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A sad loss for the Doctor Who family

In a time of change

Caroline John played Liz Shaw

Season seven’s star

I was saddened to hear about the death of Caroline John, who played Dr Liz Shaw opposite Jon Pertwee’s Doctor.

When Caroline John joined the cast of Doctor Who, she did so at a time of change. Patrick Troughton had regenerated and his companions had decided to leave the show at the same time which meant a new Doctor and a new companion. The show would now be made in colour and Barry Letts was about to become the new producer. Another bold decision was to strand the Doctor on Earth. This meant that Liz Shaw became the first (and only) companion not to travel in the TARDIS.

Season seven had a distinctly Quatermass feel to it as the new production team aimed the program for a more mature audience. The monsters were still there but more often than not, the real monsters were shown to be man, whether it was the slaughter of Silurians or the continued drilling into the core of the Earth regardless of the consequences.

Dr. Liz Shaw was a different character from previous companions in that she was able to, at least partly, understand the Doctor’s scientific explanations.  Unfortunately this would prove to be a problem. Whereas Zoe, who also had an above average intellect, had Jamie to explain things to (and being able to give this information to the viewer) Liz didn’t have someone to act a go between between the Doctor and the viewer and so the decision to replace her was made.

During the filming of the final story of the season, the excellent Inferno, Caroline John was also looking to leave the series due to her pregnancy. Her final performance in televised Doctor Who (although she did return for a brief appearance in the 20th  anniversary story, The Five Doctors) saw her play Dr. Liz Shaw and Section Leader Liz Shaw in Doctor Who’s first foray into the realms of parallel universes.

Although the Liz Shaw experiment was not deemed a success, Caroline John’s contribution to season seven was very important and easy to under rate. The season consisted of only four stories (1 four parter and 3 seven parters); Spearhead From Space (the story that introduced the Autons), Doctor Who And The Silurians (the only televised story to have “Doctor Who And The…” as part of the title), The Ambassadors Of Death (a very Quatermass like story written by David Whitaker, Doctor Who’s first script editor) and the aforementioned Inferno (written by the future creator of Scottish soap opera “Take The High Road”). The Autons and Silurians were to make a comeback not just in the classic series (Terror Of The Autons and Warriors Of The Deep respectively) but also in the new series, notabley Rose (the Autons) which saw the return of Doctor Who to our screens and the two part story The Hungry Earth and Cold Blood (The Silurians).

Caroline John reprised the role of Liz Shaw for the Companion Chronicles, produced by Big Finish. She got to meet with an iconic monster that was noticeably absent from the third Doctor’s era, the cybermen (The Blue Tooth). The other stories to feature Liz Shaw are Shadow Of The Past, The Sentinels Of The New Dawn, Binary and the forthcoming The Last Post.

Carolin John was also the narrator for the audiobook of another sadly departed member of the Doctor Who family, Elizabeth Sladen.

Caroline John will be missed and my thoughts go out to her family and friends.

Caroline John 1940-2012 R.I.P.

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8th Doctor Sale at Big Finish

Doctor for a night

His adventures continue

With Lucie Miller

Paul McGann was the Doctor for just one night on television but thanks to Big Finish, he has had a chance to be the Doctor and continue with new adventures.

Starting on Monday 20th February, Big Finish will have  the four series of Paul McGann Doctor Who stories with his companion Lucie Miller on sale over four days. Series one on Monday, series two on Tuesday etc. click here for more details.

These stories have a feel of the new series in style and format (the stories are approximately 60 minutes and Lucie Miller (played marvellously by Sheridan Smith) would feel right at home in the TARDIS with any of the new Doctors.

If you still aren’t convinced, then you can download part one of Blood of the Daleks to hear for yourself or get them as a treat for that special Doctor Who fan.

A podcast with more information can be found here.

If you are already a fan, I’d love to hear your views about these stories.

Doctor Who Podcast ~ Big Finish Special

Those splendid fellows over at the Doctor Who Podcast have produced a Big Finish special.

They talk about its history and there is a very interesting interview with Line Producer, David Richardson (if you don’t know what a line producer does, then listen as all will be revealed).

The podcast concludes with  Tom, James and Trevor telling us of their favourite (and not so favourite) stories.

Listen here and please check out my own Big Finish Guide here.

Enjoy.

Gallifrey IV out now

Gallifrey IV

This spinoff series (see here for more on Big Finish and Gallifrey) features Lalla Ward as Romana, Louise Jameson as Leela and John Leeson as K-9.

If you have not heard the first three series of Gallifrey, do not fear. Although this story continues when the last series finished off, rather than being a sequel, it is almost a fresh start. I shall not go into too much detail but these stories are more self-contained than the previous series. If you now your Gallifreyan history, you may recognise certain aspects from the stories (but if you don’t, you will still enjoy them and the final disc of the set is a “behind the scenes” one which will fill in some of the gaps).

If you have listened to the previous series, the very first scene will give you a feeling of puzzlement before making you laugh. If you haven’t heard the first three series, listen to this scene again once you have listened to the rest of the series. There are also some familiar names (and voices) involved in this series including Mary Tamm, Katy Manning and Carole Ann Ford.

A real treat and hopefully the wait for season V won’t be as long.

The cover art on the box is beautiful too.

What is Big Finish?

I have mentioned Big Finish in a previous post but some of you may not know what Big Finish is and what they do.

They make (incredibly good) audio dramas. They have a number of different series but as this is a Doctor Who blog, I shall limit myself to those (note that limit is in italics as the number of Doctor Who releases and tie-ins is far from limited).

