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Steven Moffat To Leave Doctor Who

News was released tonight (22nd January 2016) via the Radio Times website that Steven Moffat will be stepping down as showrunner of Doctor Who after writing and executive producing Series 10. This series will début in Spring 2017, with just a Christmas special shown in 2016. Further, Series 10 will comprise 12 episodes, but nothing was mentioned of a 2017 Christmas special.

Steven Moffat storyboarding The Day of the Doctor. No, really....
Steven Moffat storyboarding The Day of the Doctor. No, really….

That could fall under the purview of the new showrunner, announced as being Chris Chibnall. The BBC’s official Doctor Who twitter feed confirmed Chibnall, best known among the British TV watching public for the detective drama Broadchurch, starring David Tennant and Olivia Coleman, will take over from Series 11 .

David Tennant and Olivia Coleman in Chris Chibnall's Broadchurch.
David Tennant and Olivia Coleman in Chris Chibnall’s Broadchurch.

Chris Chibnall is known to fans of Doctor Who though for a number of episodes in recent years. He wrote 42 for David Tennant’s 10th Doctor in Series 3 and four episodes for Matt Smith, The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood (Series 5), Dinosaurs On A Spaceship and The Power of Three for Series 7. He has yet to write for the 12th Doctor.

Scenes from Chris Chibnall's past Doctor Who stories.
Scenes from Chris Chibnall’s past Doctor Who stories.

He has also written for the expanded universe too, with eight episodes from the first two series of Torchwood, including Cyberwoman and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. His further TV credits include the football drama United and episodes for another BBC time travel series, Life On Mars.

Two of Chris Chibnall's Torchwood episodes.
Two of Chris Chibnall’s Torchwood episodes.
BBC's time travel police drama Life On Mars.
BBC’s time travel police drama Life On Mars.

Nothing was said about whether Peter Capaldi is expected to return as the Doctor for Series 11, though he has previously committed to Series 10.

 

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Doctor Who Series 9 Review

“I’m the Doctor, and I save people!”

Series 9 of the relaunched Doctor Who saw the second full season of Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor and Clara adventuring across time and space. Given the critical acclaim but mixed reactions to Series 8, all eyes were on Series 9 to establish the new direction of the show.

After a couple of years where episodes were mostly self-contained, Series 9 took the bold move of having mostly two-parters, with only episodes nine and ten being classed as stand-alone (and even then, episode ten led into the series finale). This format appears to have been a success, allowing for stronger storytelling and character development over a longer time.

"Who wrote Beethoven's 5th?" The Doctor contemplates the Bootstrap Paradox.
“Who wrote Beethoven’s 5th?” The Doctor contemplates the Bootstrap Paradox.

The stand-out performance of the series award must go to Peter Capaldi. Having established a spiky and sarcastic personality for his incarnation in Series 8, this time he gives us a Doctor who has mellowed slightly. He still does not suffer fools, gladly or otherwise, but now he wears the hoodie seen in Last Christmas more often, plays an electric guitar whilst alone in the TARDIS and can even instigate a hug, in moderation. Some have said that in Series 8 he was playing the Doctor, while in Series 9 he was being the Doctor, but I would argue that the Doctor we see from The Magician’s Apprentice onwards is a man more at peace with himself and Capaldi’s portrayal is reflecting this as he has settled comfortably into the role.

"And tonight I'm going to party like its 1138!" Oh come on, it 861 years that will be funny!
“And tonight I’m going to party like its 1138!” Oh come on, it 861 years that will be funny!

He is also given the interesting challenge of a one-handed episode in Heaven Sent, the first half of the finale. Here the Doctor is alone after the events of Face the Raven, having been transported to a mysterious fortification surrounded by sea and haunted by a creature from his own past in the silent Veil. Handled by a lesser actor this could have just been the Doctor talking to himself for almost an hour, but Capaldi puts in a superb performance here in this unusual setting and rises to the challenge with aplomb.

The Doctor and Clara. Best friends....
The Doctor and Clara. Friends reunited.

Jenna Coleman’s Clara Oswald had been through two major storylines in Series 7 and 8 respectively (The Impossible Girl and the Danny Pink romance) so the focus shifted away slightly from her this time, and more onto the relationship between the Doctor and Clara. We saw a more reckless Clara in Series 9, taking chances in the firm knowledge that the Doctor would always find a way to save her. On a couple of occasions he mentions having a “duty of care” towards her but she still rushed headlong into trouble, until it finally caught up with her in Trap Street on 21st century Earth, when she took on the death sentence imposed on old friend Rigsy (Jovian Wade) and the Doctor was unable to save her. Well, until he returned to Gallifrey and broke the rules in Hell Bent anyway.

Of the many guest stars with major roles in Series 9 the one that made the most impact was Maisie Williams as Viking girl Ashildr. Making her debut in the fifth episode as the titular Girl Who Died, she was made immortal by the Doctor in an effort to save her life. The following story, The Woman Who Lived, showed the Time Lord and his TV audience the consequences of his actions, with Ashildr having become hardened and bitter during her 800+ years of life. In that time she had seen everyone around her die, including her children, which brought forth the resolution never to have any more. At the end of that story she had recovered some of her feelings and pledged herself to look after the people that the Doctor left behind. Which is exactly what she was doing when they next crossed paths in the 21st century, looking after and protecting a community of aliens stuck on Earth in Face the Raven. But now she had a secret and her betrayal of the Doctor had the knock-on effect of causing the death of Clara in the process. Their final meeting, in Hell Bent, happened after the Doctor had used Time Lord technology to save Clara. They met at the very end of the universe, as two ancient beings watching the end of everything. Then, after the Doctor’s memory of Clara was erased, Ashildr was seen heading off with Clara aboard a stolen TARDIS, heading for who-knew-where.

Maisie Williams as Ashildr/Me.
Maisie Williams as Ashildr/Me.

Throughout this ongoing story, each new encounter with Ashildr showed her slightly changed by the intervening time, more grown as a character and a person. That this worked so well is down to Maisie Williams as an actress, investing each meeting with a step up in maturity until you could almost believe that these tales had been filmed quite some time apart, rather than in reasonably close proximity, time-wise. Such range in a young actress is hard to find and impressive to see played out on screen.

