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The New Adventures: Witch Mark

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The New Adventures: Witch Mark

by Andrew Hunt

Price £3.99

Published: 18th June

THE first detail to note is the marvellous cover by Peter Elson; easily the finest yet in the series. Witch Mark takes its title from a birthmark found on the animal inhabitants of Tírnan-Óg; those humans who bear the symbol are pronounced witches and burnt at the stake. The Doctor and Ace arrive in Wales as the TARDIS faces more systems defects. Meanwhile, there is a coach crash and all the victims bear the Witchmark, wear brand new clothes and carry suitcases full of cash. A vet believes he's discovered a unicorn; Jack and David, two American tourists, stumble across a centaur; and a stone circle is found to provide a link to Tírnan-Óg.

The book combines the Doctor Who we know with the style of Tolkien and C S Lewis. Some of it works well, but once the Doctor and Ace travel through the circle the whole thing takes a nosedive as the pair are set the task of finding the enigmatic Goibhnie, who has supposedly stolen the planet's sun and unleashed demons. More engaging are the events in Wales, as doubles of the Doctor and Ace wreak havoc, and Jack and David join forces with Inspector Stevens.

Witch Mark is Andrew Hunt's first professional work, and sadly it shows. Characterization is thin on the ground. We learn little about Hugh and Janet, the couple who accommodate the Doctor and Ace, while at the same time we are bogged down with a description of Janet making bread! There is also a painful amount of continuity, seemingly dredged from every era of the programme. It demonstrates Hunt's wide knowledge, but he should have more faith in his own material...

Not the best in the series, then, but still readable and entertaining.


BBC Video

Price £12.99 each

Released: 6th July '92

No complete Doctor Who stories from BBC Video this month, but special releases instead.


The Early Years

Ably presented by Peter Davison, this tape contains three quality episodes, plus a number of clips including the recently discovered footage from The Daleks' Master Plan (without original soundtrack!), the death of companion Katarina, the 1960s trailer for The Dalek Invasion of Earth and the remaining scene from Power of the Daleks. Totally out of place is an out-take from The Five Doctors.

The first episode, part five of The Daleks' Master Plan, is an essential addition to anyone's collection. It has everything: a convincing villain (Kevin Stoney as Mavic Chen, sporting an excellently designed make-up), political intrigue (Karlton's understated plot to depose Chen), drama (the revelation that Bret Vyon was Sara Kingdom's brother), plus invisible monsters and the Daleks at their best. Of special note are the excellent visuals, particularly the trip by Cellular Dissemination to Mira. They were years ahead of their time.

Part ten of the same story is less impressive, and shows how the weeks took their toll as the whole thing degenerates into farce. Both episodes do, however, showcase the imaginative direction of Douglas Caulfield, and feature some outstanding camerawork.

Episode two of Evil of the Daleks is captivating, from the opening moments as a Dalek materializes to the cliff-hanger ending. Although you can now obtain the soundtrack, what you miss are the superb period costumes and sets — Maxtible's laboratory, with its flasks and tubes of bubbling chemicals is delightful — the Daleks in all their visual glory and the subtleties of Patrick Troughton's Doctor. The moment in which he meets his enemies is perfect, as Troughton conveys shock and terror at discovering them in 1866.

The Daleks: The Early Years is well-researched (forgiving that Davison refers to part one of The Daleks as The Dead City!), but is let down by amateurish production and some very bland camera shots. The three special guests (Raymond Cusick, John Scott Martin and Roy Skelton) are only ever seen in one medium shot, which makes for boring television, however interesting their anecdotes.


The Early Years

Colin Baker is an inferior presenter on this tape, looking ill-at-ease and obviously reading from autocue! There are also inaccuracies: Jamie did not contract the disease in The Moonbase, he was suffering from head injuries, and episodes of Doctor Who were not 'lost' from the BBC, they were destroyed, and not by the Film & VT Library.

There are a wealth of clips from early Cybermen stories, including their first appearance and the death of Tobias Vaughan from the climax of The Invasion. There are three guests: Roy Skelton (again!), Morris Barry (again) and a very badly lit Wendy Padbury, looking rather anaemic.

