Who am I?

The alien wanderer… the clown with a ruthless streak… the melancholy Time Lord trying to avoid returning home?

Throw in a bag of jelly babies, a robot dog, some very attractive companions and some fourth-wall breaking dialogue, and you have – in brief – the Fourth Doctor, as played by Tom Baker.

The most iconic of all Doctors, the fourth incarnation of the Time Lord is recognisable for his flippant manner, his floppy hat and long coat, and of course the famous scarf. But what is it about the Fourth Doctor that makes Tom Baker’s era as the Doctor so fascinating?

There is of course a massive debt owed to the actor himself. Tom Baker isn’t your ordinary actor. In his early 40s when he took the part, Baker had memorably appeared in cinematic hits Nicholas & Alexandra in 1971 as Rasputin and later in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad as the evil Koura. He had established a strong stage career playing key Shakespearean characters in the 1960s, and his portrayal of the Doctor can be seen as an extension of all of these larger-than-life characters he had earlier played.

Doctor: Gentlemen, this lighthouse is under attack, and my morning we might all be dead! (GRINS).

Of course, the Fourth Doctor is a massive enigma wrapped in a scarf, travelling in a blue box. It isn’t necessarily difficult to appear slightly aloof if you are a scarf-wearing alien with a robot dog who travels through time and space in a TARDIS stuck as a police box. There are, however, key moments throughout the Doctor’s fourth incarnation that underline both how truly superb Tom Baker was and how important this era was to the show’s continued success.

As with most new starts for Doctor Who, the Fourth Doctor’s era began with an upturn in ratings, following Jon Pertwee’s sedate final series. Over the following seven years, Tom Baker wowed and amused audiences as he dealt with Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, renegade Time Lords, pirates, tax men, drug smugglers, war criminals, time-splintered aliens, robotic mummies, man-eating plants, homicidal androids, sentient stones, and even an insane computer that thinks it is the Doctor.

It is the attitude with which the Doctor encounters these foes that most defines this incarnation. He’s quick to play the fool while weighing up the opposition, and just as quick to stand up and be counted when it matters; these are key facets of the Doctor’s character across all of his incarnations. How the Fourth Doctor is different, however, is in his apparent delight at the danger in which he finds himself and his companions in.

For instance, from Horror of Fang Rock:

Doctor: Gentlemen, this lighthouse is under attack, and my morning we might all be dead! (GRINS).

With articles like this one, it is important to remain 100% objective about the topic at hand. But like many Doctor Who fans, I have a very soft spot for the Fourth Doctor. Watching the series with my dad in the late 1970s, Doctor Who imprinted itself on me, made me a fan, all because of Tom Baker’s magical portrayal.

This is of course, An Established Fact. When Doctor Who had it’s first wind in the United States thanks to public access television, the figure of the Fourth Doctor became even more widely known. Immediately there was a whole new audience watching Doctor Who – one that would spend the next 25 years or so viewing it mainly as a piece of quirky British nonsense, not too dissimilar to The Avengers or The Prisoner. Thanks to these broadcasts, however, Doctor Who established a fanbase among discerning American television viewers who knew good science fiction adventure when they saw it – and the seeds of Doctor Who’s eventual revival were sown.

With a seven year tenure, Baker was bound to have worked under different producers – Philip Hinchcliffe was responsible for Baker’s early years and oversaw such classics as Genesis of the Daleks, the first (and only to date) companion-less adventure The Deadly Assassin, The Face of Evil and The Robots of Death; Graham Williams meanwhile was in charge of the series during the middle years, and was the man behind the concept of the Key to Time season and also captained productions such as The Sunmakers and City of Death; finally, John Nathan-Turner was Baker’s final producer, and oversaw a complete change in the TARDIS crew, the return of a classic villain in the Master, and successfully took Doctor Who into the 1980s.

