Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Nicholas Courtney

"Chap with wings....five rounds, rapid..."

Sad news indeed from the world of 'Dr Who' today with the passing of one of the show's great legends. Actor Nicholas Courtney, an absolute 'Dr Who' icon for his role as the redoubtable Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, died today at the age of 81 after a short illness. If you're a fan of the series you don't need Stuff to remind you of his importance in the show's history; frankly he's right up there with the Doctors themselves (and way in front of one or two of them). For the first half of the 1970s the Brigadier was as important a part of the series as the Doctor when the series, broadcast in colour from 1970, relocated the Doctor (Jon Pertwee) to Earth and allied him with the United Nations Intelligence Task Force (now the Unified Intelligence Task force), its six-man army commanded by Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, a straight-laced military man in the old tradition, his stiff upper lip forever adorned by that false moustache courtesy of the BBC make-up department. The Brig, as he's affectionately known, first appeared in the series in 1968 during Patrick Troughton's time in the role. A swift reappearance in the classic 1968 Cybermen story 'The Invasion' sealed his popularity and when the show return in 1970 the Brig was an essential part of the mix, his starchy down-the-line military precision the perfect foil for Pertwee's twinkling iconoclasm. By 1973 the show was severing its tied to Earth as the Doctor forged out into space again and the Brig's appearances became more infrequent. By 1975 Tom Baker was in the title role and then-producer Philip Hinchcliffe was keen to move the show on from the stykle of the third Doctor and the Brig appeared for the last time as his fans had come to love him in 'Terror of the Zygons.' He reappeared in 1983, retired from the miltary and, for some reason, working as a teacher in a boy's school in 'Mawdryn Undead', returning later that same year in the anniversay story 'The Five Doctors'. His last appearance in the show came in the 1989 story 'Battlefield' with Sylvester McCoy, a story in which the character was originally intended to be killed off.

In reinventing 'Dr Who' for the 21st century Russell T Davies busily resurrected Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, the Master and even UNIT - but he never quite got round to slipping the Brig into one of his scripts. Fortunately the old warhorse, older and much less mobile, turned up in two episodes of 'The Sarah Jane Adventures' in 2008, helping his old friend battle her enemies The Bane. A further reappearance in 'The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith' the following year was thwarted by Courteney's growing ill-health.

Beyond 'Dr Who' Nick Courtney was one of those great British character actors, the sort of actor we just don't seem to breed any more. In a long and illustrious career Courtney appeared in TV shows such as 'No Hiding Place', 'Callan' and guested regularly (usually as extravagant villains) in the glossy ITC adventure series of the time - 'The Saint', 'Department S' and 'The Champions' among them. Even when his ties to 'Dr Who' were severed Nick continued to appear regularly on TV and in the theatre and at one point was the President of actor's union Equity, where he fought ferociously for actor's rights.

A huge supporter of 'Dr Who' Nick was also a regular on the convention circuit and the fan boards are already standing testament to his popularity at these events. Warm, friendly, always enthusiastic about the show, Nick Courtney was s one of the programme's proudest spokesmen, even in those dark days whe 'Dr Who' was off the air and its reputation was rather less than the sum of its parts.

So a light has gone out in the world of 'Dr Who'. But Nick Courtney's contribution to the legend of the show can never be underestimated and, through DVDs, audios and comic strips the indestructible Brig will live on in the minds and memories of the show's fans forever. Splendid chap...

Stuff is off to watch 'The Claws of Axos' now...

Thursday, 17 February 2011

DVD Review: Dr Who - The Ark

"It looks like some sort of kitchen!"

Let's face it, a lot of 1960s 'Dr Who' is pretty heavy-going these days. I mean, no-one who's sat through every turgid, laboured episode of 'The Web Planet' is going to reach for the DVD if they fancy a fun night with the Doctor and his chums and I honestly can't imagine anyone sitting through 'The Space Museum' or 'The Dominators' more than once. It's not that it's bad it's just that much of it is horribly routine and formulaic and achingly 'of its time' and plain difficult to sit through. But as 'Dr Who' fans we love it, of course; we love the fact we've seen it even if it's a bit naff by today's standards. There's genuinely classic stuff out there too (and a lot more classic stuff which remains missing from the BBC Archive); 'The Dalek Invasion of Earth' remains an exciting romp and 'The War Machines' is a very clear template for what the show would become in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Stories like this month's BBC DVD release 'The Ark' fall somewhere in the middle of the essential/unwatchable divide; it's the sort of story which, in many ways, forms the bedrock of the show's reputation, being a story full of big, bold ideas way out of reach of a tiny 1960s TV budget but what the hell, they went and did it anyway.

