Friday, 27 February 2015
Thursday, 26 February 2015
Monday, 23 February 2015
It seems, in the past month, I have marked the passing of several personal idols. I choose the word 'idol' with great care and precision. All of those whom I have memorialised thus far have, for me, been constant companions throughout my life, bringing me pleasure, each in their own, unique way.
Today, the 23rd February 2015 marks the 50th Anniversary of the passing of one of my greatest idols, and, for me, one half of the funniest comedy duo ever to have graced the big screen. 50 years ago, we lost the inimitable Stan Laurel.
Born, Arthur Stanley Jefferson, on 16th June 1890, In Ulvereston, England, the son of an actress and an actor-director-producer-playwright-impresario, Stan made his own stage debut at 16 at a small Glasgow, Scotland, theater and for the next few years played both drama and comedy in plays and danced and clowned in British music halls. In 1910 he joined the famous Fred Karno company and became Charlie Chaplin's understudy in the troupe's first American tour that same year. He also played various roles in the company's feature attraction A Night in an English Music Hall.
He was Chaplin's understudy again during Karno's second US tour in 1912. When the troupe returned to England, he stayed behind and began a lengthy stint in American Vaudeville, changing his name to Stan Laurel. In 1917 he made the first of 76 film appearances that preceded his fortuitous teaming with Oliver Hardy in 1927. The two comedians appeared in the same two-reel short, 'Lucky Dog' in 1917, however their pairing in that film was accidental, with Stan playing the lead role, whilst Hardy had a 'bit part'.
Laurel's screen character in those early days was that of a clown, typically wearing oversized clothes and playing the misfit. He continued performing in Vaudeville while pursuing a part-time film career in comedy shorts. He worked for various studios, including Universal, Vitagraph, Hal Roach-Pathé and Metro, where he performed for a unit supervised by G. M. Anderson of "Broncho Billy" fame. Many of these comedy shorts were spoofs of popular feature films of the period. Laurel wrote many of his own comedy routines and occasionally helped with the directing. In 1926 he signed a long-term contract with Hal Roach as a gagman and director but shortly after was persuaded to return to acting, and to begin his long and auspicious partnership with Oliver Hardy.
The "thin man" of the fat-thin duo, Laurel was often considered the funnier member of the team, with a wide array of mannerisms that endeared him to film audiences, among them a infantile weep, a confused eye-blink, and a bewildered scratching of the top of the head. He was the creative mind behind many of the team's comedy routines, a master of comedy nuance and technique.
On 7 August 1957, Oliver Hardy died. Laurel was too ill to attend his funeral and said, "Babe would understand". Those who knew Stan said he was devastated by Hardy's death and never fully recovered from it. He refused to perform on stage, or act in another film without his dearest friend. However, he continued to socialise with his fans. many of whom were surprised, and delighted, to find that his phone number was listed in the telephone directory. He took many calls from fans much to his, and their delight. How wonderful must it have been to phone Stan Laurel for a casual chat! Laurel was described by his fans as a charming man, with a sense of humour that will never be forgotten.
In the Academy Award ceremony for 1960, he received a special Oscar "for his creative pioneering in the field of cinema comedy.
Speaking personally, Laurel and Hardy were, quite simply, the funniest duo ever to have lived. The joy they have brought into my life is immeasurable. They had the capacity to make me cry with laughter..the sort of laughter that no modern day double act can ever provoke. Since I was very small, I have always been reduced to a laughing, hysterical wreck at the sight of Stan, as he scratched his head, with a bewildered look, or by Ollie's pomposity. Some of my earliest television memories are of Laurel and Hardy, and those memories have remained with me throughout my life.
To me, Stan and Ollie are the very essence of comedy. So much so that I have their portraits tattooed on my shoulders. They are portraits I wear with pride, and with immense gratitude. Often lonely as a child, I had two friends I could always count on. Two, very dear, friends, who could lift my spirits, make me howl with laughter until the tears rolled down my cheeks. I had Laurel and Hardy. Until the day I die, I will always have them as my constant companions, my comedic heroes, and although I never had the great honour of meeting them; my friends.No-one ever had quite the edge that The Boys had, somehow I doubt they ever will. And so, today, on the 50th Anniversary of Stan Laurel's passing, all I can do is mark his passing in writing, express my deep and very heartfelt thanks for all the joy and laughter he brought, and continues to bring, into my life. 'The Boys' may be long departed from this earthly realm. From my heart, and the hearts of millions worldwide, they have never truly left us. They are always there. Our friends. Our heroes. Our boys...
Dedicated with love and gratitude to Arthur Stanley Jefferson
16th June 1890 - 23rd February 1965
Sunday, 22 February 2015
Tuesday, 17 February 2015
Wednesday, 11 February 2015
Wednesday, 4 February 2015
In a previous blog post, I took issue with Chris Eccleston and how he handles his time as The Doctor. In particular, I found his hanging up on a reporter, during a telephone interview, particularly twattish.
