There, I said it. We've all been thinking it. Even you Mark Gatiss. I bet you have. If you haven't, you should - you really should you know.
I quite enjoyed all of the New Adventures up to Nightshade. Even John Peel's opening one. And I loved Uncle Terrance's Exodus, which is fast and economical but gripping too. Nigel Robinson's one was decent and Paul Cornell was a delight to find (Ace has suffocated on the moon, believing it to be Perivale - the afterlife receptionist thinks it unique, according to the blurb on the back).
And then I hit a stumbling block. I couldn't get past Marc Platt's Time's Crucible - a shame as I was deeply impressed by his novelisations of Battlefield ) making it much better than the televised story) and Ghost Light (making it make sense - kinda).
Then Cartmel's first book of his NA trilogy. Cartmel comes in for a lot of stick these days (much of it of his own making) but his New Adventures were genuinely superb books. Andrew Hunt's (?) Witchmark didn't leave much impact on me - I think I thought it was OK.
And then, I'm fairly sure, was Gatiss' Nightshade. It was the first book that me totally gripped, with what I thought were the right amounts of old Doctor Who, the 'too broad and deep' philosophy of the New Adventures, humour, wit and - importantly - horror.
Gatiss' first book has terrors to send your arm hairs up on end, afraid to look under the bed and unwilling to turn off the light. The concept of a monster that feeds of fear - and thus becomes that which people fear the most - is not especially novel but I don't remember an instance of it being pulled off so well.
The Tar Baby and the drowned, dead brother are horrifying creations described wonderfully - the former's sticky arms reaching out from beneath the bed - and its victim's lack of surprise - is a masterclass in horror writing.
And then there's Professor Nightshade. If the story had been made into a TV serial the monster would have been enough. But Gatiss uses the form to delve into a meta sub-plot about a retired actor who played a character not at all like Quatermass in some BBC serials (I think). Because - in Nightshade - peoples' fears become reality you basically get an episode of Quatermass played out within a Doctor Who story. Irresistable.
Rather than delving into big space opera battles or cyberpunk - or the sex-and-violence that some tried and often failed - Gatiss uses the broader canvas to simply do something clever with the opportunity. The setting was good too. A cold, colourless northeast seaside town if I remember correctly. I always imagined a Marske or Whitby rather than a Teesside town - somewhere near the Moors.
I liked the novel immensely. I reckon I read it a few times. I re-read it a few years ago - when I revisited the range - and found that it had not aged. Others I found very much less impressive second-time around.
It strikes me that this would make an excellent two-parter with little tweaking. It's a good story for the Doctor, if I remember correctly. While Gatiss sketched out the seventh very well I don't remember it being exclusively about the seventh incrantion especially. Ace has a good story too - and nearly has a romance with a man called Robin ( I would have been willin') - and there's a great character actor part in Professor Nightshade.
Beyond that I can't remember. But I am sure the story would stand the transfer well. The BBC does period well, some nice location stuff would really drag the series back out of its self-satisfied America-and-space routines of the last series - and the tower block mise-en-scene of RTD's tenure. For all of its promise I'm not sure the new series has really explored the 'anywhere, anywhen' template much
Importantly, for me, the story is frightening. Doctor Who is all abut frightening for me. Sure, some fans think it's hilarious when Tom and the guest cast spend 90 minutes twatting about, or the Doctor snogs someone or the Daleks and Cybermen have a war.
Maybe those things are good, but I don't think they're the reason kids get into Doctor Who. Our programme has been great at scares over the years. It has spawned some of the most famously frightening things that exist in fiction. It is a scary show - and it's usually at its best when its being good at being terrifying. You've heard of 'behind the sofa' - I vividly remember spending the end of the first episode of Caves of Androzani under the sofa.
Nightshade is a very scary book. I'd also stick my head above the parapet and say that it's the best thing Mark Gatiss has done on the show, including his other novels, audio plays and his TV scripts.
While I found The Unquiet Dead very enjoyable, it's been a case of diminishing returns with Gatiss' scripts, culminating in the obviously hacked-up Victory of the Daleks and the very weak Night Terrors.
Gatiss is clearly someone who could be a future show-runner, if the series has a secure future. Should Moffat continue it seems reasonable to expect more Gatiss episodes. He has one of the best Doctor Who stories ever written at his disposal - and he wrote it. Cornell did the same for Human Nature - and Marc Platt's wonderful Spare Parts was mangled to make Rise of the Cybermen (probably best we forget that) but Nightshade's simplicity, its neutrality, its very Who-ness would make it a classic.
It may be a very old adventure - but to a legion of New Series fans it could be new once more.
The second photo is - I think - from when BBC Online started to reprint a few of the NAs. I've also found a prelude to it - DWM had an excellent featurette that prefaced all the novels in those days, a reflection of how important they were. You can read it here.
