strange_complex: (Dracula Risen hearse smile)
Last weekend, the lovely [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan and I set off on a Hammer horror-related adventure, the first leg of which took us to Luton. More or less every person to whom I mentioned the Luton part of this endeavour curled up their lips in disdain, from which I gathered that Luton's public image is more or less equivalent to Birmingham's. But, just like Birmingham, Luton is actually well worth visiting for the under-rated treasures it offers to the intrepid visitor. In our case, the main attraction was the Stockwood Discovery Centre - once the grounds of a stately home; now home to a multiplicity of attractions, including gardens, adventure playgrounds, a local history museum and the the Mossman Carriage Collection.

What was so exciting about the Mossman Carriage Collection? Well, it contains more or less every horse-drawn vehicle ever to appear in a Hammer horror film, not to mention at least 50 other films made between 1937 (Doctor Syn) and 1985 (Out of Africa) besides. Basically, if you have ever watched a British-made film or TV production from that period which featured a carriage, the odds are it came from this collection. The man behind it was George Mossman, a Luton businessman born in 1908, who realised just at the time when horse-drawn transport was passing out of regular use that it would be a) fun and b) a good idea to buy up and restore some of the many carriages which were by then languishing away in barns and coach-houses across the country. Lending them out to film companies was of course one way of helping to make back the cost of buying and restoring them, and on Mossman's death the collection passed to the Luton Museum Service in 1991.

Before we went, I spent the best part of every evening for a week screen-capping every single carriage to feature in a Hammer Dracula film, and combing through the pictures on the Mossman Carriage Collection website to try to identify them. I'm glad to say that on arrival, my identifications proved 100% correct, so below each cut which follows you will find historical information about the carriage in question as taken from the website, pictures of it as it appears today, and screen-caps showing it in use within the Dracula films. Any pictures with me in them were of course taken by my trusty travel companion and acclaimed professional photographer, [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan. Oh, and it's important to note that the paint colours on the carriages today don't always match up with how they look in the films, but as the website notes explain for the Private ‘Favorite’ Omnibus (first entry, immediately below), Mossman himself was quite happy to repaint them as required for film commissions. In most cases, I was able to confirm what previous colours each of the carriages had been painted by simply looking closely at the inevitable scratches in the finish to see the previous layers.

Private ‘Favorite’ Omnibus, about 1880 )

Hearse, about 1860 )

Town Coach, about 1860 )

Victoria, about 1890 )

Brougham, about 1860 )

Round Backed Gig )

So far, so lovely, then. But after this, things got a bit frustrating. Because on arrival, we discovered that a wedding reception was going on inside the largest room of the collection, housing on my estimation at least half of the carriages. And we were not allowed to go in. That's pretty damned annoying when you have travelled all the way from Leeds to get there, I can tell you - especially when there is nothing on their website to warn potential visitors that this might happen. I'm pretty sure that there were at least three more carriages in that room which were used in the Dracula films, but I could only see one of them well enough to get a photograph of. Thankfully, it was the carriage I was second-most excited about seeing after the hearse, but I would really have liked to see it a lot better than I did - to say nothing of the other two which I think were in there.

Travelling Chariot, about 1790 )

There are a number of other carriages in the Hammer Dracula films which I never could identify on the Mossman Collection website, and after having visited as much as I could of the collection and looked through their excellent souvenir brochure as well, I have concluded that this is probably because they never came from it in the first place. From about 1970 onwards, Hammer must have been hiring from somewhere else - or possibly even making their own replicas, which would of course have had the advantage of being able to be bashed about a bit in the course of filming if needed. Certainly, I can't identify the Hargood family coach in Taste, the coach which Paul falls into from the window of Sarah's party in Scars, or the coach from the famous opening chase-through-Hyde-Park sequence at the beginning of Dracula AD 1972.