The TARDIS travels, uncharacteristically for this time in the show's history, millions of years into the future when the human race has abandoned the dying Earth and set off in a giant space ark (never shown on screen) and heads for the planet Refusis II, a journey which will take hundreds of years. The Doctor (William Hartnell) and the puppy-dog excitable Steven (Peter Purves) and gratingly-fashionable "fab gear" Dodo (Jackie Lane) meet the human custodians of the miniaturised population of Earth and their 'slaves', the one-eyed Monoids with their reptilian skin and Beatles haircuts. Fab gear indeed... But silly Dodo's got a cold and the human race of the future has long since lost its resistance to such mundane infections and before long humans and Monoids are fevering up and dropping like flies. The Doctor, being a top scientist, fashions a cure and at the end of episode two the travellers return to the TARDIS and move on...only to reappear seconds later but hundreds of years into the future. They quickly discover that the tables have turned and Man is now the slave to the Monoids. Yikes!

A giant spaceship, exotic animals live on set, huge statues, one-eyed aliens, gun battles, space capsules bobbing along towards an alien planet, the Earth dying in a ball of flame, invisible aliens...'The Ark' is nothing if not ambitious and it's this ambition, visually at least, which marks a frankly rather mundane story out from other rather less salubrious space opera efforts of the era. Director Michael Imison, keen to hang on to his contract as an in-house BBC Director, threw everything but the (security) kitchen sink at 'The Ark' and the story is full of interesting visual flourishes and a real sense of scale which occasionally manages to belie the pocket money budget. Determined to impress the BBC with his inventive direction, Imison crafted dramatic crane shots, utilised primitive model shots, forced perspective backdrops and employey an array of rather clever working props - a shuttle which ferries the Doctor and Dodo down to the leafy surface of Refusis, the little motorised trolley device which pootles about the Ark, sparking rifles for the slightly flabby gun battles. There's always something interesting to look at in 'The Ark' even when the story itself loses its pace and the eyelids (both of them) start to droop. Imison's hard work was for nothing, incidentally, because he received notice that his BBC contract wasn't being picked up just as he was prepping the last studio session for the story. Lesser men might have walked...

So while 'The Ark' is worth a look because of its Big Ideas and the fact that it's clearly genuinely trying to push the show's visual envelope, it's bedevilled by so many of those problems which make some 1960s episodes a chore. William Hartnell, here in his third season, is struggling; his dialogue fluffs are becoming more pronounced and the actor's visibly floundering, but when he's good - the final scene when he gives the human race a rallying speech, for example - we're reminded of just how charismatic he was and how it was his interpretation of the character which laid the foundations for all those who followed (even the rubbish ones). Steven and Dodo, however, serve to remind us how good and fully-rounded Ian and Barbara were back in the first series and the guest performers playing a variety of effete shrill humans in silly skirts and smocks are so wet and dull you have to wonder if the human race was really worth saving. The Commander of the humans the travellers meet when they first arrive gurns, grins and grimaces the way only an actor who has no idea what he's saying or doing can. The serial's real misfire, though, is the Monoids, the alien slaves who become - gasp! - the masters. Imison admits that the Monoids were designed to be rivals to the Daleks and elsewhere on the disc he also admits he dreamed of untold riches from merchandising and return appearances. Fat chance; they're rubbish. Actually, to be fair, they're not a bad concept but like many ideas in 'The Ark' they don't quite come off. Their rubbery, leathery zip-up-the-back costumes look awkward and cumbersome, the slightly-modulated voices (by then-regular Dalek voice artist Roy Skelton) only draws attention to the fact they're clearly created to cash in on the Daleks, their dialogue is flat and unmemorable and, for some reason, they imprison people in a "security kitchen" which actually is, for no sane reason, a kitchen. But with their single eyeball (a painted tennis ball) and Ringo wigs they're nothing if not memorable but unfortunaely not in a a particularly good way.

'The Ark' is a light, fun little story which is easy to watch even if it does run out of steam and over-reach itself visually. The split story conceit is quite neat and well done but the ultimate impression is of a story full of ideas but without the ability ro realise them effectively. But it's a worthwhile purchase because, in many ways, the story tends to sum up the ethos of 'Dr Who' from day one - nothing's too big, nothing's too imaginative, nothing's out of reach. You'll wince at some of the prehistoric visual effects, you'll groan at the performances and you'll very probably laugh at the Monoids. But at the end of it you'll have been mostly hugely entertained and if nothing else it's a damn sight more compelling than 'Outcasts' made nearly fifty years later and with a lot more money. There's surely a lessson there somewhere...

