Wednesday, 24 October 2007

If - "The Laird of McCrimmon"

The second of Peter Adamson's articles on the impact some unmade Who might have had, if they had been made ...

The Laird Of McCrimmon
by Mervyn Haisman & Henry Lincoln

Perhaps the most surprising last story for any Doctor in the series after the regenerative The Tenth Planet must be the last story of the Patrick Troughton era, The War Games. Here was a story at the outset aiming to tie up the loose threads of the current series, namely the futures of the Doctor and his two young companions, while providing a new twist to the character of the Doctor himself, at the same time tentatively addressing the possible cancellation of the series. Had Doctor Who not been renewed for 1970, then viewers could be assured that The War Games, an epic ten parter in which it is revealed that not only is the Doctor one of a race of omnipotent beings called Time Lords, but that he is a fugitive from their world whose time has run out, would satisfy at least some of the questions asked since the show's very first episode. Perhaps it would even ask a few more, encouraging a new following into the Seventies.
The War Games was really a story of closure then; the Doctor puts things right by listing his past victories and achievements, he is reunited with his people who promptly put him on trial (though he is spared the same punishment meted upon the War Chief), and Jamie and Zoe are returned to their original places in time with only their first meetings with the Doctor left in their memories. With such a neat ending to the series then, it comes as something of a surprise that The War Games was a replacement for Season Six's potential finale The Laird Of McCrimmon, a story which perhaps sought to close as many books as its successor did, but with more focus on the Doctor's foes and companions than the Time Lord himself.
What ought to be mentioned here is that Laird is not an unused story because of a script editing decision, but because its writers chose to withdraw it having felt significant chagrin at the BBC's ill-consulted treatment of their previous creations, the Quarks. Their withdrawal from the series was a significant blow in that the incumbent story would have been a third outing for their more famous creations, the Yeti and the Great Intelligence. More significant was the fact that this story was the third in a potential Yeti trilogy, aimed not only at resolving the dilemma of the Intelligence's continued freedom at the end of The Web Of Fear, but in effect returning Jamie, at that stage the Doctor's longest serving companion, to his proper home in Eightenth Century Scotland. Had Laird seen production then there may have been no mention of Time Lords, and in fact no writing out of Zoe (the drafts still refer to the other companion as 'Victoria') who would surely have departed at an earlier stage. The Two Doctors apologists would have had nothing to try to explain away.
Laird then was also a continuation of the story first set up in Season Five's The Abominable Snowmen, although there would be some notable absences in the established supporting cast. Victoria had left shortly before the previous season's end to be replaced by Zoe, and as the new story was set in the past, a reunion with Professor Travers from the other stories would have been unlikely (although at this stage this was meant to be addressed by the Travers' appearance with Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart in The Invasion. In fact, having the story set in the past would suggest a couple of interesting facts about the nature of the Intelligence: not only is it capable of travelling backwards in time (as in the story it is possessing the Laird, Sir James McCrimmon, kinsman of Jamie), but it would also be capable of being in two places at once - in theory, during the Eighteenth Century it is still located in the mind of Padmasambhava in Tibet! Had these issues been addressed in the story, then Laird would have shown the Doctor's enemy to be at its strongest yet; a fitting third encounter and final story for the series. Incidentally, the possibility that this would be a 'prequel' story is discounted by the Intelligence's interest in using Jamie (whom it knows from their two previous encounters) to replace the exhausted Laird as its new host.
Without question, this would have been a fine story for Jamie to leave to Doctor as the new Laird. What is intriguing is the coincidence it sets up with another similar story-arc later in the series' history; that of Ace and Fenric. Again, it is not certain as to whether this motivation was within the Intelligence's realm (nor that of the writers!), but it could be interpreted that Jamies' original arrival in the TARDIS in The Highlanders prefigures Ace's arrival in Dragonfire, with both the Intelligence and Fenric introducing the Doctor to a potential companion to the same ends. Perhaps like Ace, Jamie was to have been the Intelligence's pawn, a device with which to extract revenge upon the Doctor for a past unmentioned humiliation?
So strong is the idea, and so concentrated on one companion, that it is not surprising the story was reconsidered for Season Seven (some advance publicity by chance finding its way in Jon Pertwee's casting photocall, hamming it up with a Yeti). This never came to pass of course, and probably for the better given the 'new broom' that the third Doctor's debut season turned out to be. In the end there does survive a companion-heavy third Yeti story, boasting not only Victoria as the agent for the Intelligence, but also Lethbridge-Stewart and UNIT, and Professor Travers as the surviving host of the Doctor's enemy. Marc Platt's Doctor-less Downtime succeeds in resolving the gap that the missing third Yeti story left, but for the same reasons above proves to show the Intelligence in a somewhat weakened state. As it stands, it is potentially the best replacement for The Laird Of McCrimmon, and precludes any possibility of a remount of the story for a future series, which is unfortunate given Paul McGann's noted media infatuation with the Yeti.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Fanzines Reviewing Fanzines - TSV #53

Another review of TSV from the pages of RTP!:
TSV #53
Two issues for the price of well, two really, but it was good to get a double dosing at once. [TSV #54 was published at the same time as #53.] A great review for Reverse the Polarity! issue 2, considering we disliked it as much as issue 1! I can't wait for the reviews of #3 and #4. Moving on though, comprehensive coverage of Who classic The Leisure Hive went down well, but, although interesting, the long winded "A Question of Answers" didn't bode so well for me. Congratulations to Alden Bates and Peter Adamson for "Dominion" and the best characterization of Mel Bush ever! No evil fanboy fantasies here. 'That crazy twin from New Zealand', Edwin Patterson, provides a really interesting account of 'Panopticon '97' which really makes me want to go to a British con. I shall have to settle for 'Conquest 2' however. Even if Tom Baker seems to be the ONLY interesting guest of note, it should be worth going to.

- Matt Kamstra

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

10 Years

Yes, ten years ago this month the very first issue of RTP! was published by Matt Kamstra and Wade Campbell.

The fanzine was born in the aftermath of the 1996 TV movie and has managed to survive to reach today. Much has changed in those ten years, with the series returning to television (along with requisite spin-offs), the rise and fall of the EDAs and PDAs, the rise and plateau of the Big Finish audio adventures, and the rejuvenation of both DWM and the comic strip it contains. We've gained two new Doctors in that time and TSV has changed editor once. In 1997 the series was still confined to video tape releases and the idea of individual documentaries on stories a pipe dream.

Despite all those changes the fanzine has bumbled along at a rough average of two issues a year and a readership of about twenty. How long will the fanzine continue for? No idea ...