The Eleven Faces of Doctor Who

The Five Faces of Doctor Who was a series of repeats organised by John Nathan-Turner, broadcast in November 1981. He chose five of the adventures from the first four Doctors. The stories he chose were:

An Unearthly Child (William Hartnell’s first story from 1963)
The Krotons (Patrick Troughton, 1968)
Carnival of Monsters (Jon Pertwee, 1973)
The Three Doctors (Jon Pertwee, Patrick Troughton and William Hartnell, 1972)
Logopolis (Tom Baker’s final story – included because as of that time it was the only one to feature a glimpse of the new Doctor Peter Davison, 1981)

Since we are celebrating the grand 50th anniversary of Doctor Who this year my friend Philip and I decided to while away a long car journey last week by debating our Eleven Faces of Doctor Who in the hope that Steven Moffat decides to resurrect this innovative way to run repeats. These are my choices and alongside my own personal choice, I’ve also documented what I think the BBC will probably run with.

FIRST DOCTOR (William Hartnell) The BBC would have to run with An Unearthly Child because it’s where it all started. Personally I’d love to see The Time Meddler, it’s a very alien tale and great fun.

SECOND DOCTOR (Patrick Troughton) It will be hard for the BBC to resist The Tomb of the  Cybermen, it is a fantastic tale and Troughton at his best but for me it’s The Seeds of Death. It was the first video I ever purchased and a great opportunity to show the Ice Warriors.

THIRD DOCTOR (Jon Pertwee) In this anniversary year the BBC will incorrectly choose The Three Doctors as it was broadcast for the 10th anniversary in 1973 but viewers would appreciate The Daemons more which contains all of the successful hallmarks of the Pertwee era and Roger Delgado’s Master at his macabre best.

FOURTH DOCTOR (Tom Baker) In my opinion Genesis of the Daleks is a mediocre story with a stand-out scene but this won’t stop the BBC from showing it. Why not show City of Death instead? It contains a wonderful Baker performance and was scripted by a team that included Douglas Adams.

FIFTH DOCTOR (Peter Davison) If the BBC overdo the celebration theme we’ll get The Five Doctors which served at the 20th anniversary story and not really a Davison story. I’d suggest Earthshock for it’s shock value and glass-jawed Cybermen.

SIXTH DOCTOR (Colin Baker) The link is a little more tenuous but if they show Three and Five Doctors then I defy the BBC not to show The Two Doctors, a triumphant return for Troughton in a story wanting for plot. Showing Vengeance on Varos would show new Doctor Who audiences just how dark the show could be and in Sil a terrifying villain.

SEVENTH DOCTOR (Sylvester McCoy) Silver Nemesis was the 25th anniversary story and continuing the theme the BBC will act as expected; it’s a story that has had a fair amount of criticism but one I am still fond of. However I’d choose Remembrance of the Daleks, a smashing echo from 1963 with a strong cast and plot.

EIGHTH DOCTOR (Paul McGann) TV movie. That is all. But if you allow me to go outside the box then I’d recommend the recent Big Finish release Dark Eyes which takes McGann and gives him new direction and depth.

NINTH DOCTOR (Christopher Eccleston) The BBC will opt for the place it all started again with Rose but we all know it really started again with Dalek which stands alone as one of the best Doctor Who stories of all time.

TENTH DOCTOR (David Tennant) I think we’d all like to see Elisabeth Sladen again in School Reunion which was as emotionally draining as it was wonderful but in storytelling terms it doesn’t hold a torch to Blink. Sadly Blink doesn’t include a whole lot of Doctor which would make it a poor choice for Tennant fans.

ELEVENTH DOCTOR (Matt Smith) The Doctor’s Wife is steeped in Doctor Who history and expounds on the myth of the Doctor’s longest serving companion, it was well received and the BBC wouldn’t go far wrong it picking this one. I love Vincent and the Doctor, simply, it’s perfect Doctor Who.

No doubt you are reading this and vehemently disagreeing with my choices so I’d urge you to leave your own choices in the comments section. I look forward to reading them.