A spot-on pastiche of 90s gaming and a pretty neat skit on Moffatt's incomprehensible 'who-cares-if-no-one-gets-this' story arcs.
It also reminded me of Dalek Attack! - which has actually a pretty decent platformer that I completed back in the day.
I read an article recently that featured Russell T Davies' views on what he saw as the death of childrens' TV - calling out ITV for ditching children's programming.
As a result I looked up Century Falls and Dark Season on DVD and - while I was there - searched for a DVD of Archer's Goon, a fondly-remembered Children's BBC drama by Diana Wynne Jones, who died last year.
I don't think it's on DVD - I couldn't find it anyway - so I turned to the internet. Needless to say someone has uploaded the entire series, so I enjoyed watching the whole series of six episodes over a couple of days.
It's very very enjoyable - and I have no problem admitting that I enjoyed these BBC dramas in their 5.10pm slots as much as I enjoy watching them now. Certainly some of the acting and SFX are a bit wonky but the sheer oddness of the whole thing is kind of enchanting.
There was a great movement in the 80s and 90s towards programming for children that revolved around words like 'gritty' and 'realistic'. There's certainly a place for that in childrens' programmes - I understand there's a very popular programme called Tracey Beaker these days about a kid on a foster home (or something) - and, on the flip side RTD is now developing a programme called Aliens versus Wizards. It sounds, to me, like the TV equivalent of a deep-fried strawberry milkshake, but there you go.
I'm happy to fly the flag for imaginative, surreal, oddball, funny, frightening dramas that the BBC were incredibly good at producing from the 80s to early 90s. Archer's Goon was, apparently, the last drama made by the Children's BBC drama department (can't verify that; read it somewhere), which seems like an enormous shame.
Anyway, I've embedded the first episode of Archer's Goon below, the rest can be found here. It's saying that you can only view the five-minute preview without installing something or other, but I managed to watch it all online on a Mac.
Sad to learn of the death of Philip Madoc at 77 - another British acting heavyweight with a number of connections to Doctor Who.
It always seems amiss to frame these tributes to actors and production staff in relation to something that was probably a small part of their overall careers; but generations of people are exposed to the significant talents through Who they might not be otherwise aware.
Madoc certainly does have a wider exposure - obits are likely to mention his amusing role as the U-boat captain in Dad's Army (in my house it's still required to ask for chips that are 'crisp... und light brown' rather than soggy), his Cadfael and slow-burn Channel 5 thriller A Mind to Kill.
But that's all a bit beyond my locus. Madoc is chiefly known in the Doctor Who universe for his amusingly unhinged Mehendri Solon in The Brain of Morbius and the chilling War Chief in The War Games.
He's comfortably the most interesting character in either story - and I say that in full recognition of the fact that he shares a lot of screen time with Tom Baker, Patrick Troughton, James Bree and Edward Brayshaw.
A still of Madoc as the War Lord is my avatar on Outpost Gallifrey, or whatever it's called these days, such is the regard in which I hold him in. He's believably evil - and his smile upon delivering his various threats quite sinister; polo-necked, bearded and sporting a tiny little pair of rounded glasses that suggest something vaguely fascistic.
Solon is an altogether different kind of nutter; he's a complete monomaniacal loony, devoted to beheading shipwrecked unfortunates on Karn in order to build a pot-pourri of a monster to house Morbius' brain.
It's superb grand guignol stuff - made all the more engaging by Solon's wry, black sense of humour. Madoc's dry "I'm sorry, the pun was irresistible," in relation to a crap gag Solon makes to Morbius ("the crowning irony!") is brilliant.
Madoc also appears in the film version of the Dalek Invasion of Earth as a
Nazi Dalek collaborator. Again, he's a thoroughly unpleasant chap here. He's also in the Power of Kroll, but I can't remember anything him about in that. Various Doctor Who talents are reduced to mere squid food in that one.
I'm fairly sure the War Lord returned in some New Adventure or other - such was the power of the performance; it's easy to believe it slipping under the radar into typically overblown Doctor Who villain lunacy in another's hands.
We Who fans perhaps feel the death of such actors because we link them with childhood memories. And, perhaps, we're more forgiving of such actors' limitations.
Not so in the case of Madoc - he was a genuinely talented actor and comparison to the likes of Richard Burton and Anthony Hopkins are irresistible.
Madoc was blessed with a wonderfully mellifluous voice, with a lovely Welsh lilt. Apparently he was a heck of a singer to boot. Here's just a small example of Philip Madoc from beyond the world of Doctor Who. RIP.
If you ever wondered what it would look like if the Seventh Doctor machine-gunned Romana I to death, then look no further.
This is from a film called Three Kinds of Heat, which featured Sylvester McCoy and Mary Tamm. Judging by this short clip it's surely the worst film ever made.
