"the quintessence of British Pop culture blogs" - Thierry Attard

RECENT POSTS

Coppers & Spies Revisited

I thought you might enjoy these extensively re-written versions of the original Coppers and Spies blog posts published on the MovieMail site in 2014. Each part contains additional research material and information on the various crime and spy adventure series the original blog series covered, timed to celebrate Network's highly-anticipated release of The Professionals in high-definition last March.  

1: Evenin' All: From Fabian of the Yard to Dixon of Dock Green
 Crime and detective fiction developed from the public’s appetite for lurid reports of court proceedings, the serialised, sensationalist ‘penny dreadfuls’ and the first appearance of Edgar Allan Poe’s creation C. August Dupin in 1841’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue. As Dupin worked his case, the Metropolitan Police set up Scotland Yard and, forever synonymous with the London detective force, the Yard caught the public’s imagination. Inspector Bucket, in Dickens’ Bleak House, and Wilkie Collins’ creation Sergeant Cuff in The Moonstone were inspired by the real-life exploits of the Yard’s officers.

Their popularity ushered in the ‘golden age’ of crime fiction and the success of Arthur Conan Doyle, Dorothy L. Sayers, Edgar Wallace and Agatha Christie also went hand in hand with the
mythologising of Scotland Yard. Inevitably, these stories would be adapted for radio, film and, finally, television. The crime drama and police procedural television series then emerged out of several related pre-war and post-war film and television traditions and practices.

For example, BBC dramas of the 1950s and 1960s, such as Dixon of Dock Green and Z Cars, developed from an experimental documentary ethos that stretched back to the General Post Office film unit overseen by John Grierson. It greatly influenced the BBC Documentary Unit’s production of public-information style crime documentary-dramas prior to Dixon of Dock Green. On the other hand, crime dramas shown on the commercial channel ITV, when it began transmission in 1955, evolved from economic and industrial changes to the production of B pictures.

Funded by US studios, these crime B pictures were also influenced by American detective noir of the 1930s, popularised by Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, and often featured lead American actors to ensure export potential. This British-American hybridisation of the genre would have a lasting effect as British film studios gradually switched to production of filmed crime series, intended for American television networks and often repackaged for cinema exhibition in Britain.

Pilgrim Street’s ‘manor’ and ‘ordinary everyday crime’


Prior to ITV’s arrival in 1955, at the BBC a key figure in the development of the crime documentary-drama was Robert Barr. A former BBC war correspondent and crime reporter Barr was unofficially in charge of the Documentary Unit at the BBC in the late 1940s and contributed to and produced several television magazine and story-documentary strands. His expertise on the police and crime featured in 1946’s Telecrimes, in which a Scotland Yard representative presented 15 minute dramatisations of true crimes, and a reconstruction style documentary about black marketers It’s Your Money They’re After, made in cooperation with the Yard in 1948.

Barr’s understanding of what constituted police work and his insider knowledge of Scotland Yard continued to inform BBC series such as 1950’s War On Crime and 1951’s I Made News. Fictional dramatisations of crime and the work of the police emerged from this documentary-reconstruction tradition and the research methods used were central to the early development of Dixon Of Dock Green and Z Cars, both of which would set the template for the television studio based police series of the era.

Many visual tropes in War On Crime were repeated in later dramas such as Fabian Of The Yard and Dixon Of Dock Green and production techniques used on I Made News, including creation of the new role of ‘director’ in BBC television production, had a lasting impact. Their reassuring public service element was eventually reconstituted within George Dixon’s direct to camera homilies in Dixon Of Dock Green.

Barr’s innovations coalesced in 1952’s Pilgrim Street, a weekly, public service themed drama-documentary series that shared aspects of Basil Dearden’s iconic 1950 Ealing crime thriller The Blue Lamp. Pilgrim Street’s working title was ‘the Blue Lamp series’, both were co-written by Jan Read and, like Dixon, they focused on a police station’s ‘manor’ and ‘ordinary everyday crime’. A framing shot of the ‘police’ lamp outside Pilgrim Street station referenced a similar image in the film and would be repeated in the Dixon Of Dock Green series.

Scotland Yard and the dual-purpose film

ITV recognised the potential for British filmed series as way of filling their schedules. Dramas made on film rather than on tape, using a rationalised, economic production ethos, allowed Anglo Amalgamated/Merton Park, the Danzigers, Hannah Weinstein, Lew Grade’s ITC and Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman to make the transition from crime feature films to television production in the 1950s and fulfil the demand from the small screen.

Anglo Amalgamated specialised in the dual-purpose film. 1953’s Scotland Yard, successor The Scales of Justice and their Edgar Wallace adaptations were featurettes shown in UK cinemas, sold for television broadcast in the US and later retransmitted on ITV. Quintessentially British, they explored an authentic London milieu on the verge of the social and cultural changes ushered in by the 1960s. Many of these films were based on actual cases and exploited the mythical status of Scotland Yard, due largely to the increasing relationship between sensationalist journalism and its ‘celebrity’ detectives.

