Monday, 30 April 2018

Caught In Some Brambles - Miss A Turn

Caught In Some Brambles - Miss A Turn

I had to open the door in my dressing gown this morning, which I'm not sure was an enlightening experience for the poor chap attempting to make a delivery at just after 8 am.

But I was happy to accept what he was thrusting at me, as it was a copy of the much-anticipated 'Dad's Army At 50!' magazine from the 'Radio Times' stable.

Edited by that nice Mark Braxton (hello sir!) and drawing on archive interviews conducted by Ralph Montagu in 2004, it's a lovely piece of work and a welcome addition to our collection.

So, it became the obvious thing to base today's video on and encouraged us to dig out a couple of our old annuals from World Distributors, a name familiar to older fans of 'Doctor Who'.

"Authorised edition based on the hilariously funny Television Series" is the bold claim on the front of these volumes and they are a reassuring mix of text stories, comic strips, poor jokes, historical facts and figures plus the obligatory rubbish dice game.

The 1974 annual (printed in Italy) informs us that 'Glass House' is army slang for a prison, originating from a prison in Aldershot that had a glass roof, so young readers might learn a thing or two. There's a story entitled 'Mum's Army' which sounds suspiciously like the 1970 episode 'Mum's Army' starring Carmen Silvera. This text story features "a massive woman with the look of a feared games mistress" going by the name of Miss Bush, so there's no similarity, really.

There's a page devoted to Chad, the bald-headed, long-nosed figure always depicted peering over a wall. Here he is asking "Wot! No Petrol?" and "Wot! No Bananas?" and he would later pop up in the 1984 'Hi-de-Hi!' episode 'The Epidemic', the last one to feature Jeffrey Fairbrother.

Most shocking of all, though, is the comic strip story 'Jones Saves The Day' which actually dares to show us the face of Mrs Mainwaring, something never actually attempted in the TV series. She visits Mr Hodges in his shop, where he tempts her with his massive tomatoes...

The 1977 annual follows a similar format, with stories such as 'Gorilla Warfare' (another oddly familiar title) and 'Raising A Stink'. It has to be said that some of the artwork doesn't bear much of a resemblance to the actors (something else it shares with the 70s 'Doctor Who annuals!) and the game 'Treasure Hunt' is a case in point. The 'Caught In Some Brambles - Miss A Turn' square has Pike eating a blackberry, but it's only his coloured scarf that alerts us as to who he actually is!

The 1977 annual cost you £1.10 on original publication, though sadly the 1974 one has the corner snipped out of it, which often happened when these were given as Christmas gifts. Decent copies will see you shelling our a bit more than that these days. of course, but they still seem like pretty fair value for money even now.

Just accept that some of the jokes in the annuals might fall somewhat sort of being "hilariously funny"...

(By Andrew Trowbridge)

Sunday, 29 April 2018

"All you need is cold water and flour for dusting!"

"All you need is cold water and flour for dusting!"

Today's slightly unexpected video came into being when we discovered a forgotten box at the back of our legendary Tea Cupboard. With a Best Before Date of May 2008, we thought it best not to actually try any baking with it, but what we had unearthed was a long-forgotten packet of Green's Dalek Cookie Mix.

We'd used this once or twice before, after Lisa had purchased a rolling pin, but this particular one had travelled with us from Gillingham to Poole when we moved house in 2008 and had been shoved at the back and ignored for far too long.

There was a squeezy tube of icing gel that had once been bright orange, but was now a worrying shade of brown, so we felt that our reluctance to get the cooker going was justified.

As we mention in the video, when using the Dalek-shaped Cookie Cutter, there would always a spare bit left over and it didn't take us long to work out that you could make a creditable Dalek Mutant with the spare lump...

It also reminded us of how a while ago we'd thrown away a can of Crosse & Blackwell 'Doctor Who' pasta shapes, on the grounds that that a fair amount of rust had started to appear on the outsides of the tin. The only way to find out if it had penetrated inside was, of course, to get the tin-opener out and we felt that might get us into dangerous (and possibly rather smelly) waters...

