Gareth David-Lloyd talks gaming

GARETH David-Lloyd’s Ianto Jones was a flirt and a tease – in his own way.

But nothing compares to the Torchwood actor himself. The first time I interviewed him was just before the screening of series three of Torchwood. I had been sent just the first two episodes so was blissfully unaware that Ianto would buy the farm in the third and he played on that – big time, not in a mean way (it was one of the best and most fun interviews I’ve done in a three-decade career).

But he no-one could ever accuse him of breaking confidentiality and he got me big time. My story came out the day before the series went out without a hint of Ianto’s death and it was as big of a shock to this journalist as the rest of the fan base.

Now he’s done it again – most probably.

Late last year, as he prepared to come to Australia again for Supanova in Brisbane, we talked again.

He was quieter this time, more grown up – a dad now – not just weeks from his wedding last time and I thought I’d got a great honest interview.

But once again he was holding his cards close to his chest.

This time the question was about his roles in Dragon Age, the BioWare game where he followed in Torchwood cast mate Eve Myles’ footsteps and played and Elf.

“It’s Eve’s fault I got Dragon Age,” he’d joked.

“She was cast and they liked the accent – so all of the Elves are Welsh or Celtic.

“That’s why Solace has that nice Welsh cadence.”

And why, he explained, he got the part.

We talked about how much he enjoyed it – how different it was – and I asked the question, would you do more Dragon Age if you could?

He said yes he would, but there were no immediate plans.

Over Christmas my excited Torchwood/Dragon Age fangirl daughter almost bounced out of her skin – a teaser trailer had dropped for the fourth game in the series and guess who it seems the main villain is?

He’d got me again.

Though to be fair, looking back, he’d hesitated when I asked.

But not only does it look like he is back, but (spoilers) it seems Solace could now be tied to the main bad guy – Dread Wolf – in a fourth game that is still heavily under wraps, despite a teaser and a rumoured release date of the Australian spring – this year.

At the time he had been more talkative about his “other project”, Black River Meadow – a piece he had written, produced and crowdfunded for release on YouTube.

He joined forces with Twisted Showcase web anthology creator and writer Robin Bell to create Dark Valley Productions and bring the world of Black River Meadow to computer screens around the world. It is hoped that the trilogy (which featured his daughter in episode one) will be successful enough to become a full-length television drama.

“There is so much mystery and drama in the Welsh Valleys and the Brecon Beacons,” he said in our interview at Supanova and repeats on the Black River Meadows webpage.

“When conditions are just so. When the mist hangs in such a way that paths dissolve, valleys breath and mountains sway, feelings of awe, dread, wonder and terror can consume a person.”

Black River Meadow I: The Hiding can be viewed below. The Kickstarter campaign for Black River Meadow II: The Lure will be launched on 26 February.

Every Episode of Series 11, As Ranked By You

Series 11 of Doctor Who is now done and dusted, but how did it rate with Australian fans? After each week’s broadcast, we asked followers of our Facebook page to indicate whether they found the latest episode “great” or “not so great”. So which one came out on top? The results, from least-liked to most-liked, are presented below!

10. The Tsuranga Conundrum (61% positive)

Coming in last place was the The Tsuranga Conundrum, which saw the Doctor and her companions strive to save their spaceship from the adorable but deadly “Pting”. But while some viewers enjoyed the performances, the character development and the Pting itself, many were underwhelmed by the storyline, with commenters describing the episode as “okay”, “filler”, “fine”, “mediocre” and “meh”. So not an awful episode, but not one that got fans particularly excited either.

9. Arachnids in the UK (63% positive)

This was a divisive episode in more ways than one, in that it had several elements our followers either loved or hated. Many found the spiders suitably scary, while others found them difficult to watch for that very same reason. Some found themselves laughing knowingly at Donald Trump surrogate Jack Robertson (played by Chris Noth), while others found the real-life parallels too close for comfort. One thing that many agreed on is that the episode ended quite abruptly, leaving the audience questioning the fate of both Robertson and the trapped spiders – a somewhat unsatisfying conclusion.

8. It Takes You Away (75% positive)

The penultimate episode of the season appeared to have everything going for it: a spooky set-up, a journey through a hellish landscape, and some much-needed closure for Graham as he comes to terms with Grace’s death. It also had a sentient universe that eventually manifested itself as a talking frog, which many found wonderfully weird but others simply could not take seriously. So while the episode was still well received, there are many people who believe that, as one of our commenters put it, “it jumped the frog near the end”.

7. The Witchfinders (78.9% positive)

Light in tone despite its dark subject matter, The Witchfinders marked a return to the “historical romp” that has been a recurring feature of the revived series (and was quite a regular occurrence in the ’60s). It was a very welcome return according to our followers, with many calling it the best episode of the season and the two guest performers receiving particular praise – Siabhon Finneran (Becka) for her “gravitas” and Alan Cumming for his scenery-chewing performance as King James I (although one commenter described the character as “overplayed”). A solid, fun episode, then – and they only rate better from here on in.

6. The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos (79.1% positive)

Praised by our commenters as “tense as hell” and “the most engaging [episode] yet”, The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos received kudos for focusing on Graham’s inner turmoil, rather than attempting to outdo the world-ending threats of previous season finales. Yet this approach did not sway all our voters, with many saying the episode was good or even great, but somewhat lacking as a finale. It may very well have rated even higher had it been placed elsewhere in the season.

5. Demons of the Punjab (79.3% positive)

A tragic love story set during the Partition of India, Demons of the Punjab was described by our commenters as a moving, emotional piece of drama. But while many enjoyed learning about a relatively unknown historical event, others said they were “getting a bit tired” of historicals – with one commenter saying the episode was an okay piece of television but simply didn’t feel like Doctor Who. Its large cast of characters also divided fans, with some enjoying the ensemble nature of the episode but others feeling that the Doctor was upstaged, particularly by Bradley Walsh in a very moving performance as Graham. Make sure you have the tissues on hand for this one.

