Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Not another one...

Well, it's been a year. 365 days since the last arbitrary marking point of the calendar. The Earth has completed one orbit of the sun, as it has done billions of times in the past and shall continue to do so billions of times again. And so it goes.

It hasn't been the best year for me, although it's had its moments. I've made a lot of new friends, but also lost some. People drift apart, and others I just alienate. I've tried a few new things, and been to a couple of new places, although I haven't managed to leave the country once this year, which makes me feel claustrophobic. I've reached a couple of personal milestones - I've sold a story, for one, which is something to look forward to next year. But several things I had looked forward to over the course of the year didn't happen. Swings and roundabouts, I guess. However, I did, possibly, save someone's life. That has to make it a worthwhile year, right?

The most difficult thing this year - every year - has been my depression. I don't tend to talk about my personal life a great deal on here, not least because I don't think many people are interested in reading about it. Still, it's New Year's, so here we go. I've been suffering from clinical depression for about ten years now, been medicated most of that time, and have it mostly under control. But this last year, particularly these last few months, have been more difficult for me.There's not been any real reason for this; I haven't been through anything traumatic. It's just come upon me. My self-esteem, never very high, has gradually slid to rock bottom. It's a steep hole to climb out of.

It's been a good Christmas, spent with family. My brother is in China, so we didn't see him, but we did hold a mini-Christmas back in October to make up for that. For a lot of my closest friends, though, it has been a very tough Christmas. A lot of people I care about are going through very tough times. I want to be there for them, but it can be difficult when I also really need someone to be there for me. If there's one thing I'm any good at, it's being there for the people I care for, but at times, it can be hard. Thankfully, I have some wonderful, very understanding friends, who have learned to deal with how difficult I can be over the years.

I hate New Year's. A time to look back over the last year and realise how little I've achieved, and to look forward and worry about what's coming. Still, I can try. Things can always get better. Sure, they can get worse too, but they can get better. What I need to do is learn how to be better myself.

Don't worry, I'll get back to blathering about Doctor Who soon.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

CAPTAIN'S BLOG: TNG 1.19-1.20

Blimey, I'm feeling a bit Doctor Who'd out. Time for some Trek.

1.19) Heart of Glory
or
'Klinging On to the Old Ways'

The Mission: Investigate a drifting ship in the Romulan Neutral Zone.

Planets visited: None.



Alien life forms:

“What is it like for the hunter to lie down with the prey?” Our first proper look at the TNG-era Klingons, and they are as disagreeable as ever. Commander Korris is obsessed with war and battle and baits Worf for serving under humans. He's also a lying scumbag. He considers all hismelf and Worf “brothers, lost among infidels.” Korris and his crewmen are part of a group who are determined to end the alliance with the Federation and go back to war. But he's nice to little kids, so that's alright.

The Klingons, including Worf, scream at the top of their lungs when their injured fellow dies, but don't give a damn for the body. The Imperial Klingon forces continue to use a version of the battlecruiser from the original series. Korris refers to them as the “traitors of Kling!” Obviously this was meant to be the name of the Klingon homeworld, but it's such a stupid name they never used it again.

Starfleet Warrior: We learn a lot about Worf in this episode: that he was orphaned in a Romuland attack, rescued by a human officer and raised on the farming colony of Gault. We learn of his foster brother who joined Starfleet but left. His loyalties are torn between Starfleet, the Klingon Empire and the renegades.

The Picard Maneouvre: “Lieutenant, I am not unmindful of the mixed feelings you must have on this.” Picard, master of understatement.

Number One: Super keen to sperate the saucer section, the nut. He's just dead keen on impressing Picard still, isn't he? Bless.

Geordi Shore: We get our first good look at how Geordi sees the world through his VISOR, as it is patched through to the bridge viewscreen. It's a baffling mix of colours representing different wavelengths that Geordi has learned to interpret. Interestingly, Data and Riker look completely different through Geordi's eyes, with Data surrounded by a sort of aura.

Galactic Politics: The crew first suspect the presence of Ferengi, then Romulans, before identifying the the ship drifting in the Neutral Zone as Talarian, before eventually revealing the passengers as Klingons. It's interesting to see the TNG writers slowly build up a political landscape for the 24th century. The Klingon ship boasts the emblems of both the Empire and the Federation, which is unique to my knowledge (the exact relationship between the two states hadn't been set down yet).

Trivia: Korris is the first Trek role for Vaughn Armstrong, who went on to play more characters in Star Trek than anyone else. He ended up with a semi-regular role on Enterprise, asAdmiral Forrest, over ten years later, and also auditioned to play Riker in TNG.

The verdict: Blimey, how did they manage to make a bunch of Klingon terrorists so boring? Full of predictable guff about how Worf's blood must burn with Klingon fire and other such rubbish, this is dreary stuff. Add to that another load of problems with having kids aboard the ship and this new series looks seriously dull, esepcially compared to the usually fun Klingon episodes of the original Trek. Korris gets a sweet death scene though, crashing through the glass walkways around the warp core when Worf zaps him.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Marvel Heroes and Villains

So, Paul Rudd is going to play Ant-Man, Ian Hart has been set up as Graviton in Agents of SHIELD and the very young Dylan Minnette is set to appear as Blizzard in an upcoming ep. Clearly, the people at Disney/Marvel aren't afraid to cast some interesting names in their productions. They've also announced some upcoming projects on TV and film, as have Sony and Fox, owners of other characters from the Marvel comics universe. So, who should play the leads in these next blockbusters? Which other characters are crying out to be adapted for the screen? Who can make a convincing villain? Here are some thoughts. (Thanks to Sydney Richardson and Andrea Netherton for some suggestions.)

Luke Cage – Michael Jai White


A tough call, this one. Luke Cage will be one of the four characters getting his own series on Netflix, and interwebbers have been suggesting all manner of African Americans to play the part. One name that keeps coming up is Michael Jai White, who made history in 1997 for playing Al Simmons in Spawn, becoming the first black American to play a superhero lead. Spawn was an absolutely terrible film, but not due to anything on White's part, who had a real presence. A decent actor and a martial artist, he could really rock as Cage. The only problem is his age. He's 46 now – is that too old to be playing Cage? I think he could pull it off.


Daredevil – Michael C. Hall


Another character getting a Netflix series, another actor suggestion who's probably a little old for the role. But Hall is a fantastic, award-winning actor, Dexter is finishing up so he'll be looking for a new project, and Matt Murdock needs to be played by someone with the chops to convince as a confident blind man. Hall would be great as the honest lawyer with a secret – but could he handle the action part of the role? He's a pretty fit guy, so I think he'd do well.


Black Panther – Djimon Hounsou


I'm not sure I'd want Marvel to make a Black Panther movie. I have a horrible feeling that Hollywood would insist on turning the story of an African king into that of an outcast in downtown LA. However, assuming they wanted to do it, and do it properly, I would suggest Djimon Hounsou, an under-recognised actor perhaps best known for roles in Gladiator and Blood Diamond. For one thing, unlike most suggestions he's actually African, although being Beninois he is from the wrong area (the nation of Wakanda usually being related as being in eastern Africa). Looking into it, I discover that he actually has played King T'Challa in a Black Panther miniseries in 2010. A shoe-in, then, surely?


Captain Marvel – Katie Sackhoff


There have been many Captains Marvel, but the version I want to see is the latest, Carol Danvers, former Ms. Marvel. Having been a major member of the Avengers, she would make a perfect addition to what is currently a male-heavy team. We've got Natasha Romanoff, and we've got the Scarlet Witch coming up in Avengers: Age of Ultron. But Romanoff has no superpowers and the Witch's powers are non-physical, stereotypically feminine abilities. The team needs a strong, heroic, no-nonsense female character who can go toe-to-toe with Iron Man, physically as well as sardonically. Katie 'Starbuck' Sackhoff has proven she has what it takes – and she looks the part, too.


Blade – Idris Elba


I'm a fan of of Wesley Snipes's uber-macho version of Blade, but perhaps it's time for someone with a little more class. Idris Elba is everywhere right now, but that's only because he's such a talented actor with a powerful screen presence. Physically imposing, he'd be perfect as the deadly dhampir warrior. Envision him in a big, black coat, wielding a sword. Doesn't that make your knees knock?


