Five Tom Baker Stories Every Doctor Who Fan Should Watch

I say “should”, but y’know, I don’t want to gatekeep or the like; you might really not like the Fourth Doctor, in which case, sure, I JUDGE you, but I don’t want you to be miserable watching Fourth Doctor stories when you could be having a yayful time watching Pertwee or the Other Baker or Eccleston or such. SO. With that DUBIOUS excusing of the title of the post out of the way, it’s Tom Baker’s birthday! He’s Eleventy Hundred or something and is going to live forever! And here are five Doctor Who stories what he did where he was the most marvellous Tom Baker that Tom Baker can be.

Genesis of the Daleks – An obvious pick but DAMMIT, it’s obvious for a reason. It’s freaking GREAT. Don’t say Genesis isn’t great, it is; the only reason it might not FEEL great is because you’ve been told it’s great so many times that you built up some sort of televisual tolerance to its greatness. This is Doctor Who at Allegorical Best. It’s not subtle, but it doesn’t need to be subtle. It doesn’t WANT to be subtle. It wants to be the Doctor fighting fascism where there is a cause of death round every radioactive corner and you’re half-convinced no-one is going to get out of this mess alive. It’s about MORALITY, and how the right thing might not be the good thing, and there can be no good choices, but maybe there are cheats and temporary fixes, and oh God, WHILE THERE’S LIFE THERE’S HOPE. Also, there’s THE SCENE. “Would you do it?” It’s a great scene. A stupendous scene. Don’t ever diss the scene. (Alternatively, pick out ANY story from Season Eleven aka Tom Baker’s first year; they are all GOLD. (Yes, even Revenge, stfu haters). Tom Baker may not having a clue what the fuck he is doing but he is doing it MARVELLOUSLY. There is, arguably, no better season of Who, ever.)

The Deadly Assassin – I hate to rec this story, I do. It gets recced for terrible reasons, like “the Master is scary” or “the Master’s motivation makes sense.” WHATEVER. IMO, this is the very worst Master story BAR NONE (yeah, I said it, if we’re talking Master stories, I prefer End of Time to this, and I bloody hate End of Time) BUT as a Tom Baker story it is THE TOP. And I don’t say that just cause we get Tom Baker running around the place in boots and a very fetching poet shirt, though frankly, that is a plus. The Doctor is often tasked to outwit his opponent, and we are PRETTY CONFIDENT almost all of the time that the Doctor is smarter, and has more experience, and he will figure a way out. The great thing about Assassin is, sure, it’s his brain fighting, but what we see is the Doctor physically tested. He has to run all around a quarry TRYING TO KILL HIM, and get hunted in a jungle, drowned in a swamp, run over by a train, AND HE STILL KEEPS FIGHTING. We are getting a WHOLE OTHER WARDROBE of acting choices from Baker here, stuff with despair and exhaustion,  desperation and fear that are so very rare for any Doctor. Also, Bob Holmes writes much more interesting Time Lords than we’ve seen so far. INTERESTING IS GOOD. AND they get the shiny skull caps and big collars and cloaks. What more does anyone want.

The Pirate Planet -WHAT?! Yes, I know, why didn’t I say The Ribos Operation, or City of Death? Well, yes, you should watch them too, they’re amazing. But I wanted to step OUTSIDE THE OBVIOUS BOX for a second to rec one of my beloved faves. It is forever written on my heart for the moment we get the full Tom Baker Doctor fury of “THEN WHAT’S IT FOR?” Rarely has a Doctor been so angry, so morally outraged, so MAGNIFICENT onscreen. It is worth watching for those seconds alone, dammit. It’s also got a lot of DELIGHTFUL SILLINESS. And if you enjoy this combo of drama and silly then you are WELL SET UP for enjoying practically any Doctor Who story.  Also the Captain has a ROBOT PARROT. And there is a shoot off betwen the robot parrot and the Doctor’s robot dog. Oh, Doctor Who.

Horror of Fang Rock – The QUINTESSENTIAL Doctor Who story. Closer to the Platonic ideal than any other seventies Who story. It is MAGNIFICENT. A period piece,  in a lighthouse, with an ever decreasing cast as the looming threat circles closer, and ALIENS of DUBIOUS DESIGN. This is a story to be CHERISHED. Obviously some fans may not enjoy it, sure, but try to argue this is a bad story TRY IT. YOU CAN’T, not unless you want to be a disengenous cabbage. It’s not just great Doctor Who, it’s top seventies British telly. Also, good game: which is the best directed Doctor Who story, Horror of Fang Rock or Heaven Sent? I DON’T KNOW.

