She Stoops To Conquer – TOADS Theatre Company

P1010725Maggie Campbell directs the latest production at the Little Theatre, Torquay, that of Oliver Goldsmith’s ‘She Stoops to Conquer’. The performance, which ran from 12 to 19 April 2014 opened before a black curtain, with masked players entering to allow the audience a taste of the beautiful costumes and wigs that had been sourced for the week.

With the curtain removed we travel from wardrobe to scenery with the opportunity to appreciate the work of the team behind the scenes who have risen to the challenge of creating a world more than two hundred years old, brought to life by some enthusiastic servants moving the furniture during the scene changes.

The ‘She’ of the title is Kate Hardcastle, played by Lydia Dockray, who awaits the visit of Charles Marlow, a potential love match. Marlow, played by Jon Manley, is a man delightfully bawdy among girls of the lower class and incredibly shy among the ladies of the upper class. In order to see if Marlow can be the man of his reputation, Kate must take on the role of a servant within her own home, a circumstance made easier by events that play out around her.

This central pairing works nicely, as Dockray delivers both a refined Kate looking for a bit of adventure, coupled with a barmaid Kate who plays her man to perfection, complete with comedy yokel accent. Manley underplays his nervous scenes effectively, whilst appearing the perfect predator as he falls for Kate’s deception. This pairing is the strength of the play, not least because they clearly understand everything that they are saying and can communicate those things clearly to the audience.

The comedy pairing of Mr and Mrs Hardcastle, played by Roger Heath and Anna Reynolds, wear the largest wigs and provide the largest performances on the stage. They have some of the funniest material to deliver, as Mr Hardcastle is mistaken for an innkeeper and Mrs Hardcastle is repeatedly mocked for her efforts to hide her age through a mixture of deceit and her efforts to keep up with the latest fashions. The pair are the butt of many jokes through the evening, and present characters that are a pleasure to laugh at.

Among the youngsters, the one to watch is Jonathan Hurd, whose characterisation of Marlow’s friend Hastings raises the character above that of friend to the hero. His reaction with mild confusion to the things going on around him, together with his repeated use of the comedy double take, squeezes a laugh from the unlikeliest of moments. Becca Lamburn brought a quiet dignity to Constance Neville, whilst Peter Hubble offered a Tony Lumpkin most effective when paired as a booby alongside his mother Mrs Hardcastle. This is best demonstrated in a scene in a field in the middle of the night that brings some of the best laughs of the evening, not least as Mrs Hardcastle crawls crawls across the back of the stage.

The production successfully takes the audience to another era with a simple humour found in mistaken identity. A familiarity with the source material was beneficial, as some of the jokes were lost along the way, but all in all, it looked pretty and had moments of comedy magic – especially when the servants were around to move the play along.

The picture that heads this review has been rudely stolen from the Facebook page belonging to TOADS at the Little Theatre

Last review from the TOADS Theatre Company: Time Was


Doctor Who – The Aztecs

IMG_1930As the nation wakes up to news that the eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, will be leaving Doctor Who at Christmas, the Jolly Lion reaches the sixth outing of the first season of the series, The Aztecs.

time and space

The Doctor succeeds in getting Ian and Barbara back to Earth. Well, I say succeeds. The TARDIS lands in Mexico in the 15th Century, which is still a long way from home. The space they land in is within a tomb.

who and the crew

It shows something of Barbara’s development in the series that she is still finding dead bodies the moment she steps out of the TARDIS, but no longer screams at them. Here she gives an excited “Look at that!” She then starts grave robbing and pushing open the nearest door. Of the team at the moment, she remains the one with the big spirit of adventure, she was the first to turn her travel dial on Marinus too. She loves it.

Ian, no doubt getting cheesed off with standing aside and watching the guest characters fight, finally gets to play the warrior. Meanwhile, Susan the alien schoolgirl goes to Aztec school and the Doctor sits in the local care home and checks out the ladies.

humans vs aliens

The joy of these historical stories continues to be the way the team show us how alien our own history can be. Barbara gets to walk in and play god to an ancient culture. She wants to end the human sacrifice, which she considers barbaric, but the Doctor is quick to tell her not to interfere.

The society they find has two leaders, Autloc, High Priest of Knowledge, and Tlotoxl, High Priest of Sacrifice. Whilst Tlotoxl is presented as our villain, he’s wonderfully played by John Ringham, all I can see is Penny’s dad from ‘Just Good Friends’, and he is probably the hero of the piece, acting the rest of the supporting cast off the screen.

love, lust and loss

The Doctor shamelessly flirts his way towards the information he wants. He meets Cameca in the Garden of Peace, a resting place for the over 50s. There he gets engaged over a cup of cocoa and plays the relationship through to its thrilling conclusion.

In contrast, Susan is offered the chance to marry the human sacrifice. It would have been a very short marriage, as he was due to be killed by the end of the week. Even so, she refuses to have her husband chosen by somebody else. She gets suitably uppity about it.

style or trial?

Susan reminds us of the danger of time travel when you don’t do your legal research in advance. Not familiar with local customs she faces whipping, piercing with thorns and no doubt death for her heinous transgressions. It’s a good job her history teacher is a god with a very specialised knowledge of Aztec culture, Barbara to the rescue.

Oh Barbara, it’s any excuse to play dress up. If it isn’t pulling on Thal trousers, it’s popping on a Chinese hat. Here she steals a bracelet then robes up with a big flowery hat as Yetaxa. Ian isn’t far behind, but in the costume stakes, he doesn’t get much in the way of fancy headgear until the last episode – where we wouldn’t want to recognise the use of a stunt double.

moments of magic

Bored with the guest stars doing all the fighting, Ian is finally given the chance to take centre stage and fight. And good grief is there some tedious hand to hand combat in this story. We have three fights across four episodes, but they’re not the most exciting. The last one is damaging though, as this is the first time we see one of the TARDIS crew kill a man. It is just a little bit shocking.