There were other significant guest performances throughout the series. The opening two-parter, The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witch’s Familiar, saw a number of returning friends and enemies, including Michelle Gomez as Missy (the female incarnation of the Master), Jemma Redgrave as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart (who would return again later in the series), Julian Bleach’s Davros, and his Daleks.

Clara and Missy (pointy stick not shown).
Clara and Missy take on the Daleks (pointy stick not shown).

Again we get a delightfully dangerous and batty, in equal measure, tour-de-force from Michelle as Missy. She puts a great amount of energy into her portrayal and just when you think you know what to expect from the character, she turns things on a sixpence and that makes for an entertaining unpredictability. It was especially fascinating this time to see her paired with Jenna’s Clara for the majority of the two episodes. Their relationship added a certain spark to the storyline, giving it a neat counterpoint to the Doctor/Davros scenes of the second episode.

Speaking of which, much kudos should be given to Julian Bleach for providing us with an understated and universe-weary Davros, not the ranting maniac from the past but a man worn down by time and expectation from his ‘children’. That he makes the audience feel sorry for the evil creator of the Daleks is the true power of his amazing performance. He bounces well off Capaldi’s Doctor in their segments together and gives depth to the character of Davros, a depth that hints that it might be possible for the Doctor to finally have a hand in his redemption. That it was (mostly) a trap for the Doctor adds an extra layer of cunning and manipulation that comes almost as a shock after what has already passed between them. Bravo!

The Doctor and Davros. Two old men having a chat.
The Doctor and Davros. Two old men having a chat.

The casting of a deaf actress, Sophie Stone as Cass in Under the Lake/Before the Flood, could be seen as a stunt but it is weaved neatly into the storyline of the episodes in such a way as to make it a significant part of the tale. In the scene where Cass is stalked by the ‘ghost’ of Moran in Before the Flood, it is the vibration of the axe dragging behind him that tips her off to the danger, as she cannot hear the sound of it. Also the fact that Lunn (Zaqi Ismail), Cass’ translator, isn’t allowed into the shuttle and therefore doesn’t receive the message that is central to the story becomes pivotal. Cass is also shown to be a strong leader of the group when she takes over after the death of Moran in the first couple of minutes.

Sophie Stone as Cass, base leader in Under the Lake/Before the Flood.
Sophie Stone as Cass, base leader in Under the Lake/Before the Flood.

As mentioned above, Jemma Redgrave returns as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, along with UNIT, for a more substantial part in the story The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion. This picks up the threads left dangling after the 50th anniversary tale The Day of the Doctor by giving details of the peace deal hammered out between UNIT and the Zygons at the end of that story. Ingrid Oliver also returns as Osgood, despite us having seen her ‘death’ at the hands of Missy in the Series 8 finale, Death in Heaven. This it turns out was one of a pair of Osgoods, one human, one Zygon, who had been established by the Doctor during the negotiations as the guardians of the peace. Keeping the uncertainty of whether the Osgood who survived is the human or Zygon is a neat twist and fits neatly into the story concept of it not mattering who belongs to which species, that their actions determine who they are. Both Jemma and Ingrid give their usual superb turns as their respective characters and hopefully we shall see them again in future stories.

Basil and Petronella, Science Detectives!
Basil and Petronella, Science Detectives!

The Zygon two-parter also gave Jenna Coleman an opportunity to stretch her acting muscles in an unusual direction as she plays Zygon duplicate Bonnie for most of the story. Bonnie is a cold and precise creature and Jenna gives her a chilling edge through most of the second episode, after she is revealed in the approach to the cliff-hanger. The interactions between Bonnie and Clara are also very well played in their intensity.

Looking at the writer’s for Series 9 it is a mixture of the experienced (Steven Moffat obviously, Mark Gatiss, Toby Whithouse), more recent conscripts (Peter Harness, Jamie Mathieson) and those completely new to Who (Sarah Dolland, Catherine Tregenna). Of these probably the most impressive is Harness with the Zygon two-parter, after his innovative Series 8 debut episode Kill The Moon. With speculation increasing about Moffat’s replacement when he does decide to step down, Peter Harness must surely be putting his case forward with these much appreciated episodes, with the fans at least. Worthy of mention also are Dolland and Tregenna, the first two female writers employed on Doctor Who by Moffat, both of whom turned in interesting and thoughtful scripts.

Those damned fangirls get everywhere!
Those damned fangirls get everywhere!

On the whole, despite the drop in the ratings experienced across the whole twelve episodes, Series 9 has been a critical triumph. Even the episodes that might not have been so well received, such as Sleep No More, have been bold and experimental in their telling. Also, some new ideas worked better than others. Capaldi looks very natural with an electric guitar, which featured in about half the episodes of the series. Less successful with fans were the sonic shades, which was possibly why right at the end of Hell Bent we got a new sonic screwdriver. But the positives bode well for Series 10, to which both Moffat and Capaldi are committed, though a filming schedule has yet to be confirmed and it appears currently that at least part of it will stretch into 2017. A new companion has also to be announced and that will attract much interest and speculation from the fans and the media.

So, the future (and the past and present) look bright for the Doctor Who with a spiky but mellowing 12th Doctor out in the universe. Long may he pilot the TARDIS into new and challenging adventures!

Timelash – A Review of the First German Doctor Who Convention

Over the weekend of the 24th and 25th October, in the German town of Kassel, Doctor Who fans gathered from across Europe to meet and greet some of their heroes at the first ever dedicated convention in the country, Timelash.

The Timelash Banner. (Photo by Timelash)
The Timelash Banner (Photo by Timelash)

Through the hard work of three people, Pascal Salzmann, Ralf Schmidt and Simone Violka the idea of Timelash was brought into reality via numerous crowd-funding ventures. Then a location was found, guests were approached and booked, plus the thousand and one other jobs of trying to organise a convention began.

Timelash organisers (from left to right) Ralf Schmidt, Pascal Salzmann and Simone Violka. (Photo by Pascal Salzmann)
Timelash organisers (from left to right) Ralf Schmidt, Pascal Salzmann and Simone Violka (Photo by Ronald Hulsmann)
Timelash crew and guests. (Photo by Matthias Sehring)
Timelash crew and guests (Photo by Matthias Sehring)

But it all proved a huge success over a very well attended and enjoyed weekend. A great mix of guests from the series, both Classic and New, entertained the fans throughout. These included writer Terrence Dicks and Script Editor Andrew Cartmel, the 8th Doctor Paul McGann, 1980’s companion Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown), Davros actor Terry Molloy, voice of the Daleks (among other monsters) Nicholas Briggs and Paternoster Gang member Catrin Stewart (Jenny Flint).

