Not that long ago by the timescale of the universe there was no-one on Earth to observe anything.

The solar system had been in existence for billions of years and the various bodies within it had long settled into their orbits with clockwork precision. Close in to the parent star smaller rocky bodies circled in the light, ring fenced by a zone in which gravitational perturbation had prevented any single body coalescing from the thousands that still swarmed within. Beyond that larger bodies formed chiefly of gas orbited in stately majesty, themselves circled by vast extended families of smaller bodies.

And out on the fringes of the system lay further belts of small rocky and icy worlds some of which circled the star in a wildly eccentric manner. Occasionally one of these most distant of the star's children would fall inwards, jets of gas and vapour blown from their surfaces by the solar wind in tails millions of miles long.

None of the bodies in the solar system or beyond had names or types. They just were.  Even time was abstract, there being nothing to measure it, to compare this time with that time. Orbits and other movements were simply equations made solid, scrawled across the blackboard of eternity.

And then something began to happen on the third world, the largest body in the inner system. Complex chemical reactions took place which led to self replicating molecules which spread and evolved - a process that given big enough numbers and long enough spans of time was inevitable due to the laws of mathematics. As the numbers increased and the spans of time available inflated, these complex molecules gave rise to a specialised subset of chemistry (in itself a subset of physics which ultimately was just another part of mathematics) called biology.

At this point of course - just like the celestial bodies turning over and over in the blackness above - these disciplines had no names either and were all just part of the single Way That Things Were.

Quite recently the biological structures developed an awareness of themselves and of the universe around them.  Quite how this arose is unclear - possibly to do with the complexity of the systems and the feedback loops they had developed in order to have survived this long. It could also have been that they started to exist in time, counting off the periods when the star appeared to travel overhead and comparing what had happened with what might happen. Perhaps this process meant that self awareness was bound to follow.

They defined themselves as people and began looking around at the universe that had spawned them and tried to make sense of it in terms they could understand.

The people started to change the environment around them using tools. Once this had become part and parcel of who they were they wondered if that was how the universe around them had come to be, that someone else - a bigger and earlier variety of people - had used tools to create what they saw around them. They looked the lights in the sky and gave them names - perhaps these lights were the older and bigger beings that had shaped the world they saw around them?

However as belief systems became more complex and the ways of looking at the universe more accurate it became obvious that the lights in the sky were in fact other worlds and other stars. And due to the way the minds of people worked - the conditions that had shaped their minds in the first place - they began classifying what they saw up in the heavens, assigning categories to things that neither needed nor understood them.

That was a planet, that was an asteroid, that was a gas giant. That was a moon. That was a comet. This was hydrogen. This was nuclear fusion. That was the big bang.

These were the categories that gave the people the impression that they understood the universe when all they had done was create a one dimensional sketch of it using language and understood that instead.

The people discovered yet more worlds and begun reaching out to them with marvellously
complex tools getting closer and closer views of the extraordinary diversity of the universe. Unfortunately the more information there was the more elaborate and baroque the taxonomies invented to control it had to be.

Eventually people had to start hacking and patching the rules they'd invented in the first place simply to make them fit the observable facts. That body they'd named Pluto? Apparently it no longer fitted into the artificial category "planet" so another artificial category had to be invented to accommodate it and a handful of other bodies. It was now a "dwarf planet".

And even though these categories were purely arbitrary some people became furious about this change in nomenclature and began campaigning for the restoration of Pluto's imagined status.

Pluto existed for billions of years before humanity without a name or category - and will no doubt exist for billions more after we have gone. Getting het up about what we call it is futile and misses the entire point. Our name for Pluto is part of us, not part of it.

We will be able to see the reality of Pluto close up for the very first time on 14 July.

Now that is something worth getting excited about.