It is thanks to these very different approaches to producing Doctor Who that Tom Baker’s unique interpretation of the Doctor was able to remain eminently watchable and entertaining. Moody and aloof early on, the Fourth Doctor was later more cheerful and off the wall as producer Graham Williams took a different approach to handling the excesses of his leading man. By the time of JN-T’s stewardship, Baker had decided to hang up his scarf; unlike his predecessor however, his final series features some of the best moments in Doctor Who’s history, such as the return of the Master and the loss of K9 and Romana.

As Doctor Who started to gain a following in the USA, so too was fandom becoming more organised in the UK. Like many other portentous moments in the history, this took place during Tom Baker’s era, and was in no small part down to the actor’s popularity. There is of course more to it – the changing attitude of the media to television, the various production teams paying more attention to the series’ narrative and continuity – but a great deal of the growing fandom’s affection for the increasingly popular Doctor Who in the 1970s was due to their admiration of the leading man, a man who it was said, really was the Doctor.

Whether Tom Baker believed at any point that he really was a space-time traveller with a TARDIS is neither here nor there, however. What is important, and what defines the Fourth Doctor in the mind of the fans is the aspect of a complete performance by the actor. This was a man who put his whole life into Doctor Who over the space of seven years; a man who took part in very few other projects in order to concentrate on the show and the young fans he felt obliged to meet; a man who, when meeting his fans, made every attempt to encourage them to believe that he truly was the Doctor, that the Time Lord was real beyond the television, by appearing in public in his long coat and scarf.

While I often associate Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant as the Doctor, I still experience those childhood pangs – bursts of adrenalin and excitement – whenever anyone says “Doctor Who” or “Doctor” and immediately I think of the Fourth Doctor, as played by Tom Baker.

Tom was never anything but perfect, and he will remain forever so.

Several trailers and clips have been released for Doctor Who Series 12’s premier episode, Spyfall, but the one that is perhaps most intriguing is this one. Prominently featuring Sir Lenny Henry, the clip perhaps reveals a distinct change in style for the show following the mixed reception of Series 11.

Aside from unusually giving Ryan and Yasmin something to do, the clip features an unusually modern, contemporary setting for Chibnall’s series. Henry’s dialogue is confident and realistic, another element missing from Series 11. Written by Chris Chibnall and directed by newcomer Jamie Magnus Stone, the episode could prove to be vital to the future of the show.

While expectations are on hold among wider fandom, reports from the preview screening several weeks ago are positive.

Spyfall part one can be found on BBC One in the UK at 6.55pm later today, January 1st 2020. The second part is in Doctor Who’s usual Sunday evening slot on January 5th at 7pm. The remaining episodes will then air in the same slot.

The Kasterborous team will be bringing you regular reactions and reviews of each episode of Doctor Who Series 12. We’ll also be looking at how the show has evolved since the previous run of episodes.

Find us on Apple Podcasts and subscribe so you don’t miss an episode.

After all this time, Doctor Who Series 12 is approaching, a fact underlined by the recent “hostage video” of the de-aged Stephen Fry and Sir Lenny Henry CBE against a white sheet backdrop last week, and now emphasised with an exciting new trailer.

Once again starring Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor, her companions, Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill), Graham O’Brien (Bradley Walsh), and Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), we’ve been given quite a nice taste of what’s to come. It’s particularly welcome on November 23rd, celebrating Doctor Who’s 56th anniversary. (It becomes increasingly difficult to celebrate these things when the show is off air. I for one am wearing an 8-bit style Doctor Who t-shirt featuring the first 11 incarnations.)

With the aforementioned guest stars in tow, the trailer features Judoon, Racnoss-like scorpions, TARDIS-invaders, a Dalek-esque headset for Graham, not to mention Cybermen as the Doctor portentously declares “something is coming for me”.

For history-aware fans, however, most attention at this stage is of the guest stars, and from the trailer it seems Fry and Henry might be in the same episode. Both they, and Glenister, have prior history with the show, either directly or indirectly.

