Getting the gang back together

Victorian London will never be the same again, with Neve McIntosh, Catrin Stewart and Dan Starkey returning as Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax the Sontaran for their own audio adventures in The Paternoster Gang: Heritage, from Big Finish Productions.

Over the course of the four adventures, the much loved characters from the Steven Moffat era of Doctor Who face the first electronic automated cars in London (very ahead of their time), hordes of zombies, and ghost-like figures which are haunting Greenwich before their former selves have died…

Plus they’ll have to cope with the capers of the Bloomsbury Bunch: an intergalactic alien trio comprising a Sontaran (Christopher Ryan) and human couple and their Silurian female servant, who will be causing trouble in London – and this town isn’t big enough for two extraterrestrial gangs…

Dan Starkey, who plays Sontaran butler Strax, said he was looking forward to the return – sort of. “Remain calm, human scum! Strax need no longer sulk and polish his grenades!” he said in character.

“It’ll be a pleasure to get the gang back together: Big Finish listeners can be assured that we’ll be in full prosthetics and restrictive Victorian tailoring in studio to get right back into the Paternoster Row vibe! Can’t wait to get started!”

Neve McIntosh, who plays Madame Vastra, agreed.

“At last our fans will get more adventures with The Paternoster Gang and will find out more about how we came to be!” she said.

The Paternoster Gang: Heritage 1 is available now from the DWCA Shop, along with other Big Finish products old and new.

Writing chance for a dream come true

Imagine combining a love of Doctor Who and writing – it’s a dream that comes true for many fans but one that often feels totally out of reach -until now.

Big Finish is looking for a new voice to join their stable and write an adventure for the next Bernice Summerfield and Unbound Doctor box set.

Writers/fans from all around the world have until 23.59 UK time on September 20 to enter the competition.

Writers are being asked to send a single page synopsis and a 3,000-word sample of the script with the Benny team putting together an asset pack containing advice, storyline samples and a template as well as the full list of terms and conditions for anyone hoping to pitch.

Created by author and screenwriter Paul Cornell (Family of Blood, Father’s Day) for the 1992 novel Love and War Bernice Surprise Summerfield is a 30-year-old archaeologist when she first meets the Seventh Doctor. Described as the Doctor’s longest service companion she has appeared in numerous novels and Big Finish productions including her own spin-off series’.

All entries must be submitted electronically either as Word-compatible documents or PDF pages and sent to benny@bigfinish.com.

Select Bernice Summerfield audio adventures are available from the DWCA Shop.

For further information, as well as the asset pack and terms and conditions head to https://www.bigfinish.com/news/v/write-a-benny-adventure.

 

A Tribute to Terrance Dicks

It is with the deepest sadness that we report the passing of Doctor Who giant Terrance Dicks, who has died at the age of 84 after a short illness. His contribution writing over 60 novelisations in the Target range of books, as well as authoring other non-fiction works like the best-selling 1976 Doctor Who Dinosaur Book, encouraged the reading habits of children across the globe.

Dicks wrote such classic series stories as Second Doctor swansong The War Games (co-written with Malcolm Hulke), Fourth Doctor introduction Robot, the first Rutan story Horror of Fang Rock, vampire classic State of Decay and the epic 20th anniversary celebration tale The Five Doctors. He helped to cast both the Third and Fourth Doctors and worked as script editor for the show between 1969 and 1975, collaborating closely with Barry Letts.

His association with the series never ended as he continued to write original novels for the New Adventures range, the Bernice Summerfield spin-off books, the Eighth Doctor novels, Past Doctor novels and (post 2005) New Series Adventures in the Quick Reads series. He also wrote audio plays for Big Finish and original spin-off video releases in the 1990s featuring such aliens as Sontarans, Rutans and Draconians (in Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans, Mindgame and Mindgame Trilogy). Dicks even brought Doctor Who to the stage with Seven Keys to Doomsday in 1974 and The Ultimate Adventure in 1989.