Chances are, by now, you've seen the excellent Kasterborous article, "Eccleston hates Doctor Who so much he helped a Whovian with a wedding proposal". The article includes an extraordinarily heartwarming video, with Eccleston surprising a fan alongside her boyfriend In my previous post, I went so far as to call Chris "an arse". I think, with hindsight, the "arse" on this occasion is yours truly! Eccleston is notoriously guarded about his tenure as the Doctor, and his public appearances seem scant. Perhaps, on my part, and the part of many fans, it is a desire to see more of him in the public eye, at conventions and so forth, because we have such high regard for his portrayal of the Doctor. We may never know the reasons why he is so elusive, but it's clear from the video it isn't out of a lack of respect for us, the fans.
Whilst, personally, I wouldn't have terminated the interview in the way Chris did, again, perhaps this is somewhat judgemental, not to mention hypocritical, particularly given that I hang up on telemarketers for a pastime. Eccleston clearly did not wish to discuss Doctor Who with the reporter. Perhaps the reporter in question did cross a line by asking, despite three requests not to. Certainly, it is the job of a reporter to ask probative questions; questions which the interviewee doesn't necessarily want to be asked. But, perhaps, there is a time and a place..
What is abundantly clear is that I've badly misjudged Eccleston. Whilst he will never read this blog post, I offer him my sincere apologies for doing so. Anyone who takes the time to aid a fan in the way he demonstrates in the video clearly doesn't lack respect for either the fans, or for his time spent in the titular role.
I've always been a big fan of the Eccleston series, and, in a broader sense, of much of his other work. If you haven't seen the magnificent 'Let Him Have It', you should. It's an early work by Eccleston, and it's a superb film. Similarly, his role as Stephen Baxter in Russel T. Davies' unique 'The Second Coming' is a magnificent testament to his skill as an actor. For me, he has always been a fine actor. I've also regarded him, for the most part, as egotistical, aloof and dismissive of his time as The Doctor. I hold my hands firmly UP. Got it wrong. There are times when being proven wrong sucks. On other occasions, being proven wrong is a positive joy. I was wrong when I assumed Bille Piper would be a lousy companion. Likewise, Catherine Tate. And I'm glad I was. Equally, I was wrong in my assessment of Chris Eccleston. And I'm glad about that as well.
I do believe if Mr Eccleston were a little more candid about his body of work, including Doctor Who, it may make it easier for people, like me, to understand him better as an actor and as a human being. That he chooses not to is a pty, but, ultimately, it is his decision, one which we must respect. Perhaps, one day, he will elaborate on his decision to remain largely out of the public eye, certainly in regard to Doctor Who, and why he chose only to play the role for a single season. I hope so, as I'm sure we could learn a great deal about him.
So there we are. I got him completely wrong. I daresay there are times when he IS an arse. There are certainly times when I am. My previous blog post on Eccleston bears testament to THAT! Likewise, there are time when he is clearly extraordinarily generous, kind and giving. Something we should all aspire to be.
What is clear is that Chris Eccleston is complex, professional, and certainly misunderstood. This leads arseholes like me to be quick to judge. For that, Mr Eccleston, you have my profound apologies.
I hope he's proud of his time as the Ninth Doctor. He has every reason to be. He was, as Nine said himself, "fantastic"!
Tuesday, 3 February 2015
And so, here we are, once again. The third, and final part of my musings on the 2014 poll. "Thank fuck for that" I hear you cry!
This post covers the largest category of all "Best Overall Episode (Classic and New Series combined). Theoretically, this should be a mercifully short post. Having already looked at the "Classic" and "New" rankings individually, there is little commentary to make on their respective rankings, only how the stories fare when ranked in one, large collective.
Riding high on the coat tails of the 50th Anniversary, it comes as no great surprise that 'Day of the Doctor' takes top spot. That it ranks above 'Genesis of the Daleks', 'Pyramids of Mars' or 'Seeds of Doom' (plus quite a few others!), is, to me, perfectly laughable! I enjoyed 'DOTD' for the most part. It was a fun story, though in the context of Who 'canon' (a term I've never particularly cared for), I found it rather irritating. It's complete retconning of The Time War, a topic which had great potential for future exploration, was deplorable. Since Gallifrey is now safe, tucked away up a squirrels arse, or wherever Moffat decides to rematerialise it (assuming he doesn't simply forget it exists), it is all the more puzzling that the 12th Doctor seems to be carrying a burden bigger than his predecessors. Nevertheless, top placed it is, and I will have to learn to live with that. I'm sure I'll struggle with this for many seconds to come...