The episodes included are of variable quality. It is sobering to view the surviving episodes of The Moonbase, and reflect that in many ways it is superior to the much-hyped Tomb of the Cybermen. Also directed by Morris Barry, Moonbase boasts a well-paced script, with some truly scary moments (Polly's first encounter with a Cybermen, and the climax to episode two). There are also some effective set pieces, particularly the march of the Cybermen across the lunar surface, and the decompression of the base.

The sets are claustrophobic, the lighting moody, and the Cybermen in their first redesign have never looked better. Visual effects, however, are occasionally ropey — the model Moonbase looks good, but the Cybermen's ships are dreadful.

Patrick Troughton, in just his fourth story, is already established in the lead role, and the writer provides him with excellent material. Particularly evocative is the "There are some corners of the Universe which have bred the most terrible things" speech. Such a shame that, with a base full of men, and Polly running around screaming and making coffee, it's all so terribly sexist...

We saw the Cybermen again in the less dynamic, and much cheaper, Wheel in Space, here represented by surviving episodes three and six. The creatures have been unnecessarily re-designed and their voices replaced with a less powerful and robotic drone. Also returning are the Cybermats, themselves having gone through a re-think, now lacking any antenna but with new weaponry.

Despite a few strong scenes and some entertaining interplay between Troughton's Doctor and new companion Zoe (Wendy Padbury), the episodes fail to rise above the mundane.

DOCTOR WHO The Missing Stories BBC Audio Collection Price £7.15 each Released 6th July

AN interesting venture; soundtracks of 'lost' Doctor Who stories, with links provided by actors who have played the Doctor. The recordings were obtained from longtime fan Richard Lan-den, who taped them off air. Apparently, Landen's reasonable request for a credit on the tape sleeve was refused. BBC Audio ungraciously decided he should never have had them in the first place!

The Macra Terror

The Macra Terror is one of Patrick Troughton's lesser remembered adventures. It is set in a Human colony on an alien planet, which is run like a holiday camp where everyone is encouraged to work hard and play hard. However, an escaped prisoner claims that giant monsters roam the night; crab-like parasites which have taken over the colony...

It's all fairly standard stuff, but there is some great dialogue, courtesy of writer Ian Stuart Black, and most of it is given to Troughton. The audio presentation works reasonably well, as Colin Baker guides the listener where necessary. Some of his script is rather poor, however, particularly the excruciating "The crablike creature was hideous" which ends episode one. The narrator also attempts to fill in some of the characters' thought processes (Medok "wondered if the TARDIS was connected to what was going on at the colony") which seems superfluous as this wasn't conveyed in the television version. Bizarre then that when you really need some narration — for example, when the Macra are defeated — there is none!

The Evil of the Daleks

Evil is every bit an epic adventure, taking us from Gatwick Airport, where the TARDIS is stolen in front of the Doctor and Jamie, to a London antique shop, then back in Time to a country house in 1866, and finally to the Dalek City on Skaro. Scripted by David Whittaker, and supposedly not particularly popular with Dalek creator Terry Nation, the story restores some magnificence to the Doctor's arch enemies, which are portrayed as cold, calculating conquerors. Their goal here is to obtain the Human Factor, which they believe once transplanted into the Dalek brain will make them invincible.

It's easy to see why this long (but never overlong) story has retained classic status, as Whittaker's recipe of a strong narrative, believable characters, period detail, evil monsters, humour and tragedy results in a genuine treat. The lack of visuals is a shame but never really irksome, as Tom Baker's silky voice provides the suitable narration

The sound quality of these tapes is rather poor, but nevertheless they are worth purchasing as they are all that remains of the two stories. One can only hope that BBC Audio have similar releases in mind; The Savages and Power of the Daleks are worth considering, both exist in audio format in private collections and are technically superior...

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  • APA 6th ed.: Houldsworth, Richard (issue 33 (August 1992)). The New Adventures: Witch Mark. TV Zone p. 21.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Houldsworth, Richard. "The New Adventures: Witch Mark." TV Zone [add city] issue 33 (August 1992), 21. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Houldsworth, Richard. "The New Adventures: Witch Mark." TV Zone, edition, sec., issue 33 (August 1992)
  • Turabian: Houldsworth, Richard. "The New Adventures: Witch Mark." TV Zone, issue 33 (August 1992), section, 21 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=The New Adventures: Witch Mark | url= | work=TV Zone | pages=21 | date=issue 33 (August 1992) | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=29 November 2023 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=The New Adventures: Witch Mark | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=29 November 2023}}</ref>