Monday, 19 January 2015

TO CELEBRATE OR NOT TO CELEBRATE?

This March sees Doctor Who reach a milestone. And it’s one no Who fan can honestly deny the importance of. It will be the tenth anniversary of Doctor Who’s triumphant return to our television screens. It’s worthy of note. Very few ‘cult TV’ shows make it to ten years in the current climate of television politics, and the cold feet that tends to results in many shows being pulled after a lack-lustre first season (which misses the point that a first season is almost always the weakest of any show, as it is all about finding the show’s identity – often leading to a weak and schizophrenic season). Back in 2005, well, late 2003 when the plans to bring Doctor Who back were revealed, Doctor Who was largely little more than a fondly remembered television show of years-gone, often mocked and derided by critics. Sure, it had a very loyal fanbase, and despite its absence from television since 1989 (and the one-off television film in 1996) the property was still alive and well. Through prose fictions (novels, short stories), through audio dramas (on CD or radio) and in comic strips, Doctor Who had never really disappeared. Arguably, those years off screen saw Doctor Who go through its most creative period – years of strong and original fiction, with creative leaps not hindered by a miniscule television budget. But 2005 changed all that.
March 2005. Hard to believe it was ten years ago. So much seems to have happened since. Doctor Who was taken in-house more than ever before, in a branding drive that saw the novel range shift its focus to younger readers, cutting the output by a good eighty percent, Doctor Who Magazine went through a radical facelift, new merchandise was on the cards. In every conceivable way 2005 saw Doctor Who become a success story – and in the past ten years that success has continued, as the show’s appeal spread wider and wider. New fans have been brought in to the re-energised series, a whole new generation that now think of the show as ‘theirs’, who have their own Doctor (or Doctors, since ten years on there have been four [or five, depending on how you look at it] actors to play the part). In every way, the past ten years had redefined the public perception of Doctor Who. The critics love it, the public love it, kids love it!

But is this worthy of celebration?

On January 6th, Radio Times published an interview with Russell T Davies, and he made it clear that no, it isn’t. ‘A programme can’t have its fiftieth and then it’s tenth. I think that’s just confusing. It's marvellous and glorious; let it carry on,’ said Russell. And he might have a point. Less than two years ago the BBC went a mad marketing drive to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the entire series. Will it confuse matters to now celebrate the tenth anniversary of the ‘new’ series? Will this suggest a division between Doctor Who 1963-1989 and Doctor Who 2005-2015? For some fans there is a division, for others there is not. Russell seems to see it all as one series.

I talked to a few fans and this is what they had to say.

Jim Russell, from Wishaw, Scotland; ‘When I complain about NuWho, I'm told that it's not a new series, it's a continuation of the original series. If that's the case, then there's no reason to celebrate.’

Adam Perks, from Potters Bar, England; ‘I don't think it's necessary. I became a fan during the "Wilderness Years", when there were no new episodes, and as much as my love for Doctor Who came from the videos of old stories, it also came from the Virgin and BBC novels, the Big Finish audios, and the fan fiction produced during that time. To eleven-year-old me, it felt like an infinite toy chest which things could only be added to and never taken from. So I suppose what I'm saying is that, although I loved it when RTD brought it back to telly, to me it never really felt like Doctor Who had been away.’

Philip Bates, from Weston-super-Mare, England; ‘I was born in the “Wilderness Years” so knew little about Doctor Who. But when it came back, I loved it. Still do. 100%. I've caught up on all that I missed and yes, I'd like a celebration of some sort. I can understand why some don't (though I think it's a bit patronising that a "reason" is some may not get why a couple of years ago we were going on about the fiftieth and this year, we're celebrating ten years. People aren't thick - they'd understand!).’

Edward Rees, from Bettws, Wales; ‘I don't think it's necessary if I'm honest. We certainly don't need a big celebration like the fiftieth. A small nod would be nice, like numbering the bus the 200 in Planet of the Dead. An episode penned by RTD would have been nice or perhaps a small scale story with two Doctors or a returning companion. It's the fifty-second year and the tenth since the return, let's just carry on and save the celebrating for the sixtieth.’

Caroline Callaghan, from Bradford, England; ‘It's still Doctor Who, even if it's quite different to the Doctor Who I first watched as a kid fifty years ago. So, no, you can't celebrate its tenth year when it's over fifty years old.’

Ed Sinclair, a Canadian author now living in Maesteg, Wales; ‘I'm of mixed sentiment about the “anniversary”. The new shows are being marketed as series one, two, etc and if anything, the special should be the proper series ten special, not this next year [series nine]. But I wouldn't make a big deal about it. Just lovely little nods to the history of the past ten years would be sweet. After all, how many shows these days run for nine seasons plus? It is an achievement in any terms.’

Jesse Conrad, from Maryland, America; ‘I don't think a tenth anniversary celebration would be confusing to most people. Most people who became fans after Doctor Who returned in 2005 know it has been around for over fifty years and that it was on a very long hiatus before it returned to our screen. I think there should be some kind of celebration, nothing too big, for the fact the show successfully stayed on for ten years, proving those who had doubts about the show back in 2005 wrong!’

