So, just for the record, I’m really very chuffed about that Doctor Who casting.
I have the same buzz I did when they cast Capaldi, but for different reasons. It’s not the same-old-same-old safe choice. I really thought they might cast a Tennant clone because of the perceived commercial success that would bring. But we’ve done that already. It’s there on DVD. We haven’t done this. And who’s to say that the boring choice wouldn’t have bored viewers? Maybe moving in new directions is what’s in the show’s longer-term interests.
Interesting that new showrunner Chris Chibnall pushed for a female Doctor, and he’s got one of his leads from Broadchurch! That’s how to put your stamp on a show. I don’t think Jodie Whittaker’s character in Broadchurch was especially ‘Doctorish’, but you know these auditions are a tough process and they’ve had he same Casting Director since Christopher Eccleston was chosen. She only got this part if she aced it.
More from my short-lived spell of keeping newspaper clippings back in the 1980s, something I’ve never done before or since. Teenagers, eh?
These are all Doctor Who-related, spanning from the announcement of Colin Baker as the Doctor through to the announcement of Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor. They mainly concern the 18 month hiatus taken by the show, about which I was understandably obsessed.
First up, the announcement of Baker the Second taking the role, and our local paper’s very ringing endorsement of him after the “wet” Peter Davison. Harsh. The Hull Daily Mail was something of a staunch Who supporter , but they were perhaps an outlier in their complete adoration of Colin Baker. Commendably, they remained staunch supporters of his through thick and thin, as we’ll see.
The national press were clearly not so enamoured. Here’s a lovely (i.e. typical) bit from the Daily Express combining moral outrage about violence with mild salaciousness all in one story. The word “nubile” really doesn’t see the light of day much these days. Does include the quite amazing quote “I trust Dr Who rapidly makes it clear that people eating is wrong.” (Pedantically I do feel that sentence needs a hyphen, otherwise they’re taking a controversial stance against restaurants.)
I can only apologise for the poor preservation of this clipping. My Time-Space Visualiser is in need of tuning.
On or around the same date (my filing not being what it should be) the Daily Express also announced, perhaps slightly prematurely, that the show had been axed. Naturally they saw this in terms of the licence fee. I do think they deserve some kudos for a) bothering to interview fans and b) listing the Doctors in the right order and spelling all their names correctly.
At least there was some consolation! (Did they actually air these repeats, I can’t remember?)
The Hull Daily Mail also went with the Licence Fee theory (with the factually questionable observation that “Even The Master wouldn’t stoop so low just to make a point“) and joined the Express letching at Peri being “scantily-clad“, while continuing to big up Colin Baker as “the best yet“.
All together now, “Doctor in Distress!” I remember finding this single painfully embarrassing even at the time.
The Daily Telegraph weighed in, comparing the BBC to an unscrupulous drugs pusher. Sorry, “pusher”. Hard to tell if they’re outraged at the hiatus or just happy to have an excuse to cheerfully bash the BBC, but despite casting Doctor Who fans as junkies it’s quite supportive overall.
Moving on 18 months, and the Hull Daily Mail manages to announce the show’s return with the most negative slant possible (“doomed“!), and features some lovely disingenous quotes from Michael Grade where he makes out that it was all just about the violence. I think he reads the Daily Express. Congratulations however to this article for mentioning Peri without using the words “nubile” or “scantily“.
Okay, wait, they’ve sacked Colin Baker! Maybe it’s doomed after all… I remember hugely enjoying ‘Trial of a Timelord’ when it aired. That opening shot of the space station clearly went straight to my teenage fanboy head, just as it was supposed to, but even beyond that it felt very much like an old-fashioned season to me. The Vervoids story in particular hit me with nostalgia for the Tom Baker era quite strongly. I was outraged when I learned that Colin Baker was leaving without so much as a proper regeneration.
And so in comes Sylvester McCoy. Mercifully no-one feels inclined to letch over Bonnie Langford, who only merits the adjective “squeaky“. Michael Grade is quoted again on violence but also wants to see if “the stories are better“. Now he’s just being unreasonable.
Besides, with a “snow dragon” and a “berserk bunch of robotic charladies“, this will clearly be the best season yet.
I’ll confess to being quite underwhelmed by McCoy at the time. I didn’t “get” the rather ‘Indie’ take on the show that ‘Paradise Towers’ represented, I hated the new theme and opening credits, I felt the storytelling was amateurish, I was embarassed by the Kandyman, and I was baffled by the comedy of ‘Delta and the Bannermen’. I still don’t entirely disown those opinions, but I did warm to the remainder of McCoy’s run and there are some genuine classics among the last couple of years. I can even summon up some nostalgia for the credits sequence. Some.
And there my clippings go quiet, probably because I was suddenly far more interested in the arrival of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Teenagers, eh?