Meanwhile, the Mossman Collection Carriages of course had a wide and varied film career which went well beyond the world of Hammer. On the whole, I didn't worry about this - indeed, I didn't even worry about Hammer films other than the Dracula cycle. There's only so much film-geekery one brain can manage, after all. But I was excited to stumble across a replica chariot which its information panel informed us had been custom-made by George Mossman for use in Ben Hur (1959):

Replica Roman Chariot )

The fact that I was able to stand in it was in keeping with the collection's general policy, which was that genuine antique carriages had 'do not touch' labels on them, whereas visitors were allowed to sit or stand (as appropriate) in the replicas. This seems reasonable, but on the other hand I'm not sure they have thought hard enough about the heritage value of even some of the replicas, especially where they have appeared in really famous films like Ben Hur. Certainly, they don't draw very much attention to it. Only one small section of the museum mentions it, and this was the only information panel I saw which linked up a specific vehicle with a specific film. Meanwhile, as you can see in the photos, the decorative detail on the chariot is badly degraded. At first we assumed that this was just because it had been made in the first place of materials which had naturally perished over the years, but this is a picture of the same chariot from the collection's souvenir brochure:

Roman chariot from brochure.jpg

And this is it again in a video which was playing in one of the rooms of the museum:

2015-08-15 15.43.44.jpg

Judging by the hair and clothes of the people in the video, it must have been made within the last ten years at most. And meanwhile, when we looked closely at the chariot we realised that all the damage to its decoration is concentrated on the side of it which faces outwards from the arched entrance-way where it stands, and hence towards the elements. So in other words, at some point in the last ten years it has been placed facing into an open courtyard, and the result is that an iconic prop used in one of the biggest block-busters of the 20th century, which was fine ten years ago, has degraded into the state seen in the above pictures.

This makes me feel really sad, not only because it is a neglectful waste, but also because it is surely very short-sighted on the part of the museum management. Film tourism is a real thing, as our own visit proved, and the value of a prop from a film like Ben Hur is only going to grow as time goes by. Imagine being able to say at the time of its centenary in 2059 that you have a chariot used in that film! You know, a film which is famous for its chariot races... Except that a prop which is rotting away in the rain is going to be a lot less of a draw than one which has been kept in good condition.

In fact, I think the Mossman Collection could do with getting some film specialists to collaborate with them asap to draw up a proper and comprehensive list of all the films its vehicles have been used in, complete with screen-caps of the kind I've done here for the Dracula films, which could be displayed on their website and within the museum. They could reach whole new audiences by publicising that information properly - but right now, it is acknowledged only fleetingly and incompletely. It is up to geeks like me to create their own guide to the carriages used in the films they are interested in if that's what they want to see - and while I will do it and enjoyed the results enormously, even I would have been glad of a guide which covered just the other Hammer films at least.

A bit of a sad note there at the end, then, and the wedding reception thing was annoying too. But on the whole I would very much recommend a visit to the Mossman Collection, especially if you are a British film geek. You just might need to be prepared to do your own research in advance...

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Dracula marathon

Thursday, 24 April 2014 21:57
strange_complex: (Dracula 1958 cloak)
You know a person is a true friend when they say: "Why don't we have a Dracula film marathon?" Especially when it turns out that they mean not merely a day spent watching different cinematic tellings of the Dracula story, but a day spent specifically watching Hammer films. Thus it was that [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan and I got together on Easter Saturday to mainline the following:

14. Dracula (1958), dir. Terence Fisher
15. Brides of Dracula (1960), dir. Terence Fisher
16. Dracula, Prince of Darkness (1966), dir. Terence Fisher


We had a brilliant and unashamedly geeky time, swapping bits of Hammer trivia and both considering it perfectly normal to discuss issues such as who exactly the someone who came along and caused Lucy to run away in Tania's account of getting lost in the first film might be. We stuffed ourselves silly with strawberries and crunchy snacks, drank vampires and laughed a very great deal at both ourselves and the films.

As for the films themselves, I am not going to try reviewing them individually yet again. Previous reviews are available at the following locations, for anyone who is interested:

Dracula - June 2008, May 2013, November 2013, January 2014, February 2014.
Brides - January 2014.
Prince - September 2010, November 2013.

But it is my habit to record all of the films which I watch each year here in this journal, and I think it's not unreasonable to say a little something about the experience of watching these three together in close succession.