4. The Ghost Monument (81% positive)

The first off-world adventure for the Thirteenth Doctor and her friends, The Ghost Monument takes our heroes across the sweeping deserts of Desolation, encountering a ruthless racemaster (Art Malik), killer robots and creepy bandage creatures along the way. A lot of praise for the episode seems to surround the reveal of the redesigned TARDIS interior, as well as the new opening title sequence and theme tune – not to mention the strong dynamics of the newly formed TARDIS team. So while the plot itself was described by at least one commenter as “forgettable”, other elements worked well enough for many to consider this one a bit of a favourite.

3. Kerblam! (84% positive)

Seven episodes into Series 11, many of our followers found Kerblam! was the first to evoke the feel of old-school Doctor Who. Deadly robots are of course a staple of both classic and revived Who, while the allegorical nature of the story reminded some people of the Seventh Doctor’s era. Many even thought the killer bubble wrap was an amusing nod to the show’s limited budget during the classic series! There were however those who found the ending a letdown, with Charlie’s rebellion overshadowing Kerblam!’s exploitation of its workers. So enjoyable on the surface level, but it does fall apart if you start thinking about it.

2. Rosa (87% positive)

“Outstanding”, “phenomenal”, “beautiful”, “brilliant”… Rosa certainly received high praise from our commenters, thanks in no small part to a superb performance from Vinette Robinson in the title role. Unafraid to address racism and the civil rights movement in what is arguably the most raw and upfront manner in Doctor Who’s history, the episode did attract a few detractors as a result – many of whom expressed their discomfort at the subject matter. Reactions were also mixed towards the villainous Krasko, with many believing he could (and should) have been removed altogether. Nevertheless, the episode remains highly acclaimed.

1. The Woman Who Fell to Earth (89% positive)

With both Jodie Whittaker and Chris Chibnall having their fair share of naysayers ahead of the series launch, the first episode of Series 11 had to be something special. And that it was – our commenters took to the Thirteenth Doctor straight away, enjoying her energy, her humour, her quirkiness, and the traces of other young, manic Doctors they could see inside her. The supporting characters were also described as very well rounded, with commenters disappointed that the (sadly doomed) Grace did not get her chance to explore the universe. And while the plot itself was not rated as particularly groundbreaking, the episode did exactly what it needed to do – it convinced people to come back for more. And given how sceptical some people were about Series 11 to begin with, that in itself is to be applauded.

Want to participate in future polls and surveys? We post new questions on our Facebook page on a regular basis, encouraging our followers to have their say on all things Doctor Who. Find us now by heading over to, and vote in our Resolution poll now!

Knowing the Score: We chat with Segun Akinola

Imagine being told you had the job of a lifetime while standing in the liquor section of your local supermarket.

Doctor Who’s latest musical composer, British-Nigerian Segun Akinola, chuckles when he tells that story and you know he will be dining out on it for years to come.

“I was in the wine aisle when I got this call from Chris – there was a lot of background noise,” he said. And though it was offered, there was no chance that Segun was going to take the call later – because let’s face it, when you get a life changing phone call you hang up!

“It was really surreal. I was just walking up and down the aisle thinking I should just buy the mulled wine and go home.”

The phone call was the end of what had been a long audition process which included putting together a piece of music for the show – a piece that obviously impressed both Chris Chibnall and fellow Executive Producer Matt Strevens ,as it became the Doctor’s theme.

And so it was that the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire alumni was chosen to replace the beloved Murray Gold, who had been the man behind the music of the show since it returned. And with him he has brought a new sound to the program using everything from Punjabi musicians (recorded at Abbey Road) to dub-step and music to evoke the US in the ’50s.

They were big shoes for Segun, who had initially learned the piano and drums at an early age before turning his attention to composition, graduating from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire with first-class honours and the National Film and Television School with an MA in Composing for Film and Television, before being part of the BAFTA Breakthrough Brit program in 2017.

And while his selection was a surprise for fans, it wasn’t entirely unexpected.

“I’ve done quite a bit of work with the BBC,” he explained and so when he was asked to audition it was not entirely shocking.

“But it’s not every Wednesday morning you find out you are being considered for Doctor Who.”

A meeting with Matt Strevens and Skyping with Chris Chibnall and it became apparent that they already knew his work on Black and British: A Forgotten History and Exhibition Volcano and he felt “welcome from the start” despite not really being a fan of the show.

“I hadn’t really watched Doctor Who – I always knew about it, it is such an important part of British Society,” he explained.

“I knew about it musically, I knew about Murray Gold and what he’d done with bringing this great orchestral sound to the small screen.

“But I didn’t have anyone in my social group saying, ‘watch it’.”

Of course, as he went through the selection process he began to watch and is now a fan.

However, coming from the outside may have helped the young composer, who explained that both Strevens and Chibnall wanted him to put his own stamp on the show.

And this brings us to what is probably the most talked about part of his tenure so far – the reimagining of the theme song and THAT beat drop. Preparing for this interview, that was the question that kept coming up – ask him about the beat drop in the theme song.

Segun laughs and explained that even in the early meetings it was very apparent that Chris and Matt had the same idea he had – taking the theme back to the original, while they were also very keen to put his own stamp on the shows music and make it his own.

“They said we have people who know all about the music – bring some of yourself to them,” Segun explained.

“I always thought that if anything was going to be done to the theme song then I was thinking you had to go back to the original, which I did. But that beat-drop, that’s me, that’s who I am. I used it a few times in the first few episodes.”

And while he dropped his signature beat drop through the middle of the season, listen out for more as we head to the end – which he was still working on during this interview in late November.

And the other big question – will we see his music at big orchestral concerts like his predecessor? Well while there are no plans, the affable 20-something said it was something he’d love to see in the future – and given the different types of music used in the show this series, it would be another big challenge (something he seems to relish).

Barrowman back Down Under

JOHN Barrowman has a soft spot for Australia – he’s been here four times in the past year and if he has his way he’ll be back again in 2019.

