All posts by Simon Wood

My favourite Doctor is usually Patrick Troughton. My favourite companion is usually Ace. I know that other science fiction shows are available… I’ve even watched some of them.

The New Science Fiction of the New Avengers

This is really a postscript to my survey of science fiction in The Avengers a couple of months back. Since then I’ve watched The New Avengers and I felt I ought to remark on the science fiction therein. There are far fewer episodes, so consequently there are fewer scifi episodes, but in the interests of completeness, here we go.

Suspended Animation

This is a field that features quite heavily in The New Avengers. The very first episode, Eagle’s Nest, concerns the revival of an infamous historical figure, whilst K is for Kill Part One The Tiger Awakens and K is for Kill Part Two Tiger by the Tail involve suspended armies revived by satellite signals received via cranial implants. It’s none too consistent – in the first case, it’s necessary to kidnap Peter Cushing to facilitate the revival; in the second, it’s entirely remote control with no indication of how the sleepers are kept hidden, let alone hydrated…

Engineering Fiction

Screen capture from Gnaws
I’ve never seen one as big as that before…

Also on the advanced biological side, The Midas Touch goes one step further than You’ll Catch Your Death in which the common cold was weaponised. This time victims are infected with multiple diseases (“yes, Mr Gambit, they died of everything”) via a carrier who is dosed up on drugs. Ummm…

Slightly more carefully thought through is the sleeping agent that can be deployed over a wide area in Sleeper. Delivered by an aircraft, it renders all subjects unconscious for a few hours.

Augmentation

Screen capture from Last of the Cybernauts...?
Dressed to impress

This was one of the staples of the original series features in the only direct sequel Last of the Cybernauts…?? (unfortunately, that title break Betteridge’s law). It’s more basic physical augmentation than the fancy neurological stuff we’ve seen before, but it’s still advanced engineering.

I’m not sure it quite counts as augmentation, because the birds are unmodified, but in Cat Among the Pigeons it is assumed they have a level of intelligence that enables communication and manipulation of them as a flock. Umm…

Then there’s plastic surgery. Not really sci-fi, except for how they effectively perfect doppelgängers in Faces. That would be impressive – if the recruits weren’t played by the same actors in the first place…

Screen capture from Gnaws
Is it an elephant? Is it a truck?

Almost as a counterpart to  Mission… Highly Improbable we have things getting bignified by a special formula in Gnaws. It’s never quite clear how this works, or how quickly, or why it embiggens and entire spider or rat, but only the fruit of the tomato…

And then there’s the return Who’s Who??? style mind-transfer in Three Handed Game, albeit a slightly less powerful version.

Hypnosis

Recollection of dehydration and exhaustion in Angels of Death effectively scare people to death. I’m not sure if I should count this as sci-fi, though, as I didn’t include Death’s Door from the original series.

Artificial Intelligence

Complex. An intelligent building.

Is It Any Good?

Actually, some of the sci-fi seems to suit The New Avengers. Though some of it is terrible. And with so few episodes, it’s hard to spot a pattern.

However, most of the sci-fi episodes are in the first series of the show, so it does seem that where the original show veered towards sci-fi later in its run, The New Avengers toyed with it (and not without success, as episodes like Sleeper show) but then went the other way.

Episodes like Gnaws and Complex that put sci-fi at the heart of the plot are unrewarding. As before, sci-fi has to be a peripheral element.

The Science Fiction of The Avengers

A while back, Eugene and I tried to work out what’s scifi (and what’s not). This came about when Eugene included The Avengers on a list of top scifi shows which surprised me, because while it’s my top show, I wouldn’t have considered it scifi. On the podcast we spent about an hour discussing what scifi is,  without reaching a conclusion, but along the way we discussed all sorts of different types of scifi, and the blurry boundary into fantasy.

Continue reading The Science Fiction of The Avengers

The Barn is Not on Gallifrey

I don’t mean there are no barns on Gallifrey, just that the barn – as seen in Day of the Doctor and Listen – is not on Gallifrey.  And when I say it’s not on Gallifrey, I mean it’s probably not on Gallifrey – in the sense that I’m not aware of any evidence it is, there’s reason to suppose it isn’t (but ‘probably’ in the title would have been one word too many, for, er… a catchy post heading). Of course, maybe you never thought it was on Gallifrey – in which case, run along, and I’m sorry for wasting your time.

Continue reading The Barn is Not on Gallifrey

Silver Nemesis – Review

An anniversary story about the defence of Gallifrey, with a time twin zone timey wimey story split between the present day and the 16th or 17th century, and explicitly asking the question “Doctor Who?” It appears that, like the Nemesis comet, these are things that come around every 25 years.

I’m dubious about specials in general – even when they don’t have multiple Doctors – lots of build up and promise of spectacle, but my favourite Doctor Who is often the ‘small scale’ stuff: The Mind Robber, The Keeper of Traken, Blink, Midnight… So it’s rather welcome that Silver Nemesis is a low-key celebration of the first 25 years of Doctor Who and a relief that it doesn’t deserve its dire reputation. Continue reading Silver Nemesis – Review

Terror of the Autons – Review

Looking back at series 7 of Doctor Who we can now appreciate what a radically new incarnation of the show it was: all new cast (the Brigadier excepted), a new producer, a new setting (or at least, constraint) on Earth. And colour. It’s all the more impressive, then, that it comprises four substantial and constently solid serials. The Pertwee era had launched itself with flying colours – the adventurousness of the old show married to the whimsy and flair of The Avengers. Continue reading Terror of the Autons – Review

The Dominators – Review

Back in the summer of 1968, The Doctor was travelling with headstrong 18th century scotsman Jamie McCrimmon and had just been joined by brilliant young mathematician and astrophysicist Zoe Heriot, of the 21st century. This team, with the regenerated ‘cosmic hobo’ Doctor is just about my favourite, so it’s always a pleasure to watch them in action, but this adventure is not one of their best. If you’re a Jamie fan you’ll enjoy the fact that he gets to make a lot of the running in this one, but the Doctor and Zoe are underused and the production show its limitations in both budget and imagination. Continue reading The Dominators – Review