For one thing, I ended up feeling that although in the past I've tended to sideline Brides on the grounds that it doesn't have Christopher Lee in it, actually it really is part of the sequence and shouldn't be omitted. For example, Prince begins with a scene which only really makes sense if you haven't skipped straight there from Dracula. The scene in Prince traces a distraught woman running through the forest as she tries to prevent the local priest and his chums from staking her recently-deceased daughter. The point turns out to be that a pre-emptive staking isn't actually necessary, because the area is free of vampires. But we never encountered any such local funeral customs in Dracula anyway. It is Brides which depicts them, by showing a similar young woman, who, as it happens, has been killed by a vampire, but is buried with a garland of garlic flowers around her neck anyway as a matter of course, before anyone establishes this for certain. Without this depiction of normal local customs, the scene in which they are challenged at the start of Prince is a lot weaker.

We also noticed that between Dracula and Prince, our Chief Vampire in Residence has quite a noticeable taste for bling. I don't think anyone can ever have watched the first film without thinking "A shiny white coffin? Seriously?", but it's more than just that. He is resurrected in Prince from dust kept in an almost equally blingin' white marble casket, and while I know it is perfectly reasonable for any person watching the following scene to train their eyes primarily on the quite extensive stretch of naked Christopher Lee chest which it affords, let's also just take a moment to notice Dracula's shirt, shall we?

Disco-Drac

Yes, that's right - all that time, under all those layers of austere black fabric, he has secretly been wearing a frilly shirt all along. Disco-Drac! But perhaps there is some perverse kind of sense in all this. After all, this is also the man who calls at least two of his servants 'Klove', despite his revulsion for garlic. It's almost like he deliberately enjoys playing around with what, from his perspective, is horrible if not actually deadly. So perhaps for him the white coffin and frilly shirt work in a similar way? They are his rejection of vampire conventionality (you know, hanging around in dank cobwebby castles full of ruin and despair), in favour of embracing what for him is truly dark and terrible - 60s / 70s kitsch. In other words, he's the inverted vampire equivalent of a great big Goth.

Well, it's a theory anyway.

Meanwhile, with [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan's equally-geeky help I worked out all sorts of minor canon and continuity issues for an enormous file which I am still gradually compiling on the ins and outs of the Hammer Draculaverse. But I'm increasingly of the opinion that those don't really belong here, but rather on some separate stand-alone blog where fellow Dracula geeks can readily find them. Setting that up, though, will I suspect have to be an 'after the Augustus conference' project.

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strange_complex: (Dracula 1958 cloak)
The local cultural offerings of last weekend could not have been more perfect for me. Not only did the National Media Museum in Bradford put on a Hammer Horror themed film course, but Robert Lloyd Parry, who played M.R. James in Mark Gatiss' documentary about his life on Christmas Day, was to be found doing live readings of Lost Hearts and A Warning to the Curious in a derelict warehouse in Holbeck on the Sunday evening. Fitting it all in to a single weekend was a bit of a logistical challenge, but I am so glad that I did.

The film course was entitled Sex, Death & British Horror: Hammer in the 1950s, and involved screenings of the three iconic films which made Hammer's name as a horror studio in the late '50s - The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula and The Mummy - each preceded by about half an hour's worth of introductory talks. On the Sunday afternoon, we were also taken into the museum's archive to see some of the most relevant items from their Hammer collection, while each day ended with tutor-led discussions of the films in the Media Museum bar. Seeing the films and the archive was awesome, of course, but I have experienced those before, whereas the chance to sit around with equally-geeky people steeped in the same material and keen to discuss it in depth was in many ways the best part of the weekend for me. Really, that wasn't exactly unique for me either, since many of the most vocal people in both discussions also happened to be my friends already, so I can have that experience almost any time I like - as indeed we did as we walked out of each screening, or on the bus afterwards. But it's still nice to do it in a slightly larger group, and with some extra perspectives and opinions in the mix.