In 1959 ITC and Baker and Berman’s company New World agreed a deal to produce Leslie Charteris’s The Saint and adapt John Creasey’s George Gideon novels as Gideon’s Way for television. To make them, New World put together a stable of writers, including Terry Nation and Harry W. Junkin, and directors such as Cyril Frankel, Roy Ward Baker and John Gilling. All had considerable experience working on the crime feature films made by New Word’s predecessor Tempean and they were gainfully employed by Grade’s ITC making British-American hybrid crime adventure series for the next decade.

American producer Hannah Weinstein came to Britain and established Fountain Films in 1952. She optioned the rights to John Dickson Carr’s Colonel March stories for a series of 26 dual-purpose half-hour film series transmitted as Colonel March of Scotland Yard on ITV from 1956. Boris Karloff played the eye-patched detective solving crimes too baffling for Scotland Yard, many with a hint of the supernatural. Weinstein, in collaboration with ITC, scored international success with historical adventure series The Adventures of Robin Hood but she returned to crime drama in 1959 with The Four Just Men, one of the first series to exploit the vogue for international detectives.

Two American brothers, Harry and Edward Danziger also brought an American production ethos to Britain and speedily made a series of crime features and series with an American and British repertory company of directors, actors and writers, including the creator of The Avengers, Brian Clemens, ITC stalwart Dennis Spooner and the prolific Roger Marshall.

Crime anthology series The Vise, produced in 1956 at Riverside Studios, eventually evolved into Mark Saber, a standard crime thriller featuring the eponymous former Scotland Yard man and gentleman detective. A British-American hybrid series, 130 half-hours of Mark Saber were networked in the US and then ran on ITV from 1957. It was retitled as Saber of London when NBC acquired the series and it ran for a further 90 episodes.

The Danzigers also contributed to the development of the international crime adventure series with Man From Interpol, a production made entirely at Elstree that exploited the use of stock footage to represent a myriad of foreign locations. It was a format that would stand the likes of ITC in good stead throughout the 1960s.

From acid bath murders to terrorism

With the launch of ITV imminent, in 1954 the BBC was pressured into developing new formats for drama and comedy. The new Head of Light Entertainment Ronnie Waldman commissioned the weekly Fabian Of The Yard, written and produced by Robert Barr and made by Trinity Films for the BBC, which ran for 36 episodes between 1954 and 1956.

Fabian shared many of the features of the US series Dragnet: it was notable as one of the first British series shot entirely on film; it used a voice-over travelogue to locate its crime stories in post war reconstruction London; and it based its stories on many of the real-life Fabian’s cases at Scotland Yard. The series’ noir-ish, forensic approach to everything from acid bath murders to terrorism established the benchmark for the dramatised police series on television.

Barr had persuaded Robert Fabian, head of the Flying Squad, to appear in I Made News and used his connections again to bring the detective to television. Actor Bruce Seton played his fictional incarnation and would then be switched to the real Fabian for an awkward prologue and epilogue to each episode, another device borrowed from Dragnet and used more effectively by Fabian's successor Dixon Of Dock Green.

To replace Fabian Of The Yard, Ronnie Waldman asked writer Ted Willis to revive PC George Dixon, last seen murdered in Ealing’s crime thriller The Blue Lamp. Based on Fabian’s case files about the gangland murder of Alec de Antiquis.

Written by Willis and Jan Read, the film’s depiction of the typical bobby on the beat and police teamwork set the tone for the television series Willis created. He told the Radio Times in January 1957 that he ‘discovered’ Dixon, while researching for The Blue Lamp, by walking ‘the manor’ with an East End copper and meeting the various denizens of the area around Leman Street Police Station.

The writing of six initial scripts for the Dixon of Dock Green series were inspired by his research at Paddington Green police station and anecdotal evidence from hundreds of officers. It informed the direction Willis would take: ‘We decided from the start, win or lose, to break away from the accepted formula for police and crime stories. Dixon wouldn’t be Dixon in a programme which was full of wailing sirens, screeching brakes, gun fights, murderers and crazy mixed-up kids. His life is one of routine: traffic duty, drunks, night-beats, answering questions, handling minor criminals.’

The avuncular Jack Warner reprised the role of George Dixon, whom he had played in The Blue Lamp, and became the epitome of community policing and the traditional image of the foot patrol policeman. The series consolidated the BBC’s move toward serialised drama and embraced the public service remit of Robert Barr’s documentaries, providing advice on crime prevention and information on support organisations such as the NSPCC.

With Fabian’s demise, Barr moved to ITV and worked there until 1958, when Elwyn Jones enticed him to return to the BBC as a Group Producer. He produced the BBC’s Scotland Yard series in 1960 and oversaw the development of, and contributed scripts to, Z Cars.