Logopolis – Ah, the swan song. Tom Baker’s final year was a year of sadness, of doom, of heart-wrenching break-up with Romana. Sure, Logopolis has its flaws – an eighties computer can save the universe…hang on, I LOVE THAT, that’s not a flaw, that’s lolarious. But there is that bit with the Master and the tape recorder. Let’s ignore that, and focus on Tom Baker, who is magnificent, and commanding, and DOOMED, and he knows it. There is a majesty to his final performance, an invulnerability even as he knows he’s going to die. Sure it’s not a perfect story, there are messy bits, Adric is there, but there is a GREATNESS to it. It’s a final salute not just to this incarntion of the Doctor but, in many ways, to THE DOCTOR. And I say that with Troughton as my fave and Capaldi and Smith fighting it out with Baker for second place. No other actor so indelibly stamped the role as his, (the fact is, none of the New Series ones CAN atm, as we simply don’t know if they will stand the test of forty years, but Tom Baker has) and it is a heartwrenching farewell to a truly great Doctor.

And that’s the lot! Happy birthday, Tom Baker, and thank you for making my childhood that little bit more magical!

Two podcasts and an article

Hello, Tuesday, a day of much mist and rain which was LOVELY…it’s not quite windy enough to be a STORM but it is getting there. But, yes, things! I was on a couple of podcasts recently, which were tremendous fun and hopefully Quite Nice to listen to: the latest Low Definition, one of the Incomparable network’s game shows where I think I acquitted myself MAGNIFICENTLY in the field of song-writing. And on the rather spiffy Tangential Deviation Christmas Special where we totally talk about lovely festive things the whole time and no-one mentions Doctor Who *eye-dart*.

And Verity! podcast is in Doctor Who magazine this month! In a smashing feature about podcasts, which is rather spiffy. There are some extras bits that the feature writer, Graham Kibble-White, has put up on his blog over here.New Doctor Who is VERY SOON. Just in case you didn’t know that.

Doctor Who Buckety List

I failed to make a Friday Flail list so instead (and I totally started writing this on Friday, so it somehow counts against not failing at regular blogging) I give you my DOCTOR WHO BUCKETY LIST. It was supposed to be Bucket List but I typoed and then thought I liked the typo better. ANYWAYS. This is a list of everything I would like to see in (proper, meaning telly) Doctor Who before I DIE. Several things to bear in mind as you, no doubt a reader of fine taste and grand intellect, peruse this list (1) I consider the Time Monster to be top notch Who (2) I’m writing this inbetween gaming where  I’m in the midst of a miserable losing streak and this does not make me cheery (3) I’m quite tired, it’s almost midnight (4) I’m making this up as I go along.

The list!

  1. Doctor-Master bodyswap with Michelle Gomez and Peter Capaldi. Cause who DOESN’T want to see them play the other part?? No-one. The correct answer is no-one.
  2. Patrick Stewart as the Meddling Monk. Ah, the one rumour that I really had my HEART SET ON. And yet it’s not that ridic. Ian McKellen was in it, why wouldn’t PT want to? Apart from time. And money. And maybe hating Doctor Who, I don’t know. But it would be GREAT.
  3. A WOMAN DOCTOR. I’ll tell you who I want to be the Doctor more than anyone else on the planet: Alice Krige. If you don’t know who that is (AND WHY NOT??) she’s actually my very favourite (living) actor and South African so TECHNICALLY ineligible to play the Doctor but sod that, she’d be amazing (she was the Borg Queen, okay? DON’T JUDGE HER BASED ON THAT. Watch Children of Dune and judge her on that.) Actually, Anna Maxwell Martin would also be perfect and wonderful and I’d love her like pie AND she’s even been in the show already (The Long Game) so that means she’s practically got the job.
  4. Gel Guards. A big fuck off army of Gel Guards. So many classic Who monsters have returned, mostly not all that well, but how could ANYONE get Gel Guards wrong? Exactly. It literally COULDN’T happen.
  5. Ooh, Raston Warrior Robot. Yeah. God, they’d probably make it CGI, DON’T DO THAT. Non-CGI Raston Warrior Robot.
  6. The Rani. If only cause then you have to pretend in promos and shit that Time and the Rani is amazing (IT IS). But actually yeah, New Who’s pretty decent with female villains, bring back THE BEST ONE.
  7. You’re probably reading this thinking “dear God, doesn’t she want anything cool and new and original instead of just a lot of recycled old tat from the classic series?” And you know what, reader, YOU’RE RIGHT. That is basically all I want.
  8. NIMON. Another classic monster that it’s literally impossible to get wrong. FACT.
  9. Okay, actually I want some cool FUTURE EARTH stuff where this are GALACTIC POLITICS and interplanetary diplomacy with Ice Warriors on Mars, and Draconians, and it’s all just a THIN ALLEGORY of EU politics. (Yes, I know we had that before and one of the results was Monster of Peladon, but there is NO WAY a show could make something as tedious as Monster of Peladon TWICE…oh, wait, Voyage of the Damned, never mind. No, wait, there’s no way they could do it a third time. NO TELLY COULD BE THAT UNLUCKY.)
  10. Actually, sod it, it’s my list, I’d like a remix of Season 17. For the lols. My lols. No-one else’s probably.