I can't believe that it's already five years since I wrote the first blog in the I Was A Teenage Toyah Fan series, a series which turned into a book self-published on kindle and paperback.
Five years now is very different from five years back then. As a Teenage Toyah Fan five years was the gap between my first Toyah LP The Blue Meaning and the realise of Minx - five long years of adventure many of which are detailed in the book and which at the time seemed to last forever.

Whereas this last five years seems to have lasted just a few months in comparison.

That is not to say that the most recent half-decade was without incident - far from it. The self publishing was an adventure in itself which gave me far more confidence in my writing as a whole and contributed to the fact that I have now had several short stories published (with more on the way). Fingers crossed for the novels as well...

Plus since writing those first blogs - quite by coincidence - there was a renaissance of Toyah shows when she began touring in earnest once more, resurrecting her earlier material thirty years on... The first of these tours, From Sheep Farming to Anthem, I managed to catch in the epilogue of the book.

This tour was the first in a series of annual outings which saw some songs performed for the first time in thirty years and others performed live for the first time ever. The Changeling Resurrection tour in 2012 was particularly impressive, boasting one of the best Toyah set lists ever. Having recently written about my teenage experiences of gigs I was delighted to discover that these songs still had the power to reach into my brain and fiddle with the graphic equaliser of my soul and were still hard-wired into whatever it is that passes as me.

Another adventure took me completely by surprise.

You'd have thought that after all this time - from following Toyah around in the era of the book, to running the fan club in the decade following it, to recording the single Killing Made Easy with her in the afterglow of the new millennium - you'd have thought that there was nothing left that could surprise me, no further ambitions in this direction that would have blown my teenage self's mind.

But you'd be wrong.

I've played bass in bands since 1998 - a late starter but what the hell. From pop-punk band Chester which introduced me to the enjoyment of playing gigs (as I discovered the only thing more exciting that watching a gig was playing one) to the Bonzo Dog tribute band The Gonzo Dog-Do Bar band which allowed me to share a stage with some surprising and exciting guest stars.

By 2011 things were slowing down on that front and I was beginning to wonder whether the time had come to hang up my plectrum.  I had reckoned without fate flinging Das Fluff in my path.

I was introduced to the band by long-time friend (and one of the co-stars of I Was A Teenage Toyah Fan) Bob. He recommended that I come to see this band he'd discovered which he reckoned would be exactly my kind of music.
He was right. Electronic, alternative and edgy with fierce, dramatic female vocals, Das Fluff were very much the kind of music I liked to listen to and I was delighted that even at this stage in my life there were new bands to discover and that New Favourite Band Syndrome was still active in my brain. Once the Syndrome had kicked off then I started making an effort to go to their gigs both in London and Brighton.

In 2013 I discovered that they were due to support Toyah in both Brighton and London on the Love is the Law and More tour. This was an exciting coincidence - my New Favourite Band supporting my All Time Favourite Singer - and I looked forward to the gigs immensely.

At the Brighton gig The Elusive Stranger and I got talking to Das Fluff singer Dawn and the fact that we played together in Chester came up. One thing led to another and before I knew what was happening I was playing bass for them at Electrowerks the following April - and The Elusive Stranger joining me in the band on percussion in September.

This was altogether a very different experience to any I'd had before. These were songs I had gone to gigs to hear and dance to and now here I was playing them. This was the next level in being in a band - the best of both worlds.

I didn't realise that there were further and better levels ahead. In the autumn of that year Das Fluff had the good fortune to be offered three more Toyah support slots on the Songs From the Intergalactic Ranch House tour in Glasgow, Brighton and Bristol. These came at a very special time for me - I was just leaving my job of sixteen years to go freelance so they contained an extra cause for celebration. In particular the Brighton (my home town) date came the day after my very last day at work...

The experience of all three was fantastic - thankfully I didn't know until after we'd played at the first (Glasgow) gig that Toyah had been watching from the wings as that might have made me even more nervous than I already was - although nerves of that kind were part and parcel of the whole playing live adventure and contributed to the ultimate enjoyment of the experience. The greater the nerves beforehand the more enjoyable the gig itself. After I came off stage I always wanted to go and do it all over again.