Fan opinion is, as ever, mixed. Is it worth celebrating? Maybe. It is an achievement, and should probably be acknowledged in some way, but will making a huge deal of it ‘confuse’ people the way Russell T Davies believes? A question that is not easy to answer. For long-term fans, probably not. For younger fans? Perhaps. For the general public? It would all come down to how it is celebrated, and how well the BBC publicise it.

The bottom line is, if Doctor Who had not returned in such a triumphant way in 2005, then the chances are the series would remain long-dead in the public eye.

What are your thoughts? We’d like to know.



Wednesday, 24 December 2014

HANNAH HAISMAN - MERVYN & ME

It's Christmas... well, almost. And we have a special gift from all of us at Candy Jar Books, to all of you at home. A follow-up interview with Hannah Haisman, who is now able to talk more freely about Lethbridge-Stewart and her grandfather's inspirations... now the cat is out of the bag, as Sir Alistair would say.

Mervyn and Hannah Haisman
Type 40: First, how does it feel knowing that Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, a character your grandfather helped to create almost forty-seven years ago, is about to make a grand literary return for a new generation of Doctor Who fans?

Hannah: It is very exciting indeed! I am extremely proud that Lethbridge-Stewart is held in such high regard with Doctor Who fans. There has been a lot of positive feedback on social media over the release of these novels and I am truly humbled that fans old and new cannot wait for a character my grandfather co-created to make a literary comeback.

Type 40: In your previous interview with Type 40 you talked a lot about your early memories of your grandfather. Can you share with us some your earliest memories of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart?

Hannah: To be honest, I never really had early memories of Lethbridge-Stewart. Doctor Who was a snapshot in time of my grandfather’s writing career, one that only spanned a period of a few years. The first memory I have is when organising his literary estate and compiling a record of all the works and characters he created.

Type 40: In your earlier interview you also mentioned your grandfather’s deep love for books and literature. Did he have any particularly favourite stories in his collection? Do you know of any stories that may have inspired him to help craft the character of Lethbridge-Stewart?

Hannah: Most of the books in his study were for research purposes, ranging from historical to spiritual, travel to black magic! As for stories that inspired the creation of Lethbridge-Stewart, I think that was more down to his time in the army than any book on his shelf, but I feel he based the character, as he usually did, on someone he knew or had met. Certainly when the Brigadier barks orders, I reminded of my grandfather. 

Colonel Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart
Type 40: All characters, like people, have a name and the Brigadier has an especially dignified one. Do you know anything of how your grandfather came up with the name for Lethbridge-Stewart? I have heard before that the original surname was simply Lethbridge.

Hannah: Lethbridge-Stewart was created over fifteen years before I was born, and growing up Doctor Who wasn’t really talked about, in fact none of my grandfather's work was. Although he was passionate about writing, it was a job. It was only in his twilight years that we sat and talked about things that he had done. Looking back, I wish I had asked him so many more questions. If I had, I would be in a better position to fill in the gaps!

Type 40: Was there ever a point where you realised that in creating the character of the Brigadier your grandfather had also created a television icon?

Hannah: Not until recently! It was only when I had die-hard Doctor Who fans tell me the importance of Lethbridge-Stewart. I’m being educated in the importance of certain characters and thankfully Andy (Frankham-Allen, range editor of Lethbridge-Stewart) has been brilliant. I know by this statement some people will recoil in horror, but I didn’t see my grandfather as a creator of icons. To me he was the icon.

Type 40: Many people credit Nicholas Courtney’s performance as Lethbridge-Stewart as the source of the Brigadier’s popularity. Certainly the actor’s forty-one year association in playing the role is a testament to his incredible contribution to the character. Did your grandfather ever discuss his thoughts on Courtney’s performance in the role?

Hannah: The last time I visited my grandfather, we sat up till 3am just chatting. He spoke about the Doctor Who years and his other credits. He was very vocal about those he liked and those he didn’t! He didn’t go into detail of his thoughts on an individual’s performance, but I know that out of the three series he penned, Lethbridge-Stewart was a character he felt fondly about. This was probably due to the way Mr Courtney brought him to life.

Type 40: Did you ever have the chance to meet Mr Courtney and what do you feel he brought to the character of the Lethbridge-Stewart?

Hannah: Unfortunately I never had that honour. I feel that the role couldn’t have been played any better by any other actor, and Mr Courtney is as much of an icon as Lethbridge-Stewart himself.

Type 40: Due to the BBC’s now defunct policy of destroying film to conserve storage space, many Doctor Who episodes from the 1960s are currently missing from the BBC archives. Because of this sad loss of material, The Web of Fear was thought to be lost to viewers. But just last year most of the missing episodes from that story were triumphantly returned to the BBC and have since been released on DVD. For many fans this was their first time to see Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart in action. How did it feel to learn that one of your grandfather’s Doctor Who adventures was available again to see and enjoy?