Right, I have to go pretend I know about Star Trek on a podcast.

My Amazing Not the Least Bit Embarassing Christmas Playlist

I don’t have to make excuses for any of this, even though the desire is strong, IT’S CHRISTMAS. And this is the playlist I listen to (a work-in-progress of MANY YEARS):

1: Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End) (The Darkness) – Probably my favourite Christmas song. I’m not sure how that happened, but yeah, there it is.

2: Do They Know It’s (Snoopy’s) Christmas (The Kustard Kings) – So, like many people, I have a completely rational strong dislike to bloody “Do They Know It’s Christmas.” Because of course they fucking know. Fuck’s sake. Now, you might say, it’s just song lyrics. Sure. Song lyrics that REALLY ANNOY ME and patronise a whole continent, and that’s not the sort of thing I want to hear ever or at Christmas. HOWEVER, remove the lyrics and add a healthy dose of Peanuts and suddenly it’s awesomesauce.

3: Fairytale of New York (The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl)– When I was very young I did not get that this was not a happy song.

4: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (Bing Crosby)

5: Here Comes Santa Claus (Doris Day)

6: I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday (Wizzard) – I was going to say I wasn’t actually terribly fond of this, but it just started playing and actually it is QUITE GREAT when it comes after the sombre God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and the more upbeat but much slower, less sparkly Here Comes Santa Claus. Yay, context!

7: In the Bleak Midwinter (Julie Andrews) – This actually makes me cry, shusht.

8: Is Christmas Only A Tree? (Bing Crosby) – I only know Bing Crosby via Christmas songs but I do love his Christmas songs.

9: Is This Christmas? (The Wombats) – I find this immensely cheering; I love a proper sparkly Christmas song, but I’ve plenty of room left for the angry, depressed ones too.

10:It Must Be Santa (Bob Dylan)

11: Jingle Bells (Duke Ellington and His Orchestra) – One where I listened to SO MANY VERSION to decide my favourite for THE PLAYLIST and this was the one I liked best.

12: The Little Drummer Boy (Christopher Lee) – No Christmas playlist is complete without some heavy metal from Christopher Lee. FACT.

13: Carol of the Bells (Exultate Choir and Orchestra) – I’m not entirely satisfied with this version as it’s not scary enough, but it’s pretty decent.

14: Deck the Halls (Vic Damone) – I really seem to like quite old American singers for Christmas songs.

15: Good King Wenceslas (The Ames Brothers) – I learned the Other Verses so I could sing along to this.

16: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (Mahalia Jackson)

17: Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (Judy Garland)

18: We Three Kings of Orient Are (Mario Lanza) – The dude calling out the names of the kings is the best. BALTHAZAR!!

19: Jingle Bell Rock (Bobby Helms)

20: Silent Night (Eva Cassidy)

21: Cool Yule (Bette Midler)

And that’s my Christmas playlist!



Who’s the cutest cygnet? (and a new vid!)

So the loch I try and have a daily run by is still frozen over, and some of the swans have taken to investigating the land. And this cygnet came up to me making ridiculously cute noises – I’d no idea swans had cute noises! And I snapped a few pics. (Mummy swan was not far behind and she was far less cute and much more “hissss – away from my child, human!” to which I quickly obliged.)

Also, new vid up today of another classic DOS game, Castles 2: Siege and Conquest playthrough. I LOVE THIS GAME. Also, it’s probably responsible for my love of siege weaponry and much other medieval nonsense. It’s ridiculously good for the time (1992), with politics, plots, castles, and a well-judgey Pope to contend with as you fight it out with a bunch of other noble houses for the throne of France.