She-Hulk – Michelle Rodriguez


She-Hulk isn't a high-brow concept. She's a hot green woman who runs about in a purple one-piece swimsuit. Sure, she's a lawyer, specialising in superhuman law, no less, but there's none of that terrible angst that Bruce Banner goes through, trying to suppress his Hulking self. She-Hulk is about looking hot, and if they ever made a movie with her, that's going to be the primary requirement. Michelle Rodriguez is a solid actor, with plenty of action experience. Now imagine her green. Yeah, that's hot.


Doctor Strange – Gary Oldman


Will there be a Doctor Strange movie? Marvel's plan for the Cinematic Universe suggests he'll turn up in Phase Three, the phases running along an earthly, cosmic, magical development. Magic in the MCU has been so far explained away as hyper-advanced magic, but Strange is a wizard, no two ways about it. The role needs someone with class, and Gary Oldman has that in spades. He's old enough to give the role the necessary gravitas, young enough to add some sex appeal, is a hugely talented character actor and looks good in a beard. I wouldn't bet on Dormammu if he was faced with Gary Oldman in a purple cloak.


Captain Britain – Jason Statham


I doubt that there will ever be a Captain Britain film. I mean, Marvel were unsure that a Captain America movie would sell worldwide; can you imagine them backing a British superhero? No, neither can I, but I wish they would. Captain Britain's adventures combine the mystical and cosmic sides of the Marvel universe, featuring a hero who protects the British Isles in his various aspects across the Multiverse, fighting aliens and elves alike. He could fit nicely into a universe that features cinematic versions of Thor and Doctor Strange. As for who to cast, I suggest rehtinking the basics of the character. Brian Braddock was originally an aristocratic, studious youth before becoming the Captain, but I don;t think this will wash. There are far too many posh English characters in American films. No, I think we need someone down-to-earth and rough, someone who thinks with their fists. Get Jason Statham – if anyone can pull off a Union Jack costume, it's him.


Apocalypse – Vin Diesel


Fox has announced the title for the follow-up to X-Men: Days of Future Past as X-Men: Apocalypse. This is good news. Whether it'll be an 'Age of Apocalypse' storyline – perhaps tying into the time travel shenanigans of Future Past – or a different storyline altogether, Apocalypse is long overdue a big screen appearance. It's obvious who needs to be cast. I'm not Vin Diesel's biggest fan, but look: he looks like Apocalypse, he sounds like Apocalypse. You'd just need to paint him silver and blue.


The Fantastic Four


Fox are also planning to resurrect the ailing Fantastic Four franchise. Now, I liked both the earlier FF films. They were unchallenging, fun, family superhero movies. I worry that Fox will try to do something realistic with them this time round, which really doesn't work for the FF. There's also talk of crossing them over with the X-Men, which sounds a bit daffy; the X-Men have so many characters and spin-offs already that they're set to operate as a self-contained universe already.


Still, it looks like it's going to go ahead and we're going to get at least one FF movie. Who to cast? Michael Chikliss was perfect as the Thing, but having him play the human-looking Ben Grimm as well was a double-edged sword. While the continuity of actor made it easier to accept continuity of character, Ben Grimm is supposed to be a particularly ruggedly attractive man, which, with all respect to him, Chikliss is not. Having a more handsome actor in the role would make his transformation into a monster all the powerful. Chris Evans was perfect as Johnny Storm, but he's Captain America now, so I can't see any possibility of him returning to the role. Ideally, we'd want someone younger, in his late teens, which might mean an unknown actor.



Reed Richards? Well, Ioan Grufudd was pretty good in the role, and is a better actor than he got a chance to show. Still, we need someone with a little more bearing, who can really dominate the screen and convince as a leader, not just a scientist. It's another ubiquitous choice, but perhaps Benedict Cumberbatch? I don't know how he is at American accents, though. Jessica Alba was miscast as Sue Storm. In the comics, she's very much the blue-eyed, blonde-haired, all-American girl. Casting a Hispanic actress in the role would have been an interesting variation – if they hadn't proceeded to dye her hair, lighten her skin and make her wear contacts. Alice Eve could work – another English actor, but good with accents, and she gives strong performances that could stand up to a major actor as Reed.


Doctor Doom was horribly miscast in the earlier movies. Julian McMahon was completely wrong, a whiney American in the role that demands a noble European with gravitas. Which would suggest the perfect actor would be someone completely unknown in the States.


The Sinister Six


Meanwhile, Sony have announced plans to expand their Spider-Man franchise using spin-off movies. The problem being, of course, that Spider-Man is a predominantly solo character, who crosses into other titles and teams but has little in the way of secondary hero characters. The solution? Base the movies around villains. There have been plans to make a Venom movie for some time, kiboshed previously by the disappointing use of the character in Spider-Man 3. As well as Venom, however, Sony are planning a Sinister Six movie. While the line-up of the Sinister Six has varied over the years, the original team consisted of Dr Octopus, Electro, Mysterios, Kraven the Hunter, the Vulture and the Sandman. The Ultimate Universe version, on the other hand, included the Green Goblin in place of Mysterio, and at one point Spider-Man himself instead of the Vulture (now that could be interesting).


The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is set to involve Jamie Foxx as Electro and Paul Giamatti as the Rhino, as well as introducing Dane deHaan as Harry Osborn/the Green Goblin. I think we can assume that at least Electro and Osborn will survive to join the Six. The trailers also have little glimpses of equipment hinting at the involvement of Dr Octopus and the Vulture, so I would imagine they too will be involved in the future.


So, who to cast? For the Vulture, David Bradley: a talented septuagenarian actor with genre experience. For Dr Octopus: it's hard to top Alfred Molina, but howsabout Sam Neill? He can do the steadfast scientist and utterly unhinged. Again, though, he's probably too old for the role now. As for the Sandman, just get Thomas Haden Church back from Spider-Man 3. He was perfect.


Venom


Seriously, just get this guy.




Remember that issue of The Atlantic from Ghostbusters? Imagine if it were real. What would the article on the Ghostbusters tell us? Well, something like this, I shouldn't wonder:



WHO REVIEW: 2013 Christmas Special: The Time of the Doctor





The ninth Christmas special, the eight hundredth broadcast episode, the end of the eleventh Doctor and the finale of a four-year-long twisty-turny war through time. New characters, old characters, a multitude of monsters, the fallout from the anniversary special, the resurgence of the Time War and a regeneration. Oh, and Christmas dinner. Steven Moffat chose to pack a hell of a lot into one hour's worth of festive television, and while it was a brave attempt, the ultimate result was, perhaps inevitably, disappointing.


The beginning of The Time of the Doctor is very wonky indeed. The most ineffectual Daleks ever, intercut with Clara's Christmas dinner preparations, before the episode started proper. Then it moves onto some very misjudged comedy involving a naked Doctor and holographic clothes, a joke which outstayed its welcome and wasn't actually very funny in the first place. Fluffing the beginning so badly was a very poor move, with the episode having to play catch-up for its remaining runtime. The first half of the episode is oddly paced – not necessarily a bad thing, but with only an hour's runtime to cover so much, the story sagged in the middle. Somehow, a ground war between Daleks, Silents, Cybermen and Sontarans managed to come across as a little boring, which is no mean feat.


Which is a pity, because there is so much to enjoy here. All of the best moments of the episode are character beats, with more attention being paid to them than to the pyrotechnics and plot developments. This, again, is not bad thing, particularly when the majority of the characters are so well-explored and well-acted. But this is the Christmas episode, and it requires a certain amount of bangs and flashes to keep dozy post-dinner viewers engaged. There's a tricky balance to be met, and this production missed it.


While it's a nice touch to get back to ordinary, contemporary life for a moment after all the cosmic angst we've seen recently, the sequences with Clara's family could have been cut completely. What a miserable bunch. With the exception of her gran, played by Benidorm's wonderful Sheila Reid, I'd happily never see that lot again.


On the other hand, we have Trenzalore and the Papal Mainframe, a curious mix of ordinary people and a cosmic convent. Orla Brady deserves particular praise in this episode. Talented, gorgeous, and pretty much wasted on a character who turns into little more than a River Song stand-in, Brady makes us care for a character who we have no reason to care for. There's no indication that the Doctor and Tasha Lem have any connection – we're just told that they do. She's dropped into the story with a tag saying “Old mysterious friend of the Doctor.” Considering how many elements of the past were drawn on, why not just give us a character we actually know the Doctor has a past with, someone we've seen before? As it is, it's entirely down to Brady that Tasha is a successful character at all. And really, a sexy space nun with a bed in the shape of an altar? Moffat, go and have a wank and come back to the script with a clear head.