Doctor Who monthly range

As the name suggests, these are monthly releases. In the past year or so, they tend to be 3 story seasons featuring one of the Doctors from 5-7 [Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy]. Paul McGann [8th Doctor] will be re-joining this range soon. These “seasons” have been enjoyable and can bring a story arc that sometimes can be lost when having a different Doctor each month. The companions are a combination of classic Who companions (Janet Fielding has returned as Tegan, alongside Mark Strickson as Turlough and Sarah Sutton as Nyssa) and brand new characters. The stories are usually split into 4 episodes of about 30 minutes and end (as the classic series did) with a cliffhanger. Over the past few years, there has been one release featuring 4 short stories which have been entertaining and a great starting point if you want to try them out.

The 8th Doctor Adventures

There have been four series (of 8 stories, except the 4th which had 10) of adventures featuring Paul McGann as the Doctor and the excellent Sheridan Smith as his companion, Lucie Miller. These have been single disc releases and are similar in style to the new series. Series three was a high point for me as it was released as a download over consecutive weeks in the year when David Tennant was in his final year as the Doctor with no regular television series on air. The feeling of excitement during these weeks reminded me of when I was looking forward to seeing Doctor Who on a Saturday night in my youth as they were released in 30 minute 2 part stories ending with a cliffhanger. Some of these stories have been broadcast on the digital radio station BBC 7, if you have access to this station, keep an ear out for this entertaining series and think what could have been had the tv movie led into a series. 

The Lost Stories

Now this series is rather special.

During Colin Baker’s turbulent time as the Doctor, the series was put on hiatus for 18 months. When Doctor Who returned to our screens, the Doctor was on trial but what of the missing year? If you have seen the special features on the Trial of a Time Lord box set then you may have heard about the stories that were planned but never made. The early stories of this lost season obviously had the most development with other stories being in the idea stage. Now they have been adapted for audio and released. The first season features Colin Baker as the Doctor and Nicola Bryant as Peri. The stories are entertaining and see the return of some old enemies. There are also stories by P. J. Hammond (creator/writer of the excellent Sapphire and Steel*) *side note, Big Finish have also produced 3 series of Sapphire and Steel featuring David Warner as Steel and Sussanah Harker as Sapphire. Other writers include 2000ADcreator Pat Mills and Hammer Horror Queen, Ingrid Pitt (can you name the two Doctor Who stories in which she appeared?)

A second series of lost stories followed in 2010 with two box sets featuring stories written for the first and second Doctors. These have been adapted so that they are reminiscent of the Companion Chronicles (see below). The second Doctor box set also contains the proposed Daleks pilot story. This  story was very close to going into production but alas it fell through. This was Terry Nation’s attempt to get a Dalek series made for American tv but the structure and ideas were set up in the Doctor Who story, the Daleks Master Plan. The remaining stories of this season feature Sylvester McCoy in the stories that would have followed had the show not been cancelled.

The third series will feature some stories featuring the fifth Doctor, details of which can be found here.

The Companion Chronicles

These are enhanced audio stories told, as the name suggests, by the companion. These are quite intimate listening, usually with only two voices in the story. This is a wonderful way to include stories of Doctors who are no longer with us (or hadn’t yet agreed to do Big Finish audios) although more recent companions have had a chance to tell their stories too. These stories are wonderfully written and performed with some amazing vocalisations of the Doctor (especially by Peter Purves and Frazer Hines).

Gallifrey

I am looking forward to hearing the fourth series which is released this month (March 2011). This series features Lalla Ward as President Romana [Mary Tamm also makes an appearance too] and Louise Jameson as Leela and John Leeson as K-9 (both of them!). Lynda Bellingham reprises her role as the Inquisitor (a part that she played in Trial of a Time Lord) and is given a chance to flesh out the role. There is a great cast of characters and gets better on each listen.

I, Davros and Dalek Empire

I, Davros charts the rise of Davros from boy to man (leading to events prior to those seen in Genesis of the Daleks) Terry Molloy plays Davros for the most part (he also played Davros in Resurrection, Revelation and Remembrance of the Daleks) but Rory Jennings (who was in the 10th Doctor episode, The Idiot’s Lantern) is fantastic as young Davros.

Dalek Empire is the story of the Daleks as they continue their progress of conquering other worlds. The first two series run concurrently then the third takes a leap into the future (and stars a certain Mr Tennant). The fourth series is set during the time of the first series but focuses on different characters.

Jago & Litefoot

This series features two characters created by the incredible Robert Holmes and only appeared in one story, the excellent Talons of Weng Chiang. There have been two series so far with a third series due this summer (with a rather special guest star) with a fourth series to follow. Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter give wonderful performances and this series is especially wonderful on audio. If you’re unsure as to whether to invest in the box sets, they have done a companion chronicle called the Mahogany Murderers which will give you a taste of things to come.

There are a couple of other Doctor Who related spin offs including UNIT, Sarah Jane Smith (made before the Sarah Jane Adventures appeared on our screens), Excelis (featuring Anthony Stewart Head) and Unbound (a sort of what if? selection of stories, e.g. what if the Doctor was a woman? or what if the Doctor hadn’t been UNIT’s scientific adviser?

To sum up, these are excellent audio stories and I would highly recommend them. The stories are available as downloads too so you can listen straight away. Oh and by the way, the head honcho at Big Finish is also the voice of the Daleks (Nicholas Briggs).