7. The Curse of Frankenstein, which turned out to be basically a doomed bromance )

8. The Mummy, which turned out to be a serious attempt at cinematic epic, and with strong contemporary political resonances to boot )

9. Dracula, which somehow even after all this time and all these viewings yielded up yet another discovery and a whole raft of backstory which can be built upon it )

I was going to write about the effects of viewing the three films so close together, of our visit to the Media Museum's Hammer make-up effects archive, and of the M.R. James readings in this post as well, but it's already got pretty long, and I won't have time to do any more until Monday evening, as I have to spend the weekend at my parents'. So this will do for now, and I'll pick up the rest next week.

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strange_complex: (Dracula 1958 cloak)
Aw, sad times. With this film, I reach the end of my joyful rewatching of Hammer's Dracula series - or at least, the ones with Christopher Lee in them, anyway. I've saved it till last partly because I watched it only 18 months ago, but also because I unironically and enthusiastically love it. I am thus ending the series on a high, and I am very happy to have the opportunity to write about this film again, and in more detail than in my previous review.

As the Wikipedia article's section on its reception puts it, "Critical reaction to Dracula AD 1972 has been mixed to negative." But all the so-called critics are Wrong )

But Christopher Lee's Dracula is the real draw for me, so let's talk about him. As I've noted above, keeping Dracula in the semi-ruined and deconsecrated St. Bartolph's setting, rather than out amongst clothes shops and coffee bars, helps to preserve the correct aura of Gothic mystique around his character. But it actually also follows a pattern already established in two of the earlier sequels - that is, the creepingly malicious modus operandi which I identified in Risen from the Grave and Taste the Blood. Under this model, he works at one remove through enslaved servants, rather than attacking people directly, and while he is waiting for them to bring him his desired victim, he lurks - in a cellar in Risen, and in a church in both Taste and AD 1972.

There is an important difference, in that for the first time Johnny Alucard is an entirely willing accomplice, rather than a victim like Zena and the priest in Risen or Alice in Taste. On the one hand, that's a pity, because (as as I said in relation to Taste), the concept of the enthralled servants helplessly doing things they consciously detest has a powerful creep factor. But on the other, it's nice to see something different, and the sheer pleasure which Johnny Alucard takes in his own evil-doing is great fun to watch in itself. Either way, Dracula comes out of it just as well, because the whole set-up affords him ample opportunities to be imperious and demanding and angry when the servants let him down. We never quite get the icy politeness here of his scenes with Jonathan Harker in Dracula, or with a series of uninvited castle guests in Scars, but we definitely get the haughty aristocrat. There is also plenty of dark sexuality in his predation scenes, of course, while the climactic confrontation with Van Helsing is packed full of violent monsterishness. So, good - all boxes ticked.

There was one scene, though, which really caught my attention this time because of the potential it offered for fannish insights into the Dracula character (in a similar way to the detail about him inviting a librarian to his castle in the first film). It's only a very short sequence, probably about ten seconds or so long, and has no dialogue at all. Coming roughly two-thirds of the way through the film, and cut in between sequences of Van Helsing placing a cross around Jessica's neck and Johnny Alucard disposing of a body, we see Dracula, alone, waiting in the church for Johnny to bring the right girl to him. Fairly obviously, the sequence is there to remind us of Dracula's menacing presence in the story, driving the actions of the other characters. Also fairly obviously, for a scene like this you can't just show Dracula sitting around looking at his watch and maybe drumming his fingers a bit. If he's going to be on the screen, he needs to be doing something a bit evil and Gothic-looking. Otherwise, you're just not conveying the necessary menace. So dry leaves blow across the floor of the church, a moonbeam shines in from the right, and Dracula waits...

Dracula dancing alone 3 Dracula dancing alone 4

The direction given to Christopher Lee for this scene was probably something along the lines of "Pace towards the centre of the church, Chris, and then when you get to your mark stop, do a full turn and give your cloak a good swirl." That's exactly what he does, and I'm sure it conveys the intended theme of 'Dracula waiting impatiently' very nicely, with the added bonus of also showing off the excellent work of the costume department. Except that if you are looking at it with feverishly fannish eyes, as I currently am, whole extra layers of character are opened up by this scene. We very rarely see Dracula completely alone, you see, and certainly not alone and not also engaged in the urgent business of chasing after girls or escaping from his enemies. But suddenly, here he is - alone and at his leisure. And what do we discover he likes to do in these circumstances? Pace around and swirl his cloak - for fun. He's practically dancing in fact, on his own, in the middle of the church. Perhaps in evil self-satisfaction at having just drained two victims in rapid succession (Gaynor and then Johnny), and how well his plans in general seem to be going? Or perhaps just because he likes the feel of the movement? It's hard to say, but it is fascinating, and definitely a side of Dracula which we don't normally get to see in these stories.