Second place goes to another bloody overrated story, 'Blink'. On first transmission, I loved 'Blink'. I still enjoy it. I don't, however, hold it in quite the same esteem as many do. I don't believe it stands up to repeated viewings terribly well, unlike 'Genesis of the Daleks', a story which I can watch over and over again, without tiring of it.
The next appearance in the poll by a New Series episode, is at position 7, where 'The Empty Child' resides neatly above 'Pyramids of Mars' at 8. I don't have a huge issue with this, although would switch their positions. 'Empty Child' is a superb story, and deserves a high ranking, even against some of the best classic era episodes. It demonstrates Moffat's capability as a writer, leaving one to wonder where the hell it all went wrong..
Human Nature ranking at 9, is, I suspect, due to the fan base Tennant has accrued. It is a solid story, arguably one of the finest since the series returned in 2005. Whether it deserves to be ranked above 'Rememberance', 'Terror of the Zygons' or 'Inferno' is questionable. As someone with such a strong passion for the classic era, perhaps I am not best placed to judge, as my thought processes will always be skewed toward the halcyon days of Who..
Moving down the poll, there are numerous New Series stories outranking those from the classic era. This is, of course, to be expected. That 'Rose" should find itself ahead of 'The Time Meddler', or 'The Lodger' above 'Ambassadors of Death' is, at best, a shame. At worst, a fucking joke (my blog, my opinion!).. Disagree? Comment below!
The middle of the poll is something of a hotchpotch of stories. Most of the placings I would take issue with, certainly when comparing classic era stories against the new series. It would be interesting to see a demographic of the voters. I wonder how many have seen the classic era given some of the placings..And so, to the bottom of the poll.. Placed at 229 'The Doctor, The Witch and The Wardrobe' fares particularly badly, ranking marginally above 'Paradise Towers'. Hardly a shock, since it is an utterly terrible story! Faring even less well is 'The Rings of Akhaten'. I have to admit, this surprises me, as does the general disdain which surrounds the story. Personally, I rather like it, which serves to prove the old adage to be true: there's no accounting for taste..!
'TimeFlight', 'Timelash' and 'Time and the Rani' take positions 237, 238 and 239 respectively. Perhaps the voters dislike stories with 'Time' as their first word! The first two are, I believe, somewhat unfairly maligned, and against stories such as the aforementioned 'Doctor, Witch, Wardrobe', or equally weak stories such as 'Love and Monsters', which I personally cannot abide, or the interminably dreadful 'Nightmare in Silver', I would have ranked them substantially higher.
And so, to the very dregs of the barrel. I make no apology for my desire to see 'Paradise Towers' placed there. There, however, it is not. In last place, ranking one place above 'Fear Her' lies 'The Twin Dilemma'. Speaking, as always, personally, I would place 'Twin Dilemma' above 'Fear Her' and quite a few other stories. Yes, the twins are more irritating than inflamed haemorrhoid, but Colin makes his mark in a bold, brash and very loud performance. Azmael's death scene is beautifully played, and at the end of the episode, we are left in doubt that Colin is indeed, The Doctor. Whether you like it or not..!
That 'Fear Her' places so badly comes as no shock. Of the New Series (excluding Season 8 stories) it is, arguably the worst, with the possible exception of 'Nightmare in Silver'. I would be hard pressed to choose between them, however I would rank both above 'Paradise Towers'. Just.
Whilst stroking my Pertwee-esque beard during last nights musings, I hit upon the idea of "putting my money where my (exceptionally large) mouth is". In the next post, I am going to attempt to replicate the poll as I would have voted, placing each season, each Doctor, each story as I would rank them. It's a rather daunting prospect, something I've never attempted before. It should be... interesting..!
And so, that concludes my analysis of the Great Doctor Who Poll 2014. As always, your thoughts and comments are most welcome. I hope you enjoyed reading the posts; that they weren't too tedious or long, and I hope you found plenty to disagree with! Doctor Who is a divisive topic, but one which, ultimately, we all share a common love of, regardless of our personal preferences. We can, and should, disagree on what ranks where, and which Doctor is the best. It makes for lively debate. Provided the debate doesn't turn into vitriolic unpleasantness, with accusations of "hater" being bandied around, we should be free to share our opinions and to disagree, passionately, but respectfully with each other. Wouldn't it be nice if that were always the case...
See you on the Twittersphere..!
Well.. Part One ended up being substantially longer than I bargained for! If you managed to make it through the entire post, you deserve a medal! Sometimes, when the words start flowing, all one can do is embrace them, rattle them off, and hope to high heaven they make sense. I enjoyed wading through the various segments of the poll, covered in part one, and expressing my thoughts on the results. Some have already, and very kindly, commented on Twitter. Some in complete agreement, others disagreeing with some of my comments. And that's great! The fact they are provoking thoughts or inviting commentary is immensely satisfying. There is a comment section on the blog, and I welcome any and all comments, positive or negative. I'm certainly interested in hearing the parts with which you disagree. I love hearing other people's opinions, particularly when they clash with my own. It makes for good, lively debate. Usually! Sometimes it descends into madness, or even rudeness. You'll get none of that nonsense from me. Your opinion is every bit as valid as mine, or anyone else's. There are no "right or wrong" results in a poll. Only opinions. I welcome yours!
