The last ever Doctor Who DVD release… maybe. So it was terrific to get to write about it. Perhaps I could have played on that element a little more, but this was one of those reviews where I seemed to reach my word count fairly swiftly.
I love The Aztecs. One of the best Doctor Who stories ever. It had been some years since I last watched it, so I was slightly anxious about coming back to it – but it was still absolutely as good as I remembered. As a result, I had a good time writing this piece.
I use the word ‘business’ too much in my writing. Those kind of verbal crutches or tics can become very annoying. I notice them when reading other people’s work (someone in SFX magazine has a thing about ‘thing’ at the moment) so I can only apologise to people being driven insane by my own repetitious repartee. I do try and catch these things, and I promise from this moment onwards (having just submitted my review of Hide) I shan’t be using ‘business’ again… unless writing about a business.
Something else, when I write these reviews, sometimes the words seem spikier when I first concoct them. A small part of me then wonders what reaction there’ll be to my fairly robust broadside about the number of DVD reissues along the way. Then when I see it on the page, it somehow doesn’t seem so aggressive anymore. Besides, you’re always a fool if you’re assuming there’ll be a reaction…
The killer, when reviewing Doctor Who DVD releases, is the VAM.
How to address these additional features? Should you always have to account for the fact they’re put together on a tiny budget, and convey more verve and imagination than any other ‘extra’ material on any other range? Should you approach them with a sense of gratitude? Have that mitigate any criticism? It’s a tough one (although the implicit answer, of course, is “no”).
From my point of view, most of the extras on the DW range are solid and, from any sensible standpoint, they deliver. And, while we’re lucky to have them, there has been some money involved – even if it’s a pittance. Plus they appear on product that we pay for, and that alone means I think they should be subjected to a fairly robust appraisal. But I do still marvel that they exist.
This piece, from DWM #451, was a real struggle to write. That’s why, at a couple of points, I go a little off-piste looking at the outside forces that might have affected the realisation of The Greatest Show in The Galaxy.
So what was my problem? Simply that I didn’t feel especially moved by this four-parter from 1988. I didn’t hate, I didn’t love it. I could kind of see where it was coming from, what its big themes were, but its concerns, viewed from outside the 1980s, didn’t feel particularly pressing anymore.
Thanks, then, go to pals Nick Setchfield, Tim Worthington and Adam McLean who all helped me with what follows – suggesting a few lines and letting me bounce some ideas off them. None of the trio, however, is responsible for this bit. In an effort to get the engine warmed up a little, I was originally going to open the review like this (but latterly saw sense)…
CUE: SCRATCH RECORD FX CUE: THE BEAT Now welcome folks, it’s no surprise to you
We’re at the start of another new disc review!
A Doctor Who story that screened in ’88,
About a psychic circus which used to be great!
There are scary clowns that leave Ace a-smartin’
Plus guest turns from Mount, McKenna and Martin!
Because available now on good ol’ DVD
Is The Greatest Show in the Galaxy! (In the galaxy! In the galaxy! etc.)
Back! Back! Back! On a bit of a drive to increase my freelance output, I asked Tom and Peter if DWM had any work going for me. Much of this review was written on a train journey, returning from Glasgow to London. Until that point, I’d been struggling to join up the metaphorical dots in the piece, but then – mainly because I had little else to occupy my time – I kind of cracked it.
Tom, upon receiving it, told me, “I’m very happy with that one!” (which, I always think, implies he’s not so keen on my other stuff) while Peter said it was the best review I’d written for them. That was nice.
When DWM #449 was published, online someone opined: “I thought the Graham Kibble White review of Death to the Daleks was dreadful. It felt like it was cut and pasted from a larger article and ended up in the magazine as disjointed paragraphs , it seemed very odd.”
While Gary Gillatt was busy with the Mara boxset, I snuck back into the DVD reviewing pages with this.
Reviewing the three stories in the format I opted for here took a small leap in imagination, chunking it up into three mini-reviews rather than one narrative. Since then, where possible, I’ve inserted lists and the like in the copy, cos I think it’s good to break up the flow.
This is from DWM #433 and presented here with an additional joke about Toby Hadoke, which was excised from the finished piece presumably due to grounds of quality (ie. lack of). Continue reading →
Unsurprisingly, following on from my last post, this became my final regular DVD review. It’s from DWM #428, which was – bizarrely – a soap opera-themed edition. As it happened, Chris Hughes and myself wrote the lead feature in that issue, an essay on how comparable, if at all, Doctor Who is to the likes of EastEnders or Corrie. But that’s not for this blog.
Let’s get back to me quitting…
I’d been reviewing the DVD releases for about a year. A year of spending all my lunchbreaks watching or writing about Doctor Who. Often weekends too. Whether you think my stuff was any good or not, those reviews were incredibly densely written. It’s very labour intensive. I don’t think it’s speaking out of turn to reveal that my predecessor/successor Gary Gillatt feels the same about the job. You’re competing with decades of fan-writing, trying to find new threads, new arguments…
And so I told Tom and Peter at DWM I wanted to stop. At least doing it regularly. So far I’ve returned to write one other DVD review, and there may be more… there may not. For me, it’s more fun reviewing the current series on TV. In some ways, that’s more of a challenge. You can’t be as irreverent, it’s a more political situation, it’s a quicker churn and – well – it’s just more alive.
Having made the decision this was to be my swansong, I then cocked it up by referring to the character of Sir Colin as “Sir Charles” throughout (corrected here).
It sounds mealy-mouthed, but the big, box set releases hastened my demise as DWM‘s regular DVD reviewer. Just too much stuff to wade through, and a little soul destroying watching a zillion DVD extras that were often neither very good, nor very bad.