Thursday, 27 November 2014

NEW CHRISTMAS SPECIAL TITLE REVEALED

The title for this year's Christmas special episode has now been revealed: Last Christmas.

Alongside this, a brand new promotional image has been released, showing Capaldi and Coleman with Nick Frost, who will be playing the man in red himself.


WHATEVER HAPPENED TO... THE BRIGADIER, part two

Chris McKeon returns for the second part of our look at the Brigadier's presence in Nu Who, detailing the events that led to his triumphant return in 2008!

As 2007 began fans knew a few things about the upcoming series three: there would be Daleks, there would be Martha, there would be Jack, and there would be Saxon. But there was still no sign of the returning Brigadier to claim his presence on our screens. But then with a printed battle cry Lethbridge-Stewart made a triumphant return in the pages of Doctor Who Magazine issues 378-380, The Warkeeper’s Crown. This three-part comic reunited the ‘seventy-odd’ Lethbridge-Stewart, clad once more in his military uniform, with the Tenth Doctor (incidentally donning his blue costume for the first time in public) in a wild-paced romp against orcs, dragons, demons, and harpies.

Two old friends reunite - but not on TV!

This comic, for me, and I am convinced for others, was a heaven-sent joy. At last we saw the Brigadier in action with the Doctor of the new series. It was an equal excitement to what I had experienced when Nicholas Courtney had teamed with Paul McGann’s Doctor in the Big Finish audio Minuet in Hell some six years previously, except this time the action was visible, albeit unmoving on the printed page. The story itself was fun and engaging and even managed to touch on the Brigadier’s consideration that his oldest, most peace-keeping friend was now a veteran of war.

Other fans at the time had a two-fold reaction to the Brigadier’s return: excitement and, like me, another equally potent emotion; anticipation. Could the comic return of Lethbridge-Stewart be a harbinger for his television revival, perhaps even as early as series three? Sadly, although the 2007 series was a wonderful collection of stories (perhaps my favourite group since the program returned to television), which featured not only the known quantities of Martha, Jack and the Daleks, but also the welcome return of the Macra and the Master, UNIT was only used as a plot-device in the series finale, and there was not even a single mention of the Brigadier.

The summer of 2007 passed kindly but a little heavily for me as a Doctor Who fan. I think this may have been the nadir of my Brigadier hopes, in part ironically because of his return in the comics; for if Lethbridge-Stewart had returned already off-screen in a media that required only an artist’s hand and a writer’s words then perhaps was there less incentive to recall the then 77-year-old actor to reprise his television role? And then, on 24 September, 2007, something small but significant happened in the then newly-produced Doctor Who spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures.

It was the closing minutes of Revenge of the Slitheen. Sarah Jane Smith, along with her teenage friends from Bannerman Road, had just defeated the Slitheen, and she had received some help from friends in UNIT and was giving them a thank-you call. It was then that she said the words which shook fandom from its summer slumber: ‘Give my love to the Brig.’ Now there was no onscreen appearance of the Brigadier, no voice-over from Nicholas Courtney, but there was his presence, his location, his affirmation: the Brigadier was alive, was active, and was…somewhere close. This affectionate nod recalled several wonderful Brigadier-related moments from that series’ debut episode Invasion of the Bane on 1 January, 2007, including a UNIT-era photo of the Brigadier (alongside an image of the old-fashioned stalwart Harry Sullivan) pinned on the wall in Sarah’s secret attic headquarters, and a moment when Sarah considered naming her newly-adopted son Alistair. I was personally crushed she chose Luke instead and I am confident that I was far from alone in that sentiment.

Colonel Mace and the Doctor miss the Brigadier.
Once more the forums began to buzz with excitement over the potential return of the Brigadier: his character had been mentioned on-screen in the new series era for the first time, so was there any chance this was a sign of his impending return? When it emerged that UNIT, fighting against the Sontarans, would be making a full return to television during series four of Doctor Who in 2008, the pitch of many fans’ excitement exponentially increased. On 3 May, 2008, during the frenzied events of The Poison Sky, the second part of UNIT’s two-part return, David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor muttered a rather marvellous line: ‘At times like this I could do with the Brigadier.’ And then UNIT’s then-commander Colonel Mace eulogized the Brigadier, or rather ‘Sir Alistair’ and revealed a gold mine of information: ‘Unfortunately he’s stranded in Peru.’

I honestly feel this was the watershed moment for Doctor Who fans hoping for the Brigadier’s return. Close on the heels of Sarah’s affectionate shout-out to her old friend, there in the parent series was a direct reference not only to the Brigadier’s past but to his then-current whereabouts! Although the rest of the 2008 series came and went without a further mention of the Brigadier, fans at the time were brimming with hope that all these little mentions and nods to Lethbridge-Stewart were signs of his coming home to television. A Radio Times interview with Nicholas Courtney published on 1 April 2008 gave no hints for the Brigadier’s future in Doctor Who, but it gave a clear window into the then 78-year-old actor’s thoughts on the prospect: ‘If the script were right, I’d love to do one story. It’d be great fun. And they’ve brought back Sarah – of course, Lis Sladen is still very pretty. And the Master.’