THE DISC:Broadcaster/journalist Matthew Sweet dominates a collection of brief special features which, for an unremarkable 46 year-old story, manage to tell the viewer all they'll ever really need to know about how the episodes were made. In the best and longest feature 'Riverside Story' Sweet takes Purves back to the tiny Riverside studios in London where many early episodes were recorded. I'm a big fan of these 'Now and Then'-type location features which crop up on the DVDs of outside-filming-heavy stories and to be honest I'd like to have seen a bit more of the Studios themselves rather than the talking head bits with Purves and Imison which do, at least, serve as decent 'making of' material. 'All's Wells That Ends Wells' looks at the influence of the works of HG Wells on 'Dr Who' and is a robust piece which wheels out all the usual suspects including Kim Newman. Finally we have 'One Hit Wonder' an all-too brief piece which looks at the Monoids and why they only appeared once in the series and which draws an intriguing parallel between the Monoids as slaves tro humanity and the Ood from modern 'Dr Who'. Imison and, particularly, Purves, provide a chatty commentary and there's the usual trivia subtitles, photo gallery and a preview of the next DVD release.

There's been some right old toot from the 'Dr Who' Archives spruced up and let loose on DVD in the last few months ('Time and the Rani'??? 'Meglos'??) and many of them are real bargain bin purchases. But 'The Ark' is a pleasant, unassuming little yarn from the early pioneering days of the series and while it's silly and it's flawed it's worth your time more than many other releases from the same era.

Friday, 4 February 2011

TV review: Primeval - season four

The latest edition of TV Times (other listing magazines are available), previewing this week's ‘season finale’ of the latest series of ITV’s dino-hunting sci-fi saga ‘Primeval’, observed that the latest series has been “revitalised and refreshed.” Obviously I had to do a double take. I may even have spluttered “Whaaaa??”; there must be some reason why the man standing next to me in WH Smiths as I browsed through the celeb-obsessed magazine moved away so quickly. Could those top TV Times journos really have been talking about the episodes of ‘Primeval’ I’ve been struggling through these last six weeks because what’s been ‘refreshed and revitalised’ to them has been turgid, meandering, cheap-looking and poorly-written to me. Allow me to explain...

When the third season of ‘Primeval’ limped away from our TV screens a couple of years ago its ratings were slipping and viewers, who’d finally latched onto its repetitive ‘monster of the week’ format, had started to lose interest. Bored series lead Douglas Henshall had shipped out in the third episode and newcomer Jason Flemyng gave the show a new ‘action man’ dynamic but there was no denying that the show seemed to have run out of ideas and, a bit of wibbly wobbly timey wimey (sorry) shenanigans aside, it seemed to have nowhere else to go. No real surprise when ITV, blaming cash flow problems, decided not to commission a fourth run and for a while it looked as if ‘Primeval’ was extinct. At least the show ended on a decent cliffhanger with half the cast stranded in various dino-heavy corners of history. But they couldn’t let it lie. Series creators Adrian Hodges and Tim Haines mooched about looking for alternative funding and they found it. ITV and, apparently, the BBC chipped in along with Watch (the non-terrestrial channel which, ironically, hardly anybody does) and before long ‘Primeval’ was setting up camp in Dublin’s fair city for the production of thirteen new episodes, to be split into two series, the first of which is just limping over the finishing line on ITV on Saturday nights to even more underwhelming audiences than the third series.

What’s hard to believe is that the producers of the show, surely aware that their series was leaking viewers last time, didn’t spend some time before ramping up production on trying to fix what was clearly wrong and figuring how to fix the leaks by rebooting the show and giving it a bit of a facelift. But ‘Primeval’ has returned with the same core concept – monsters wander through twinkling ‘anomalies’ in Time and Space and rampage about in the modern day before the ARC team rush in with their big guns and chase them back again. The show tries to mix things up a bit by introducing the odd sub plot – in this latest series it’s what appears to be a conspiracy storyline and some rather dreary going-nowhere stuff about a couple of refugees from the Victorian era who have an agenda of their own. Unfortunately neither of these stories is particularly interesting so we’re left to fall back on the tried and trusted monster-on-the-loose scenario which just ain’t big or clever any more.

