Classic Rewatch: Spearhead From Space

Spearhead From Space

So begins another era in the wildly unpredictable history of Doctor Who. The departure of Patrick Troughton and his co-stars at the close of the sixth season added additional uncertainty to the direction (or entire future) of the show. Producers, writers, and script editors including the legendary Terrance Dicks and Derrick Sherwin set out to redefine the television programme, breathing new life with new filming techniques, supporting cast, theme and tone, and the casting of a lead actor who could carry the demands of affability, action, humour and gravitas that the change in direction called for. Enter: Jon Pertwee.

This week, we fall headlong into the debut of the Third Doctor, in “Spearhead From Space”. We discuss all the backstory components that contributed to such a monumental shift in the franchise, the “Series 6B” theory that went from fan-fiction, to ‘fanon’, to canon, the ideal selection of Pertwee at this pivotal moment, and our complete adoration for Liz Shaw.

Bonus Segment: Another lovely sit-down with “Old Sixie” himself, COlin Baker, from the hustle and bustle of L.I. Who 4!

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A Wise Person Once Said…

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There once was a campaign in the United States for an investment broker, where the tagline read, “When <company> talks, everyone listens.” You may not have an iota of interest in the stock market, of course, but when the Doctor steps forward, takes a strengthening breath, and begins an oration, the viewing audience joins the supporting cast in rapt attention to what is about to be said. It may even be argued that within the past 3 series, the opportunities for and occurrences of these monologues are steadily increasing — much to our fascination.

This week, Keir and Haley tour a series of the Doctor’s most impactful speeches, from short but sweet consolations to a distraught listener, to the arms-wide, sermon-on-the-mount powerhouses that hold armies at bay, and give would-be gods reason to take heed. We discuss the apparent rise in the breadth and content of these speeches, and the adept way that Doctor Who writers have historically written to the strengths of each actor portraying the titular role.

Some referenced moments for your research:

  • First Doctor to Susan, in “Dalek Invasion of Earth”
  • Second Doctor to Victoria, in “Tomb of the Cybermen”
  • Third Doctor to Jo Grant, in “The Time Monster” (thanks to Ian for the suggestion!)
  • Fourth Doctor to Sarah Jane, in “Genesis of the Daleks”
  • Sixth Doctor to the Valeyard and Inquisitor, in “Trial of a Timelord”
  • Ninth Doctor to Rose, in “Parting of the Ways”
  • Tenth Doctor soliloquy, in “The Waters of Mars”
  • Eleventh Doctor to the assembled armada, in “The Pandorica Opens”
  • Twelfth Doctor to Bonnie, in “The Zygon Inversion”

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Live from Whofest 2

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Okay, fess up. Who let the nerds out of the studio? This week, Haley and Jay surrounded themselves with the best kind of Texans: Whovian Texans. Whofest 2 in Dallas drew visits from none other than Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, Terry Molloy, Nicholas Briggs, and Jason Haigh-Ellery to the southwest US, and the GPR team was there to embrace them (and in one fortunate fourth grader’s case, quite literally).

Join us as we share some of the highlights and stories from the “bigger on the inside” little convention, in what Colin Baker has renamed as the “All-Star State.”

Links and Pictures:

Mr. Baker commanding the room

Mr. Baker, commanding the room as always.

Nicholas Briggs (right) and Terry Molloy (left) starting off the Saturday Panels

Nicholas Briggs (right) and Terry Molloy (left) starting off the Saturday morning panels.

The always stunning Nicola Bryant

The always stunning Nicola Bryant.

Listener Bobby Honeycutt as the 4th Doctor with another con guest's incredible custom Dalek

GPR listener Bobby Honeycutt as the 4th Doctor, with another convention guest’s incredible custom Dalek.

An incredible custom dalek, with no silly plunger.

An incredible custom Dalek: with no silly plunger.

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K-9 making friends

K-9 making friends, as he so often does.

K-9

The hand-built functional K-9, exterior.

K-9 interior

K-9’s interior. (Gasp!)

The control system for K-9

The control system for the custom K-9. Bravo, master!

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A Chat with the Doctor(s)

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Long Island Doctor Who arrived during the weekend of the Series 8 finale, and our own Keir Hansen was there to enjoy it with 1,300 other Whovians. (To read his response and reactions to this fantastic convention, click here and live vicariously through him.)

But it wasn’t all fun and frivolity. We actually put him to work, and had him interview none other than Frazer Hines, Nicola Bryant, Terrance Dicks, Colin Baker, and Paul McGann. This week, we share those interviews with you, and gain a look behind the scenes with these tremendous talents.

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One L.I. Who 2 Remember

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gpr_liwho2_01We knew we had arrived at a very special place when the little Nissan compact in front of us had license plates from over 1,800 miles away, and a plush Dalek hanging from the rear-view window. Unpacking the recording gear and heading towards the lobby, the unmistakable “Official TARDIS Chase & Recovery Vehicle” owned and operated by the gifted TARDIS Tara dominated the first two parking spaces like a Whovian shrine. A glance to the right displayed a small sign posted down among the flower beds with a Dalek silhouette and the caption, “CULTIVATE!”