Current showrunner Chris Chibnall made the following statement at the news of Terrance Dicks’ passing: “He was one of the greatest contributors to Doctor Who’s history, on screen and off. As the most prolific and brilliant adaptor of Doctor Who stories into Target novels, he was responsible for a range of books that taught a generation of children, myself included, how pleasurable and accessible and thrilling reading could be. Doctor Who was lucky to have his talents. He will always be a legend of the show.”

Australian Doctor Who fans were lucky enough to meet Dicks when he visited Down Under in December 2014, as part of Culture Shock Events’ Lords of Time 3 convention. As a tribute to him, we now present the interview that was conducted at that convention, republished from Issue 226 of Data Extract magazine – the issue as whole is also available from the DWCA Shop.

Hello Terrance. You were, of course, a driving force behind the Doctor Who TV series, but have recently done a lot more work in books, plays and audios. Is it fair to call Doctor Who a TV show anymore, or is it more a multimedia, cross-platform experience?

I think the TV show is the core of it. I mean, Big Finish is very good, and gives a lot of work to actors and writers. But it’s not really ‘Who’ Who. I have done a couple of things for them – I did my stage plays. It was hard enough working for the stage, when I’d never written for the stage before. When I wrote the first play, I suddenly had this terrible realisation that you can’t cut, and you can’t do a close-up. The audience just sits back and looks at it. Then Big Finish asked me to do them as audios, then not only can you not cut – you can’t see either! But yes – I think Who on television is the core, and everything else is spin-offs of one kind or another. But they’re all good and valuable and interesting.

Because it was born in the Wilderness Years, in many ways Big Finish has thrived on taking one-hit monsters, or ideas that were done in passing, and then giving them a bigger life on audio. Is that a good thing, do you think, or is there a monster that should stay as a one-hit wonder?

Bob Holmes, in his first story, came up with an idea which I liked, and I took it to Peter Bryant and Derrick Sherwin, who were the script editors I’d started working for. They said they didn’t need another show, but I suggested working on it myself, in case something went wrong with another story. And then one of the directors, David Maloney, found that the script that they had given him was absolute rubbish. There was this big crisis, and I said, “Well, I happen to have this four-part Doctor Who about my person.” So we did The Krotons, which was a good script. But the monsters called the Krotons were crystalline beings who lived in a blobby tank. And they are possibly the most inept monsters in the history of Doctor Who. All they could do was stand and loom in a menacing fashion. That was an example of a good script cocked up by a rotten monster. Later on we had Invasion of the Dinosaurs and did it all again.

One show I didn’t disrespect for ages was The War Games. Now The War Games came about, again, when Bryant and Sherwin sat around the BBC bar saying they didn’t have any scripts. Derrick Sherwin came into my office one day and said, “Terrance, we need a ten-part Doctor Who by next week”. I knew I couldn’t do it by myself, so I called in Mac Hulke, who was my friend and mentor. What we did was, we went round to Mac’s flat with a pile of scripts, I’d walk up and down, Mac’d sit at the typewriter, we’d discuss a line, and Mac’d type it out.

We wrote about two scripts a week – ten parts – which is ridiculous for Doctor Who. Four parts is good length for Doctor Who, six you can carry if you’ve got a strong story, but ten is nonsense. I used to go round to conventions, and if anyone brought that up, I’d say, “Well, it opens well, with the First World War, and the end scene, I think, is quite good – Time Lords and the Doctor and the exile to Earth – but in between is just running up and down corridors and captures and escapes.” And then, not that long ago, it was brought out on DVD, and Doctor Who Magazine reviewed it. The review started off, “Terrance has been talking rubbish about this show for years. It’s a good show all the way through, all ten parts!” And I was amazed and delighted to find that I’d been talking rubbish.

Do you always work well in a crisis?

