Doctor Who Season 3, a quick review

In January 2018 I began watching every episode of Doctor Who in chronological order, at the rate of one per week. I wrote reviews of the first two seasons for Whotopia, supplementing my concise comments on individual stories in the Doctor Who Ratings Guide. Whotopia is no longer around so I have decided to make some brief comments on Season 3 in this blog.

This is Doctor Who’s longest season with forty five episodes comprising ten stories. They include shortest and longest stories, one being a prequel to the other and not featuring any of the TARDIS crew. Everything else is four episodes, the ideal length, suiting the reduction to three regular characters. There is a wonderful diveristy in scope and format, ranging chronologically from Ancient Egypt to 700 years after Earth’s destruction and stylistically from comedy to gritty drama.

More than the first two seasons it is noticably influenced by society. There are strong female characters, more adult messages, and criticism of apartheid plus a greater reliance on television and film sources. One of the themes is challenging perceptions and this is apt because of a view that William Hartnell was in poor health. Nonsense. He gives some of his strongest performances towards the end of this season.

Season Three shows the infinite possibilities of the show’s premise. Unconstrained in its ambition, despite sometimes being unrealistic and inconsistent, it is both engaging and entertaining.

We’ll never know Jack

Today marks 23 years since the publication of a book that highlighted a plausible Jack the Ripper suspect. The Secret of Prisoner 1167: Was this Man Jack the Ripper? by James Tully, suggested that James Kelly was responsible for the murders. John Morrison made the same connection in a booklet published eight years earlier.  This week I was asked if Jack the Ripper will ever be identified. My answer was no, and the case of James Kelly illustrates why.

A known user of prostitutes and wife-murderer Kelly was at liberty in 1888, the year of the Ripper murders, having escaped from Broadmoor in January. He returned to the asylum voluntarily in 1927. There is no hard evidence against him or any of the nine others that I identified in my examination of 333 Jack the Ripper suspects as the most plausible. He is also the most recently accused of those ten.

In the last thirty years the number of books about individual suspects has dramatically increased and researchers now, thanks to digitisation of records, have easy access to a wide range of source material. Despite this nobody has managed to build a convincing case against any of the known suspects or identify someone new. The chances of them doing so in the future are, in my opinion, slim.

Paul Williams is a writer of fiction and non-fiction best known for his Jack the Ripper suspect encyclopedia.

Reviews Matter

Regular readers of this blog will know of my interest in the 1884 Carmarthen mystery and its tentative connection with Jack the Ripper. I have now written a definitive account of events in The Best New True Crime Stories: Small Towns, released on 14 July and available for pre-order now from bookshops and Amazon, if you prefer.

Another topic I have touched on before is the importance of reviews. This week I started working on an in-depth article about a 1960s Doctor Who story, assessing how its reputation has changed over time. Reviews are a key piece of evidence, allowing me to compare the reaction of the original audience with that of people who have watched the story since.

In both pieces of work, I have endeavoured to understand and explain the contemporary historical viewpoint which created opinions very different to those shaped by modern values.

Reviews matter to future researchers as well as readers.

Paul Williams is a writer of fiction and non-fiction best known for his Jack the Ripper suspect encyclopedia.

Writing opportunities during COVID-19

Writers are sometimes advised to write about what they know. This might include places they have visited or characters that they have met. For the last few months many of us have had a limited opportunity to acquire new knowledge, due to isolation restrictions. There are now options to write about these experiences. Submittable currently lists 26 markets which are open for submissions of personal responses to the coronavirus pandemic. These include opportunities to contribute poetry, short fiction, essays, photography, and film.

This trend will probably continue into film, television, and novels, once those industries return to normal. There is a historical precedent in the many movies about World War II, some of which were made during the conflict. The Oscar in 1946 went to The Best Years of Our Lives, a picture about three servicemen returning to normal life. From crisis comes opportunity, but this may not last.

Harold Russell who lost both his hands in the war, won Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Best Years of our Lives. He is one of two non-professional actors to take this accolade and the only performer to sell his Oscar award at an auction. His stated reason was that he needed money to pay his wife’s medical bills.

Paul Williams is a writer of fiction and non-fiction best known for his book on 333 Jack the Ripper suspects.









A Grave Connection

This week I returned to one of the 333 suspects in my book about Jack the Ripper, aiming to write a longer piece about him. This follows articles about Robert Hiron, John George Donkin, Jim Connell, William Onion which I expanded into an, as yet, unpublished biography and Thomas Cutbush. So many of the suspects have fascinating, and largely untold, stories.

My research led me to Grave Tales, which has now published seven volumes of books telling selected short narratives about people buried in specific cemeteries or cities. I was sceptical of this concept and found inaccuracies in the piece on my subject. However, I learnt a lot of interesting information about the others, many of whom I’d never heard of.

Someday I might return to tell a longer story about them.

Paul Williams is a writer best known for his study of the Jack the Ripper suspects.


Learning from mistakes

This week I made a mistake. I wrote a brilliant short story that absolutely met all the criteria for a competition except one. The organisers stipulated that it was only open to unpublished authors. This was clearly stated at the top of the rules, not buried in the small print, so I only have myself to blame. And I cannot reuse the story because the characters were unique to that franchise.

How did this happen? Simple. I rushed into the writing because I was excited about the project. I enjoyed the process more than I have enjoyed some of my other writing in recent times. That clouded my judgment, persuading me to forgo my normal preparation and checks. Measured in lost time, and potential earnings, this could be a significant setback, but I regard the experience as positive.

It reminded me that being able to write what you want and have it published by someone else is a privilege that has to be earned.

Paul Williams is a writer of fiction and non-fiction best known for his Jack the Ripper suspect encyclopedia.


Death Records

In the final part of this series on using genealogical records for research, we’ll look at deaths. In the UK civil registration began in 1837. Prior to that you may be able to find records in parish and cemetery registers. As with births there is no guarantee that all deaths were notified to the authorities. Records of registrations are held at the General registry office with a searchable index. This gives you the person’s name, the year of death, age, the year, quarter and district of registration and the volume and page number. With these details you can order a full certificate, if needed.

The death certificate will give you the person’s full name, the date and place of death, the person’s age, occupation, address, cause of death and the name of the person who provided the information. Not all of this data is guaranteed to be accurate and needs to be cross-referenced against other records.

You may not be able to find a death record if the person died under an assumed name, was unidentified at death or the death was not registered. Try looking in different locations and using different spelling variations.
Paul Williams is a writer of fiction and non-fiction best known for his Jack the Ripper suspect encyclopedia published by RJ Parker in 2018.