the time I finished high school my chief academic interests were science – particularly physics – and history, the early remit of Dr Who was to teach children about science and history, and while it’s never specified what The Doctor is a doctor of, surely someone with a dimensionally transcendental time machine knows a thing or two about physics. I do wonder at the extent to which a childhood of watching Dr Who promoted these interests.

It’s interesting to think back on some of the things that made an impression when I was young – I remember being excited about the episode where the Doctor and Leela (or actually clones of them) get shrunk down and go inside the doctor’s head (from The Invisible Enemy) which was terribly exciting and strange, and now I think is very silly (even before they meet the giant prawn). I also thought Time-Flight was great, mostly because the Concord (or in fact planes and airports in general) was so exciting, and the absolutely rubbish plot didn’t bother me at that age. I also loved seeing the Doctor play cricket in Black Orchid, and having watched it again last year I can say that I still do!

However the big thing people talk about is what scared them. I didn’t hide behind the sofa (it was backed against the wall so that wasn’t an option!) but did watch from a very young age and there was definitely some scary stuff – even after the heavy handed ABC censors had been through it (e.g. quite possibly Caves of Androzani may have made this list, but they cut so much that it was more confusing than scary) and I can still distinctly remember certain moments that did make a big impact, so here are my top 10 scary moments (in story order) from growing up watching Dr Who

  • I don’t recall being particularly scared of daleks except for some reason I found them emerging from the tunnels under the bridge in Day of the Daleks to be really creepy. Maybe it was because it was such an everyday sort of setting – there could be daleks lurking under any bridge, or perhaps because they had the Ogrons with them.
  • The drashigs in Carnival of Monsters. Do they look a bit like sock puppets now? Sure, but then with some fairly terrifying sounds and Katy Manning doing a good job of selling the fear to the audience they definitely did the trick.
  • Giant maggots in The Green Death. Genius idea for a monster (with the basic idea repeated in the next entry below), particularly the bit where the doctor has to go past loads of them in a boat through a tunnel gave me nightmares.
  • Giant spiders in Planet of the Spiders, particularly when they are on people’s backs. Less so on their planet where things start getting a bit silly.
  • The anti-matter creature in Planet of Evil. It was a weird one, you don’t get to see it properly only a vague outline in a video effect, but I think it particular the fact that it was barely visible and emerged from a mysterious black pit made it more threatening (especially when the doctor falls in!)
  • Sutekh’s servant in Pyramids of Mars. This is still pretty scary actually, go and watch it now https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGNGEFZnJ2c I think this episode made for a pretty scary visit to the egyptology part of the museum at some later point.
  • Mr Sin in Talons of Weng Chiang. A murderous ventriloquists dummy is a pretty obvious candidate for this list.
  • Scaroth in City of Death. That costume is actually one of the weakest parts in what is one of the greatest Dr Who stories, just because he rips of his human mask to reveal his true alien visage which is quite clearly much bigger than his human head! But I that didn’t bother me when I was a kid.
  • The Doctor falling from the tower in Logopolis. I’ve seen some fans criticise this regeneration, but most of the others involve the doctor being poisoned or sick or something like that – they basically say “I’m dying” and that’s how we know, but falling from the tower is something that you don’t need explained to you – clearly the Doctor is not surviving that, and as probably about a 6 year old at the time, I think it was a pretty traumatic thing to see.
  • the dream world that Tegan experiences in Kinda. Whilst the giant snake at the end of the story is quite laughable (and probably even was at the time), the small snake coming alive and slithering onto Tegan’s arm absolutely freaked me out, as did possessed Tegan, but most scary of all was the guy who Tegan meets there. I found it hilarious when I rewatched in the 2000’s and realised that this guy who terrified me so much as a child was actually Reg Hollis from The Bill!

Part 2 of this series is here

Wolfpanther vs Froschfilter

This Sunday at the Metro I’m joined by guest DJ Froschfilter. We previously collaborated on two online collaborations in lockdown last year – here https://www.mixcloud.com/wolfpanther/ping-pong-4-wolfpanther-vs-dj-froschfilter/ and here https://www.mixcloud.com/wolfpanther/ping-pong-10-wolfpanther-vs-dj-froschfilter/. He’s also been a previous Metro guest as well as a guest at Metronomic Underground.

Also his alter ego Tim Koch has been playing a few live gigs lately and has just released an excellent new EP on the CPU label – https://shop.cpurecords.net/album/tourbillon following up the great Scordatura album – check out the videos here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xP8D2CMgQCs&list=PLHYXTeJnE5Pshw6BWiYDdtnrhldPFDoRh

Also Cyclic Defrost interviewed him recently https://www.cyclicdefrost.com/2021/02/tim-koch-taking-a-formula-and-using-it-in-reverse/

Wolfpanther vs Minerva

This Sunday at the Metro my guest DJ is Minerva, first time guest with me at the Metro but I was previously her DJ guest in Utrecht so it’s great to finally get to return the favour.

As usual we both bring some favourite records and take turns playing one for one to see where it takes us.