A cosy, paternalistic attitude towards crime

Willis left Dixon in 1963 as the 1960 Royal Commission on the Police and the Police Act 1964 responded to the public’s concerns about police corruption, organisational issues and accountability in a Britain then witnessing a crime wave. He and Warner were somewhat dismissive of Z Cars and its realistic reflection of these issues when it started transmission in 1962 but Willis later admitted that George Dixon was a product of his time, forever linked to Jack Warner’s gentle performance.

Although criticised for its cosy, paternalistic attitude towards crime, the series made a valiant attempt, with an influx of new writers, to inject realism into the format. In 1966 producer Ronnie Marsh responded to the series’ perceived cosiness with ‘a new tempo’ and introduced a toughness into the series when writers Eric Paice and N. J. Crisp created stronger stories less focused on Dixon’s home life.

When producer Joe Waters oversaw the series’ transition into the 1970s the lads of Dock Green were faced with police corruption, blackmail, suicide, gang warfare and gun crime. However, the final series in 1976, where a retired Dixon was re-employed as a civilian collator analysing criminal records, felt very anachronistic compared with the faster paced, gritty realism of The Sweeney.

The legacy of George Dixon continues in period dramas George Gently and Heartbeat, both nostalgic derivations of the uniformed police series with the former exploring the moral complexities of policing and the latter retreating into an idealised past. The police station as the centre for community-based stories was also reconfigured in the equally long running The Bill.

Robert Reiner, summarising this evolution, saw Dixon Of Dock Green as the thesis, with the police depicted as carers, The Sweeney as its antithesis where the police were controllers, and The Bill, as a synthesis of the two, showed the police as a service of interdependent care and control. The police series continues to evolve in this way, offering a pluralist approach to the depiction of police procedure and crime and its relationship with British society.

Bibliography:
  • Adams, Bernard, ‘Dixon of Dock Green: why TV’s longest-running crime series is more talked about than ever,’ in Radio Times, (BBC, 20 January 1966).
  • Leishmann, Frank, ‘From Dock Green to Life on Mars: Continuity and Change in TV Copland,’ inaugural lecture at University of Gloucestershire on 7 May 2008 (The Cyder Press, 2008). 
  • Mann, David, Britain’s First TV/Film Crime Series and the Industralisation of its Film Industry, 1946-1964, (The Edwin Mellen Press, Wales, New York, 2009)
  • Reiner, Robert, ‘The Dialectics of Dixon: The Changing Image of the TV Cop’, in Mike Stephens and Saul Becker (eds), Police Force, Police Service (MacMillan, 1994)
  • Rolinson, David, ‘The Blue Lamp to The Black and Blue Lamp: The police in TV Drama’, 24 April 2011, British Television Drama (2009), available at http://www.britishtelevisiondrama.org.uk/?p=1429, accessed 3 March 2014.
  • Sydney-Smith, Susan, Beyond Dixon Of Dock Green: Early British Police Series (I.B.Tauris, 2002).
  • Willis, Ted, ‘George Dixon of Dock Green is back,’ in Radio Times, (BBC, 4 January 1957).
  • Willis, Ted, ‘Dock Green through the years,’ in Radio Times, (BBC, 17 September 1964).
Next time: The Avengers and Z Cars

DOCTOR WHO: Deep Breath / Review

Deep Breath
BBC One HD
23 August 2014, 7.50pm

Yes, take a deep one.

We've had all the hype, all the leaks (I wonder what Marcelo Carmargo was doing as the episode went out) and we're down to the brass tacks. Does Peter Capaldi live up to his promise? I'll get to that presently.

A new Doctor always precipitates some deft rearranging of the furniture. Back in 1966, replacing your lead actor was a risk in itself; in 1970 they did it again, went into colour and tweaked the format; and so on, and so forth. The series survived through changes of actor, rearranging of music, new titles, modes of production, not being on television at all... and as Capaldi himself self-effacingly admitted recently, he'll be loved by someone at least and he'll always be someone's Doctor. He knows the score.

And Steven Moffat's done this before, handling the change from David Tennant to Matt Smith in The Eleventh Hour, and in the scheme of things (yes, The Twin Dilemma and Time and the Rani I'm looking at you) Smith's debut was generally acknowledged as a particularly good example of how to introduce a new Doctor. And now Moffat has to do it all over again but the situation is trickier. He has to convince young fans an older actor can carry the show again. 