The autograph hall. (Photo by Tony Chamberlain)
The autograph hall (Photo by Tony Chamberlain)
Paul McGann (8th Doctor) signing autographs. (Photo by Pascal Salzmann)
Paul McGann (8th Doctor) signing autographs (Photo by Ronald Hulsmann)

One of the organisers, Pascal Salzmann, said of the weekend…. “I still cannot believe the enthusiastic response by everyone who attended the convention. Everyone is coming up to me, thanking me for bringing Doctor Who to Germany. And as you can clearly see, it was about time! When we started to plan this event we wanted it to be a convention where fans would meet, dress up, have fun together, see their stars and talk to them in a familiar atmosphere. We basically wanted to create an event that we would like to attend, as we are fans. And I am glad it worked.”

Nicola Bryant (with Terry Molloy in background) talking at a panel. (Photo by Pascal Salzmann)
Nicola Bryant (with Terry Molloy in background) talking at a panel (Photo by Ronald Hulsmann)

Away from TV other aspects of Doctor Who were well in evidence. Jason Haigh-Ellery, executive producer for Big Finish audio was there, alongside author Nev Fountain who has contributed a number of stories for them. Also present was all-rounder Toby Hadoke, well known for his stage show Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf, as well as moderating DVD commentaries and some roles for Big Finish.

The Big Finish Panel. From second left, Jason Haigh-Ellery, Nick Briggs (with microphone), Nev Fountain, Nicola Bryant, Terry Molloy (in kilt), Paul McGann and Toby Hadoke. (Photo by Timelash)
The Big Finish Panel. From second left, Jason Haigh-Ellery, Nick Briggs (with microphone), Nev Fountain, Nicola Bryant, Terry Molloy (in kilt), Paul McGann and Toby Hadoke (Photo by Timelash)

More specific to German fans was voice actor Michael Schwarzmaier (6th and 7th Doctors) who provided dubbing for the classic series on the TV network and Kai Taschner, who is the dubbing director for Doctor Who during the 9th Doctor and first 10th Doctor series.

Terrence Dicks talks to the fans. (Photo by Pascal Salzmann)
Terrence Dicks talks to the fans (Photo by Ronald Hulsmann)
Catrin Stewart (with Toby Hadoke in background) enjoying a panel. (Photo by Pascal Salzmann)
Catrin Stewart (with Toby Hadoke in background) enjoying a panel (Photo by Ronald Hulsmann)

One of the fans in attendance, Tony Chamberlain from Cardiff, had this to say about the event weekend. “The venue, the panels, the displays, the guests…..everything about the convention was carried out flawlessly. Full kudos to Pascal, Simone and all the other organisers for a great weekend.”

Tony Chamberlain and Andrew Cartmel. (Photo by Tony Chamberlain)
Tony Chamberlain and Andrew Cartmel (Photo by Tony Chamberlain)

Overall, the convention has proved to be a huge success, with most of the guests expressing the wish to return. Indeed, any fans wishing to attend Timelash 2 should set aside the weekend of October 15th and 16th 2016 in their diaries, as the organisers get busy planning for the next event.

Philip Morris, the Pandorica Convention and the Web of Fear Mystery

On the weekend of 26th and 27th September, Philip Morris was amongst the guests at the Pandorica convention in Bristol. This is the man who found and returned nine previously missing episodes from the stories Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear, part of the Patrick Troughton era, just ahead of the programme’s 50th anniversary in 2013. But it now appears it should have been ten episodes!

One of the things Mr Morris revealed over the convention weekend was that despite what was said at the time of the return, that episode three of Web had not been on the shelf with the other episodes, it actually was there when he discovered the lost gems. Web 3 went missing while he was negotiating for the return of all the episodes to the UK, taken by the manager of the TV station in the city of Jos, Nigeria, where they were found. The manager later denied knowing anything about “missing episodes”, a phrase that had not previously been used in his presence.

It appears that Philip Morris shared his discovery with a handful of people he trusted, one of whom alerted someone else who seems to have got in touch with the manager at Jos, leading him to take one of the film cans and investigate further. It also seems that he passed on the can. It was said at the convention panel that the episode was now in private hands and could be in Australia and that inquiries about it were ongoing.

Now Philip Morris has shared a photograph he took of the film cans in situ  with the Doctor Who Missing Episodes Discussion Group on Facebook. Looking at the cans there are twelve, all obviously of the same type and style, one of which (the fourth one down) clearly displays the production code PP (Enemy of the World) on its side. These are the two episodes that were already in the BBC archives, Enemy 3 and Web 1, and the ten episodes of the two stories that were missing at that time. Sadly, one still remains missing. This statement was released by the Facebook group, along with the image…

12 Doctor Who film cans, sitting in a storage room in Jos, Nigeria (Photo: Philip Morris)
12 Doctor Who film cans, sitting in a storage room in Jos, Nigeria (Photo: Philip Morris)

“On the second anniversary of the release of the newly-recovered and restored “Enemy Of The World” and “Web Of Fear”, Philip Morris, Executive Director of TIEA has authorized us (The Doctor Who Missing Episodes Group on Facebook) to release this photograph of the twelve film cans which he originally discovered in Jos, Nigeria.

“This photo was taken immediately after Phil had discovered the film cans and verified that the film reels inside matched what was on the labels.

“As you are no doubt aware, one of these film cans – the one containing Episode 3 of “The Web Of Fear” – went missing in between when this photo was taken (in late 2011) and when the cans were delivered to the central collection point in Abuja, Nigeria. The location and disposition of this film can and its contents is currently unknown.”