Replacement star Jason Flemyng has moved on from the series although it’s no secret he’s back in the half-season finale. This leaves the show with its junior leads Andrew Lee Potts (Connor Temple) and Hannah Spearitt (Abby Maitland) to carry the show – and with all due respect to the pair of them, they’re not really up to it. Spearitt, let’s face it, was always the Billie Piper-inspired casting stunt which didn’t really work; the former S Club pop star has more to do in this series but there’s a deadness in her eyes, a lack of emotional commitment to the material and Abby’s no more developed as a character than she was in episode one several years ago. Oddly, considering co-star Potts is her fiancĂ© in real life, there’s no on screen chemistry between the pair of them; she seems contemptuous and dismissive of him most of the time and in last week’s episode where prehistoric hyaenas (honestly!) threatened to ruin their former colleague Jenny Lewis’s marriage, Abby looked as if she’d rather throw herself into the jaws of any passing tyrannosaurus than marry Connor. Potts does his best as Connor but he’s not really hero material and he spends most of his time making weak jokes and looking out of his depth, as well he might. Perhaps the show’s greatest crime is its misuse (or lack of use) of the brilliant Ben Miller as sniffy civil servant James Lester; he barely appears in the series but when he does he steals the show and he invests the weak material he’s given with more gravitas and commitment that it really deserves. Also back on board for this series is former supporting soldier character Becker (Ben Mansfield) but he’s so bland and unmemorable it’s actually quite difficult to find anything to say about him.

But there are new faces in ‘Primeval’ too – and unfortunately ‘faces’ is about all they are. Ruth Kearney plays Jess Parker, a slightly-ditzy new female member of the ARC team who spends most of her time sitting behind a computer screen. Then there’s new ARC military bigwig Matt Anderson (Ciaran McMenamin, who recently appeared with James Nesbitt in the supernatural feature ‘Outcast’) but, dreary subplot about his mysterious father (Anton Lesser) aside, he’s just another man in black running about with a big gun which knocks out monsters. Finally we have former ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ star Alexander Siddig who plays Philip Burton, the financial power behind the ARC throne. Plenty of new characters, plenty of scope for drama and relationships and personal stuff – but we get little of it, or at least little of it which evokes much interest. Seven episodes in and I know (and care) little more about any of these newbies than I did at episode one. The problem is none of them have been sufficiently fleshed out by the writers who just don’t know what to do to make them more interesting, so drawn is the series towards its need to throw some new roaring monster at the audience.

Oh, and those monsters... At least in the past ‘Primeval’ won its audience over with some impressive monsters, whether they were tyrannosaurs or mammoths or sabre-tooths. They were big and imposing, well-animated and threatening. This time we’ve just been given a string of entirely unmemorable lizards and flightless birds and big grey things which leap about the place. Seen one, seen ‘em all. And with their new powerful stun guns the creatures don’t pose much of a threat to the ARC team who run around until they find the creatures, zap ‘em and send them back where they came from. It’s just another format problem; ‘Dr Who’ shows us that monsters need to be more than just roaring monsters – they need to be characters, they really need personalities and motivation and they need a reason to do what they’re doing beyond just raging about eating people. By now we’ve seen ‘Primeval’s bag of monster tricks and we’re just not impressed any more. Seen one roaring thing running around snapping at people, you’ve seen them all.

And perhaps the final and sharpest nail in the show’s coffin is the impact the relocation has clearly had on the look and style of the series. The budget has clearly been reduced; the ‘new’ ARC set is pretty much just a room with a terminal in it whereas the old place was big, cavernous headquarters of a place. The CGI (now done by the ‘Dr Who’ boys from The Mill) could do with another pas through the computer most of the time and, most irritating of all, the show just looks underpopulated. There seems to be no-one working at the ARC apart from the core group (and the odd ‘he’s going to get it’ extra) and the cast rarely includes anyone else or any real substance. The stories all seem to have been crafted to reduce the need for large casts (and guest stars have never been ‘Primeval’s strong point) but the lack of people in the show pretty much undermines the whole thing. Everyone the ARC team go, there’s hardly anyone else about. The “London” streets are deserted whenever the ARC team are haring about in search of monsters; one episode takes place in a school – but at a weekend detention session with only three kids present. Episode five sees a giant lizard-thing on the loose in a fishing village; it’s deserted save a couple of horribly-stereotyped “we don’t like strangers around here” pub locals – the village streets and surrounding roads are bereft of any human life whatsoever. Only last week’s wedding episode bucked the trend (although the country hotel where Jenny was due to get married seemed deserted the night before the wedding) with a lively scene where hyaenas chased wedding guests around the building. Sadly, as the wedding guests were all non-speaking extras it was impossible to care about any of them as they knocked over chairs and fell over because we didn’t know anything about them.