Hannah: I was over the moon when I found out that most of that story had been found. Nobody from the BBC had told me of this momentous news; I found out the same time as the general public. My twitter feed went crazy on the news of its release and I suppose that was the first time I realised just what grandad had created, and what part he had played in the formative years of Doctor Who.

Type 40: Have you since seen The Web of Fear, and if so, what are your thoughts on the adventure?

Hannah: I re-watched watched it today in preparation for this interview, and I have to admit, I love it! In a way it is like watching a ghost as I can see so much of my grandfather and other people in certain characters. Examples of this would be Ann Travers; she is very like my grandmother in her speech and mannerisms, and I can see a lot of my grandfather in the Doctor and Professor Travers. I have reasons to believe, from conversations I had with my grandfather about his time working on The Web of Fear, that Chorley’s character is loosely based on Derrick Sherwin!

Anne Travers, inspired by Mervyn's wife.
Type 40: The Web of Fear also featured as its monster the Great Intelligence and its robotic Yeti, which your grandfather co-created for the 1967 Doctor Who adventure The Abominable Snowmen, which is sadly still missing from the BBC archives. Whereas abominable snowmen are the stuff of myths and legends, the Intelligence, a formless, shapeless eternal entity, was a very novel concept your grandfather introduced to the world of Doctor Who. Can you give us any insight into what inspired him to create such an intriguing character?

Hannah: My grandfather’s parents were very spiritual people, which before the war was rare. The majority of people back then were either Catholic or Christian, but after the untimely death of my grandfather’s sister Stella, the family found the Spiritualist movement, in particular Buddhism. When looking at the beliefs of Buddhists, they include a belief in an infinite intelligence, a continuous existence of the human soul where energy will change form to spirit and that the spiritual world penetrates the material world on a different dimension. It was this belief that formed the central concept of the Great Intelligence, something I feel was lacking in its most recent television appearances.

Type 40: Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart and a few other familiar faces from The Web of Fear will be returning next year in The Forgotten Son, the first book for the new Lethbridge-Stewart novel range. What has been your involvement in the development of this upcoming series?

Hannah: After chatting with Andy, he introduced me to Candy Jar Books, where we discussed the possibility of me granting the rights to use Lethbridge-Stewart. I have given Candy Jar complete creative control over the characters and concepts my grandfather created for Doctor Who. I chat very regularly with Andy, and he consulted me when he put together the official timeline for the Great Intelligence, and I’m being kept in the loop with other authors. Most of all, I trust the authors and if I have any questions, they are more than happy to talk me through them.

Type 40: Without giving too much away about the future of the series, can we expect to see some appearance of other Doctor Who characters and concepts associated with Lethbridge-Stewart along the way, such as UNIT, Cybermen, or – dare we hope – the Doctor?

Hannah: Never say never! I think you will see certain characters and concepts owned by various authors, but I’ve been sworn to secrecy!

Type 40: Although Nicholas Courtney died nearly four years ago and the character of the Brigadier was declared dead three years ago, it seems Lethbridge-Stewart is alive once more, but now as a Cyberman. Were you surprised to see Lethbridge-Stewart’s return as one of first monsters he faced onscreen?

Hannah: It is documented that I haven’t been a life-long Doctor Who fan, but, under orders from Andy, I watched Death in Heaven and as soon as the Twelfth Doctor saluted the Cyberman, I got it. I was very surprised and more than happy to see Lethbridge-Stewart return as a Cyberman; I really wasn’t expecting that and I don’t think the fans were either.

Type 40: In your last interview with Type 40, you expressed your feelings of joy at the Brigadier’s unexpected return but also your clear opinion that he should not remain as a Cyberman (and yes, those monsters still make me hide, too) but perhaps as a sort of ‘higher consciousness’ to aid his daughter in future episodes. Do you think it might be possible we may yet see the Brigadier again in Doctor Who, perhaps even with a new actor, fighting alongside the Doctor?

Hannah: It would be nice to see the spirit of Lethbridge-Stewart live on, but it would have to be done right for it to work. If you have ever lost someone who is close, there are times when you feel their presence with you. If it were to be done, it would have to be in that way and not as a Cyberman!

Type 40: Now seems to be a time when the character of Lethbridge-Stewart is rising once more in popularity and awareness amongst Doctor Who fans. What do you feel makes your grandfather’s character so special and so beloved and, I would say, even immortal?

Hannah: I really couldn’t pinpoint what it is. My grandfather wrote his best works when he believed in the characters. When a writer believes in the characters he creates and the part is cast to the right actor, as it was with Nicholas Courtney, the character becomes believable and even more special amongst fans. With Lethbridge-Stewart it was a combination of the two – great writing and a great performance. My grandfather could not have hoped for a better legacy, and alongside Candy Jar Books and Andy, we’ll make sure it continues to be honoured.

Interview conducted by Chris McKeon, co-author of Time's Champion (with Craig Hinton).

Lethbridge-Stewart begins in February with The Forgotten Son, set directly after The Web of Fear. Pre-order it now from Candy Jar Books.