Philip Morris at Pandorica, with Facebook admins Tony Chamberlain (left) and Wyn Lewis (right) (Photo: Tony Chamberlain)
Philip Morris at Pandorica, with Facebook admins Tony Chamberlain (left) and Wyn Lewis (right) (Photo: Tony Chamberlain)
Philip Morris at Pandorica with Facebook admin Jason Clifford (Photo: Jason Clifford)
Philip Morris at Pandorica with Facebook admin Jason Clifford (Photo: Jason Clifford)

There were some other interesting items discussed in the two panels attended by Philip Morris. He told the audience that he had been to every country that had officially bought Doctor Who in the 1960s and 70s, and was now following up information on audition prints. These were episodes sent out to countries that were not currently buying the series, as a ‘taster’ of what was available to them. It is known that a couple of episodes of Marco Polo were sent to Iran, and four episodes of The Reign of Terror were found by Paul Vanezis in Cyprus in the 1980s, a country that never bought that serial. And the first time he found a film can marked as an “audition print” was an episode of The Goodies, though he did not say where this was.

He also confirmed that any finds and returns would be dealt with through BBC Worldwide and that BBC Cardiff and the New Series team were not involved on any level. Back catalogue stuff is not part of the Cardiff remit, they just concentrate on the production of new adventures for the Doctor. Also discussed was the omni-rumour, which was ‘a load of nonsense’ and that the return of all 97 currently missing episodes was ‘unlikely’. Though interestingly he did say he was ‘pretty sure’ that The Feast of Steven, the seventh episode of the epic Dalek Master Plan and the one episode never sold abroad, was copied to film. It has always been thought this episode was never copied.

On the subject of damaged prints he repeated something he originally said on the message board of the Facebook group last year, that the only time he has ever found a Doctor Who print with advanced damage beyond saving was a monochrome copy of episode two of The Ambassadors of Death, thankfully not something that is missing. This totally scotches a recent rumour doing the forum rounds that while lots of missing episodes were found, many were suffering with vinegar syndrome.

One of Philip Morris' panel sessions, with Anneke Wills at front left (Photo: Wyn Lewis)
One of Philip Morris’ panel sessions, with Anneke Wills at front left (Photo: Wyn Lewis)

Philip Morris was once contacted by a private individual wanting to buy any and all episodes of Doctor Who he had found to that point, which he flatly refused. He does not get paid by the BBC for what he finds, funding comes from contract work done by TIEA. When asked about social media he said that the work was more important than what anybody says on a twitter account, though he did highlight that some libellous comments were ‘in the process’ of being investigated. It was also stated that for everything someone makes up, he has to answer for it!

The search is still going on, but will not last forever. He loves surprising people and has some surprises in store, which everybody will learn about in time. Feedback from fans is positive on the whole and he repeated a favourite phrase, ‘believe it when you see it’.

The Philip Morris panels were very well received on the weekend and audio recordings have made it onto the forums now, along with transcripts, which have been well received by many.

***

STOP PRESS – Full statement on Web 3 by Philip Morris himself, as sent to the DWME Group this evening.

Hi Guys, the picture you see is one I took after checking the 12 Doctor Who film cans in Jos in 2011. All film leaders were checked to ensure cans matched their contents, this is a practice we follow in fine detail with due care shown. All programmes held at this station were physically checked by myself and my own team. No undue attention was drawn to the Doctor Who prints by myself or any of my staff, however I instructed one of my trusted team to ensure the Doctor Who prints were hidden until authorisation for retrieval could be obtained.

However two prints, one QQ3 Web of Fear 3 and another spare print were taken from one of my guys by a guy at the station who took the two prints to his office. This was reported to me within hours. I was not unduly concerned I knew their location. I have to admit I was really excited and told somebody I thought would not leak any sensitive information – big big mistake. Within 4/5 days the station had been named online. Fortunately by this time our job was done, however what of Web 3? I physically searched Jos again, asked the guy who took the films where they were. Initially he denied all knowledge until I produced the picture-he just looked at the floor and said he put them back on the shelf.

I didn’t believe a word, and took the pictures and with one of my colleagues and went straight to the top of the NTA, however the guy simply denied it. That is until earlier this year when I returned to Nigeria. I met the same guy again so I asked him directly – he just laughed and said “I don’t know anything about missing episodes”.

I firmly believe this episode is in the hands of a fan and we will trace it. I hope this goes some way to explain why I must maintain a certain level of security around TIEA and its work.

Doctor Who Series 9 Set Report 3

As filming for Series 9 draws to a close, Special Agent Chamberlain 006 has been out and about in sunny (yes, I was surprised too) Cardiff, tracking down the production crew to their not-so-secret location of ‘Eddie’s American Diner’ on Mermaid Quay. Here is what he found…

Eddie's American Diner, complete with 'gas' pumps. Not something you see every day in Cardiff.
Eddie’s American Diner, complete with ‘gas’ pumps. Not something you see every day in Cardiff.
Peter Capaldi with scenery backdrop of mountains and desert.
Peter Capaldi with scenery backdrop of mountains and desert.
Jenna in waitress outfit. "Do you want fries with that?"
Jenna in waitress outfit. “Do you want fries with that?”
Lighting truck parked above another iconic Cardiff landmark, Ianto's shrine.
Lighting truck parked above another iconic Cardiff landmark, Ianto’s shrine.

Suggestions are that this is filming for the final episode/episodes of the series, though it is also possible that these scenes could fit in anywhere. I guess we will all know by Christmas!

Thanks again to Agent 006 for the images…

“Peace and Long Life” – A Leonard Nimoy Tribute

He had one of the most iconic ‘looks’ of the 1960s and 1970s, seen and recognised around the globe in an age long before the Internet. Quite possibly the most famous actor/character in a television and film series of all time. Played the same character on and off across 47 years, from 1966 to 2013. Leonard Nimoy, despite the title of his 1975 autobiography, was Spock.

Born 26 March 1931 in Boston, Massachusetts, to Ukrainian Jewish parents, his acting C.V. for the 1960s represents the most famous television series of that era. He played guest roles in Bonanza, Rawhide, The Twilight Zone, The Untouchables, Wagon Train, Perry Mason, General Hospital, The Outer Limits, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Virginian, as well as the regular role of Paris in 49 episodes of Mission: Impossible. But it was for the half-human, half-Vulcan science officer of the Starship Enterprise in Gene Roddenbury’s ground breaking Star Trek that he will be forever remembered.

“Fascinating!”