I love Christmas Town though, and the whole set-up. It's the scenes set in Christmas that really work. From the beginning, when we meet the cheerful couple (good to see Only Fools' Tessa Peake-Jones again at Christmas), the quaint human colony where lying is impossible is a wonderful setting. God knows how a village in a perpetual winter, with no crops or livestock apparent, on a planet surrounded by an impenetrable force field, actually survives, but at least it provides a pleasant backdrop. It's the sort of place one can imagine the Doctor actually settling down; somewhere nice and simple, that reaffirms his faith in humanity, but still has a constant threat for him to fight.




The best moments are the quiet ones between Clara and the Doctor, with both Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman shining throughout the episode. Smith, in particular, is exceptionally good. It's a wonderful idea to have the youngest of the Doctor's grow old defending one group of people, actually settling into a home. Smith has always focused on the old man nature of the Doctor, to contrast his youthful appearance, and here, bolstered by some effective ageing make-up, he steals the show as an aged Doctor. It's a completely believable performance. The scenes with the people of Christmas, displaying Smith's incredible way with children, are beautiful, but it's the quiet moments with Clara that are most effective. Clara gets the Rose Tyler treatment, tricked into going home in the TARDIS, and gets back to the Doctor with much less snivveling and without ripping the Vortex apart.


The most moving scene of the episode is not the regeneration, but Handles' death scene. Only the Doctor could rip the head off a Cyberman and become friends with it. Handles has been praised as the new K-9, but he's rather better, with Kayvan Novak managing to sound endearing and monotone at the same time. The poor, battered piece of kit, the one constant friend the Doctor has had throughout his long, long life on Trenzalore, manages to be the most emotionally engaging element of the episode.


So, the big plot: four years worth of mystery and confusion regarding the Silence, Madame Kovarian and the cracks in time are wrapped up in a couple of sentences, clearing the decks in the most undramatic and unsatisfying way imaginable. The quest for the Time Lords is brought to a head with astonishing haste, the Doctor spending centuries protecting them on the other side of their time rift while they continually ask his name as confirmation of his identity. It's powerfully effective stuff, even if it doesn't hold up to much scrutiny. Again, it's plausible to imagine the Doctor sticking around for this. After all this time, what he really wants is a home. Unfortunately, after the triumphant bombast of The Day of the Doctor, this episode was always going to struggle to make an impact, and following it up directly like this doesn't help its case.


And, after all of that, with the Doctor on his last legs, Clara whispers to the Time Lords, who promptly change their centuries' long game plan and bugger off, giving the Doctor a full new regeneration cycle as a Christmas present. Quite why the eleventh Doctor has been bumped up to the thirteenth version is anyone's guess. While it makes perfect sense, it is entirely of Moffat's making. He introduced the missing Doctor played by John Hurt, making Smith the twelfth version, and he could easily have ignored the middle-regeneration taken by David Tennant. After all, it has not, until now, been established that it “counted” as a full regen. Instead, Moffat hinges the plot on it. (I did love the Doctor confessing to “vanity issues at the time.”) I can only imagine that, with the thirteen-lives limit approaching, Moffat decided that it was best if he sorted it out while he was still in charge, apparently not trusting his successor to do so, and engineered the situation. As it is, it does add an extra level of jeopardy to proceedings, even though we know, as viewers, that the Doctor will continue on.


Finally, the Doctor gets a zap of twinkly orange stuff, and begins to regenerate. The regenerations have been becoming more violent each time, and now the Doctor is able to wipe out a Dalek squadron and cause a small avalanche with his artron blasts. It's a satisfying moment, but the overall solution to the problem is disappointingly obvious. He's out of lives, so the Time Lords give him some more. Anyone could have come up with that solution.


Smith's final moments work well, though. The chemistry between him and Coleman has never been better than in this final scene. While Clara is supremely au fait with the concept of regeneration, and has met several of the Doctors now (or all of them, if she recalls her trip through his timeline), it remains an abstract idea. It'll be interesting to see how she copes with the man she adores being permanently replaced with an older gent, with potentially a very different outlook. Initially, I thought the ageing of the Doctor would explain why his next self is so much older; an ancient Smith becoming a relatively young Capaldi. In the event, Smith's Doctor gets a “reset” before he finally changes, albeit affirming that the process cannot be halted. The slow goodbye while the new cycle beds in is well written and played, moving and sentimental but not saccharine. Smith's Doctor accepts his fate with grace, unlike the histrionics of his predecessor (but then, he's had centuries in this form, rather than a few frantic years). The cameo by Karen Gillan is no surprise. It's traditional to have a flashback of past companions in some way before a regeneration, and with Amy being the eleventh Doctor's only major follower other than Clara, it is entirely fitting.


And then, suddenly, he's changed. With all the flare of a particularly big sneeze, the Doctor flinches and changes. It's hard to say what Capaldi will be like based on his first brief moments. The first lines of a Doctor are rarely anything to get excited about. For now, based on the very Smith-esque lines (that had already been released, so they weren't even a surprise), the Doctor doesn't seem much changed, but it really is no indication as to how Capaldi will play the part. We'll have to wait till the autumn to find out.




Saturday, 21 December 2013

Auld Lang Syne

In December 2006, Craig Hinton, author and Who fan extraordinaire, passed away. I knew him but a little, purely through email exchange. He was a nice guy, always happy to share his thoughts on some arcane Whoniverse subject.

In December 2008, Shelf Life was published. A 'fanthology,' it was collected and edited by Jay Eales, Adrian Middleton and David McIntee, as a celebration of Craig's life and his unique view of Doctor Who. Dozens of writers and would-be-writers worked to create stories that we felt were somehow 'Craigish.' If not the sort of thing he might have written, at least what he might have enjoyed reading. Those of us who had not been published before were assigned mentors to help us hone our stories into something readable. I was lucky enough to get the very talented Dale Smith, who wrote 'The League of Extraterrestrial Gentlemen' for the book, predating the Paternoster Gang by several years.

As I sit here, it is December 2013. The book was published five years ago. I think it's time I set this story free onto the web. For those who aren't so worryingly immersed in Who continuity, there was a period the noughties in which the BBC eighth Doctor books were set entirely on Earth. The eighth Doctor spent a century stranded on Earth, with no memory of his former life as a time traveller. This story takes place during that period of exile.

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.


The cheers and whoops of revellers filled the air, drowning out the sounds of the few carriages that clattered along the night time streets. Hundreds of people were swarming the streets, more and more flooding into the square in readiness for the onset of the New Year. Peddlers, after an easy buck, sold flyers and flags, imprinted with ‘Happy New Century’ or ‘Welcome to 1900!’ to those who could spare more change than sense. The city of San Francisco was waiting, with undisguised excitement and agitation, for the onset of the January the 1st.
The Doctor stood in the square, unsure what to do. He stared at the girl, her red hair shaking as she laughed, and was unable to move. He had no idea how to proceed – this was not a situation that he was prepared for. His hearts beat faster, his mouth was dry. He swallowed, closed his eyes and breathed deeply.
Just get on with it, he thought to himself.
The Doctor pulled his coat around himself, and walked towards her.
Hello,’ he said, but she didn’t hear him. Swallowing, he tried again, licking his lips to try to moisten his suddenly dry mouth. ‘Hello again,’ he said louder, and she turned round.
Hey there,’ she said, smiling the captivating smile she’d shown him earlier. In the glow of the street lamps he could now see that her eyes were a brilliant green. He let his gaze drop to his feet, unable to look her in the eye.
I’m Anne,’ she said, trying to follow his eyes downwards.
Oh, I’m the – I’m John,’ he stumbled, feeling suddenly very self-conscious and deeply uncomfortable. He needed to get this over with, or he’d never go through with it. He looked at her properly again. ‘Are you enjoying your evening?’
Well, I was, but I’m having a better one now. So, you sound like you’re from England?’
Yes, I suppose I do.’ He hadn’t intended this as a joke, but Anne laughed anyway. It struck him how odd a comment it was, and chuckled a little in reply. ‘I mean, yes, I’m from England.’ He knew, somehow, that this wasn’t quite true, but he’d lived there for as long as he could recall. It seemed true enough for now. ‘People usually just call me the Doctor,’ he said, and realised how odd that must sound, too. He really should have made more of an effort to get into this sort of situation before.
Shall we pop to a bar? I could buy you a drink to see in the New Year.’
Sure, “Doctor”,’ she said, giggling again.
The two of them wandered into one of the many side streets. As they walked away from the square, the glow of the streetlights receded.
What brings you to San Francisco?’ she asked, hooking her arm around his.
The Doctor swallowed nervously, as he thought for a reply.
Just travelling. I tend to move around a lot. I’m not so much from England, as from – everywhere, really. I try not to stay in one place for too long. I feel happier if I’m on the go. I’ve been here three weeks now, and I’m already feeling antsy.’
Antsy?’ she said, with both a laugh and a question in her voice. ‘Is that a British thing?’
I suppose it must be. I must have picked it up somewhere. You know, ants in your pants?’
She gave him a bemused look.
Oh. Perhaps I made it up.’
Are all Englishmen as strange as you?’
No, I don’t think so. I’m sure I’m quite different to the others.’
She stopped walking, pulling him to a halt.
I don’t think we need to go to a bar just yet,’ she said, and kissed him again.
The Doctor pulled away. ‘My, you really are very… forward…’
Maybe I don’t like staying still either. So, why do people call you Doctor? You’re not a surgeon or something, are you?’
Perhaps,’ muttered the Doctor, as he drew the knife and held it up against her throat.