Or you can pre-order the first four books in the series. 

They are;
The Forgotten Son by Andy Frankham-Allen
Horror of Det-Sen by Lance Parkin
The Schizoid Earth by David A McIntee
Mutually Assured Domination by Nick Walters


More exclusive interviews with the creative minds behind Lethbridge-Stewart coming up over the next two months. The New Year begins with Simon Williams, the cover artist, who will discuss his career with Marvel UK and own original projects.

Until then, a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS to all our readers at home, from Hannah Haisman, Andy Frankham-Allen, Shaun Russell, Lance Parkin, David A McIntee, Nick Walters, Simon Williams, and everybody at Candy Jar Books!





Friday, 19 December 2014

BEST BRIGADIER STORY

Everybody loves the Brigadier, but what are your favourite stories? Please vote below (you can vote for more than one story). The poll will run until the New Year, at which point the results shall be announced.



TV Stories
The Web of Fear
The Invasion
Spearhead from Space
The Silurians
Inferno
Terror of the Autons
The Mind of Evil
The Claws of Axos
The Daemons
Day of the Daleks
The Time Monster
The Three Doctors
The Green Death
The Time Warrior
Invasion of the Dinosaurs
Planet of the Spiders
Robot
Terror of the Zygons
Mawdryn Undead
The Five Doctors
Battlefield
Enemy of the Bane
Poll Maker


Lethbridge-Stewart series now available for pre-order...

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

TOMORROW'S WORLDS: TIME TRAP


What if we could tamper with time?

That’s the question uppermost in the mind of Dominic Sandbrook (aka Sandy), in the fourth and final instalment of his BBC documentary series, Tomorrow’s Worlds: the Unearthly History of Science Fiction. The programme was a predictable but nonetheless enjoyable romp through some of SF’s more familiar time travel tales.

Sandy begins, of course, with the HG Wells classic, The Time Machine. Ignoring the novel’s origin in the short story, The Chronic Argonauts, written in 1888, Sandy suggests that time travel begins in 1895 with Wells’ novel.  Curiously, he characterises The Time Machine as an attempt to explore the discovery of spiritualism, and the frontiers beyond.  I found this one of the strangest assertions in all of Sandy’s four programmes.

On the contrary, The Time Machine has two major themes: evolution and social class.  The book is an ingenious voyage of discovery through the invention of a machine, which symbolises the power of science and reason. The Time Traveller sets out to navigate and dominate time. His discovery? Time is lord of all. The significance of the story’s title becomes clear. Man is trapped by the mechanism of time, and bound by a history that leads to his inevitable extinction.

It’s not surprising that Wells had these twin obsessions of evolution and class.

Firstly, Wells had emerged from an English lower middle class, that had previously spawned only one other key author  Charles Dickens. Wells’ mother had been in service, his father a gardener. Though they were hopeful of elevating their status on becoming shopkeepers, the shop failed, year after year. Wells’ own employment began as a draper's apprentice. It ended rather abruptly when he was told he was not refined enough to be a draper. Such rejection at the sharp end of a class-conscious Victorian England became the motivation for Wells’ critique of the world. Secondly, Wells’ scientific watershed had come on meeting Darwin’s Bulldog at the Normal School of Science, later the Royal College of Science, whilst studying evolutionary biology under the great TH Huxley.

With Huxley as his inspiration, Wells began as an author, living in the dark, lanterned, black macadam streets of Victorian London, engine-room of the British Empire. The first of Wells’ seminal novels, The Time Machine, plotted a dark future for Man. The book was a sceptical view of the devilish enginery of progress and imperialism.  It was an instant triumph.

In Wells’ book, the Traveller’s headlong fall into the future begins at home. The entire voyage through the evolved worlds of man shows little spatial shift.  The terror of each age unravels in the vicinity of the Traveller’s laboratory. “It is not what man has been, but what he will be, that should interest us”, Wells had written in his essay, The Man of the Year Million. In The Time Machine we have Wells’ answer - a vision calculated to “run counter to the placid assumption … that Evolution was a pro-human force making things better and better for mankind”.

Time’s arrow thrusts the story forward to the year 802701 AD. The Traveller meets the Eloi, a race of effete, androgynous and child-like humans living an apparently pastoral life. Man’s conquest of nature, it seems, has led to decadence.  On discovering the subterranean machine world of the albino, ape-like Morlocks, a new theory emerges.  Over time, the gulf between the classes has produced separate species

So, rather than Sandy’s assertion that the novel was about spiritualism (a notion he contradicts later in the same programme), Wells foresaw a bifocal future. One image in the lens, “upper-world man had drifted towards his feeble prettiness”, focuses on what man may become when natural selection is eradicated, as with the Eloi.  The lens of the Morlock future, “the under-world [of] mere mechanical industry” arises when industrialisation serves as a chronic condition for natural selection. Wells’ warning is all the more powerful for making the reader feel responsible. It is the inequity of contemporary class society that leads to such monstrous futures. And the condition is still, of course, relevant today.