So, let's get the cosmetic changes out of the way. Cue the bold new opening titles, inspired by designer Billy Hanshaw's much viewed portfolio piece on You Tube. The problem I have with them is the music. For a graphically powerful set of images - whirling timepieces, clocks, cogs, stars and planets - Murray Gold has opted to go heavy on the chimes and a theremin. I'm all for an emphasis of the wooo-eeeeee-wooooo-oooo sections of the Derbyshire-Grainer original but I'm not sure this version works. It sounds a bit too pared down for me. Not quite the plus ça change I was hoping for. Hanshaw's version using Gold's older arrangement, with the Derbyshire whoops intact, is a better combination. However, it's a mere quibble.
'Here we go again.' 
The episode opens with a gorgeous shot, perhaps also a little nod to the dinosaur at sunset Chris Achilleos cover image of Invasion of the Dinosaurs. A dinosaur bellowing against a rusty coloured sky kids you into thinking you're back at the dawn of time until the camera pans away. The chimes of Big Ben provide a tantalising bit of schadenfreude as the dinosaur stomps across the Thames and puts the screaming abdabs up the crowd of Victorians rubbernecking on the Embankment.

Those chimes also sound a note of doom echoed by the tolling of the Cloister Bell as a vomited up TARDIS disgorges the Twelfth Doctor and a very worried Clara Oswald before the astonished gaze of the Paternoster Gang. Capaldi hits the ground running as a disorientated post-regenerative Doctor whose ability to recognise faces both familiar and unfamiliar, including his own, has been severely compromised. Clara's seen the Doctor abruptly change and she's not sure she likes this wide-eyed, grey haired Scotsman who decides to take five face down in the Thames's mud. As Madame Vastra so eloquently quotes a certain Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, 'Here we go again.'

Re-establishing the Doctor's identity is one of the key motifs here. It's not just for Clara's sake, as the story takes great pains to emphasise, it's also for that young audience out there for whom Matt Smith was their Doctor. Us old hands can take it in our stride but a franchise's continued success with that group clearly concerns those calling the shots at the BBC. But Moffat astutely turns this into a treatise on pre-judging appearances and identities - from the gender of dinosaurs to the self-awareness of artificial intelligences - and satisfactorily provides Clara's character ('the not-me one, the asking questions one') with some much needed substance.

The otherness, the smile behind the veil, that lies beneath our outward appearances abounds in the story. Before the Doctor passes out on the shore of the Thames director Ben Wheatley, who makes a terrific job of this episode, opts for a series of point of view shots to emphasise the distances between us, the new Doctor and his friends. As the dark clouds of unconsciousness descend upon the Doctor we get a shot from his point of view, backing away from Clara, Strax and Vastra who are now rendered as even more alien to him. Wheatley then switches to a point of view shot of Clara and Strax looking at the Doctor as he backs away from them. Point of view is used sparingly in the current series but with Wheatley at the helm it crops up again in this story as does a later shot which breaks the fourth wall.

As the Doctor takes a nap, Clara's inability to see beyond the Doctor's outward incarnation is challenged by Madame Vastra. These scenes allow for a more considered approach to character and explore Jenny and Vastra's domestic milieu both comedically and emotionally. There's, forgive the allusion, breathing space to add some nuances to the Paternoster Gang as well as to Clara. Vastra's take on seeing beyond the veil, on the ability to dress up or dress down, to pass as normal in straight Victorian society is configured with Clara's concerns about the Doctor.

Her inability to accept his change marks her out as a stranger in the Paternoster circle. Vastra's position in polite Victorian society is a demonstration to Clara that when the Doctor regularly changes his appearance, the core of his being remains intact. He dons a new face, a new veil, to gain acceptance in the societies he comes into contact with. As Jenny reminds Clara when she mourns the absence of the Doctor, 'he's not gone, he's upstairs.' The Doctor looks different but is still present. It's a terrific scene that touches on acceptance, tolerance, age and expression and denial of desire between Jenny and Vastra, Clara and the Doctor.
'Who frowned me this face?' 
Moffat also has a lot of fun with Capaldi's and Neve McIntosh's Scottish accents. Vastra is the only one the Doctor can understand at first, someone who hasn't developed a faulty accent ('you all sound all... English!') and has a recognisable voice he can respond to. This is also underlined with the delightful scene with the tramp in the alleyway after the Doctor, gallivanting about in his nightie à la Pertwee in Spearhead From Space, witnesses the spontaneous combustion of the dinosaur and plunges into the Thames.

It is de rigueur in a Doctor's introductory episode to have scenes where the Doctor self-examines his latest regeneration. Capaldi shares this superb moment, where the Doctor is rather dark and threatening, with Brian Miller, husband of the late Elisabeth Sladen. Like many of his predecessors, having the new Doctor recognise his face in a mirror is a way for him to overcome these delusional misidentification symptoms.

It is also interesting to note how the Doctor ponders on where his faces come from, suggesting we might eventually get an inkling as to why he resembles Roman merchant Lucius Caecilius Iucundus from The Fires of Pompeii and Torchwood's Home Office permanent secretary John Frobisher. 'Who frowned me this face?' he asks the tramp before he remonstrates with him about eyebrows that could take off bottle tops and how, being Scottish, he can 'really complain about things now.'