The actor who brought the iconic Captain Jack to life in the Whoniverse, before playing DC supervillain Malcolm Merlin in Arrow is here Australia, for Supanova. Last week he took Adelaide by storm (building his own Tim Tam Jenga with husband Scott) and this weekend it will be Brisbane’s turn.

Our chat by phone is “timey wimey”. It’s 5.16pm on 23 October in Palm Springs and after 11am Sydney time on 24 October. He’s quick to point out I’m talking to him from the future, instantly relaxing both of us in a way neither probably feels.

This is one of two days off he has before he comes to Australia (perhaps before he takes time off for Christmas and downtime in January, and I’m on deadline for other projects). And yet here we are chatting like old friends who have never met – he is in an interview just what you see on stage – friendly, funny and totally natural.

He’s keen to talk about Australia, the continuing love out there for Captain Jack and how teenaged girls see his Malcolm Merlin as a father figure, even though he’s definitely no poster-child for perfect parenting.

We start with Australia and his four trips to this country this year.

“We like Australia, we think it’s a fun place to go,” he admits when I ask why.

“We are going to be in Adelaide and Brisbane for Supanova and my husband Scott is going to be planning the itinerary for our week off.”

This trip is very much a family affair, with John and Scott being joined by John’s sister author Carole Barrowman for both events.

And it’s not all Pop Culture festivals for the versatile and bubbly Barrowman – the man is an entertainer with a capital E. He sings, dances, presents and acts and earlier in the year he brought his musical talents to this country and he hopes to be back.

“Having done such a successful show in Melbourne we are looking to do it around other cities,” he said.
“The Centre where we performed is interested.

“We are yet to solidify dates but if it does happen then it will be in the year.”

And maybe it will be a chance for Barrowman and husband Scott to do a bit more house hunting in Australia.

“When we were on the Gold Coast we looked at a high-rise,” he explained. While the couple decided against that particular place, he hasn’t ruled out buying something here in Australia.

“That was just the Gold Coast. Never say never – we haven’t ruled out buying something in Australia.”

The Glasgow-born star has been spotted at Southbank in Brisbane and several places around Adelaide since arriving in the country, clearly enjoying our weather and our hospitality.

However, it is back to work now with a series of panels across the weekend including with his former Torchwood co-star Gareth David-Lloyd, who joked that John wouldn’t enjoy sharing a stage – and while that is probably not true, it is true that John Barrowman, who is fresh from filming in Vancouver and also has a role as the bad guy in the new Fireman Sam movie, loves a stage.

“I know what I was put on this planet to do and that was to entertain people,” he laughed.

“That’s why it comes easily,” he says of his over-the-top and often event-stealing panels at Cons. And don’t expect anything other than to have fun when you go to see him, he sure will.

“People can expect more or the same,” John said.

“I don’t plan anything… I just let it happen.”

And one thing he has made no secret in wanting to happen is more Captain Jack.

Is it more likely now that former Torchwood Showrunner Chris Chibnall is Who’s main man?

“If I was asked I would do it,” John said (and has said many times in the past).

“It’s up to Chris, it’s his show and as we’ve seen so far he is doing a brilliant job with Jodie and the new companions!

“He was our showrunner on Torchwood, he has a great track record and he knows Captain Jack really well!”

You can catch John Barrowman, his sister Carole and Gareth David-Lloyd at Supanova in Brisbane this weekend and, fingers-crossed, coming to a stage near you early next year.

Say Her Name: We Meet Thirteenth Doctor Writer Juno Dawson

Australian readers will soon be able to experience the exploits of the Thirteenth Doctor and her friends in written form, with the release this month of three new novels from BBC Books: The Good Doctor, Molten Heart and Combat Magicks.

The first of these, The Good Doctor, was conceived by award-winning author Juno Dawson, who has made her name as a writer of edgy YA fiction and was named a “Queen of Teen” in 2014. Dawson came to Sydney a few months ago as part of a tour promoting her latest book, and during the Q&A session we were lucky enough to hear a few anecdotes about how she came to be involved in the Whoniverse.

Dawson’s big break came about in one of the most unexpected places – at the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest. She was attending the event with a friend, who just happened to know James Goss – a long-time writer and producer for Doctor Who, these days kept busy with regular work at Big Finish Productions. At the time, Goss was looking for writers for Big Finish’s new Torchwood audio drama range, being developed with Russell T Davies and set to take place after Miracle Day. Before she knew it, Dawson was sent an offer to write for the series: an opportunity too good to miss.

The series eventually came to be known as Aliens Among Us and saw Torchwood return to its home in Cardiff with the introduction of several new team members – including the alien Orr, a gender-neutral, genetically engineered sexual psychomorph who changes their appearance based on the desire of whoever is in their company. Created by Davies, Orr’s introductory episode was written by Dawson – a writer who could relate to Orr on some level given her own identity as a transgender woman.

While Dawson was initially recruited to work on Aliens Among Us, production on the series was somewhat delayed, particularly due to the limited availability of stars John Barrowman and Eve Myles. In the meantime she was commissioned to write another story, this time for the Torchwood single-disc range. This was The Dollhouse, part of the “expanded” Torchwood universe which sees the organisation pop up in times and places other than 21st century Cardiff. In the case of The Dollhouse, the setting is 1970s Los Angeles and the heroes are three brave and beautiful young women. The result is a fun and clever homage to Charlie’s Angels with a very Torchwood twist.

But while Torchwood is the only Doctor Who spin-off that Dawson has written for to date, she came very close to writing for another. She revealed during the event that she was actually commissioned to write for the (never-produced) second season of Class, the spin-off series set at Coal Hill Academy and originally broadcast in 2016. The first season was written entirely by creator Patrick Ness, who is himself a prominent YA author, and he was keen to get others like himself on board for the show’s second season – in spite of the fact that the BBC were pushing for more established screenwriters.