Let me retract just a bit. Using the term “special place” may not do this justice. Long Island Doctor Who Con was like coming home — and we’d never set foot in Ronkonkoma, New York in our lives.

gpr_liwho2_13Showrunner and creator Ken Deep, program director Billy Davis, and operations director Brad Hausman had assembled a staff of volunteers, contributors, artists, vendors ready to handle a con twice its size, and when taking into account the fact that this was only the second year hosting the event, his efforts bordered on Herculean. You would think that from the star-studded guest roster, this was actually going to be twice the size it was — the line-up had us at GPR reeling from first mention of the convention. We arrived early in the first day to conduct interviews and meet with staff, but by the time general registration tables were open, and the Whovians descended upon the Clarion Hotel, it was clear that Ken had met all these challenges, and created something incredible.

gpr_liwho2_04Take a moment to think about convention atmosphere. There’s a particular charm and intimacy of privately-run gatherings that target a single fandom, as opposed to the multi-faceted industry-driven circuses like NYCC and SDCC, or even the fan-structured but densely populated DragonCon or WizardCon. Within the Whovian milieu, the mind immediately jumps to Gallifrey One (and we did bump into their program director Shaun in attendance), but the controlled size of L.I. Who allowed for a more familiar and approachable tone to the weekend.

gpr_liwho2_02This was even apparent among the guests, who were able to walk casually and unrushed through the corridors and panel rooms, chatting and enjoying themselves as much as the public. Colin Baker commented on cosplayers, and his ‘dashing’ likeness in portraits on artists’ displays as he headed towards a signing table. Yee Jee Tso borrowed a fan’s guitar to serenade early attendees. I stood at an immensely crowded bar waiting 15 minutes for a glass of wine, and when bumping accidentally into the shoulder of someone next to me, I turned to find myself apologizing to Paul McGann. (I’ll take that Malbec with a side of surrealism, please and thank you.)

gpr_liwho2_09Through it all, the staff was so upbeat and pleasant, even in the face of tight schedules and logistic stressors, that the positivity could not help but infect the con-goers like so much “Happy-Bola”. (Yes. I just made that a word, and it’s on the Internet. Hence, REAL.) Even the orange-shirted security staff were smiling and laughing with passers-by, collecting snarky commemorative ribbons, and taking photos of exceptional cosplay when spotted. On that note, we should tip the brown felt fedora to the amazing array of the presented DW characters and icons — so vast and thorough, in fact, that they were able to conduct a ‘Time Line’ of cosplayers, stretching from ‘Unearthly Child’ Hartnell, complete with tea-cozy hat, to a ‘Caretaker’ Capaldi. Companions, monsters, and even a few clever crossovers rounded out the scene, adding more color, LED glow, and accessories than you could shake a vortex manipulator at.

gpr_liwho2_06Want to test the organization and crowd-control skills of the convention staff, while simultaneously assessing the hive-minded behavior of hundreds of overexcited nerds? Pack them into two ballrooms, and present a live broadcast of the Doctor Who series 8 finale. Deciding first to designate a ‘quiet room’ where reactions were laughed/cried/squeed into one’s hands to allow others to hear, and a distant ‘raucous room’ where all emotional outbursts were flung headlong at the projection screen, was a wise move. (Making that second room the larger of the two was a stroke of genius.) The energy erupting from those rooms after the “Death in Heaven” broadcast completed was incredible: strangers embracing; favorite lines being repeated through Tom Baker-like grins (“Bananas!”); hands waving frantically overhead as if trying to shake answers out of an invisible Steven Moffat. The post-viewing L.I. Who crowd was nearly as entertaining as the finale episode itself. Nearly.

gpr_liwho2_07Throughout the weekend, contributing panelists did a commendable job keeping topics related to “classic” Who fresh and interesting, while giving plenty of opportunity to discuss the post-2005 series. From companion analyses, to the changing roles and representation of women in the program, nearly every slot on the schedule filled to capacity — which is likely one of the many factors why Mr. Deep will be looking to a larger venue for 2015. (More on that shortly.) The guests were gracious, affable, and like all others, limitlessy cheerful. No doubt that their enthusiasm was supported by the intelligent and thought-provoking questions posed by moderators and fans. I’d be hard-pressed to tell you how many times I heard a guest like Daphne Ashbrook or Jason Haigh-Ellery of Big Finish reply, “You know, quite honestly? I’ve never been asked that before”, and know they were genuine in saying so.

gpr_liwho2_03The end result was hours spent gathering fascinating insight into production experiences, laughing along to on-set anecdotes (bless you, Frazer Hines!), witnessing side-splitting interactions when assembled guests played games like “The Whovian Match Game” (and we now know that “Asian Child-ed” is a verb, courtesy of Mr. Tso), and listening in awe as guest of honor Terrance Dicks recounted his incredible writing legacy, with sharpness that would make you think he penned the scripts only yesterday.

gpr_liwho2_09bAs mentioned earlier, a convention focused upon one fandom has the advantage of focus and attention to detail. Utilizing an operations and coordinating staff that are, each and every one, also fans themselves, takes that focus and generates an experience that truly knows its attendees and their passions. And lastly, by keeping the total attendance numbers carefully limited, that passionate experience has room to move, see, hear, and absorb all it desires. 2015 will bring Long Island Doctor Who 3, and while it will be moving to a larger venue in an adjacent town, the goal as I understood from those describing it was not so much to increase headcount — in fact, that will still be kept to reasonable levels by anyone’s standards — but to provide a more open, mobile and aesthetically pleasing convention.

gpr_liwho2_11If these brave (mad?) Whovians are able to make the next year’s event just as successful and memorable as this proved to be, they will have done the Doctor Who program and its dedicated fan base a wonderful service. The fact that they plan to further and improve the convention is a feat I personally am eager to witness — and I certainly plan to, because I have every confidence that they can do so.

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[NOTE: Gallifrey Public Radio interviews from L.I. Who 2 will be released in a supplemental cast. GPR guests include Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, Frazer Hines, Paul McGann, and Terrance Dicks. Stay tuned!]

[Full photo gallery available on our Facebook profile.]

[Very special thanks to Ken D. and Andre T. of L.I. Who — visit at longislanddoctorwho.com, on Facebook, or on Twitter @LIDoctorWhoCon. ]