Finally, another Thing Which Gets Said about this film is that because the opening sequence is set in 1872, it and Satanic Rites "do not correspond to the chronology established in the Victorian/Edwardian era films", the first of which is set in 1885. But this view is the result of an impoverished imagination and a failure to notice that the Van Helsing of the first film is not called Lawrence. I'm pretty confident that with a little lateral thinking, the entire sequence of films can be rammed into a perfectly sound continuity framework, even though they were never written in the first place with anything of the sort in mind. But to do that properly takes us rather beyond this particular film, and I will still need to go back and check a few details in some of the other films before I can really nail it. So I will save that for a later post.

Meanwhile, if, under the influence of some strange madness, delusion, or perhaps genius, you love this film as much as I do, there is a four-minute contemporary 'featurette' on it here complete with some fantastic behind-the-scenes footage and a bit of pontificating from Christopher Lee. Essential viewing, I think you'll agree, and especially for the way Dracula's wig blows straight up into the air at around 02:35, making him look for all the world like a member of an early 80s goth-punk band. LOVE!

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strange_complex: (Strange complex)
Yes, I thought I might want to write a little about this. I'm still concerned that I might find tonight's special a little disappointing (though also still hopeful I won't), but even if I do, this went a long way towards marking the anniversary appropriately for me. I do very much love the William Hartnell era after all - enough that that is where my LJ username now comes from. And it is a great pleasure to be able to use the Doctor Who anniversary to help develop and refine my work-related thinking about anniversary commemorations, as well.

It's fair to say, as Laurence Miles has done most forcefully (in a post now sadly deleted from his blog), that An Adventure in Space and Time both mythologised and stereotyped some of its main characters )

Anyway, as both a work of drama and a nostalgic tribute, An Adventure in Space and Time was brilliant )

Fannish tick-boxes and tributes )

Cameos and casting )

Anyway. 50th anniversaries are funny ones, I think. They stand on the cusp between memory and history. Enough time has passed for things to have changed a great deal, for memories to have become distorted, and for the need to reinterpret the past in a way that makes sense now in the present to have arisen. But it is generally not long enough for all those involved to have died, so that there is also a need for negotiation between direct memory and reinterpretation - sometimes both at work within the same people. If Doctor Who marks its centenary, which I very much hope it does, the line of direct memory to its origins will by then have been broken. It will all be about second-hand interpretation of the recorded past, via archives and photographs and interviews and of course the show itself. But it will be enriched by the fact that the 50th anniversary has served as a prompt to add to our collective store of direct memories, now while we can and before they are gone forever.

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strange_complex: (Eleven dude)
I should have posted this review nearly two weeks ago now, but was feeling very sluggish at the time, thanks to what [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan calls 'the ladygrims', and just didn't have the surplus brain-power while also greeting new students and finishing articles. I seem to be back to normal now, but still had to prioritise my article until I knew I had managed to meet the deadline for it. Still, any time before the season finale counts, right?

Anyway, this story was pretty damned good for me, and certainly one of the stronger episodes of the season, but I felt it lacked the appropriate emotional weight )

Setting and symbolism )

Rita )

Meh, there's probably other stuff I would have said about this episode if I'd got round to writing it up earlier. It was clever and gripping, made good use of its characters, and dropped in plenty of interesting symbolism and continuity references for geeky types like me to chew over. But I think that will do for now. Here's looking forward to the season finale, and hopefully a few resolutions, tomorrow evening. :-)

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strange_complex: (Vampira)
12. Horror Express (1973), dir. Eugenio Martin

I have to admit to not having seen this one before, despite having been a massive Lee and Cushing fan for over twenty years and knowing perfectly well that it was one of their great classics. And I've been really missing out, because it's completely brilliant )


13. 28 Days Later (2002), dir. Danny Boyle )

The screening of 28 Days Later was actually only one half of a double-bill along with 28 Weeks Later. I've seen that before too, and indeed enjoyed it very much, so was sorely tempted to stay and see it again, especially so that I could compare the two films back to back. But I opted for a new experience over a tried-and-tested one - and I've got to say that on this particular occasion it was a real mistake...