The Distracting Raccoon

Behold the curmudgeon. Sometimes it’s hard to get excited about the latest entertainment development. I’m not a fan of 3D. I get fed up with the endless amount of pointless bilge fed to us by television networks and just because I can have it “on demand” doesn’t make it any better. I long for fewer films to be be released just so I can keep up. I hadn’t heard of 80% of the films reviewed in most magazine. All of my dream projects have been done: Freddy vs Jason, Prometheus and most mainstream superheroes, hell even Doctor Who is back better than ever. Most have been disappointing. But don’t get me started on Guardians of the Galaxy. A super-powered Raccoon! I kid you not, go look it up, no link provided. Have Marvel lost the plot? There are some people out there genuinely excited by this news. Has it come to this? Is this all we have left? A superhero team featuring a Raccoon. If I could think of a more pointless animal I’d make a joke about it, it could take some time.

So I’m free-styling. Don’t judge me, you’re the one that started reading. It’s always difficult to know what you want. I try and mix it up a bit, going over loads of stuff, sometimes focus a little more on something specific and sometimes challenge popular thought. That thought nowadays believes we are on the road to nirvana. That knowledge is power and the immediacy of that knowledge and content will be our salvation.

But what if it isn’t? What if we are all getting far too cocky for our own good?

I’m not generally known as a profit of doom, in fact I’m pretty happy-go-lucky most of the time, but I am convinced there will be an end-of-days. Not fire, brimstone and eternal damnation but simply the end of the oil reserves. The green revolution simply isn’t where it should be and the monopoly of energy companies mean that our sustainable energy investment won’t be enough until it’s too late. The death of the electric car being a prime example, cue trailer for an outstanding documentary. Stick with me.

Trailer for Who Killed The Electric Car?

Conservative estimates think empty-tank-day will be in around 50 years, unless the oil companies are allowed to rape the rest of the planet in order to buy us an extra 10 or 15 years. Not long. Expect much panic-technology and an onus on self sufficiency. By this point wind turbine and solar panels should have evolved that most homes should have access to them. This will ensure that the technology driven home will continue. Computers tablets, games consoles – anything using power wont’ become obsolete. Long distance travel, on the other hand, could become a problem. Will the amount of energy needed to propel us across countries and the world be available from sustainable resources? Let’s look on the bright side and hope it isn’t. Can a return to a feudal system really be that bad? Digitally enhanced manorialism would mean that whilst your methods of communication are left open you would be beholden to your local economy for food, work, health and education, although 3 of these could be supplemented digitally.

What of entertainment? I’m not sure where to start. TV ratings are dropping, the fascination film distributors have with blockbusters continue and content appears to become more and more extreme in order to attract ratings or viewers. As for video-games, I gave up several years ago. Whilst I admire the graphics the whole total immersion is just a bit too much. You’ll find me outside taking in the real world reminiscing about the Sinclair Spectrum, Atari ST and the Playstation One. We are easier to control and much easier to monitor; our digital footprints are so large and detailed it feels like advertisers are selling us stuff before we know we want the next big thing. All things considered, and even with multiplexes, electronic books and multiple channels, we are left with less choice and generally intellectually limited content.

So how does our new society deal with with entertainment? Like any revolution creativity and ideas will lead the way. The rules have been torn down and we can start again with renewed renaissance. Pioneers will tell stories and create art that have never been told or created before in a medium that will surprise us all. The advantage we will have is technology, an enabled society starting again. What we won’t see is Michael Bay blowing up giant robots just for the hell of it. Thank God. Not because he won’t wont have the budget or that it’s one of the most mind-blowing dull ideas ever to be imagined on screen but because his ideas won’t get past his own localised society. Jaws and Star Wars both started on a limited number of localised screens and the films grew by word of mouth into 2 of the best and most popular films ever conceived. Their popularity snowballed and continue to do so. The reason Transformers makes money is because of marketing. If it relied on the word of people coming out of screenings it would tank. Natural selection.

Localised industry along with creative talent would rule. The talentless and the individuals constantly spoon-fed to us as something special would be left at the side of the road. Nicole Scherzinger I’m looking at you. Without wanting to sound too Star Trek TNG everyone in society would have a part to play and to truly succeed you have to be good at what you do. Just look back at writers past generations have produced: Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dickens, Asimov, Kafka, Milton, Dante, Homer and Austin. The current best seller, an erotic novel, Shades of Grey is generally considered to be one of the worst written books in decades but it sells…no quality control, we follow like sheep to Amazon and swallow the happy pill. The only way to save ourselves is to de-construct this mess we have created.