And so fandom hoped for a wonderful uncertainty, but not for long. In late June, 2008, set reports and photos from the filming of The Sarah Jane Adventures’ series two finale episodes declared a certainty: Sir Alistair had returned. At long last Nicholas Courtney’s Brigadier was recalled to active service to assist Sarah Jane Smith and her friends against a sinister Sontaran/Bane alliance in the two-part adventure Enemy of the Bane. These episodes, filmed in June and July of 2008 and broadcast on 1 and 8 December of that year (just days before Courtney’s 79th birthday) were a joy to behold. Brigadier Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart (a Knighthood he received in the 1997 novel The Dying Days) was on our screens once more. He was older, he was slower, he walked with a cane and left most of the action to Sarah and her teenager friends, but he was still the Brigadier through and through and he could fire a great shot!

Brigadier Sir Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart returns - at last!
It was a dream made true: the Brig was back even if the Doctor could not be there, too. But now fans had hope for their long-awaited onscreen reunion. Fans had onscreen evidence, a precedent, a certainty that the Brigadier had returned and could return again, and this time with the Doctor. As 2008 drew to a close some small rumours began circulating that Sir Alistair would indeed return to The Sarah Jane Adventures series three. Around Christmas time there were further rumours that the old soldier would feature in a story centred on Sarah’s disastrous wedding and that the Doctor would be an unexpected guest.

As 2009 dawned there was a very special sense of hope and gladness in fandom both old and new, a sense that good things had come and better things were yet to come. And the best thing of all was that Sir Alistair had returned and he would return again.


And then, he didn’t. And for reasons far worse than I ever expected.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

TOMORROW'S WORLDS : MISSING A PAST

We take a side step today. Mark Brake, the author of Mark Brake’s Space, Time, Machine, Monster (featuring sections on Doctor Who) reviews last night’s Tomorrow’s Worlds – a programme about the history of sci-fi. Next week is a Doctor Who heavy episode. Don’t miss it!




On TV, no one can hear you scream.

Or at least that’s what it seemed like last night, as I screamed enthusiastically at historian Dominic Sandbrook’s presentation of Tomorrow’s Worlds: the Unearthly History of Science Fiction, on BBC Two.

Dominic did a reasonable job of guiding us through the science fiction of space, the first theme of this four-part series. But as his focus was film, I felt his theories were left a little lacking in leaving out a lot of the fiction that had inspired the movies.

Witness Dominic’s account of the roots of sci-fi. The origin of it all, he says, comes from tales of trips to the Moon, from the likes of Jules Verne. You can see why Dominic took this tack.  Verne’s book was very influential on one of sci-fi’s first ever films – Le Voyage dans la Lune, a 1902 French silent movie, directed by Georges Méliès.

And yet the first Moon stories of sci-fi were published in the 1630s, over two centuries before Jules Verne, and way before the days of cinema.  Both Somnium, by Johannes Kepler, and A Man in the Moone by Francis Godwin (the Bishop of Llandaff in Cardiff!) were lunar journeys that involved meetings with alien life. Dominic says the cool thing about Jules Verne is that he got the maths right.  Well, Johannes Kepler was Imperial Mathematician to the Pope! Kepler really got his maths right. He was the man who gave us the laws of how the planets move in orbit about the Sun!

Perhaps the programme’s biggest problem was ignoring the influence of that Shakespeare of sci-fi, HG Wells.

Dominic suggested that Star Trek was Victorian in its attitude to other peoples and nations. But, that most influential of the Victorian writers, Wells had warned against such an attitude with The War of the Worlds, a cautionary tale about empires swanning around as if they owned the place.

The programme also suggested that Victorian sci-fi had put man at the centre of the Universe. And yet, the era’s most influential work, The War of the Worlds did exactly the opposite; humans are faced with the technologically superior and invading Martians (I suspect Dominic is conveniently keeping this Wells tale for the next episode on ‘Invasion’).

Next up, Dominic introduces the movie masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Its author, Arthur C Clarke, was determined to move humans from their assumed centre of the cosmos, according to Dominic. And yet Clarke’s entire approach was greatly influenced by Wells who had quoted Kepler when he said of alien life, “But who shall dwell in these worlds if they be inhabited? … Are we, or they, Lords of the World? … And how are all things made for man?” In other words, who’s boss of the Universe?! Clarke was following a line started by Kepler, and carried on by Wells.

Still, even though the programme missed out on this longer fictional view for the sake of film, it was nonetheless thought provoking.

The link between the sea and space was conjured up in the programme’s account of the James Cameron movie, Avatar. The film’s main planet, Pandora, presented an ecology very reminiscent of deep sea ecology on Earth. This is no doubt influenced by Cameron’s journey to the Mariana Trench; he’s the first person ever do a solo descent to this deepest part of the ocean.

Science fiction began in the days of Shakespeare. It was Kepler who had first encouraged the building of ships fit for space.  In the last few minutes of the programme, Dominic claimed the desire for space has fizzled out.  No doubt the script was written and filmed before the ESA Rosetta mission successfully plonked a lander on a comet speeding at 40,000mph, much to the adoring delight of the world on social media!

I look forward to the next three episodes; on invasion, robots, and time travel respectively.  Hopefully, people will come out of Tomorrow’s Worlds wanting to know and read more.


The book, Mark Brake's Space, Time, Machine, Monster, also examines how sci-fi helped build the world in which we live. It is is available to buy now from Amazon and the Candy Jar store.