But Ness persisted, with Dawson and several other YA authors eventually commissioned prior to the broadcast of the show’s first season. Dawson even visited the set in preparation of writing her episode, noting with amusement that the show’s stars were several years older than their teenage counterparts. Unfortunately, the first season received mixed reviews and low viewing figures – something which Dawson attributes to the BBC’s decision to debut the show on the online channel BBC Three, before repeating it late at night on BBC One several months later. So while she still knows exactly what her episode was going to be about, the BBC’s decision to cancel the series means she sadly may never have the chance to write it.

So what of her new novel, The Good Doctor? Dawson was not able to share a great deal, with the event having taken place weeks before the series launch date was even announced. She did however reveal that she was able to view three minutes of Series 11 footage as part of her research process, leading her to describe the Thirteenth Doctor as “immediate”. She also admitted that, as the Doctor was the primary focus of the footage, characterising the other leads involved a bit of guesswork. The BBC clearly had a lot of faith in Dawson’s writing ability, and given all the stories she shared over the course of the event, we’re inclined to agree!

The Good Doctor is available now as an e-book. It will be released in Australia as an audiobook on 15 November and in hardback form on 19 November, alongside Molten Heart and Combat Magicks.

Every introduction to a new Doctor, ranked

With the Thirteenth Doctor about to land on our screens, we thought we would take a look at each of the previous stories to introduce a new Doctor and see how they all stack up, from the not-so-great, to the greatest of all time.

12. The Twin Dilemma (The Sixth Doctor)

There’s a lot to unpack in The Twin Dilemma (it may be the most notorious Doctor Who story of all time), and it’s probably impossible to do it all justice in such a short space. Nevertheless it should be said that whilst the production has a litany of flaws, the central idea of the new Doctor’s seemingly unlikeable characterisation is in fact a good one – that the Doctor’s swerving from overconfidence to self-loathing from moment to moment can still provoke a sense of unease so many years on is a testament to just how compelling an idea it is. Unfortunately, this idea is hampered at almost every turn (there’s Peter Moffatt’s flat and uninspired direction, the lack of an emotional through-line for the Doctor’s companion Peri and that scene just to name a few) and whilst there is some improvement in the second half, there’s still a feeling that what should be the most exciting thing about the story comes across as merely another troubled element in an introduction that’s a bit of a mess.

11. Robot (The Fourth Doctor)

Whilst the Fourth Doctor remains one of the most popular in the series history, his first adventure feels like a bit of a misfire. Robot is more a victory lap for the Third Doctor’s era than a bold new beginning, with the overall tone being cosy and comfortable. There’s a cartoonish quality that permeates the story – complete with a cardigan-wearing scientist and an envelope containing nuclear codes with ‘TOP SECRET’ written in large, friendly letters on the front – so ultimately it’s hard not to see this story as something of a lightweight. A few eccentricities aside, the story doesn’t have anything terribly interesting for the new Doctor to do, so Tom Baker’s first performance in the role is competent, but hardly remarkable – much like the story itself.

10. Castrovalva (The Fifth Doctor)

Coming off the back of seven seasons of Tom Baker’s boisterous and confident Fourth Doctor, Castrovalva’s big new idea is to make the new Doctor vulnerable. It does this by putting him in a fragile post-regenerative state, to the extent that complex architecture makes him feel a bit faint (no, really). There’s an interesting structure to the story, with an initial plot centred on the regular cast segueing into a larger plot concerning the titular city, all stitched together by the Doctor’s need to recuperate. This does well for introducing the new Doctor, showing off some of his strengths early on despite his poor condition, but the rest of the regular cast are underused – Adric is kept away from the main action until the story’s climax, whilst newish companions Tegan and Nyssa spend several scenes talking about the plot or climbing over rocks instead of properly getting to know eachother. The end result is a story that is pleasantly odd in its own quiet way.

9. The TV Movie (The Eighth Doctor)

The TV Movie boasts some impressive visuals, with loads of great directorial and design touches – the decision to intercut the regeneration scene with footage from Frankenstein is inspired. But its best moments are when it’s being a bit self-aware and undercutting the cheesy cliches that come with the kind of story it is telling, though sometimes it can’t help but play them straight. As an American co-production it also has to burden itself with a fair bit of continuity, plonking in an extended cameo from the Seventh Doctor and some hefty dollops of Time Lord mythology, as if to say ‘yep, it’s still the same show’. Despite some good moments, the script may be the weak link – with a clock motif that feels a bit too literal and dialogue that occasionally feels dumbed down.  Ultimately, the TV Movie probably benefits from being a one-off, with the sense of it being a temporary interlude helping to forgive some of its stranger missteps. For one night only, Doctor Who is a ’90s American TV show, for better or for worse.

8. The Christmas Invasion (The Tenth Doctor)

With the return of Mickey, Jackie and the Powell Estate, much of this feels like a business-as-usual continuation of the Ninth Doctor’s era – and largely it is. There’s the same sense of fun, with some neat sight gags in the shape of deadly brass band Santas and a destructive whirling dervish of a Christmas tree. The new Doctor gets a mini-plot dealing with the ‘pilot fish’ Santas in the first act of the episode, allowing him to then be out of the action again until the climax. When he’s not unconscious, the Doctor isn’t really given anything particularly interesting to do, but he is noticeably cheekier, and friendlier than his predecessor. Whilst there isn’t anything particularly bad about the episode, there’s nothing amazing either and there’s an overall sense of okayness about the whole thing.