The Doctor scarcely noticed the cold of the wind on his cheeks as he walked through the night. Trudging down Market Street away from the Baldwin Hotel, he only barely registered his direction and the sights around him as he let his mind wander. He often felt like this – hemmed in, uncomfortable in one place for too long. He’d travelled to San Francisco
roughly three weeks earlier, and already felt the need to move on. So he walked, not caring where he might end up. He could return to the hotel for his belongings later. Not that he carried much with him – a handful of personal effects, and his box. The box that was the one permanent reminder that he possessed a past that he could not reclaim. The box that must surely hold the key to who he was.
He heard the single strike of the bell of the city clock, and absently glanced at his watch. Half past ten. He felt a slight reassurance at knowing the precise time. Nudged gently out of his introspection, he noticed the number of people around. Dozens, of varying ages, though mostly young adults, were milling in the wide street. A couple walked past him, their hands clasped, giggling, while a trio of young men laugh uproariously, and, he guessed, drunkenly. A police officer stood on the corner of Third Street, his face set and as grim as his dark uniform.
Good evening, officer. Not enjoying the festivities?’ he said, eager for some kind of discourse to occupy him.
Afraid not, sir,’ replied the officer, gruffly. ‘Chief Sullivan has ordered a man on every block, to keep an eye out for public indecency. We don’t want people getting out of hand again.’
Indeed, not,’ said the Doctor, glumly realising that ‘public indecency’ meant public affection. No kissing on the street, orders from the top. As he continued down the street, he couldn’t help thinking that it felt wrong; romance was right for this night of the year.
Somehow, in spite of his limited experience and interest in such pursuits, he felt sure that a kiss at midnight was exactly the kind of tradition that was worth upholding.
He drifted back into his thoughts. Was there a reason that this city felt so familiar? It was his first visit; yet, as soon as he arrived he had felt that he’d been here before. Had he come to the city before the occurrence of whatever event lost him his memory? His spirits sank further. Over ten years now, and still no idea who he was. Ten years since awakening in that carriage, only a slip of paper and a small box as clues to his identity. He knew that he was the Doctor, and that he knew somebody called Fitz, but that was all. Who was he? Hadn’t he learnt anything about himself? Couldn’t he deduce something? His voice was cultured, educated, but with a faint northern lilt – possible Liverpudlian. He thought of his clothes – while everyone around was thoroughly wrapped up to endure the cold, he wore a brown velvet frock coat with a waistcoat, a dress shirt and thin trousers. The cold didn’t really bother him, but were the clothes he wore a clue to his past? His predilection for this formal wear could perhaps indicate an aristocratic background. He dismissed the thought – although it felt somehow right, that he had been born into a life of privilege, his researches over the years had called up no missing persons cases that matched his description.
Did he even look any older? He knew that people said you couldn’t see yourself age, but he’d noticed others ageing. During his travels, he’d experimented with many activities. Anything that could perhaps put his existence in a different light, or allow him to access his own secrets. He had tried acids and opiates, to little effect. He found that he could shake off drunkenness with a little concentration. He’d tried sex, but, although enjoyable, he had never really felt truly comfortable with it. Trances and hypnotism revealed nothing. Medical examination raised only further questions. The colour of his blood was slightly off. Most peculiar of all, two hearts beat in his chest, one on either side. He remembered being surprised to learn that this wasn’t generally the case. It had confirmed his suspicion that he didn’t belong here, that he originated somewhere different. So why, then, did San Francisco seem so familiar? It felt, in a way, almost like a memory, but vague, on the cusp of his conscious mind. Much like he had heard memories of early childhood described to him. He glanced up, noticing that he was passing a small hospital, its walls whitewashed. Even from the outside he could sense the pain and illness inside. A sudden panic ran through him, and he moved on quickly. Why was that? A phobia, some deeply buried memory?
Another group of revellers passed him. Three men, two women, all in their early twenties. One of the women, a strikingly beautiful redhead, wearing a green dress beneath her coat, smiled at him.
Happy New Year!’ she said, happily.
Her enthusiasm was infectious, and the Doctor found himself smiling. ‘Isn’t it a little early?’ he asked.
She shrugged, walking up to him. She put her arms around his waist, and, before he could object, kissed him full on the lips. Surprised, he resisted for a second, but then kissed her back. He tasted wine on her. Pulling apart, they smiled at each other again, and, unable to resist, he kissed her again.
Stop that!’ A deep cry came from behind them. Police. Of course, the ‘public indecency’ ban.
They pulled apart again. ‘Sorry, officer, it won’t happen again,’ he said, noticing that it was the same officer that he’d spoken to earlier. Clearly he’d been keeping his eye on him.
I’ll keep a look out for you,’ said the girl, walking back to her friends, who were now in fits of giggles.


