Review by Scott Woodard
I have seen a lot of fan produced video and film projects. A lot! I've sat through countless pseudo-serious attempts at well-known series such as Star Trek and of course Doctor Who, and I've endured my share of parodies. Frequently brimming with in-jokes and sly cross-program references, most of what I have seen can be described as potentially humorous, but nothing has ever crossed the line into raucous comedy.
Nothing, that is, until recently when I was introduced to Chicago's Federation (or as it exists now, ex-Federation) These productions (from the mid to late eighties) are true classics in every sense of the word. The jokes are timeless (though timely in regards to the characters and situations portrayed) and for a fan of Doctor Who, there is material here that will have you wetting 'em with laughter!
I particularly enjoyed The Reign Of Turner. Originally produced in 1989, this 83-minute epic presents us with a fictionalized account of life behind-the-scenes of Doctor Who under the reign of John Nathan-Turner (from 1977 to the "present"). The scary thing here is one gets the sense that there may be more truth to these gags than one would initially think!
The video opens with an irate Colin Baker (Uncannily portrayed by Steven Hill (I'd swear these two were separated at birth!)) rushing into his dressing room where he discovers a note from "The Watcher" and a series of cardboard bins containing video tapes from Tom Baker, Peter Davison and himself. He begins reviewing the cassettes (starting with Tom) and what follows are hilarious parodies of known and well-known situations and exchanges from the show's past.
Tom Baker is revealed to be a raving egotist who finds that everyone else on screen with him routinely detracts from the focus of the program, himself (of course). A fiery temper also highlights this segment as he childishly gives up attempts to assemble the Key To Time and storms off-camera kicking chairs in the process. In the parody of The Androids of Tara, the planet is revealed to be "...one huge plantation." (Get it, Tara, Gone With The Wind???) The Stones of Blood are shown to be over-zealous pet rocks! And the eventual union between Lalla Ward and Tom Baker results in their presentation to JN-T of a possible nineteenth season to be entitled "Heart To Heart To Heart To Heart" with a rather faithful parody of the title sequence to Hart To Hart! This "disgraceful" presentation inspires JN-T to begin his savage routine of firing members of the cast, in this case, both Tom and Lalla.
Next we are shown a quiet and exceedingly polite Peter Davison (Robert Warnock) who sees the demise of all his companions, all the direct result of their somehow setting off JN-T and subsequent elimination from the program. There are parodies of several stories here ranging from Four To Doomsday (where one of the Urbankans is gloriously portrayed by an inflatable frog toy) to Resurrection Of The Daleks where Rula Lenska (bizarrely played by Steven Hill) hawks hair products to the camera, to (of course) Caves Of Androzani where the regeneration happens revealing the 6th Doctor whose response to a stuttering Peri's inquiries about his identity are, "Lunch my dear. And it seems not a moment too soon." Great stuff.
Colin's era is reflected by a terrific parody of the desert illusion scene in Vengeance On Varos where (instead of water) Peri's ghostly image taunts him with a plate of doughnuts (doughnuts are regularly featured throughout the video). We see comical versions of scenes from The Two Doctors (where the Doctor and Peri are searching for the "Rabbit of Seville" (cue the Warner Bros. cartoon!) to Trial Of A Timelord where, during the mind transference of Kiv into Peri, the characters present transform into The Young Ones (for those who might not remember, the actor who portrayed Kiv was also the same actor who portrayed pseudo-suave college boy, Mike).
Between all these parodies of past adventures are scenes behind-the-camera. One of my personal favorites is when Maurice Colbourne (Lytton, played by Dennis Kytasaari), while sitting in the BBC canteen, destroys the comic book he has been perusing only to the angered tones of JN-T who rushes into scene informing the actor that he has destroyed the only copy of the script! Explanation reveals that the title of the episode they are about to shoot is not Attack of The Cybermen but Attack Of The Spiderman!
There are constant gags about doughnuts, scenes of life at home with Peter Davison and a very whiny and demanding Sandra Dickinson (Jennifer Kelley) and more unprovoked firings by JN-T. In short, this is genius! I expected very little from this tape initially, but boy, was I surprised. On the down side, the tape does suffer from the things that plague most amateur productions: an occasional shaky camera, muffled audio, poor framing of imagery, etc., but the script more than makes up for these forgivable mistakes.
One other thing that I really enjoyed about this tape (and most of the videos produced by the Federation) is Robert Warnock's excellent score (here, completely redone as of 1995!) Most of the music is extremely effective, though in some scenes it has been dubbed a bit too loud sadly drowning out some truly funny lines.
I highly recommend The Reign Of Turner for fans of Doctor Who, science fiction and damn good comedy.
© 1998 Steven W Hill and The Federation. The Federation is a not-for-profit organization. "Doctor Who Fan Club" logo created by Steven W Hill © 1987.
"Doctor Who" is a trademark of the British Broadcasting Corporation © 1996. No attempt is made by the Federation to profit from the use of BBC trademarks.