7. Deep Breath (The Twelfth Doctor)

Doctor Who was in a strange place around the time of Deep Breath – the recent 50th anniversary saw the program ascend to the height of its powers in terms of popularity, but creatively it was feeling as if it was starting to stagnate. Deep Breath has the paradoxical task of refreshing a show that is stuck in a rut whilst reassuring the audience that nothing has changed and the show is still a smash-hit. Unsurprisingly, the end result is a bit of a mixed bag, with some elements that work (an unknowable, unpredictable new Doctor who has a fantastic dynamic with companion Clara) and others that don’t (the shoehorning of a crush on the old Doctor into Clara’s characterisation, the Paternoster Gang not being given much to do), but by and large it succeeds where it really matters

6. Time and the Rani (The Seventh Doctor)

The fan community tends to take introductory stories rather seriously – they are meant to be big, momentous occasions tasked with the important job of jettisoning what didn’t work in the previous era, retaining what did and demonstrating a confidence that reassures fans that the show can keep going. Time and the Rani doesn’t bother with these fannish expectations at all, instead delivering some lively action, weapons-grade goofiness and the odd bit of physical comedy to re-establish the idea that Doctor Who is a show that is actually fun to watch. It’s something close to a classic series version of Partners in Crime, with the Doctor and his companion Mel narrowly missing each other on a number of occasions and then later each accusing the other of being an imposter. Much of the supporting cast aren’t anything to write home about, but Sylvester McCoy (the Doctor), Bonnie Langford (Mel) and Kate O’Mara (The Rani) bring a sense of fun to proceedings that is positively infectious. You’d have to be a total killjoy to not get some entertainment out of this.

It’s also the source of this gif, which has to count for something.

5. The Eleventh Hour (The Eleventh Doctor)

Back in 2010, this felt like the new showrunner Steven Moffat playing it safe – and, given how popular the Tenth Doctor had become, perhaps it was sensible to do so. Looking at it now however, it seems so full of Moffat’s signature double meanings and structural cleverness that it’s hard to not see this as a bold statement piece. Many of the main themes of the era are present from the beginning – perhaps most notably the theme of childhood. There’s a great scene where the Doctor convinces new companion Amy of who he is by reminding her of her childhood memories, metaphorically reminding the audience that this is the same character that many viewers hold a strong childhood affection for. It’s not without its failings, with the pace dragging in some of the final scenes and a Doctor whose characterisation doesn’t go much beyond ‘has drunk too much red cordial’, but this makes for a confident start to a new era.

4. Spearhead from Space (The Third Doctor)

Spearhead From Space signals one of the biggest changes in Doctor Who’s history. After many years as a show that could be set anywhere, anywhen, Doctor Who came down to Earth to be set in what was more or less the here and now. Making UNIT a key part of the ongoing show was part of the new format, and the story handles this by making the UNIT characters, including commanding officer Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and scientific adviser Liz Shaw (soon to fulfil the role of the Doctor’s companion) drive the main action for the first two episodes before the Doctor comes into his own in the back half. Liz is a great, if underrated, character with an intelligence and maturity that makes her a great match for the new Doctor. There’s also a (sadly temporary) transition to shooting the whole programme on location and on film, which kicks the production values up several notches and results in some of the best action sequences in the series to date. There’s an annoying poacher character and a slightly embarrassing tentacle monster at the climax, but by and large this is sterling stuff.

3. Rose (The Ninth Doctor)

Watching in 2018, Rose may seem like a small-scale, unremarkable story considering everything that has come since its first broadcast. However, there’s an awful lot packed into its 45 minute running length, communicating the foundations of the show in a pacy, entertaining way.  Back in 2005, Rose had the tricky task of reintroducing Doctor Who to a mainstream audience that was much less geeky than that of today. It manages this by placing the story in an everyday, unglamourous setting and then throwing lots of adventure and excitement into it, so that the Doctor crashes into Rose’s ordinary world in the same way that Doctor Who crashes into the ordinary, not-particularly-geeky world of the general audience. It helps that the balance between drama and comedy is just right, with the tongue in exactly the right spot of the cheek, making this one of the most well-judged episodes of Doctor Who ever made.

2. An Unearthly Child (The First Doctor)

There’s no doubt that the first episode of this adventure, introducing the two schoolteachers Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright, their mysterious pupil Susan, a passive-aggressive old man called the Doctor and his impossible timeship the TARDIS is an outright classic. Some regard the remaining three episodes, featuring the four lead characters captured and threatened by a bunch of monosyllabic cavepeople, as less than stellar, but in fact the two portions of the story are enormously complementary – in particular, Barbara and Ian being out of their depth in the high-tech environment of the TARDIS is wonderfully mirrored by how out of depth all the travellers feel in the prehistoric setting that follows and there are strong themes throughout concerning the relationship between technology and power. The writing is full of tense and thrilling moments which the cast play deadly seriously and there’s a sense that everyone involved is giving this strange new show the best possible chance of success with the limited resources at their disposal. It’s not just the beginning of a legend, it’s a great piece of drama in its own right.

1. The Power of the Daleks (The Second Doctor)

At six 25 minute episodes in length, Power of the Daleks is the longest story on this list, but fortunately it has plenty going on to sustain it. Aside from the Dalek plot revolving around the scientist Lesterson and his experiments to bring them back to life to aid an Earth colony, there’s also the political machinations going on in the wider human population and a good chunk of material devoted to companions Ben and Polly trying to figure out just who really is this dark-haired stranger that claims to be the Doctor. All of these strands end up revolving around the relationship between the Doctor and the Daleks – both of them pretending to be something they are not, and yet each of them verifying the true nature of the other. The guest cast are strong (especially Robert James’ Lesteron), the Daleks are at their devious best and the unpredictable new Doctor is electrifying. When it comes to introductory adventures, Power of the Daleks is the one to beat.

And that’s how all the introductory stories stack up. Looking at them as a group, they are a diverse bunch of stories, each with their own distinct tone and each having their own particular goals when it comes to transforming Doctor Who. Additionally, there should be an honourable mention for The Day of the Doctor, the sole full-length War Doctor story, which manages to contain a pretty solid emotional arc for the troubled warrior incarnation amongst all the celebratory bells and whistles. It’s also worth pointing out that some of the most popular Doctors are in the bottom half of this list, so even in the event that the Thirteenth Doctor’s first episode doesn’t turn out to be the best ever, that doesn’t mean that she won’t go on to have a popularity that endures.

7 ways Chris Chibnall is reinventing Doctor Who

We’re now only one month away from the first episode of Doctor Who’s eleventh series, and it’s becoming ever clearer that showrunner Chris Chibnall has some big plans for his first series at the helm. With a new Doctor, new companions and a new vision, how does Chibnall plan on making this 55-year-old programme shiny and new again? Here are a few examples.