Perhaps Sandy’s greatest omission in this programme was the science fictional obsession with alternate histories. They were hardly mentioned. He did, however, comment on the use of time travel as a vehicle for sharp social criticism. Perhaps this is why Sandy left out alternate histories, as even a cursory examination of this sub-genre finds a very conservative tradition indeed.

Invariably, the alternate history and counter-factual stories tend to portray a dystopian world so much worse than ours that, as with Orwell’s flawed masterpiece Nineteen Eighty-Four, the unrelieved portrayal of misery tends to reinforce passivity, rather than undermine it. They leave the reader resigned to believing, like Voltaire, that we live in the best of all possible worlds. And we don’t.

Friday, 12 December 2014

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO... THE BRIGADIER, part 3

Chris McKeon returns with the third and final part of his look at the Brigadier's influence, and absence, in Nu Who. Taking us full circle, back to his very first appearance.

My Dad often has this perspective to share: ‘If you don’t have a health problem, you don’t have a problem.’ Well, Nicholas Courtney had a problem, and a pretty terrible one. In January 2009, the legendary actor suffered a stroke and therefore could no longer take part in filming his return appearance for The Sarah Jane Adventures, series three. When that two-part adventure aired on 29 and 30 October 2009, the Tenth Doctor alone saved Sarah. Sir Alistair was again on assignment in Peru.

Nicholas Courtney - a true gentleman.

Over five years after this televised loss, I still cannot completely describe or dwell upon how much Courtney’s absence devastated my feelings as a fan and as a person. As a Brigadier fan I was heartbroken, shocked and deep in mourning: what should have been a celebrated reunion between two beloved television icons became an omission, an emptiness, an inexplicable loss. Even when Clyde Langer informed the viewer of Sir Alistair’s Peruvian whereabouts during Sarah’s wedding I felt my emotions almost swell with helpless turmoil. Even now, I still feel that story should have given the Brigadier’s absence a greater sense of loss and longing, maybe at least one moment where the Tenth Doctor asks someone, ‘Where’s the Brigadier?’

But on the personal level I felt worse for Nicholas Courtney and his well-being. I was not a personal friend or a family friend, or even a distant acquaintance, but the man and his character had been and still was – and is – one of my childhood heroes, perhaps in some ways more than the Doctor, simply because there was only one Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. And it was suddenly very real that he was a nearly eighty-year-old man.

One silver-lining in this darkening time for Brigadier fans was when the character managed to make one final on-screen appearance in a BBC-produced mini-episode, Liberty Hall, filmed in the early autumn of 2008 as part of the Mawdryn Undead DVD release for the following year. The nostalgic, seven-minute story features the Brigadier’s return to Brendan School to share some vague details of his storied UNIT career with a local reporter, including some sly references to the 1995 BBV-produced drama Downtime, as well as a few of the Big Finish audio adventures. When I watched that mini-episode I felt such a joyous swell to see Nicholas Courtney in, if not action, then at least in presence once more.

Sir Alistair returns for 'Liberty Hall'

But every presence, no matter how welcome, fades to black, even for the Brigadier. Nicholas Courtney’s health struggles in 2009 and 2010 are now a matter of public record and private feelings, and of which I don’t wish to dwell too much. It suffices to write that although the good man eventually recovered from his stroke and bravely continued to attend various conventions and public appearances throughout 2009, by the early months of 2010 he announced an even graver health condition, that of cancer. This affliction was the final monster, the last battle for the storied gentleman and cultural hero, who entered hospice care in the final days of 2010 before dying peacefully on 22 February, 2011.

Before his death Nicholas Courtney never returned to Doctor Who or The Sarah Jane Adventures, although the character was mentioned once more during Courtney’s lifetime in latter programme’s fourth series adventure Death of the Doctor (according to Russell T Davies’s book The Writer’s Tale, Courtney was approached to feature in that story but the actor’s then rapidly failing health prohibited any further filming). In the months following Courtney’s death there was a tremendous online outpouring of grief and remembrance for the actor as a professional and as a gentleman. I was at the time too devastated to share my feelings too much online, but almost exactly a year later I had the privilege of being selected to participate in the Nicholas Courtney tribute panel at the GallifreyOne convention in Los Angeles, California in February 2012. It was there I had the chance, before a few kind people, to share how much Nicholas Courtney and his famous character had meant to me as a child and as a young adult: that alongside my Dad and Grandfathers, I wanted to be the type of person that Nicholas Courtney had been, someone good and kind of whom other people spoke well. And I told the audience that it was my childhood dream to be not like the Doctor but to be like the Brigadier.

In the months following Nicholas Courtney’s there as for me as a Doctor Who fan a sense of deep loss but also of cautious hope. For even without Nicholas Courtney  to return onscreen as the Brigadier there was the knowledge that the series would continue and in such a vast and ever-possible vault of fiction there was still room for some future expectations. Indeed, I consoled myself with the certainty that although the actor had died the character of the Brigadier was still alive out there in the Doctor’s reality and perhaps would reunite with the Eleventh Doctor and his successors one future day in other story-telling media, such as the comics, novels or audiobooks.