Doctor Who Series 12 Guest Stars Have Form

Robert Glenister is a well-known British character actor, perhaps best known for his lead role in Hustle. For Doctor Who fans, however, he is forever associated with Salateen (and his android duplicate), deputy to Chellak, in 1984’s The Caves of Androzani, the serial that saw the departure of Peter Davison from the show.

Back in 2004, Stephen Fry was famously listed among the writers set to contribute to revived show as writer. Apparently postponed for a year, before never being heard of again, various stories have circulated as to the true fate of that tale. Fry also appeared in the BBCi drama Death Comes to Time in 2003 as the Minister of Chance, a character later revived by Radio Static in the eponymous audio series, where the character is played by Big Finish stalwart Julian Wadham.

Says Fry: “Short of being picked for a British space exploration programme and I readily concede that I’m past the age where I’d be considered (if I was ever the right age for such a posting) – then being in an episode of Doctor Who will certainly do as a very sweet second-place excitement.”

Henry’s connection with Doctor Who goes back further, however. We’ll let him explain. “It was absolutely brilliant to be welcomed into the fantastical world of Doctor Who. The nearest I have been to the TARDIS was when I played the Caribbean Doctor in the Lenny Henry Show , so as a life-long (hiding behind the sofa type) Doctor Who fan this is a very special moment for me.”

Doctor Who Series 12 lands in early 2020 – some reckon there’s an episode on January 1st, but we’ll just have to be patient. For a more in-depth look at it, check this Doctor Who Series 12 trailer review on the Doctor Who Companion.

Kasterborous is happy to announce another great new eBook – a guide to building your own Pertwee era TARDIS console!

Experienced TARDIS builder Tony Farrell guides you through every stage of construction in this excellent manual. Love dials and levers? This book will help you understand the construction process and perhaps even build your own early 70s style TARDIS console.

Just click this image to download!

Doctor Who eBook: Build a TARDIS Console Pertwee Edition

Running to 40 pages, this detailed guide covers everything from choosing materials to the specification of the “table section”. There’s even details for cutting to shape and clear measurements for every part.

Complete with a design for the central column and control panel variants from different stories from the Pertwee era (1970-74), you’ll love this free TARDIS console building eBook!

The Rise of Skywalker hits cinemas on Dec 20, 2019 and as you can see from the trailer above, it promises a lot. From Billy Dee Williams returning as Lando Calrissian to the appearance of the late Carrie Fisher, not to mention Ian McDiarmid as some form of Emperor Palpatine. Then there’s the army of Star Destroyers, a Darth Vader dummy, Kylo Ren and Rey again either teaming up or fighting, and massive displays of Force power.

Oh and legions of TIE Fighters and a city on an ice mountain floating in space, like something out of Flash Gordon.

Following the disappointment of The Last Jedi (for all its high points), The Rise of Skywalker looks set to discard Rian Johnson’s approach in favor of the fan-pleasing popcorn of JJ Abrams’ usual fare. And then there’s the talk of surprise appearances, spoilerific rumours that could totally ruin the movie at this early stage if you knew them so prematurely.

But will it be too little too late for the Disney trilogy? Or is everything in place for a fine end to the Skywalker saga? We’ll undoubtedly be talking about this on an upcoming podcast, but until then, take this opportunity to enjoy the trailer.

 

With the recent success of the new series we are hearing more and more backlash from many fans about the canonical nature of the TV Movie (TVM) starring Paul McGann. Most complain that it was “Americanized,” that the plot was jumbled, or that it messed too much if the past history of the show.

But was the TVM so different? Does it deserve its place in the history of the show?

Continue reading

As the Doctor and Martha are mired in 1913, one year from the Great War and with the Doctor not quite himself, what better time than to take stock of our new companion, medical student Martha Jones?

You might want to harp on all day about Rose Tyler and her and the Doctor’s “special relationship”, but for me Martha Jones is the Real Deal. She has drive, ambition, a real desire to make a difference – and that’s before she’s even met the Doctor. Furthermore her introduction in Smith and Jones showed us that she has a brain that will accept the unknown. She mentions Mr Saxon’s claims of life “out there”, refers to the Battle of Canary Wharf and doesn’t lose it when the hospital is transported to the moon.

