Sunday, 25 June 2017

"Oh yes, my name's Drake. John Drake."

A few weeks ago I rashly promised to start a regular blog on DANGER MAN. I removed that promise upon the actual arrival of the DVD collection itself, the very definition of an impulse buy.... a huge box containing 33 individual DVDs of said series. Even if I just blogged each individual DVD rather than the episodes that would still be something of a massive commitment given the... dare I say ‘throwaway’?... nature of the series.

That sounds glib and harsh. What I mean is that each episode is a neat little story... nothing to get rhapsodic about... but each story is damn fine entertainment.

Perhaps unsurprisingly watching it is making me much more confident in my belief that John Drake IS ‘The Prisoner’. People and places pop up in Drake’s adventures with such frequency that it ties in with my theory (not in itself original) that the events of The Prisoner are Drake’s dreamspace analogue to what’s happening to him in realtime.

My theory: John Drake really has had enough of the spying game. Everything in the title sequence to The Prisoner is true... until he hands in that resignation, breaks the tea-cup and storms out of George Markstein’s office. From that point on, what we see is an unconscious/dreamspace version of either what Drake is going through at that moment (time being relative of course) or the undercurrent of his thoughts.

For instance: he quits, but is immediately aware that he could be monitored. Possibly this is no more strong than him knowing they’ll at least want to watch and see if he leaves the country; he certainly doesn’t expect to be abducted. But perhaps a part of him is always half-suspicious he’ll be watched and somehow they’ll try to drag him back in to the great game. The Prisoner is a surreal version of him debating within himself whether his values and beliefs stand up against those of the people he no longer really trusts. Perhaps he does eventually go back, after being tempted by his ‘Number One’, and the events of ‘Fall Out’ mirror his own internal struggle, until he ‘returns’ to where he started.

Where does the Village fit in? He populates this dreamspace with places and people he has seen and met. They take on functions within his subconscious ‘narrative’. The very first Danger Man episode is set in an Italian village (in fact, Portmerion!)... perhaps as the site of his first important/dangerous adventure (after promotion to the field from admin/office-based work?) it has a special importance and he therefore uses that place’s geography to situate his internal struggle? Faces such as The Supervisor come from memories of past cases (Peter Swanick is killed in a pre-credits sequence but in a story involving Drake monitoring security leaks... the Swanick character therefore mnemonically stands in for a character always monitoring No 6’s whereabouts)... people high up in his NATO secret service branch become his double-crossing superiors (in ‘Chimes of Big Ben’) etc etc...

See? It all fits!

You can even retcon the fact of Drake’s having an American accent in this first series as representing his multiple identity struggle.... sort of.

WELL, be this as it may or may not, I’m immensely enjoying watching these episodes. Each is a self-contained story of course but the half-hour stories especially have a real neat ‘punch’ to them that feels like having read a good short story in a well-thumbed thriller/action anthology. The familiar ITC tricks of location footage used as establishing shots works surprisingly well; sets and filming look expensive; the scripts are taut and always performed extremely well; and it has a pleasantly jazzy soundtrack which gives it an atmosphere totally different to, say, the brassy swagger of Drake’s ‘competitor’ James Bond.


I will definitely write more blogs on this as the series’ progresses.... just not 32 more of them.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Raft of Roses

I've been lucky enough to have received the latest CD from British noise artist TYRANNIC HORIZON. 

It is called 'Raft of Roses' and is quite simply magnificent. 

The popular conception of Noise music (if it's ever considered in pop media at all) is all moody and openly misanthropic quasi-Sadean chaos, a vile aural attack. Tyrannic Horizon are one of an in fact great number of noise artists whose music/sound/noise is (and is informed by) a kind of corrupted beauty... an initial theme or concept finds expression in a simple sound or group of sounds (in this case, a vocal repetition of two lines from a poem by one Julianne Davis) which are then mangled and distorted beyond recognition so that something entirely new comes out.

