Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Sarah Jane’s Oliver Owl soft toy

One of the things that can finish of a good cosplay costume is a well chosen prop.

If you’re doing The Doctor, then a sonic screwdriver is a must.
But if you’re doing a companion there are thing out there worth tracking down.

When Sarah Jane finally left the TARDIS in The Hand Of Fear, she carries a handful of possessions, including a soft toy of an owl.

It ends up this owl is a toy called Oliver Owl, and was available in the mid 1970s from a company called Alresford Crafts.

As well as appearing in Hand Of Fear, the makers of The Sarah Jane Adventures had a little fun by putting the toy in the background of Sarah’s attic - though you might notice it is a crude copy rather than an original.

But this isn’t the only screen appearance of an Oliver Owl.

It famously can be seen in the toy cupboard in the Steven Spielberg film, ET.

First it is seen on a shelf behind ET when Elliot dresses him for his Halloween Trick or Treat outing (01:01:03 into the film).

Later, when Michael peeps over in the cupboard it can be seen on the floor to the left (01:25:12 into the film).
Have you spotted an Oliver Owl in another film or tv episode?!
If so, drop me a line

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

First-hand review - season 16 Frock Coat

A little while back I had the chance to get my grubby mitts on one of the replica season 16 Frock Coats out there.

It was interesting to see how another tailor had interpreted the coat, and knowing the original a bit more than most, how it fared. Forgive me for being brutal!

There are a multitude of things that strike me about this coat, but the first I’d have to address is fabrics used.

Rather than the plain and flecked coloured heavy, coarsely woven tweed, a relatively thin suiting cloth has been used which for me makes the feel of the coat just wrong.

The fabric is a good quality, allegedly sourced from Holland & Sherry, a Savile Row tailors suppliers. That said, a quality fabric doesn’t make for a quality cut if the essence of the pattern is wrong.

The rear of the coat is my main worry about the pattern used. A frock coat should have a continuous drape of fabric all the way from the shoulders, down between the two back buttons and through to the hem. The skirt panels should then be between the front edges all the way around to meet these narrow tails.
Here we essentially have a jacket with a skirt attached at a waistline seam running the full circumference of the coat.

It has the tails as a frock coat, but they are too wide which pushes the buttons quite far apart. The skirt is in two sections, with an aggressive dart down to the rear pockets to create some girth, but this broadens the hips rather than spreads the skirt through to the hem, thus lacking the hourglass flare that is so typical of a real frock coat.

The pattern for the upper body of the coat has one panel each side too many. Essentially the vertical seam passing just behind the rear pocket simply shouldn’t be there.

Turning to the collar and lapels, these aren’t too bad and are a good interpretation of the screen worn coat.

The placement of the buttonholes and buttons is pretty accurate, though the buttons are disappointing as they are plain plastic rather than leather.

The split lapel has been well cut, giving the front of the coat a good appearance.

With an appropriate scarf to hide the rest of the coat (here the one my mum knitted me in the 70s) it looks not so bad.

The chocolate brown piping has been cheaply sourced and is nothing more than a cotton bias binding worth less than a quid a metre.

It has been skilfully applied, but I don’t like they way the visible side has a line of stitching on show, whereas the underside is overlapped to hide the stitching.

The pocket flaps are all simple rectangular shapes, lacking the characterful outward slope. It’s subtle but makes the difference for me.
Internally the coat goes off on its own tangent, making things up as it goes along.

The design of the internal pockets is very typical of the Far East tailors, with a multitude of sizes and positions on offer - one on the right side and three on the left.

I’ve seen this in a number of suits originating from the orient.

This over eggs the simplistic four patch pockets of the original coat.

The coat is very competently made (aside from a burn to the velvet on the collar point - oops) but this doesn’t make up for the failure to appreciate what it should be made from or how it is cut and drapes.

That said it could make for a good day-to-day wear that has been inspired by the costume, rather than quality screen accurate time of cosplay.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Meeting Tom - Big Finish Day 5

Had a great day out today in Windsor for the fifth Big Finish day convention.

With Tom Baker as the headline guest, his pulling power alone meant the event was a sellout long before it happened.

Being a Big Finish sponsored event, it was hosted by Nicholas Briggs who had the pleasure of interviewing Tom alongside producer Philip Hinchcliffe, who had shaped his Doctor during his informative early seasons.

As expected Philip didn’t get much of a look in, while Tom stole the show. To say Tom was on form is an underestimation, as he was his most lucid and amusing I have seen for quite a while.

