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.


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

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.

Botham Charity Walk for Leukaemia


I hope you don’t mind me writing with a charity request but in 2 weeks I’m doing another walk with Sir Ian Botham across the Clent Hills in aid of Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research. Over the last 4 years since I’ve had Leukaemia I’ve done 2 of these walks and have raised £2500 to date. It’s very humbling to think people have been so generous.

This year Luca is joining me and he very much looking forward to being pushed across the hills in his buggy.

Please sponsor me. You can visit my fundraising page at Just Giving by visiting the link below.

I hope you don’t mind me asking but this is such an important cause for me. I have much to thank the Doctors, Nurses and researchers who develop drugs and have looked after me. They have afforded me life and Luca. I can’t ask for much more.

Big thanks for reading and I hope you are able to support me.


Talking Politics and Leukaemia: Lobbying Parliament

The drugs I take everyday keep me alive. I have Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia (CML) and my 100mg dose of a drug called dasatinib has put the cancer into remission. I’m 36 now and it’s been a 4 year journey, I work full-time, don’t consider myself ‘sick’ and am very, very lucky. The reason I consider myself lucky is because if I had been diagnosed today I would have less drugs available to me than there were available to me 4 years ago.

I started my treatment on a drug called imatinib, hailed as the “magic bullet” to cure cancer by Time magazine back in 2001. I soon moved to a high dose of imatinib because it wasn’t working well enough and after 3 years my consultant decided to move me onto dasatinib, a second generation of treatment which has evidently worked very well.

When reviewing treatment for a resistance in standard dose imatinib earlier this year the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), a special health authority of the English National Health Service (NHS), rejected the use of dasatinib and higher dose imatinib because it considered them not to be cost-effective. It did however approve the use of nilotinib, another second generation drug, because the manufacturer offered a price discount to the NHS called a patient access scheme. Upon diagnosis this would have left me the choice of just one drug before a risky bone marrow transplant was considered. At the time I had the choice of two drugs and high dosage imatinib. I’d consider this a step backwards in treating CML.

Not content with restricting the choice of second line therapy NICE are currently reviewing first line therapy. They will be making recommendations on which, if any, drugs are to be made available on the NHS for first line use in CML. In the very worst case scenario they may not approve any, although I have been told this is very unlikely. It is likely that they will once again restrict access to these life-saving drugs by approving just one and basing their decision on cost rather than effectiveness.

It is important to consider that these drugs don’t buy a few months or a few years they buy your life back! Thanks to these drugs it is more than likely that I will die from something other than Leukaemia. The drugs I take that target cancer cells and shut them down are, what I believe, the start of the elusive cure for cancer. Yet a government body, which is part of the NHS and paid for by the taxpayer is trying to stop that progress in the name of cost effectiveness.

So last week I visited the Houses of Parliament. Mission objective: to take part in a CML Patient Lobby. The idea being to have a single day when patients could meet respective MPs, and ask them to take action by urging NICE to give positive guidance to all three drugs being appraised for first line treatment: nilotinib, standard dose imatinib, and dasatinib.

With support from Leukaemia Care, a charity based in Worcester, I went with a high moral stance and a very personal story to tell. It would clearly be best for all CML patients and families for their doctors to have the widest choice of treatments possible, in case of any intolerance and/or resistance by individuals to any one or more of these drugs. Hence the lobby wanted them all to be made available one way or another.

My fellow CML patients who also attended the lobby had travelled in from far and wide and included a gentleman who was in his 80s and had Leukaemia for 18 years! Only thanks to the wide range of treatment was he still active and enjoying life. We had all arranged private appointments with our local MPs but managed group discussions with Alan Meale MP, who was the sponsor of an Early Day Motion (#1831), and Alex Cunningham MP who is a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer. Both listened intently and agreed that they would look into ways to support us by writing to NICE and the pharmaceutical companies to ask for better patient access schemes. We also had a chance encounter with Lord Maginnis of Drumglass who was concerned about our case and told us he would be happy for us to contact him with a view to getting a question raised in the House of Lords.

My local MP Mark Garnier has been supportive in the past by writing letters to the Department of Health when NICE were debating second line therapy. Sadly all we ever got back were template letters from the offices of Earl Howe (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State with special responsibility for NICE) and Andrew Lansley MP (Secretary of State for Health). From their responses it felt that they were simply washing their hands of the situation. The population of CML patients who received these template letters all felt that NICE was simply a body set up by the Government to make unpopular decisions. Sadly even the Early Day Motion set up to draw attention to the issue was politicised. Out of the 43 MP signatures 27 were Labour, 5 were Liberal Democrats and 2 were Conservatives, the remaining 9 were made up from other parties.

Today Mark was really interested in finding out more about our issues and helping. He listened intently and asked questions. He was particularly concerned about the process NICE uses to make decisions. As CML is particularly rare, only around 550 people are diagnosed each year with it and the median age at diagnosis is around 60. So harvesting any research is hard because there just isn’t the number of people with the disease. The committee at NICE insist on a preference for a gold standard clinical trial model to make a decision, even though such a model is undeliverable in this case. NICE does not deny that these drugs are more clinically effective than their predecessors but their issue is that there is a paucity of acceptable data from international clinical trials and this serves to inhibit the appraisal committee’s confidence in giving a positive recommendation. In other words the drugs work but because NICE doesn’t have enough people to do a clinical trial to their gold standard then they won’t recommend.

Mark agreed that if this was the case it was concerning and he would be supportive of a letter to NICE to question their model. He also agreed to support my approaches to pharmaceutical companies asking them to offer patient access schemes and therefore reduce the cost of the drugs to the NHS. Finally he suggested we could ask written Parliamentary Question through him to get answers to questions that were previously ignored. In all he couldn’t have been more helpful and supportive.

The day was a great success. I think the group made a slight ripple in a rather big pond and we certainly gained some fantastic support from the people who run our country. I fear that this is just the start of the battle and although my drugs are unaffected by any new decisions this fight is for the people diagnosed today, tomorrow or next year.

Andrew Lansley promised a reformed NHS that would give patients, “real choice for the first time.” His promises have a hollow ring at the moment. The priority appears to be restricted choice and penny-pinching. NICE claims to be an organisation that is responsible for providing national guidance on promoting good health and preventing and treating ill health. Professor John Goodman, a world authority on Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia, stated when speaking of the NICE committee and their draft recommendation in a recent interview, “There must be a reason why intelligent people produce something that is crassly stupid.”

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