The details of its production can be found here https://tyrannichorizon.bandcamp.com/album/raft-of-roses as well as ordering or downloading details.

The CD case includes crushed rose petals as part of the artwork. This is dream music just not as it's popularly known. It's tangible and sensory and deserves to be heard by as many curious souls as possible.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

the sci-fi sound of Joy Division

Joy Division are a pretty sci-fi band. 

((...if you think that’s the most tenuous way I could introduce the fact I’m now brining in pop music to a hitherto sci-fi telly-based blog.... you’d be right))

It’s not that they sing about the sort of themes and subjects you could find in any contemporary literary sf... ALTHOUGH THEY DO THAT TOO... it’s that they SOUND futuristic. They apparently sounded futuristic at the time and they sound so even now. ‘Time travel’, the uncanny (dis)location effect of popular culture as written about in some detail by Jon Savage, centres largely in the Joy Division sound, with shifting, backward-masked and subliminal sounds and delay effects all there in the mix. (delay, as theorised by Pauline Oliveros, is literally time travel, the sound of the past coming forward into the future and both becoming the present) 

It’s music that exists in its own continuum.

This is due in no small measure to their producer, the esteemed Martin Hannett. 

Hannett was a legend in his own lifetime, and posthumously that legend, like that of JD itself, is growing. Whole books can and have been written about him, about his philosophy of sound and his approach to either acquiring new technology or, when this has proved slower than his imagination demanded, inventing his own. Drummer Steven Morris, in the JD documentary film, describes working in Hannett’s studio as being “like some sci-fi adventure”. And well he might. Quite apart from the then-novel profusion of synths, sequencers and drum machines (some of his own devising), there is the use to which all this equipment was put. Hooky may have wanted their records to sound like they did when the group played live; to Hannett’s credit he took the band and sent them travelling off into weird new dimensions. Compare their previous attempts at recording, as Warsaw. The same songs sound... different. More earthly. More normal. Hannett recorded each sound, instrument, vocal pattern and located them at certain points in relation to each other, not for a cheap “ooh, stereophonic sound!” effect but to put the listener of the records into a certain environment, an uncertain psychic/sci-fi space that was the perfect setting for Curtis’ estranged lyrics.

Curtis was certainly a reader with a toe or two in the sf world. Maybe not the pulp sci-fi fiction of previous generations but definitely the 60s ‘New SF’ domain of Moorcock et al. 

Ballard and Burroughs are the two most-cited JD literary antecedents (starman Bowie making up the ‘B’ triad of JD influences). When I first got to hear the first album I always mistook the track ‘Wilderness’ for ‘Interzone’ because the former actually suits the lyric to the latter one better. It is a Burroughsian tour-de-force in which the narrator literally travels through time, witnessing Christ’s death at one point, although that said the (post-apocalyptic?) wasteland of ‘Interzone’  could come straight out of passages in Burroughs’ ‘The Soft Machine’: 
“The town is built over a vast mud flat criss-crossed by stagnant canals, the buildings on stilts joined by a maze of bridges... the whole area presenting the sordid and dilapidated air of a declining frontier post or an abandoned carnival...  Various forms of ritual execution are practiced here.”

As the group metamorphosed, of necessity, into New Order they became much more interested in exploring developing music technology, but were the poorer (in my sci-fi geek estimation) for using it primarily for the purposes OF music, i.e as something to dance to. Without the literary-minded Curtis as quasi-navigator (and don’t forget, as a Kraftwerk fan electronic and dance music IS something JD would have explored more fully had Curtis lived, no doubt about it) there is none of the ‘transporting the listener to a weird new place’ as there was in JD. New Order transported the listener to a place alright but that place was the dance floor. 

No bad thing; just slightly less fun when you’re listening to it through headphones on the bus.