And so we come to the second part of the poll, commencing, quite naturally, smack bang in the middle. After all, I started at the last category and worked up!
Episode rankings (classic series only). Taking its rightful place AS THE SUPREME POWER OF THE UNI... Poll, we have, unsurprisingly 'Genesis of the Daleks'. Quite right too! I've seen it displaced in polls, on occasion, by the second placed story, 'Caves of Androzani'. Something I take issue with. In fact, I take issue with 'Androzani' taking second place. Don't misunderstand me; I think it's a bloody good story. Well paced with Davison acting his arse off. But, would I rank it above 'Seeds of Doom' which failed to make the top ten, placing at 13, or above 'Pyramids of Mars', which did manage a very respectable fifth place. The answer, in respect of both stories is a resounding NO. I'd probably have 'Androzani' somewhere in my top 20 (which gives me an idea for another blog post *strokes imaginary beard in Pertwee-esque syle*)..
I'm pleased to 'Rememberance of the Daleks' fare so well, at a very strong sixth position. It's an action packed story, arguably McCoy's finest. I can't really disagree with the placings of other stories in the top 20. It's a positive joy to see 'Power of the Daleks' ranked so highly. For a story missing in its entirety, save for a few snippets, it is much respected (and much desired). That fans have clearly taken the time to read the book, or listen to the audio adaptations, of which two exist, with different narrators. If you aren't amongst those who have, you should be. You'll thank yourself for doing so. Aside from its obvious status as the first post regenerative story, it is also exceptionally good.
I have to confess a real disappointment that the Pertwee stories seemed to fare less well. Only two managed to make the top 20, namely 'Inferno' and 'Spearhead from Space'. Both deserve their high ranking, but that stories such as 'The Daemons' and 'The Green Death' just miss making the top 20 is a pity. Much more disappointing, on a personal level, is 'Ambassdors of Death' which ranked at 58. Really? Only 58? Bettered by stories such as 'Kinda', 'Stones of Blood' or 'The Keeper of Traken'? There is nothing inherently wrong with any of those stories, however I question their place above 'Ambassadors', which I consider to be one the finest stories ever. This will, I have no doubt, provoke disagreement. It is, undoubtedly, long, protracted, but it works. And it works bloody well.
Again, Colin Baker doesn't fare terribly well, with his first entry at 42 with 'Revelation of the Daleks'. Perhaps, however it is unsurprising, as his screened stories are weak when compared to other Doctors. As mentioned in part one of this analysis, he is served much better courtesy of Big Finish. In fact, I'd posit that if a poll were conductedp, ranking all of the Big Finish audios, Baker would do incredibly well. 'Vengeance on Varos', which I, and quite a few others, consider a pretty strong story, manages to rank at a rather paltry 83.
A story which fares much better than I anticipated (or than it deserves, in my opinion!) is 'Greatest Show in the Galaxy'. I have to confess, I've never understood the appeal of this story. I don't hate it, but it would certainly place considerably lower than 65 on MY list (*scratches imaginary beard again*).
Moving down the poll, there isn't much to irritate me until we reach no 84. In a piddling pathetic 84 resides 'Invasion of the Dinosaurs'. I KNOW the dinosaurs look shit, I KNOW the Pterodactyl looks like someone plucked the feathers out of Rod Hull's "Emu", rammed a brush up its arse and waved it about in an attempt to make it threatening. And I don't give a damn. It's a bloody good story. Top 20 material, for this fan. I love everything about it (yes, even the effects!). Fake spaceships, an empty London, UNIT, a traitor, Sarah Jane Smith.. What's not to love? I know all these stories are subjective, but 'IOTD' in 84th place.. It irks me!
The placing of 'Battlefield' at 100 is surprising. I had always understood it to be well liked. I certainly enjoy it, if, for no other reason, it has Winifred Bambera, a character I wish we had seen a great deal more of. Like 'Remeberance', it dared to poke into 'racism' territory, with Morgaine's mind games evoking a racial epithet from 'Ace'.
At 136, I find another story I have come to love. 'Monsters of Peladon' is better than its predecessor, 'Curse'. There. I said it. Sue me! Why is it better, particularly when the majority of the cast seem to be sporting a collection of blow-dried badgers on their heads? I have no idea, is the boring, but brutally honest answer. I just happen to prefer it.