14. Mark of the Devil (1970), dir. Michael Armstrong

See, Mark of the Devil sounded great in advance )

In short, this is 90 minutes of solid torture all right. But for the audience, not for the characters. I spent the rest of the weekend having to carefully avoid the director's eye, in case I accidentally blurted out "Your film was embarrassingly dreadful! What were you thinking?" Some horror films are bad in ways which are unintentionally funny, and that is a major source of the pleasure in watching them. But this one was just a huge, steaming crock o' shite, and definitely the low point of the festival for me.

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strange_complex: (One walking)
First Doctor: Galaxy Four )

First Doctor: Mission to the Unknown )

Two stories in a row which display a distinctly sexist world-view, then. And you might well say - "But Penny, these stories were made in 1965. What did you expect?" Except that two seasons' worth of stories featuring strong, independent women (especially Barbara, but not just her) talking to each other, doing amazing things as though it were completely normal, and enjoying the total respect and trust of the men around them have shown me that Doctor Who is capable of a great deal better than this. I don't want to lose that - but here we are, with Verity Lambert still not even properly out of the door yet, and things already seem to be crashing and burning horribly.

So, to cheer myself up after all that, I went right back to the Good Old Days. You know, before the BBC Ruined Our Show by, like, broadcasting it on TV, and shit. Jeez, talk about selling out...

First Doctor: An Unearthly Child (untelevised first attempt) )

So, yes, that is better, and I'm ready to continue forwards now - not least because the next story is The Myth-Makers. But I proceed with caution and lowered expectations from here on in.

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strange_complex: (Miss Pettigrew)
Watched this afternoon, all curled up on the sofa as part of my weekend of indulgence. I've seen it before, and indeed reviewed it before, but that doesn't mean I don't have new stuff to say about it, especially because I've also read the book since.

It seemed shorter than I remembered, but I suppose that's natural enough when you've seen a film before, and therefore know where you are in the story and how much remains at any given point. Now that I've read the book, I'm also less keen than I was before on the way the character of Edythe Dubarry is depicted in the film. In the book, she is a strong and self-possessed business-woman, who is nothing but supportive of both Miss LaFosse and Miss Pettigrew. But in the film she has been made into Miss Pettigrew's rival - the one who knows her secret, uses this as a hold over her, and has cynically entrapped lovely, honest, Ciarán Hinds-Joe purely for the sake of his professional status. It all makes her both more bitchy and more weedy than she is in the book - and definitely a lot less feminist.

Apart from that, though, I still absolutely love the film - both in its own right and as an adaptation of the book. I especially liked the way it is made so much clearer in the film how similar Delysia LaFosse's situation really is to Miss Pettigrew's, beneath all the glitz and glamour. This is touched on in the book, when we hear that her real name is Sarah Grubb, but the film makes it much more explicit by extending the name-confession scene to reveal that she also barely has any possessions that are really her own, and could be out on the streets herself in the blink of an eye. There's also a lot of good mileage got out of the impending outbreak of the Second World War, which adds a dark undertone to the otherwise-glamorous proceedings; and a running theme about Miss Pettigrew getting nothing to eat and no sleep for almost 48 hours over the course of the film, which has humour value and also helps to underline the severity of her position.

And of course, the film has all the benefits of sumptuous sets, costumes and cinematography, all of which are used extremely intelligently. Since I now own the DVD, I was able to cap a couple of my favourite scenes for your delectation )

ETA: further thoughts on the deleted scenes included on the DVD release now posted here.

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strange_complex: (Tom Baker)
As promised, now that I've watched every single one of his stories, I want to draw together my thoughts on the Tom Baker era, and why the Fourth Doctor is, and always will be, 'my' Doctor.

