Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Chicago TARDIS: A shadow of my past and of your future!

In less than four months, an amazing, celebratory event will take place. And no, I'm not talking about the 50th anniversary special (although that, too, will hopefully be amazing and celebratory)! No, I'm talking about Chicago TARDIS, the annual Doctor Who convention held at the outskirts of Chicago every Thanksgiving weekend. And this year is shaping out to be the biggest celebration of Doctor Who ever in the Chicago area since the 20th Anniversary convention.

This will be my sixth attendance of the con. My first time was way back in 2004, and I remember the 10 hour drive thru blizzard conditions from St. Clair County Illinois to Chicago (usually a 5 hour drive) to make it up for the weekend. I only was at the con for Friday as I was spending the remaining weekend with my girlfriend. I don't remember much from that day, but I did have my first brief meet & greet with one of the Doctors - in this instance, Paul McGann.

The following year I was a Chicago resident and was able to make the weekend. Again, memories of that time are distant, but the one distinct memory I have was waiting in line in the hallway for photos with Peter Davison & Nicola Bryant, and at one point Peter came out of the room and ran down the hallway for some reason. A few minutes later, someone came by and asked where Peter went, and another person said that he ran down the corridor, and I joked that "some things never change", which got a few giggles.

The next year Sylvester McCoy & Sophie Aldred were the guests of honor. Highlights included a live commentary of "Survival" (with one of Sophie's sons joining in), Sylvester wandering the audience with his wireless mic answering questions, and of course, Mysterious Theater 337.

I skipped a year, and the next con I attended was in 2008. I was only there for the Saturday and spent most of my time in the autograph and photo lines, so I missed out on a lot. However I got to chat briefly with Colin Baker...

and, what would prove to be one of highlights of Chicago TARDIS ever, I met the lovely Elisabeth Sladen. I know I've told this story twice already on the podcast, but I will always remember how she complimented me on my Jon Pertwee look and asked me if I was wearing this to the "masquerade". I joked that this is how I always dressed (which is halfway true because this also doubles as my usual garb when going to Nocturna), and she playfully slapped my hand and said, "Oh, you Americans, I never know whenever your joking." Very sweet.

For various reasons, mostly financial, I did not return to Chicago TARDIS until last year, and this time I dove right in. I participated in several panel discussions on the Friday. I had not attended, let alone done, individual panels before, and in many ways they were the best part of the convention, because I got to speak one-on-one with many fans from all over the country. One of the panels I attended was the podcasters panel, and after listening to the podcasters tell of how they started, it was enough of a spark needed for me to start my own podcast.

So this year I'm looking forward to diving head first again for the grand celebration of Doctor Who's 50th Anniversary and meeting all of you listeners that will also be in attendance.

Registration should still be open for all three days of the convention (Nov 29 to Dec 1). For more information, visit the Chicago TARDIS website

Sunday, July 28, 2013

#011 - Bash & Crash

… in which our fearless podcaster auditions for the 12th Doctor and interviews the members of Time Crash, a Chicago Trock band. There's also more speculation on the 50th anniversary and some complaining about the BBC's double standard regarding spoilers.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Rockin' the TARDIS

Time Crash on stage at Elbo Room 6/29/13

Coming up on the next episode of the podcast, I will be interviewing the members of Time Crash, a Chicago-based, Doctor Who inspired band currently making waves (or rather ripples in fabric of space and time). They will be competing in the finals of "I Am Fest" Saturday, July 27th at Elbo Room (2871 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago). They recently played downtown at the Hard Rock Cafe and have completed their Kickstarter campaign to finance their first full-length release, which I am looking forward to hearing.

You can check the band out on their Facebook page.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Sexy Thing


After 22 performances, "The Timey Wimey Fantastic Brilliant Extravaganza (Geronimo!)" has come to an end. This afternoon we gave our final performance to a packed house and ended the run with a bang! The cast and crew then met one final time at the home of music director, Trevor Watkin, for a post-show dinner party.

Each of the cast received a framed still photograph of the production. All the stills should be posted soon on the Right Brain Project website, and I'll keep you all informed when they have been posted. The photo featuring Brittany and Jen doing the duet is my favorite.