It is, of course, possible to make your own unique brand of 'Doctor Who' fruit and veg, if you're prepared to get your carving knife out. Matt Smith's first broadcast story 'The Eleventh Hour' features an apple with a smiley face carved into it, but I was doing something similar many years before, but on a slightly larger scale.

Whenever possible, I always like to carve myself a Hallowe'en pumpkin or two, and I have been known to experiment with making Cyber-pumpkins. Hacking out a couple of handles isn't that much of an artistic challenge and does ensure they give out a decent amount of light in a darkened room.

Lisa has also reminded me that we once had a David Tennant / TARDIS cake with some very blue icing and we were daft enough to take a photo of it at the time...

I was never brave enough to buy a copy of Gary Downie's 'The Doctor Who Cookbook' when it originally came out (although our friend Helen did pick up a copy for herself a few years ago). What it possibly needed was a catchy promotional song in the vein of Jon Pertwee's 'Noodle Doodle Man'...

And once you've heard that, good luck in getting it out of your head!

(By Andrew Trowbridge)

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Dr Who And The Sad Ageists

Dr Who And The Sad Ageists

The Complete And Utter History Of Dr WHO? (Part Twenty-Seven)

'The Sad Ageists' were the first 'DRWhO' story that were named, so if it ever found again we know what to call it on the DVD cover, which is a good example of planning ahead.

In this one, Dr WOH went for a tramp in some bushes with his Reacting Vibrator, though he left his special friends behind as he were concerned they might cramp his style. Some men with old faces watched his progress but did not draw attention to themselves as they had not been properly introduced.

In the bushes, DOCTWHO encountered some different men with memorable helmets, who had heard of his typical activities and so they invited him back to their abode where they gave him a robe for his Lifetime Achievements.

This were a society that showed appreciation to DORCTOR WHO, but they would regularly suck-off the private essences of other members of the local group of savagists, as they was called, to improve their daily lives.

There were a room with bubbling fluids and general science nonsense, where they distilled the vital parts of the savagists, so that the ELDERMEN could imbibe of them, a bit like Energy Drinks, but with less caffeine, due to Health & Safety regulations.

When DRHOW found out about this he were critical of this social system, but he were suddenly sucked-off by JANTO, who were the bearded leader, which took him by surprise!

But there were a twist in this tale, and having taken DOCTORWHO's special fluids into him, JANTO found that he began to question his whole personal nature, which can happen. He decided that the society needed a different way of being run. so the Science Equipment were smashed and the glass were recycled in an appropriate manner.

DOCTRWHO gave his approval to the new society and suggested that STEFANO be involved in an Executive Capacity, as he were now widely-travelled and had the relevant experiences.

DOO-DOO were sad to see STEFANO leave, as can be observed in a small clip from Episode 4 (or 'Episode 4' as it is generally called), though her movements appeared to be somewhat jerky, which were an interesting way of displaying her unease with his decision.

At the end DRHOWO say that In this strange complex of time and space, anything can happen, which were not commented upon by fandom at the time, but were possibly a subtle warning that the show might be cancelled at some point in the next 25 years or so.

DRWHW also noticed that his Reacting Vibrator was not of much use to him, so he resolved to donate it to a charity shop, in the hope that it would find a new owner who would treasure its abilities, and we never heard of it again.

Then the TARDIST wheedled and grinned its way to a new destination, wherein the crew would gaze upon a large upright structure that housed a deadly threat to all Mankinds.

Next Episode:

"Is that so?"

(By Andrew Trowbridge)

Friday, 27 April 2018

A Mixed Bag Of Monsters

A Mixed Bag Of Monsters

I've just dug out The Doctor Who Monster Book. For the sake of accuracy, I'd better qualify that by saying that I've just dug out the 1985 reprint of The Doctor Who Monster Book, which has some different photos compared to the original and didn't include a free poster of the cover art, like the 1975 original version did.

But leafing through it for today's video, reminded me of how much I treasured this book in the late 1970s. Before 'Doctor Who Weekly' came along there was only this, a couple of poster magazines (available from the exhibitions) and, of course, The Making Of Doctor Who (I had the Tom Baker version) to give you an insight into the history of a show rapidly approaching its 15th birthday.