A New Logo

One of the the earliest indications of Chibnall’s vision for the series started with the release of a new logo back in February. A significant departure from the Moffat era’s big, blocky, blue logo, Chibnall’s opts for a warmer colour scheme and slimmer lettering – perhaps in an attempt to make the series come across as more friendly and inviting for new viewers. This new style has been extended to other aspects of the series publicity, with promotional images featuring bright, bold colours. Significantly, the new logo has been applied to all Doctor Who merchandise released since its reveal – whether classic series or new – thus uniting the entire history of the show under one banner and affirming that it is all part of the one universe.

A New Look

The logo is far from being the only visual change to the series – a brand new camera and lens combination is being introduced for Series 11, providing it with a whole new visual style. Since the return of the programme in 2005, Doctor Who’s look has become increasingly cinematic, with a least one of the series’ directors, Ben Wheatley, already having a list of film credits to their name. Even though the look of the show is already very cinematic, the new setup promises to take things even further, with post-production house Films at 59, who are supplying BBC Studios with the cameras and lenses, describing the new look as a “monumental leap”.

A New Night

The move to Sunday evenings in the UK (and Mondays in Australia) may seem like a bit of a strange move, given Doctor Who’s traditional “Saturday teatime” slot, but could well pay off for the BBC as a way of capturing a new audience. Don’t forget that the ABC broadcast Series 1-3 on Saturday nights then moved to Sundays from Series 4 – and got an instant increase in ratings, attracting viewers who were having quiet nights at home in the lead-up to school or work the next day. Let’s see if the BBC can replicate this success!

New Friends

For the first time since the early 1980s, the Doctor will have not one, not two, but three companions! It’s an approach that should provide a new kind of dynamic amongst the regular cast and give the show more of a family feel, with the TARDIS team of Ryan, Yaz and Graham likely to complement each other while also relating to the Doctor – and to each other – in their own particular way. Significantly, the new team are often referred to as the Doctor’s “friends” rather than “companions” in BBC marketing material – a much warmer descriptor which more or less puts them on equal footing with the Doctor.

A New Episode Length

One of the key descriptors of Doctor Who’s revived series would be “pacy”, with whole stories often told in the space of 45 minutes or less – with room for the occasional two-parter or special episode. By contrast, Series 11 will begin with a 60-minute opener followed by nine 50-minute episodes – and while an extension of 5 minutes per episode may not seem like much, it can actually be a long time in a television environment, where the editing process can be ruthless and key scenes are often cut due to time restrictions. The extension should thus allow for more plot, more character development and more room to breathe in each standalone episode. This may also mean that there will be fewer (if any) “filler” stories to stretch the series out to 12 or 13 episodes – by instead focusing on telling ten carefully crafted stories, we could end up with an entire series where every episode is just as significant as the next.

New Music

One of the biggest transitions of the new series will be a change of composer, with Murray Gold having stepped down from his position after an impressive 12 years and 125 episodes. Gold’s orchestral scores have been a mainstay of Doctor Who since its return in 2005, so it’s fair to say he has big shoes to fill. The composer selected for the task? Segun Akinola, a member of the BAFTA Breakthrough Brit program in 2017 and a rising star among British composers. Akinola has mainly composed for documentaries in recent years but has also covered short films and even the video game Godsweeper, so he clearly has the versatility to adapt his skills to different genres. We’re particularly keen to hear his unique take on the iconic Doctor Who theme!

New Voices

There will be even more big changes behind the scenes of the programme, with five new writers and four new directors contributing to Series 11. That’s right – apart from Chibnall himself, all nine are brand new to televised Doctor Who, though former Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman did write a Seventh Doctor short story for the programme’s 50th anniversary and director Jamie Childs was responsible for Jodie Whittaker’s reveal as the new Doctor. More importantly, all have very impressive CVs and are united by a love of Doctor Who, with Chibnall saying “they are awesome people as well as brilliant at their job… And they’ve all worked above and beyond the call of duty in an effort to bring audiences something special”.

Image credit: Gage Skidmore under CC BY-SA 2.0

It’s clear that Doctor Who truly has undergone something of a regeneration over the past year or so, with Chibnall and co. working hard behind the scenes to bring viewers old and new a programme that is fresh, exciting and relevant to 2018. So as the countdown continues towards the very first episode, we as fans are getting ready to fall in love with Doctor Who all over again. After all, it’s only because Doctor Who has continuously evolved and reinvented itself over so many decades that it has managed to survive for so long.

6 tips for getting into Classic Doctor Who

With the recent Australian releases of Season 12: The Collection on Blu-ray and The Enemy of the World Special Edition on DVD, the classic series has come back on the radar for many fans. But if you’re still yet to experience the show’s original run, here’s a handy guide to help you get started.

1. Don’t feel like you have to start at the very beginning

There’s a myth that in order to experience Doctor Who “properly” you need to watch it from the first episode and in original broadcast order. The reality is that you can start virtually anywhere amongst the 26 seasons of the classic series and get your bearings fairly quickly. As much of the classic series was made in an age before content could be easily be watched over and over again, it had to remain largely accessible, so complicated plotlines relying on knowledge of episodes from previous seasons, or even from a few months ago, were pretty rare. Even when this sort of thing does happen (such as Davros’ second appearance in Destiny of the Daleks), there is often some handy expositional dialogue that helps out the uninformed viewer. This gives you the option to start with a particular TARDIS crew and follow their adventures, or maybe a story with a recognisable monster in it, or maybe even picking a story at random if you’re feeling adventurous. You may feel a little lost on your first foray into the classic era, but as long as you understand the show’s basic premise, and you start with the first episode of whatever adventure you’re watching, you’ll find yourself enjoying the journey wherever you end up – a bit like the Doctor!