It was like bungee jumping (I imagine).

Further Das Fluff gigs continued thick and fast over the following six months which brings us right up to the present. You would think that the story had no more surprises to spring on me but Das Fluff recently had another Toyah support slot confirmed, this time in London at The Garage in November.

Playing London is always good, playing London in support of Toyah I am hoping will be fantastic. I am sure it will be a blast coming after nearly two years of Das Fluff activity (and - rather scarily - 36 years of Toyah activity) for me. If you've not already got your ticket we do have a limited amount of tickets at the reduced price of £16 available from our web site at:

Here's to what the next five years brings... I can hardly wait.

There is no-one to blame. The whole feeling of being put upon by fate, the weather or other so-called acts of God comes not from reality but from the human brain's almost infinite capacity for Pattern Recognition.

Pattern recognition is how life makes sense of the universe. In the case of human beings the process has become so baroque and complex that it's unsurprising when it starts to throw out anomalies.

We may think we see what is in front of us but that is very far from the truth.

Without the high intensity interpretation and pattern matching going on in the visual cortex of the brain, the field of view is a chaotic mess of shape and shade. Even something as simple as identifying colour is tied up with image identification and processing. As the recent furore about a certain dress and - more interestingly - the very different colour palette perceived by the Himba tribe of Namibia prove, it seems that the ability to distinguish between shades of colour is linked to what we think they are and the words we have for them.

Thus the identification and interpretation of reality has control over reality itself. Before we see what is in front of us, we need to know what to expect to see in front of us. Something we weren't expecting - and have no experience of - might even be ignored, effectively invisible. Furthermore we might see things that aren't there simply because that's what we were expecting.

This skewing of reality isn't unique to vision. The human brain is just as adept at recognising and scouring for patterns in sound and behaviour (with all the consequences of errors as described above).

One feature thrown up by this process is a failure to notice that something has changed. The older we get the more patterns there are in our memory to search when we come across something new - and after a while we stop bothering. Instead of comparing and contrasting the data coming in through our senses with what we think is the case we just take it as read that everything is as it was the last time we looked. This is why it's possible to lose something, look everywhere for it, and then discover it was in front of our nose all this time. Children's brains are less full and far more elastic - they're constantly on the look out for something new to add to their brain's pattern database. Show a child a room in which something minor has changed and they will spot it straight away. An adult on the other hand can miss it for days if they ever notice it at all.

Getting older also increases the incidence of pattern recognition errors. If something is hauntingly familiar but we just can't place it then it's more likely that our brain is misidentifying something rather than struggling to find something that's there somewhere. After all what's the point of "half a memory"? Either we've found the data or you haven't.

But by far the biggest anomaly thrown out by the brain's pattern recognition routines is the feeling that there's some kind of plan, that things happen for a reason. The brain is constantly looking for patterns and sees them in chaos, imposing order on the random universe around us.

Sometimes the universe throws us some mad synchronicity or coincidence. Something that - purely by chance - fits together with something in the pattern database. This kicks the the pattern recognition into high gear, setting off all sorts of alarms. This has happened! This has happened! And we begin looking around for the underlying meaning. There must be one of course! Even though there isn't.

One of the reasons we see specific patterns is because we're on the lookout for them. We discard and ignore the myriad non-coincidental things that come our way constantly, picking out the ones we feel are significant thereby giving them significance in a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This doesn't make the coincidences less valuable.  We are constructing something we want to see (or in the case of those with extreme self-loathing something they don't want to see) so despite the randomness of the source material we draw meaningful information about our hopes and fears from the chaos. This is how tarot cards work.

Human beings use the accidental nature of reality as a substrate to provide random input to their brains in order to what's most on their minds. We might as well stare at a television screen full of static as a spread of tarot cards - the information extracted will be the same.

We see ourselves in the chaos.