But when the finale for Doctor Who’s sixth series, The Wedding of River Song, aired on 1 October 2011, I received one of the worst shocks I have ever experienced as a Doctor Who fan. Matt Smith’s Doctor learned by telephone that the Brigadier had died some months earlier. I will be very honest: although at the time I could see why the series decided to pay tribute to Courtney’s passing by having the Brigadier also pass away, I also felt it was somehow wrong or off. Perhaps it was how the Brigadier died that disturbed me: he waited every day for the Doctor’s return but the Doctor never came. Or perhaps it was the sense that there was no need to kill off the character of the Brigadier in-universe to honour the actor’s passing, such as when the series had honoured the passing of Elisabeth Sladen with a memorial title card after the airing of The Impossible Astronaut but explicitly kept Sladen’s character of Sarah alive in later-produced spin-off media. It may be enough to say that I hope not to see another Doctor Who episode with the words ‘The Wedding of’ in its title.




Now I am still a Doctor Who fan and I will be always be a fan. But I cannot deny that on some emotional level I enjoy the programme less without the Brigadier, without the chance that maybe, perhaps, possibly, somewhere, some-when, the character can and might return. Not even the main-series debut of Sir Alistair’s daughter Kate in the series seven episode The Power of Three on 22 September 2012 could shift my sense that something fundamental was missing within the contextual structure and sentiment of Doctor Who. Perhaps that sense stems from my perception that Kate Stewart oversees a very different, almost overly-scientific version of UNIT, or perhaps it is my extreme difficulty in believing that even in his final days Sir Alistair would ever declare that science leads over soldiering. Or maybe, at the end of the day, a cosmos without the Brigadier is just unthinkable.

This thought brings me to a final point of discussion regarding the Brigadier’s status in the new series. When Doctor Who’s eighth series concluded on 8 November 2014 there was already a massive stir and shift amongst fandom, thanks to the introduction of a new, female version of the Master (which definitely holds enough material for another article). During the episode Death in Heaven, the Twelfth Doctor, as played by Peter Capaldi, was reunited once more Kate Stewart and UNIT. As had happened when Kate and UNIT appeared in the 50th anniversary episode The Day of the Doctor, there was a lovely picture of Lethbridge-Stewart on display to recall the great man’s legacy. And then, without going into too much detail for those who haven’t yet seen the episode, both Kate and the Doctor’s life were in turn saved by a lone Cyberman, a Cyberman who somehow reminded Kate of her father and who reminded the Doctor of his oldest friend.

The Doctor salutes Sir Alistair, finally.

I cannot yet say exactly how I feel about this moment. On the one hand there is the distinct sense that the Brigadier is still alive and out there in the Doctor’s reality once more, which should give me nothing but joy. But I cannot forget that this version of Sir Alistair came about through a rather gruesome and horrific process of Cyber-Conversion, and that what remains is arguably not the Brigadier at all but a friendly ghost. And the thought of Sir Alistair as an eternally wandering ghost is too terrible to consider. I suppose my best takeaway thought is while I am grateful for some version of the Brigadier, I don’t really want to see CyberBrig again.

All I know for certain is that the Doctor needs Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart and Doctor Who needs the Brigadier. I know I am not the only fan who holds this to be true. When the announcement came in October 2013 that nine previously-thought lost Second Doctor television episodes had been discovered in Africa, what I read in blog posts and forum exclamations to be the most tangible and ebullient rejoicing amongst fandom was that five of these recovered episodes were from The Web of Fear, the very first appearance of Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart. I feel that one particular YouTube comment that I read summarizes this sensational time perfectly: ‘The Brigadier. I’m going to cry.’ And I’m not ashamed to say when I saw The Web of Fear for the first time I cried, too.

So now, with the first of Lethbridge-Stewart’s episodes restored and the most recent episode of Doctor Who featuring a return-of-sorts of the Brigadier, it feels that now is a time of rising and renewed interest in the Doctor’s best military friend. And in a few short months there will be a new narration of the Brigadier’s life: On 8 December 2014, Type 40’s own Andy Frankham-Allen announced the upcoming publication of the Lethbridge-Stewart novels, which will cover the events in the Brigadier’s life after the events of The Web of Fear. The series has received full approval and licensing from the estate of Mervyn Haisman and the endorsement of Henry Lincoln, who are the co-creators of Lethbridge-Stewart. The first novel, titled The Forgotten Son, will be available out on 22 February 2015, the fourth anniversary of Nicholas Courtney’s death, and will also feature the return of the Great Intelligence, the principal villain of the classic series adventures The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear, as well as the 2012/2013 series episodes The Snowmen and The Name of the Doctor. I’m looking forward to purchasing my copy of this and subsequent novels and I’m confident that through this book range new fans of Doctor Who will come to learn just how fundamentally important Lethbridge-Stewart is to the programme.

Returning to where it all began...