I also got to bring home Dalek Khan, which will find a home at the WHO 37 studio

I will miss this cast and crew very much. They have been the finest and most professional group I've ever had the pleasure and honor to work with. Thank you all for making my dream of working on Doctor Who come true.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

#010 - The Balls of Time which our fearless podcaster looks back on Matt Smith's tenure as The Doctor, explains what he's looking for in a new Doctor, comes to terms with new series fandom, and shares his final thoughts on the "Timey Wimey" show. Topics include attention deficit disorder, how Colin Baker got shafted again, TARDIS-shaped guitars, and why the Doctor should not be a woman. Also, Jupiter the Cat makes a reappearance.

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The Timey Wimey Fantastic Brilliant Extravaganza (Geronimo!)" - Last two performances July 13 & 14. Reserve your tickets now!

Time Crash - local Doctor Who rock band!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Classic Series Guide for New Series Fans: Advanced Studies 3

It's time to finish up advanced studies with recommendations of episodes from Doctors 5 thru 8.

Peter Davison's debut and the third part of the "Master" trilogy (continuing from "The Keeper of Traken" and "Logopolis"). The Fifth Doctor spends most of the episode suffering post-regeration crisis, and early on in the story Davison does impressions of Hartnell and Troughton. We explore the mysteries of regeneration and of the TARDIS. The village of Castrovalva was inspired by the famous MC Esher painting depicting spacial anomalies, which is a major theme in this story. Be sure to watch Matthew Waterhouse (as Adric) near the end when they're running thru the forest as he's about to blow chunks from drinking the night before.

The Visitation
Written by incoming script editor Eric Saward. A "psudo-historical" where The Doctor and his companions visit the outskirts of London during the Black Plague and discover a group of stranded alien criminals using rats to attempt to decimate the Earth's population. A highlight of the story is when the villain destroys the sonic screwdriver, which would not appear again until The TV Movie because the writers thought it got the Doctor out of trouble too easily. If only the new series writers felt that way.

Black Orchid
A two-part story which was the last purely historical story in the entire series. The Doctor and his companions get caught up in an Agatha Christie style whodunnit by accepting an invitation to participate in a cricket match and masquerade ball. And Nyssa meets her twin, a young socialite who is pursued by a deformed madman. The bodies start piling up, and it's The Doctor who gets the blame.

I had started watching Doctor Who as my local PBS station was finishing up with Tom Baker and had started showing the Peter Davison stories. This was the story that made me a fan. The Cybermen return after an eight-year absence from the program. Penned by Eric Saward, the story lives up to its title not only for the Cybermen's return was kept a secret before transmission (something that would not happen today), but also because of the "shock" ending of Adric's death as he attempts to save the earth from destruction.

Mawdryn Undead
Start of the "Black Guardian" trilogy which introduces a new companion, Turlough, an alien humanoid exiled to Earth and stuck in a boarding school. The Black Guardian offers him a chance to escape, but first he must agree to kill the Doctor. We are also re-introduced to Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, retired from UNIT and teaching mathematics at the school. We, in fact, meet two Brigadiers as the story takes place in two time zones (1977 and 1983).

The Five Doctors
The 20th Anniversary story written by Terrance Dicks. Troughton and Pertwee return to fight off their best enemies in "The Death Zone" on Gallifrey. They are joined by Davison, various companions from the show's past and present, and Richard Hurndall who fills in for the late William Hartnell. Tom Baker pulls an Eccleston and decides not to participate, so his contributions to the story are a few clips from the uncompleted story "Shada".

Resurrection of the Daleks
Written by Saward, it's one of the most violent stories in the show's history, and apparently it has a higher body count than "The Terminator". The plot is very convoluted, but engaging. Davison's stand-off with Davros is a series highlight. We also see the departure of Janet Fielding as Tegan as her character leaves the Doctor in disgust from all the death and violence.

Planet of Fire
Davison's penultimate story set on the desert planet Sarn. A classic "science vs. religion" story featuring the return of The Master, the departure of Turlough, and the debut of Nicola Bryant playing the "American" companion, Peri. The android Kamelion was introduced in a previous story, but because of technical problems its only other appearance was in this story.