Tuesday, 18 November 2014

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO... THE BRIGADIER, part one

Our Brigadier theme continues with a new three-part article looking at the Brigadier's presence, or lack thereof, in the series since it returned in 2005, with guest contributor, Chris McKeon...

I am a Doctor Who fan. Although this is always special to say in late 2014 it is nothing unique to state – since the program’s return to television in early 2005 (or really mid-2004 if you were lucky enough to see Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper filming in person) practically everyone in the world is either a fan of the show or will be tomorrow. It’s just that popular to be a Who fan in modern life.

I can remember very clearly when it wasn’t. I may be one of many today, but not too long ago I was the only person in my school, my city, maybe even (as I probably flattered myself), my entire country, who proudly claimed to be a Doctor Who fan. Although these days I don’t attract so much constant attention to myself about my personal program preferences, I still think I am one of the few American twenty-somethings who was an active and unashamed Who fan during the series’ barren Wilderness Years, or as real-life calls it, the 1990s.

Bret Vyon, descendent of the Brigadier?

So if there is anything I can claim rightfully, it is I am a lifelong Doctor Who fan. I am also a never-say-die supporter of the series’ arguably (but in my opinion there is no such argument) greatest supporting character: Brigadier Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart.

Anyone who reads this article probably already knows who the Brigadier is and that he was portrayed on-screen and in audio adventures by the late and sorrowfully missed Nicholas Courtney. Therefore I need not rehearse in detail Courtney’s roughly forty-six year association with the program, during forty-three of which years he played Lethbridge-Stewart (if someone reading this wonders what Mr Courtney was doing with Doctor Who before there was a Brigadier and UNIT, I recommend a fun internet search with the words ‘Bret Vyon’). 

I will take a moment, but only a moment, to describe how much I love the character. Never mind that my formative years watching the program were the repeat airings of Jon Pertwee’s UNIT Years, where the Brigadier and other stalwart UNIT friends helped the Doctor and companions defeat monsters, madmen and the Master; never mind that while watching every story between Planet of Evil and Snakedance not an episode passed that I didn’t wonder (as Tom Baker’s Doctor forcefully demanded in The Seeds of Doom) ‘Where’s the Brigadier?’. Never mind that when Lethbridge-Stewart finally returned in Mawdryn Undead my heart swelled with joy; and certainly never mind that when the adventure Battlefield reached my screens something special happened that made my less than ten-year-old self leap across the room. If I may, I will recreate the moment here in prose (please keep in mind I somehow missed the opening scene at first viewing).

“This is a nice story. Future knights and that lady from Willow and Ace and Merlin is the Doctor. And there’s now a grey-haired man with a moustache in a military uniform. Wait, that grey-haired moustache man looks like – IT’S THE BRIGADIER!”

Never mind all of that (although I will always remember it). I love the Brigadier’s character so much because he reminds me of my Dad and my Grandpa, men I hope to emulate in my life. My Dad I still have. My Grandpa I don’t, not since March of 2002. That was a sad day that I had to accept emotionally, and which I have, but as long as Nicholas Courtney (whom as I grew up I became happily aware was a kind and good man deservedly beloved by countless people) and his Lethbridge-Stewart character were both still alive I felt, in some small way, that I still had a part of Grandpa (who amongst many things was a World War II naval veteran) still alive with me.

Memories of good people sweeten my life; in fact, I think those flavoured memories are what keep me alive and happy. So let’s take a trip down a recent alley of Memory Lane, through a brief corridor I saw as leading to something special, which really led to something more bitter than sweet, but which I now feel may one day have a sweeter, if uncertain future.

Wind back the clock just over eleven years to 25th September, 2003. On this date the world heard the official announcement of Doctor Who’s approaching return to television. Now for me this date of destiny was deferred to 8th June, 2004, when I learned about the good Doctor’s return in a postcard from a friend (I was serving as a church missionary during 2003 in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas and so was mostly removed from all matters science fiction). But from that day onwards I was more than excited, I felt liberated, almost vindicated: all those teenage years of waiting and hoping and defending the good Doctor with the honest, heartfelt anticipation that one day I would hear of his imminent – and I considered inevitable – return had finally proven the adage of waiting for good things.

The Brigadier and the woman from WILLOW

First and foremost on my mind were all the old friends and foes that would return to reunite with the Doctor. I was honestly never worried about the chances of creatures like the Daleks, Cybermen or the Master – I was nearly certain those most frequent of villainous favourites would drive children behind their sofas once more. In fact, although I wanted all of the great monsters and allies to strike the screen again (and some of those greats have only recently arrived to terrorise; is there no love for Ice Warriors and Zygons?) these are the few characters that I felt were either secure in their returns, simply because to me without their presence Doctor Who almost cannot be Doctor Who:
  • The Daleks
  • The Cybermen
  • The Master
  • Davros
  • The Time Lords
  • The Brigadier

Almost from the beginning the Daleks proved their essentiality to the series’ renaissance in the spring on 2005. On 5th March, 2005 I was happily surprised to see the Autons return even before the horrible pepperpots, but seeing the Nestene soldiers awaken in a manner shatteringly similar to their first appearance in Spearhead in Space made me long for the stalwart presence of the Brigadier even more. UNIT’s brief cameo in the Aliens of London/World War Three two-parter did nothing to make me forget that Nicholas Courtney’s signature role was absent from the main proceedings of the 2005 series. And this absence worried me, for although Lethbridge-Stewart was undoubtedly on my list of ‘must-returns’ to Doctor Who, I could not then nor can I now deny that his space on that most wanted list came with not only the most heart-warmth but also the least guarantee.