And then there’s one line tucked away in an argument between Barbara and the Doctor that suggests a bigger back story for the Doctor than ever before. As he tries to prevent her from interfering in the Aztec history, he says, “What you are trying to do is impossible. I know, believe me, I know.” Another layer to the mystery, he and Susan are exiles, cut off from their own people, but why? What did he do? What did he try to change?

3 reasons this is the greatest doctor who story ever made

Jacqueline Hill. This is Barbara’s story, as she faces the big question – What’s the point of travelling in time and space if you can’t change anything? – not happy with being a space tourist, Barbara wants to use the TARDIS as the chance to make a difference. Yet she comes unstuck, lying to Autloc, who has put his faith in her. She is magnificent.

Tlotoxl. It may be that he is painted as the villain because he wants to kill the TARDIS crew, but like Tegana before him, he is only trying to expose our heroes as liars who are a threat to his future. His confrontations with Barbara where she pulls a knife on him then later she admits that she isn’t Yetaxa are extraordinary.

The sets. Ordinarily I get caught up in characters or action, but this is BBC world building at its best. Barry Newbery’s work is bigger than ever – helped by them having more space to work in than usual.

everything i need to know for life i learned from doctor who

  • “How glad… I’ll tell you how glad I am to see you later.”

Sometimes it’s better to focus on the matter in hand.

  • “Better to go hungry than starve for beauty.”

Well, it may not be true, but it’s a fun one to wander around saying to people.

  • “What better way to destroy your enemies than to let them destroy themselves.”

By ‘themselves’ I think Tlotoxl meant ‘each other’, but in its simplest form, do nothing and hope for the best seems like the procrastinator’s dream.

The ordinary edition of ‘The Aztecs’ is still available from Amazon, so too a special edition that has been cleaned up a bit, and includes the rediscovered third episode of ‘Galaxy 4′ – but I won’t be getting to that one for a while! For those who can’t cope with black and white telly, why not dabble in the audiobook read but Ian Chesterton actor, William Russell!

Previous Doctor Who TV Review from the Jolly Lion: The Keys of Marinus

Next Doctor Who Review: The Sensorites


Doctor Who – The Keys of Marinus

IMG_1890Back to DVD for the fifth adventure of the first season of Doctor Who, with a six part journey that appears to have caused the production team no end of challenges.

As the TARDIS crew lands on Marinus, they are sent on a quest to recover some keys, taking them from a land of acid seas to jungles, snowscapes and a city where the law is far from innocent until proven guilty – but can Ian prove he didn’t do it…?

time and space

So we’re on the planet Marinus and we get to visit Morphoton, a temple in the jungle, some ice caves and Millenius. I’m not overly sure when we are, but it probably isn’t important.

who and the crew

The Doctor takes some gentle ribbing for not having a colour scanner in the TARDIS. Ian and Barbara get the chance to take centre stage as the Doctor leaves Susan in their care for a couple of episodes. They waste no time in palming her off onto the guest stars so that they can have some chilling adventures of their own.

Susan is firmly established as the first strong female lead in the series, screaming at: a door, some blood, some trees, a plant and some ice in consecutive episodes. It is only when she is threatened with death that she stops screaming at things, choosing to sob instead. In the circumstances, we can forgive her that. And anyway, I’m being unfair, she very bravely slid along a stalactite to repair a rope bridge, and that has to be seen to be believed, it’s harrowing stuff.

humans vs aliens

The crew are stranded from the TARDIS when Arbitan puts an invisible barrier around it. Arbitan’s amusingly powerful like that. It’s a shame though, as he appeared to have had a good run at keeping the alien Voord out of his pyramid, until the end of episode one.

Voord themselves are quite simple knife-wielding creatures, easily tipped through secret panels (dying with a scream and a splosh) and indulging in a bit of dress up when the mood suits.

Ian and Barbara meet a talking brain in a jar...
Ian and Barbara meet a talking brain in a jar…

The more interesting villains are the Morphos, brains with eyestalks in glass jars.

There are humanoid locals wherever you go. Some are friendly, like Sabetha, daughter of Arbitan, others are less so, like Vasor. In the city of Millenius, we see a corrupt police and justice system, where it’s difficult to trust anyone.

love, lust and loss

Sabetha and Altos find love in the law books...
Sabetha and Altos find love in the law books…

Altos and Sabetha show that legal research can be one of the most romantic thing people can do together.

Ian is certainly getting an eyeful of the serving girls in Morphoton and Vasor might be overdoing his approach on Barbara. There some chaste hugging to keep warm when Ian and Barbara arrive in the snow, and there’s a bit of domestic violence in the marriage of Kara and Aydan in Millenius. Actually, ‘a bit’ is an understatement when things come to a head, but I’ll be gentle when it comes to spoilers.

Poor Sabetha loses her father, but the touch of a hand from Altos and it looks like she’ll be fine.

style or trial?

Accepting that The Keys of Marinus has a bad reputation, it turns out to be a lot of fun. The constant changes of location means we have the challenge of looking for the villain of the week, what Susan will scream at next and wondering why they don’t just keep using their travel dials to move on.

This is Doctor Who meets the Crystal Maze, with Arbitan as Richard O’Brien. Ian and Barbara both get locked in twice in the jungle zone, Barbara gets locked in with a rapist in the ice cave zone, then Ian gets locked in for murder and Susan gets locked in and held hostage in the Industrial Zone. Finally, the Doctor leads them all back to the Crystal Dome, where Altos and Sabetha manage to get locked in, clearly they didn’t realise how the show used to work.

moments of magic

In Morphoton, Barbara wakes up to find that she is no longer fooled by the beautiful surroundings. But how can she persuade the Doctor, Ian and Susan, when they have just enjoyed a good breakfast?

In amongst the dazzling moments in this story come the Doctor admiring a rusty mug, believing it to be a piece of scientific equipment, a door that grabs you with real arms and a foot operated robot that wouldn’t have looked out of place at the old Doctor Who exhibition at Longleat.

3 reasons this is the greatest doctor who story ever made

The Time Dials. Wrist straps that allow you to travel in space. Presumably these would be adopted by Captain Jack Harkness and his people some day down the line.