2. The World Wide Web can be your friend

If you do find yourself a little lost then there’s a huge repository of information on the classic series available online, including episode synopses, character arcs and any other niggling details that might be tingling your fan-senses. Of course, if you’re a spoilerphobe then you might want to tread carefully and wait until after you’ve finished watching a given story before looking it up. Be warned!

3. Resist the temptation to binge

In the age of instant streaming and TV on demand, we know how tempting it is to consume several episodes of a programme in one session. And with your standard classic series story being four, maybe six 25-minute episodes in length, that sounds like nothing to the hardcore binge-watcher. But television in the 20th century was simply not made to be watched all at once. Sure, the classic cliffhanger endings were designed to get you excited for the following episode, but they were meant to get the audience to tune in the next week, not a matter of seconds after the end credits. In the early years of the classic series, characters would often recap events from previous episodes, and in some instances plot elements repeat themselves (some stories play the ‘capture and escape’ routine more frequently than others) – things which you wouldn’t necessarily notice if you watched the story over a few weeks or even days, but are likely to find frustrating over the course of a single evening. So resist the temptation, enjoy the anticipation and space out your viewing – it’s going to be far more rewarding that way.

4. Think theatre, not film

It’s not only the way television was broadcast that has changed, but also how it was produced. Whereas today we can expect our television programmes to be fast-paced and full of high-quality special effects, the classic series (in the ’60s in particular) was more like going to a play – to the extent that early episodes were filmed more or less live and almost entirely in a single, small studio! So there’s less cutting during scenes, and more emphasis on storytelling through dialogue. Striking costume design is used as a short-hand to convey alien species or ancient cultures, while the production team were forced to be innovative with their limited resources in an effort to transport viewers all through time and space. In that way, watching the classic series is a bit like watching the evolution of television over three decades, with later episodes growing in visual sophistication, but ultimately it’s the stories that matter. If you do ever find yourself thinking that a classic episode looks a bit stagy, just imagine it’s being acted out in front of you.

5. Make your own journey

There are several stories from the classic series that have been firmly cemented over time as The Good Ones, as well as those considered The Not So Good Ones. But while it can be tempting for new viewers to seek out and prioritise the “best” stories and/or Doctors, fan consensus is often shaped by very specific circumstances. For instance, Tom Baker was certainly popular during his run on television, but it also helped that he stuck around for seven years, so he became the definitive Doctor for an awful lot of children growing up in the ’70s. Meanwhile, the 1996 TV movie was the only Doctor Who produced since 1989 and failed to spawn a new series, so is likely to be viewed as more of a disappointment by those who were there at the time than the curious newbies of today. Reputation can be a problem as well – a bad reputation can blind you to a story’s overlooked merits, whilst a good one can create unrealistic expectations. So while you’re certainly welcome to seek advice, remember you are your own person with your own opinions, and you are under no obligation to enjoy a particular story just because it topped a list you found on the Internet. It’s much more satisfying to wipe away any expectations and make your own mind up. It’s your journey – own it.

6. Have fun!

26 seasons can feel like an intimidating amount of content, so make sure you’re having fun along the way. Take things at your own pace so you don’t end up turning this magical series into a chore. Don’t feel like you need to commit yourself to watching a whole bunch of episodes just for the sake of it – if you’re finding you aren’t enjoying things much, then maybe give a different Doctor a try and come back later. Ultimately, Doctor Who should be an entertaining experience and the classic series is no exception – after all, it wouldn’t have gone on for so long if there wasn’t something to enjoy about it.

With these six tips, you should now be ready to embark on your voyage beyond the mind, your flight through eternity, your wanderings through the fourth dimension. As someone who has been through it all, I can confirm that the classic series is a fun, exciting, weird, charming, spooky, witty, camp, clever, never-quite-the-same-twice adventure and it’s well worth your time. Best of luck on your journeys through the classic Whoniverse, whatever path they may take.

Both Season 12: The Collection Blu-Ray and The Enemy of the World: Special Edition DVD are available now from the DWCA Shop. You can browse further releases from the classic series here.

6 screenwriters we’d like to see in Series 11

With the recent announcement that Segun Akinola will take over as composer for Series 11 of Doctor Who, we’re getting a better idea of the production team that will be helping to bring Jodie Whittaker’s debut series to life. But despite the series having begun filming, there is still no word from the BBC on which writers, apart from showrunner Chris Chibnall, are penning the new season. So we thought we’d suggest our own.

Dominic Mitchell

Dominic Mitchell is the creator and writer of the supernatural drama In the Flesh, for which he was named Best Writer at the 2014 BAFTA TV Craft awards; the series went on to win Best Mini Series at the 2014 BAFTA awards. More recently he was lucky enough to work on HBO sci-fi show Westworld, serving as a supervising producer during the show’s first series as well as writing its fifth episode. If anything could keep Mitchell in the UK, we bet it would be Doctor Who!

Fintan Ryan

Fintan Ryan first rose to prominence as a writer on drama series Party Animals, whose ensemble cast featured none other than a young Matt Smith. He went on to write two episodes of In the Flesh and was more recently the creator of short-lived series The Aliens – a show that’s part social commentary, part comedy, part gangster drama. If only there was another programme that blended genres so flawlessly…

Debbie Moon

Welsh writer Debbie Moon is best known as the creator of British–German series Wolfblood, a fantasy teen drama series about werewolf-like creators known as wolfboods. The show ran for five series and won numerous awards, so clearly Moon knows how to keep her audience glued to the screen. Who knows what weird and wonderful creatures she could create for Doctor Who?

Emma Reeves

Emma Reeves has been making a bit of a name for herself writing fantasy shows for young people, including comedy-drama Dead Gorgeous (an Australian-British co-production), Young Dracula and the recent revival of The Worst Witch. She even won a Writers’ Guild of Britain Award in 2016 for sci-fi show Eve, which she co-created. She has already dipped her toe in the Whoniverse thanks to Big Finish Productions, writing audio adventures for both Torchwood and Bernice Summerfield. We think it’s about time she moved on to the parent programme!