If you have any DOS games you’d rec, let me know! I’ve a fair old list, but am always happy to try something new. And I love talking about awesome older games. Computer games are such weirdly ephemeral media. The great plays, and novels, and paintings, and such will get restaged and reprinted and replicated, but the great computer games, even of just 20 years ago get forgotten. Which is such a shame.

Anyway, Castles 2: Siege and Conquest! A classic, dammit.

Friday Flail of Yay

I am sleeping so badly this week. And I know part of it’s down to ridic anxiety with the world at large. Not even mental health related anxiety, since I really don’t think it’s irrational to be anxious given the daily news of what’s going on. As my dear friend Deb Stanish put it on the Twitters “… And yes, it’s a cliche, but it’s the biggest truth I know: Be a light in the darkness. So have a piece of #%@&^ pie.” I assume she means fucking pie and not shit pie, cause no-one wants shit pie. And also the pie is pecan or cherry or even apple and not bloody pumpkin pie, the monster of pies. Not the good sort of monster. The bad sort. ANYWAY, in that spirit, I’m going to try and do a regular blog post on Fridays of Yayful Things I’ve done or seen during the previous week.

1)  My YouTube gaming channel – I started making gaming vids. For it is most yayful and fun and I love talking about gaming but don’t really get a chance to do it all that much. My gaming friends are people what I game with and only game with, and that’s less about gaming chat and more about loot and killing stuff to get more loot. So, yes, this is me nattering away as I play some games. At the moment it’s a playthrough of Skyrim Special Edition, Dota 2 games where I’m trying to improve (I suck, but so much less than I used to; I now feel merely medicorely bad rather than stupendously bad), and classic DOS games from my childhood (also taking requests!). Please do take a look and subscribe if that’s your sort of thing!

2) Verity! talks animated Power of the Daleks – This week’s Verity! is a discussion of the brand new Power animation, and it was awesomely fun, and gosh, I bloody love Power of the Daleks. It’s such a good story. Top quality Who, and I hope more people get the chance to enjoy it now as the animated version is vastly more accessible than the audio or the recon.

3) Michelle Yeoh is a new Trek captain – So, despite not being a Trek fan, ahem, I am quite looking forward to the new Trek show. I’m not sold on the new movies, and having grown up in the Golden Age of Star Trek, I really miss having it on the telly. And the first bit of casting news out of the box is AMAZING. Michelle Yeoh. And then it turns out she’s playing a captain in the new show. I’ve also read that the star isn’t the captain this time but another character (who’s also a woman) which is fine. I care not. Michelle Yeoh. Who is AMAZING. Who is far, far better than we deserve tbh, and she’s going to be there, captaining. And don’t forget female captains are still relatively rare in the Trekverse. There’s only ever been a handful onscreen. And this is sufficiently good casting news that no matter what other nonsense comes out before we get to see the actual show, I am going to be totally rooting for it. Michelle Yeoh, people.

4) Margaret Hamilton, she who led the team that coded the software that got Apollo 11 to the Moon, has been awarded the USA’s Presidential Medal of Freedon.

5) This picture (it’s actually a few weeks old, but it is my favourite one I’ve taken of my local loch…those are starlings, I *think*):


Despite it being actually freezing, I’m still going out running. Yesterday the loch was frozen over, and the poor local birdlife seemed rather put out at their home being suddenly solid. Also robins have arrived! From somewhere! I hadn’t seen any until this week, and now it’s impossible not to spot a few every day. If pretty rural Scottish scenery and swans, so many swans, are your thing, that’s what my Instagram is entirely composed of.

6) We’ve recorded new Down and Safe! So if you’re missing your fix of tasteful Blake’s 7 commentary a new episode will be with you this Thursday coming.

7) My sister, niece and nephew are doing a Jingle Jog for Parkinson’s UK. Nephew is but a year old so Quite The Challenge for him, but I’ve been assured he will be walking the whole way. If you can spare a pound or two for a good cause, please do consider sponsoring her.

8) There’s been a stupendous archeological discovery in Egypt, a new city! Over 5000 years old! Amazing stuff.

9) Though not QUITE as amazing as the NASA report released about the electromagnetic propulsion drive, which could be capable of taking us to Mars within 70 days. To sum up “it works, but it shouldn’t”. Which is awesome. And totally not giving me Event Horizon vibes. If I was in charge of stuff, we would be building a GIANT ONE anyway, and seeing what happens. Nothing could possibly go wrong. Probably.

10) I’m trying to talk myself out of buying this even though it would clearly be a very sensible practical purchase.

Ten is a very good round number. I shall stop there, and wish ye all a happy weekend!