The move to Dublin may have allowed the show to be brought in on a reduced budget but the series now seems oddly dislocated from reality. Dublin’s clearly a lovely city but it ain’t London and the show does itself no favours with the odd rooftop scene with characters chatting away with verdant hills of London (?) stretching away beyond the low skyline. The show shies away from explicitly stating that it’s still set in London but it clearly is; a few establishing shots of the Thames, the London Eye, the Gherkin really wouldn’t have gone amiss and might have papered over a few of the show’s painful visual cracks.

And ultimately ‘painful’ is what ‘Primeval’ now is, to be honest. The episodes this year have been sluggish, lifeless, a real chore to sit through much of the time. Flat, unengaging characters, repetitive storylines, visually-uninteresting monsters; there’s no pace and precious little energy to the show, it seems tired and run down. What ‘Primeval’ really needs is a visionary showrunner who can look at the show and give it a new purpose, a new direction; as it is it just looks like a show which has just been made for the sake of it by people who aren’t all that interested – and I’m sure that can’t be the case as Hodges and Haines fought hard to keep the show alive. But it needs better writers, more exciting and original stories, bigger and better threats. But sadly in bringing the show back pretty much as it was when it finished with just a few changes (brought about by budget demands rather than any creative inspiration), the people who created the show have guaranteed its imminent obsolescence.

It really pains me to slate a British fantasy show because, although we’re doing better now than we were a decade ago, shows like ‘Primeval’ are the exception rather than the norm. But with ‘Dr Who’ still doing well and relative newcomers like ‘Being Human’ and ‘Misfits’ challenging the preconceptions of the genre, lazy stuff like ‘Primeval’ just won’t do any more, especially not for the Saturday night family audience who are clearly a lot more perceptive and demanding than ITV and the makers of ‘Primeval’ seem to give them credit for. Series four could have been a fresh start, a chance to grab a new audience (and even the old one) with a new-look show full of new ideas. Instead it’s pretty much just the same old same old and, when the second half of the series has finished airing on Watch in May, I suspect the anomalies will be closed for good and ‘Primeval’ will become what it’s about – a thing of the past.

DVD/Blu Ray Review: Buried

Fancy watching a 90 minute movie about a man trapped in a box? Possibly not and whilst Rodrigo Cortes’ ‘Buried’ got decent reviews when it arrived in the cinema last year, it didn’t strike me as the sort of movie I wanted to see in a darkened theatre with only the ever-present glow of everyone else’s mobile phones (damn you, British public!) to remind me I wasn’t stuck in a box too. I suppose it’s down to that primal fear we surely all have of premature burial, waking up in a coffin six feet under and with no way of getting out. Shiver... ‘Buried’ is easier to bear in the comfort of your own sitting room when you’ve got the option of making a cup of tea (if the mood takes you) when it all gets a bit tense and claustrophobic. Because, trust me, ‘Buried’ gets very tense and claustrophobic indeed...

Ryan Reynolds (soon to be seen as 'The Green Lantern' in the much-anticipated superhero flick) plays Paul Conroy, an undistinguished run-of-the-mill US contractor driving trucks in Iraq, who wakes up to find himself in a cramped wooden box buried somewhere in the desert with only an oxygen-consuming cigarette lighter and a half-charged mobile phone for company. How he got there, why he’s there and how the Hell he’s going to get out are what ‘Buried’ is all about and the ensuing ninety-odd minutes, spent entirely in the company of Conroy as his situation goes from bad to unbearable, are far more engrossing and buttock-clenching than you might imagine a movie which is basically a one-man show could possibly be.