Barbara. Trapped under a net with a ceiling of spikes crashing down towards her, Jacqueline Hill sells some fairly shoddy effects with her cry of “Ian! Help me!”

William Hartnell, refreshed from two weeks holiday, steps into the action with Ian having been found guilty of murder. “I need a man to defend me,” says Ian. “I am that man,” says the Doctor. Enough to inspire any man to work in criminal defence (even though the Doctor does go on to lose the trial – but points for effort and for securing an early adjournment!)

everything i need to know for life i learned from doctor who

  • “If you’d had your shoes on, you could have lent her hers.”

If you’re out exploring a glass beach and acid sea, always wear shoes. You never know when your friend might lose her shoes in an acid pool, necessitating your lending her your shoes.

  • “You can’t apply Earth’s standards.”

When on alien worlds, take what you’re offered and don’t worry. Unless there’s a danger you’re in a town where there’s a risk your mind might be being controlled by brains in jars. Then apply Earth’s standards, and tip the brains out of the jars.

  • “I can’t improve at this very moment…”

Know your limits. Especially when it comes to learning lines. The Doctor goes on to correct himself, “I can’t prove at this very moment…” too late old chap, Freud has taken your dignity in that scene.

Previous Doctor Who Book Review from the Jolly Lion: The Sorceror’s Apprentice

Previous Doctor Who TV Review from the Jolly Lion: Marco Polo

Next Doctor Who Review: The Aztecs


Doctor Who – Marco Polo

IMG_1900It’s a good job that the Jolly Lion has been dabbling in the audio dramas like Quinnis and Hunters of Earth alongside the televised adventures.

The fourth adventure of Hartnell’s first season is missing from the BBC archives, which leaves anyone looking to enjoy the complete history of Who having to reach for the audio recordings.

IMG_1888Fortunately, the Jolly Lion’s exploration of these early years has tied in with a special release from the Doctor Who Magazine, including all of the telesnaps from the missing Hartnell episodes.

Telesnaps for six episodes of Marco Polo survive, as Waris Hussain ordered images from the episodes he directed. YouTube is full of odd reconstructions, but I have been happy to follow the pages of pictures along with the soundtrack to experience this bizarre and highly regarded jewel from the early years of the show.

time and space

The TARDIS has been directed to Earth, in Cathay, 1289, the time of Kublai Khan.

who and the crew

Ian is hopeful that he and Barbara have returned home. Right planet, but they’ll be in for a bit of a wait for the 1960s. Dear Barbara is the first of the crew to encounter a local, her first reaction is to scream. Quite why is unclear, neither the telesnap nor the audio recording helps. Maybe she’s just very sensitive. It’s helpful that she’s a history teacher, as at some point she had clearly studied 13th Century Cathay in some detail, considering the peculiar facts she could churn out at the drop of a hat. The Doctor suffers from mountain sickness, is difficult and bad tempered. Susan recalls the metal seas of Venus.

humans vs aliens

The Jolly Lion gets to grips with the telesnap archive...
The Jolly Lion gets to grips with the telesnap archive…

The people that the TARDIS crew meet get a bit of a rough deal. There is Marco Polo, who leads a caravan to the court of Kublai Khan. He takes the TARDIS as a gift to present to the Khan and from that moment he is caught in a web of lies as Ian and Barbara befriend him and then repeatedly betray him in order to get it back.

Part of Polo’s group includes Tegana, a mongol war lord. He is the villain of the piece, but for the most part he is surprisingly loyal to Polo, really trying to expose how badly the Doctor and his friends are behaving.

Even Ping-Cho, another member of Polo’s party, gets caught up in it, betraying Polo in favour of her newfound friend Susan. Frankly, the regulars behave abysmally. It’s fortunate for them that Tegana really was a bit of a rotter with plans to overthrow the Khan.

love, lust and loss

The love here is a love of home. Polo wants to leave the Khan’s service and return to Venice. Ping-Cho, caught up in an arranged marriage, wants out to return to her village. Ian and Barbara are still longing to return home. Fortunately for 16 year old Ping-Cho, her 75 year old fiance pops his clogs whilst trying to make himself young and virile. One dreads to think.

style or trial?

There is plenty of wonder on the journey to Cathay. There is a game of chess between Ian and Marco Polo that mirrors a game of backgammon between the Doctor and Kublai Khan. There is a sandstorm that is probably more effective on audio than it ever was on screen. There is the cave of five hundred eyes, that again conjures images that one imagines work better in the imagination that the reality.

But, Barbara’s hat leaves a little to be desired. Maybe it was Jacqueline Hill that ordered the destruction of all the tapes.

moments of magic

Mark Eden as Marco Polo

Polo’s diary is read over images of his writing or over maps of the journey. It is an early example of how to progress narrative in the series and it is never used again.

It gives a lovely insight into our guest star’s thoughts on the regulars. Mark Eden’s performance as Marco Polo in this story is head and shoulders above anybody seen so far.

3 reasons this is the greatest doctor who story ever made

Carole Ann Ford. Susan is particularly strong in the second episode, ‘The Singing Sands’. She has a beautiful scene with Barbara where she talks of the importance of recovering the TARDIS, “One day, we’ll know all the mysteries of the skies,” she says, “and we’ll stop our wandering,” now fifty years on the Doctor’s wanderings continue.

Ping-Cho’s story. In the episode ‘Five Hundred Eyes’ Ping-Cho sits everybody down and tells them the story of Ala-eddin and the Hashashin. It is a nice break from the action and nicely delivered. It also gives science teacher Ian the chance to educate Susan and the audience, that we get the word assassin from Hashashin.

The final battle. You can take this either way. It wasn’t that long ago that we were with Za and Kal in the cave having the final fight before our heroes escape. Here Polo has his moment, with Tegana exposed as the villain we all knew him to be back in episode one, it’s time for a fight. The regulars look on as our favourite guest star defeats the bad guy and sends them on their way.

everything i need to know for life i learned from doctor who

  • “Fab, a verb we often use on Earth.”