As Doctor Who series one aired on television I enjoyed the Doctor, the companion, the new TARDIS interior, and the new monsters. But my familiar face-longing thoughts kept returning to what Craig Hinton told me at the January 2005 Gallifrey One Los Angeles convention, when I asked him if he thought the producers would ask the then 75-year-old Nicholas Courtney for one more go. I will never forget the sad look in Craig’s eyes as he sighed and said: ‘Well, he’s not getting any younger’. I wanted to hope that what Craig really meant was that the almost-elderly Courtney and his enduring Lethbridge-Stewart were far too valuable to the program to delay their reappearance. But when series one ended with no Brigadier in sight or mention, and a departing Doctor who never (and still has not) met his best military friend, I began to find it hard to ignore that Craig had really meant something else.

Still, Doctor Who was on television again and with a cliffhanger ending that meant there would be more stories to tell. With the casting announcement of the then relatively unknown but highly promising David Tennant in the role of the Tenth Doctor, the future of the series seemed bright with expanding horizons. By the time series two debuted on 15th April, 2006 fandom was aware of not only the returning Cybermen (another checked for my ‘must-returns’) but also the welcoming home of former 1970s companions Sarah Jane Smith and K9. And their return was a spiking moment of rising hope for me: for not only were two long-departed companions crossing paths with the Doctor again but they were returning after decades of absence and the series was not afraid to show it: Sarah was middle-aged; K9 was rusted and broken down. And as I enjoyed a healthy dose of Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker nostalgia, I felt a swell of hope that if one UNIT-era companion could return then so could another, even a then 76-year-old man called out of retirement. Surely Lethbridge-Stewart could return.


And then, he did. Just not quite in the way I expected.

Part two... soon!

Thursday, 13 November 2014

THE BRIGADIER - TOP TEN

In keeping with our current Brigadier theme, Andy Frankham-Allen, author of Companions: Fifty Years of Doctor Who Assistants, shares with us his top ten Brigadier stories. Covering not only the TV series, but also the books and audios. Forty-six years of one of Doctor Who’s biggest icons in ten stories…

#1: The Web of Fear by Mervyn Haisman & Henry Lincoln (1968, BBC TV).

Number one simply has to be the story that started it all off. It’s incredible to think now that the Brigadier, or Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart as he was in this story, was never written to become a regular character in Doctor Who. He was simply another in a long line of one-off allies for the Doctor. It says much about the calibre of the script and characterisation, and the personality of Nicholas Courtney, that the character would go on to have such an important role in the Doctor’s life (even beyond his death in 2012).

#2: Spearhead from Space by Robert Holmes (1970, BBC TV).

This was my first introduction to the Brigadier and so will always hold a special place in my heart; that it is also the first Third Doctor story I ever saw (on video in the late '80s) just adds that little bit of extra special to it. The Brig’s characterisation was at its best here, and much of what we come to know about the character is laid out in this story. Often cynical, but adaptable, ready to accept the Doctor at his word, seeding a true friendship that would last for another forty-four years. A classic in every sense.

#3: Battlefield by Ben Aaronovitch (1989, BBC TV).

Not a story often seen in top ten lists, but taken purely from the point of view of the Brigadier it is easily one of the best stories. This was the opener of the last season of Doctor Who’s original twenty-six year run, so it was apt that it brought the Brigadier back after a six-year absence. At this point the Brigadier is retired, settled with his wife Doris, but when he’s brought out of retirement to help the Doctor you can’t help but be swept away by the blasé attitude and the pure enjoyment he has at being back in the field once again. And of course it features one of the Brig’s best moment when he confronts the Destroyer; ‘Pitiful. Can this world do no better than you as its champion?’ the Destroyer wants to know. ‘Probably. I just do the best I can!’ It is such a triumphant moment – the Brigadier saves the world, showing that his best is good enough.

#4: The Dying Days by Lance Parkin (1997, Virgin Books).

The first novel to feature in this top ten. Parkin’s book is tour de force of adventure, carrying on from where Battlefield left off, explaining why the Brigadier was never made general. The character is at the top of his game here, he meets the Eighth Doctor for the first time, and finally receives the recognition he deserves when he is knighted by the Queen at the end of the novel. Sir Alistair is finally here, something which will be acknowledged in the revived series from 2005.

#5: Terror of the Zygons by Robert Banks Stewart (1975, BBC TV).

This is the first story, since The Web of Fear, to acknowledge the Brigadier's Scottish ancestry. Here we discover that is of the Clan Stewart -- a fact that gives us the wonderful image of the Brigadier in a kilt. It's a lovely moment, which even has Sarah wondering if he's 'doing a Doctor', who himself is wearing a tartan scarf because they're visiting Scotland. After five years of being a foil to the Third Doctor, here was get to see the Brigadier really mellow, as a bemused air seems to hang over almost all his scenes. Bemused at the Fourth Doctor, bemused at Benton's relationship with the pub landlord... Just generally bemused. It is also the last time we see the Brigadier until 1983, although he is referenced a few times over the years.