There is also the motif of characters physically and spiritually assembling a sense of themselves through the story. Strax examines Clara to test her fighting fitness, praising her 'enviable spleen' but also reveals her subconscious desires and drives: 'deflective narcissism, traces of passive aggressive and a lot of muscular young men doing sport.' The Doctor, naturally, is settling into a new body, gathering together memories and attributes. This is an analogue with the steampunk Victorian droids who, over the centuries, are constantly repairing and regenerating themselves from the resources around them, human beings.

Moffat returns to the world of the repair droids seen in The Girl in the Fireplace and, although there is much horror and abjection generated from their appearances, their reappearance lacks some of the earlier episode's resonances and threatens to diminish its original reputation. That said, the scene in the restaurant offers us not only a great insight into the relationship between this new Doctor and Clara, played extremely well by Capaldi and Coleman and with a strikingly different chemistry than that she established with Matt Smith, but also the creeping sense of horror, the sound of uncanny clockwork in the air, as they realise they're bickering in a room full of automata.

Automata of the Victorian era were also a symbol of the impact of the Industrial Revolution and the period's debates about human nature and human beings as organic machines so it is quite appropriate that the droids are used within this setting. The symbolism of the automata striving to find 'the promised land' is cleverly used as a counterpoint to the humanity that Clara wants to find in the new Doctor. There is a collapse in the boundary between humans and machine in Deep Breath, underlined by the flesh and blood heroes needing to take that deep breath and pass as machines, to briefly deny human feelings, in order to survive the droids' attention or attack.

Ben Wheatley again returns to his use of the point of view shot here as Clara. seemingly abandoned by the Doctor and holding her breath for too long to escape from the droids' lair, passing as a mechanical being, is undone by her body's capacity to store air in its lungs. Wheatley's imagery is dreamlike and we see the edges of her vision blurring and reddening, a swirling recall of a memory as she passes out. It is this memory, of a challenge from a pupil in her class at school, that provides her with the strength to dismantle Half-Face Man's threats. It's also a mark of her faith in the Doctor, that he will return in the nick of time, that 'if the Doctor is still the Doctor, he will have my back.'
'You probably can't even remember where you got that face from.' 
When Clara is rescued from Half-Face Man, an unsettling performance from Peter Ferdinando, the episode summarises the debates about the boundaries between human and machine. The Doctor also squares his own conscience when he realises he will, in all likelihood, have to kill the droid in order to prevent the other droids from murdering Clara and the Paternoster Gang.

As he must unlock the cold, hard logic within himself he also implores the machine to seek out its human qualities and do the honorable thing and save lives by self-destructing. This confrontation between Time Lord and cyborg is also about the machine discovering that to be human is to be mortal and that it must accept finitude and death. The notion of where the Doctor got his new face from, how he has constructed himself, is also restated in the rhetorical question he asks of the Half-Face Man at the climax of the episode.

As the Doctor interrogates the Droid, they both stand facing the mirrored surface of a tray and the Doctor states: 'You probably can't even remember where you got that face from.' Wheatley's shot of the tray reflecting the face of the Doctor on the tray as the machine considers its recycled origins is a wonderful moment of visual shorthand for the idea of the constructed nature of the self.

Does the Doctor throw Half-Face Man from the escape pod, literally a vehicle of abjection with is human skin balloon taking it over the London rooftops, or did it commit the ultimate act of sacrifice? Did it overcome its basic programming or did the Doctor murder the creature? Again, Wheatley inserts a modicum of doubt by including a brief shot of Capaldi, stony faced, looking up from under those furious eyebrows and directly into camera. It's rather spine-tingling and implies the darker nature behind the new face.

When we arrive at the end of the episode, Clara's doubts about the Doctor remain unresolved and it appears he has abandoned and forgotten her. She considers joining the Paternoster Gang but Vastra convinces her the Doctor will return for her. When the TARDIS does arrive, she steps into a redefined interior. The lighting is warmer, there are bookshelves along the walls. Quoting the Second Doctor, she offers of the changes to the TARDIS, 'You've redecorated. I don't like it' and is probably saying exactly that about the Doctor himself.

Even the Doctor remains unconvinced of these changes but he is sure of one thing, he's more his own man again. Moffat underlines that the romantic associations between the Doctor and his companion are a thing of the past and we are on a new footing with the relationship between him and his companion. The Doctor firmly states, 'I'm not your boyfriend', which for Clara he never has been, and qualifies this assumption as a mistake on his part and not hers.