I loved the Vault of Horror spots on the BBC in the early-to-mid 90s and discovered a heck of a lot of good films through them. There was also a weekly episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker, a fondly-remembered series I recently bought on DVD and found to be utter crap, but I mainly watched for Dr Terror.
He started off as Doctor Walpurgis one Halloween a couple of years previously but later got his own series, rather like a demonic version of Alex Cox's Moviedrome.
I do miss these oddities the BBC used to create, generally before closedown on Friday, Saturday or Sunday nights - and just about the only thing the BBC did in the early 90s that even waved a hand at the horror, fantasy or sci-fi genres, unless you count Crime Traveller.
The thought of them now is unthinkable, but I thought I'd share this compilation of the Doctor's best bits. Wonderful stuff.
PS. The Doc is played by Guy Henry, who you may have seen in Extras or Holby City. Good innee?
I remember reading an interview a few years - mid-90s at a guess - in which someone, possibly Mark Gatiss, said he was sure that Doctor Who would return one day because there'd soon come a point where people in strategic positions all over the higher echelons of the BBC (or media generally) would be Doctor Who fans.
It struck me as a thrilling prospect - and one that made a lot of sense. You only have to look at the people who worked on the New Adventures and follow a few of their career paths to see how true that prediction turned out to be.
I thought I'd see how true it was and found that Doctor Who creeps into various different areas of UK media - almost as if someone had interfered with their personal time lines 40-odd years ago and ensured they were in the right places at the right time...
Writing and production staff with direct involvement in new series
Russell T Davies
Actors with direct involvement in new series
All have been published or commissioned for TV/audio scripts outisde of Doctor Who, as far as I can tell
Miscellaneous actors and writers with some (possibly tangential) involvement in new series or spin-off media
I stumbled across this advert somewhere on the web, which shows Jon Pertwee in what turned out to be his final role - an advert for Vodaphone filmed on Pilgrim Street in Liverpool.
It was an odd situation, as I followed the ad back to Youtube - it had been embedded on someone else's site - and discovered that I'd uploaded it a couple of years ago.
The ad has a special place in my heart as I have lived in Liverpool for most of my adult life and the Great pert was my favourite Doctor. Enjoy.
I didn't dislike Sherlock, and I think some of the modern updates, including the Sherlock website, which features in the show as Sherlock Holmes' own website, are nice touches.
But this snippet from the site kinda tells you everything you need to know about the programme and its 'Conan Doyle: Updated' shtick:
This is what I do:
1. I observe everything.
2. From what I observe, I deduce everything.
3. When I've eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how mad it might seem, must be the truth.
Elementary, my dear homie.
The suggestion that Farscape is a bit like Blake's 7 is hardly a revelation, what with a gang of convicts and ne'er-do-wells roaming the galaxy in an extraordinary ship they stumbled across fighting a collection of S&M fascists and their own dodgy interpersonal relationships.
Crichton, obsessed with Scorpius and wormholes is reminiscent of Blake in terms of the latter's desire to bring down the Federation, and Travis. There's a bit of Tarrant hotshot fly-boy arrogance in there too.
The symbiotic relationship of Pilot and Moya is rather too similar to Zen and The Liberator too; and there are various other archetypes in there too: female mystic; cowardly jester; gun-wielding ball-breaking women; ambiguous leather-clad anti-heroes; and gentle giants.
There are even set pieces that seem like straight lifts: in Dog With Two Bones the Farscape crew gunned down by black-clad troopers in slo-mo in a end-of-season climax. Not unlike Blake, where the Blake's 7 crew are unned down by black-clad troopers in slo-mo in a end-of-season climax.
What's interesting, though, is that despite so many similar elements, the two programmes could hardly be more different. Farscape is an extremely funny show: self-aware; self-deprecating and not afraid to play with form and convention.
Blake's 7 - despite a lot of grim humour and the odd lighter episode, generally focussed on Vila - B7 tended to take itself fairly seriously, especially in the early days.
And in spite of the odd look between Avon and Cally, or the occasional kiss between Avon and Servalan, romance - or even sex - was rarely in the air in the British sci-fi show.
In Farscape everyone is at it all the time. Chiana is, fairly explicitly, a slut who's only a half-step removed from being a prostitute, albeit one who's quite happy to adopt that, er, position.
Time travel, alternate universes, cosmic planes, resurrections, fantasy, animation - Farscape had a go at all of them. But Blake's 7 was a product of its time: of Thatcher and strikes and oil shortages: it was straight-laced and po-faced.
But I love both shows, at once alike and un-alike. Divided by continents and decades and styles and tastes; sharing a set-up but taking them in radically different directions.
If only Paul Darrow had turned up on Moya.
Ten reasons Farscape is like Blake's 7
Aeryn=Jenna or Soolin
Crichton=Blake or Tarrant