Published on December 29th, 2011 | by Christian Cawley
2011 Review of the Doctor Who Year
So with the Christmas special out of the way it can only mean one thing: it’s almost time to say goodbye to 2011. The past 12 months have been strange for Doctor Who fans, with a combination of two “runs” for the series getting everyone excited and the sad losses of Nicholas Courtney and Lis Sladen (not to mention Dalek voice master Roy Skelton) resulting in some amazing reactions across the news, media and social networks such as Twitter.
But while those are all the big things that we might remember now, how did 2011 itself shape up at the time? Just as ABBA were never part of the disco scene but are regularly featured on 1970s nostalgia shows as being just that, will our memories play tricks on us when we look back on 2011?
There’s only one way to find out. We’ve trawled through the archives of 2011 to see what our most-read stories were month by month. The results might come as something of a surprise…
Back in January, the news that chromadot technology was being used by the Restoration Team to build colour versions of episodes previously only available in black and white stirred plenty of interest, especially when it was speculated on that this might resolve the problem of episode two of Invasion of the Dinosaurs being unavailable in colour. Sadly the use of chromadots – visual interference which contains information that can be used to convert footage to colour – depends entirely on the way in which old episodes were copied into black and white before being shipped overseas. As we now know, the offending Invasion of the Dinosaurs episode cannot yet be converted to match the same visual standard as the rest of the serial.
February came along with little more than a turning of the calendar page, but as the month drew on it suddenly become one of those that you will never forget. It was the month that we learned that Nicholas Courtney, the man who brought Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart to life with such colour and vigour all those years ago, had died aged 81.
Courtney loved Doctor Who, he loved the fans and we all loved him, and his loss was so sad (although it was known that he had been of ill-health for some years).
Tributes were made from all corners of the Whoniverse, around the world, news reports came from all corners of the globe, and remarkably the loss of the Brig was at one point the fifth most popular trending topic on Twitter.
Readers of Kasterborous were more than ready for a slightly surreal turn to events the following month when we reported on the interesting story of Steven Clarke, a man who claims that he created Davros for a BBC competition in the early 1970s. His claims are backed up by paperwork and the interesting legal situation that surrounds the character.
It isn’t for us to judge one way or another, of course, so we’ll leave it entirely up to you to make your own mind up. Suffice to say that the BBC deny the claims but as the case (which has been ongoing for years) is yet to reach court or a settlement we can’t say too much about it!
April was a month that no Doctor Who fan will forget, not least for the remarkable teasing from Steven Moffat on the death of one of the show’s regular characters in the first episode of the new series. But who could have foretold – given The Grand Moff’s claims that it was a real death – that the Doctor would be killed in The Impossible Astronaut? Such was the fervour created in fandom that a few hints about Day of the Moon ended up being our most popular single article in April…
…but of course our coverage of the sad, sad loss of Elisabeth Sladen was the big story of the month. This covered several articles that were read hundreds of times, and we’ve collected them together with the Goodbye Sarah Jane Smith tag.
Of course, life goes on in the Whoniverse and what better way to counter the sadness of April than with Neil Gaiman’s wonderful The Doctor’s Wife in which the Doctor got to have a conversation with the TARDIS in human form without wishing “really, really hard”. The reaction to the episode – which guest starred Suranne Jones and Michael Sheen – was nothing short of amazing, even for those of us familiar with Gaiman’s work. We should pay credit to the writer a second time, actually – thanks to his retweeting our round-up of reviews for the episode this proved to be one of our most-read articles of 2011 and a clear winner in May.
Unsurprisingly, the confusion surrounding the existence and scheduling of Series 7 proved to be the most-read article on Kasterborous of the year (and since the surprise “regeneration” in The Stolen Earth back in 2008). Thanks to some scurrilous reporting in Private Eye magazine, it seemed that there was set to be a delay with the commissioning of a new series of Doctor Who. New theatre commitments by the stars and Matt Smith’s trips to Hollywood didn’t help the situation!
For our part, we possibly contributed to this being blown up into a much bigger story than it really was. Interestingly Premier PR – who I deal with regularly in a professional capacity – were adamant that no announcement was set to be made by the BBC, which makes Steven Moffat’s subsequent announcement via Twitter an hour or so later particularly remarkable and certainly unprecedented. Of course, we won’t have been the only ones knocking on that particular door…
So if we gave you a scare with our forthright reporting of what was really just a storm in a teacup, do accept our apologies!
As early as July we were hankering after spoilers for the coming episodes of Doctor Who thanks to the decision to split the series either side of the summer break. The resulting interest lead to this minor Christmas spoiler being revealed, pre-empting the final scene of The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe.
Of course, some of you were in complete denial that we would see the Ponds in the episode, despite this clear photographic evidence to the contrary…
Doctor Who has had a troubled history. Throughout its lifespan it has been at risk of cancellation, with 1966, 1970 and 1985 being particularly fraught. Many would have us believe that now is one such time. Back in August Den of Geek’s readers were treated to James T. Cornish’s thoughts on the situation which were in reality blown up out of all proportion.
It’s an interesting fact about fans that many of us can’t help but think the worst about our favorite show. Airlock Alpha had a similar topic for discussion recently, and while the BBC were slow to play its hand concerning Series 7 this year our constant worry about the future of this television show is remarkable.
The real problem about July’s spoiler picture was of course the fact that it revealed that Amy and Rory haven’t completely left the show, as suggested in The God Complex. Indeed, they would be back a couple of weeks later!
As Doctor Who returned to our screens in September, we were treated to the first episodes in the autumn months in nearly 30 years. It was quite refreshing and of course it makes perfect sense that The Grand Moff should want to move the show into the darker nights of winter months in order to grab the audience once again.
Back to Amy and Rory though – wasn’t it a nice departure?
On Friday 28th October 2011 the Doctor Who Experience in London began a new Halloween-themed spectacle which it promoted with Peg Dolls from Mark Gatiss’ Night Terrors.
The draw of the event combined with the school holidays and these macabre creatures seen on TV just a few weeks before was enough to make this the most popular item on Kasterborous in October (resulting in much scratching of heads and questions on who our audience actually is).
Of course it should have come as no surprise. These are excellent images, stunning and creepy in equal measure and testament to Gatiss’ episode that people should be queuing up to see them in the flesh.
Moving on now to November, when the Whoniverse was stunned into simultaneous excitement and dread when a director that only Harry Potter fans had heard of announced that he was developing a Doctor Who movie with BBC Worldwide.
As rumours flew and the BBC tried to get its story straight (and fair enough too – it’s a big organization) we waited a day or so before pulling together all of the available information to present a clear appreciation of the situation. Clear enough to prove our most popular article of the month, at least!
Despite a new episode and a widely read review of the Christmas adventure, Whovians will recall December 2011 as the month in which lost Doctor Who episodes – long presumed wiped – were revealed at a special BFI screening. Titles of the rediscovered episodes (stored in a box for years after being picked up at a fete in the early 1980s) were leaked just before the event as being Galaxy Four episode three and The Underwater Menace episode two, and thanks to a good friend of the site we were able to let fans know as the story broke!
Both episodes are set to be released in a new, polished version on DVD during 2012, a release no fan can miss!