A phone call from Trenzalore, from the Eleventh Doctor, offers a salve to Clara's trouble accepting this older man as the same Doctor she knew. Rather like Cho-Je appeared to the Brigadier and Sarah in Planet of the Spiders to give the regeneration of the Third into the Fourth a little push, the Eleventh parts from Clara suggesting the new Doctor will need her help to adjust and acclimatise. And as the Ninth Doctor found his feet by sharing some chips with Rose, the Twelfth sets out to bond with Clara over a coffee. Or is that coffee and chips?

And there are mysteries yet to be solved. Who is the Mary Poppins-like figure of Missy and what is the paradise she inhabits? Is she the woman in the shop who gave Clara the Doctor's number and placed the ads in the newspaper? Why does she refer to the Doctor as her boyfriend and then claim of his new accent, 'Think I might keep it.' Let the speculation begin. 

Deep Breath has, at its core, a re-defining of the Doctor-companion relationship and Moffat and director Ben Wheatley handle this to great effect. Visually, the episode looks sumptuous and, along with the setting up of the Twelfth Doctor's modus operandi, the tone achieved is just that bit darker, just that bit more serious. Of great importance here is the way Clara's doubts are often placed centre-stage, giving Jenna Coleman some much needed character development, and how Jenny and Vastra's relationship is given some weight and furthers the integration of positive cultural and sexual differences into the series.

Capaldi nails the sharp humour of Moffat's lines but the plot isn't much of a departure from his signature tropes established as far back as The Empty Child, of half flesh-half machine opponents doggedly following their protocols, of remembering and forgetting and the power of the uncanny. Whether this signature will alter much is debatable as he tends to fall back on tried and tested motifs. Deep Breath does perhaps outstay its welcome at 75 minutes and might have benefited from some trimming but it's a very promising start for the Twelfth Doctor and Capaldi.

COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED - congratulations to winner Miche Doherty

Competition time again! For our third giveaway, we have two more Doctor Who books from BBC Books and Ebury Press to tantatlise and delight you. Simply answer the question below to enter the draw. 

Doctor Who: The Shakespeare Notebooks
Justin Richards

Many people know about William Shakespeare's famous encounter with the Doctor at the Globe Theatre in 1599. But what few people know (though many have suspected) is that it was not the first time they met.

Drawn from recently-discovered archives, The Shakespeare Notebooks is the holy grail of Bard scholars: conclusive proof that the Doctor not only appeared throughout Shakespeare's life, but had a significant impact on his writing. In these pages you'll find early drafts of scenes and notes for characters that never appeared in the plays; discarded lines of dialogue and sonnets; never-before-seen journal entries; and much more.

From the original notes for Hamlet (with a very different appearance by the ghost) and revealing early versions of the faeries of A Midsummer Night's Dream, to strange stage directions revised to remove references to a mysterious blue box, The Shakespeare Notebooks is an astonishing document that offers a unique insight into the mind of one of history's most respected and admired figures. And also, of course, William Shakespeare.

Doctor Who: The Official Quiz Book
Jacqueline Rayner

For over fifty years, Doctor Who has been one of the nation's favourite programmes. Now you can discover just how much you know about it.

Straightforward or fiendish, easy or horrendously difficult, all 3000 questions in this book have one thing in common - a certain traveller through time and space. From Ace to Zoe and Axons to Zygons, it covers every single one of the almost 250 Doctor Who stories that have been broadcast since 1963.

So put on your brainy specs, pour yourself a nice glass of carrot juice and prepare to discover if you have the knowledge to graduate from Time Lord Academy...

COMPETITION THREE: DOCTOR WHO BOOKS

Cathode Ray Tube has one each of the paperback Doctor Who: The Official Quiz Book and the hardback Doctor Who: The Shakespeare Notebooks to give away to one lucky winner courtesy of BBC Books and Ebury Publishing. Simply answer the question below and submit your entry via email.

  • - This competition is open to residents of the UK only but not to employees of BBC Books and Ebury Publishing or their agents. 

  • - Entries must be received by midnight GMT on Saturday 23 August 2014.

  • - This offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer and no cash alternative is available.

  • - No responsibility will be accepted for delayed, mislaid, lost or damaged entries whether due to system error or otherwise.

  • - Only one entry per visitor per day. No multiple entries allowed. Entries sent using answers posted on competition websites will be deemed void. We know who you are!

  • - The winner will be the first entry with the correct answer drawn at random.

  • - The winner will be contacted by email. The books will be posted one week after the competition closes (unless delayed by postal strikes).

  • - The judges' decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

  • - Entrants are deemed to accept and be bound by these rules and entries that are not in accordance with the rules will be disqualified.

  • - By entering the free prize draw, entrants agree to be bound by any other requirements set out on this website. Entry is via email to frank_c_collins@hotmail.com. No responsibility can be accepted for entries not received, only partially received or delayed for whatever reason. Paper entries are not valid.
Question: In the episode The Shakespeare Code, when the immortal Bard flirts with the Doctor, how many academics are said to have punched the air?