Before last January )

So, now that I have seen his full oeuvre, what is it that makes me think he is such a bloody great Doctor? Well, in a way it hardly needs examining, because he is so widely recognised as brilliant in the role, and so many people have analysed why that is extremely effectively. (The Wikipedia article has a decent stab, for a start). But what the hell - I'll have a go anyway, because it's fun to do.

Grins, grimaces and fight scenes )

Fannish drooling )

Companions )

My top five Fourth Doctor stories )

My bottom five Fourth Doctor stories )

And now? )

strange_complex: (TARDIS)
Yes, I finally did it. Last weekend, in fact. It's just that I was working so hard on my teaching portfolio last week that I didn't have much writing energy left for reviews in the evenings. So, now that I have a day spare, here goes:

Fourth Doctor: Logopolis )

Footnote )

strange_complex: (Apollo Belvedere)
Onto season 18, now. I think I'll try to write up the stories in this one at a time as I go along - otherwise it just becomes too daunting if I let a back-log build up and have to write three at once.

Fourth Doctor: The Leisure Hive )

Long thoughts on the beginning of the JNT era )

And back to the specifics of The Leisure Hive )

strange_complex: (Tom Baker)
I've now notched up another season: 17, this time. I'd already skipped ahead and seen three out of its six stories, so now that I've filled in the gaps, I've linked the write-ups from my earlier viewings in sequence between the new ones.

Fourth Doctor: Destiny of the Daleks )

City of Death already seen, and written up here.

Fourth Doctor: The Creature from the Pit )

Nightmare of Eden already seen, and written up here.

Horns of Nimon already seen, and written up here.

Fourth Doctor: Shada )

And so, that is season 17. It has some great stories (Destiny, City and probably Shada) and some average ones (Creature, Nightmare and Horns), but nothing abysmal, by any means. Overall, it's probably on equal pegging with seasons 15 and 16 - which means not as good as 12, 13, or 14, but pretty chuffing decent all the same.

I've got one season left now, until WOE and ANGST. I think I'll start right now...

strange_complex: (TARDIS)
Fourth Doctor: Underworld )

Fourth Doctor: The Invasion of Time )

That now brings me to the end of both Leela as a companion, and season 15 as a whole (for my reference, write-ups of the other stories from this season are here, here, here and here). I'm still underwhelmed by Leela. She's OK when she gets to do a bit of fighting, but that isn't always the case, and otherwise I still find her to be rather a one-note character (as I originally complained). Still, there are plenty of companions who are far worse, and she does have her moments. Meanwhile, season 15 has a slightly higher quotient of weak stories (The Invisible Enemy, Underworld) than the previous three Baker seasons; but then none of those were perfect either (and often for the same reason).

It also seemed to me to have just slightly more in the way of unifying themes to it than most of the previous seasons (though season 12 is tied together by near-continuous action between all five stories) - perhaps an early step in the same, more structured, direction then taken by season 16 (Key to Time)? It probably wasn't originally planned to start with the Rutans and end with the Sontarans (given the production circumstances of The Invasion of Time), but nonetheless that's how it worked out, and it could well have been done consciously for the sake of structure, once the opportunity presented itself. Meanwhile, The Sun Makers and Underworld both present exploited masses who are eventually liberated by the Doctor's intervention, and the manifestation of the Fendahl Core as a goddess-figure in Image of the Fendahl goes nicely along with the religious themes I've noted in the two stories above. It's not quite as structured as the Key to Time arc, but it's recognisably moving in that direction.

Next - season 17.

strange_complex: (Tom Baker)
For most of this year so far, I've been working my way more-or-less sequentially through the Tom Baker era, largely thanks to UKTV Drama. When the current season of New Who started up, however, they went into temporary hiatus, leaving me hanging at The Robots of Death. I was ready, though. The enticingly-packaged Key to Time box-set was already waiting in reserve. It meant jumping forwards a little - but what with one thing and another there are actually only four stories I haven't seen between Robots... and the start of this season, so it wasn't too much of a problem, and it has meant another six stories viewed (mainly) in their original broadcast order. Now that I've worked my way through not only its six stories, but a solid selection of its myriad extra features, it's time to review it - as a season, and as a set.