It's a treat for the eyes, combining all manner of arresting visual images as we alternate between photographs and Chris Achilleos artwork, but Terrance Dicks is also on hand to provide his usual clear commentary.

Older fans joke about how phrases such as 'Yartek, Leader Of The Alien Voord' stick in their memories, but 'Monsters Who Came Back For More!' and  'A Mixed Bag Of Monsters' are equally deserving of praise.

As I say in the video, I can just about remember bits of Jon Pertwee's last season, but Tom Baker is really my Doctor. The Doctor Who Monster Book sits nicely in my timeline, reminded me of things that I'd seen, but also showcasing stories I could only hope to experience through the Target books. And it would be many years before the Sensorites or the Mechanoids (that's how they spell it in the book!) would make it into print.

The fact that the final page consists of a long list of writers, giving them credit for their creations is probably one of those things that led to my interest in the details of the production process. I could happily juggle the notions that these were both terrifying creatures from distant planets and also the product of some bloke with a typewriter. And there seemed to be an awful lot of people called Bob or Robert involved. Clearly, but sadly, people called Andrew weren't allowed to write for 'Doctor Who', at least not in the 1970s...

Obviously it's from a more innocent age- it would be quite some time before I began to suspect that there were other people of my age quite as potty about the show as myself. But it was a treasured possession that I read and re-read so many times, that the middle pages  needed some attention from a roll of sellotape to keep them in place.

I loved The Doctor Who Monster Book when I was 8 and I still do to this day.

"They arrived on Earth as beautiful golden beings, but turned into savage many-tentacled monsters when the Doctor exposed their true aims." - that's how to get kids hooked onto finding out about the history of 'Doctor Who'...

(By Andrew Trowbridge)

Thursday, 26 April 2018

"D'you wanna Dolby with it?"

"D'you wanna Dolby with it?"

I had a radiogram in my bedroom, you know! Younger readers may wish to look that up, but in a reversal of a certain 'Not The Nine O'Clock News' sketch, it really did have all the speeds : 33, 45, 78 and 16.

To this day, I've never even seen a 16 record...

Although we've nothing to play them on, I've still got some of my old record collection and the recent mention of the LP 'Jesta Giggle' by The Barron Nights on Tim Worthington's 'Looks Unfamiliar' podcast, reminded me of just how odd my tastes in audio were, and still are.

I had almost nothing that would be considered normal by my school chums of the time. There were collections of sketches from 'Monty Python's Flying Circus' and adaptations of 'Fawlty Towers' episodes with added narration from Manuel if you were lucky.

The back page of the paperback of 'The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy' had an offer for an LP version, so I sent off for that, losing the last paragraph of the book in the process, as someone had not thought through the placing of the advert. I enjoyed this immensely, and the follow-up was soon purchased as well, though it was only years later that I became aware the record versions were noticeably different to the original radio productions.

I lived in the country, so 'The Wurzels, 'The Yetties' and the rather less well-remembered 'Shag Connors And The Carrot Crunchers' were obvious choices. And throw in a couple of releases of Pam Ayres doing her poetry for good measure.

'Doctor Who And The Pescatons' was scary, so didn't get played quite as often, but when the show was cancelled in 1985, I remember playing the single version of the Delia Derbsyhire theme arrangement at 33 rpm in a sort of depressive teenage protest.

There were theme tune arrangements by Geoff Love and Cy Payne and 'The World Of The Goodies' had some strange songs about gibbons and sparrows.

 When it came to singles, chart hits were almost always ignored, unless they were slightly different. 'The Bucket Of Water Song' by The Four Bucketeers or Keith Michell's rendition of 'Captain Beaky And His Band' passed the selection process. of course...

Just lookng back through the pile now, I notice there's an album entitled '12 Tops' from 1975 (MER 125 - original price 50 New Pence!) that boasts such numbers as 10cc's 'I'm Not In Love' and 'The Hustle' by Van McCoy. But if we're being honest,the only track on there that really tickled my fancy at the time was 'Whispering Grass' from Windsor Davies and Don Estelle.