When you visit another culture, don’t lie about the verbs that are often in use. Also, don’t use the name of the planet, use the name of the country or the town. After all, we’re all on Earth, aren’t we Susan?

  • “I promised not to tell anyone where he put the key.”

“And I promise you that no-one will ask you.”

Some people are good at keeping secrets. They are the people who don’t tell you that they have a secret in the first place. Of course, once it is out of the bag that there is a secret, you might think it a good idea to nag until the holder of the secret breaks. Not so. Here Susan guilt trips her friend into bringing her the key to great effect. Just a shame that the girls insisted on saying goodbye to each other before Susan finally left, else this seven parter might have finished two episodes earlier.

  • “Don’t you see it doesn’t matter to me why you lied? What is important is the fact that you are capable of lying.”

Ian lets us all down by lying the Polo time and time again. You might think you can justify your lies, but Polo is right, your reasons don’t matter. Don’t do it.

Previous Doctor Who TV Review from the Jolly Lion: The Edge of Destruction

Before the next TV review, don’t miss the next Doctor Who Book Review from the Jolly Lion: The Sorceror’s Apprentice

Next Doctor Who Review: The Keys of Marinus


Doctor Who – Hunters of Earth

If the TARDIS left Quinnis and headed straight for London, 1963, you might be forgiven for thinking it leads directly into An Unearthly Child, but in this anniversary year the combined creativity of AudioGo and Big Finish Productions have managed to slip in another tale. Released in January 2013, Hunters of Earth is the first in the Destiny of the Doctor series.

Again, Carole Ann Ford tells the story, largely from the point of view of Susan. Written by Nigel Robinson and directed by John Ainsworth. Joined by Tam Williams as Cedric, this story must surely be the last adventure to run in to the opening of the television series…

time and space

The TARDIS has settled at 76 Totters Lane, London. It is October 1963. The Doctor and Susan arrived four months earlier.

who and the crew

The TARDIS has a fault which the Doctor is trying to fix. He is using materials obtained from Magpie Electrical to sort out his problems. Meanwhile, Susan has managed to get a place at Coal Hill School and she’s just about managing to fit in.

humans vs aliens

In 1963, the aliens are the foreigners settling in London after the war rather than folk from outer space. Susan is having headaches and knows a surprising amount about what people are thinking – she’s got the attention of one of her teachers, Mr Rook, who finds her somewhat unearthly. Considering what we know of Susan’s future, this is bound to cause problems.

Meanwhile, the locals are  falling foul to mind control, especially the youngsters, listening to their radios and digging the funky 60s beats. Susan’s friend Mavis is particularly influenced, turning on Susan in a cafe, then later as part of a substantial mob. In an odd twist, it makes the humans seem most alien of all.

love, lust and loss

Susan is trying to fit in and finds a friend and potential love interest in Cedric. They have some quite sweet moments, as they make plans together, discuss a shared interest in music and later sit quietly together listening to the latest bought LP. He is concerned for her wellbeing and appears to have her best interests at heart. But we know she’s not a local girl and she has big secrets, it isn’t going to be easy for Susan to trust.

magic moments

IMG_1883It’s a tough call. You’ll either love references to John Smith and the Common Men, the school secretary, Susan being ‘unearthly’ and transistor radios, or it will seem so close to the first televised episode it is unbearable. Rather than being gentle kisses to the past, I struggled with them because the context I listen to the adventure is with a view to reading, watching and listening to stories in as appropriate an order as I can be fussed with. It becomes a regular distraction that takes you away from the story at hand.

There are some touching character moments throughout. Susan is constantly making friends and feeling a sense of betrayal as people turn on her. But why are they turning on her? And how long will it be before those closest to her turn against her too?

Carole Ann Ford is still a wonderful reader, with the Doctor being given an adventure of his own here as the piece is written in the third person, rather than the first person of the Big Finish ‘Companion Chronicles’. I still enjoy her William Hartnell voice and the story does a good job of weaving the fictional world (of John Smith and the Common Men) with the real world (of the Beatles).

But with a message from a Doctor on the radio talking about events in the late 1960s, together with Susan’s mental powers picking up a sense of something terrible coming in the future, it seems like there’s more to worry about than teachers taking too much interest in a mysterious student – the Destiny of the Doctor series has something bigger to offer…

Previous Audio Story: Quinnis

Next TV Story: An Unearthly Child


Doctor Who – Quinnis

IMG_1768In looking at The Edge of Destruction in the TV series this week, there was a passing mention of an adventure the Doctor and Susan had before they met Ian and Barbara. Susan recognised the planet Quinnis on the TARDIS scanner.

All we’re told is that the planet is in the fourth universe and that they nearly lost the TARDIS there.

Fortunately the splendid folk at Big Finish Productions have a range of audio dramas known as the ‘Companion Chronicles’. With Carole Ann Ford reprising the role of Susan, this 2010 play, written by Marc Platt and directed by Lisa Bowerman, fills in a gap from before the first televised story. Whilst the Jolly Lion will continue to tackle the televised adventures in order, this seems like a good time to introduce the joys of the Doctor Who spin off.

time and space

The TARDIS lands in Bridgetown on the planet Quinnis, having passed through a portal into the fourth universe. The town hasn’t seen rain for a long time.

who and the crew

The trip to Quinnis is the last adventure before the TARDIS visits London in 1963, with only the Doctor and Susan on board. There is a linking narrative from an older Susan who tells the story to a man named David and talks of moon colonists and Daleks. As the narration switches between older Susan telling the story and younger Susan in dramatised scenes, there is notable and impressive change in the performance of Carole Ann Ford. The voice she uses for her grandfather is spiky and fun.

humans vs aliens

There are no humans here, but there is a couple who have a piglet that they keep in a cot. The people of Quinnis are superstitious, pinning all evils on a bad luck bird called the Shrazer and putting their faith in a rainmaker to make it rain again. They have a market and currency, have air fish for sale and stiltmen who work the land.

love, lust and loss

IMG_1835Susan is looking for a friend and quickly finds one in Meedla. Meedla is instantly jealous of the love between Susan and her grandfather. When the Doctor becomes the new rainmaker there is a real sadness to Susan that she is separated from him, but for the occasional note. As the TARDIS is lost and then her grandfather too, there is familiar desperation to the girl. The Shrazer is the bad luck bird that feeds on the grief of others. When Meedla delivers a premonition of how things will be, she says, “No-one will tell the tears from the rain.” There is a simple beauty in this and it is heartbreaking when Susan see it come true.

magic moments

The Doctor is repeatedly trying to talk his way out of trouble. When the population embrace him as the new rainmaker he is literally carried away by the chanting crowd. Susan fears for his safety, as she believes being thrown out of town might actually mean being tossed off the bridge.