Email your answer to the question above, with your name and address, and we'll enter you into the prize draw.

Good luck!

COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED
(Congratulations to our winner, Lee Barrett)

Not allowing the dust to settle, let's get on with our next competition. A bundle of three books, again courtesy of our friends at BBC Books and Ebury Press.


Harvest of Time
Alastair Reynolds

A forgotten enemy. An old adversary. A terrible alliance.

From a ruined world at the end of time, the vicious Sild make preparations to conquer the past and rewrite history. But to do it they will need to enslave an intellect greater than their own...

On Earth, UNIT is called in to examine a mysterious incident on a North Sea drilling platform. They've hardly begun, though, when something even stranger takes hold: The Brigadier and others are starting to forget about UNIT's highest-profile prisoner.

As the Sild invasion begins, the Doctor faces a terrible dilemma. To save the universe, he must save his arch-nemesis... The Master.

Tales of Trenzalore: The Eleventh Doctor's Last Stand
Some of what happened during those terrible years on Trenzalore is well documented. But most of it remains shrouded in mystery and darkness. This is a glimpse of just some of the terrors the people faced, the monstrous threats the Doctor defeated. These are the tales of the monsters who found themselves afraid - and of the one man who was not.

Let it Snow is penned by Justin Richards, and features the Ice Warriors. Richards is a celebrated writer and Creative Cosultant to the BBC Books range of Doctor Who books.

The Krynoid returns in An Apple a Day by George Mann, author of the Newbury & Hobbes steampunk mystery series, as well as numerous other novels, short stories and original audiobooks.

Strangers in the Outland by Paul Finch sees the return of the Autons. Paul Finch has previously written for TV crime drama The Bill, and has written two Doctor Who audio dramas for Big Finish - Leviathan and Sentinels of the New Dawn.

And finally, evil mind-parasite the Mara reappears in The Dreaming by Mark Morris. Morris has published sixteen novels, among which are Stitch, The Immaculate, The Secret of Anatomy, Fiddleback, The Deluge and four books in the Doctor Who range.

Summer Falls and Other Stories
Summer Falls by Amelia Williams
In the seaside village of Watchcombe, young Kate is determined to make the most of her last week of summer holiday. But when she discovers a mysterious painting entitled 'The Lord of Winter' in a charity shop, it leads her on an adventure she never could have planned. The painting is a puzzle - and with the help of some bizarre new acquaintances, she plans on solving it.
(Inspired by the Doctor Who episode 'The Bells of Saint John')

The Angel's Kiss by Melody Malone
Detective Melody Malone has an unexpected caller: movie star Rock Railton thinks someone is out to kill him - and when he mentions the 'kiss of the Angel', she takes the case. At the press party for Railton's latest movie, studio owner Max Kliener invites Melody to become their next star. But the cost of fame, she'll soon discover, is greater than anyone could possibly imagine.
(Inspired by the Doctor Who episode, 'The Angels Take Manhattan')

Devil in the Smoke as recounted by Mr Justin Richards
On a cold day in December, two young boys, tired of sweeping snow from the workhouse yard, decide to build a snowman - and are confronted with a strange and grisly mystery. In horrified fascination, they watch as their snowman begins to bleed... The search for answers to this impossible event will plunge Harry into the most hazardous - and exhilarating - adventure of his life.
(Inspired by the Doctor Who episode, 'The Snowmen')

COMPETITION TWO: DOCTOR WHO PAPERBACK BUNDLE

Cathode Ray Tube has one set of three paperbacks, Harvest of Time, Tales of Trenzalore and Summer Falls, to give away to one lucky winner courtesy of BBC Books and Ebury Publishing. Simply answer the question below and submit your entry via email.

  • - This competition is open to residents of the UK only but not to employees of BBC Books and Ebury Publishing or their agents. 

  • - Entries must be received by midnight GMT on Wednesday 20 August 2014.

  • - This offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer and no cash alternative is available.

  • - No responsibility will be accepted for delayed, mislaid, lost or damaged entries whether due to system error or otherwise.

  • - Only one entry per visitor per day. No multiple entries allowed. Entries sent using answers posted on competition websites will be deemed void. We know who you are!

  • - The winner will be the first entry with the correct answer drawn at random.

  • - The winner will be contacted by email. The books will be posted one week after the competition closes (unless delayed by postal strikes).

  • - The judges' decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

  • - Entrants are deemed to accept and be bound by these rules and entries that are not in accordance with the rules will be disqualified.

  • - By entering the free prize draw, entrants agree to be bound by any other requirements set out on this website. Entry is via email to frank_c_collins@hotmail.com. No responsibility can be accepted for entries not received, only partially received or delayed for whatever reason. Paper entries are not valid.
Question: What is the date of Amy and Rory's wedding?

