It seems funny that five years after the show’s sweet return in 2005 that the sonic screwdriver, a once proud iconic bastion of Doctor Who’s nostalgic gadgets, would have become such an unpopular and contentious article among the older fan groups.

After 25 years of semi-retirement, the sonic’s return has been criticised by older fans for the sheer weight of its use in the New Series. They object to the Doctor just being able to flick a sonic switch to resolve a technical issue rather than have him resolve a problem through ingenuity (resorting to the kettle, fishing rod and the ever popular ball of string in most cases). It’s seen as a “lazy” device operated by “lazy writer”; a cheap trick used to avoid difficult science issues that clearly the writer has no understanding of.

Its even been suggested in some fan circles as an indicator of how far Doctor Who has lost its way by avoiding technical resolutions in favour of a sonic “magic wand”.

Classic Doctor Who ran one story weekly at around 25 minutes per episode. With such large gaps between episodes – and few ways to repeat a viewing between parts – the show couldn’t be too complex. Budget also meant it had to be careful how many scenes and events too place. So how do you reconcile these issues? You pad the story. Funnily, padding has a stigma of lazy about it, yet padding out stories with scenes or dialogue that aren’t necessarily plot vital can be bot cost-effective and useful for exposition and recaps.

It’s Not a Magic Wand

So old Who wasn’t about getting the Doctor out of the trap quickly, it’s about keeping him in the trap for a while, saving money and filling time. His sonic screwdriver made it too hard to keep him in one trap for long. It had to go.

Now look at New Who. Stories are condensed into one episode, reruns available the same week. So padding becomes less of an issue, in fact, these days TV demands the contrary – shows must brim with pace and drama. If a show doesn’t meet those demands, a costly show like Who won’t last long.

So in comes the sonic screwdriver again, a multi-purpose tool that opens the “magic doors” (those points in a narrative that are really no more than a gateway between two scenes, an obstacle of some sort, say, a door) and allows the story to progress quickly – meaning more time for plot and dramatic content.

Many fans sneer at the new audiences and the casual watchers, but its their investment that keeps Doctor Who profit-worthy and viable. Just as Doctor Who of 1963 wouldn’t have worked in 1979, Doctor Who of 1979 doesn’t work in 2020. And to balance the demands of today’s audience, the sonic screwdriver is the Doctor’s best tool in keeping the BBC’s axe, firmly locked away.

Ever wondered what goes into making a fan movie? What about making a movie under lockdown conditions?

Putting themselves through the paces to produce something extraordinary, Kasterborous’ Brian Terranova and collaborator Ian Cummins co-wrote and produced Doctor Who: Isolation.

With limited resources, no location shooting, no other actors, and just two very remote sets, here’s the story of how they made Doctor Who: Isolation. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll most likely regenerate.

Click play to find out more and eavesdrop on Brian and Ian working on the project and shooting scenes. Features interesting chats, questionable outfits, and a frankly embarrassing array of dialogue errors…

One day, I was at Brian’s place, and we talked about making a Doctor Who fan film. It seemed like a great idea, so we got right on it.

Ten years later, “Isolation” was born!

The short delay was due to life stuff, work stuff, family stuff, and ten thousand miles, but one day recently we were chatting about whatever online, and Brian (who sleeps in a screen accurate Tenth Doctor costume) sent me a short video of himself as the Doctor clowning around in front of his incredible Tenth Doctor TARDIS. Furthering the joke, I returned the favour having donned the top half of my cheap and cheerful fifth Doctor costume I had assembled to go with my kid to the Supanova convention in Melbourne each year.

It was at this point we began to seriously return to the idea of making a short fan film together. We were on opposite sides of the world, yeah, but we each had an iPhone, a costume, and a TARDIS, so what was stopping us? Also, there was a global pandemic ravaging the planet so we had a bit of time on our hands. We devised a rough story outline whereby we could both appear on screen talking to each other, and – bingo bongo – we were away! We were actually, finally, going to do this!

And so, one night after work, when I had an hour or so during which I was certain nobody would walk in unexpectedly (ummm … it’s not what it looks like?), I replicated a professional movie production in my living room. I scribbled my lines down on paper with a black texta and blu-tacked them to a ladder, blu-tacked my iPhone to the same ladder, set that ladder up in front of my BARDIS, put on the costume and started saying my words!

Just like the professionals do. It took me about forty-five minutes or so to spit out passable, profanity-free versions of each of my lines, then I sent them to Brian, shrugged, and went and sat down.

After I’d completed my forty-five minutes of questionable half-arsery, Brian immediately spent several days working on his part; which included building a framing system to support only the doors and top signs of his TARDIS, building a hand-held prop from scratch, performing his lines, then spending ten hours editing this thing together, creating visual effects, sound effects, and opening titles.

One morning very soon after that, I woke up in Australia to a message from America. It was a link to our film. I played it. And played it again. And again. It was a joyously light-hearted and fun project, the making of which brightened my life for a few days. It’s only five minutes long, but I’m glad it’s out there. For five minutes, I wasn’t me, in my house, thinking about getting dinner ready and organising stuff to go back to work again. For five minutes … I was The Doctor. And I can be the Doctor again any time I want. All I have to do is press play.

So here it is – Isolation! I hope it lights up even five minutes of your day, like it did mine. The first fan film I was ever in! And, I reckon it’s not too bad. You can trust me. I’m the Doctor.

–Ian Cummins

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