Of course when I first got referred to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy I was delighted.

For too long it had been that whenever I mentioned problems with anxiety, panic and terror to my GP I was prescribed drugs - not a bad thing in itself but generally lacking. The SSRIs for depression tended to make me put on weight and the beta-blockers for panic were more of a short-term solution. I wanted to get to the root of the problem and it seemed that the Holy Grail was some kind of therapy, getting to talk to someone. It was of course difficult to get my GP to refer me and even when she did she warned that there would likely be a long waiting list.

By the time I eventually got to see someone my life had changed somewhat and I had made plans to leave my day job which was one of the major causes of the anxiety I suffered. I had no illusions that this would be a cure all, some kind of magical fix, but I did feel that I was taking control of my own life and that made a big difference.

I figured it was still worth attending these sessions though, given how long I had waited for them. The first sessions I attended weren't Cognitive Behavioural Therapy - they were just a short series of four which gave me some kind of assessment. I found them very useful - if only for the fact that I was able to talk to someone about how I felt without the danger of them thinking it was something to do with them and taking it personally - or rather the danger of me thinking that they might think it was something to do with them and taking  it personally. Someone whose job it was to listen. Someone impartial. As someone who has been described as a good listener it was good to finally experience this from the other side.

Of course it didn't last. There were only four sessions and I had no reason to expect that I would get any more. However I was pleasantly surprised when the person I had been dealing with said that she thought I would benefit from further help and referred me "up" to a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist. I'd have to wait a bit before they started but I figured it was worthwhile. Better to have to wait a couple of months than not have it all together.

I was quite enthusiastic when sessions started. A lot of what the therapist talked about made sense - and the instructions to question my own anxiety as I experienced actually seemed to work. This was clearly the start of a major change in my life. I was very excited.

Email comes in with a message that sends the familiar dread spiralling up into my brain and down into my guts? Stop and think about it. Ask what I think is the worst that could actually happen and then ask whether that is actually likely to happen. Then ask what IS likely to happen. And so on and so forth.

It worked!

I started keeping notes of whenever this happened, comparing and contrasting. During the sessions I got to the root of a lot of my anxiety - worrying about what people think of me; specifically worrying that people might think me boring. It wasn't too difficult to trace back these feelings of anxiety either - when I was a child in the days before anxiety I did used to endlessly go on about my enthusiasms (such as the London Underground or ants) in a monomaniacal manner which resulted in people telling me I was boring.

So now that I had uncovered this it was simply a case of overcoming it using the techniques I had been taught right? I was ready for a brave new world in which I would be able to go to social gatherings and talk to people and finally after all this time Have A Life.

Or so I thought.

The problem was that the techniques didn't work with everything and didn't work all the time. Sometimes I would get an email or other electronic communication to which I would have The Reaction but on which The Technique simply wouldn't work. It was like trying to paint an ice cube. No matter how much I kept telling myself that the imagined consequences wouldn't actually be that bad even if they did happen which they probably wouldn't, the dread remained. The dread hung around for several days.

I thought that this was probably something to do with brain chemistry. It made sense - after all I had in the past noticed a definite positive change when taking anti-depressants (even if the physical side-effects meant that this wasn't a permanent solution) which showed that some of what I was feeling was based in the chemical world. When discussing these intractable anxieties at the next session I happened to mentioned my brain chemistry theory to the therapist at which point - while not actually saying anything - they got an expression of extreme disapproval on their face and then carried on talking without referring to my suggestion. I could tell that in their worldview there was no such thing as brain chemistry and that as far as they were concerned the root of all problems lay in cognitive behavioural therapy.

Still if this had been the only disagreement I could have coped and might even have finished the course of sessions.