I often imagine what would have happened had New Order collaborated with, say, Afrika Bambata rather than Jellybean as they made their forays into American dance music, but to find that out one would need an actual time machine.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

The Tribe of Target

An ‘idol’ (sic) dream of mine is to locate a lost tribe in some remote part of the globe, introduce them to the written English word and some basic concepts from our culture (somehow) and then, with this in place, give them a full run of Target ‘Doctor Who’ novelisations (I’m assuming electrical gadgets which show moving pictures and sound would be too overpowering for them to appreciate such nuances as Radiophonic music or Tom Baker walking through doors). Future generations of this tribe, and White European liberals of course, may well curse my name for this act but it would prove interesting, to me at least, because I want to see what their idea of Who would be like just from reading the books. Because they would be reading them AS books, as stories in their own right, and as much as I enjoy the books that’s something I don’t think any Who fan can ever do, or ever really has been able to do, even in the days before we’d seen some of them.

The cliché about the Target books is now well-established and the line is the same in every bloody article about them so let’s get it out of the way now... you may want to join in... in (altogether now) “the days before video and DVD” ((cheer)) they provided a way to ‘repeat’ the most recent stories and to get a glimpse of stories made before we became fans or were even born. But this is something of a fallacy (or a phallusy if you’re reading any story with the Tissue Compression Eliminator). 

The fact is that every fan seems to absorb lore through osmosis. I can’t specify how or where I found out about older pre-Me Being Born stories but somewhere in the jumble of Aunty’s anecdotes, Peter Haining, Dr Who Monthly and the occasional old clip on TV nostalgia shows there was bubbling a list of facts, figures and more than the odd mistaken assumption. Reading the Target books was less a case of Young Me reading a fab new adventure in time and space, it was probably more likely a case of Young Me balancing the story on a tripwire with stuff I vaguely knew about it and trying to see if it held steady compared with that knowledge, and with all knowledge I had about Who as a whole.

In fact another of my fantasies is to go back in time and plug Young Me into some kind of MRI scanner and see what’s going on in his brain as he reads them. (my fantasies perhaps reveal a cruel and slightly loopy bent on the part of my subconscious, but bear with me) 

My guess is that all sorts of weird little blips and flashes, perhaps previously unrecorded in neurological science, would be occurring as I did so. For instance, any time Gerry Davis refers to the Cybermen as hailing from the planet Telos would no doubt send parts of my hypothalamus flashing a peculiar shade of yellow (or gold, which would be ironic), whilst different parts would light up when something like explicit references to other stories pop up in the text (as happened when I tried to plot a narrative using facts gleamed from the book of ‘Monster of Peladon’ and somehow ended up believing that the events of ‘Curse of Peladon’ therein alluded to actually happened to the Second Doctor... a misunderstanding I held for some years).

The sad fact is that on some level any reader of the Target books was conscious they were indeed reading A Novelisation, a translation of a televisual ‘original’. Sometimes these were written done stylishly or with clever and deceptive literary techniques;  sometimes they were limp and fairly atrocious retellings so ‘straight’ and bland that even a ten year old felt they’d been handed a shooting script; but we all came to them knowing they were based on Doctor Who and that we knew what Doctor Who ‘was’ and ‘did’ even if we didn’t necessarily know the specific story in question. 

In fact perhaps these books more than anything in the TV episodes was what drove the generation of fans that became TV professionals. Read the Target books against your memory or knowledge of the TV programme and you effectively become a pseudo-script editor. There’s the ‘where does this story fit amid the background myth’ aspect (probably not that big a deal for any actual script editor before the 80s anyway but you follow my drift); there’s the aspect of ‘wow, how did they even realise these special effects on TV’ or alas its more prominent cousin ‘what did they actually do on TV after realising they couldn’t possibly do this 50-foot high octopus monster I’m reading about believably on screen’; and there’s the ‘hang on, I watched this story and I don’t quite remember it being like that exactly’ thing. Your inner TV professional begins adjusting his trendy spectacles and clicking his red pen as your brain starts highlighting odd inconsistencies.