The bottom of the list makes for interesting reading. I find it hard to disagree with much of it, although I do confess a certain fondest for Timelash, which narrowly avoided the bottom spot. I'm also rather fond of Time-Flight, or at least, the concept. It does, I have to admit, go rather bonkers when 'Kaleed' is revealed as The Master. I am, however disappointed to see Colin Baker firmly in bottom place again. Yes, 'Twin Dilemma' is bloody awful. No dodging it. It's crap. Or "cwap"..
But, I'll take 'Twin Dilemma' over the interminably dull 'Dominators' (placed at 150) any day of the week, thank you very much! Squeezing just ahead of 'Twin Dilemma', 'Time and the Rani' manages to take position 155. I can't really say I'm surprised. It isn't a good story, by any stretch of the imagination. But. And here, we come to the conclusion of my analysis of this poll segment. It, and every fucking story listed is better than 'Paradise Towers', which, polled at 147. 'Paradise Towers' is, I believe, the worst classic era story ever. Period. I would have ranked it as the worst story ever, including the Big Finish range, novels, comic strips, New Series, fan written garbage by an illiterate eight year old with the imagination of a small chimpanzee.. But, along came 'In The Forest of the Night'. 'Paradise Towers' is saved from my bottom spot, solely by that steaming, fetid, worthless, scientifically insane, preachy, pointless heap of rotting dung.
That concludes the 'Classic Only' segment of the poll. One or two surprises, but nothing dramatic. With a little shuffling here and there, the elevation of several Pertwee stories, and the throwing out of the window of every dvd copy of 'Paradise Towers' in existence, I am, reasonably content. How 'bout you?
I'm going to continue, briefly, with a cursory look at 'Overall Season/Series' ranking. Largely because it's repetitive of the individual analyses of the two, segregated categories. Pleasingly, Season 7 (Classic) retains top position, which given the lack of enthusiasm for 'Ambassdors' is a testament to the other three stories featured in that season. Likewise, Season 26 places well at no 6. Again, perhaps, due to the quality of 'Curse of Fenric' and 'Ghostlight'.
Series 4 (New) holds a very strong 7th place, though whether I would personally rank it higher than Pertwee's final season (11), which ranked at 18th place, is questionable. That Series 7 (New) is so highly ranked, beating the very first, classic, season of Doctor Who is a mystery. I believe Season One to be considerably stronger than it is given credit for. From 'An Unearthly Child' to the first appearance of the Daleks; the much desired, and sadly missing 'Marco Polo', and two epic, varied stories, 'The Keys of Marinus' and 'The Sensorites', it's place at 19th is disappointing, to say the least.
Unsurprisingly, bottom place goes to the much detested Season 24. Containing 'Paradise Towers' it is bloody well worthy of bottom spot! Disappointingly, once again, Colin Baker fares badly, with Season 23 managing position 33, staved off only by the aforementioned Season 24. I neither know the general consensus surrounding 'Trial of a TimeLord'. Nor do I care. I have never been one for sticking with convention, so I would, personally, rank it somewhat higher. The concept of the season works well, the individual stories are decent enough, and the courtroom scenes alone make the season worthy of a much higher place than second to last.
So, there we are. In the next post, I'll take a look at "the biggie". Until then,congratulations, if you made it all the way through the thoughts that have spewed forth from my tiny brain. Comments are, as always, most welcome!
Sunday, 1 February 2015
It is difficult to quantify exactly why Elisabeth Sladen became such an iconic companion. As Sarah Jane Smith, she was strong, independent, smart, funny, beautiful and more than a match for the two Doctors with whom she travelled.
Her popularity is beyond question. During the "classic era" she reprised the role of Sarah Jane twice. Once, in 'The Five Doctors', and again, in the unsuccessful, and perhaps unfairly maligned 'K9 and Company', a story for which I must confess a certain fondness, due, in no small part, to Lis Sladen's performance.
In 1993, she reprised the role once again, in the Children in Need special 'Dimensions in Time', and again, in the 1995 story 'Downtime', reunited, this time, with the superb Nicholas Courtney.
Between 1996 and 1997, Sarah Jane appeared alongside the Third Doctor in two BBC produced audio plays, 'The Paradise of Death' and 'Ghosts of N Space'.
One could be forgiven for thinking at this point, the character would never been seen again. Not so. Courtesy of Big Finish, Lis achieved something no other companion had done; her own, full length spin off series, which ran over two seasons, to critical acclaim.
In 2006, to the sheer delight of many fans, myself included, she appeared alongside the Tenth Doctor in 'School Reunion'. I remember a chill running down my spine, a giddy thrill, when she first saw The Tardis and realised that, after so many years, The Doctor had entered her life once more.
So successful and well received was her appearance, that Lis Sladen was given her own series, the aptly named 'Sarah Jane Adventures'. In an age where asinine tv characters grace our screens on a daily basis, it was remarkable that a lady in her 60's was so readily accepted and loved by a whole new generation of children, and embraced, once again, by a loyal army of fans, many of whom grew up with Sarah Jane as 'their companion'. It is a testament to Lis that 'SJA' ran for five seasons. Her chemistry with the young cast was evident, both on and off screen, in particular with Tommy Knight, who, as Luke, was to become her son.