I like a good crisis. I think some of the best things have come out of it. Another one was Horror of Fang Rock. I was going to do a story about vampires. The BBC at the time were doing a big prestigious Dracula for their annual classic, and it was so prestigious they got Sir Laurence Olivier playing Van Helsing. And they sent down an order saying, “No vampires on Doctor Who. People will think you’re making fun of us”. We had a sudden crisis meeting – I went to see Bob, who had succeeded me as script editor, and said, “What are we going to do?” Bob said, “I’ve always wanted to do a story set in a lighthouse”, and I said, “Bob, I know bugger all about lighthouses”. And so in a great rush, with half my writing time gone, I wrote Horror of Fang Rock. And it just sort of happened – I thought, “At least we got a show out of it”. People are now saying that’s one of the best things I ever did.

Horror of Fang Rock arguably ticks a lot of boxes relating to what a Doctor Who story should be. Is there a quintessential Doctor Who story?

Barry Letts and I used to talk about something called Whoish-ness. You’d get a story, perfectly good and perfectly logical, and say it’s not Whoish enough. There was a man who said he couldn’t define poetry, but he knew it when he saw it. And that’s it – you know it when you see it, or you have a feel for it. To give an obvious example – you could never do Doctor Who porn. Although, with that said, if you look on the Internet, I’m sure you can find it!

Doctor Who stars past and present in Saturn orbit

Doctor Who is set to have one of its most successful Saturn Awards campaigns ever, with three nominations for this year’s titles.

Doctor Who Series 11 has been nominated for best science fiction television show, while Jodie Whittaker received a nod for best actress and Tosin Cole for best younger actor.

Run by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, the Saturn Awards are now in their 45th year.

The awards honour the hard work and achievements of the people who create and participate in science fiction entertainment. In recent years, they have added television and home entertainment categories and this year Who has dominated.

Doctor Who has now received 20 nominations with three wins so far – winning best single genre television presentation in 1996 for the Paul McGann Doctor Who telemovie, best international series in 2008 (the only time it was awarded) and Best Television Presentation for The Husbands Of River Song in 2016.

Despite nominations for McGann, David Tennant, Bernard Cribbins, Alex Kingston and Jenna Coleman, the show has never won a Saturn acting award. Former Doctor Who star Karen Gillan is also nominated in the best-supporting actress in a film for her role in Avengers: Endgame. Both Cole and Whittaker face stiff opposition in their categories – particularly from Game of Thrones stars, with former Doctor Who semi-regular Maisie Williams also nominated in the younger actor category.

The winners of the 45th Saturn Awards will be announced on Friday 13 September, and be available to watch via livestream for the first time in the event’s history.

Birthday celebrations for Big Finish

FANS will be treated to a 20-hour weekend livestream marathon of Doctor Who audio dramas on YouTube from July 20-21.

The event, presented by BBC Studios and Big Finish Productions, will celebrate 20 years of Who on audio.

The Big Finish work of David Tennant, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann and David Bradley will be featured on the official YouTube channel of Doctor Who.

As well as more than 20 episodes of Doctor Who episodes, there will be video appearances from plenty of the Doctor’s friends, past and present.

The stories will be livestreamed on YouTube with fans able to join in the conversation via live chat.

The first production was Doctor Who: The Sirens of Time starring Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy in 1999 after Big Finish Productions was granted a licence to create adventures in the audio format.

Big Finish Creative Director and executive producer Nicholas Briggs said since then the company had brought out more than 850 titles from Doctor Who and its various spinoffs and now produced and distributed more than 300 hours of audio drama each year.

“Has it been 20 years already?” he said.

“But we’ve only just got started! Honestly, it has been an absolute delight to have worked alongside the Doctor these past two decades. I started my life as a fan, in the days before on demand and downloads, recording the soundtracks of Doctor Who episodes on audio tape.

“And now it’s my job to place every incarnation of the Time Lord (give or take) in peril in so many exciting audio adventures. I have to pinch myself. I’d like to thank everyone, from the cast in front of the mic, to the writers, directors, sound designers and more behind it, for making it such an amazing journey. Here’s to the future! (Or is it the past?)”