Martha’s relationship with her family is of course very different. She has a brother and older sister, both seen to best effect in The Lazarus Experiment, as well as a father experiencing a midlife-crisis (or a reaction to his horrible wife…?) and of course Martha’s mother, who seems to be imprinting herself on Series 3 as much as Martha herself – and we’ve only seen her three times!

There is of course the expected aspect of suspicion directed at the Doctor, seen previously with Jackie Tyler’s concern for her daughter. But Martha’s mother seems to have taken this to an almost psychopathic level, colluding with the dark forces of Mr Saxon…

Martha is also, I have to point out, very attractive. Actress Freema Agyeman is a popular actress with girls and boys, men and women alike, and while she isn’t photographed drunk or looking ill in the less respectable magazines and newspapers, this doesn’t mean that she is unpopular. Her predecessor Billie Piper has a long experience of appearing in magazines and newspapers, either to promote her work or on the arm of her ex-husband. It stands to reason that a different actress is going to require the press to follow different rules…

Which brings us neatly on to The Sun. This news paper recently stated that Freema Agyeman would be leaving Doctor Who, implying that she basically “isn’t very good”. This absolute rubbish should of course be treated with a pinch of salt, coming after a Friday Night with Jonathan Ross interview in which Series 4 was mentioned, and just hours before another superb, gutsy performance as Martha.

So far we have seen this beautiful, wide-eyed companion tackle a Plasmavore, meet and leave a distinct impression on William Shakespeare, encounter the Daleks and formulate a way of killing their Pig Slaves with conducted lightning, and of course deal with the Lazarus monster, a sentient sun and an amnesiac Doctor.

Freema Agyeman is a very different actress to Billie Piper, and this naturally gives us a very different companion. She isn’t filling the screen with her face, or ACTING; she is acting, delivering her lines in an understated, being a part of the action manner. Billie Piper never once gave an understated performance in Doctor Who, and often overwhelmed stories, and her co-star. Martha Jones is designed for the Tenth Doctor, and they make a much better pairing than the Tenth Doctor and Rose combo.

With just 5 weeks left of Series 3, Martha and the Doctor are going to see some changes. For instance, how will they deal galactic tart Captain Jack Harkness? What will happen when they return to London, and encounter Mr Saxon, and worse, Martha’s mother?

However Series 3 ends, whether Martha remains a traveller on board the TARDIS or not, some things are irrefutable. She has been a marvellous companion, she looks pretty hot, she has been a part of (up to now) the best series of Doctor Who yet, and she compliments her leading man perfectly. Furthermore, whether she lasts one series, two series or more, Martha Jones is and forever will be remembered as a companion of the Doctor.

And you can’t say Freema than that.

Illustration by Carolyn Edwards

“The Time Lords of Gallifrey” series continues with a look at one of the most notorious names in the annals of Gallifrey…

Time Lord history is littered with renegades, outcasts of society whose contribution to the annals of Universe’s oldest civilization was to embarrass, to challenge and to attempt to overthrow. None of these individuals were as notorious as the Master.

Little is known of the Master’s early life. It is known that he and the Doctor were once friends, and although there have been rumours of a family tie between them, this has never been established. It is also strongly rumoured that the Master was earlier known as Koschei, and later by his title the Magistrate, and was just another Time Lord until events conspired against him, leaving him trapped in a black hole until he was able to escape at the cost of his remaining regenerations.

Believing the Master dead for many years, the Time Lords eventually discovered that he was still alive, and planning revenge against his former friend the Doctor; an amusing diversion for the urbane sociopath while he completed his main ambition – the reshaping of all matter, all of creation, to his plan.

Almost permanently equipped with a Tissue Compression Eliminator – used to mortally shrink the target and thus banned by most universal conventions – and his intense mental strength (handy for hypnotizing lesser forms) probably developed during his time in the black hole, the Master and the Doctor would lock horns on countless occasions both on Earth, Gallifrey, and in deep space.