Sarah and Luke appeared in 'The Stolen Earth' and 'Journeys End' in which she, once again, faced Davros and the Daleks. In an exceptionally emotive scene, the prospect that she may lose her son to Daleks, Sarah seemed more real, more vulnerable than we were accustomed to seeing. As always, the scene was played perfectly by Lis. Her final appearance in Doctor Who came in 2010 when the Tenth Doctor bade his farewells.
In the 'Sarah Jane Adventures', guest appearances were made by The Brigadier, the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, and, in a stroke of genius, her predecessor, Jo Grant. All guest stars in HER show.
On April 19th 2011, we were all shocked to learn that Elisabeth, at the age of 65, had passed away. A devastating loss to millions, who had adored this wonderful lady & her endearing portrayal of Sarah Jane. I cried. I suspect many tears were shed by people who's lives she had touched. She had, for many of us, almost become a part of our families. She was certainly a part of the Who family, and will remain so forever.
Today would have.. No, SHOULD have been Elisabeth's 69th birthday. Today we celebrate her life, and while she is no longer with us, we still wish her a happy birthday. Quite right, too. We will forever love her; we will forever miss her. And we will always be eternally grateful that we were able to call her 'Our Sarah Jane'..
1st February 1946 - 19th April 2011
Sarah Jane Smith
15th December 1973 - Forever
Ye Gods! Where do I start? Perhaps, with a disclaimer.. "And, I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more, just to..."; no, wait, DISCLAIMER. Not a bloody Proclaimer! Though I shall, no doubt, as I wade through the poll, do plenty of proclaiming, exclaiming, expleting, opining, and more expleting. So. Disclaimer. This is my OPINION. Nothing more. Nothing less. Some of it is based on personal preference, some on past polls, and most simply on whatever pours out of my brain. It will almost certainly contain a LOT of swearing. If this offends you, stop reading now. No. Really! If you're easily offended.. fuck off..!
It is said that profanity is the weapon of the witless. I don't agree, and whoever spewed forth that particular apothegm was talking out of their arse. When used to be cruel or deliberately malicious, the quote has merit. When used for humour, it can be very, very funny. I find it so. I have a crude side to my humour. If this offends you, you should have stopped reading a paragraph prior to this one. You have been warned...
I'm going to start at the bottom of the poll and work upwards. Why? Because I want to. Because the shorter answers to the poll questions lie there, and because it will give my brain time to formulate something vaguely resembling cogent sentences for what lies ahead in the full episode poll.
So, we begin with the first (or rather, last) category. Companion. The winner of this category was, frankly, a no-brainer. Had anyone BUT the magical Sarah Jane Smith won, I would be spitting feathers. There could be no other winner. She was, quite simply, "My Sarah Jane". And probably yours too. I don't know by what margin she won, but I suspect it was a comfortable lead. Deservedly so.
Second place is an interesting choice.. Donna Noble. She wouldn't be my second place, personally, but I fully understand why she's there. She was bloody brilliant, that's why. I don't need to opine on her merits. Suffice to say, when I heard Catherine Tate had been cast as a companion, I was horrified. In much the same way I was horrified when Billie Piper was announced as the first companion to board the TARDIS upon the series' resurrection. I was wrong about her as well. Both had qualities and capabilities, both as actors and as companions, which far exceeded my expectations. Tate, in particular, became my favourite of the New Era companions, and remains so. She is, quite simply, very likeable. Add her relationship with Wilfred into the mix and you've got a winning combination before you set foot aboard the TARDIS.
Moving further into the list proves to be disappointing, particularly for an "old school" fan like me. Clara "interesting as plankton" Oswald takes seventh place, above Jo Grant, Leela, The Brigadier and Barbara Wright. REALLY? Clara above ANY of those esteemed characters is just wrong (my opinion.. don't like it, feel free to comment. Or to fuck off. Your choice!). Barbara is, was, and always will be the "First Lady" of time travel. Much as Moffat has sought to shovel Clara into every aspect of the Doctors existence, is she really worthy of a place higher than companions like Barbara, the incredibly endearing Jo Grant, or the superb Brigadier, now, sadly relegated to the role of a fucking Cyberman. Thank you, Mr Moffat.
I can't move away from the companion poll without commenting on the bottom place. Tegan Jovanka. Presumably, Nyssa, Adric, Zoe, even Susan were not placed highly enough to even make the top 15. For shame. That Clara bloody Oswald would best any of them is a mystery to me. But Tegan? I loved her to bits. She was grouchy, irascible, bad tempered.. oh, Christ, she was ME..! No wonder I liked her! The idea that her place in history is bettered by Rose Tyler or Clara "I have the personality of a coffee table" Oswald, fair boggles the mind. Oh well. There's no accounting for taste!