Fourth Doctor: The Ribos Operation )

Fourth Doctor: The Pirate Planet )

Fourth Doctor: The Stones of Blood )

Fourth Doctor: The Androids of Tara )

Fourth Doctor: The Power of Kroll )

Fourth Doctor: The Armageddon Factor )

The Key to Time Season )

The Key to Time Box Set )

Overall, then, not every story in this season may be amongst the best. But the box-set itself is a very sound investment. And now I do believe it is time for this week's episode of New Who... *big grin*

strange_complex: (Tom Baker)
Meep! New Who starts again today, and I'm miles behind with my Classic Who blogging! Let's see if I can catch up before 6:20pm.

First of all, the latest three in UKTV Drama's sequential showing of the Tom Baker era:

Fourth Doctor: The Deadly Assassin )

Fourth Doctor: The Face of Evil )

Fourth Doctor: The Robots of Death )

And there, alas, UKTV is leaving us in the lurch, presumably because New Who is starting up again, and the BBC would rather channel us into watching that. Bad news for those us of who would quite cheerfully have watched both in parallel! They did promise in a continuity announcement that the Doctor would be back later in the year, though, again presumably when the new series finishes showing. But it is frustrating for now to have to stop one story shy of a season finale, and I shall miss my daily fix something rotten.

Well, actually I probably won't, because it's not like I'm entirely dependent on UKTV for my Classic Who viewing. I succumbed some time ago to the temptation of buying the Key to Time box-set, so shall be working my way through that shortly, BBC4 seem to be chipping in with occasional contributions, and in any case it's not hard in these days of modern technology to access pretty well as much Classic Who as you like. So I'll probably survive. In the meantime, there's just one more out-of-sequence story for me to write up:

Fourth Doctor: The Sun Makers )

strange_complex: (Cathica spike)
I know what I'm saying here is nearly a week old now, but as I was cueing up the video player for Clueless last night, Gridlock (Who 3.3) was on on BBC3, and something caught my eye which I hadn't spotted the first time I saw it (on Tuesday in the end, I think).

Unlike last time, I couldn't find the full episode on YouTube to grab a screencap from - only stupid slushy Martha / Doctor fanvids with emo soundtracks that didn't include the shot I wanted. So the only thing I could do to share this image with you was to put the episode on 'On Demand' this morning, and actually take a photo of my TV screen. Not, of course, the best way to get a good-quality image - in fact, you can even see me in the picture with my camera, reflected in the screen. But I think you will get my point nonetheless. Just look at the stack of three mugs visible behind one of the two Mrs. Cassinis as she reads her car-spotting notes out to the Doctor:

Red, amber, green )

Edit: much better-quality proper screencap now available here.

Now, given the subject-matter of the episode, is that not a masterfully subtle bit of mise-en-scène? There's a set-dresser out there who deserves a BAFTA in my opinion. (If there even are BAFTAs for that sort of thing - I hope there are).

Can't wait to see what's in store for us tonight...

strange_complex: (Cathica spike)
Ohhhh, yes! Yes, sir, thank-you-very-much-indeed.

Know the moment I liked best? It was just a small thing. When Stoker looked out of the hospital window at the moonscape, and the real Earth, suspended in the sky, was reflected in the window above and to the left of him, while a small globe was standing on the window-sill below and to the right, with his unbelieving face staring outwards in between. Those are the moments which tell you you're watching a well-crafted, well-thought-out piece of television, and not some half-assed piece of rubbish.

Edit: This moment, to be precise )

Thanks, YouTube.

I look forward immensely to the rest of the series. And if I'm not careful, I could well find myself nursing a serious Ten crush by the end of it...

I was glad to have the pleasure of the company of [livejournal.com profile] nigelmouse and [livejournal.com profile] big_daz for Who - I always feel a new series should be started with fellow enthusiasts. We also enjoyed an episode of Fry & Laurie, Gosford Park (after Nigel had headed subculture-wards for bleepy music), and a quite impressive quantity of beer and bikkies. A fine evening all round.

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