While on Earth, the Doctor was able to provide resistance to the Master’s malevolent machinations with the assistance of his friends at UNIT, and some assistance from the Time Lords of Gallifrey. The Master and the Doctor were for a time evenly matched, as contemporaries they were similarly educated and similarly ingenious.

A case in point would be the resourcefulness displayed by the Master while imprisoned at sea following his attempts to summon the Daemon Azal. Trapped on a sea fort with UNIT-trained personnel equipped with knowledge of psychic training to avoid hypnosis, the Master nevertheless managed to affect an escape, utilizing the hitherto unknown Earth sea reptiles as an army, thus restoring him again to a position of strength.

Following several events which involved the Master locating and utilizing an alien race or alien technology hidden on Earth, a key alliance with the Daleks to ferment war against the Humans and Draconians in the 25th century would lead to his ultimate destruction. The plot was exposed by the Doctor, thus restoring the powerful alliance between the Humans and Draconians and preventing the planned Dalek conquest of our galaxy. Sensing betrayal, however, the Daleks made the Master top of their “Most Wanted” list, and as a result the Master vanished…

Former Celestial Intervention Agency member Chancellor Goth had aspirations to stand for president of the High Council of Time Lords at the time of the only recorded assassination of a Time Lord council member in history. While initially framing the Doctor for this heinous crime, it transpired that Goth – who had some years earlier voted to banish the Doctor to Earth – was in league with the Master…

Now a tragic, pitiful figure, devoid of his legendary charm and sophistication, the Master was emaciated, almost crippled, shrouded in a hood that was as decayed as he was. It has been rumoured that the Master was taken by surprise following an attempted kidnap of the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan; it seems more likely however that the Master was simply holding on to life for as long as possible, his artron energy sustaining him in the absence of regenerations until a new body was available. With designs on the Eye of Harmony – the sacred Time Lord power source – the Master was intent on reclaiming his former glory, and disposing of the Doctor at the same time.

Encountering the Doctor many years later, it was now apparent that the Master had finally taken leave of his senses. His ultimately successful attempt to pervert the ancient energy of the Traken Union – the Source – resulted in his acquiring a new body. His subsequent meddling on the planet Logopolis lead to the destruction of a sizeable portion of the universe, including Traken. With the Doctor’s intervention, the Master was prevented from holding the universe to ransom with imminent heat decay – but he was yet to be beaten.

Displaying a flagrant disregard for his own safety in a universe that was witness to a growing Dalek present, the Master continued with his insane plot to destroy the Doctor at the cost of all else. Creating Castrovalva, a seemingly tranquil retreat that was in fact an elaborate space-time trap, the Master intended to trap the newly regenerated Doctor and companions yet his prey escaped at the last minute, leaving the Master stranded.

This was the first of several occasions in which the Master escaped from almost certain death. Later escapes would include Earth’s prehistoric era, the Middle Ages and the numismaton flame on Sarn, at the mercy of a rapidly growing tyrannosaurous rex in the Rani’s TARDIS, frozen by a limbo atrophier in his own TARDIS and escaping from the immediately imminent destruction of the planet of the Cheetah People.

Yet these were small fry compared to the Master’s final galactic Houdini routine. As hostilities between the Time Lords and Daleks began to reach cataclysmic proportions, the Master was handed over to them to buy time for the Time Lords and pay for his earlier transgression against the Daleks. Requesting that the Doctor collect his remains, the Master was revealed to have survived destruction by the Daleks, existing as a morphant creature. Taking another innocent body, the Master planned to take the Doctor’s remaining regenerations, but instead found himself lost in the vortex, falling through the Doctor’s TARDIS’ link to Eye of Harmony.

Which brings us to the case of survival once more; rumours abound that the Master is alive, having somehow survived the Time War. Truth, or tittle-tattle, one thing is certain – as the ultimate survivor, one day the Master will return.