The Doctor continued wandering, his spirits now somewhat lifted. Although he rarely felt the need for romance, he couldn’t help but feel that nights like this were different. As his
mind drifted onto fruitier subjects, he noticed, out of the corner of his eye, something deep blue.
He turned. There, on the corner of the street, was his box. Standing proudly, seven feet of oblong, blue-painted wood. How did it get here? He approached it, realising that it wasn’t his at all. It had more detail; panelling and lettering on its surface. The words ‘Police Public Call Box’ were inscribed upon it. Somehow, though, he could sense the connection. He placed his hand upon it – yes, the ever-so-faint, rhythmic hum, always present on his own block, was there. It had to be of the same origin. His hearts leapt – after all this time, could this finally be it? A link to his past?
There was somebody behind him. He could hear their footsteps, hard soles clicking on the cobbles. He turned. A tall man approached. He was dressed in funereal black, wearing a long-coated suit, cloak and top hat, and was carrying a silver-tipped cane.
Good evening,’ said the stranger. His voice was cultured, deep yet soft, but with a grittiness to it. ‘You seem to have an interest in my device.’
Who are you?’ asked the Doctor. It seemed the best thing to ask. Somehow, his usual confidence had faded upon this man’s approach. His hearts felt heavier. He fond himself staring at the man’s cravat, entranced by the silver whorls on the black silk.
I have had many names, my dear sir, but for now, perhaps you should refer to me as Pendragon – an alias from my recent past, that I confess I’ve become rather fond of. You, of course, are the Doctor.’
How do you know me?’ said the Doctor, trying to regain his composure.
We share an origin, Doctor.’ Pendragon’s black eyes looked hard into the Doctor’s own.
Tell me more,’ the Doctor demanded, silently adding please, desperate to know.
Pendragon smiled. It was a thin smile, without kindness. ‘Wouldn’t you rather remember for yourself?’
Is that possible?’ said the Doctor, his voice a whisper. If there was any chance that this was true, that after ten years he’d finally know himself…
As long as the correct procedures are followed.’
What procedures?’
The Universe is run on fairly simple lines, Doctor. Time and space are governed by certain beings. Entities would be perhaps a more appropriate term. They are more functions of the structure of reality than life forms in their own right. These eternal beings can be invoked by utilising the correct rituals.’
The Doctor, though fascinated, couldn’t really believe this. ‘I’m a rationalist. I can’t accept the use of rituals or the existence of spirits.’ Was this man an occultist? It would certainly explain the name. Clearly styles himself as a modern Merlin, though the
Doctor.
I can assure you that it is all true. Explain, if you will, the fire-based being you encountered ten years ago?’
How do you know about that?’
I know a great deal about you, Doctor. I have been searching for you. And I promise you, these beings exist. They are all part of the Universe’s myriad ways of expressing itself. There are many wonders… and terrors… to be seen.’
The Doctor thought of some of the things he had heard recently. Keeping his ear to the ground for any information that might explain his background, he’d listened out for stories and rumours of unusual events. He’d heard tales of a Chinese vampire stalking young girls in London; that a young girl had been found, perfectly preserved and alive in an Egyptian sarcophagus; and that, just a few weeks previously, the Thames had been beset by a flurry of living crystals. Not to mention the many theories on the identity of the Ripper. He had always felt that there was more to the world than he was seeing.
Very well,’ said the Doctor. ‘How do I get my memory back?’
Walk with me,’ said Pendragon, turning. The Doctor followed.
They walked back up the street, retracing the Doctor’s steps. There were more people out than before, and Pendragon had to raise his voice to be heard over their conversations and cheers.
We need to summon a being known as Mnemosyne. No doubt the name is familiar to you.’
A Greek Titan,’ said the Doctor, with barely a thought. ‘She personified memory and identity.’ It was clear where this was going, but it still seemed somehow far-fetched.
Indeed. Many of the classical myths have their basis in reality; horned species travelled to Earth in the past and inspired tales of the Devil; the gods of Egypt were vast and advanced star-travellers. Mnemosyne is of the order of beings of which I spoke. It is she who has the power to restore you.’
If you say so, thought the Doctor. ‘How do we summon her?’
We shall require a sacrifice.’
The Doctor stopped. ‘A sacrifice? What kind of sacrifice?’
Keep walking, Doctor. Regrettable though it is,’ said Pendragon, in a way that suggested he didn’t regret it in the slightest, ‘a human sacrifice must be made. Mnemosyne does not dwell in this plane of existence. She inhabits the Vortex, and the only available way to access the Vortex is through a biodata ritual. Her life energy and essence will open the way and draw the Eternal to us.’
They had reached the environs of the city hall, where a thriving crowd had amassed. Pendragon pointed to a woman standing a few yards away. It was the redhead
who the Doctor had met earlier. She was laughing with her friends, and having a generally good time by the looks of things.
Not her,’ said the Doctor, ‘someone else.’ He could hardly believe he was even considering this course of action, but somehow Pendragon made it sound justifiable. If it was the only way he could regain his memories…
She will be easy to draw away from the crowd, seeing as you are already ‘acquainted.’’ He reached into his pocket, drawing out an ornate knife, its surface inscribed with complex designs of concentric circles. ‘Use this. The inscriptions will begin the ritual upon the touch of her blood.’
The Doctor took the knife gingerly, a wave of nausea passing over him. He looked at Pendragon, needing to know why this must be done. He couldn’t do it, could he? Pendragon just looked back at him, staring deep into his eyes. The Doctor felt his resolve waver, his hearts jump. Something in that gaze penetrated deep into the darkest pits of his soul. Pendragon turned, and walked away, fading into the shadows at the side of the street. The Doctor slipped the knife into his belt, and, pulling his coat around him, approached the girl.
With his free arm, he pushed her against the wall of the alley, into the shadows. The blade pushed against her throat, scratching her skin. A thin trickle of blood dribbled down her neck. The hilt was cold in his hand, which ached where he was gripping it so hard.
The happiness and seductiveness in her eyes transformed immediately into absolute fear. Even through the darkness he could see them, wide open and flitting from side to side. She was holding her breath, and the Doctor could feel her quickening pulse, travelling through the blade into his hand.
His hearts pumped faster too, blood pounding in his ears. He still felt revulsion at what he was about to do, and yet, something within him, something in the pit of his stomach, in the rush of his blood, was desperate to do it. Some part of him was going to enjoy this. He could feel this part of himself willing him to go on, and the Doctor found himself wondering how the blood would look as it poured from her neck.
A low hum sounded from behind him. For an instant he was alarmed, but he recognised it – it was Pendragon’s voice. He didn’t know where it was coming from, but there was a deep whispering, some language he didn’t understand. A chant, and incantation, perhaps. Pendragon was playing his part in the ritual, and the Doctor knew it was the moment to do it.
He pushed the knife just a little harder into her, and she looked at him, right into his eyes. A look of complete loss and desperation. She’d never understand why she had died, what he had being trying to achieve. Why he had cut her life short.
He pulled the knife away from her, and staggered backwards.
Run,’ he said, his voice hoarse.
She looked at him for a moment, then turned and sprinted back towards the square.
The Doctor watched her run into the night, tears beginning to well in his eyes. How could he even think of killing someone, just for his own selfish gain? Especially someone like her, so full of the life he was about to take. What was going through his mind?
The shadows shifted, and a figure stepped out in front of him. The face of Pendragon looked down at him, twisted in barely suppressed rage.
You coward!’ he snarled. ‘You pathetic moral cripple! You’ve just allowed your best chance of freedom escape!’ He swung out with his cane, cracking the Doctor across the jaw, sending him sprawling him into the alley wall with its force. The Doctor clutched his jaw, and then snatched his hand away from the pain. There was blood on his fingers, and he could feel it trickling down his neck. He looked up at Pendragon, all semblance of his earlier civility gone.
I couldn’t do it, Pendragon. I just couldn’t,’ responded the Doctor. ‘I suppose I’m just not like you.’
You’re more like me than you realise, Doctor.’
Just how are you like me?’ demanded the Doctor, staggering to his feet.
Do you want to know Doctor? Truly?’
Tell me,’ insisted the Doctor.
I am you.’
For a moment, the Doctor assumed he had misheard.
You’re what?’
I am you,’ growled Pendragon. ‘That is the truth.’
Rubbish!’ retorted the Doctor, spitting blood onto the pavement. ‘Unmitigated rubbish! How can you possibly be me?’ However, even as he said it, he felt the horrible realisation that it was somehow true.
I am your dark heart, Doctor. The side of your soul that you keep hidden away. I am your every depraved thought, given freedom and form. One day, you will succumb to the hatred; the anger and the fear that you fool yourself you control. You will give into the madness, and you will become me.’
That can’t be true,’ the Doctor whispered, too terrified to accept it. Could it be true? Could this individual, who looked nothing like him, be a part of him? It sounded absurd, but within him he knew it was possible. Something in the depths of his shuttered mind confirmed it.
Why are you here?’ he asked.
I am merely ensuring that your destiny follows its course,’ said Pendragon, composing himself.
I don’t believe in destiny,’ scoffed the Doctor, desperate for a straw to clutch at. He squared up to Pendragon, looking him in his black eyes. ‘The future is not set. I can be whomever, or whatever, I decide. My destiny is my own choice.’
Pendragon laughed a cruel, hollow sound. ‘I beg to differ.’
The Doctor smiled back at him, a new notion coming to him.
You may be me. Somehow, I don’t know how, maybe I can become you. But that is simply one possible future, isn’t it? You’re one way my life can go, but not the only way. Why else would you be here? Ha!’ The Doctor laughed.
A look of pure hatred crossed Pendragon’s face. ‘How dare you laugh at me?’ he demanded.
You’re frightened, aren’t you?’ retorted the Doctor. ‘You’re terrified that you’ll never exist. You’ve come back to push me into the darkness, to ensure that I become you, because I don’t have to. Well, I’m telling you, I won’t! I’d rather live forever in ignorance, as a lost soul, than remember my past and condemn myself to a future as one like you. One who values life so little.’ He wiped the blood off his mouth.
Pendragon smiled. ‘You think that’s the only blood on your hands, Doctor? You really have no idea what you are capable of. The things you have done, the things you will do. The things that will drive you to become me.’
Whatever I may have done in the past, I can choose what I will do in the future. This has to be true. You said you were searching for me – why, if you are me? Surely you could just remember where I was! No, I think things are already changing. Your past is unravelling, Pendragon, and you’re losing track of it! You needed a time when I was weak, easy to influence, so that you could push me back onto the path to becoming you. But you had to search for me, trawl your own changing history! You really must be desperate. And so, so scared.’
Pendragon’s face showed only hatred. He stepped closer to the Doctor, leaning forward so that they were almost nose-to-nose.
At least your deductive skills have not suffered during your time on Earth. Yes, I am but one possible future for you, Doctor, but your destiny remains in flux. I will do anything necessary to ensure my existence. I am your truest form, stripped of the moral, human uncertainties. You should not fight me; you should embrace your potential.’
Pendragon was slowly fading, the bricks of the wall behind him becoming visible through his shadowy form.
There will be further moments of darkness ahead, do not doubt that. My grasp
on existence may be weak, but I still have enough power to take full advantage of each one of them. Until we next…’
With that, he faded to nothing. A moment of panic hit the Doctor, as he realised what he had let go.
Wait! Come back! Please!’
The Doctor looked around desperately for any sign of him. He ran out into the next street, the cheers of the crowd now loud enough to hear.
Please! Tell me who I am!’
He looked up at the stars, as the cheers grew ever louder, and the clock in the square began to chime.
WHO AM I?’ he screamed, as it finally struck twelve.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

