Side Story 03 – An Adventure in Space and Time

In 1963, a show that shouldn’t have been more than a blip on the radar was launched. It concerned a strange, older alien man, his granddaughter, and two teachers traveling across space and time. It should have failed. It didn’t, and in 2013, the BBC released a made-for-TV movie about the creation of the series. And here we are.

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In the beginning…

This show covers the creation of Doctor Who from the beginning all the way up to the end of the First Doctor’s time on the show. It includes David Bradley as William Hartnell. He does an amazingly good job of playing the man with all his faults, failures, and wonders. Brian Cox shows up as Sidney Newman, the creator of the series. Rounding out the cast is no one you’ve ever heard of, but it’s a good crew.

The bulk of the story focuses on Verity Lambert and her struggle to launch the series while also fighting back against the sexist attitudes of the day. Alongside her is Waris Hussein, a gifted young director struggling against not only racism, but also, shown only in a subtle way, homophobia.

The story itself is written by Mark Gatiss; a man who is no stranger to Doctor Who or to homophobia. It’s a very tightly-paced, well-written script with no real dross or excess, which is nice.

Naturally the history isn’t perfect. The movie depicts Hartnell as being very reluctant to leave the series, and not being overly-impressed by the casting of Patrick Troughton as the Second Doctor. In point of fact, Hartnell apparently recommended Troughton for the role, and while we can assume he wasn’t overjoyed to leave, he seemed to know his limits.

Speaking of history, there’s a certain special cameo at the end, that makes no sense, really doesn’t belong, and shouldn’t be there, but…fuck it. It works and works amazingly well. The show earns it, and that’s saying something, all things considered.

Really, I can’t recommend this movie highly enough. As history of TV, as a story about a series we love, as pure entertainment, it really is something incredible, and if you somehow haven’t seen it yet, you really should.

Side Story 02 – Daleks – Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.

So here we are, the second, and final, Peter Cushing  Dr. Who movie. It’s got most of the same problems as the first one, and very few good things. But, hey, we’re here, so let’s roll with it.

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Doesn’t that just scream quality?

As before, we have Peter Cushing in the role of Dr. Who, human inventor of a space-time machine called TARDIS. Roberta Tovey is back as his granddaughter, Susan. We also have Louise, Dr. Who’s niece, and then rounding out the cast we have…can you believe it? Wilff! Donna’s grandfather! Yes, Bernard Cribbins puts in his first appearance in the Doctor Who universe, and I couldn’t be happier.

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Hooray!

Here he plays a police officer, who gets attacked by a thug that’s involved in a jewelry story heist. He goes chasing after the robbers and finds a police box. He stumbles inside, and our adventure begins, and I’m reminded that I’d give real money if Wilff came back to the series and made aa casual comment about his time working as a police officer.

There are some other changes between this movie and the prior one. First off, the TARDIS interior looks more finished, which is actually kind of reasonable. One would think Dr. Who would spend a lot of time working on it.

This particular movie is also based on a TV story. In this case, it’s based off “The Dalek Invasion of Earth”, though we can assume it doesn’t end with Dr. Who’s ten-year-old granddaughter staying behind to marry the man she loves.

Another improvement over this against the first movie is that this one is much more dynamically directed. The action scenes especially work better. It’s the same director for both movies, so I’ll just assume he got better, which is nice to see!

This is a flawed movie, very much as the first one was. The action scenes are well-staged, but everything else is kind of meh. There’s a comedy piece in the middle that stops the story cold, and it has a tough time restarting after that, though by the end, it almost manages it. Also, there’s no real wheelchair chase, so that kind of sucks.

Ultimately, this is another film I can recommend only to the die-hard Who fans. It just isn’t very good, though again, like the first one, it isn’t that bad, either.

This was the last of the Cushing films, though it wasn’t originally planned that way. Back in the day, when they made this, they had planned to follow-up with a film adaptation of “The Chase”. That never happened, but one intrepid YouTuber gives us a glimpse of what might have been.

Side Story 01 – Dr. Who and the Daleks

Back in 1965, Dalekmania was at its height, and everyone involved wanted to make some of that sweet, sweet cash. Understandable. And so papers were signed, a screenplay was written and the next thing you know, the series hit the big screen! Sort of.

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This could be the start of something big! Or not.

There were many, many changes made in the transition from TV to movie. First, obviously, was putting on the “big” screen, and in “colour”. Second, the ship everyone flies around in is called TARDIS. Not the TARDIS. Just TARDIS, and the interior is significantly different from what we’re used to.

Further, it was invented by a human whose actual name is Dr. Who. Yes, this means that he could have, in theory, had a daughter named Cindy Lou, but instead he has two granddaughters named Susan and Barbara. Joining them is Barbara’s boyfriend, Ian. So, got all that?

Oh, and Dr. Who is played by Peter Cushing, which is kind of amazing.

Cushing was, at this point, mostly known for doing Hammer horror films (a group whose alumni includes Christopher Lee). 12 years after this, we’d get to know him as Grand Moff Tarkin. But here, he’s just a doddering, vaguely absent-minded professor.

Many people aren’t fond of this character, and I can understand that. But I actually rather like Dr. Who, and I do kind of wish they’d done more movies with him, though to be fair, just making better movies would have helped.

Ian, in this incarnation, is something of a bumbling twerp who means well, but tends to stumble around everywhere, Chevy Chase-style. He is, in fact, part of why our heroes end up traveling away from Earth (without the usual TARDIS noise, boo!).

As for Barbara and Susan, well, the latter is a bit more scientifically minded, and much younger, than her TV counterpart. Barbara is a bit of an amiable non-entity, which is…not great, but could be worse.

And the plot? It’s basically an 83 minute reduction of the seven part story, “The Daleks”. It actually works fairly well, all things considered. They ditch much of the time-wasting dross from the TV story, and what’s left kind is kind of ok.

The story unfolds pretty much as it did on TV; our heroes arrive on Skaro, go to the Dalek city, suffer from radiation poisoning, and meet the Daleks and Thalls, though the latter really look like drag queens.

The Daleks are much the same, but in vivid Technicolor, and taller than usual. They also have grasping claws instead of the “plunger”, and shoot out clouds of gas, rather like from a fire extinguisher.

Despite being much, much shorter than the serial it is based upon, this is still a fairly plodding story. Once our heroes get away from the Dalek city, there is no valid storytelling reason for them to go back. Sending them back stretches out the time, but it holds back the story itself and wrecks the pacing.

In the end, this movie isn’t perfect, but it isn’t terrible. It’s a solid C, being about as good as the serial upon which it is based. That is, it must be said, something of a disappointment, since one would think they would have looked at the mistakes there and not repeated them here.

Still, it has its moments, and Cushing is entertaining, and I recommend every Who fan watch this movie at least once.

Next time: Daleks – Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.