Mr Spock in Star Trek (1966-69)
Mr Spock in Star Trek (1966-69)

Nimoy is the only actor to appear in all 80 episodes of the original series of Star Trek (including the first, unaired pilot) and all 22 episodes of Star Trek: The Animated Series. He also played Spock in the first six movies of the franchise, directing two of those (The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home) as well as making guest cameos in the first two movies of the rebooted version. And he appeared in the two-part Star Trek: Next Generation episode Unification, the first original series actor to have a substantial role in the second television incarnation of Star Trek (discounting DeForest Kelley’s brief role at the start of Encounter At Farpoint). He voiced himself/Spock in both The Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory.

Despite his most famous role however, and in line with that fervent wish in the 1970s not to be completely associated with that one part, Nimoy was able to go beyond Spock to create success in other areas. As noted above, virtually as soon as Star Trek finished he moved over to another successful television series, Mission: Impossible, clocking up almost 50 episodes in that. Further guest roles in known as well as minor small screen shows continued until 2012 when he made the last of his eleven appearances as Dr William Bell in Fringe. His deep, baritone voice led to plenty of voice work, including numerous video games in the 21st century, plus Galvatron in the 1986 Transformers Movie and Sentinel Prime in the reboot Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011). He scored a box office hit away from acting when he directed the movie Three Men and a Baby in 1987 and turned his hand to directing music videos with the Bangles hit Going Down to Liverpool (1984).

“I am endeavoring, Madam, to construct a mnemonic memory circuit using stone knives and bear skins.”

But it will of course be the defining role of Spock for which he will be most remembered. Building the character through iconic episodes such as The Galileo Seven, Amok Time, Journey to Babel and All Our Yesterdays, Nimoy created a rounded yet still alien performance that touched the viewers on a basic level, stirring in them a sense of understanding and, strangely, humanity. In the hands of a lesser actor Spock could have come across as completely cold and unlikeable, yet somehow this green blooded, pointy eared hobgoblin, as McCoy might have put it, captured the hearts and minds first of a nation, then of the world.

Spock's death scene in The Wrath of Khan
Spock’s death scene in The Wrath of Khan

Part of the triumph of his performance was the on-screen chemistry with his co-stars, especially that with William Shatner. The Kirk/Spock relationship was pivotal to so many episodes and moved on into the film series, with the ending of The Wrath of Khan and the death of Spock an especially moving moment and very well played by all concerned. Until the title of the next movie (The Search for Spock) was announced, many fans openly grieved for the loss of their favourite character.

“I have been, and always shall be, your friend.”

Possibly the most interesting part of Spock’s character was his reliance on logic. For many young fans growing up with the series, this would be their first exposure to logic. Many modern day scientists, not only in America but across the world, claim their interest in the subject came from watching Leonard Nimoy play science officer Spock week in and week out on the television screens of their childhoods. Such an inspirational performance, influencing so many, is to be applauded.

But that is only part of the legacy. Others claim they chose acting, writing, directing and many other professions based upon Star Trek, and to a large degree, the character of Spock. To be able to command such devotion from an audience, that they choose a career path based upon you trading lines of dialogue with other actors in front of a television camera on a weekly basis, shows you are doing something right.

“Insufficient facts always invite danger.”

Basically, Leonard Nimoy was loved by people around the world, both by those who met him and by those who never did. A friendly and affable interviewee, he spent more than sixty years doing what he loved, acting. Be it on television, film, on stage or in the audio/voice over medium, he was never happier than when he was performing.

It could have all been different though. Away from acting he was married twice, had two children and enjoyed writing poetry, singing and was a keen photographer. Excelling in all three of these disciplines, he did consider changing career in the 1970s and becoming a full time photographer after gaining a degree in the subject from the University of California. His numerous fans around the world are no doubt happy he did not pursue this idea and continued with his first love, acting.

“Random chance seems to have operated in our favor.”

On a personal level, I have been aware of Star Trek for most of my life. Born on 1964 (the year of the first pilot, The Cage) my earliest memories are of the fake alien puppet used by Balok in The Corbomite Maneuver. I think this would have been around 1969 at the latest, as I also recall the first Moon landing around the same time. While I consider myself predominantly a Doctor Who fan, I didn’t start watching that until Jon Pertwee’s début the following year, so I actually watched Star Trek first.

Also, I did not realise until around 1973 that the Doctor wasn’t human. However, Spock was obviously an alien and therefore he was my first encounter with a friendly and benevolent non-human aspect in science fiction. The power of Nimoy’s acting was a reassuring presence on the screen, allowing comfort to be drawn from the fact that Spock could sort out any situation that the Enterprise crew found themselves in. He, and they, always won.

“Logic and practical information do not seem to apply here.”

Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Spock Prime (Leonard Nimoy) in Star Trek - Into Darkness
Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Spock Prime (Leonard Nimoy) in Star Trek – Into Darkness

The sad death of Leonard Nimoy on 27 February 2015, aged 83, has been felt around the world. Tributes have poured in on news broadcasts and across all social media platforms. As well as his family and friends, hardcore fans and casual viewers alike will miss him. I will miss him. The word ‘legend’ is used far too often these days, but here it applies.

Leonard Nimoy. Actor. Director. Husband. Father. Icon. Legend. Spock.

He lived long, and prospered.

A Conversation with Neil Perryman

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Neil Perryman is the man behind Adventures with the Wife in Space, the story of a fanboy husband and his not-we wife (Sue), on a hilarious mission to watch the classic series of Doctor Who together from the start, including the bits that don’t exist. For two years, Sue skewered sacred cows of fandom and cursed the name of Terry Nation, while Neil fought his corner and dodged thrown cushions.

“The Experiment”, as it was known, began life as a blog, and has since spawned a book, published by Faber and Faber in 2013 (oh look, a review).

Neil and Sue have since taken on Blake’s 7, and are now three series into their Adventures with the Wife And Blake.

Neil and I meet on Skype on a Sunday afternoon. We quickly establish that the weather is too nice in both Bournemouth and Durham for us to be indoors, but have a nice chat anyway…..

MR: Tell me about the experiment, were you nervous at embarking on Who with Sue?

NP: On the actual blog? Not really, cause I didn’t think it would take off, I didn’t think for a minute it’d become as popular as it became so I didn’t really feel any pressure when I started it, I just wanted it to be a bit of a lark, it was a blog that hadn’t been done before that I was looking for really, just something to keep me occupied with my online stuff. And, I’d sort of run out of things to say about Doctor Who. So, no, I didn’t feel worried at the beginning, the pressure came later (laughs).