Even as I write I’m wondering if I’m simply rallying against something because it’s popular, in turn trying to make myself popular with my unpopular views. It’s easy to do. The backlash against reality TV belies the fact that ratings are generally very good and I suspect some of the most vociferous voices are closet viewers. I don’t see the point in TOWIE or Jersey Shores but people enjoy it and who am I to argue or tell them they are wrong. What I object to is the lack of choice I get for. Perhaps there just aren’t enough of me out there to warrant pseudo-intellectual science-fiction? Firefly and Battlestar Galactica would suggest otherwise but these are the exception to the rules.

Then you have the hatred. Much more than hate and far more damaging. Generally purveyed by so-called trolls who appear to have a licence to say what they want from behind the safety of their keyboard, generally unpleasant creatures who clearly have social problems. They are given anonymity and for much of the time ignored or allowed to get away with their behaviour. But simply suggest that the internet is regulated and users are asked to use licences and the full force of public opinion comes down on you like you are the one who has committed a crime. A licensed internet will go some way to stop trolls, pirating, paedophiles, illegal activity and bullying. What’s not to love? An intrusion on human rights? What, to commit crime? What a strange argument.

So we create our new society like a new Eden, where love and respect rule. Where we are all entertained as one and appreciate how lucky we actually are. History has taught us that this will last for all of 5 minutes before the wheels of evolution start to turn. Tastes and personalities divide and choice become king. My pseudo-intellectual haven will soon become mainstream bullshit and some cocky writer will pull the entire process apart citing end-of-days. A bleak dystopian outlook if ever you saw one, and it all started with a Raccoon.

Rocket Raccoon

Cover for the Rocket Raccoon comic.

Ernest Borgnine

Ernest Borgnine has died. In this world of Hollywood lightweights Borgnine was Godzilla.

He passed away, aged 95, and was still acting up until 2009 (in ER). You will have seen some of his films: The Vikings, Escape From New York, Poseidon Adventure, Dirty Dozen, The Wild Bunch, Flight of the Phoenix, Ice Station Zebra and that big Oscar win in 1955 for Marty. Just a small selection from a huge resume.

I discovered him in an entirely different way. I loved Helicopters! Borgnine played ace pilot Dominic Santini in 55 episodes of US TV series Airwolf. Running from 1984 until 1986 it went head to head with my other favourite helicopter drama Blue Thunder. To be honest I always preferred the Blue Thunder machine to Airwolf but my favourite character out of both shows was Dom.

I met Borgnine just a few years ago in Birmingham. He filled the room with laughter and hi-jinx. He was happy to talk about all of his roles and the affection in his face when we spoke about Airwolf lives with me today, especially today.

The measure of a true actor is their entire body of work. Ernest Borgnine moved effortlessly between genre and medium with the grace of Astaire and with unparalleled humility. A true legend, of course, but to me, aged 10, he was the best damn chopper pilot ever.

Nora Ephron, Leukaemia and I

Nora Ephron passed away this week, she was an amazing screenwriter who also suffered with Leukaemia. I hope you take time to read my other blog today where I share my thoughts about Nora, our love of screenwriting and our respective battles with Leukaemia.

Nora Ephron and I shared a disease. We both suffered from Myeloid Leukaemia. Hers was more advanced than mine, in acute stage, whereas mine is simply chronic. Nora lost her battle this week. I thankfully remain in remission.

Nora Ephron, pictured on set in 2000, has died aged 71. Photograph: Sportsphoto/Allstar/Cinetext Collection

Tolkien’s 10 Tips for Writers

I simply had to share this blog, a brilliant piece of work from one of the masters of words…

Tolkien’s 10 Tips for Writers.

Aston Villa FC Shirt Auction

Thanks to all of you for your support and sponsorship of the walk I did with Sir Ian Botham last week for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research. We have raised nearly £1500 so far.

As promised I’m auctioning the signed Aston Villa shirt that includes 18 players, Sir Ian Botham and Geoff Thomas (a Leukaemia survivor like me). To make the auction even more unique I’m donating my walk medal.

This is an eBay auction with 100% of the funds going towards Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research. You can find photos on the listing page.

Thanks again all and sending all my best wishes,


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Football Italia For All

A Rome trip, to watch football, that cost less than £100. This isn’t your typical culture-fuelled Italy feature. I’m out to prove a point.