(A simple example because it’s closest to hand and I’ve just been reading it: in the book of ‘Logopolis’ Adric distracts the policemen who are trying to arrest the Doctor by climbing atop the Tardis and throwing a bicycle onto their car. You read that and, if you’ve seen it, you’re congratulating Chris Bidmead for something more dramatic than what Adric actually did on TV and also working out in your mind why they didn’t film that, i.e practicality, Health and Safety, not wanting to risk Matthew Waterhouse falling and spraining his ankle, etc. You’re also doing the ‘hang on’ thing at the same time. And, if you’re me, wondering whether or not to make a fresh cup of tea now or until you get to the start of the next chapter.)

But, ah, look at my precise wording there... what Adric “actually” did on TV. Both artefacts, the TV story and the book, are fictional but the TV story will always, with the best will in the world, be given primacy over what is after all described on the back cover as a “TV tie-in”.

This is veering perilously close to becoming an article on Canon so let me pull back from that fucking cliff-edge double quick. Returning to my Target-indoctrinated jungle tribe, what would be happening in their brains as opposed to the wired-up-to- MRI-scanner one of mine? 

Well presumably what happens in the brain of anyone reading any kind of fiction. I’m no expert but reading anything seems to be a kind of process where you plonk yourself in the story, or are dragged there, and you have to work out where you are in it even before such considerations as whether or not you like it or if it’s ‘for you’. This is really hard to do if it’s something written in an accessible everyday style, which is why results are so much more dramatic when we’re exposed to something weirder or more outside conventional reading experience (like, imagine if newspapers suddenly imparted their information as if they were detective novels, with clues and red herrings and weird genre clichés... that’d throw us wouldn’t it? And yet a lot of journalism almost implicitly expects an angle we’re supposed to be coming from, be that Anti-Trump, Pro-Brexit or what have you. Realising that newspapers from grown-ups have just as much ‘goodies and baddies’ as anything written for kids can be quite a shock to us and can tilt our own philosophy or worldview slightly). 

One of my favourite English lessons in Sixth Form college was a class where everyone had to read an excerpt from Burgess’ ‘A Clockwork Orange’. I smugly had the upper hand because I’d read it shortly before Burgess himself died in 1994 but it was interesting to read the expressions, and to hear the confusion, in my fellow students who were trying to scan a text written in the sort of slang that assumed (on the narrator’s part) the ‘audience’ knew this slang but which the actual writer (Burgess as opposed to Alex) knew full well the ‘real reader’ (i.e us) didn’t... and so had to navigate it and make inferences based on things like context and repetition.

My guess is that all the stuff about Tardises and the vortex and young/old faces and escaping to danger would, remarkably quickly, fall into place. For all the discontinuities in writing styles, descriptions of the Doctor or what order these stories take place in would also just as quickly form a debate amongst them similar to that in Sherlock Holmes fandom since the original Strand publications (such as ‘An Open Letter to Dr Watson’ published in a newspaper during the serialisation of ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ which has fun placing the dates and events in ‘Hound’ with hitherto-known ‘continuity’... possibly making it the first Letter To The Editor that spawned an entire publishing industry). Which stories would be more prized? Would annual festivals be held in ‘Doctor Who And the Cave Monsters’’ honour whilst ‘Planet of Giants’ would be only whispered of in hushed tones, or given to intellectually stunted members of the tribe with bad eyesight? Would a form of tribal warfare develop in which local grievances would be settled between factions who believed ‘Doctor Who and the Daleks’ and not ‘An Unearthly Child’ was the One True Genesis?



But, ah, I’m being facetious. 

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Keff's Japes

This must sound a peculiar form of faint praise but I’ve got into the music of KEFF McCULLOCH through accidentally buying a CD which I thought was by someone else entirely.

I had seen ‘The Music of Doctor Who’ going cheap on eBay and snapped it up, thinking it was a reissue under a different name of an album called ‘Doctor Who: Evolution’. Which it IS. But what that album ISN’T is a reissue of ‘Doctor Who: The Music’, which I thought it was, but a reissue for the American market of ‘Doctor Who: 25th Anniversary Album’.