Panic. That’s what I’d do. I bet you would too. So does Conroy, thrashing about, kicking and wailing and trying to force his way out of his box, despite the weight of the sand above bearing down upon his prison. But when he manages to regain his composure he sets about using the tools he has at his disposal to find out how he’s ended up in this situation and what he can do to free himself. It’s an extraordinarily bold concept for a 21st century movie where bang and flash rule and concept and performance take a distance back seat. It’s a credit both to Reynolds’ four-square characterisation of the everyman Conroy and Cortes focussed and unflinching direction that the film never flags, never drifts into sentimentality, never goes too far (although the sequence where something unwelcome squirms its way into the coffin does stretch credibility maybe just a bit too far and might have you shouting “Oh, hang on, this is too much...” at the screen) and, ultimately, never compromises the drama of its scenario. We’re with Conroy in that box right the way through the movie; there are no cheesy flashbacks, no cuts to his captor (a creepy, emotionless insurgent whose voice we hear over the telephone), no scenes of desperate rescuers battling to find him. It’s just Conroy, alone and scared, phoning random numbers – his family, the FBI, his employer (one of the iciest scenes in the movie has Conroy talking to someone at his workplace who is recording the conversation purely to clear his company for any insurance liability for his predicament) – in at attempt to make contact with someone – anyone – who can help him. Most terrifying of all is the voice of one would-be rescuer who sounds horribly like Simon Cowell – and that’s a voice you never want to hear, let alone when you’re trapped in a box and buried in the desert.

‘Buried’ becomes a genuinely heart-stopping race against time as an above-ground bombing raid designed to smoke out Conroy’s captor fractures the box and sand starts to pour in...Conroy has just minutes to make peace with himself but how close are his rescuers to finding and saving him? I’ll say no more...

‘Buried’ is brave and unusual film-making and it works because Cortes knows exactly how to ramp up the tension and, crucially, how to use and exploit the confines of the box to create a real sense of unease and disquiet. Reynolds’ performance is remarkable too, and it’s no surprise to learn, from the special features on the DVD, that he really suffered for his art. Through his interaction with the outside world via the mobile phone we get to learn a bit more about his life and the fact that he’s clearly just a man, an unexceptional, ordinary Joe Schmoe, not even a soldier involved in the ongoing conflict, makes his predicament even more real and even more horrifying. In some ways it’s not easy viewing, it’ll make you uncomfortable and uneasy. And when it’s over you might want to go outside for a bit just because you can. ‘Buried’ is bold, original film-making – and in an era of ongoing ‘Transformer’ and Jason Statham films, it’s the sort of movie we really need to be glad are still capable of being made.

THE DVD/BLU RAY: Blu Ray gives the movie a pinpoint clarity, essential when so much of the action takes place in the dark or in half-light. Added features are minimal but there’s a decent ‘making of’, and interview with the director and a commentary.

'Buried' is available on DVD/Blu Ray in the UK on 14th February 2011

Looks Who's Filming..!

With 36 new episodes of Dr Who-related TV goodness winging our way in 2011 (14 Dr Whos, 10 Torchwoods, 12 Sarah Janes) it's hardly surprising to hear that filming is proceeding at a pace on the first two titles (Sarah Jane already has six season five episodes in the can with another six to film later this year). Naturally the UK press are interested and the local Welsh press is regularly reporting on the comings and goings of the filming crews as they wander around South Wales. But both shows are moving further afield this year; Torchwood has shipped almost completely over to the US and there have already been reports of filming in and around los Angeles, with much mroe to come. But the crew are spending a few weeks in the show's homeland - Stuff was briefly present earlier this week at the Coal Exchange where a group of ambulance speeding away from the building which, for the purposes of the story, is now a hospital. Kai Owen (Rhys) rushed over to have a word with gawping onlookers (Stuff would never knowingly gawp) and Eve Myles (Gwen) and Tom Price (Sgt Andy Davison) arrived just as Stuff could brave the biting cold no longer. Meanwhile, thanks to an infusion of cash from BBC America, Dr Who has been venturing further afield than its usual rundown South Wales industrial estates and quarries with the crew having already filmed in Utah for the opening two-parter of the next series. At this very moment the show's filming near St Austell in Cornwall for what sounds like a romping pirate episode (currently slated as episode three) guest-starring Downton Abbey's Hugh Bonnevvile. Welsh newspapers have taken notice and reported on the filming for both series (see below - click to embiggen) and the Tube of You's is home to a brief clip of the Dr Who Cornwall filming. Knock yourselves out.

In other Dr Who news, long-time fan David Walliams (Little Britain, Come Fly With Me) has revealed on the Chris Evans Radio 2 Breakfast Show this morning that's he's accepted a role as "an alien" in an episode to be filmed in "the next few weeks." Dr Who returns with the first half of season six in April.

Stuff coming soon: Marchlands, Primeval, Being Human, Outcasts, Bedlam and more...