The next category is, arguably, the most contentious. A category which never fails to divide.. 'Favourite Doctor'. I'll lay my cards on the table and state that I'm always torn. Tom Baker was "my Doctor"; my formative years, as a child and as a Doctor Who fan occurred under his tenure. That said, I have, as many of you are aware, an extraordinary fondness for the Pertwee era. I am a big fan of the UNIT stories, I adored The Brigadier, so, of my dvd collection, his era is probably the most viewed. The poll, rightly, I think, places Tom firmly in top place. As the longest serving, and probably most memorable actor to take the lead role, his position was, I thought, perhaps, only threatened by David Tennant. Tennant has an incredibly loyal fan base. There's no denying he is exceptionally popular. Understandable. He was bloody good. It is, therefore, curious that he was beaten into third place, by Matt Smith.
Don't misunderstand me. I liked Smith, for the most part. I found him endearing, although his flapping, flailing and childish nature could grate at times. It surprises me that he beat Tennant. It irritates me that he beat Pertwee. Frankly, it irks me that Tennant is placed above Pertwee. Or Troughton. He was good, but was he really better than EVERY classic series Doctor, bar Tom Baker? In my opinion, and since this is my blog, no he bloody wasn't. It saddens me that Hartnell always fares so badly in the polls, managing to secure ninth place this time around. Yes, he fluffed his lines from time to time. Yes, he was crotchety, on and off screen. But he was also the First Doctor. The definitive article, one might say.
I can only surmise that a vast majority of people voting have never heard the Big Finish audio stories. If they had, I firmly believe Paul McGann would have fared better than tenth place. Stories such as 'Chimes of Midnight' or the 'Dark Eyes' series demonstrate his capability as an actor beautifully. Which brings me to the bottom of the poll. With the inclusion of John Hurt, dear old Colin Baker is, this time, at least, elevated from last place. Hurt did a fine job in Day of the Doctor, but beyond that, his role is fairly Insignficant in the annuls of Who history. Personally, I would have much preferred his role to have been played by McGann, but that's a whole other conversation. Back to Baker...
Colin is, I believe, one of the most overlooked, underrated actors to play the Doctor. Treated abysmally by the BBC, he stll continues to pour his heart and soul into the role of The Doctor, perhaps moreso than any other actor to take the role. Some of his on screen adventures were less than sterling, but anyone who's ever heard him reprising the role in the aforementioned Big Finish plays knows how capable he truly is. That Matt Smith is placed higher than him indicates many more "Nu Who" fans voted than "Classic". If only they would take the time to enjoy stories such as 'The Reaping', 'Spectre of Lanyon Moor' or 'Jubilee', he might have fared better.
With Colin, to all intents and purposes, at the bottom (yes, I know,, John Hurt.. Not counting him!) I suspect many Classic era fans will be understably piddled off. Tennant fans will be equally irked at Smith's ranking. And every "Nu Who" fan on earth is doubtless highly pissed off that Sylvester McCoy ranked above Chris Eccleston. Personally, I am delighted to see him above Eccleston. Baffled that he ranks above McGann, but again, I suspect the "Big Finish" factor is again at play. With that said, the Big Finish audios serve McCoy well, and while perhaps not in quite the same league as Colin Baker (for me), they do give us the pleasure of more time in the company of the Seventh Doctor. If you haven't listened to any of the Big Finish audios, you really are missing a treat. To digress from the poll for a moment, they really are worth hearing. They offer extensions to all of the Classic Doctors, from Tom Baker to Paul McGann, and surely, spending some more time in the company of any of those Doctors can't be a bad thing. They also greatly expand the Who universe, with epic stories such as the Dalek Empire saga, Gallifrey, UNIT and Counter-Measures, which continue the adventures of characters first established in 'Remembrance of the Daleks'. I cannot extol the virtues of Big Finish enough. Frankly, I should be on bloody commission!
The next category is 'Best Nu Who Series'. Taking the lead, rightly, is Season Four, so I have nothing complain about there! The rest of the poll is a bit of a mess, frankly. That Season Seven managed to beat ANYTHING, much less Seasons Two and Six, is a fucking miracle. That Season Five beat Season Three is questionable, and that Season Two ranks in seventh place is a bit of a mystery. Fuck me, what a lot of numbers to digest! As you're probably bored off of your tits after "Season this and that", here's a picture of a cat wearing a fez.