And frankly, I don't think I've changed my opinion in the intervening years.

Though I think I now know why very few people ever came round my house to listen to my records...

Ah well, it was their loss!

(By Andrew Trowbridge)

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Trials And Tribulations

Trials And Tribulations

I joined the DWAS in early 1984 and everything was fine and dandy in the worlds of 'Doctor Who'. The series had just celebrated 20 years and with the Sixth Doctor on the horizon, it was all most exciting.

Then one fateful day in February 1985, I was going home on the school bus and the radio was on. It was Steve Wright (in the afternoon, of course) and they were talking about something my mind couldn't quite get a grip on. How could 'Doctor Who' have been cancelled? Surely they must have got hold of the wrong end of the stick?

But no, subsequent events (and 'The Six O'Clock News' of all things!) confirmed that all was not well with the programme.

I dashed off my letter to the BBC (as did a few more people), but this made little difference. The next few years would be a whirlwind of uncertainty for the show, but it encouraged me to get more involved with fandom, joining the Salisbury Local Group and making friendships that would endure even when the series didn't.

There were those in fandom who were close (arguably too close!) to the production team, but the rank-and-file fans the thinking behind the BBC's actions would be pretty unfathomable.

In September 1986 'The Trial Of A Time Lord' started and a few weeks later I went to Southampton University, where fans were few and far between. I was pretty intimidated by the whole university experience and coming out as a fan in such a new and bewildering environment wasn't something I was in a hurry to do, especially as what was being shown on the screen didn't seem to be going down too well with my generation.

So, in many ways the uncertainty surrounding the show mirrored my own personal uncertainty. 'Trial' isn't a story I rewatch very much, but funnily enough, the DVD release does contain something that helps put everthing into context.

Ed Stradling's documentary 'Trials And Tribulations' (which sounds like the draft title of a 1960s 'Star Trek' episode starring some little round furry things), deals with the whole mid-80s merry-go-round with a professional, analytical eye. There's no hidden agends here and care is taken to let everyone have their say.

Inevitably, there's the whole Eric Saward / John Nathan-Turner relationship to be examined, but careful selection of material allows us to see both sides are sincere in their opinions. Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant are, of course, on board commenting on how enthusiastic they were at the start of this era, though Philip Martin's comment of how the show was not considered to be of much worth from certain corners of the BBC is interesting.

This is further explored with the involvement of David Reid and Jonathan Powell, Heads of Series and Serials. Eric Saward makes clear how Jonathan Powell's chief feeling towards 'Doctor Who' was (in his eyes) disinterest. It never helps if you feel that your boss doesn't value what you're doing!

There's talk of That Coat, with a shot from 'The Twin Dilemma' leaping out at me, featuring a colour palette that simply screams 1984 at me.

Actually, thinking back to the wider world, Colin's coat now reminds me of the loading screens you'd get on home computers such as the ZX Spectrum. His stripy trousers certainly evoke memories of Tape Loading Errors...

For newer fans, this documentary may prove to be somewhat perplexing, with the BBC's attitude to the show being utterly unfathomable. But for those of us who were there at the time, 'Trials And Tribulations' is a very useful and honest time capsule.

It's not a barrel of laughs, but it is very valuable. Congratulations to Ed Stradling for helping me understand that confusing period a little better.

I think in years to come, I'll end up watching this more than 'The Trial Of A Time Lord' itself - it's certainly more dramatic in places!

(By Andrew Trowbridge)

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Father Ted - The Mainland

Father Ted - The Mainland

I like a nice cave, me.

Wookey Hole and Cheddar Caves were exotic places to visit when you grew up in North Dorset and learning that Wookey was the filming location for 'Revenge Of The Cybermen' made it even more attractive. If money (and, I suppose, geology) was no object, I'd love to have a decent cave system at the bottom of the garden, especially in the hotter parts of the summer!

So, when 'Father Ted' visits 'The Mainland', I nodded in agreement at Father Dougal's child-like enthusiasm for a visit to the Very Dark Caves.