Image by Vendetta

It could be argued that there is no greater subject for debate, in the Doctor Who world, than the life of the Sixth Doctor.

The range of emotion for this incarnation of our favorite hero is about as steady as a celebrity’s relationship.

There are those who think he is the best, though this feeling is rare. Then you have those who think “He’ll do” or “Well there isn’t another one on TV right now so…” And then there are those who can’t stand the ground he walks on and think that his character is about a tasteful as his suit.

But are these opinions fair? I mean they are just that, ‘opinions’. Colin Baker is a fine actor and very talented with accents and voices. He displays a marked range of emotion and when he played Commander Maxil during the Fifth Doctor era, you could feel his presence on screen more so then Peter Davison’s.

So how did he get such a bad rap?

Some say it was, former Controller of BBC One, Michael Grade’s fault, but how can this be? Sure we have all heard about the bad blood that is rumored to be between them, but he didn’t have anything to do with the two years of the show that aired with Colin Baker in it. He was just the evil dictator who canceled this brilliant show for a year.

There are those who say it was his outfit and I know they say ‘clothes maketh the man’ but that’s a bit unfair too. Sure it was the worst outfit ever seen in just about any production ever made (Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat notwithstanding), but the man underneath the clothes had to have done more then just look bad on screen.

Next we have those who feel it was his characterization and the writing; finally something that you can actually base these opinions on.

Colin Baker had a plan and really it was a good plan. Take the Doctor back to the early days of William Hartnell. Play him as a bit more grumpy and short tempered. Very different from the portrayal by the Doctor before him, so as I said, good plan. So what went wrong?

I feel it was a few different factors, namely his age. The character traits laid out for the Sixth Doctor were not bad, I mean they worked before, but then William Hartnell was in his mid-to-late fifties when Doctor Who first visited Totter’s Lane. If you are going for that sort of feel you risk losing credibility if you’re a youthful looking guy in his early forties…

So I get why most fans don’t like the Sixth Doctor on a first glance, or at the very least can tolerate his portrayal. But what do the fans who love him see?

It’s easy to look at the suit, the fits or anger thrown towards his companion, the smug nature of character, but if you invest the time and look a bit further into his life you will see something. That same something that captivated us since day one.

Underneath the color wheel coat lays a wonderful actor who had a knack for subtleties. It’s hard to see at first as the not so subtle aspects are much more in your face, but if you pay attention, if you give him a chance, you will see the same care and heroic man that makes up the Doctor.

Sure, it does seem hard to notice those moments in this era of the Doctors life, but they are there. The single thing that makes it easier for fans to appreciate Colin Baker’s tenure are the fantastic audio plays by Big Finish. Even if you don’t count these plays as canon, they do cast a new light on his TV stories.

The audios give the sixth Doctor a chance to grow. They allow him to evolve during his fifth regeneration and mellow the character out. Something Colin Baker had wished to do in the TV series. He had high hopes of beating Tom Bakers record in the part. With a goal like that, it’s completely understandable why his character came on so strong in his first year. If you want the character to grow on screen, then you need to have a starting point to grow from.

Watching him develop over his impressive collection of Big Finish plays – which I believe he holds the record out of the other Doctors so far – it gives you a newfound respect for the man. So when you go back and watch a TV story to feature his Doctor you can pick up on his little hints of the character that he would become. The aspects that make any great Doctor who they are.

Part of me thinks that if he had been given the opportunity to pick his own wardrobe that the range of emotion regarding his character would not be so sporadic, as listening to the plays you don’t have to see the coat. But that’s not necessarily true, as I said in other reviews and articles, that I watch these plays. The images are all in my head, so I can’t escape the suit. Sadly, I feel the suit is just the icing on the list of complaints that most people have.

I feel lucky and very thankful that Colin Baker is still involved with the show by continuing to do these plays. He genuinely loves this character and is always willing to please the fans. I can’t help but wonder what the fan opinions would be like today had his era not been cut so short.

Every Doctor has a title or a description that best suits them. Colin Bakers’ should be “Misunderstood.”