MR: How’s your nose doing? You took a lot of cushions to the face over that time, didn’t you?

NP: Yeah I’m still getting the odd one now for Blake’s 7, but yeah, nothing too violent (laughs)

MR: I first caught on to the blog probably about…Planet of the Daleks, then went back and started from the very beginning, then by the time I’d reached that point, you’d finished watching it all! I’ve tried watching old Who with my own girlfriend a few times, and we’ve not been together anywhere near as long as you and Sue, but we kind of had the opposite result to you. I was thinking she’d like the more recent stuff, but she’s not really having the modern series, she’s not averse to selected cuts of Pertwee and Tom Baker every now and again though.

NP: She doesn’t watch the new series then?

MR: No, she doesn’t like it, she watched The Day Of The Doctor with me, but that was an exception. It’s just not really her thing. It is much more female-friendly these days, and I suppose a lot of young women might watch Doctor Who just because they fancied Tennant or Matt Smith…

NP: Yeah, yeah, that’s why Sue watched it, I think (laughs) I think, if it hadn’t been for the new series, there’s no way that I would have done this thing, as I think the fact that Sue liked the new series made me feel like she might have been open to the old series. It was much easier for her to go into the classic series having had a grounding in the new series, if you know what I mean.

MR: Yeah, it gave you a way in.

NP: Yeah, she was vaguely a little bit more interested than she would have been. If it hadn’t have come back….if I’d have asked her to do this in 2002…..you know…….I just can’t see it happening!

MR: I’ve often thought of Doctor Who as being the other woman.

NP: Yeah, that was it, that was the thing, I was getting bored of sneaking downstairs in the middle of the night to watch Tom Baker. You know, as you do. So, you know, I think we’ve all been there, we’ve all tried it. When I first moved in with her I tried to get her into it, I tried to gently get her into Doctor Who, but it didn’t take, but most people have that problem I think.

MR: Yeah, I’ve yet to try anything black and white on my girlfriend….I don’t feel ready for that yet..

NP: Oh, well, you can’t go straight in with a black and white, the only one you could probably do it with would be just the first episode. You could probably just about get away with it but I wouldn’t recommend it! Start with a classic in the colour era…Genesis of the Daleks….

MR: Yeah I started her off with Pyramids of Mars. That went down quite well.

NP: Yeah that’s probably safer actually because it’s four parts.

MR: Yeah, four parts and colour, anything that’s more than four parts and NOT colour…..

NP: Did you try them all in one go?

MR: At first I tried splitting it up, but then she was like, let’s watch the next one. So I was like, a girl is willing to watch old Doctor Who with me, ok, let’s see how this goes until we hit a bump in the road….

NP: I know exactly what you mean, I think we’ve all been there.

MR: So, the book, did it come easily for you, having done the blog?

NP: (laughs) No…. I think I was on Peter Davison when I finally signed the contract, which meant I had to write the book and the blog at the same time, which was pretty difficult, as for obvious reasons they (Faber and Faber) wanted the book in the anniversary year. Even though the whole marketplace was gonna be swamped with Doctor Who books, it seemed like a good idea, but, no….it was really difficult, because I’d never written anything like this before, most of the stuff I’d written had either been academic, cause I used to teach at University, and academic writing is completely different from what I had to do in this book. Also, I was trying to find that balance between not just taking the blog and sticking it in a book, but something a bit different, so…..no it was really hard (laughs).

MR: Well, if it’s any consolation, it doesn’t come across as hard, it’s a really good, easy read…

NP: Well good. That was the hard part, making it look effortless! That is the hard bit.

MR: There’s very much a beginning, middle, and end to it.

NP: Yeah. Always, the problem was trying to get the balance right between those who knew a lot about Doctor Who, and those who didn’t know as much about Doctor Who, and trying to make it as accessible as possible, and also as accessible if you hadn’t read the entire blog….to give you a flavour of the blog, because the blog was half a million words….you’re talking about six or seven books….Also, the weird thing about it was writing about myself, you know, rather than about Sue, so that was a bit weird.

MR: Reading the book, I saw a lot of parallels, I’m a little younger, but…some of my earliest memories of Who are a regeneration as well, you know, Tom into Peter. I’d also had a girlfriend who had a daughter from a previous relationship before….I’d attempted to sneak on The Curse of Peladon as well….normal behaviour isn’t it? (laughs)

NP: That makes me feel like I’m not completely crazy now.

MR: You Are Not Alone (laughs). Are you planning on doing any more books of any sort?

NP: Well, the plan is, we are going to put the blog in a series of books, but I’m just going to self publish those, and that’s just for people who want them. Once that’s finished, I’ve always toyed with the idea of a novel set in a University, so that’s sort of my dream project, do a campus novel, drawing on my experiences, which I’ve only barely touched on in the book for lots of different reasons! (laughs) So yeah, that was a weird thing about writing the book as well, you know, worrying about writing about people that you know, existed… I think I find it much easier to write stuff that’s more fictional rather than based on my life.

MR: Yeah, some people find it easier to go from that sort of personal standpoint, or just a thinly veiled version. I’ve just finished reading Gareth Roberts’ version of Shada, and couldn’t really shake the feeling that Douglas Adams wrote the Chris Parsons character in as himself, especially with the Cambridge setting.

NP: Yeah, a lot of writers do that. They call it the Mary-Sue thing, don’t they, where they insert themselves into the narrative. Yeah, if I did a campus novel, it would be a thinly disguised work of fiction (laughs). I’d probably have to do it under an assumed name! Obviously, I left my job a couple of years ago, it was just coincidental, I didn’t leave the job to write a book or anything like that. It just happened to fall at the right time. If I could make a career out of writing, that’s what, hopefully, I’d love to be able to do.

MR: You and Sue live-blogged The Day Of The Doctor for The Guardian. How was that?

NP: That was the most terrifying day of my life. It was absolutely terrifying, cause, what they told us afterwards was that it was very unusual for The Guardian to do stuff, especially drama live. What they usually do is they get it a few days in advance so you can watch it, make notes, and comment on it as it goes. And, The Day Of The Doctor was one of those ones where there was no release at all of any kind to the public, so we had to just go off what was happening on screen. And when we turned up…..it was just like you imagine the Guardian office to be, this huge expanse of computers. And the TV they wanted us to watch it on, was on the other side of the room…so it was like, half a mile away.