Moving swiftly on.. Next up is 'Best Nu Who Episode'. Predictably, the top spot is taken by 'Day of the Doctor' and followed by 'Blink'. Both hugely popular episodes. And both bloody overrated in my opinion (my blog, my opinion!). 'Empty Child' manages a respectable third place, although I would place it above the two aforementioned stories. By a LONG way. It pleases me to see 'Vincent and the Doctor' so highly ranked (8), likewise, 'School Reunion', both stories which dealt much more with emotion and personal relationships than with the threat of alien incursions. Dont worry.. I'm not going to go through every episode, one by one. Otherwise this is going to get very boring. If you aren't asleep already.
Highly ranked at 13 is 'The Doctor's Wife'. A hugely popular story for reasons I will NEVER understand. I fucking hate the damn story. I hate the Doctor's Wife almost as much as I hate MY (ex) wife! Still, at least, unlike her, it only drones on for 3/4 of an hour. 13 bloody years.. Never mind. That's another story!
Quite how 'Time of the Doctor' fared better than anything amazes me. Even 'Fear Her' which takes pride of place at the bottom of the poll (almost where it belongs.. but, as you'll see, not quite!) was better than 'Time'. Staring at a fucking coffee table for three hours was better than 'Time'. Personally speaking, I would have placed 'Time' in the second from bottom place. Just ahead of the interminably dreary, lacklustre, steaming, fetid pile of shit that makes up 'Nightmare in Silver', a story which has few, if any redeeming qualities. It is a story which, until 'Forest of the Night' came along, would have ranked as one of the worst stories ever. Thankfully, 'Forest' isn't in the 2014 poll, or this page would have so much swearing in, it would read like 59 Shade of Grey, without the sex. Neil Gaiman is a talented writer, but, for the love of all that is sane, keep him the hell away from Doctor Who. Please!
The remainder of this particular poll question is pretty hit and miss. 'Let's Kill Hitler' ranks above '42' so I can only assume the cat pictures above was randomly stabbing at a keyboard for six hours to illicit that particular ranking. 'Midnight', an outstanding epsiode, is served fairly well at 18, although the equally superb 'Planet of the Ood' scrapes in at a meagre 49. *sigh*
The Classic Series poll does, for a short time, appease my irritation, with Season Seven at the top spot. This pleases me immensely, both as a Pertwee fan and as a fan of Liz Shaw, a companion who, I believe, is woefully overlooked. A lot of people talk about Ace being the first "feisty" companion (a term, incindetally, which I detest, as each companion has their own, respective merits). However, Liz was more than a match for the Doctor, particularly one as vibrant as Jon. She was intelligent, brave, rational, sceptical.. Strong characteristics lacking from even some present day companions, in a time when we are (allegedly) more enlightened in attitudes toward women. A female scientist in the 1970's, while not groundbreaking, was unusual, and a welcome addition to the series. So to see S7 take the top spot satisfies me greatly.
I'm not sure how I feel about Season 13 taking second place, while Season 12 resides at seventh. Season 13 is, undoubtedly, outstanding. After all, it contains 'Terror of the Zygons', 'Pyramids of Mars' and 'Seeds of Doom'. Perhaps it deserves its ranking. Season 12, however, contains 'Genesis of the Daleks', which surely must rank it higher than 7th place. The biggest problem with ranking the classic era by season is that each series contains some very strong episodes. With Season 3 containing only 3 extant episodes, none of which are stellar, it is no surprise to find it in 24th place. Colin Baker fares marginally better here, although still close to the bottom. 'Trial of a Timelord' is, I believe, worthy of a higher place than 25th. The bottom position goes, unsurprisingly, to Season 24. Any season which contains 'Time and the Rani' (which I don't mind.. much!) and 'Paradise Towers' (which I'd rather gnaw my own legs off than watch) is never going to fare particularly well.
I confess a fondness for 'Delta and the Bannermen'; I find the setting, the music, the whole 50's holiday camp "vibe" rather charming. But, this is a season containing, what is, I believe, the single biggest pile of excrement ever committed to video (at least until 'Forest of the Night' came along). I bloody loathe 'Paradise Towers'! I'm sorry, if you happen to be one of the four people on earth who likes it. I don't. It's shit. Grade A fertiliser. Dung. Crap. Turgid, tedious, silly, tiresome rubbish. In case you haven't gathered from my astute assessment, I don't like it very much! For that reason, S24 is welcome to the bottom spot. And 'Paradise Towers' is welcome at the bottom of a pit.
And so, I am concluding, for the moment, here. This post is already quite long enough, and frankly, if you've managed to stay conscious throughout it's entirety, I'm impressed! Tomorrow, I'll be looking at the remainder of the poll, which focuses largely on individual episode rankings.
Until then, I welcome any comments, dissenting or otherwise. And please, bear in mind, all of this is only my opinion. It isn't right. It isn't wrong. It's simply the musings of one individual. There is no "right and wrong" when it comes to Doctor Who. We like what we like, and that's fine. Unless you place 'Paradise Towers' as the single, greatest episode ever. If that happens to be the case, you're probably a complete twat...! ;)