Meedla, played by Tara-Louise Kaye, is a great character. She sits and watches a burning house, seemingly full of self-pity, hungry and cold. When she offers to save the Doctor in exchange for travel with them in the TARDIS, you can feel how afraid Susan is of what the consequences might be. Both ladies give a beautiful performance.

Ultimately, the Doctor realises what an impact the events on Quinnis have had upon Susan, deciding she needs stability, teachers and some friends her own age. He even gives her an air fish, but that’s another story…

Next Audio Adventure: Hunters of Earth

Next TV Adventure: An Unearthly Child


Doctor Who – The Edge of Destruction

IMG_1758For the third adventure in the worlds of Doctor Who it’s time to step over the edge of destruction, beyond the sun and onto the brink of disaster staying inside the spaceship. Call these two episodes what you want, there’s something peculiar about these fifty minutes…

time and space

Space is the easy part. We’re inside the TARDIS and we don’t leave. It seems to be nowhere, as when the doors open there’s nothing outside. It is probably travelling backwards in time, but time is taken away from the TARDIS crew, because it’s running out… perhaps this fanmade trailer from YouTube will help clear up the plot. What am I saying?

who and the crew

In a play with four characters, our regulars, it seems odd that they should all spend most of the time behaving out of character. Except for the Doctor, who may be behaving in character the whole time, but continues to be the combination of sodding bonkers. He is again injured, spending most of the story in a bandage and a fair part of the first episode out cold on the floor.

Susan falls over when she touches the controls. Ian falls over when he touches the controls. Barbara sulks for England. The Doctor and Susan have previously visited the planet Quinnis, where they almost lost the ship.

humans vs aliens

Just when you think Susan might be a normal teenage girl, she becomes the most alien character on screen. The Doctor and Susan appear to pair off against Ian and Barbara, with the Doctor threatening to turf them off the ship.

love, lust and loss

Memory loss means that Ian and Barbara refer to each other as Mr Chesterton and Miss Wright. Any bonds that had been built between our heroes have gone from the outset of this adventure. The Doctor and Barbara, who had been getting on splendidly last time, are now having blazing rows. But he clearly loves her come the end, telling her they must look after her as she’s very valuable.

The heart of the TARDIS is under the central column. You heard it here first.

style or trial?

Ian’s cardigan has ripped at the shoulder. The TARDIS provides big black nighties for the ladies and a tasteful dressing gown for Ian. The Doctor also has a coat acquired from Gilbert and Sullivan (and so the name dropping begins…). The bandage worn by the Doctor has colourful medication built in.

We are introduced to the fast return switch on the TARDIS console. We know where it is because the Doctor has helpfully written “Fast Return” above the switch in block capitals. No such labels appear to be present for “Scanner” or “Door”, but presumably they get used so often, everyone knows what they’re for.

moments of magic

Susan and the Scissors. Scary.
Susan and the Scissors. Scary.

Scissors have never been as sinister as they are in the hands of Susan. When she stabs the bed in front of Ian, children up and down the country must have thought copying her would be a great idea. Later, when she threatens Barbara, Susan has never looked more alien. Bring back the Daleks, they were not as frightening as a teenager with a pair of scissors.

As the TARDIS grows more concerned that the Doctor won’t stop the ship in time, so it throws more abstract clues his way. The most impressive is the melting clock faces. It’s a good job Barbara is around to work them out.

3 reasons this is the greatest doctor who story ever made

Carole Ann Ford. She is terrifying in this story. As Susan she screams, she speaks as an adult, a child, an alien, a monster. She is our viewpoint character, the link between the Doctor and the schoolteachers and yet she is the one we suspect is possessed by an invading entity.

Claustrophobia. The idea that the TARDIS is bigger on the inside doesn’t change the fact we’re trapped inside the ship with only ten minutes to live. The scale of the previous adventures are talked about and shown on the scanner, but this is a small room when there are only four of you and somebody’s sabotaging the machine. The atmosphere is perfect as you suspect each of them in turn, and the cliffhanger between the two episodes is spooky.

The Doctor makes these episodes great...
The Doctor makes these episodes great…

“I know… I know.” William Hartnell gets some great speeches that he totally nails. He is trapped under the most ridiculous bandage, slips sleeping tablets into everyone’s drink, fluffs more dialogue than you can shake a stick at, but comes out on top when the moment requires it. In previous stories it has been William Russell as Ian playing the lead, but there is no doubt as to who is charge this time. The Doctor wins.

everything i need to know for life i learned from doctor who

  • “Where is not as important as why.”

It doesn’t matter whether or not you know where you are, just as long as you know why you are there. Cracking words of wisdom, Doctor.

  • “One man’s law is another man’s crime.”

Always be sure to check on the laws of the places you go. You never can tell.

  • “As we learn about each other, so we learn about ourselves.”

I call you a saboteur, I am mistaken. As I learn you’re not a saboteur I learn that I can be mistaken. Blimey.

Previous Doctor Who Review from the Jolly Lion: The Daleks

Next Doctor Who Review from the Jolly Lion: Marco Polo

Also available as an audio adventure – the story namechecked in The Edge of Destruction: Quinnis, produced by Big Finish Productions.



