I’ve had to eat my words this week.
I’d been scathing for most of the summer about the persistent rumours of a cache of retrieved Doctor Who episodes. I was especially sceptical about any announcement being made during the build-up the 50th anniversary. Well, it takes a big man to admit he’s wrong.
I had done some research on sales of the 60s episodes to Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zambia and had suggested on Twitter that the likeliest finds might be Marco Polo; Abominable Snowmen; Ice Warriors; Enemy of the World; Web of Fear and Wheel in Space. There was no likelihood of the three missing b/w Dalek serials or of seaweed thriller Fury From the Deep coming out of Africa- they had never been sold there.
So, early yesterday morning, I read the astonishing news that all of Enemy and all but one episode of Web had been recovered and are now available on digital platforms. I don’t have access to that technology but it’s wildly exciting. I am looking forward to the dvd releases more than the actual anniversary special.
The one episode of Enemy I’ve seen features a villain breaking crockery in a caravan and a tiresome scene with a grumpy Australian chef. But David Whitaker’s tale of court intrigue in the near future fascinated me in its Target book form circa 1980. Web is revered as a classic: it’ll be interesting to see if its skinny, zip-up Yeti are received so warmly now.
Meanwhile, what about Who in the audio medium?
Snake Bite: an alien invasion story by cobra people utilising a wormhole stabilised in a secret vault. Read huskily by Frances Barber, this Star Trek knockoff for Matt Smith’s Doctor is instantly forgettable. 1 Talmar.
Night of the Whisper: another entry in the patchy Destiny of the Doctor series, this is a pastiche of The Shadow, set in the distant moon city of New Vegas. Cavan Scott and Mark Wright have written a surprisingly lacklustre pulp adventure. However, Nicholas Briggs voices a convincingly Northern Ninth Doctor ( currently my least favourite regeneration). 2/5 Talmars
Death’s Deal: Catherine Tate revisits stroppy Donna Noble for a gruesome fantasy romp on a deadly coral planet. The friendly barnacle alien is interesting but Tate reads Eddie Robson’s Lost World pulp adventure a little flatly, 3/5 Talmars.
1963 Fanfare for the Common Men: Eddie Robson has written a very clever and painstakingly accurate adventure for the Fifth Doctor featuring the history of a group of faux-Beatles. In doing so, he also references Susan’s favourite group in the very first episode of Dr. Who. Listening to Corky, James and especially lugubrious retiree Mark reminded me of Andy Peebles’ famous radio interview with John Lennon.
This rather ponderous story travels from Hamburg to the retreat of an Eastern mystic and features the alien villainy of a thinly-disguised Allen Klein. The pastiche Beatles songs are maddeningly catchy, however. 4/5 Talmars.
The Hypothetical Gentleman: another IDW trade paperback for the Eleventh Doctor, The title story is an atmospheric adventure with a shadow- being at the Great Exhibition. I preferred “The Doctor and The Nurse”, however: a sweet and funny tale of Amy’s boys bonding in cartoony style.
In the weeks to come, I hope to finally catch up on Superman Super-Specs; comic Grab Bags; and Infantino’s Flash.
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