WHO REVIEW: The Death Pit by A.L. Kennedy

Following the success of the Puffin kids' e-shorts range for the anniversary, the BBC have kicked off their own series of e-book novelettes featuring some impressive authors. There are several aspects here that are worth celebrating. For one, it's good to see the Beeb continuing Puffin's mission of signing up authors new to Doctor Who, rather than relying on the same reliable stalwarts they've used for years. It's something that has worked very well for the BBC's 'big event' novels in recent years, and it's encouraging to see them sticking with it. A big thumbs up for both Puffin and the Beeb for involving a number of female authors, underrepresented in Doctor Who and sci-fi in general over the years. Finally, this seems to be turning around. It's also good to see that the upsurge in demand for fiction featuring 'classic' Doctors during the anniversary year has convinced the BBC to commit to a continuing range featuring incarnations old and new.

The Time Trips range kicks off with The Death Pit by dark fantasy author A.L. Kennedy. It's... peculiar. It's certainly not what I'd have expected from Kennedy, a writer who has a reputation as being rather serious, with a well-known antipathy towards "Hollywood endings." While The Death Pit has its share of cynical characters with grim personality flaws, it's a comedy piece through and through. Set on a golf course in her native Scotland, where junior secretary Bryony leads an understimulated, in desperate need of something fulfilling in her life. Bryony's witty inner voice keeps all her scenes highly enjoyable, even if her thoughts and comments are mostly jokes, rather than anything resembling what people would actually think or say.

She does work very well with the version of the Doctor presented in the story. Ostensibly, this is the fourth Doctor, although judging by the characterisation, he's more of a generically buoyant new series type. While Kennedy certainly seems to be a fan of Tom Baker's era - one major character is named David Agnew, a giveaway in-joke - she doesn't get his persona quite right, even judging it by his later, sillier stories. It's not bad, and nowhere near as off as Eion Colfer's wonky first Doctor from his Puffin short, but it does jar on occasion.

While the threat facing Bryony and the Doctor, and all who reside at Fetch Brothers Golf Spa, is inventive and unsettling, the story itself meanders, which isn't a positive in a short like this. There are also too many characters, with several having no real cause to be included, barely interacting with the story. The monster is revealed to feed on some of humanity's nastier attributes, leaving it open to a love-conquers-all-type ending which is anticlimactic. There's also a lack of closure, with the story rather fading away at the end. Perhaps some of the characters will be picked up in other instlaments, but it does this story no favours. Good fun, but heavily flawed, The Death Pit is not the best start for a new series.

Placement: The Doctor is on his own and particularly daffy, so probably between seasons fifteen and sixteen.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Book review round-up

Invariably, I read more books than I have time to review; or, to put it another way, if I reviewed them all, I wouldn't have time to read them. Still, here are some of the various recent publications that have given me particular pleasure. It's a mix of fiction and non-fiction, including a good dose of Who-y nonsense.


The absolute stand-out of ObverseBooks' releases this year has to be Storyteller. An anthology of tales from a variety of talented authors, Storyteller is published in memorial of Matt Kimpton, who died last year, aged only 35. Kimpton was a talented writer in numerous fields, and the Chief Skald of Sussex, a position of supreme acclaim as an oral storyteller and poet. What I've Kimpton's work has impressed me greatly, and it's clear that he would have had a great career ahead of him had he not been taken so early.


Storyteller collects thirteen stories of varied style and genre, with evocative titles such as 'Grandad with Snails' and 'Black Mischief.' The first half of the collection is preoccupied with death, but not in a morbid or grim way. Rather, these stories explore and celebrate the changeability of life that is brought by death, and the myriad ways it affects those left behind or awaiting it. The remaining tales explore a variety of themes, with each story distinctly different from the last. It's taken me a little while to get through it. It's a banquet of fiction, each dish rich enough to sate the reader for sometime, rather than tempting them to pig out in one sitting.


Particular favourites include a new Newbury and Hobbes story by George Mann, and another outing for the Manleigh Halt Irregulars by Stuart Douglas, both of which take the protagonists into thought-provoking philosophical realms. 'The Unicorn Leacock' is unforgettable, the raucous memoirs of a monoceros that weaves throughout literary history to wryly funny effect. Sarah Hadley's 'Put Out More Flags' is a pure sci-fi tale with real heart, while Richard Wright's 'The Devil's Children' is powerful and unsettling. These are the standouts for me; every reader will no doubt find the stories speak to them in different ways. It's evident that this is a very personal effort for each of the contributors, and the impact of the works reflects that. It's available both in print and e-book formats, with all proceeds going to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.


Another Obverse publication, of the non-fic variety, is The 500 Year Diary, an exhaustive trek through the entire history of Doctor Who and its spin-offs. Volume One covers the first ten years of the programme, including not only the television episodes but all the comics, short stories, novellettes, sweet wrappers and Give-a-Show slides. Due to the huge amount of material covered, each entry is kept brief, with a short synopsis and a summary of characters, creatures and settings. While this could be very dry indeed, author Paul Castle has a way with words and a good sense of humour that pervades throughout, particularly in his anecdotal summaries of his favourite stories for each year. It's not really a book to sit down and read cover-to-cover, but it's a fine dipper-into. It's that's a must for the real Who completist, who simply must know the events of each instalment of the TV Century 21 Dalek Chronicles, or which comic to read to find Cybermen on skis. Also, it has possibly the best cover to a Who book ever.


On the other end of the spectrum of programme guides is The TARDIS Eruditorum, Dr. Philip Sandifer's in-depth analysis of the Doctor Who story. Sandifer's blog covers Doctor Who and a variety of other projects, with the Eruditorum volumes later collecting the posts with extensions, corrections and additional essays. It's never anything less than interesting, often fascinating, although his analysis can become rather pretentious at times. Still, he seems to know that, and even his more esoteric posts are lightened with humour. His latest book, volume four, covers the Hinchcliffe years, in which he manages to right a side essay that covers both Space: 1999 and I, Claudius (or, as he correctly spells it, I Clavdivs). It's available in ebook and paperback form from Amazon.


Finally, Paul Magrs strikes again with a gorgeous little book that I think would make a perfect little stocking filler. From Wildthyme with Love is a slim, beautiful little volume with cover art by the brilliant Bret Herholz. It's a celebratory piece for Doctor Who's fiftieth anniversary year, with fifty letters between Iris Wildthyme and her little pal Panda. As we all know, Iris's diaries show who reall had all those adventures on Telos, Skaro and Raxacoricofallapatorius, and each letter parodies a different adventure that the Doctor claimed to have.



It's a slight, daffy bit of fun, often rude and frequently hilarious. As my mum described it, “Silly but nice.” It's available in hardback from Snowbooks or Amazon. There's also an ebook version, but you'll want the hardback, it's lovely.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The Other Doctors, Part Three: Pasts, Potentials and Parallels

We've already looked at the many other actors who have played the Doctor on film, TV and radio over the years. However, some of the most intriguing versions of our favourite Time Lord only exist on the printed page. Others were played by the familiar eleven actors, but were separated by whim and possibility, existing in distinct timelines. Here are just some of the past, future and parallel Doctors who have cropped up over the years.