The episode opens with Dougal watching 'One Foot In The Grave' but the only thing he can remember about what he's just seen is Richard Wilson's immortal catchphrase, "I don't believe it!"... This may well be a wry observation that when you're writing comedy, most normal people don't pay too much attention to the fine details. It's only nutters like me who overanalyse things!

Ted has to pick up his winnings at the betting shop and Jack needs to go to the opticians. Mrs Doyle is concerned at the amount of crime on the mainland - her friend was stolen the other day.

There's a lovely (if very silly) shot of Dougal with his head out of the car window as they are driving along.

Dougal forgot to have any breakfast and is concerned that he might die.

The optician is amazed that Jack can read every line on her chart, but there might be a very good reason for this.

Jack never seems able to keep hold of his glasses - no-one can work out what happens to them...

The optician switches to a different eye chart in the hope of getting more accurate results.

Ted and Dougal head off to the caves and spot someone very familiar indeed...

Convinced by Dougal that he is definitely doing the right thing, Ted strides up to Richard Wilson and bellows "I DON'T BELIEVE IT!!!" at the top of his voice.

But Richard doesn't seem to be particularly amused. But surely nobody has ever done that to him before?

Mrs Doyle and her friend Mrs Dineen have demolished a vast amount of tea at the tearooms and get into a fight over who should pay, each insisting that the other should put her money away.

A crow relieves Jack of his new glasses and he mistakenly ends up in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, where his continual cries of "DRINK!!!" evoke much sympathy.

In the caves, Dougal's mind is being expanded as he learns that rocks can be different sizes. Learning that the cave they are in is over 15 million years old, Ted murmurs how he doesn't believe it. Someone on the tour with them doesn't take to kindly to hearing this phrase again.

Escaping up a passage, Ted and Dougal (who is now so hungry he's hallucinating) hear a strange moaning noise. A figure in a white sheet approaches them , revealing himself to be Father Noel Furlong. Judging from Ted and Dougal's reaction, he is at least as scary as a ghost.

Noel's party have been lost in the caves for two days, though an enthusiastic rendition of 'Bohemian Rhapsody' doesn't do much to life everyone's spirits.

Noel's suggestion at holding a Screeching Competition doesn't go down too well, either. But his cries do eventually cause part of the cave roof to collapse.

Trapped under a huge pile of rocks, Noel is not worried, knowing that his group will send for help, though in reality they immediately book some tickets on a flight to Paraguay.

Dougal is shocked to discover that his tank-top has turned into some sort of woman's bra, but this is a blessing in disguise, as a loose thread has snagged on something, giving them a path to follow to escape.

Ted begins to wind the thread in and Dougal shows a rare bit of intelligence, pointing out that they should follow it instead. Ted comes to the end of the thread and shouts a frustrated "I DON'T BELIEVE IT!!!"... Ted's voice echoes through the caves, and Richard Wilson reacts badly again.

Jack stumbles into a pub and demands a drink, but one of the members of the Alcoholics Anonymous group spots him and tries to show him the error of his ways. Needless to say, this does not end well...

Emerging from the caves, Ted and Dougal tell a disinterested bin man about Noel still being trapped, but the bin lorry drives off without any rescue being organised.

Waiting for some food to arrive, Ted receives a call saying that Mrs Doyle has been arrested, though some carefully-placed sound effects mean we never learn Mrs Doyle's first name.

Jack is also bundled into custody and Dougal is forced to leave, even more hungry...

At the police station, Dougal tries to order something to eat. Freeing Jack and Mrs Doyle will cost £200 and Ted is tending towards making them spend a night in the cells. Dougal tries to tell Ted that his flies are undone, but Ted misunderstands and furiously hands his money over.

Back home, Dougal is stuffing his face and Richard Wilson turns up on his bike, asking for directions. When the door is answered by Father Ted, it is fair to say that Richard Wilson doesn't believe it...

Oh, and back in the Very Dark Caves, Father Noel Furlong is still trapped under his rocks...

(By Andrew Trowbridge)

The Shy Life Podcast Episode 312

The Shy Life Podcast Episode 312 - Shy Yeti And The Fake Beasts Of Old Loch Ness Last year, Paul and the team from 'The Shy Life ...