But there was something else. I was going through a period of simultaneously being very busy but not socializing very much. Readers may have noticed that when talking about the anxiety triggers in this blog entry I keep mentioning emails or other messages (and I do believe that such things are just as valid as other forms of social interaction). I simply wasn't getting out so keeping the diary or putting the techniques into practice in the real world was difficult. Plus on the rare occasions when I was out and about making notes wasn't that easy.  It's not as if I could pause a conversation that I was finding difficult anyway by asking the other participant if they didn't mind if I made notes on my phone.

Eventually I found myself frantically scrabbling around on the morning of the session trying to remember (or even making up) occasions to put in the diary I had to keep. Without me being aware of the point at which it had done so, the therapy sessions had themselves become the main thing in my life giving me anxiety.

I had to think about it for a bit - I don't like leaving things undone or bailing out - but in the end I had to stand up for what I wanted, just as I had done the previous year when deciding to leave my day job. I cancelled the remaining sessions.

I still wonder whether I did the right thing. Was the anxiety that the sessions were inducing me part of the cure; should I have let it take me outside my comfort zone in order to cure me?

I guess I will never know.

Icon created by Julian Claus from The Noun Project

Ah, I'll do it when I get home, I think excitedly.

And I visualise it in my head, sitting at the computer and doing the thing which has just excited my mind whether it is writing, coding or photoshopping. Except in my head I am still sitting at my computer in my old flat even though I moved out of there a couple of months ago. The human brain maintains a model of the world around it and when things change in reality it takes far longer for these changes to percolate into the mindscape of the head. The older you are the longer it takes for these changes to kick in.

In dreams of course it takes even longer. When asleep I still seem to be living in the house I lived in as a teenager (although oddly am the age I am now).

These mind quirks dragging me back into the past have of late caused me to become increasingly worried about dropping dead although I suspect that turning fifty also has a lot to do with these concerns. When I was a kid the idea of being fifty was the same as the idea of being an old man. Fifty was the precursor of old age, a kind of dry run with the grey hair and the wrinkles and the exciting bit of your life behind you.

The problem is that now that I've reached that age I don't seem to have actually started my life yet, let alone achieved all the good stuff. I still feel like a teenager. At least in terms of what I haven't achieved. Still single. Still not doing the things I really want to do for a living. I still feel teen anger. Perhaps I've wasted my life. Perhaps there was something to the conventional lifestyle after all, perhaps it imbues life with a sense of purpose that is invisible and incomprehensible to me but which if I could only see it would give me the epiphany of a lifetime. But I still can't see and my eyes are beginning to go.

When you are a teenager you think you are going to live forever or at least if you don't actually think it then the idea of immortality is at the back of your mind. Now that I'm fifty I am fully aware that I am very probably more than half way through my life and that even if life extension and rejuvenation techniques are invented within my life time it will be too late for me to use them - or if not I very probably won't be able to afford them. So I have a limited amount of time left and being a rationalist I can see that it's all there is.

There is no room for regret, I simply don't have time for it. Thinking back over all those things that almost but not quite happened twenty years ago is pointless. Best to get on with doing stuff now that in twenty years time I will be able to look back on and say "I'm glad I did that!"

Difficult to know where to start though. Perhaps I am wrong about this as well and the point is not to do things now to make my future self proud, but to do things now for my present self. Enjoy my life now rather than investing in some kind of experience savings account. After all if I do the latter there's the danger I'll drop dead before I get a chance to spend it.

For some reason I have been unable to blog this year aside from that one in January which was, basically, just me going on about something in the same way as I would if it came up in conversation in the pub.

It's not that I haven't been trying. I have in fact started writing several entries but they all petered out before reaching a publishable state and have ended up abandoned in the drafts folder gathering virtual dust as they slowly become less and less relevant.

The one about how we were all Ferengi now which led to the one about how I enjoyed Deep Space Nine the most of all the Star Trek series. The one about the brain's remarkable talent for pattern recognition which could probably explain so much about the human experience if only I could finish it. The one about how arbitrary so called "round numbers" are when you come to think of it. The one about anthropomorphising things. All these entries will be lost in time like tears in rain... if I leave them sitting there on the blog shelf because I can't be bothered to get off my digital backside.

