Monday, August 22, 2016

Review: The Official Doctor Who Cookbook

It's been some time since we had a Doctor Who cookbook produced under official license. The last time was way back in 1985 when Gary Downie, partner of the then-television producer of the show, John Nathan-Turner, and sometime choreographer, produced one for W H Allen, at a time when it seemed that anything with Doctor Who on the front could be published ... On that occasion the recipes were sourced from people who had appeared in or had some other connection with the show and was basically their favourite dishes, but with 'who-ified' names. No attempt was made to make the dishes look like actual monsters or aliens and so on ...

Then an unofficial book appeared a couple of years back in 2012, self-produced by Chris-Rachael Oseland and available on Amazon. What's interesting here is that in this new official cookbook, the author seems to have had some identical ideas as Oseland.  So both books feature Bow Tie Pasta, Jammie Dodgers and, of course, fish fingers and custard, but then I guess that some things are too obvious. The main difference is that Oseland includes loads and loads of recipes inspired by just about every story of the new series. There's an updated and revised edition of this book in the works, which Oseland wants to publish in a better format than the original self-published one ...

In this new BBC book, which contains just 40 recipes, one distinctly gets the idea that the recipes are way too hard for most kids to make, and the decoration relies on you being an expert and professional artist, sculptor and painter. Most of the recipes are shown in finished form as perfect cakes, pastries and dishes, but to get them looking like that would just not be possible for most mortal cooks. I'm reminded of the many internet sites which show the 'aspiration' against the 'reality', showing just how hard it is (here's an example ... There's an 'Exterminated Jelly Skeleton' which requires you to make perfect-looking bones from meringue ... which is the stickiest and hardest to shape substance known to man! The recipe says: 'Pipe an 8-9cm length of meringue onto the paper. Pipe an extra blob at each end to create a bone shape.'  Hmmm ... can't see the result looking even remotely like the perfect bone shapes shown in the photograph ... as for the bread baked to look like an Ood head ...!

So I'm not quite sure who this book is aimed at.  Even something which should be simple, like making little biscuit Doctors, relies on having a cutter in the right shape (or you have to trace a shape provided in the book onto paper and then somehow use it to cut each little man out ... But then you need a rock-steady hand, lots of different colours of icing, and a thin icing pipette to be able to decorate them ...

On the Cyberman head open sandwiches, there's a blob of hoisin sauce for the eyes, but in the picture, it is perfectly positioned and even has the little 'tear drop' present on the bottom corner ... not something that I suspect is even remotely possible to do in the real world!

The Snowman cake has perfectly jagged icing teeth ... again I feel that the actuality would be something looking more like the Snowman had been battered with a hammer and then partially melted in real life ... all the images show the results as being too perfect and finished. In fact to the extent that I wonder how much photoshop has been employed to make the images look perfect. The credit reads: photography and prop styling - Haarala Hamilton ... but what does 'prop styling' mean?

Overall it's a nice looking book, full of colour pictures, and the ideas are good and cover all elements of food from snacks to savoury to desserts, sweets and cakes.  £14.99 is also not too expensive for the book, making it maybe an impulse Christmas buy for someone who loves cooking?  But to be honest I'd hate to have to try and actually make some of the recipes as I just know that my results would bear little resemblance to the perfect images in the book.

DOCTOR WHO: THE OFFICIAL COOKBOOK is published by BBC Books. £14.99 hardback

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

The Doctor Who Experience - July 2016

Alongside our amazing visit to the TARDIS set, we also enjoyed an afternoon at the Doctor Who Experience, a semi-permanent Doctor Who exhibition and museum which is sited pretty much next door to the BBC's Roath Lock Studios ...

The Experience is part-interactive and part-walk-around-museum, and it's built on previous exhibitions such that it is now very impressive, and very well done indeed! I remember the early days of Blackpool and Longleat where the best you got was a video of Tom Baker wishing you well! But these days it's all dry ice and 3D video as you are walked through and immersed in your very own adventure.

I won't say too much lest it spoil it for future visitors, but it's all about an invasion by something called the Crinis, and the 12th Doctor is there on the screen, talking to your guide, and helping you through the various challenges you face. Are there Daleks? Of course there are!  Are there Weeping Angels? You betcha! But you come through (mostly) unscathed and enter the main exhibition through a nice pair of junkyard doors with the name I M Foreman written on ...