The Two Doctors
It was hard coming up with good examples of the Colin Baker years because he didn't have too many television adventures and most of them are not that good. This was probably the highlight of Colin's first full season (his debut story was the last of the previous season). Patrick Troughton appears one last time as the Second Doctor with Frazier Hines reprising his role as Jamie. Pat and Colin share little screen time, which is a pity. Written by Robert Holmes (although it's not his best work). Partially filmed on location in Spain and featuring the Sontarans in their last appearance in the classic series.

Revelation of the Daleks
Another Saward bloodbath. It's a dark comedic story set on the funeral planet "Necros". Davros is skulking about in the cellar turning would-be cadavers into a new race of Daleks. The Doctor and Peri are almost guest characters in their own show as we are introduced to many characters with their own sinister motivations.

The Trial of a Time Lord
Like "The Key to Time", a whole season of stories under an umbrella theme. The Doctor is put on trial by the Time Lords (again), and the first three stories are presented as "evidence". We start with "The Mysterious Planet", one of the last scripts by Robert Holmes, where the Doctor discovers a terrible secret. Next is "Mindwarp" by Phillip Martin, featuring Brian Blessed as a warrior king who wants to take Peri as his warrior queen, however an evil scientist has other plans for her. Then we have "Terror of the Vervoids" by the husband & wife writing team of Pip & Jane Baker, which introduces a new companion Melanie (played by stage actor Bonnie Langford) and features aliens whose design I'm surprised got past the censors. We wrap up with "The Ultimate Foe" co-written by Robert Holmes (who died in the middle of writing the script) and Pip & Jane Baker, but not before Eric Saward wrote a draft of the final episode, which was rejected by producer John Nathan-Turner for being too downbeat. Colin Baker is at his finest during this season, although he is cheated out of a regeneration scene as he was fired by the BBC after the season aired. I highly recommend viewing the documentary "Trials and Tribulations" from the box set for the full story on the turbulent Colin Baker years.

Delta and the Bannermen
Sylvester McCoy's first season as the Doctor did not get off on the right foot. This is (in my opinion) the best story of his first year. The Doctor, Melanie and a group of vacationing aliens are on their way to Disneyland in 1957 but get sidetracked by a wayward satellite and end up in a summer camp in Wales. It's sex, drugs and rock & roll - Doctor Who style. McCoy is still in slapstick mode here, but you can start to see his darker side, which comes to the fore in ...

Remembrance of the Daleks
The Doctor (along with new companion Ace) returns to Totters Lane in 1963 to retrieve something he left behind, but two factions of Daleks at war with each other are also after this mysterious object. McCoy is in fine form as the scheming, manipulative incarnation of the Doctor. Sophie Aldred as Ace is also excellent as she is both fierce (attacking Daleks with a baseball bat) and vulnerable (falling for a soldier who turns out to be racist).

The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
One of my personal favorites. The Doctor and Ace visit the "Psychic Circus", which is made up of colorful characters, including a goth werewolf, a rapping ringmaster, and a sinister clown. Those who come to the circus end up in the ring where they have to perform for their lives. McCoy brings his bag of tricks as his Doctor performs for the entertainment of the dark gods who control the circus.

The final story of the classic series. Ace (who by this time has become the template for Rose) falls under the influence of the Cheetah People, and The Master sets his final trap for the Doctor in a desperate attempt to escape a dying planet. Yes the costume design for the Cheetah People is more cuddly than menacing, and the plot doesn't make much sense, but I'm including this because it's the last classic series episode, although at the time it was filmed, the production didn't know that yet. However JN-T, having a hunch that this might be the end, had McCoy dub in a final speech as they depart which sends off the series in a grand manner.

The TV Movie
Paul McGann's only television appearance as the Doctor. His performance is the only highlight in the movie, although Daphnie Ashbrook's portrayal as would-be companion Grace was quite good, and Sylvester McCoy has a chance to pass the torch to his successor in a fine manner. The less said about Eric Roberts' portrayal as The Master the better. Set in San Francisco but filmed in Vancouver. Quite dated for mid 1990's television. McGann would reach greater heights as the Doctor in the ongoing Big Finish audio adventures.