So, I had to keep putting my glasses on to look at the TV, and then take my glasses off to type on the screen, which was then being moderated by somebody else sitting behind me, to make sure I wasn’t writing anything libellous, probably. So, I was trying to watch TV, listen to Sue, type up what Sue was saying, have it moderated by somebody else behind me, and the person behind me was then asking me like “What do you think of this?”… I couldn’t follow what was going on! (laughs)

Quite clearly, it was impossible! I think a lot of people struggled with it if they were focused on it normally. I was trying desperately, and desperately trying to keep the thing interesting, so it was terrifying, the whole thing. I think we got away with it though.

MR: I hope they took you for dinner afterwards!

NP: Oh it was terrible, we went back to the hotel and tried to watch it on iPlayer, and concentrate on it, and I think we fell asleep. But yeah, it was a great episode.

MR: Yeah, I really enjoyed it, I went to the pictures, I was quite lucky to get a ticket in Bournemouth.

NP: Well, that was our original plan, we were gonna see it in 3D at the cinema as well, but we had to give our tickets away in the end. I bet it looked great in 3D as well…

MR: Yeah, yeah, it did. They should have done another run a week later, for people who couldn’t make that day…

NP: They should have done it for the whole week, I think. I don’t know why they didn’t do that, I’d have seen it the next day if I could have, but, I couldn’t.

MR: It was a great experience at the pictures, completely rammed out, there was people dressed as Clara in the red dress, and there were assorted Ponds walking about….

NP: It’s just bizarre isn’t it, to think, when I was growing up, if someone had told me that in 2013 people would go to the cinema and see this big thing simultaneously, not just in England but around the world. You wouldn’t have even believed that if they’d have said it in 2005, 2006…..That was a weird month for us cause the book came out that month, so me and Sue were sort of jumping on the back of all the coverage, because obviously these local radio stations were desperately trying to fill time about Doctor Who, so we did a lot of radio. So, that whole month was just madness, absolutely insane.

MR: I went with a good friend who’s another lifelong fan. We had about three pints before we went in, then disappeared to the pub afterwards, and ended up banging on feverishly about Capaldi’s eyes…

NP: Capaldi’s eyes, god yeah. Fantastic, yeah, cool. It seems like so long ago now. Capaldi will be back on TV before we know it.

MR: Yeah, August. Are you looking forward to him? How do you think he’s gonna be?

NP: I think he’ll be great, I think he’ll be fantastic. He’s a great actor. I just don’t know how he’s going to play it. I’m hearing rumours he’s going to do it quite dark…I don’t know if that’s true or not. It’s really difficult to know until you see him out and doing it.

MR: Yeah. I wasn’t sure about Matt at first when he was cast….I thought, oh…too young…

NP: Exactly! I mean, Matt Smith’s young enough to be my son (laughs) It’s just like….what…the….hell…. so yeah, I was praying for Capaldi.

I remember that day very vividly, when they announced him, I remember thinking, god, you know…. I think all the money switched at the last minute to the other guy….I remember thinking, ah, what a shame, but, thankfully, it was Peter Capaldi. It was a different reaction to the Confidential when they did Matt Smith, and most of us were just going….

NP and MR: …Who…? (laughter)

NP: I remember the name Matt Smith suddenly appeared in the betting at the last minute, and I just didn’t know who the hell this person was. I remember being quite confused….So yeah, I think Peter Capaldi will be really good, I don’t know how many seasons he’s doing, I think he’s only signed up for one, we’ll see.

MR: Yeah I’d hope he’d sign up for more, but, you never know really.

NP: They’re going back to the old…I think they’ve got two companions I believe. They’re both teachers, one of them’s another teacher at Coal Hill School, so really you’re gonna go back to the original where you’ve got the two teachers, and I think there’s another character, another companion, so maybe he’s harking back to the first season again.

MR: I’m really interested to see how he comes out. To me, the Doctor is that Terrance Dicks “Never cruel or cowardly” character at heart, which is why I don’t really get on with Colin Baker’s Doctor…

NP: Yeah, you say that, but there is a fair few times when the Doctor is quite cruel and cowardly, to be fair (laughs) Pertwee shot loads of Ogrons….couldn’t stop killing them!

MR: Tennant could be a bit of a genocidal maniac…

NP: Yeah, Sylvester McCoy blew up the odd planet…

MR: I’ve been really enjoying Wife and Blake…

NP: Good!

MR: I was looking forward to seeing what Sue made of The Harvest of Kairos…cause that is so immensely dodgy and sexist…

(For those unfamiliar, you really have to see it. Or, just read this.)

NP: Yeah, the thing is, she upset the Blake’s 7 fans so much that the official Blake’s 7 fan club organised a protest rewatch of The Harvest of Kairos.

MR: You have to do that?

NP: (laughs) Yeah, they had to rewatch it, together, to protest at Sue’s 0/10, which I thought was quite generous…actually, I don’t mind it so much, at least it’s entertaining, as it’s so ridiculous. It’s not one of those boring ones, as quite a few episodes of Blake’s 7 are quite dull. You can’t accuse Harvest of Kairos of being dull.

MR: It’s insane.

NP: (laughs) It IS insane. But then we had Vila get a 9/10 for City at the Edge of the World, so that made up for that I think.

MR: Do you think Sue’s finally warming to Terry Nation?

NP: Yeah I don’t think she minds him so much as a Blake’s 7 writer. And, to be fair when Terry turns up to do Blake’s 7, they’re actually quite good episodes. Ridiculous, but entertaining. But yeah, I think she appreciates Terry a lot more than when she was watching Doctor Who, that’s for sure. I think it’s more his kind of programme, he invented it so he’s got a vested interest in it. But the whole thing of who wrote what…..it’s always the same with Terry Nation. Anything good….people automatically assume someone else wrote it for him, anything bad…..oh yeah, that’s Terry…..He has the same problem with Chris Boucher. We watched Rumours of Death yesterday, so that’s where we’re up to, so we should be finished soon.