Walking through the urban sprawl of the Olympic Village towards the magnificent Stadio Olimpico in Rome, at night, in the rain, doesn’t conjure the magic of Italia ’90. The 1990 World Cup in Italy was a feast of sport and Italian culture. For me, a 15-year-old football fan, the sounds of Pavarotti were alien. But Nessun Dorma still resonates today amongst football and opera fans alike, it unites class and culture. This World Cup captured a nation, nay the world, as an estimated 26 billion viewers watched. Pizza and pasta became cool and 15-year-old boys desperately wanted to be Toto Schillachi, the working class hero who won the Golden Boot with six goals.

Four of Schillachi’s goals were scored at this Olympic Stadium which burns under floodlights in the distance. It’s located in Via del Foro Italico, inside the Foro Italico complex, on the north of the city. Although easily accessible by car or public transport on this occasion we walked. Our overnight accommodation was at the highly rated bed and breakfast A Peace of Rome just 2km from the stadium (see box). The evening pilgrimage along the River Tiber, towards the stadium, with the chattering, excited Roma fans felt like a rite of passage. We were becoming united.

The 72,698 capacity venue hosts both AS Roma and Lazio, they alternate the weeks they play their home games. Tonight AS Roma, i Giallorossi, play Fiorentina in a Serie A league match. Opened in 1937 the stadium has held some of the biggest ever sporting events including the 1960 Olympic games. Whereas our English stadiums maximise profits by commercial offerings the Italians believe this is a place to watch football. So no club-shop, no restaurants or corporate facilities; quite a refreshing change. The concession stands, built into the stadium, reminded me of the way US baseball stadiums serve food: quick, cheap and easy to eat.

Security is tight so remember to carry your passport at all times. Buying tickets is easy from one of the many AS Roma shops in the city, football is still a working class sport so some tickets prices remain low for matches. If you don’t feel confident in purchasing the tickets yourself there are agents who will do this for you, but you will pay more (see box).

The carnival atmosphere hits as you walk up the stadium steps and gaze upon the green of the pitch. It is hard to convey the spectacle that plays out, the majesty of the stadium and all those worshipping within stirs the soul. Fellow supporters were welcoming, despite warnings by the uninitiated of how dangerous it could be. Songs sung, in stuttering pigeon-Italian, were helped by their repetitiveness. Fireworks exploded and the place filled with a nervous energy that overloaded the senses. The seats high in the Curva Nord afford a wonderful view and a splendid atmosphere. Seats on the side are more expensive, but very quiet, and the Curva Sud is normally sold out with frenzied season ticket holders.

A riveting five goal thriller resulted in a 3-2 win for Roma. The walk back to the hotel was much more relaxed and full of happy Romans giddy from the win. The streets offered mobile food-stands selling pizza, wine, beer and other snacks. It was very hard to resist and I’m glad we didn’t. Unlike an English match day this was refined and relaxed and done as only the Italians could do it, with class.

This trip to watch Italian football, calcio, was inspired by the high cost of the English game. With a £100 budget an Easyjet flight from Bristol to Rome Ciampino, one night at A Peace of Rome and match tickets were booked. As the football consumes the evening the rest of the trip is free to explore the Eternal City. I introduced my travelling companion, who was visiting Rome for the first time, to the Vatican City, St Peter’s Basilica and the Colosseum.

You will be hard pressed to find a better antithesis to the sights and sounds of Italy, Rome in particular. But this is a part of Roman life as anything else. Experience it. Wherever you are in Italy, after you’ve shopped, seen the sights, eaten, drank and relaxed why don’t you check the fixture list? Even those of you who wouldn’t give football a second look should think twice. For the Italians it really isn’t just a way of life, it’s far more important than that.


Match tickets can be purchased from a wide variety of internet ticket agencies. For a more personal approach try Pete at who will personally meet you in Rome and hand over your tickets. You can also buy tickets at one of the many AS Roma shops in the city but remember you will need identification.

Where To Stay

A Peace of Rome, Bed and Breakfast
Situated on the first floor of a 19th Century palace, the recently restored apartment is located close to St. Peters Basilica, the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. A Peace Of Rome is consistently voted the best B+B in Rome. The owners are very friendly and the prices very reasonable. Top tip: turn right out of the front door and go in the first coffee shop you find, Café Sciascia, it is one of the best in Rome.

Useful Websites

Official AS Roma:
Official SS Lazio:
Stadio Olimpico guide:
AS Roma Ticket Offices:

Further Reading: A Season With Verona by Tim Parks. The author travels the length of Italy supporting Hellas Verona and discovering this hidden Italian football culture.