#6: The Spectre of Lanyon Moor by Nicholas Pegg (2002, Big Finish).

The first audio play to feature in my top ten sees the Brigadier in Cornwall and encountering, for the first time, the Sixth Doctor. Both the Brigadier and Nicholas Courtney are on fine form here, as we get to see a slightly different dynamic with an incarnation new to him. The Brigadier seems very at home in Cornwall, too.

#7: Mawdryn Undead by Peter Grimwade (1983, BBC TV).

Despite confusing the UNIT dating, this story does feature some sterling development for the Brigadier, as we get to see two different versions of him. One from 1977 who is every bit the Brig of his UNIT days, recently retired and beginning a new career as a math's teacher. The other version is from 1983, older and perhaps a little wiser, alas he's lost his memory and for a while doesn't even remember the Doctor. His relationship with the Fifth Doctor is very relaxed, once his memory is restored, and he is a solid presence throughout the story. It is, arguably, the first Brigadier-centric story in Doctor Who ever. This is every bit about him, in a way that no other story before has been.

#8: The Scales of Injustice by Gary Russell (1996, Virgin Books/2014 BBC Books).

The second novel in this list deserves its place because it is the first time we properly get to see the Brigadier's private life. Here we are introduced to his first wife, Fiona (a name derived from Nicholas Courtney who would tell convention goers that he believed the Brig was married to a woman called Fiona, and here it becomes 'canon'), as well his five-year-old daughter Kate (who would later go on to become an important part of Nu Who). We get to see how terrible the Brig is at balancing his secret life in UNIT with his private life as a husband and a father. And it is this lack of balancing ability that costs him his marriage and, ultimately, alienates him from Kate for many years.

#9: Inferno by Don Houghton (1970, BBC TV).

In this story we get to see a different version of the Brigadier altogether -- Brigade Leader Lethbridge-Stewart from a fascist parallel Earth. This story earns its place in this list for two very good reasons; the Brigadier in an eye-patch is an anecdote that has gone down in history (and was referenced in the 2012 episode The Wedding of River Song in which we learn the Brigadier died in bed), and Nicholas Courtney throwing subtlety out of the window in his performance of the Brigade Leader. It's a dark tale, and Courtney plays a man on the edge of sanity with aplomb.

#10: The Ghosts of N-Space by Barry Letts (1996, BBC Radio).

The most unlikely story to find its way into a best-of list, but I can't help but love this story. Not only is it a lot of fun, but the idea of the Italian ancestry of the Brigadier's is so barmy that it has to heard to be believed. The news that Lethbridge-Stewart has Sicilian blood comes so far out of left field, but it can be forgiven simply because of the chemistry between him and his slightly nuts Uncle Mario. The continuity is this one needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, but if you can do that then I'm sure you'll realise how much fun it all is. But only if you listen to the radio play version -- the novel version is less fun.

There are loads of other stories I wanted to include, but I had to go for those that I feel represent the Brigadier the best. Both as a character and Nicholas Courtney as a performer. I do have to point out that I was tempted to include The Wedding of River Song and Death in Heaven simply because the Brigadier's presence is felt throughout each episode, especially the latter, even though he is not in either. Although, technically, he is resurrected as a Cyberman in the latter and saves his daughter's life.

So, there you have it. My own personal top ten. We'd like to hear if you agree or disagree, and what your favourite Brigadier stories are.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

THE BRIGADIER... LIVES

The Brigadier... Lives! An exclusive interview with Hannah Haisman.

Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart

This weekend saw the surprise return of one of Doctor Who’s biggest icons. No, not the Master… Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. The character died a couple of years ago, following the death of the actor who brought him to life, Nicholas Courtney. The Brigadier has been a large part of Doctor Who since 1969 when he appeared in command of UNIT in The Invasion, preparing the way for a five-year run alongside Jon Pertwee’s Doctor beginning the following year. But the character first appeared over a year earlier in the six-part serial, The Web of Fear, as a colonel in the Scots Guard. He was a one-off character never intended for such longevity, created by freelance writers Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln. However, in a recent interview in Doctor Who Magazine, then-script editor Derrick Sherwin has claimed that he created the character ignoring the fact that The Invasion was a result of a gap in the schedule after a couple of other scripts failed to work out. Without some kind of precognition on his part, it does seem a very odd claim. To counter this curious comment, I recently spoke to Mervyn Haisman’s granddaughter, and the executor of his literary estate (which includes, of course, the Brigadier, the Great Intelligence and the Dominators!), Hannah Haisman.

Type 40: Hi there, Hannah. If you could start by telling us a little about your grandfather, and your experience of him.

Hannah Haisman: My Grandad was a truly amazing person. He was one of the most important, special and influential people in my life.  In my teenage years, I spent a lot of time with my nan and Grandad, often spending a night or five with them. I used to love sitting in Grandad’s study whilst he worked. I would spend hours looking at the hundreds of books on the shelves and admiring his RADA certificate hanging on the wall, the Onedin Line flag, the photograph of the Yeti from Doctor Who, the huge poster of Jane and the lost city and various family photographs and portraits. I can remember asking for Grandad’s help when I was studying Shakespeare for my English Literature GCSE. At fifteen years old my idea of a good read did not include Shakespeare. Grandad directed me to the mass of books upon the shelves and it was from there my love of literature grew.