And this now begs the question: will the Brigadier return again? Before Death in Heaven I would have said no, at least not onscreen. But now that Steven Moffat has, to be very honest, risked the feelings of fandom by reviving and cyber-converting one of the programme’s most, if not the most, beloved iconic characters after already giving the character an on-screen farewell, then it easily stands to reason that he could and perhaps should recast the role. And who could possibly fill Nicholas Courtney’s UNIT boots? That, like all important and, I feel, necessary decisions I leave to the experts, just as long as they make sure he can hit five rounds rapid.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

TOMORROW'S WORLDS: US ROBOTS



Side step three. Peter Grehan, currently writing a Doctor Who related book for Candy Jar Books, reviews the third edition of BBC 2's Tomorrow’s Worlds – a programme about the history of sci-fi. 

I suppose it was a fortuitous coincidence for Tomorrow’s Worlds: the Unearthly History of Science Fiction that Prof Stephen Hawking stated last week that, "The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race." It was fortuitous because the subject of Saturday’s edition of this four part series being discussed by Dominic Sandbrook was robots; or rather robots, androids, intelligent computers and cyborgs. All of these could be described as various forms of artificial beings. Given the complexity of the subject he did a pretty could job of summarising their history within science fiction given the limitations of a sixty minute TV programme. 

To do so though he had to restrict himself to probably the best known theme of robots and other artificial beings and that is their tendency to turn against us. Dominic uses as his starting point Mary Shelley's Frankenstein – or the Modern Prometheus published in 1818, but it is the Boris Karloff version of the creature that he suggests is the justification for classifying it as robotic. As he says, “His jerky, lumbering movements and the electrodes in his neck suggest something far more mechanical.” I would suggest that a biological robot is still a robot, it doesn’t need to be mechanical, especially since the origin of the word “robot” comes, as he says, from Karel Capek’s 1921 play, R.U.R. – Rossum's Universal Robots. These were manufactured biological robots created as a cheap labour force for the many factories around the world. The fact was they were slaves and manufactured not to care, at least not at first, because later their creators began to make them too clever. Dominic suggests that the play reflected the growing mistrust of automation and mechanisation in factories, but I would suggest that, so soon after the Russian Revolution of 1917, the play reflected more the ruling classes’ anxiety of an increasingly better educated proletariat deciding to exercise their power against them.

This is perhaps the greatest omission from the episode, the important metaphorical role that artificial beings perform in science fiction. They will often represent the hubris of the scientist, and his unwillingness to accept his responsibilities as in the case of Frankenstein, which is just as relevant to the scientists developing nuclear weapons during the Second World War or the scientists working today to exploit the environment and ignoring the damage it does to the ecology. Or they could refer to some social or political tension, as in the case of RUR perhaps something that becomes increasingly relevant once more with the increase in pro-capitalist economic liberalism being advocated in modern Western governments. They may also be used to explore the tensions of race relations in the U.S. as was the case in Tower of Glass by Robert Silverberg, published in 1970, but still relevant today. In the case of Isaac Asimov’s Robots they represented science and technology as a force for good, something that would benefit mankind and progress him to a brighter, better future. 

These were the science fiction stories of the Golden Age, an age of optimism before the cynicism of the post nuclear age. Asimov’s robots and their three Laws became a template for the good robot, like Robbie from Forbidden Planet.

There is another role that the robot has, touched on by Dominic, and that is their ludic quality. It can take the familiar and add another dimension that is fresh and interesting. It is the comic relationship between Laurel and Hardy that is transferred to CP3O and R2D2 and refreshed in the Star Wars movies of George Lucas. As he says, “I think the audience were surprised by the relationship between R2-D2 and C-3PO” In a similar way the murder mysteries of Agatha Christie are given a new twist, when the murderer is an Asimov robot in Doctor Who:The Robots of Death.

But from Star Wars we are jolted back down to Earth with the Cyborg killers from Terminator, essentially killer robots that wear an exterior of human skin as a camouflage to allow them to blend into human society and seek and destroy their targets. It also brings us back to the Stephen Hawking quote about the dangers of creating machine intelligence. The stimulus for Terminator was the ‘Star Wars’ defence program, more correctly referred to as Strategic Defense Initiative and inspiration for Skynet, the A.I. computer designed to control the USA’s nuclear arsenal in the film that breaks free from its programming and merges with its Soviet counterpart. Having done so Skynet decides that human beings are just too dangerous to be allowed to exist any longer and it uses the weapons it has been placed in charge of to do so. The moral of the story is clear, design something to kill people and then make it intelligent, it will probably do what it was designed to do. Foolish, foolish humans.

Another thing robots do is reflect us so that we can ask, what makes us human? If they look like us and talk like us and think like us, in the way that the Cylons do in Battlestar Galactica and Replicants do in Blade Runner at what point can we say they are not human? And what if we take a human body and increasingly replace parts of it with synthetic equivalents, at what point does it cease to be human? In the most extreme case, the Cybermen, it seems the point has been well passed, but it is their missing emotions that are the important component, rather than their missing organs and limbs. 