MR: Sarcophagus is up next, that’s a good one.

NP: I haven’t seen that one for ages. That’s what’s been interesting for me, doing this, as I’m not as big a fan of Blake’s 7 as Doctor Who, it’s something I watched when I was growing up and I remember the odd episode, but it didn’t stick around as long, so it wasn’t something that permeated every part of my life. So there’s certain episodes I haven’t seen very much at all and some I probably haven’t seen since they first came out. I’ve watched all the classic ones over and over again, the ones that people always talk about, but there was loads I hadn’t seen, loads…

MR: Yeah, there’s 52 in all.

NP: 52, yeah.

MR: I saw it when I was little. Mum and Dad probably shouldn’t have let me watch it…

NP: How old would you have been when it was on?

MR: It finished when I was five. I watched the last episode of Blake’s 7 when I was five…..

NP: Don’t say anything! Because my wife’s in the kitchen.

MR: I won’t say a thing except they shouldn’t have let me watch it. (Neil laughs)

NP: I remember watching….the first series was 1978, so I would have been eight when it started. And that first episode, that was what surprised me going back again, how grim it is. Child molestation charges…..it’s very bleak… I remember being really excited as a kid when it started, I remember it being a big deal. And certain images definitely stuck in my mind.

MR: I probably saw about the last series and a half as a kid. Then I got into it in the long teenage gap of “No Doctor Who” and watched a lot on VHS, just filling a bit of a void really.

NP: Yeah I never bought the VHS’s. A lot of my friends did but I never felt the compulsion.

MR: I think it was something else to fill up a void, I wasn’t so much a Star Trek guy really.

NP: I watched a bit of Star Trek: The Next Generation in the 90s (chuckles), I wrote a letter to DWB where I complained about Doctor Who and said I was gonna watch Star Trek from now on….it was very embarrassing….That is a terrible moment…I look back on that with shame…..but yeah, Blake’s 7, it’s a weird programme. One minute it’s really bleak, the next minute it’s like a pantomime, literally…like a pantomime, and you just don’t know what you’re going to get from one week to the next.

And I think that’s the reason we did it, the reason I decided to risk it as, at least with Doctor Who it’s continually different every week, a different story, and I think Blake’s 7 has that same kind of “What the hell’s happening this week?” kind of vibe to it, so we’ve just about got away with it.

MR: Definitely. I’m quite a fan of the third series, actually, I think it’s the most insane of the lot.

NP: It seems to be scoring the highest marks so far compared to the other ones, I know we’ve got a few to go, I think Sue’s definitely finding it better. It’s funny it’s since Blake’s left! (laughs)

MR: She was bang on about the find-and-replace thing with Tarrant and Blake in Kairos.

NP: Well, yeah, it’s just all in the hair, isn’t it? Look at the silhouette of them, exactly the same.

MR: I remember watching that one on VHS at about seventeen and thinking…..hang on….why do they care about Tarrant all of a sudden?

NP: Yeah he’s suddenly the big leader, the big threat, that no-one’s ever heard of before….It’s weird, again, when you watch them in order like this you sort of pick up on those weird kind of things.

And I suppose what I’m also noticing is the impact it had on Babylon 5, I’m a big Babylon 5 fan, and there’s so many references and influences you can see sprinkled throughout it, you know, like a telepath…the guy who wrote it, bar one episode which Neil Gaiman wrote…he was obviously brought up on Doctor Who, Blake’s 7, The Prisoner, and the references are all over it. It was fantastic in the 90s, it’d be interesting to see how it holds up today….

MR: Probably holds up better than Doomwatch……I gave that a go as well.

NP: Yeah I couldn’t get on with Doomwatch. You see, I used to teach Science-Fiction at University, and I used to teach not only Doctor Who, I used to teach Doomwatch. I used to show them the one with the rat. And they just used to fall about laughing. They just couldn’t take it seriously. To me it was terrifying!

MR: The bit at the end is gruesome.

NP: Yeah, isn’t it?

MR: Absolutely horrible.

NP: 70’s TV was very bleak. I love the original Survivors, especially the first two series. It went a bit boring in the third series.

MR: I do like a good Terry Nation apocalypse.

NP: I hope they remake Blake’s 7, that’s what they should do, they keep saying they’re going to remake it. I don’t know who owns the rights, B7 Enterprises or something, I’m not sure. It seems silly not to do it really, what with Doctor Who being as successful as it is. And there’s no Torchwood anymore, so why not. Gareth Roberts loves Blake’s 7, just give it to him!

MR: I think he’d make a very good showrunner for that.

NP: Exactly, why not give it to Gareth Roberts, you heard it here first.

MR: Are you listening Gareth? Well, hopefully once I’ve typed this up….

NP: He said recently on a tweet he was a bigger fan of Blake’s 7 than Doctor Who, and we all know how big a fan of Doctor Who he is, so there you go. If they can remake The Tomorrow People and make a right balls of it……..We did a kickstarter thing, and one of the extras for people who backed the kickstarter is to watch an episode of The Tomorrow People, so I thought I’ll get her into the new one. And she enjoyed it, obviously, as it’s just loads of young men running round with their tops off. Whereas the original is just loads of young men running round with anoraks on…..you’re too young to remember The Tomorrow People, I expect.

MR: Yeah it finished when I was quite small. I never saw it. My memories of Doctor Who start very early though, from three years old, 1979, Destiny of the Daleks, and then I was immediately into it.

NP: Did you ever go to Blackpool or anything like that?

MR: I went to Madame Tussaud’s when I was about four, and went to Longleat when I was six….

NP: You went to Longleat?! In ’83? Wow. I’m jealous, obviously! Was it as chaotic as people have said?

(I’ve just realised that Neil is now interviewing me. This is what happens when Doctor Who fans talk for more than 30 minutes at a time)

MR: It’s funny, I don’t remember it being chaos, but I suppose, when you’re a small kid, everything’s chaos and you just go with it, I remember queues but not being in them for hours. I’ve got some great photos, I’ll send some on to you.

NP: Yeah, do that.

MR: it’s been a pleasure Neil, thanks for taking the time to talk to me.

NP: Cheers mate, enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Adventures With The Wife In Space is published by Faber and Faber, and is available in bookshops and on Amazon. Follow Neil and Sue’s adventures with Blake here.