The Other


The Other? (Image by Paul Hanley)
Ten million years before the time of the Doctor, the Time Lords came into existence due to the actions of the three great players of Gallifreyan society. They were Rassilon, Omega, and an unnamed 'Other.' We learn of this mysterious individual in Marc Platt's climactic New Adventure Lungbarrow. We learn a great deal more too. We learn that the Doctor abandoned his family, that he, along with other Time Lords, are loomed, fully grown, and that their ancestors were ageless but could not regenerate. We learn that the Other had a granddaughter, who was taken from Gallifrey in a TARDIS. We learn that, fearing for Gallifrey, he threw himself into the looms, only to be reborn, millions of years later, his essence surviving in the form of a newly loomed Time Lord. Not even the Doctor was aware of this, until he began to have inklings in his seventh incarnation. It turns out he was far more than just another Time Lord. How any of this squares with the snatches of information we have since learned about the Doctor's childhood is anyone's guess.


The Morbius Doctors


It has been revealed that the eleventh Doctor is, in fact, the last of the Doctor's possible incarnations, having previously used all twelve of his regenerations up. We must wait to learn how he shall affect another regeneration in the upcoming Christmas special, although it's tempting to think that the Sisterhood of Karn's special regeneration brew may have altered the stakes somewhat, or indeed, that River Song's gift of her remaining regenerative energy to save the Doctor's life may have given him an extra bundle of changes. In any case, there's no need to fret, for the Doctor, as we all know, has actually had far more than thirteen faces.


Back in 1976, The Brain of Morbius saw the Doctor face a mind battle with the great Time Lord emperor Morbius. Back, back to his very beginnings the Doctor was taken. On the monitor we saw the Doctor's current, fourth visage, then his third, his second, his first... and then eight other faces. These were intended to represent even earlier incarnations of the Doctor – as has been explicitly confirmed by members of the production team of the time – and this is, indeed how the scene plays. Of course, we all know that the Hartnell version was the first. So do we have a big mystery? Well, many fans have rationalised that the faces actually represent the faces of Morbius. Well, possibly, but that's not how the scene plays. Indeed, it is Morbius who wins the battle, only falling because his artificial brain case can't take the strain. The Doctor is virtually finished, only surviving due to the Sisterhood's elixir.


So, who are those eight men in wigs and period dress? Well, they are, in fact, eight members of the production team, including writer Robert Holmes and producer Philip Hinchcliffe. But are they the faces of the Doctor? It seems inarguable that they are, but how they can fit into the Doctor's timeline is a mystery. Lungbarrow hints that they might be faces of the Other, although seeing that he could not regenerate, this seems dubious. An earlier reincarnation? Or perhaps earlier regenerations that even the Doctor doesn't remember. The fifth of these faces, played by Douglas Camfield, appeared in a dubious flashback in Lance Parkin's novel Cold Fusion.

Barry, Gallaccio, Banks Stewart, Hinchcliffe, Camfield, Harper, Holmes and Baker



“It is true to say that I attempted to imply that William Hartnell was not the first Doctor.” Philip Hinchcliffe.


The Infinity Doctor


Lance Parkin's seminal novel The Infinity Doctors was published for the series 35th anniversary, and saw a distinctly different take on the series than the usual BBC novels. We meet the Doctor on Gallifrey, settled into a life of teaching and diplomacy, the youngest member of the High Council. He mourns his dead wife, and has no particular desire to travel anywhere away from his homeworld. Parkin took pains to tie into every adventure featuring the Doctor's people published or broadcast up that point, embracing the contradictions to create an undateable adventure. He has remained tight-lipped concerning the correct placing of the story, although he has stated that the readers' interpretation should always be considered valid.


In many ways, The Infinity Doctors reads like the first adventure, galvanising the Doctor into leaving Gallifrey and engaging in a life of wandering. So perhaps this is a young Hartnell Doctor? Or, knowing that Parkin interprets the Morbius faces as I do, an even earlier incarnation? On the other hand, the Doctor in this story is described as looking rather like Paul McGann, and the initial plan was to have McGann read an audiobook version. Is it then the eighth Doctor? Fan consensus places the story after Parkin's later The Gallifrey Chronicles, the last book in the series which has many links to The Infinity Doctors. On the other hand, Parkin has said that this was not his original intention. Perhaps it is even later, on a Gallifrey rediscovered, involving an incarnation later than Peter Capaldi's.


Alternatively, this could be the Gallifrey of a parallel timeline. Or one of the many Gallifreys created for the War in Heaven. I like to read this novel once every couple of years, and each time I try to imagine a different Doctor in the lead role.


The Emperor and Soul


One individual who might be a version of the Doctor is the Emperor of the Universe, another creation of Lance Parkin. Although only alluded to in the novel Father Time, the Emperor was one of the last surviving Time Lords in a distant, dying future, where whole galaxies had been evacuated due to the destruction caused by terrible time wars. His daughter was the sole heir to the universal throne after his assassination at the hands of a rebel faction. This young girl, who came to be known as Miranda Dawkins, was hidden away on 1980s Earth and was adopted by the amnesiac eighth Doctor. But was the Doctor her real father? Well, the Emperor certainly sounds like he looks like Paul McGann, but beyond that, who knows?


A related mystery is the existence of another version of the Doctor, originating at the end of the universe. Sometime Never... by Justin Richards saw the Multiverse threatened by the Council of Eight. However, the eighth Doctor and Miranda put a stop to their plans, at the cost of Miranda's life. Zezanne, Miranda's daughter – and thus, the Doctor's adopted granddaughter – escaped with a benevolent member of the Council, Soul, who had disguised his natural crystalline form as an old man. Zezanne and Soul – now sporting some of the Doctor's life essence – escaped into the past in the timeship Jonah, which disguised itself as a police box. You see where this is going? This strange, alternative origin for the Doctor in a universe without Gallifrey has now been quietly forgotten, but it seems that in “just one of many universes” Soul and Zezanne take the roles of the Doctor and Susan.


Grandfather Paradox


There seems to be no shortage of evil versions of the Doctor. Lawrence Miles created Faction Paradox for the BBC eighth Doctor line, but it was Anghelides and Cole who brought its leader to life in the novel The Ancestor Cell. Grandfather Paradox was revealed as a twisted future version of the eighth Doctor, one-armed, scarred and driven insane by hatred for the Time Lords, his timeline warped by a Faction virus. His battle with his younger self led to the destruction of Gallifrey in this version of events. The later novel The Gallifrey Chronicles made it clear that Gallifrey would return, and that, rather than being the Doctor per se, the Grandfather was a dark reflection of everyone's future. With his regeneration now known and the Faction out of the picture, it seems that the eighth Doctor has avoided ever becoming Grandfather Paradox. On the other hand, a figure known as Grandfather Halfling, head of House Halfling, is mentioned in the Faction-linked novel Of the City of the Saved. He stands for the rights of the partially human in this all-human enclave, and we know which version of the Doctor is said to be half-human...



Johann Schmidt


Another alternative version of the eighth Doctor was alluded to in the 2001 audio Colditz. In this acclaimed story, the seventh Doctor and Ace found themselves captive in Colditz Castle, only to be contacted by a woman named Klein, who hailed from a future in which the Nazis had won WWII. It turns out that Ace's walkman had been analysed, yielding laser technology to the Nazis and giving them a significant tactical advantage. However, Klein's trip back in time was all part of the Doctor's plan. In her timeline, he had been shot, regenerating into his Byronic eighth self, who went under the name Schmidt and tricked Klein into travelling into her own history and putting things right. Much later, the Doctor took in the temporally displaced Klein, and we heard the story from her point of view – in flashback, and starring Paul McGann as Schmidt.


Lord Burner


The fourth run of Big Finish's Gallifrey series saw Romana, Leela, Braxiatel and Narvin hop from reality to reality, visiting parallel Gallifreys kept separate by the Axis. Some of these Gallifreys included their own version of the Doctor, seemingly only in his sixth incarnation. Colin Baker returned as the Lord Burner, a Time Lord assassin. We learned that the Burner was charged by the President to 'burn' unsavoury Time Lords from history. In the primary timeline, the Doctor's brother, Braxiatel once held the position, and was given the order to execute his sibling. He allowed him to escape, and covered up the incident. In another timeline, the Doctor killed Brax and escaped. We can imagine that this left the Doctor with a darker outlook on life at the very beginning of his travels. Later, when he was put on trial, the Doctor was reintegrated into Gallifreyan society and given his late brother's position.