(confused? So was I)

And this latter album, far from being a Radiophonics-jammed survey of all (then) 25 years of Doctor Who sound design, was composed in fact mainly of incidental music by... Keff McCulloch.

Now, as Mark Ayres very politely phrases it in the ‘The Music of Doctor Who’ magazine special, “McCulloch’s music has come in for some criticisms from fans of the show”.  Up until very recently I was one of those fans. Wedded to the visuals of his six late-80s Dr Who stories his music is almost painful at times; not because of any atonality or texture, nor because of any unorthodox instrumentation; but mainly because of its relentless ‘activity’ (there’s rarely a quiet pause for breath in any of his scores) and often its sheer inappropriateness.  As Miles & Wood observed of ‘Delta and the Bannermen’ it’s only the music that is actually saying ‘This is an out and out Comedy’ underneath scenes which are, at least ostensibly, aiming for Drama.

Having bought the album however I thought I might as well listen to the thing. Not even JNT’s liner notes could put me off. And, bizarrely as it may seem, I now love Keff’s music. (there, I said it)
You’d think it would make even less sense as music in its own right than it did as the soundtrack to a Dr Who story, but listening to it in this way his production style really comes into its own. One of the things that got Keff the gig was the fact he had his own studio, complete with his much-vaunted 24-track mixer. The temptation to actually USE all or most of these 24 available layers of sound seems to have been impossible for him to resist, which is why Keff’s music is so ‘busy’ -  and why they are so constantly full of extra little ‘bits’ of noise. This means that where most composers would be content with a melody of some sort, Keff starts with a melody (trust me, they’re in there somewhere) then layers it with... well, let’s tick off his particular obsessions shall we?... rigid drum-beats, the handclap machine, synth tom toms, orchestral stabs, spangly effects, notes from the Who theme tune itself (should Ron Grainer have got half his royalties?) and the type of synth noises which, nowadays, sound far cheaper and more obviously synthetic than they did in 1987.

All a bit of a mess whilst watching a Sylvester McCoy story. But on their own...

Take ‘Gavrok’s Search’. Ethereal and haunting synth notes are suddenly pitch-bended, leading into a martial drum-machine beat, with jolts of fake strings over the top and extra beep-beep noises for effect (on TV, an echo of the Bannermen’s tracking devices). Add a Latina vocal and you’d have something that could have warmed up the crowd at the Danceataria. Add drugs and you’d have a cut-price Hacienda act. Or how about the fantastic ‘Future Pleasure’ from his first story ‘Time and the Rani’? Keff has exaggeratedly said it was made solely through manipulations of his own voice, but nonetheless at least three separate layers of sound on this ultra-chirpy, quasi- chillout piece are recognisably built from vocal samples. Indeed, all Keff’s scores are now music-historically resonant, choc full of the early drum machines, samplers and sequencers now so beloved of electro enthusiasts. Other tracks feature samples of his snoring (!) and even synth-banjo. You gotta love it.


When he appeared on ‘Corners’ to demonstrate (to Sophie Aldred!) how he made his version of the Who theme he said of his beloved Prophet 5 synthesiser “I can make it sound like anything.” This was over-optimistic and manifestly untrue. But Keff’s music doesn’t sound like anything (else), only itself. It’s probably too upbeat and cheerfully populist to ever be reclaimed as visionary by the same people who wet themselves over anything Malcolm Clarke ever made, but I think that’s what it is... the evident product of a person who had his own musical vision of what Dr Who music should be like, regardless of how wonky or unfashionable it may sound to some, and who made it weirdly listenable to boot. Keff, I salute you.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The Chase is on!

I frequently have cause to complain about people deciding to do absolutely nothing other than sit in of an afternoon and watch apparently endless repeat episodes of The Chase, the ITV quiz show. This afternoon, I decided to do absolutely nothing other than sit in and watch my DVD of The Chase, the William Hartnell/Dalek story.