Charlie Brooker

Charlie Brooker is of course best known for being the creator of twisted anthology series Black Mirror, one episode of which featured none other than the Thirteenth Doctor herself, Jodie Whittaker! Prior to that, he was the writer of miniseries Dead Set, about a group of Big Brother contestants who have no idea that a zombie outbreak is occurring right outside their house. Brooker revealed in 2016 that he had actually been asked to write for Doctor Who once before but his schedule got in the way – maybe it’s time for a second go…?

J.K. Rowling

Doctor Who fans have been hoping for Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling to be involved with the series for years. Former showrunner Russell T Davies entertained the idea of Rowling either writing for or appearing in the series, while his successor Steven Moffat hinted that a short story from the legendary writer may be on the cards. So what’s changed? For starters, Rowling has since had a chance to hone her screenwriting skills thanks to her work on the Fantastic Beasts films, so the transition to television would not be as much of a stretch as perhaps it might once have seemed. More significantly, Rowling has never shied away from the opportunity to speak in favour of gender equality – and the opportunity to write for a female Doctor may be too enticing to resist…

From the Archives: Katy Manning at Lords of Time 3

Issue #239 of Data Extract magazine, released last month by the Doctor Who Club of Australia, features a new interview with classic companion actor Katy Manning, conducted at the club’s Look Who’s Talking event earlier this year. DWCA members were absolutely thrilled with the visit from their patron, whose last appearance at an Australian sci-fi event was the Lords of Time 3 convention back in December 2014.

Here we present the interview that was conducted at that very convention, republished courtesy of Culture Shock Events.

Hi Katy, welcome back to Australia.

Australia is so much a part of my heart – thank you for the lovely welcome!

Since you’ve been back in England, have you been approached to come back to do any work here?

Yes! I must be honest with you – I’ve been very lucky. I’ve lived in three countries and managed to get work, and it’s even easier now because I can play old ladies! Once a year, I do a thing called ‘art’, which means I work for very little at places like the Edinburgh Festival. And last year, along with Susan Penhaligon, who was in The Time Monster, we played these dear old actresses who both had different stages of dementia. I’m not being disrespectful when I say this is not hard for me. People say, “What did you do yesterday?”, and I literally go, “I have no idea!” Life goes so fast, it’s wonderful.

Speaking of playing older ladies, you played that old icon Bette Davis in your one-woman show ‘Me and Jezebel’.

She’s been right across Australia, poor old bat. When I took Bette across Australia, we were right in the middle of the outback, and that’s where my heart is. You put a play on out there, and people get in a van, and they travel for three hours, and they bring their little kiddies with their little blankets, and they bring the picnic, and they’ve got everything there. One lady said, “We’ve never had a play here before! A lot of country and western music, and some very good Irish dancing.” So when I got up there and played nine people, including Bette Davis, they were all in gobsmacked amazement. It was the most exciting thing I’ve ever done – taking theatre to people who don’t get theatre. I mean, Sydney is beautiful, Melbourne’s beautiful, but it’s the outback of Australia that is the true Australia to me. It really is remarkable.

You seem to be very busy in England, no doubt due to your work with Big Finish Productions over the years – playing not only Jo Grant, but also Irish Wildthyme.

I used to go back and do Big Finish, and do the characters in Terrance Dicks’ books, which are all men. I’ve never played so many Welsh miners and army men in my life! I thought I was a girl until I came out of there! But I’d just arrived from Australia to do a Big Finish, and I said, “What am I doing?” Gary Russell said, “Oh, it’s a new character”. So, Iris Wildthyme. I said, “Who is she?”, and Gary said, “Oh, just do a voice”. So I thought: every part of Northern England, that’s the voice I’m going to give, and then they can choose.

Well, it stayed. Thirteen years I’ve been playing Iris. And of course I do Jo, and then I put Jo with Iris, and then I did a one-woman show that I wrote when I was living in LA called Not a Well Woman. It was Big Finish’s very first non-Doctor Who drama audio. I play 26 characters in it, which is no easy feat – from newborn babies crying, to old Australians, to Africans, to Greek men… so many characters in it.

The most amazing thing that I had to do in it, though, was… there’s a rap song in it. But we couldn’t afford to pay the rights for a rap song, and it had to be a real gangster-like rap song – the ruder the better for the joke. So I was sitting there, and I said, “It’s okay, I’ll write the rap song”. So I ended up sitting there writing this rap song, which of course I had to sing. I had to do gangster rap. I’m an old, pension-carrying woman, and I’m sitting there, and I’m writing, “ridin’ with ma homies”, and it felt so right!

I have to be honest with you – I was really proud of that. I did it all by myself, and we recorded it in a day. There were 26 voices, and I don’t do it like separate tracks, I do it all in one hit. When I do Iris, and Jo, and Jon Pertwee, they’re all done as it comes off the page – and that’s why I’m nuts!

You actually said many years ago that you didn’t really want to go back and do Jo Grant, yet now you’ve reprised her on audio and TV. What made you change your mind?

I didn’t want to do her on audio. I remember saying to David Richardson, “Why would I do Jo without Jon? It just doesn’t compute.” He said, “Well you play Jon.” And the rest is history.

Some time later, though, I was trotting along in the West End, trying to find this theatre. My phone rings, and it’s Russell T Davies. And he said, “We’d like you to come back as Jo Grant.” So I was sent the script, and I thought it was one of the most magnificent things I’ve ever read. I knew that Gary Russell would be script editing, I knew that Russell T is a genius and one of the loveliest men in the world, and of course on top of all that, beautiful Lis. So that was one of the greatest gifts you could give somebody – all of those things. And I got very nervous, but Lis was just wonderful, and to work with Matt Smith was such a treat. Lis said it was lovely, because having Jo gave her character an opportunity to lighten up, and I think the audience could see that.


Interviews with Katy’s fellow Lords of Time guests, including Matthew Waterhouse, Terrance Dicks and Geoffrey Beevers, can be found in Issue #226 of Data Extract magazine, available for purchase here. Katy’s most recent interview can be found in DE #239, currently available exclusively to DWCA members.