When my grandad passed away in 2010 it broke my heart.  A few months earlier on one of our bi-weekly phone calls, he had told me that I would be left the majority of his literary estate which included the rights of his work and use of characters.  Up until then, I obviously knew that he had written for many well known shows as I was the one who used to chase up the BBC when they hadn’t paid him royalties! But since taking on the role of literary executor, I have learned so much more about his many writing credits, the much-loved characters he created and what people thought of him.

Type 40: Including Derrick Sherwin?

Hannah: I knew that they had a hate hate relationship. It has been well documented in the past, but the latest interview Sherwin has given that slanders the memory of my grandad has rendered me gobsmacked. In DWM (issue 479) Sherwin calls my grandad and Henry ‘hacks’.  Now in the writing world, that is about the worst thing you could call a writer.  My grandad had over eighty writing credits to his name and Henry is an extremely successful author. This in itself should show that they are not ‘hacks’.  Compare this to Sherwin’s credits.  I am not 100%, but to the best of my knowledge he has twelve writing credits to his name, of which three were re-writes at the time of his short tenure as script editor on Doctor Who. He then got the producer gig for about a year before being replaced and spent a total of only five years in television! That somehow makes him someone who is qualified to make the comments he has about my grandad and Henry? As for them being bloody-minded and un-enthusiastic; this may have had something to do with who they were working with and his attitude, which is evident in most of his interviews.

Type 40: Regarding his claim that he, in fact, created Lethbridge-Stewart, how do you respond?

Hannah: This is laughable; the man must be deluded.

Type 40: It is a well documented fact that the character of Lethbridge-Stewart was created by your grandfather and Henry Lincoln. Sherwin, almost certainly without intention, secured their legacy by bringing the character back the following year. Looking back on this, how does this make you feel, considering Sherwin's public bad mouthing of your grandfather and Lincoln?

Hannah: He obviously thought he was in the right. I know Grandad was pissed off with him using the Brig and that he had to fight with the BBC for many years to secure royalties. I'm over the moon that by doing this, bringing the Brig back, Sherwin secured Grandad’s legacy, and I know Grandad would be chuckling about it.

Sir Alistair

Type 40: The Brig, and indeed the Great Intelligence, has been around in Who for a very long time now. The Brig even made it to Nu Who, via The Sarah Jane Adventures. Russell T Davies approached your grandfather about this... Do you know how he felt to be finally asked beforehand?

Hannah: Very emotional. He was over the moon and held Russell T Davies in very high regard as he had taken the time to ask him. That is all he ever wanted; recognition for what he had created.
Type 40: Fans have recognised his contribution for many years. Indeed, when the 1995 independent film Downtime was made, the producers approached Haisman for permission. In that film, author Marc Platt created a daughter for the Brig. You only discovered this last week. What did you think of the news that the Brig continues on through his daughter?

Hannah: I'm extremely happy that the Brig lives on; sad that they dropped the Lethbridge in the surname to save money. But in all seriousness, seeing an offspring of a character my grandad created is like seeing a part of him on screen.

Kate Lethbridge-Stewart

Type 40: In fact, you could say art imitates life. While Kate carries on her father's legacy, you carry on your grandfather's. Women now run the house.
Hannah: To an extent that has always happened, though not in the public eye. My nan always ran the house and Grandad just agreed with her

Type 40: You saw last weekend's episode, and was surprised, as many were, by the return of the Brig. What did you think of that moment? The whole episode seemed to be haunted by his ghost.

Hannah: I cried. Happy cries but as soon as Capaldi saluted I got it. I was so proud that grandad’s character was still being used.

Type 40: How do you think your grandfather would have taken it?

Hannah: He would of poured another scotch, swore, giggled and said ‘why a Cyberman!’ Grandad would even have raised a toast to Sherwin for helping his character live on.

Type 40: One way to gain immortality.

Hannah: Very true.

Type 40: It seems the Brig is always out there in some way. Do you think we've heard the last of this icon of Doctor Who?

Hannah: NOOOOOO! I'd hate it if he were to remain a Cyberman: that is the only monster that has had me hiding behind a pillow! I have high hopes for the Brig and I'm sure this won't be the last time you see him.

Type 40: But do you not think that if they bring him back again, it would cheapen the moment? The idea that he lives forever?

Hannah: Yes and no. I'd hate for him to be a Cyberman, but maybe a form of a higher consciousness to Kate. I say this as a daddy’s girl.

Type 40: Higher consciousness... A great intelligence perhaps?

Hannah: You got it!

Type 40: So, your grandfather's legacy has lasted forty-six years. It seems the Brig's story is over.
Hannah: The Brig will always be around, if I have any say in the matter, and I do. There is a time in his life that nobody knows about…YET!

And with that intriguing remark, it seems our time is up. Thank you for talking with us, Hannah. Here’s to another forty-six years of Sir Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart, and your grandfather’s legacy!

Mervyn and Hannah, their last weekend together in 2010

Thursday, 6 November 2014

THE HISTORY COLLECTION

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More Doctor Who novel reprints are on the horizon. Following the Doctors Collection of 2013 and the Monster Collection of 2014, BBC Books are set up to release the History Collection in February 2015. So far four books have been added to the banner, two of which were previously published by Virgin Books in the mid-1990s and have been out of print for over fifteen years.