It is the mental, not the physical that really matters as both Robocop and Alex DeLarge in A Clockwork Orange illustrate. It is drugs and brainwashing that removes the humanity from the physically intact, if sociopathic, Alex and maybe that’s what we should be more wary off than thinking technology? 

Monday, 8 December 2014

LETHBRIDGE-STEWART RETURNS IN NEW SERIES!

LETHBRIDGE-STEWART RETURNS

Every legend has a beginning, and for Colonel Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart it was in the London Underground. 



Candy Jar Books is very proud to present Lethbridge-Stewart, a new series of novels revealing the untold story of Colonel Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart set shortly after the 1968 serial, The Web of Fear, fully licensed by the Executor of the Haisman Literary Estate, Mervyn Haisman’s granddaughter Hannah Haisman, and endorsed by Henry Lincoln.

The first series consists of:
  • The Forgotten Son by Andy Frankham-Allen 
  • Horror of Det-Sen by Lance Parkin 
  • The Schizoid Earth by David A McIntee
  • Mutually Assured Domination by Nick Walters.

Brigadier Sir Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart has been an essential element of Doctor Who since 1968. He was created by authors Mervyn Haisman & Henry Lincoln for the six-part Doctor Who serial, The Web of Fear. A one-off character. Until over a year later when he was brought back to Doctor Who, promoted to Brigadier and the head of UNIT. Forty-six years on and the Brigadier has become one of the most iconic characters in Doctor Who, having appeared with ten different Doctors in countless TV episodes, books, audio dramas and comic strips! The character’s death was acknowledged in the 2012 Doctor Who series starring Matt Smith, and was resurrected briefly in the 2014 series finale starring Peter Capaldi. On TV the character’s story is over, but there is so much more to tell.

Andy Frankham-Allen has been a Doctor Who fan since his childhood and serves as line editor for the series, as well as penning the opening novel. Andy is the former line editor of Untreed Reads Publishing’s series Space: 1889 & Beyond, and has penned several Doctor Who Short Trip stories for Big Finish and Candy Jar’s very own celebration of Doctor Who, Companions: Fifty Years of Doctor Who Assistants. He said: “It's an insane privilege and responsibility to put this series together, to reveal the real story behind such a legend of Doctor Who.”

Lance Parkin has written over twenty books and audio dramas for Doctor Who since 1996, including the 35th Anniversary novel, The Infinity Doctors, and the 2008 Tenth Doctor novel, The Eyeless. He also worked on British soap Emmerdale and wrote Magic Words, the definitive biography of Alan Moore. Lance said: “Lethbridge-Stewart was always a steady presence in the Doctor's life. Even in The Web of Fear, he instinctively trusted the Doctor from almost the moment he met him. I wrote for the character in The Dying Days, and that was the version of the Brigadier we all think of now, I think, an old soldier, semi-retired, seen it all. It's been interesting writing for a younger, hungrier Lethbridge-Stewart – not even a Brigadier at this point in his life. It's also been nice writing a story that's set in the aftermath of The Web of Fear, with Lethbridge-Stewart only just starting to realise that the Earth's facing a whole new type of enemy."

David A McIntee has written novels for Star Trek, Final Destination and Space: 1999 and over fifteen books and audio dramas for Doctor Who since 1993, including the Brigadier-centric novel, The Face of the Enemy. David said: “To be honest it (the series) is something I'm amazed hasn't been done before – it’s just such a natural and obvious thing. The form it's taking is also cool because it has the flexibility to move between styles and genres – thriller, SF, horror, etc – while maintaining a definite identity. As for the Brig himself, he's one of those characters where the casting was so perfect that it just made the character so memorable, and who (usually) feels so right.”

Nick Walters has written five novels for Doctor Who since 1998. Nick said: “After the Doctor himself the Brigadier is the best-loved character in Doctor Who. I met Nick Courtney a number of times and he really is a splendid fellow. He brought a real humanity and vulnerability to the role without compromising the essential toughness of the character. Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart is the chap you'd want on your side in a fight – any fight – and it is a real privilege to be exploring what made him into the character we came to know and love.”

Simon Williams, the man behind the cover art, is a former artist for Marvel UK having drawn for The Transformers, The Hulk, Spider-Man and Death’s Head. Simon said: “I’ve always been a big fan of Doctor Who and the Brigadier and having the opportunity to draw this iconic character is a huge privilege.”

Hannah Haisman said: “This project has been a long-time coming. I had to be certain that I was entrusting my grandfather’s legacy to a publisher and authors who would respect what he created. Candy Jar and Andy have assembled a team that are sympathetic to the Brigadier, and these are very exciting times that we can all be proud of.”

Lethbridge-Stewart will be launched on 22nd February 2015, the fourth anniversary of Nicholas Courtney’s death, the actor behind the Brigadier. The first series of novels will be released one book per quarter throughout 2015.

The Forgotten Son is available for pre-order from the Candy Jar Book store, where you can pre-order all four titles in the Four-Book-Bundle for a special discounted price. By pre-ordering directly from Candy Jar you ensure you'll get your copy of each title a couple of weeks before official publication.