He seemed to be relishing the Big Finish dramas he's been doing, giving him a new spice of life, which was fantastic to witness.

Talking about his early life and confessional at his local Catholic Church, he had the audience rolling with laughter as he described the priest's rosary rattling when asking how many times a week Tom had an immoral thought. That the subject of his desire was from another parish made it acceptable.

He related how Who Do You Think You Are? had researched his life with a view to him being the subject of an episode. Having found nothing beyond births marriages and deaths they had deemed his ancestors too dull to take it to broadcast.

Following Tom's interview, it was time to queue for his photo opportunity.

I was in full Fourth Doctor costume and Tom was very amicable to the fans, so he was fine about me putting the end of my scarf around his shoulder and asking him to hold my sonic!

At noon it was time for another panel discussion, this time focusing on the Early Adventures with William Russell, Maureen O’Brien and Peter Purves, all of whom had worked with the First Doctor.

It was interesting to hear three contrasting views of the wilderness years of Doctor Who.
Maureen had resisted the Who world since leaving the series and working on many productions since. She had declined all invitations to conventions during the 1980s and 90s, but had been persuaded by 10th Planet who helped promote her book, gaining her over 200 sales in a single day.

Peter was quite blinkered to the regenerated Doctors down the years - William Hartnell was THE Doctor as far as he was concerned and his dislike for sci-fi meant he had kept a distance from fans. But when Big Finish approached him to bring Steven Taylor back to life, he jumped at the chance and enjoys every minute of it.
William also felt Hartnell was THE Doctor but felt only Sylvester McCoy got close to replacing him in his view.

Asked about the fans, Peter related an amusing email he had received enquiring if he was aware that gay Whoovians found his character hot! In response he explained how down the years he had been propositioned by gay actors, one of which was quite persistent, eventually telling Peter to make his mind up, “I’m not a taxi service. I don't charge waiting time!”

I then spent some time gathering autographs in my River Song book. It was wonderful to see Maureen O’Brien as I always thought she was an under-rated companion.

I also met Pamela Salem, who only the night before I had caught in an episode of Ever Decreasing Circles, playing the estranged wife of Paul Ryman.

Finally I got Karen Gledhill who starred alongside Pamela in Remembrance Of The Daleks and now in the Counter Measures spin-off Big Finish series.

I missed most of the lunchtime panel, but caught Matthew Waterhouse recalling watching over 1,000 episodes of Dark Shadows, which he had mentioned in his autobiography, resulting in him being asked to star in the Big Finish range.

He waxed lyrical about how the original had been shot as live; broadcast five days a week; and had all the wobbly sets, visible cameras and actors forgetting their lines which Doctor Who had erroneously been accused of down the years.
Nick Briggs chipped in that the closing credits would often be over a locked off shot of the empty set, and in one episode a lead actor walks into view wearing a dressing gown until he realises he's on camera and quickly darts our of view!

There was then a cosplay competition, judged by Strax himself, Dan Starkey. There was £50 of Big Finish CDs on offer for the winner. Ironically I lost out to a friend of mine - wearing one of my Sixth Doctor costumes!

The final panel I attended was a three-in-one, covering spin-off series Vienna, Dark Shadows: Blood Lust, and of particular interest to me, Terrahawks.

On hand was Jamie Anderson, son of puppetry legend Gerry Anderson.

With a new Thunderbirds tv series already in the pipeline, attention turned to Terrahawks as potential adaptation fodder. Most of the original voice cast are still available, including Denise Bryer who at 85 will return to voice Zelda.

Jamie told an amusing tale of how Mora Griffiths, was cast as Kate Kestrel for the SOS single not for her singing talent, but because she uncannily looked like the already made puppet!

While all of this was going on, Tom was signing autographs like a trooper. We all had numbered tickets and we were to get our chance in order, so being 237 I knew I had a while to wait before I needed to even think about queuing, giving me the chance for lunch!

Finally they were calling tickets over 220, so I headed over to meet Tom.
There was only one thing I wanted signed - and I wanted him to write something very special for me, and with him on top form I knew he would be up for it.

If you've followed this blog, you may have seen Target novel he signed for me in 1977. As a dedicated 11 year old Doctor Who fan I was beyond excited to meet my hero, but was terrified of him spelling my name wrong. So when I finally got to the front of the queue and I was asked my name, I said “Steven - with a V!” So Tom wrote the dedication as “To Steven with a V from Who with a Tom Baker”. Down the years it has been a phrase that makes quite a lyrical sound in my mind.

