Sometimes when you’re writing about an episode of long-running TV show, there’s a lot to include: maybe it’s a particularly excellent example of the show in question, or perhaps it does something new and original. Or possibly it’s a particularly poor example of the series in question which gets the blood boiling. But by and large, and almost by definition, most instalments of a show are actually bound to be more or less average: solid, predictable, quite entertaining but nothing to get all that excited about.
When it comes to Doctor Who, the 1973 story “Planet of the Daleks” is one of those that is largely and literally unremarkable – and therefore hard to say all that much about. In fact if you look in Doctor Who Magazine’s 2013 reader poll of the first 50 years of stories, then you’ll find it almost precisely at the midway point of the 241 entries included in the survey. Read the rest of this entry »
I set out intending to write a review of a new collection of audio dramas from Big Finish Productions, a company best known for its extensive range of Doctor Who audio spin-offs but who’ve also produced ‘new episodes’ of cult dramas ranging from The Tomorrow People to Sapphire and Steel and who have also just started an interesting new line of audio recreations of the mostly lost 1961 first series of The Avengers. Big Finish’s newest line is Survivors, which is based on a BBC TV series from the mid-1970s; but for obvious reasons I soon found that it’s impossible to talk about the new production without first undertaking a historical discussion of its television roots to set it in context, so please pardon the diversion…
The original Survivors was created by Terry Nation, the writer best remembered for penning the second Doctor Who story in 1963 and for introducing the Doctor’s nemeses, the Daleks. Nation went on to write episodes of The Avengers and a swathe of ITC productions including The Baron, The Saint, The Champions, Department S, The Persuaders! and The Protectors and also going on to create another cult favourite, Blake’s 7 before moving to the US and working on MacGyver in the 1980s.
Survivors could best be described as the dark reflection of 1970s sitcom favourite The Good Life. While Tom and Barbara Good got to play for laughs throwing themselves into then-trendy self-sufficiency in the backyard of their Surbiton home, in Survivors such endeavours become a matter of life and death in a post-plague world in which 99% of the population has been killed by a virulent flu-like epidemic leaving only isolated pockets of survivors trying to work out how to live without power, technology or law and order. Read the rest of this entry »
Even when this four-part story originally aired back in September 1979 it was a distinctly pedestrian outing for Doctor Who. Time hasn’t really done all that much to improve things – 35 years on it remains thoroughly mediocre. But nonetheless there’s a reason why I wanted to revisit this story in particular, as it holds a quite important pivotal role in my relationship with the series as a whole. Allow me to explain…
By the time “Destiny of the Daleks” made it to air, it had been more than four years since I’d watched the programme. I simply hadn’t been able to reconcile myself to Tom Baker taking over from Jon Pertwee, and as a result my childish petulance meant I missed out on seeing the original transmissions of some of the greatest classic Who stories of all time. I’d been oblivious to the delights of such stories as “Terror of the Zygons”, “Pyramids of Mars”, “The Robots of Death” and “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”, and what I saw when I finally climbed off my high horse to give the series another go didn’t exactly fill me with confidence or lead me to suspect the series had been any good in my absence.
What finally did draw me back, of course, was the Daleks. Just knowing that they would return for the first story of the new season gave me an impetus to check out the show again. It felt appropriate, because almost the last serial I’d watched before my self-imposed exile had been the brilliant “Genesis of the Daleks”. If only this new story could be half as good as that, I thought to myself … Read the rest of this entry »