Wednesday, August 18, 2010


William Hartnell and Dynasty (A Match Made In Repeats)

I’m immensely fond of the original Doctor, William Hartnell, and it’s a good week if you are too. After showing Hell Drivers on Monday, in which he’s the villain and Patrick McGoohan’s his heavy, at 12.45 today BBC2 present The Mouse That Roared, in which Billy’s the heavy and Peter Sellers is most of the rest of the cast*. Now, if only they’d repeat a season of Billy’s Doctor Who stories as well… And while not all of those still properly exist, tomorrow a CD boxed set of the “missing stories” is released (you can pre-order it for half price). Although the five adventures (across a dozen CDs) in Doctor Who – The Lost TV Episodes Collection One: 1964-1965 have previously been released separately, the box works out a little cheaper (or much cheaper on the current offer) and has some extras this time, in the form of pdfs of the original scripts and a couple of other bits and bobs. Two are particularly good, too, while only one’s a bit shallow. No doubt there’ll be more of these boxes to come, thanks to the BBC’s brilliant archive-burning policy of the 1960s and 1970s.

If you follow BBC7, you might also be entertained by today’s episode (on this morning, on again at 10pm) of The Little World of Don Camillo. I read a lot of these gently satirical small-town 1950s Italian religion and politics stories in my teens, and it’s an occasional pleasure to catch up with one of the stories on radio, featuring Joss Ackland as God. Today’s had a particularly satisfying punchline for me (if not for the Communists), and a bishop like an altogether milder version of Rev’s relishably Satanic archdeacon.


And finally… Yes, I know I should be posting something to celebrate, evaluate or castigate the coalition’s first hundred days, but I’m still too ill and generally grumpy for proper analysis. I have, however, been cheered daily by CBS Drama’s repeats of Dynasty, which have today reached the climax of the series’ penultimate season, and which make me laugh (almost always unintentionally). This was the eighth season, with ratings in free-fall after their mid-’80s glory days – I picked up watching this set of repeats half-way through, in time to catch the hilarious ‘wedding massacre’, surely Dynasty’s finest ten minutes (even if the cliffhanger is then resolved by all the machine-gunned Carringtons and Colbys getting up again save the two unsuitable partners: the gay man and the not-quite-white-enough woman).

I can understand why the ratings declined; I almost turned off during the seventh season, in which evil brother Ben became tortured and saintly, everyone became suddenly concerned with family values and a baby kidnap story went on for weeks and tedious weeks – most spent shouting at the screen for the long-telegraphed kidnap actually to get on and happen, and wondering eventually if the twist would be that it wouldn’t (it did, long after anyone stopped caring) – so I suspect I’d have run out of patience too if I’d seen it at the original pace of one dreary episode per week rather than five. Fortunately, the eighth season got mean and nasty again, so I’ve stayed watching. There’s the running theme of Alexis’ fourth husband, the increasingly psychotic and laughably hammy Sean Rowan, with his Hooded Claw-style plots, multiple names and multiple deaths, and a backstory that, like much of this season, digs shamelessly into the series’ past to dig up threats from beyond the grave (in one episode, all four of Alexis’ husbands were competing for the storyline. Including the dead one). Then there’s the wronged niece who’s turned into the horribly inept ‘bad girl’, the miscast replacement daughter who’s at least better than the horribly miscast replacement other daughter from the previous season (so bad they dropped her between episodes without even a goodbye scene, with even her loving / feuding parents no longer giving a toss) but who they still have no idea what to do with, Blake fighting the world’s least busy and least plausible race for Governor, Alexis challenging him and – incredibly – that leading to some scenes that actually say something interesting about women in politics, before she’s accidentally almost assassinated by her ineptly vengeful husband…

The final season starts tomorrow. I just hope it’s as funny as this one.

*Despite being utterly different in tone to Dr Strangelove, watch the two movies back-to-back and they have so much in common on paper that it’s difficult not to conclude that Stanley Kubrick saw the earlier movie when he was in a really bad mood, and got ideas.

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