Also premiering during the event is the first episode of Doctor Who: The Legacy of Time – a special anniversary box set release celebrating 20 years of Doctor Who at Big Finish. This first episode stars Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor, Alex Kingston as Professor River Song and Lisa Bowerman as Professor Bernice Summerfield. But does the Doctor have room for two time-travelling archaeologists in his life?

Doctor Who: The Legacy of Time will be available from the DWCA Shop in September and check out the Shop’s back catalogue for a wide variety of Big Finish adventures: http://dwca.org.au/products-page/.

New faces for The Faceless Ones

ONE of the missing Patrick Troughton Doctor Who stories is set for release as an animation, according to BBC Studios.

The release of The Faceless Ones, the final story to feature Michael Craze as Ben and Anneke Wills as Polly, follows the success of animated versions of The Power of The Daleks, Shada and The Macra Terror. It will be released on DVD, Blu-Ray and as an exclusive Steelbook next year, and expected to be available from the DWCA Shop.

The Faceless Ones, first broadcast in six weekly parts from April to May 1967, is the mostly missing eighth serial of the fourth season in Doctor Who. Starring Troughton, the story involves the race of identity-stealing aliens known as the Chameleons.

Only two of the six original episodes survive in the BBC film archives with only snippets of footage and still images existing from the other four.

However, off-air recordings still exist, making the animation of the complete serial possible.

The six new animated episodes will be made in full colour and high definition. The 2020 DVD and Blu-ray release will also feature surviving archive material from the 1967 production.

The passing of Omega

The man who played Omega in the 1972 story The Three Doctors has died.

Stephen Thorne, a RADA-trained actor, died on 26 May at the age of 84.

He was best-known to the Whovian world for bringing to life three great Doctor adversaries during the early ’70s.

Stephen Thorne
11 Aug 2013

His towering presence and deep melodious voice were first came to the world of Who in the 1971 story The Dæmons, where he portrayed Azal, the last living Dæmon on Earth, in a story often cited as one of the most appreciated of the Third Doctor’s era and story emblematic of the close-knit UNIT team of the time.

He returned to the series in 1972 playing Omega, the renegade Time Lord fighting The Three Doctors, a character that would return to confront the Doctor in later years. In 1976 he opposed the Fourth Doctor playing the male form of Eldred, last of the Kastrians in the story The Hand of Fear.

Born in London he trained at RADA before spending several seasons with the Old Vic Company and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

His Television credits included roles in Z Cars, Crossroads, Sexton Blake, David Copperfield and Last of the Summer Wine however it was radio where he really shone. His radio performances included Aslan in The Magicians Nephew, Treebeard in The Lord of the Rings, and Colon in Terry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards!. He has played many characters for Big Finish audio productions including reprising the roles of Omega and Eldred.

Thorne also recorded more than 300 unabridged audiobooks including children’s stories and often gave readings at events in places such as Westminster Abbey. His awards include a Talkies Award 1996 for Enigma by Robert Harris and several Golden Earphones Awards from Audiofile Magazine.

 

Judoon platoon returning soon

No! Sho! Blo! The Judoon are set to charge back into Doctor Who when Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor returns next year.

The BBC announced this week that more than twelve years after they first stampeded onto screens to terrorise the Tenth Doctor and Martha Jones on the moon in 2007’s Smith and Jones, the rhino-headed intergalactic police are returning.

Showrunner Chris Chibnall said they would return for the series, currently being filmed in Gloucester.

“No! Sho! Blo! The Judoon are storming back into Doctor Who in full force, and the streets of Gloucester aren’t safe,” Chibnall explained.

“If anyone has anything to hide, confess now.

“The Judoon are taking no prisoners, and will stop at nothing to fulfil their mission! The whole team on Doctor Who are delighted and scared in equal measure to welcome them back: One of many treats we’ve got in store for viewers next series.

“And we’re over the moon (with Judoon), to be welcoming the wondrous Neil Stuke as guest star. We can’t wait to show you what happens when his path crosses with the Thirteenth Doctor.”

Stuke has an established career on stage, television and films and is a two-time Bafta nominee, whose recent credits include Doctor Foster, Silk and Silent Witness.