These two novels are Paul Cornell's Human Nature (originally published in 1995), voted best ever Doctor Who novel by the readers of Doctor Who Magazine. This novel holds a unique place in Doctor Who prose history as the only novel to be adapted into a TV story. It was adapted by Paul Cornell in 2007 for the third series of the revived show. Originally it featured the Seventh Doctor and Bernice Summerfield, a companion created exclusively for the Virgin Books New Adventures series, and has since had a long and successful life in her own series of audio dramas produced by Big Finish. Which brings us nicely to the second reprint...

Gareth Roberts' The English Way of Death has been highly regarded since its initial publication in 1996, perfectly capturing the tone and style of season seventeen. The rights to the story have recently been purchased by Big Finish and an audio adaptation is due for release next year.

Original Cover Art
Two books previously published by BBC Books in the early-2000s finish off the History Collection. The first is the Third Doctor novel, Amorality Tale by David Bishop (originally published in 2002), which stands as the only original novel thus far to be set during season eleven and feature Sarah Jane Smith as companion.

The fourth, and currently final, novel being reprinted in the 2001 Sixth Doctor book, The Shadow in the Glass, which is another off-TV meeting between the Sixth Doctor and the Brigadier and sees them travelling back to World War II and an adventure with Adolf Hitler. This book was written by then BBC Books' editor Justin Richards and his predecessor, Steven Cole.

Monday, 3 November 2014

MISSY REACTION


This weekend's episode, Dark Water, saw Steven Moffat offer up his most divisive blow to Doctor Who lore yet. 

For those of you who have not seen Dark Water, and thus have not learned the truth of Missy's identity, turn away now!
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'The shop Mistress. Well, I could hardly keep calling myself the Master.'


What should have been a shock revelation came across, to most, as little more than the most obvious reveal in an episode full of obvious reveals (helped none by the trailer promoting Dark Water). For months fans have been discussing some wild theories on who Missy could turn out to be, and most linked her to the Master. But almost all those hoped it was too obvious a move for Moffat to pull -- alas, it was not!

Our very own Andy Frankham-Allen (author of Companions: Fifty Years of Doctor Who Assistants and line editor of Space: 1889 & Beyond) had this to say; 'Moffat knew he'd never get away with turning the Doctor into a woman, so he did so to the Master.' It is one of many responses collected by our friends at Kasterborous.com, the full responses from their contributors can be found HERE.

We would like to hear your thoughts on Dark Water, especially the Missy revelation. Please tell us what you thought in the comments below.

Friday, 17 October 2014

RATINGS GO UP AT LAST!



With the recent drop in ratings for Doctor Who some fans have begun to question the reason for this decline, citing the popularity of Steven Moffat and Peter Capaldi as possible causes. 

The overall figure for Kill the Moon was 6.91 million, once again down on The Caretaker.

Thankfully eight episodes in and things are starting to change. The ratings for Mummy on the Orient Express actually went up. Shown at 8.37 pm (the latest the programme has ever been shown) the overnight ratings were 5.08 million. Much higher than the previous week. Perhaps things are looking up after all.

Friday, 3 October 2014

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO... IAN CHESTERTON?

The question on the lips of many fans is; where is Ian Chesterton?


Ever since last year's anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor, fans have been eagerly anticipating the return of original companion, Ian Chesterston, after we learned that in the current day he is Chairman of the Governors at Coal Hill Secondary School (see above). It could easily have been a nice little touch added to the anniversary special, but with Clara now a teacher at the school it seemed likely to most fans that Ian would make a long-awaited return -- especially given that the latest episode, The Caretaker (shown last Saturday), was to be set entirely within Coal Hill School. Did Ian turn up, though? No!

Coal Hill School science teacher, Ian Chesterton

Many fans, including professional authors who have written novels featuring Ian, believe this to be a missed opportunity. Other than Carol Ann Ford who played Susan, the Doctor's granddaughter, Ian actor William Russell is the only surviving actor from the original line-up that shaped Doctor Who in it's first year. It's been fifty years since we last saw Ian in Doctor Who, although he has returned in many novels, short stories, comics and audio dramas over the last couple of decades. In these it became known that he and Barbara Wright (the first regular character to be seen in Doctor Who) married after their travels with the Doctor, and this was finally confirmed in 2010 in the Sarah Jane Adventures episode Death of the Doctor when Sarah informed her young friends that Ian and Barbara Chesterston live in Cambridge, and rumour has it they haven't aged since the '60s. Thus we know for certain that both Ian and Barbara are still alive in the Doctor Who universe, although it is unlikely we'll ever see Barbara make a return on TV due to the actress' unfortunate death in 1993.

So, what of Ian? Why hasn't he returned? Gareth Roberts, author of The Caretaker, was asked about this at Cultbox.co.uk and has this to say; 'I just thought it would be too much of a distraction. I think that's an episode all of its own.' He makes a fair point. To bring back such an important character from Doctor Who's informative years would and should be a very big deal. Roberts added; 'I'd love to see William Russell back in the show! That's so rich and so fertile for someone to do. You'd have to explain it enough so that everyone would get it.'