Now I have a River Song book for my autographs, I want Tom to rewrite the same dedication for me, 37 years later, which he was more than happy to do.

I asked him to sign page one of the book, and he did a great job.

Thanks Tom - it made my day.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Alternative 4th Doctor costume t-shirt

Back in 2011 Forbidden Planet started releasing a range of t-shirt based on The Doctor’s costumes.

They soon released all twelve Doctors, and have kept the idea alive by doing a few of the peripheral characters as well.

Now they are going back over a few of The Doctors, creating some of the alternative costume variations seen down the years.

You can now get the Fourth Doctor - but as seen in the ever popular adventure, The City Of Death.

From the image on the website I’m not sure about the colour of that waistcoat; and I’m no expert, but is that the right variant of scarf to go with that costume?

At least they got the brooch correct!
4th Doctor costume t-shirt

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Denys Fisher Tom Baker action figure -
The Vectis auctions

I’m often brining you the latest lots for sale on eBay or at Bonhams auction house, a mix of costumes, props and behind the scenes memorabilia.

But I recently came across a specialist seller of collectible toys, and Doctor Who regularly crops up.

What caught my eye was the iconic Denys Fisher Tom Baker action figure - which I remember owning myself at the time. The reason I’m interested is that a number of the dolls have been sold down the years, dating back to 1999, well before the return of Doctor Who in 2005.
Some are boxed; some are grouped with other items; some have times missing, such as scarf, hat or sonic.

18th Feb 2014 - Lot 1421
TV & Film Related Sale
Harbert Doctor Who figure, depicting Tom Baker complete with scarf, although is missing hat, otherwise Excellent within Good original box.
Price realised: £40
26th Oct 2011 - Lot 5128
The Coventry Star Wars Collection Sale
Doctor Who collection of Toys and Ephemera including: Denys Fisher/Mego Doctor Who Poseable figure; Dapol K9; Dapol white and gold Dalek; Cyberman figure; plus a quantity of books, games and annuals on the Doctor Who theme, conditions are mainly Fair to Good Plus throughout. (qty)
Price realised: £35

7th Dec 2010 - Lot 1401
Specialist Diecast Sale
Denys Fisher Doctor Who figure, 1976 issue, Tom Baker figure, dressed in original clothing complete with scarf and hat which is still factory sealed within original plastic, figure is retained upon inner packaging and is Mint complete with mailing leaflet within Excellent box.
Price realised: £60

Bonhams auction - 25th June 2014

It’s that time of the year again and another Bonhams Entertainment Memorabilia auction is looming.

There are a number of Doctor Who, Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures items on offer.

Most of the Doctor Who items are left over the from the previous sale in December last year, now with considerably reduced estimates and reserves.

You’d be forgiven for thinking the solitary Fourth Doctor era item was from the massive Doctor Who costume sale in February 2010, but this is actually a different costume. The previous robes, (Lot 161 in the previous sale) had a label inscribed Withryk, FUT 462.

Lots 94 - 100
First, Second and Third Doctors (1963-1974)
Lots 102 - 106
Seventh Doctor (1987-1989)
Lots 107 - 121
Torchwood & Sarah Jane Adventures)

Lot 101
DOCTOR WHO: THE DEADLY ASSASSIN, 1976, A TIME LORD ROBE, of russett-coloured velvet-effect fabric, brown lining, pleated sleeves and front, labels inscribed in ballpoint Moran and FUT 463.

This is very similar in style and labelling to several robes sold in these rooms, 24th February 2010, 'Doctor Who: The Auction, Costumes and Props from the BBC Archive'.

Estimate £2,000 - 2,500
Sold for £2,250

Monday, 2 June 2014

DWAS Myth Makers convention -
the Fourth Doctor connection

This weekend I had a great day out today at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith.

The studios are part of the history and folklore of Doctor Who, having been where The Daleks invaded Earth in 1964, and a couple of years later where William Hartnell regenerated into Patrick Troughton.

In fact the iconic scene of Dalek emerging from the Thames was filmed only yards from the studios, by Hammersmith Bridge!

Sadly the studios, currently used for Weekend Kitchen, are due to be demolished later this year, leaving only a fraction of the site still standing.