Can I claim moral superiority? Well yes but only just.

The interesting thing about The Chase as a television programme is that it’s hard at times to make out which parts are intentionally weird and which parts are just weird by accident (or, if you want to single out the infamously ‘it’ll do’ director Richard Martin, sheer laziness). The story is littered with obvious examples known and cherished by fandom but I want to focus on this story’s odd approach to the sound.

I’ve been researching and listening to old Radiophonic Workshop output recently, but hadn’t expected much in the way of this in The Chase. Remembering that it had an early Dudley Simpson score I was perfectly ready to sit back and watch the story on its own visual and scripted merits. But I’d forgotten several weird aspects of the story’s soundtrack which now stood out as curiously, and at times abrasively, as anything from The Sea Devils.

Let’s take the conventional music score first. It comprises of a couple of cheerful  rinkety-tink ditties played on piano. These mainly accompany shots of (a cardboard cut-out of) the Tardis being hotly (well slowly) pursued through the time vortex by the Dalek Ship (buggered if I’m going to call it the Dardis). For these linking shots a sense of urgency if not terror would be expected, so why on earth this jolly little piano tune? Dudley’s piano also dee-diddly-dees along with some ostensible ‘action’ scenes such as the Haunted House fight between the Daleks and the Universal Monsters, totally undercutting any suspense or danger that hasn’t already been ruined by the ham-fisted editing, or more accurately by the awkward positioning of the cameras. In fact the disjunction between the music and the visuals almost come across as if the director has raided the stock music library and grabbed a few tracks at random. If that had been the case (say for budget reasons) you could almost (almost!) forgive Richard Martin, but this was a specially composed score.

Also rubbing up against these sounds are some captivating, and completely electronic, sounds and noises provided by the Radiophonic Workshop. The Daleks’ time machine has its own materialisation sound-effect, a sort of reversed hypnotic pulse, and its interior has some extra sound effects on top of the familiar Control Room ‘throb’. Due to the repetition involved in this story, with the Daleks constantly appearing and disappearing one step behind the Tardis, these sound effects soon take on a pleasing familiarity, and more to the point they don’t intrude on the visuals the way the ‘proper’ music is.

Sound is also treated oddly in this story in terms of dialogue and the spoken word. On the ‘intentionally weird’ side of things we have the Mechanoids, whose utterly baffling computerised speech can only be fully comprehended with the benefit of the DVD subtitles but which at least sounds pleasingly strange and ‘alien’. On the ‘laziness’ side of things we have some dire dubbing-on of pre-recorded dialogue whenever the naff ‘duplicate Doctor’ (“completely indistinguishable from the original” my arse!) appears. This is further compounded by the director’s inability to decide when to show Edmund Warwick or Hartnell in close-ups.

But as I say the effect as a whole is interesting. If the sound, to say nothing of the visuals, comes across as a weird patchwork, it could perhaps be seen as intentional. It would reflect well, after all, on a story that is partly all ‘about’ zipping between completely different story environments (alien world, New York City, the Marie Celeste, a haunted house, etc). Any single soundscape might work for one of those environments but not all of them. But as we’re talking about a Richard Martin-directed story here we can only posit this as a ‘perhaps’. The chances are it’s just a hodge-podge because the man in charge couldn’t be arsed about cohesion.


And I haven’t even mentioned the ‘thick Dalek’, who “um”s and “er”s in ring-modulated idiocy. What were they thinking.....??

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

the 'Armageddon Factor' factor

I was watching ‘The Armageddon Factor’ recently and it was only as the story neared its conclusion, in perhaps the fifth or so episode, that I realised I could see something. Something I shouldn’t be able to see.

No, I’m not talking about the fact that one of the Shadow’s mute minions, a zombie-like creature from a distant galaxy, is wearing a sensible pair of Clarks brogues. And I’m not talking about any of the story’s special visual effects, modelwork , design or costuming. No, what I suddenly realised I could see was... the script editing.

