Posts Tagged With: dr who and the daleks

Out and about in Haworth

By the time this little missive turns up on the feeds, I will be in Swansea. I trust your week is going well. I will probably be shouting at the kids. One of these days I really must take them down to Cardiff and do a proper location tour, rather than simply strolling along Roald Dahl Plass and giggling at the Ianto shrine. I need to go and check out that cemetery, for example, and re-enact bits from ‘The Girl Who Waited’ in Dyffryn Gardens. So many power stations, so little time.

As I write this it’s late July, we’re still in the middle of a heatwave and it’s almost impossible to think remember a time when it wasn’t insufferably humid. But the last holiday we had – and one I’ve unfortunately neglected to write about until now – was back in February, when we visited Haworth in Yorkshire, under a couple of feet of snow. Home of the Brontë sisters (and their wayward black sheep), Haworth is hilly, picturesque and overly tourist-driven, particularly in the old village, but it’s not a bad place to spend a week, and the moors are right on your doorstep – providing you can cope with the mud.

Still, you don’t want to see my holiday slides. Well, you do; just not all of them. What possible interest could the BoM audience have with seven shots of us rolling an enormous head up a 1:3 slope? (I knew I didn’t think that one through.) Or panoramic views of the Peaks? You can go to Shutterstock for that sort of thing and you’ll probably find the lighting is better. Still, we did go to Cliffe Castle Museum, in the heart of Keighley (pronounced Keith Lee, for some unknown reason, although I live in a country where Godmanchester is pronounced ‘Gumster’ by the locals, so clearly it’s not worth turning over that particular stone). And this was on the top floor.

Cliffe Castle is home to a dazzling array of…stuff, from ancient Egyptian artifacts to nineteenth century tea bricks (Google it). There are ornate chandeliers in the Victorian parlour, contemporary paintings around the balcony, and there’s an impressive taxidermy collection near the geology exhibition. You walk through one room that deals with farming traditions into an ornate summary of the formation of the Earth, from magma through to Cretaceous, in an impressive inner sanctum with black walls that make the colours stand out. Sod local history: I’m going to look at rocks.

Speaking of stuffed animals, we did find this during our wanderings.

It’s hard to miss it, really, isn’t it? Apparently this really was a genuine sheep, born of ewe and graced with two heads; by the looks of it the poor thing didn’t live very long. It is in here because we think it resembles a Smiler.

My family and I visited an awful lot of museums on this trip – one of my favourites was the Bradford Industrial Museum, which has an impressive array of classic cars, printing presses and just about every loom that rolled off the production line, and if you’re not well versed in the history of weaving when you go in, it’s a dead cert by the time you leave. There are live demonstrations and workshops and a temporary exhibit near the gift shop – and that was where we found this.

I mean. it’s Peter Cushing, isn’t it? He’s changed his hair but I’m sure I can spot Roy Castle in the back somewhere.

One thing this neighbourhood is famous for is its art – or one artist in particular. David Hockney (you know, the swimming pool guy) was born in Bradford, and don’t they know it. Nowhere is this more prevalent, perhaps, than Saltaire – a model village (in the aspirational, as opposed to physical sense) that’s now a World Heritage Site since the mill closed its doors, before re-opening them to reveal a bookshop and hipster cafe. The mill’s enormous ground level is now a spacious, almost cathedral-like exhibit dedicated to Hockney (and a number of other artists): vast murals dominate the walls and ethereal music is piped through the speakers. It’s an almost religious experience, and I say that as a lifelong churchgoer.

We went to Saltaire, but just down the road from the Industrial Museum there’s a smallish gallery called Cartwright Hall, which doesn’t have any incense, but which does have a prototype for Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor costume in the Hockney exhibition upstairs.

Hockney’s a permanent fixture at Cartwright Hall, but the stuff downstairs is shaken up every couple of months. When we went there was a room dedicated to old circus posters, which was far more interesting than it sounds, and an entire wall of Abzorbaloff victims.

Meanwhile, spotted in a Bradford underpass: the DWSR team that never made it back from the ‘Flatline’ shoot.

Admit it, you’re secretly pleased.

What were we doing in Bradford? Amazingly, we weren’t there for Indian food (which Bradford does very well). We were visiting the National Science and Media Museum: five floors of old cameras, magic lanterns and a nice little exhibition about the history of the internet. (There’s also an IMAX cinema, for those who can afford that sort of thing.) If you troop past the walls displaying old cartoons (which are frankly a little unsettling) you will find the penguin jewel heist from The Wrong Trousers – the only set that Aardman didn’t lose in the fire that hit their studios several years back. There’s also an old arcade full of slot machines and consoles from the 70s, 80s and 90s, where we spent a happy half hour revisiting Asteroids, Gauntlet and Sonic The Hedgehog, and where I swiftly remembered that I was never any good at Street Fighter II.

No idea what this is, though. Apologies.


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Silver Screen Nemesis

Years ago, there was a joke doing the rounds:

Q. How many Doctor Who fans does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. None – they just sit there and hope it’ll come back on.

Post-2005, of course, this doesn’t work (although it’s still funny, if you know your history). But I had to change it:

Q. How many Doctor Who fans does it take to change a lighbulb?
A. Thirty – one to change the bulb and the remaining twenty-nine to rant about how much they preferred the other one.

Actually, the twenty-nine is probably misrepresentative: there will be a fair few who will argue vehemently that Russell T Davies was the best thing to happen to the show in its fifty-year history, that the soap aspects humanise the show, and that there was a reason Doctor Who was cancelled. They’re right about the last part – the rose-tinted spectacles are out in full force when it comes to classic Who, and I think we let it cloud our judgement. I’m abivalent about much of new Who, but when it comes to comparisons with the old stuff I do confess to seeing both sides of the argument, and am therefore, as Oscar Wilde once said, a man who can’t actually see anything at all.