Other alternative versions of the sixth Doctor have appeared. Gallifrey IV also saw a cameo by Colin Baker as a minor reporter named Theta Sigma, while Gary Russell's sixth Doctor finale novel, Spiral Scratch, involved a plethora of parallel Sixies, including an expansive, black-clad, scar-faced version, who collected his companions from an eternal Roman Empire.


The Savant


As well as the New and Missing Adventures, Virgin published short story collections called Decalogs. The third Decalog ended with 'Zeitgeist,' a story by continuity maestro Craig Hinton, in which the shattering of timelines led to the introduction of an alternative version of the Doctor known as the Savant. This dangerous individual was even more convinced of his own superiority than the regular Doctor, and worked as a Time Lord agent. Although he was physically identical to the fifth Doctor, he was very different in temperament. For the charity anthology Shelf Life, published to commemorate Hinton after his death, Mike Morgan wrote a sequel story in which we learned more about the Savant, and the alternative life that damaged him.


The Leader


The 1970 serial Inferno saw the third Doctor thrown to a parallel Earth, one where a fascist British Republic was ruled by a Big Brother-like Leader. The photograph seen on the poster was that of special effects chief Jack Kine, and we never leaned anything more about the character... until Paul Cornell's 1993 New Adventure, Timewyrm: Revelation. It is revealed that the Doctor recognised this face as one of those offered to him by the Time Lords at the culmination of his trial. Well, we never saw it on screen, but why not? Apparently, in this reality, the second Doctor chose this face, and upon being exiled to Earth, positioned himself as the Leader of the Republic. All a bit of a stretch, but a fascinating idea. It's a pity the Leader presumably died with that parallel Earth.


Other parallel versions of the Doctor were glimpsed in the much later New Adventure So Vile a Sin, including a version of the third Doctor who handed Earth over to the Ice Warriors and lived for a thousand years in a house in Kent, and a version of the eighth Doctor who married Grace and settled down in San Francisco.


Merlin


In the 1989 serial Battlefield, the seventh Doctor learned that, in the past, but his personal future, he would travel to a parallel Earth, were he would be known as Merlin. There, he would face the sorceress Morgaine, and work alongside King Arthur and the knight Ancelyn. The production team at the time had an idea to visit this sequence of events in the future, with each of the Doctor's adventures on Arthur's world taking place earlier in history, tying in with the legend that Merlin aged backwards through time.


Marc Platt's novelisation of Battlefield included a prologue in which we saw the Doctor, posing as Merlin, in the ancient history of Arthur's world. This scruffy old fellow, who liked to wear an afghan coat and sock with sandals, later went on to appear in several stories in the Short Trips series. In these stories by Peter Anghelides, this red-haired future Doctor was revealed to be no less manipulative than his seventh self, albeit an even worse dresser. He even travelled, for a time, with a young lady named Guin – short for Guinevere. Writer and editor Jay Eales also tackled a Merlin version of the Doctor, penning three excellent stories for charity anthologies which saw him aid a supernatural crimes organisation in a parallel world. As scientific advisor to the Malleus Pre-Crimes Unit, Merlin battled such beings as a Daemonic version of the Master, while raising Arthur and protecting a world where magic coexisted with science.


"I hate good wizards in fairytales. They always turn out to be him." River Song

Muldwych

In the nineties, the New Adventures had free reign to take the Doctor's story in new directions. While they couldn't regenerate the Doctor, they could hint at his future. With this in mind, Nigel Robinson wrote Birthright, a novel which saw the Doctor's companions Ace and Benny stranded in opposite ends of Earth's history, with the Doctor nowhere in sight. Ace found herself in the distant future, on the planet Antykhon – the Earth, at a time when it was abandoned by Man and inhabited by an alien civilisation called the Charrl. Here, she encountered a solitary figure who lived alone in a cave. The manipulative, untrustworthy Muldwych never revealed his origins, but when the seventh Doctor later met with him, several hints were dropped as to his real identity. Indeed, as we know that Morgaine believed Merlin to be forever imprisoned in the crystal caves, perhaps this is what became of the Doctor's Merlin incarnation? After a millennium of hermitude, Muldwych eventually escaped in the novel Happy Endings. I always imagined the disagreeable little sod as being played by Hywel Bennet.


The Telos Doctors


Telos Publishing had a short-lived license to create new Doctor Who stories, publishing a series of luxury novellas in 2003. Characterised by more experimental stories than the usual Who novel lines, the Telos Novellas included some forays beyond the standard remit of Who fiction. Starting with Time and Relative, the first licensed story to explore what the Doctor was doing in London before An Unearthly Child, the range explored various incarnations of the Doctor, including some we hadn't met before. Danile O'Mahony's novella, The Cabinet of Light, introduced a future incarnation of the Doctor, who had regenerated after being shot by the villain of that story. This manipulative incarnation, coincidentally, bore a resemblance to the soon-to-be-unveiled animated version of the Doctor played by Richard E. Grant. After Telos lost their Doctor Who license, this version of the Doctor appeared, going once more by the name John Smith, in the finale of the spin-off series Time Hunter, where the nature of his plan and the extent of his manipulations became apparent.


Another – or possibly even the same – version of the Doctor appeared in the final release in the Telos series, Simon Clark's The Dalek Factor. It's entirely possible that this version of the Doctor, who had lost his memories due to the machinations of the Daleks, was one of the various incarnations we already know. Clark elected to keep the version of the Doctor involved vague. Considering that he remains in Dalek captivity at the end of the novella, potentially for years, this could very well be the War Doctor, during the Time War. On the other hand, maybe he never escaped, and this is the Doctor's final fate.


The 42nd Doctor


Lance Parkin didn't only create the Infinity Doctor and the Emperor in his quest to play around with continuity. He has a habit of including a character in his work that is to be portrayed, in the imaginary cast list, by the late, great Ian Richardson. In his early fanfic, Parkin, and Mark Clapham created the Doctor's 42nd incarnation, based on Richardson, who travelled with his young wife, Iphegenia (based on Caitlin Moran). The only published story to star this Doctor was 'Saturnalia' in the charity anthology Tales of the Solar System. The 42nd Doctor made a cameo in Parkin and Mark Clapham's New Adventure Beige Planet Mars, and was to appear in at least two versions of the unused epilogue to The Dying Days. You can read these stories and meet this dapper incarnation on Parkin's own site.
Valeyard of the Daleks
Eulogy of the Daleks
Alternatively, this gentleman claims the title of the 42nd Doctor:
The 42nd Doctor?

"The idea was to imagine what Doctor Who would be like decades on (we were writing in the mid-nineties) and to just shift the Doctor Who universe along, TNG-style. The Daleks had been wiped out in a time war, Gallifrey was gone, the Doctor had a tomboyish wife, a bunch of mates throughout the universe and they spent their time going to fun places and fighting evil almost as a sideline." Lance Parkin


The Curator


The Day of the Doctor left us with a mystery. Who was strange old man who claimed to be Curator of the National Gallery? Well, he was played by Tom Baker, who was listed in the credits only as 'the Doctor.' And the Doctor was appointed curator by Elizabeth I. And, while he spoke in riddles, the Curator did imply that the Doctor might, some day, find himself revisiting a few old favourite faces. So, is he the Doctor? I guess we'll never know. Still, I'd like to think he is. I don't think the Doctor need worry about his regenerations running out. We know he'll get to look like Peter Capaldi soon, and after that... Well, after that, after being Merlin, and Muldwych, and the Valeyard, and who knows what else, perhaps he'll settle down to run an old gallery on Earth, and just happen to look like Tom Baker again.


Doctor Lovejoy



In 1967, Walls released a series of card with their Sky Ray lollies, that told the story Daleks Invade Zaos. These could be stuck into Dr. Who's Space Adventure Book (a steal at a shilling) to tell the story of Dr. Who and the Sky Ray Space Raiders and their battle against the Daleks and the giant Astrobeetles. Dr. Who was supposedly the version played by Patrick Troughton, but I think it's clear from the cover that he was actually portrayed by Ian 'Lovejoy' McShane.