Cambridge scientist, Professor Ian Chesterton
But how much would you really need to explain? It could so easily be a passing encounter, in which Professor Chesterton assists the Doctor without even realising who the caretaker, Mr Smith, is. The Doctor would, of course, know and taking the cue from an old Brief Encounter prose story published in Doctor Who Magazine, the Doctor could leave a little gift for Ian. It would be a magical last moment of an episode to have Ian holding that gift, as realisation dawns. A wistful smile plaguing his lips as he lifts the phone to call his wife Barbara...

Perhaps this is all being set up now? Perhaps Adrian, the teacher that bore a passing resemblance to Matt Smith, will be revealed to be Adrian Chesterton, Ian and Barbara's son? Certainly that is what I was expecting as I watched The Caretaker. Was I the only one to think that? Drop a post in the comments, and let us know your thoughts. 

Coal Hill teacher, Adrian... Chesterton?


Thursday, 2 October 2014

SERIES EIGHT RATINGS, SO FAR...



Series 8 is polarising the Doctor Who fanbase, with many conflicting views on the various merits of each episode. Despite what the fans are saying, good and bad, the ratings speak for themselves. 

Six episodes in, and Peter Capaldi's début season is holding its own against some stiff competition...

  • Deep Breath - 9.17 million viewers in total, with an Audience Appreciation of 82.
  • Into the Dalek - 7.29 million viewers in total, with an Audience Appreciation of 84.
  • Robot of Sherwood - 7.28 million viewers in total, with an Audience Appreciation of 82.
  • Listen - 7.1 million viewers in total, with an Audience Appreciation of 82.
  • Time Heist - 6.99 million viewers in total, with an Audience Appreciation of 84.


The Caretaker had 4.89 million viewers in overnight figures, which will almost certainly improve by several million once the final figure is released.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

NEW REVIEW, EP 5: TIME HEIST



Flashback to 2006: Tooth and Claw was promoted as having a modern Tarantino-esque feel, with exciting bullet-time monks. The reality was a great episode, with the bullet-time monks limited to the first few minutes. I was reminded of this with Time Heist, heavily promoted as taking inspiration from Ocean's Eleven and other modern heist movies...

To read our full review for Time Heist, click HERE!

Monday, 15 September 2014

EP.5 - TIME HIEST (POTENTIAL SPOILERS)

With fifty years of history to draw from, it's no surprise that new Doctor Who episodes are often littered with references to previous stories. Sometimes these nods are blatant, other times they are subtle. A few such nods are given in a blink-and-you'll-miss-them moment in the trailers for the next episode of series eight -- Time Heist.

What's most interesting about the following screen grabs is that not only do we see characters from the original run of the series, but also one from the expanded universe of the comics and books. A very rare occurrence indeed, and in this case a very exciting one... Why? Read on.

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First of all, we have a Terrileptil - first seen in the Fifth Doctor story The Visitation in 1981.

Next up is a Sensorite, from the eponymous episode from 1964, a First Doctor story (if you look closely you can see Susan's arm). They are from the planet Sensesphere, in the same area of space as the Oodsphere as seen in 2008's Planet of the Ood.

This one will be familiar to viewers of the series since 2005, having appeared in several episodes of Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures. One of the ever-expansive Slitheen family.

This chap is Androvax, the last survivor of the Veil, as seen in The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Although mentioned a few times in Doctor Who, this is the first time we see the Trickster in the parent show, he's usually haunting Sarah in The Sarah Jane Adventures.

And to continue the spin-off theme, this handsome devil is Captain John Hart (not his real name), ex-Time Agent and one-time lover of Captain Jack Harkness, seen in Torchwood.

And finally, this little rouges gallery is completed with the appearance of the one character that has got Doctor Who fans of old quite excited. Abslom Daak - Dalek Killer has appeared in many Doctor Who comic strips over the years, last seen working alongside the Seventh Doctor in Nemesis of the Daleks. He also appeared in a Doctor Who novel! Can this mean an eventual fully-fledged appearance in television-Who? A lot of excited fans are wondering.

All screen grabs are courtesy of John Davies.

Friday, 12 September 2014

EP.6 - THE CARETAKER, SYNOPSIS


A very brief synopsis for episode six of series eight, The Caretaker, has been revealed. 


The terrifying Skovox Blitzer is ready to destroy all humanity – but worse, and any second now, Danny Pink and the Doctor are going to meet.

When terrifying events threaten Coal Hill school, the Doctor decides to go undercover.

This looks to be the first episode to be fully set in and around Coal Hill School since 1988's Remembrance of the Daleks, and the first full episode since Clara randomly became a teacher there in Day of the Doctor last year. (Long term fans will, of course, know that Coal Hill School has a long history with Doctor Who dating back to the very first episode in 1963 when the Doctor's granddaughter, Susan, was a student there. Indeed his first two companions, Ian & Barbara, were teachers at the school.) Interestingly back in Remembrance of the Daleks the headmaster of the school asked the Seventh Doctor if he were looking to take on the role of school caretaker -- could the Twelfth Doctor (or as I call him Doctor One-a) be in that position now? Is that why the TARDIS was parked in the broom cupboard in Into the Dalek?

Now, is it me, or does that accompanying image (presumably the Skovox Blitzer) look very much like a Silurian which has been converted by Cyber-technology?