Sunday, 1 December 2013

What to Watch Next: Rose & Spearhead from Space

"Like all living things, having the power to change out of recognition and yet remain the same." - George Orwell

In honour of the 50th Anniversary, yours truly is starting a new weekly feature, which for simplicity's sake has been dubbed "What to Watch Next". The premise is easy enough: start with a 21st century DW episode (I'll probably just run through them chronologically, actually), then pick a pre-1990 story that can be compared to it obviously/tangentially/comically. Dig up five related video links for each story, throw in a bit of commentary about general oddities, and see what we get. It'll go up every Sunday at noon or thereabouts. At a rate of one per week it'd take a week less than two years to finish, but of course we'll be getting new Who along the way, so we'll see how long this takes...

This week we're starting with two nice straightforward introductory stories and relatively self-explanatory links - Rose and Spearhead from Space. Both stories that have to relaunch the programme (less so in the case of Spearhead than RTD bringing the entire show back, yes, but with Barry Letts preparing to take over with a new production team, new leads, and the change from black and white to colour broadcasts, the 1970 undertaking was still a major operation). With John Hurt's ears comment just last week, it's virtually canonical now that both feature a newly regenerated Doctor. The Autons are a rather obvious link too. Basically, these two stories are the most obvious match possible for starting a feature like this. 


New Autons
"Doctor Who Series One Trailer"
 It doesn't look like much compared to the trailers since, which have been increasingly slick and snazzy. But compare it to the sort of trailers the BBC gave it when the show was last on the air, and the difference is pretty stark.
(As opposed to the actual content of the stories, which everyone from Moffat on down have noted run pretty seamlessly from "Survival" to "Rose", but that's another matter altogether.)

"Because We Want To music video"
British fans may not need this one, but for anyone who came to the show after 2005, this sort of Britney Spears-ish music is what Billie Piper was remembered for back then (though Piper had beaten the Mouseketeer to the punch). People questioned whether a former pop star had the acting chops to play the new companion successfully...

"Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway"
This is what was on ITV the night "Rose" aired. The show had always won its timeslot until 26 March 2005, when DW beat it soundly.
(For those of you who can't actually last through four minutes and twenty-five seconds of this, there's a gag at that point suggesting the Doctor nicked a chocolate Easter egg. Maybe it's the one he's eating in "Planet of the Dead".)

"Kidulthood Trailer"
 A salutary reminder that Noel Clarke is capable of rather better acting than anything he's given to do in this story. And he wrote the movie, too.

For a very, very different perspective on how you might make a followup to "Spearhead from Space". It's not actually very much longer - a mere ten minutes or so - but it's going for horror rather than action-adventure, and that means a lot of slow, spooky scenes with warning synths and so forth. It's very much the difference between a fannish interpretation and one aimed at a major audience, and the differences are instructive.
(It was also going to star Nicholas Courtney, which couldn't but have given this a certain panache that's sadly lacking here. That being said, the difference between the way that the male authority figure treats the confused young lady who doesn't know too much about aliens here, and the way that goes down in Rose, are miles apart even taking into account that Eccleston spent half an episode trying to steer her away from trouble. And gender issues are hardly RTD's strong point.
Whereas "Spearhead from Space" has a lead female protagonist who doesn't cause a disaster and is both said to be capable and presented as such, so it's not just what era the stories are from, either.)

Spearhead from Space

Old Autons. Film stock, older fashions, different city...same monster  

"The Graduate"
All right, the quality's not very good, but it was such an irresistible gag.

"Emergency Ward 10 1957 promo"
It's easy to think of Robert Holmes as Doctor Who's Grand Old Man, but he cut his eyeteeth on mundane dramas like this, writing dozens of scripts for soaps and social dramas before turning his attention to SF. For Emergency Ward 10 he wrote something like 50 episodes in a year and a half; we're talking about someone who was well experienced in delivering quickly and well long before he came on board.  
(A snippet from "Invasion", a feature film for which Holmes wrote a story about an alien fugitive landing up in a British hospital, would have been apt here. But you'd have to be in a UK library to watch the BFI clips, and that's not much help for anyone else.)

"The Navy Lark"
Whichever one happens to be on the week you're reading this; it's a reliable staple of British radio comedy. Jon Pertwee had made a solid reputation for himself in the ten years before becoming the Doctor by playing various characters on the show, mostly the sarcastic, drink-loving, always-looking-after-Number-One Chief Petty Officer Pertwee (as a former Navy man himself, he knew whereof he played). He kept it up the entire time he was playing the Doctor and a couple of years after whenever Pertwee's performing in a particularly dark sequence, suffocating to death on an alien world or watching London dying of an epidemic, he's going to the BBC radio studios the next day to talk in a funny voice about replacing a beer shipment with bilge water, mixing up pies with explosive minds, and various comedic mishaps of that nature.

Though it's not a video link (the Navy Lark movie didn't have either fictional or real Pertwee in it),, enjoy the UK Gold Spearhead trailer as a bonus. Quite a nice effect for the one regeneration we've still never seen.

"Tarzan Trailer"
One of the programmes the TV Times was listing to go out at 5.15 Saturdays in January 1970. We'd have preferred to include a link to the "Four O'Clock Army" two-parter so you could have a look for yourselves, but for obvious reasons, Warner Brothers is hoping that you'll buy it instead. (It starred Julie Harris, who played Sarah Bowles in "I Am A Camera", the first stage adaptation of Christopher Isherwood's book Goodbye to Berlin. Which is quoted in Mags Halliday's EDA "History 101". Anything relates back to DW if you chase the threads far enough.)

"Oh Well, Fleetwood Mac TOTP Clip"
It'd be a bit silly repeating the chart listings for each week - there's reference books yours truly can recommend for that - but this one's smashing and the song did appear in the show (like this. On first broadcast, anyway, though they had some trouble for early releases). Now that they've sorted out the copyright, it'll appear on all future ones.

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