This was a shock for several reasons.

First, the fact I was noticing it at all. Back when Steven Moffat was writing a short piece on ‘The Ark in Space’ for the DWM Complete Fourth Doctor Vol 1 special he waxed lovingly on the writing of Who being the ‘real’ special effects of the show... and he was right. What the characters said and did sparkled in our minds and imaginations sometimes even more than the purely visual stuff in the stories (robots, models, planets being blasted into minute fragments of polystyrene) that we could actually see. The writing was poetry. That, you’re meant to notice. But script editing... you’re not meant to notice that at all. In truth, ‘Script Editor’ should be a largely unknown factor, a quasi-mystical name in the end credits, who had something important-sounding to do with how the stories ended up on screen but you couldn’t, probably, actually define.

And yet... towards the end of this story, the joins, as it were, were showing. You could almost see the page of one script being cut-up and inserted into the middle of two pages from an older, slightly different draft of the original script. This happened in a couple of ways. For ages, the Doctor and Romana had been aware the Shadow existed on an ‘elsewhere’ that wasn’t either Atrios or Zeos, an “inbetween” that they visualised as the silent moving down of a hand between two objects. In model shots, this was revealed to us the viewer as a kind of space station, four egg-like pods connected to a central hub, hanging in space, concealed from the view of Atrios and Zeos.

And then in part 4 or 5, Romana and the Doctor start talking about “the Planet of Evil”... and neither character, nor any other character, bats an eyelid.

Huh? I actually had to pause the DVD and rewind it to check I hadn’t misheard something! And though I was able to quickly put the name into context, and realise they were talking about That Place Where The Shadow Lives, it was a little ‘bump’ in the viewing process that should really have been much more smooth.

The second was the presence of the Marshall in the second half of the story. Or rather his lack of a presence! I myself had actually been wondering where he had got to, as he opens fire at the start (I think) of part 4 but is... quite literally... forgotten about until part 6. Now admittedly there’s all that business with the time loop, but once the time loop is released, it takes Romana to ask, “Aren’t you forgetting something...?” for the Doctor to suddenly remember, oh yes, the Marshall! Now, is this technically a ‘mistake’, rectified by a clever gag? I’m unsure. To my mind at least it does smack of the writers setting up a particular threat, getting bored with it, writing a new part of the story and then remembering... or more likely being reminded... about the dangling plot string of the Marshall and his planet-destroying missiles. Like the ‘Planet of Evil’, what should have been a smooth transition was made into a bumpy ‘oh, yeah’ moment that briefly took me out of the story.

This is probably bound to happen, especially at the end of a very long story, itself the culmination of an entire season’s worth of build-up storytelling (i.e the entire Key To Time saga). But the second reason why noticing this was a bit of a shock was the fact it was the redoubtable Anthony Read in charge of the script editing.

In fan lore, Read’s role has never been as glamorous as, say, Bob Holmes’. Read seemed to get on well with Graham Williams and worked excellently on making the whole Key To Time linking concept ‘work’ on TV. His successor was Douglas Adams, who brings a dazzling and again much more visible influence to bear on the look, sound and feel of the series. But Read seems to trundle along happily, achieving remarkable results with little apparent fuss... quietly eeking out scripts from the notoriously deadline-shy Douglas Adams with one hand, and whittling down the bonkers ideas of Bob Baker and Dave Martin into something actually filmable on a BBC TV budget with the other.

In short, his very invisibility proved his excellence at the job.


But, we can forgive him some lapses at the very end of this wearying and trying season. Even in the modern BBC Wales version of Who, with a showrunner and teams of proofreaders and the like, script editing-type mistakes slip in. The most famous one off the top of my head is the whole “Change of plan, we don’t need the bomb” from ‘The Doctor Dances’... a holdover from an earlier version of the script where there was a plan involving the bomb in the first place!