I am not sure why I have been so unbloggish this year. It's true I've been busy but then again I have definitely been busier in past years. After all I don't have a day job now - previously I would have had to fit in all the freelance work, bass playing and writing around spending ten hours a day at or on my way to and from my place of work. So in theory I have more time even if I have less money. There should be blogs coming out of my ears not to mention numerous short stories and novel drafts. I should have been able to use this free time to swot up on all the latest in web design and development in order to hone my freelance skills all the better to get more work.

And yet I haven't.

I can't quite work out why. There was a massive glitch in my plans when I discovered that I had to move from my home of twelve years but I've done that now. There isn't quite enough freelance work yet and yet what there is seems to take up all my time. I'm not sitting around watching day time TV - if anything I am watching less TV than ever. I'm not staying up that late either. While must admit I am not forcing myself to bed by 10.30 or 11pm as I used to do when in a day job I'm still in bed by midnight most nights. And while I am no longer getting up at 6.30am to get the bus by 7.00am to get into work by 8.00am it's not as if I was doing anything particularly useful in that first ninety minutes anyway.

It seems that on some level life expands to fill the time available. I am sure there must be a solution to this conundrum - probably to force myself to start doing all these things that I imagine will make life more fulfilling in the hope that the act of doing them will stretch time to accommodate them. It seems that the forcing is the thing that is important. I can start by forcing myself to write a blog - this will do.

And once I have started doing things despite an imagined lack of time then no doubt I will find great vistas of extra time opening up to me.  So I am going to do things anyway. For example I am going to do this. I am going to finish this blog and then publish it. Then I am going to do some more work on something to do with the various web and graphic design jobs I have in my mental "to-do" folder. Then I am going to get a relatively early night and therefore a relatively early morning so I can get a relatively early start in the morning

Who knows if it all goes well maybe I will write another blog tomorrow.

But don't hold your breath.

What with all the furore surrounding the fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who back in November 2013 you might have thought that the programme had celebrated enough anniversaries for now. After all - fifty one and a bit years on from the first episode? Nothing that special.

But today, 25 January 2015, sees the fortieth anniversary of the beginning of what is probably my favourite run of sixteen episodes (four stories in the old money) from the show. There are of course stories and episodes that I like more than that, but this particular period - from 25 January to 10 May 1975 - was the most consistently enjoyable time for me watching.

There is a danger that in writing this I will go over old ground but checking back on the Dimensionally Transcendental Confession blogs covering the relevant period it appears that I restrained myself from going into too much detail. It was almost as if I knew I was going to write this blog five years hence.

My enjoyment of these particular four months of Who probably had a lot to do with my age but also because, in those pre-video days, it was the first time that I was able to experience the shows more than once. My dad had started work at the Radiophonic Workshop by this point which meant that I got to see discarded scripts.

25 January wasn't the beginning of Season 12. The show had actually started at the tail end of 1974 with Tom Baker's debut as the Fourth Doctor in Robot. This too was one I'd seen the script of (and even seen some of in advance of transmission) but I hadn't been too impressed for reasons which I went into in more detail elsewhere.

But episode one of Ark in Space changed all that.

For a start there was something about having a TARDIS team of three that felt like a breath of fresh air. In retrospect Harry Sullivan was far from a bumbling imbecile and actually quite shrewd and clever. What with him, the ever smart Sarah-Jane Smith and the newly rejuvenated Doctor here was a team to strike terror into the hearts of any monster trying to take over the universe for no very good reason.

But the monsters in the Ark in Space weren't just trying to take over the universe. It was far more sinister than that. The far future setting was claustrophobic and nightmarish, especially before any of the Ark crew were awakened from suspended animation. Sarah-Jane getting caught in the hibernation mechanism was another brilliant touch, the sense of mindless mechanisms going through the motions in the absence of humanity added another dimension to the disturbing atmosphere.  And that was even before we got on to the body horror of the Wirrn's modus operandi and the grisly fate of Dune the Chief Technician.