The event was organised by DWAS - The Doctor Who Appreciation Society - and was a lot more low key compared to a majority of the glossy events that are staged these days.

Don’t get me wrong - I PREFERRED this to the glossy events as it was a lot more intimate, you you got see every part of the days events and damn it, they kept to their published timetable.

The spin on the day was the production side and how the behind the scenes events shaped what we saw on screen, with a heavy bias towards the classic rather than new series.

We kicked off with a one-on-one interview with Philip Hinchcliffe, who produced the first three years of Tom Baker’s era.

Philip’s interview was very insightful and interesting, as he had taken over from Barry Letts to launch the Tom Baker era. Much of his first season had already been planned out for him, with the inclusion of crowd pleasing foes such as Sontarans, Cybermen and of course the Daleks.

It wasn’t until his second season was Philip able to set his own agenda and create some of the most memorable adventures of the Fourth Doctor’s early era.
He made a conscious effort NOT to plunder the back catalogue and use all new adversaries, to the extent that a planned return of The Master in what became The Talons Of Weng Chiang was vetoed.

At the end of the interview, DWAS presented Philip with a well deserved award for his contribution to the development of Doctor Who.

Next we had a double act in the form of Derrick Sherwin and Terrance Dicks, who had been consecutive script editors spanning the latter days of Patrick Troughton and the whole of the Jon Pertwee eras. Terrance also wrote for the Tom baker era too.

They were like two grumpy old men, contradicting each other on their stories and putting down each other’s involvement. It was all done in good spirt made for an entertaining talk.

What emerged the strongest was the creation of UNIT and how it was a long-term plan to help trim the budget.

Intended to appear first in The Invasion, UNIT were retrospectively added to The Web Of Fear. Their invention was specifically intended to act as a foil for The Doctor and to reduce his lines and scenes to make it less of a burden for the lead actor.

Like Philip, Terrance and Derrick were presented with awards for their contribution to the production of Doctor Who.

We then had a break to get the first of the autographs and photo opportunities.

I took along a River Song diary I now use for autographs, and found that there was 'no limit' on the number of items you could get signed, so long as it was within reason.

So I got Philip as well as visual effects expert Mike Tucker, composer Dominic Glynn, and script editor Andrew Cartmel.

I also grabbed a quick - and it was quick - photo op with firstly Graeme Harper, then with Terrance and Derrick together.

There was minimal queuing; the photo was printed in the time it took to pay for it; and they had emailed the digital copy I asked for within minutes (and it was the photo of me, not someone else!). The photo was frankly better quality than at many glossy events, including the official 50th celebration.

It was then back into the viewing theatre for the next one-on-one interview, with director Graeme Harper.

Graeme gave an absorbing interview about his time not only on the classic series, directing Peter Davision in Caves Of Androzani and Colin Baker in Revelation Of The Daleks, but also working on the new series where is helmed the return of the Cybermen in series two.

Since Graeme was only involved with the Fifth and Sixth Doctor eras, you can read more about his interview here:
The Sixth Doctor Connection
MIKE TUCKER interview
Next up was special effects guru Mike Tucker, who is one of a select few who has worked on both the classic and new series.

Since Mike was principally involved with the Seventh Doctor era, you can read more about his interview here:
The Seventh Doctor Connection

Then it was time for another break, during which I got Terrance’s autograph on my photo with him; as well as Graeme's on his photo with me and in my River Song diary.

I also had the chance to get a new photo with Colin Baker, who admired my Matt Smith costume.

Colin seems to know me pretty well now, as he pipped up, “Here comes the tailor!” when I stepped up for the shot.

Back in the viewing theatre we were treated to a double act of Dominic Glynn and Andrew Cartmel who sparked well off each other.

Both had been relatively young when they worked on Doctor Who, and they had similar stories of unsolicited approaches to JNT to get their jobs.

Dominic and Andrew were not involved with Doctor Who until the 1980s, so you can read their interview here:
The Seventh Doctor Connection
The final interview of the day was with Colin Baker, who was on good form.

COLIN BAKER interview
He talked at length about his pre and post Doctor Who fame and looked back on his time with sometimes mixed emotions.

You can read about Colin’s interview here:
The Sixth Doctor Connection

With the main programme over, it just remained to get Nicholas Briggs to scribble in my River Song diary and for Colin to sign the photo I had with him, as well as two shots from meeting him in LA earlier this year at Gallifrey One.

This was the first DWAS event I have actually been to, and I must say it was very well planned and executed.