Doctor Who – The Daleks

IMG_1694Dalekmania reaches the Jolly Lion in this second thrilling adventure…

time and space

This time the TARDIS is not on Earth, but the planet Skaro, 500 years after a neutronic war. The actions switches from a petrified jungle to a metal city across a swamp and through another cave. Excitingly the TARDIS crew meet races with recorded histories that date back over half a million years that are carried around in shiny chests.

who and the crew

Ian and Barbara start to doubt the Doctor’s ability to pilot the TARDIS. Ian does not believe he can get them home to 1963. Barbara doesn’t always do what Ian says and twice seems to begin to bond with the Doctor.

Susan likes flowers and likes to draw flowers. She doesn’t like running through the jungle alone in the dark (clearly it isn’t like walking home from school in the dark, which she liked not too long ago). Susan falls over more than Barbara this time, although Barbara still manages to find a dead animal within a few minutes of walking out onto this new world. When Barbara does take a tumble she nearly injures a new love interest.

The Doctor gets quite badly ill by radiation and is quite happy to sabotage his own ship to get his own way. Again he is somewhere between old sod and playfully bonkers, Hartnell lights up the screen with every scene. He considers himself to be too old to be a pioneer, but was once among his own people.

humans vs aliens

The Daleks are inside metal machines, they are badly mutated, so badly they are not for the eyes of ladies. At this stage in their history the Daleks shoot to paralyse rather than kill. They plot, scheme and pat each other on the back a surprising amount.

On the other hand, Thals are “perfect” and the ladies can’t keep their eyes off them. At this stage in their history they are pacifists. They are awkward, flirt and mock each other a surprising amount.

As for Susan, she climbs a tree for no obvious reason, then later falls over in Dyoni’s cape, again for no obvious reason. She’s a crazy kid.

love, lust and loss

Doctor Who's first alien woman - the Jolly Lion is in love with space travel already...
Doctor Who’s first alien woman – the Jolly Lion is in love with space travel already…

Susan loves Alydon. Dyoni loves Alydon. Alydon probably loves Dyoni – he’s prepared to get into fisticuffs to save her from that awful Mr Chesterton. The Jolly Lion certainly loves Dyoni, these alien girls are what space travel is all about. It’s a step up from the cavegirls.

There’s a wonderful moment where Alydon goes a bit Britney when talking about Susan, describing her as “no longer a child, not yet a woman” much to Dyoni’s disgust. The Thal chaps are all on hand with a camp nudge nudge wink wink ooh get her reaction. They seem like such a fun community.

Ian and Barbara may be wonderful together but Barbara loves Ganatus. And so the first holiday romance begins. As they head through sinister swamp and filthy caves Ganatus uses Barbara’s thigh as a pillow, holds hands with her through the dark caverns and flirts with her playfully. Ganatus fast becomes your favourite Thal when ribbing Barbara shamelessly for her pessimistic attitude before telling her that he won’t use a custom from her planet of “ladies first” when crawling through tunnels. Quite when he found time to sit down with Ian to discuss Earth customs one dreads to think. Still, the goodbye kiss is surprising passion from these early episodes.

Sadly with the Daleks on the scene the body count is high. Spectacular deaths happen away from the metal nasties though, as Elyon falls into a whirlpool with splendid special effects and Antodus falls off a cliff in the series first literal cliffhanger ending to the sixth episode (although audiences had to wait a week to find he sacrificed himself to save Ian – thank goodness!).

style or trial?

There’s some great lighting in a scene with a geiger counter. All very dark around Hartnell as he plays science for a while, it’s in these scenes that he really shines. But the as live recording has an impact on the dialogue, “It’s possible they may have been anti-radiation gloves… I mean drugs.” A spectacular fluffed line, the anti-radiation gloves are the highlight here.

When the Daleks get their hands on the drugs (but not the gloves, which would be no use to creatures with guns and plungers) they start to go mad, leading to some more stylish effects for the point of view of a Dalek going bananas.

Thal trousers are also stylish, with the wetlook trousers so popular today, with regular holes cut up the sides, presumably to show off their perfect figures. Barbara can’t wait to get into a pair. Meanwhile, Ian continues to persuade me that life as an action hero demands a tie and a cardigan.

That said, the story isn’t all good. Nothing happens for such a long time, and a good ten minute are spent watching Ian and his team assess a cliff and jump to the other side. It’s both marvellous and tedious television all at once. What it lacks in pace it makes up for in special effects, with a swamp monster in the fifth episode, and the contents of the Dalek suggested beneath a blanket an episode before, allow for some horror to slip into the show.

moments of magic

“There wasn’t much furniture,” says Barbara, trying to be helpful. Ian shoots her down in flames, then later finds the Daleks have useful modern art about the city that can be thrown down lift shafts. Quite why remains a mystery.

The TARDIS crew mime ‘trying to get someone’s attention through glass’

When the four regulars are together the show is a treat, not least in the wonderful Dalek city sets. I’m particularly fond of the four of them stood at a window trying to get the attention of the Thals outside. Again later, in the oddest of cliffhanger endings, Ian announces that the fluid link they need to find to escape is back in the Dalek city. The camera helpfully pans along each of our heroes to see them turn and look towards the city in horror, one at a time. Magical madness.

3 reasons this is the greatest doctor who story ever made

Barbara exploring the Dalek city, going deeper underground, alone, vulnerable and on an alien world for the first time. Her bravery is incredible, but her reactions to what she finds is like nothing you’ll see on the small screen. A perfect reaction to a monster that changed the future of the series overnight.

Ian inside a Dalek casing. Already the tone for the series is set, with the regulars getting locked up and having to escape on a weekly basis. Here they have a plan, capture a Dalek, scoop out the contents, slip Ian inside and let him escort them to safety. As they magnetise the floor, so Ian can’t get out. There’s fire, there’s a lift shaft, there’s metal and there’s a man in a cardigan who wants to get home. Fantastic.

