Sunday, 24 January 2016
As some of you may already know my favourite TV show since I was a little kid is Doctor Who, I won't bore you here with a recap of the show as I've no doubt most of you already know the at least the premesis. What I will tell you about is the wilderness years, that time between 1989 and 2005 when Doctor Who was absent from television (with the exception of re-runs and the 1996 TV movie), though the stories of the Doctor never stopped, comics that had run almost since the shows beginning continue to this day, series of novels continuing the story as well as adding new adventures for the past Doctor's, in 2000 Big Finish would start it's series of highly successful Doctor Who audio plays and then there is todays subject Reeltime Pictures.
Reeltime Pictured (and later BBV) produced original direct to video films based in the Doctor Who universe. Though the BBC kept close guard of the series Reeltime was able to directly licence characters and creatures directly from the writers who created them, so while The Doctor himself couldn't appear they were able to use characters such as Sargent Benton, Sarah Jane Smith and alien species such as The Sontaran's and Draconian's. Today we'll be looking at one of their films that sees several Doctor Who characters return to fight a classic foe, the recently released to DVD, Downtime.
Written by Marc Platt who also wrote the Seventh Doctor story Ghost Light as well as a number of Doctor Who novels and audio dramas, and directed by Christopher Barry who had directed many episodes of the show in the 60's and 70's, Downtime sees the return of five characters from Doctor Who; Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney), Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen), Victoria Waterfield (Deborsh Watling), Professor Edward Travers (Jack Watling) and the villainous Great Intelligence along with its henchmen The Yeti. The film also introduced the character of Kate Stewart (Beverley Cressman) who would appear in the revived series of the show. The film also features Doctor Who alumni John Leeson and Geoffrey Beevers in new roles of Anthony and Harrods.
The plot see's the villainous Great Intelligence and his army of Yeti once again attempt to take over the world, this time having manipulated former companion of the Doctor Victoria Waterfield into founding the New World University, all in a ploy to invade the internet. Fellow former asociats of the Doctor Sara Jane Smith and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart fight to save the day with help from the Brigadier's estranged daughter Kate, former RAF man Harrods and psychic teenager Daniel Hinton (Mark Trotman). The film is more than a sci-fi romp especially with the Brigadier as we also get to see his strained relationship with his daughter, and the effects working for a secret government agency had on his life.
What I really love about this film is that I really believe this is what Doctor Who would have been like had it continued into the 90's. It has a similar feel to late 80's Doctor Who especially the Sylvester McCoy years (my favourer era of the whole show) but with a dash of the 90's, especially as the story is heavily involved with the early internet.
The story itself is a sequel to 60's Doctor Who serials The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of fear, which to my eternal shame are two I haven't seen, I will soon as I plan to get both then marathon all three stories back to back to see if I get any more out Downtime that way. The Great Intelligences is a great villain along with its new breed of his menacing robotic yeti. It's great to see a bit of the lives of Doctor Who companions Sarah Jane and Victorias lives after their travels in the TARDIS, and in the case of the Brigadier this film is actually a prequel to his final appearance in Doctor Who, the fantastic Battlefield which took place in the late 90's.
As said before Reeltime productions couldn't directly name drop The Doctor but a few cheeky references are made, a particular favourite of mine happens after the Brigadier has been in a fight, he's been hit on the head and as he falls into unconsciousness he sees another character run towards him to help, the Brigadier says “Good lord, is that you? Have you changed yourself... again?” Little touches like this are charming additions for fans to spot.
The film was also novelised by Marc Platt as part of Virgin Book's Missing Adventures series of Doctor Who novels, a book I would love to read one day as from what I have read it is a greatly expanded version of the story and even has cameos by both the third and fourth Doctors.
This film is great and a must see for fan's of classic Doctor Who though if you are only familiar with the new show you may not get as much out of it. But if thats the case check out some classic Who then give this one a watch.