Yes they used bubble wrap, sprayed green to represent Noah's infection, but that didn't stop me being terrified when we first see his bubble-wrapped hand, the sense of horror portrayed by the actor convincing enough to make the young me really start to imagine what it might be like to undergo such a gruesome metamorphosis.

The story and concepts were so strong that they overcame the limitations of the budget.

But one thing that really stood out for me was the end of the story. Unlike in almost every story that I'd seen before the Doctor and co didn't just slip away quietly in the TARDIS. They stayed to help, teleporting down to the abandoned Earth to give the receiving station a once over before the sleepers from the Ark came down to start repopulating it.

For me this was a huge development. Not only was the Doctor crew staying in the same (non 20th century Earth) place and time for more than one story - he'd left the TARDIS behind too. Two consecutive stories set in the same world.

The previous year had seen the debut of the Sontarans in The Time Warrior. However at the time I hadn't remembered the name of the race, just the name of the eponymous Time Warrior (Lynx) so the title of the next story The Sontaran Experiment offered me no spoilers whatsoever which meant that I shared Sarah-Jane's shock at the end of the first episode when the villain made his appearance.

A lot has been said in recent years about how the character of Strax in the latest incarnation of Doctor Who has taken the threat away from the Sontarans making them a bit of a joke. I'm not so sure. Watching Styre's first scenes now it's easy to imagine them in Dan Starkey's voice (although Styre does appear to have less trouble telling the difference between human genders).

"Female number one. First assessment. Would appear to have no military justification. Offensive value therefore nil."

The Sontarans were always ridiculous. Styre is a dangerous sadist but is also petty and small minded.

The bleakness of post solar flare London was another thing that impressed me about the story at the time. The Sontaran Experiment was shot entirely on location which gave it a very different feel from anything that had gone before.

And once again the end of the story continued with the unusual travel without the TARDIS theme as the three of them beamed back up to the Ark. From the Radio Times I knew that the next story had Daleks in it which seemed a bit much for the newly awoken human race to cope with...

Of course it turned out I was wrong about that. Far from returning to the Ark and the TARDIS the Doctor and co were dragged half way across space and time without so much as a by your leave by the Time Lords, one of whom informs the Doctor in one word that they require help with a very particular problem.


The Daleks had appeared in the series every year since the beginning of 1972 but what was on offer here was something very different.  And even though we only had a black and white TV at the time there was something dark gunmetal green about Genesis of the Daleks, a grim impression that has stuck with me ever since (and which I was pleased to see reflected in the design of the DVD cover).

The premise - the origin of the Daleks - was one that interested me a lot more than the previous few Dalek tales and the first proper glimpse we got of Davros at the beginning of episode two excited me because I mistakenly thought his wheelchair was part of a Dalek under construction.

However there was a lot that actually was in the story to enjoy too. This was one occasion on which the getting captured, escaping and recaptured plus to-ing and fro-ing between the same locations seemed to work. A lot has been made of the Kaleds as Nazi analogues but watching the series again you get the distinct impression that the sadistic slave-labour using Thals were no better. Pre-Dalek Skaro was an arena of bastards the like of which probably wouldn't be seen again until The Caves of Androzani nearly 10 years later.

The Kaled scientists were very well drawn though. Davros's sinister sidekick Nyder sticks in the memory decades later. He had such great lines - his dismissal of the Doctor and Harry's concern with "your views are not important" is almost as chilling as his line upon uncovering Gharman's treachery, "Thank you. That's what I wanted to know."

Thanks to the LP version of this story it is still one with which I am very familiar. But obsessive child that I was the narration at the beginning of the LP bugged me.

"I stepped from the TARDIS..."

No you bloody well didn't. You were in the middle of beaming up to the Space Ark from the devastated surface of future Earth.