The thing about Doctor Who art is that there’s a hell of a lot of it. Traditional, digital, photoshop. Every DVD. Every book. The comics get about three covers each on a monthly basis. And that’s even leaving out the vast body of fan art, the dark matter that holds the internet together. And of course it’s all (mostly) amazing. This makes it bloody hard to come up with an idea for an image that doesn’t feel like it’s been done to death.
I knew I wanted to do another bit of Doctor Who fan art, and I chose Troughton because the 50th anniversary of his first appearance gave me the perfect excuse. I’ve always loved his ‘Harpo Marx’ air of shambolic eccentricity. (And the hat. That ridiculous hat.) The strange thing is that despite being a lifelong Doctor Who fan I mainly know the black and white stories through the Target novelisations and old issues of Doctor Who Monthly. It’s only more recently I’ve started to properly catch up with Hartnell and Troughton on DVD, and of the two it’s Troughton whose performance truly transcends the character on the printed page. Mercurial, always adding some little bit of ‘business’ to his scenes, but clever and sombre when he needs to be.
The problem was what do do with him. For the Peter Capaldi one I’d at least had the fresh angle of juxtaposing him with the earliest Cybermen. The idea of Mondas being Earth’s upside-down mirror lent itself to the angular yin-yang design of the image, which felt a little bit out of the ordinary. It crystallised in my head. I knew it could work. Now every other idea I could think of was either standard portraiture (like my preparatory pencil sketch) or a floating-head movie poster.
My eventual inspiration was the recorder. Lack of on-screen appearances notwithstanding, it’s attained an iconic association with the Second Doctor, and I suddenly hit upon the idea of making that the ‘hook’, with the tune emerging from it… and the tune containing images… and the images being a rough sort of record of his journeys. It’s pretty eccentric (in keeping with the character) and had the virtue of being something I hadn’t seen before, which always makes me much happier.
I’d originally envisaged more of a twinkly!Troughton, but it turns out that playing the recorder and smiling at the same time is quite tricky, so we ended up with frowny!Troughton instead. (More attack eyebrows). He has a really distinctive face which you’d think would be a doddle to draw. I even sketched him first, and it went fine. But I had huge trouble with the likeness for the painting. I mean, epic trouble. I’d show you, but I didn’t take any photos at that stage to spare me THE SHAME. It was only with quite a bit of over-painting that I found something I was happy with, and… the process went really smoothly after that. (Turns out it was just the usual “I can’t draw, I’m useless” stage I often go through).
I picked a blue colour for the ‘tune’, which does make it look a little bit like he’s blowing water out of his recorder (Daughter: “Daddy, I told you you should have used purple!”), but I think it complements the earth-tones of the face, and picks up on his blue eyes. I deliberately used a looser style for these phantom images as it’s not something I’d tried before and it suits the more ethereal quality of the visions. I kept fiddling with the pencils to find more dramatic angles, less standard reference photos, that better suited the flow. I decided not to distract from the main image with companions or human foes (and let’s be honest avoid any more likenesses), so stuck to the more alien foes. Those are the ones that appeal to the 12 year old boy in me anyway.
I’m quite happy with it overall. In hindsight and with a bit more confidence I’d have used an even lighter touch and left even more white space in the ‘tune’, maybe tailed it off a bit earlier at the top. Because of the looser style in that section my very light pencils still show slightly a bit in places, so that’s something to avoid. Live and learn.
far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be Chris Achilleos. Or maybe Andrew Skilleter. I was hazy on the details. But one thing I did know was that instead of growing up and doing a boring job I could maybe, just possibly, grow up and draw Doctor Who for the rest of my life.
Somehow that didn’t happen, but it’s hard to deny that I’ve never felt more like a proper artist than when doing my own little bit of Doctor Who illustration. I even left some room at the top for a logo.
This piece was inspired partly by the 50th anniversary of the Cybermen, and partly by an answer Peter Capaldi has given when asked what classic monster he’d like to face in his tenure as the Twelfth Doctor: the origin of the Mondasian Cybermen first seen in William Hartnell’s regeneration story. I like the juxtaposition of the latest incarnation of the Doctor and the earliest years of the show, and of Capaldi’s craggy, characterful face with the bland mask of the Cyberman.
Conscious that I’m approximately the millionth person to paint this particular image of a Cyberman (The Tenth Planet being quite short on good quality close-up telesnaps) I’ve tried to incorporate them into an unusual design that picks up on imagery from the Tenth Planet: the upside-down mirror Earth that is (nonsensically) Mondas, and a version of the computer lettering that opened each episode.
I wasn’t meaning to write reviews of Doctor Who this year, but bits of these spiky, slightly experimental episodes keep sticking in my head. After the romp to end all romps that was ‘Robot of Sherwood’ (huge fun but yes, please could that end all romps now?) ‘Listen’ is a very different affair, and it’s got me pondering again. On Capaldi’s Doctor. On whether Clara is well-written. And on whether Steven Moffat can write.