Email your answer to the question above, with your name and address, and we'll enter you into the prize draw.

Good luck!

A quick message from your esteemed editor:

Yes, readers, it has been a long time.

To cut a long story short, I've been a bit busy. First of all, a new full-time job has taken up much of my waking hours so there hasn't been any posting here since the New Year. I'm also still debating with myself as to what to do with Cathode Ray Tube so I also took a little sabbatical to try and work that one out. Not come up with an answer... yet.

In the meantime I have not been idle. A series of essays for MovieMail kept my incisive research and writing skills from going rusty during March and April. Coppers and Spies: The Evolution of the British Action Hero tied in with the high-definition release of series one of The Professionals and dipped back into the television archives to trace the predecessors to that entertaining if politically incorrect guilty pleasure. Articles were posted on The Sweeney, Z Cars, Dixon of Dock Green and the slew of 1960s shows from ITC, everything from Danger Man to The Persuaders!

They're quite good so please go and read them. There are further plans for these articles so keep 'em peeled as Shaw Taylor once advised us.

Plenty of other lovely bits of writing due for various publications this year and next and you'll soon be hearing about those.

Books... for free!
Meanwhile, you may have noticed that we have a new Doctor about to make his debut in the first episode, 'Deep Breath', of the new series of Doctor Who this month. By way of celebration I've got a pile of Doctor Who books that are crying out for a new home and you lucky lot can win them. All titles are courtesy of those brilliant people at BBC Books. So this week I'm running a couple of competitions to get the ball rolling.

Oh, and I know what you're asking. Is Cathode Ray Tube going to cover the new series when it starts on 23rd August? Let's see, shall we.

COMPETITION ONE: DOCTOR WHO THE MONSTER COLLECTION

This competition is now closed. Congratulations to the winner, John Seaman. 
 
All eight paperback reprints, with their bold, modern covers, of Prisoner of the Daleks (by Trevor Baxendale), Scales of Justice (by Gary Russell), Sting of the Zygons (by Stephen Cole), Shakedown (by Terrance Dicks), Touched by An Angel (by Jonathan Morris), Corpse Marker (by Chris Boucher), Illegal Alien (by Mike Tucker and Robert Perry) and Sands of Time (by Justin Richards) can be yours.


Cathode Ray Tube has one set of eight paperbacks, The Monster Collection, to give away courtesy of BBC Books and Ebury Publishing. Simply answer the question below and submit your entry via email.

  • - This competition is open to residents of the UK only but not to employees of BBC Books and Ebury Publishing or their agents. 

  • - Entries must be received by midnight GMT on Sunday 17 August 2014.

  • - This offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer and no cash alternative is available.

  • - No responsibility will be accepted for delayed, mislaid, lost or damaged entries whether due to system error or otherwise.

  • - Only one entry per visitor per day. No multiple entries allowed. Entries sent using answers posted on competition websites will be deemed void. We know who you are!

  • - The winner will be the first entry with the correct answer drawn at random.

  • - The winner will be contacted by email. The books will be posted one week after the competition closes (unless delayed by postal strikes).

  • - The judges' decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

  • - Entrants are deemed to accept and be bound by these rules and entries that are not in accordance with the rules will be disqualified.

  • - By entering the free prize draw, entrants agree to be bound by any other requirements set out on this website. Entry is via email to frank_c_collins@hotmail.com. No responsibility can be accepted for entries not received, only partially received or delayed for whatever reason. Paper entries are not valid.
Question: In which story did the Doctor claim: 'You can always judge a man by the quality of his enemies.'

Email your answer to the question above, with your name and address, and we'll enter you into the prize draw.

Good luck!

DOCTOR WHO: The Time of the Doctor / Review

The Time of the Doctor
BBC One HD
25 December 2013, 7.30pm

Your stomach's fit to burst and only until you force down yet another luxury chocolate or another branded bit of confectionary from a selection box do you realise that perhaps you've overindulged at Christmas. Yet, you keep going back for more. You pile into turkey, Christmas pudding, mince pies as if you've never seen such a feast before. But you've seen it and eaten it all before. You do it every year.

Sorry, I was digressing. Just thinking about my Christmas dinner again. Oddly enough, the after effects - flatulence and indigestion - did not abate watching The Time of the Doctor. For an end of era story, featuring a regeneration to boot, it felt as if Steven Moffat was devouring a running buffet of the last three seasons under his auspices. Another bowl of fish custard, anyone? One more slice of turkey?

Viewing Figures

The Legal Bit

All written material is copyright © 2007-2015 Cathode Ray Tube and Frank Collins. Cathode Ray Tube is a not for profit publication primarily for review, research and comment. In the use of images and materials no infringement of the copyright held by their respective owners is intended. If you wish to quote material from this site please seek the author's permission.

Creative Commons License
Cathode Ray Tube by Frank Collins is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.