But on the whole the LP version represented a tighter version of the story containing all the key scenes, all of which have become iconic and quotable. Genesis of the Daleks - all the hits! Includes You Will Tell Me, Have I The Right?, She Is A Norm, But Would You Do It?, And I Sent Sarah and Harry in There, Have Pity, No Tea Harry and many, many more.

Of course Genesis of the Daleks has its flaws. The giant clams for one. The fact that the two races that have been fighting each other for a millennium live in domed cities within walking distance of each other. But all in all the story deserves its reputation as one of the best ever stories - and like the equally well regarded Caves of Androzani the ending is bleak and the Doctor's presence hasn't really done much other than make things marginally worse.

Plus of course he starts the Time War.

The ending shot of the Doctor, Sarah and Harry flung through the universe by time ring isn't a particularly impressive one, but it excited me at the time as it meant that the three of them were on their way back to the Ark.

And - despite them reusing the rather naff time ring shot at the beginning of the episode - there was the Ark fading back into view. And there was the familiar set, Sarah, Harry and the Doctor shimmering into existence in the same place in the Ark control room from which they'd left.

In  common with the previous two stories, the title left little doubt as to who the villains of the piece were (childhood forgetting of the name notwithstanding). Once again, pre-transmission I thought having to cope with an infestation of Cybermen was a bit of a pain for the Ark's sleepers. Furthermore I was perturbed to see in the Radio Times that the cast did not include Wendy Williams as Vira. As was so often the case in those days at school we spent one morning in the playground acting out what we thought was going to happen in Doctor Who that week. On that occasion the Doctor (played by me) found a list headed "Deaths" at the top of which was the name Vira.

Of course the real explanation was very different. This was the Ark at an earlier point in its existence, when it was still a space beacon in orbit around Jupiter. This bothered me a bit, partly because of the way that they had to wait for the TARDIS to join them but mostly because I liked the far future of the Ark and wanted more.

But never mind all that. There were going to be Cybermen! For someone who'd grown up on Doctor Who but whose memories of the Cybermen were brief fragments from my time as a toddler, this was a heady prospect.

Apparently Revenge of the Cybermen now has a bad reputation, but at the time (and on a more recent re-watch) I actually rather enjoyed it. True, some of the special effects were woeful, one of the Cybermen's heads was very loose and the Cyberleader continuously referred to the Doctor as "Dacter" but I really got into the story and enjoyed being back on Nerva despite my initial resistance to the earlier time period. Kellman's double treachery also intrigued me and I though it a shame that he died when he did as I'd have liked to have seen more of his motivation. And I remembered what what it was that I had found so frightening about the Cybermen as a toddler - the expressionless faces like a child's drawing of a skull, bland and blank even as they gunned down the Vogans with their head cannons.

Once again this was a story I got to enjoy over and over again as I had the scripts to read afterwards. I was particularly intrigued by the stage directions this time around - when the Doctor is shot by the Cybermen at the end of episode two they describe him as having "A FIT OF THE CAGNEY STAGGERS" a turn of phrase I had to ask my parents to explain. Furthermore the description of the closing shot of that episode "AND WE CLOSE ON HIS UNPLEASANT STEEL MASK" was one that stayed with me and I was slightly disappointed upon re-watching it to find out that this wasn't the case, the final shot actually being of the prone post-Cagney staggers Doctor.

The TARDIS did turn up at just the right moment - the end of episode four - and before there was even time for our heroes to stop and say cheerio they had to rush off having been summoned to attend a real emergency back on Earth by the Brigadier.

And there the season ended. Had original plans for the following story Terror of the Zygons come to fruition and it had actually been included in Season 12 instead of being held back as the Season 13 opener I would have been looking at an even longer run of consecutive weekly episodes to consider one of my golden ages of the series.

The Doctor, Sarah-Jane Smith and Harry Sullivan, not actually in the TARDIS.