Ian’s other great moment comes in showing the Thals they have to fight. Firstly he reasons with the Doctor and Barbara that the Thals will need a motive to fight, then he tries to strike a nerve. Taking Dyoni by the arm he marches her off to the Daleks in trade for the fluid link. Fortunately Alydon punches him, otherwise goodness knows what would have happened to poor Dyoni.

everything i need to know for life i learned from doctor who

  • “The mind will always triumph.”

You can think your way out of anything. As long as there’s a man in a cardigan who will rescue you when thinking gets you captured and pinned to a wall.

  • “There is no indignity in being afraid to die, but there is a terrible shame in being afraid to live.”

If you’re the hottest in your group of friends, you’ll probably live to the end of the adventure. If you’re the campest or the coward, change your circle of friends until you’re the hottest. It’s the only way to survive.

  • “If only there’d been some other way.”

If there’s a chance you can resolve your problems without killing everyone, it would probably be for the best to do so.

Previous Doctor Who Review from the Jolly Lion: An Unearthly Child

Next Doctor Who Review from the Jolly Lion: The Edge of Destruction


Teignmouth Drama Festival 2013

The 17th Teignmouth Drama FestivalThe Teignmouth Drama Festival ran from Thursday 21 March 2013 to Saturday 23 March 2013, seeing eleven productions from seven groups show off the best of local talent.

The Jolly Lion may have just got back from his trip to Cardiff, but adjudicator Sandra Wynne had ventured from North Wales to brave the storms Teignmouth had to offer alongside the feast of theatricals.

On the Thursday night audiences were treated to a double bill from the TYKES of Teignmouth, who presented “Arbeit Macht Frei” directed by Oli Bates and “Mobile Phone” directed by Alice Donnellan, both plays were written by Paul King. Wynne was impressed by the TYKES, commenting that both plays are particularly challenging for just being lines, with no guides on how they should be staged. She recommended these plays, ordinarily performed in schools, as a good place for adults to look for one act material and a different way of working.

The same evening the Tadpoles Youth Theatre of Torquay made a welcome return with “Exit Right, Running” directed by Sheila Gilbert and Susie Powell. Wynne described this as an ambitious production as the script, by Tony Layton, is written in an older language, but that she saw some strong performances from the young ladies in the cast.

On Friday night there had been two further performances from the Tadpoles. “Winners” is from “Lovers” by Brian Friel and was directed by Maggie Campbell and “A Handbag” by Anthony Horowitz was directed by Di ffitch. Of “Winners” Wynne stressed the importance of the Irish context and praised the performances from the two central characters. Of “A Handbag” she was struck by the interesting play and the level of work that had gone into character.

There was also a performance of “Oh, Mother” from the Touchstone Drama Group. This was written by Andrew Perkins and directed by Jenny Brittan. It was described as an enjoyable comedy where the costume decisions enhanced the production.

The Saturday saw matinee performances, the first from the John Fuld Theatre Comedy with “Kate” by John Fuld and directed by Rosaline Smith. This production was said to show an interesting scenario popular in one act festivals. The second, from The Teignmouth Players, was “Ever Young” by Alice Gerstenberg and directed by Wendy Hayden-Sadler, was praised for its rich costumes, beautiful set, American accents and careful comedy of manners in a 1922 setting.

The third play of the afternoon was “A Life Sentence” written and directed by Mark Seaman for the South Brent Amateur Dramatic Society. Wynne noted that these plays that highlight issues, in this case dementia, have become increasingly popular in the last twenty years, having replaced the political dramas of the preceding twenty years.

On the Saturday night came “Dress Down Friday” by Austin Hawkins and directed by Anna Reynolds on behalf of the TOADS Theatre Company. Wynne was impressed by the set, enjoyed the use of lighting and sound to set the scene and enjoyed the characterisation. This was followed by “The Witches of Prestwick”, a comedy from The Teignmouth Players. Written by Joe Graham and directed by John Branch, Wynne described this as a real laugh that looked fun to rehearse for a lovely ensemble cast.

The Festival Awards

The Bowen Cup (The Audience Appreciation Award) – Voted for by the season tickets holders across the festival, was this year shared between the two Teignmouth Players entries, Ever Young and The Witches of Prestwick.

The Brian Fossey Memorial Shield for Best Technical Presentation was won by Ever Young, The Teignmouth Players. Oh, Mother, Dress Down Friday and The Witches of Prestwick were each in the running for this award.

The Adjudicator’s Award went to The Witches of Prestwick.

The award for the Best Youth Team went to the TYKES performance of Mobile Phone.

Best Actor - James BellinghamThe award for Best Performance in a Supporting Role came down to three actors. It was between Robin Willoughby as Dave Bailey in A Life Sentence, Iain Ferguson as the Man in The Witches of Prestwick and Hilary Nicholls, who won for her performance as Aunt Mildred in Oh, Mother.

The Stage Electrics Cup for Best Actor was between James Bellingham  as Joe in Winners and Stuart Sutherland as Alan in Dress Down Friday. The award went to James Bellingham of the Tadpoles Youth Theatre.

Best Actress - Hannah SamuelThe Stage Electrics Cup for Best Actress saw a shortlist of five ladies, including Danielle Jordan as Maggie in Winners, Sally Falcao as Mrs Caroline Courtney-Page in Ever Young, Veronica Brown as Anne in A Life Sentence, Hannah Samuel as Sharon in Dress Down Friday and Dawn Crawford as Bev in The Witches of Prestwick. The award went to Hannah Samuel of the TOADS Theatre Company.

Dress Down Friday was the runner up production of the festival for the TOADS Theatre Company. Whilst the Winners of the Teignmouth Cup for best production went to The Teignmouth Players for Ever Young.

This may have been the seventeenth Teignmouth Drama Festival to be held at the Carlton Theatre but the enthusiasm of Rodney Bowen and the festival committee is clear for all to see. The All England Theatre Festival continues with the Quarter Finals at the Blackmore Theatre, Exmouth on Saturday 4 May 2013.