But that’s a whole other blog post that I will eventually write. To summarise just here, the digital age has brought about a new wave of critique and online commentary that can be as acidic as it can be sycophantic. There are few shows that are subject to as much critical scrutiny as Doctor Who, and I can think of no other programme – in the UK, at least – that is grilled, dissected, torn to shreds, hung, drawn and quartered by the people who profess to be its fans. We’ll justify our behaviour by claiming that we love the show for what it once was, or what it could be, or what it should be, or what it…never won’t be…sort of thing. All the while we’ll ignore the little voice inside that says “It’s back. And you always wanted it back. Isn’t it better to have it like this than to not have it?”. (For some reason, mine always sounds like Patrick Troughton.)

Anyway. The fans were out in force yesterday afternoon over the announcement that Doctor Who is “to be made into a feature film”. There’s no script, no cast information, no story, no release date and no production crew. That didn’t stop the Guardian readers launching into a passionate debate about the whys, wherefores and whethers. Suffice to say that the article and subsequent commentary tell us nothing that we didn’t already know, except that Dan Martin is an idiot (but I knew that already) who knows bugger all about Doctor Who and will fill his columns with provocative puff pieces that serve only to fan the flames, rather than support the cause of decent, constructive journalism. I have stayed firmly out of this debate – I have nothing to add to it and no firm opinions either way (what’s the point of speculating about a film that hasn’t been cast or scripted and for which even the tone and context has yet to be announced?). And it’s curious, because staying out of the Doctor Who debates always leaves you with one of those Naked Lunch moments where you suddenly stop and wonder what on earth you’re actually doing with your time, and what the point is, so I read the first few comments and then abandoned it completely, so as to avoid winding up thoroughly dispirited with my wasted life.

It’s not as if the series’ planned jaunt to the cinematic format is new. Only yesterday I mentioned the rotten 1996 TV movie, clearly pitching (unsuccessfully) at a different target audience and changing the very essence of Doctor Who in the process. It’s not so much the inconsistencies (Paul McGann’s revelation that he was “half human on my mother’s side” had the fanboys tearing up their parents’ basements in anger, but anger is only there if you choose to believe him, because “rule number one: the Doctor lies”). It’s the whole tone of the piece that’s wrong: Eric Roberts is hopelessly miscast, the new TARDIS’ interior seems unnecessarily elaborate, and the story is tedious and meandering. It’s a shame, because with a little more effort it could have seen the start of great things for McGann, who has had to be content instead with his radio work – which, while admittedly prolific, is scant compensation for the screen time that the eighth Doctor really deserved.

But what I want to talk about today is the 1965 production, Doctor Who and the Daleks – the first of two jaunts for Peter Cushing, playing a wholly human, non-canonical and quite different Doctor. The film has a TARDIS (homemade, and lacking the definite article), and Daleks, and the Doctor has a (human) granddaughter, and supporting characters who share the names of the television Doctor’s first companions, but that’s about the end of the similarities. This adventure sees Dr. Who (as he is named, which is a less rare occurrence than you might think) set off on an adventure after Roy Castle falls on the controls.

TARDIS interior. Different to what you might expect.

Undaunted, the gang travel to a retroactively named Skaro to oversee the end of a conflict between the Daleks and the Thals. Searching the plastic jungle for the McGuffin mercury they need to repower TARDIS, the team find themselves captured by the metal monsters. After several futile attempts to escape their prison cell, the Doctor finally twigs as to the reasons for their lack of success, rising from his seat and seemingly breaking the fourth wall. “There!” he cries triumphantly. “That’s how they know what we’re doing!”

Right, so that’ll be the really really big security camera, then.

The gang eventually escape by insulating a Dalek and then removing its brain from the casing, allowing Roy Castle to climb inside. Handy, this chap.

A single protruding fin gives the only clue as to what’s hiding beneath that blanket.

Meanwhile, the other Daleks don’t suspect a thing.

Dalek lava lamps. Because even when you're a disembodied brain trapped in a wheelie bin, style is important.

Heading into the petrified jungle, the gang regroup with the Thals.

Years before The Truman Show, painted backdrops were in.

There’s a bit of plotting and scheming in the jungle, and more of those tight costumes.

Nothing remotely homoerotic here. Honest to God.

Eventually, the Doctor manages to get the Thals to overcome their pacifist instincts long enough to launch a counter-attack on the Daleks, and everyone heads back to the city, where – in one of the film’s most amusing sequences, a Dalek is pushed down a lift shaft:
It all ends well, and the gang head back to the jungle for their farewells.

Cushing's Doctor. Still not ginger.


Which you can't really say for this lot.

As cinematic forays go, it’s not a disaster. Cushing himself is affable and fun, the Daleks are suitably menacing (despite being disappointingly vulnerable to people grabbing them and pulling off their eye stalks) and the sets and supporting cast are fun. Taking the film out of continuity and giving it a parallel context is arguably its greatest strength: if the new film were to emulate this formula, the fans would be suitably outraged but at least there would be no problems with trying to make it fit. The weakest element – one David Yates should bear in mind – is the use of Roy Castle, who is implemented here as a fundamentally silly character, whether he’s falling over things, trying awkwardly to impersonate a Dalek or running around TARDIS in a blind panic in the film’s epilogue. He’s a character who eventually finds an inner strength but who exists, for the most part, in a vacuum of simple and rather gratuitous comic relief.
Thank goodness those days are gone…
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