According to the BBC, the eleventh series of Doctor Who was the biggest series of the show in over a decade with an average audience of 8.6m viewers in the 28 days following broadcast, across all available devices.

The twelfth series of Doctor Who is currently in production.

 

New game goes to the virtual edge of time

The Doctor Who virtual universe is set to expand, with a new cinematic feature-length Doctor Who VR video game due for release in September.

The new “mission”, Doctor Who: The Edge of Time, follows hot on the heels of the recently released The Runaway – a short animated VR experience.

Published by PlayStack and developed by immersive entertainment studio Maze Theory, Doctor Who: The Edge Of Time will allow fans to embark on a brand-new and fully-interactive adventure, inspired by the show’s 55-year history and starring the Doctor’s current incarnation, played by Jodie Whittaker.

BBC Studios Digital Entertainment and Games head Bradley Crooks said VR was the perfect vehicle for Who.

“VR is the perfect home for a truly immersive Doctor Who adventure,” he said.

“Fans and newcomers alike will be able to experience the universe of Doctor Who like never before, working with the Doctor and facing enemies new and old.

“Gaming is a key part of the future of Doctor Who and allows us to tell new and exciting stories beyond the TV screen.”

Maze Theory Creative Director Marcus Moresby said they were committed to providing an innovative and immersive experience.

“Doctor Who is an incredibly exciting and timeless franchise with a passionate and committed global fan base,” he said.

“We are looking to give them an entirely new experience; an opportunity to team up with the Doctor and feel like they are in the show. This, of course, includes piloting the TARDIS, a dream come true for fans!”

Armed with a Sonic Screwdriver, players have the chance to solve mind-bending puzzles, grapple with classic monsters and encounter new horizons in a quest to find the Doctor and defeat a powerful force that threatens to destroy the fabric of reality.

This time around some of the show’s iconic “Big Bads” will be making an appearance including the biggest baddies of them all – the Daleks as well as some brand-new monsters.

This time around the Doctor has been hurled through time and space to the end of the universe where a virus is threatening to rip apart reality has been released.

Fans will have a chance to pilot the TARDIS across new and familiar worlds as they set out to recover a series of “powerful time crystals” that can repair space, time and ultimately save the entire universe.

Doctor Who: The Edge Of Time will launch on PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Vive Cosmos in September.

 

Run away with the Doctor

The BBC has finally released both a trailer and a synopsis for the brand-new VR Adventure Doctor Who: The Runaway.

Set in the TARDIS, the adventure stars Jodie Whittaker in animated form and features brand new music from Doctor Who composer Segun Akinola.

The new story is 12 minutes long and will see the viewer join the Thirteenth Doctor on the TARDIS in an animated interactive story from the BBC and Passion Animations.

Players will get the chance to be the Doctor’s champion and help her with her adventure as both viewer and doctor find themselves facing a deadly threat. It will be available on selected VR headsets later in the year.

According to the synopsis:

You’ve been in a collision. You wake inside the TARDIS. The Doctor introduces you to the person, or thing, you collided with. He’s a strange and magnificent ball of living energy called Volta. Part surly teenager, part bomb, Volta is very unstable. In fact, he’s primed to explode. Big time. Unless he can be returned to his home planet, sharpish. The problem is, a squad of galactic busybodies has other plans for Volta. Bad ones. Drawn into a frantic chase, you become The Doctor’s unlikely assistant as she races against time to get Volta home to his parents. Armed with a sonic screwdriver, it is down to you to help The Doctor as she faces the forces of evil, and teenage angst, in this animated 13-minute VR adventure from the team behind Doctor Who Series 11.

Doctor Who: The Runaway was written by Victoria Asare-Archer and directed by Mathias Chelebourg – the man behind Alice, the Virtual Reality Play and The Real Thing VR. It has been produced by the BBC’s digital drama team, BBC VR Hub and Passion Animation Studio and is coming soon to Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, with versions for other platforms including YouTube.