An Ice Warrior in the entrance foyer
There is so much in the exhibition, that the best way to explain it is just to show all the pictures I took! There are Daleks and Cybermen, Sontarans and Zygons, Doctor and Companion costumes galore, and four (count them!) FOUR TARDIS control rooms: We have the one from the Mark Gatiss Docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time from 2013, which replicates the William Hartnell console (which was used up until 'The Two Doctors'); then there's the Davison model (used from 'The Five Doctors' until the end of the Classic series in 1989); and finally the Eccleston/Tennant 'coral' model. Opened since we visited (we missed it by a day!) is yet another console, this time a sort of reimagined Pertwee/T Baker model.

Overall everything is really nicely displayed, with one or two larger props present as well as the costumes. The Experience focuses on the current series, so there's lots of Clara's outfits, and items from many of the most recent episodes, like the Mire, Me's outfits, Costumes and props from the 'Under the Lake' and 'Sleep No More' episodes, plus the hooded creature (the Veil) and teleport booth from 'Heaven Sent' ... overall an excellent set of artefacts which covers probably as much of the series as it can.

The K1 Robot
It was very nice to see some earlier costumes there, which have been repaired, reconstructed and refurbished by Mike Tucker and his team at the The Model Unit ... especially the magnificent K1 Robot from 'Robot' and a Zygon from 'Terror of the Zygons' ... not to mention a Tetrap from 'Time and the Rani' and Omega from 'Arc of Infinity' ... There's not that much that exists from earlier adventures (there's a lovely Yeti from 'The Web of Fear') and what does exist tends to be in private hands ... indeed, several of the items on display are noted as coming from private collections, so it's to be applauded that those who own these pieces have allowed them to be displayed and appreciated by everyone!

On our visit to the Experience, we were in very good company. Frazer Hines, who played Jamie McCrimmon alongside the second Doctor, was with us, and also Paul McGann, the eighth Doctor, popped down to Cardiff to join us on our day out. So we battled the Crinis with them, and then wandered the Exhibition, cooing at all the marvellous items on display.  As I said to Paul and Frazer though, what was needed was more Jamie and more eighth Doctor items ... unfortunately there just aren't many of them around to display!

Paul McGann and Frazer Hines
Because we had these two gentlemen with us, the staff were very kind and allowed us to take some pics on the sets themselves - these are roped off to protect the fragile consoles and, indeed, Bessie the yellow roadster, and visitors are not permitted to get too close to them. We were very careful however, and under the watchful eyes of the Curator and staff the whole time ... otherwise who knows where Paul might have navigated the console to!  So if you go to the Experience yourself (and I heartily recommend you do!) then please don't try and pass the barriers yourself, lest you feel the long arm of the security staff on your collar!

We had a simply marvellous time, and even managed to buy some interesting things in the shop at the end (I love a little shop!).

So thanks to the Curator and staff at the Experience for a truly out of this world experience ... and to my fellow travellers: Sam Stone, Amy Windham, Howard Hayes, Ken Deep, James Naughton, Frazer Hines and Paul McGann ... And we hope readers head over to Cardiff to have your very own Doctor Who Experience!

And now ... the pictures ... And for reasons best known to itself, Blogger has put them all in reverse order! And they are all of course (c) me so no pinching!

A Lego Dalek!

A happy group of time travellers ... Don't touch that switch Frazer!
Paul and Frazer clown about in Bessie

Sam and Paul ... Travellers in Time!

But which box?

A Doctor will teleport in momentarily ...

The Doctor's Confession Dial

Something very strange about the face of this
new series Zygon.

A Doctor skull

The Veil ,,, coming for you

Eye-sand monster

The Dalek in which Clara was installed

Amy Pond's collection of dolls

This is my moment ...

Tellytubby Dalek


Superb recreation of an original Zygon


The Special Weapons Dalek


Original sixties Yeti, complete with ball

Original Ice Warrior

'The Two Doctors' style Sontaran

Davros as the Emperor Dalek


The Face of Boe

Just hanging around

Outfits for the Paternoster Gang

The Doctor's crib

I didn't remember this thing from the show but
apparently it was there!

Beautiful original console

Three TARDISes together ,,,

Five Doctors console

Coral console

A display of the Radiophonic Workshop's work on the show.

Three Daleks

A Menoptra from 'An Adventure in Space and Time'

'Five Doctors' console



Entering the exhibition

Don't Blink!

A Weeping Angel in the foyer

A Smiler booth in the Cafe area

Artwork in the cafe area