Beyond that, the Nation Drama Festivals Association will be coming to Carlton Theatre, Teignmouth for the fortieth British All Winners Festival between Sunday 7 July and Saturday 13 July 2013. For more information visit: www.ndfa-bawf-2013.org.uk

For more information visit: www.teignmouthdramafestival.org.uk


The Doctor Who Experience, Cardiff

IMG_1741The Jolly Lion is heading further afield these days, and in the week that the BBC Television Centre in London finally closed, he took a rail trip to Cardiff, the spiritual home of modern Doctor Who.

Getting off the train saw the Jolly Lion try to recreate the opening scenes of ‘Boom Town’ the popular rematch between the ninth Doctor and the Slitheen – although the scenes recreated saw the Jolly Lion being Mickey Smith getting off a train at Cardiff Central. To his shame, he was photographed from the wrong angle, and as any self-respecting fanboy knows, he should have had his picture taken with the sign for Platform 3 over his shoulder. But hey, he’s on holiday.

IMG_1707Keeping with the ‘Boom Town’ theme, the Jolly Lion headed straight for the rift and the world of TV spin-off heaven, to pretend to be a member of Torchwood. For those in the know, there’s an added buzz to visiting Roald Dahl Plass, as one of the most striking buildings you notice there is Jolyon’s Hotel – whose breakfast includes some of the meatiest sausages you’ll find (although that comes as no surprise).

IMG_1704It came as a particular surprise to the Jolly Lion that the water tower was still standing – Torchwood fans will be aware it was destroyed in ‘Children of Earth’. Still, there was no sign of a spatial-temporal rift or of a hidden entrance to the Torchwood base. To be honest, there was just an awful lot of rain, that could do little to dampen the Jolly Lion’s sense of adventure, as he was just a ten minute walk from the fanboy experience of a lifetime…

Who needs a burning Henrik’s when there’s an exhibition on the horizon?


It wasn’t long before the Jolly Lion found the TARDIS and was heading off into time and space. At the Doctor Who Experience a lion gets swept up in a journey watching a montage of thrilling clips from recent years of the show before being plunged into a mission to help rescue the Doctor.

There’s a room to make any fanboy glow as he spots treasures from the series past and present including signs for the Cloven Hoof and Maiden’s Point, clockwork soldier’s heads and a Mona Lisa which no doubt has “This is a Fake” written on the canvas in a felt tipped pen.

IMG_1714Doing battle with Daleks and Cybermen and Weeping Angels is all in a day’s work for the Jolly Lion and it’s certainly safer than amdram!

The Doctor was understandably grateful that he had been rescued from the Pandorica 2 – there are only so many Nicholas Briggs voiced monsters you can have shout at you in a twenty minute tour. The tour guide was as bright and breezy as you can expect of a man on a wet Friday morning. It took the Jolly Lion back to his days guiding at a popular showcave a couple of incarnations back – you can always judge a venue on the enthusiasm of the tour guide!

IMG_1712But the real joy came after the Dalek spaceship explosions, wandering through the forest of angels and piloting an odd mock up of the TARDIS. Even the 3D glasses couldn’t compare the moment of feeling like you’re back at Longleat after all these years.

Finally the Jolly Lion got to stand beside his Doctor’s TARDIS console. He could pretend to be Bonnie Langford in ‘Time and the Rani’, lie on the floor and wait for Kate O’Mara to strut in and proclaim, “Leave the girl, it’s the man I want!”

Enjoy that moment again through Amazon with Doctor Who – Time and the Rani [DVD] [1987].

IMG_1715For those who prefer something a bit more modern, the noughties console room was there as well. Most enjoyably, the tenth Doctor’s regeneration appeared to be playing on the wall on a loop.

Again, the Jolly Lion was taken back to Longleat where the regenerations all looped together in a montage of clips to delight any fan. On this day, there was nothing more uplifting than watching David Tennant go up in flames one more time. A constant reminder that once you put your Doctor Who days behind you, there’s plenty of time for Shakespeare and conventions.

IMG_1713What exhibition would be complete without the wander through Doctor Who monsters past and present. To come face to face with the Melkur, a monster from Sarah Sutton’s first story as Nyssa, was a frightening experience, and not a creature to look in the eye.

You can see the Melkur in inaction from Amazon in Doctor Who – New Beginnings (The Keeper of Traken/Logopolis/Castrovalva) 

The Jolly Lion met many a Dalek, Silurian and Ice Warrior and probably saw the Silence, but when he looked away, he couldn’t remember if he had.

IMG_1724In the meantime there were more Weeping Angels, so whatever you do, don’t blink! The Jolly Lion was impressed that the exhibits came right up to date, here with a Angel from ‘The Angels Take Manhatten’. There were plenty of costumes around to enjoy, not least that red dress from ‘Asylum of the Daleks’ together with everyone’s favourite Governess uniform from ‘The Snowmen’ this last Christmas.

There was a treat for folks who always like to drezz for the occasion in the form of Eric Roberts’ Master costume from ‘The TV Movie’, together with a range of outfits from the companions of recent years.

IMG_1732If Christmas specials are your thing, you’ll enjoy the chance to recreate scenes from Doctor Who: The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe [DVD]

With both King and Queen posing for photographs, the Jolly Lion couldn’t help but play the hero and hope for a credit in the title. Perhaps ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ just wouldn’t catch on. We’ll leave it to the Doctor then.

If you prefer something more involving than posing with monsters, there’s the chance to talk like and Dalek and walk like a monster, as well as features on the music of Doctor and some interesting original designs to delight.

IMG_1733On the way out the Jolly Lion was more excited by the decor than the gift shop, as the walls reminded him that it’s nearly time to post a review of that 1960s story that introduced the Doctor’s most famous enemies. Oh for wallpaper like this at home.

Doctor Who Experience, you were tremendous fun and Cardiff, you were fantastic, if a little wet. If you only go to one Doctor Who exhibition in this fiftieth anniversary year, make it this one!

For more information on visit: www.doctorwhoexperience.com

Join the Jolly Lion in his journey through all of Doctor Who with An Unearthly Child.