Wednesday 24 September 2014

First-hand review - season 16 Frock Coat

A little while back I had the chance to get my grubby mitts on one of the replica season 16 Frock Coats out there.

It was interesting to see how another tailor had interpreted the coat, and knowing the original a bit more than most, how it fared. Forgive me for being brutal!

There are a multitude of things that strike me about this coat, but the first I’d have to address is fabrics used.

Rather than the plain and flecked coloured heavy, coarsely woven tweed, a relatively thin suiting cloth has been used which for me makes the feel of the coat just wrong.

The fabric is a good quality, allegedly sourced from Holland & Sherry, a Savile Row tailors suppliers. That said, a quality fabric doesn’t make for a quality cut if the essence of the pattern is wrong.

The rear of the coat is my main worry about the pattern used. A frock coat should have a continuous drape of fabric all the way from the shoulders, down between the two back buttons and through to the hem. The skirt panels should then be between the front edges all the way around to meet these narrow tails.
Here we essentially have a jacket with a skirt attached at a waistline seam running the full circumference of the coat.

It has the tails as a frock coat, but they are too wide which pushes the buttons quite far apart. The skirt is in two sections, with an aggressive dart down to the rear pockets to create some girth, but this broadens the hips rather than spreads the skirt through to the hem, thus lacking the hourglass flare that is so typical of a real frock coat.

The pattern for the upper body of the coat has one panel each side too many. Essentially the vertical seam passing just behind the rear pocket simply shouldn’t be there.

Turning to the collar and lapels, these aren’t too bad and are a good interpretation of the screen worn coat.

The placement of the buttonholes and buttons is pretty accurate, though the buttons are disappointing as they are plain plastic rather than leather.

The split lapel has been well cut, giving the front of the coat a good appearance.

With an appropriate scarf to hide the rest of the coat (here the one my mum knitted me in the 70s) it looks not so bad.

The chocolate brown piping has been cheaply sourced and is nothing more than a cotton bias binding worth less than a quid a metre.

It has been skilfully applied, but I don’t like they way the visible side has a line of stitching on show, whereas the underside is overlapped to hide the stitching.

The pocket flaps are all simple rectangular shapes, lacking the characterful outward slope. It’s subtle but makes the difference for me.
Internally the coat goes off on its own tangent, making things up as it goes along.

The design of the internal pockets is very typical of the Far East tailors, with a multitude of sizes and positions on offer - one on the right side and three on the left.

I’ve seen this in a number of suits originating from the orient.

This over eggs the simplistic four patch pockets of the original coat.

The coat is very competently made (aside from a burn to the velvet on the collar point - oops) but this doesn’t make up for the failure to appreciate what it should be made from or how it is cut and drapes.

That said it could make for a good day-to-day wear that has been inspired by the costume, rather than quality screen accurate time of cosplay.

Saturday 13 September 2014

Meeting Tom - Big Finish Day 5

Had a great day out today in Windsor for the fifth Big Finish day convention.

With Tom Baker as the headline guest, his pulling power alone meant the event was a sellout long before it happened.

Being a Big Finish sponsored event, it was hosted by Nicholas Briggs who had the pleasure of interviewing Tom alongside producer Philip Hinchcliffe, who had shaped his Doctor during his informative early seasons.

As expected Philip didn’t get much of a look in, while Tom stole the show. To say Tom was on form is an underestimation, as he was his most lucid and amusing I have seen for quite a while.

He seemed to be relishing the Big Finish dramas he's been doing, giving him a new spice of life, which was fantastic to witness.

Talking about his early life and confessional at his local Catholic Church, he had the audience rolling with laughter as he described the priest's rosary rattling when asking how many times a week Tom had an immoral thought. That the subject of his desire was from another parish made it acceptable.

He related how Who Do You Think You Are? had researched his life with a view to him being the subject of an episode. Having found nothing beyond births marriages and deaths they had deemed his ancestors too dull to take it to broadcast.

Following Tom's interview, it was time to queue for his photo opportunity.

I was in full Fourth Doctor costume and Tom was very amicable to the fans, so he was fine about me putting the end of my scarf around his shoulder and asking him to hold my sonic!

At noon it was time for another panel discussion, this time focusing on the Early Adventures with William Russell, Maureen O’Brien and Peter Purves, all of whom had worked with the First Doctor.

It was interesting to hear three contrasting views of the wilderness years of Doctor Who.
Maureen had resisted the Who world since leaving the series and working on many productions since. She had declined all invitations to conventions during the 1980s and 90s, but had been persuaded by 10th Planet who helped promote her book, gaining her over 200 sales in a single day.

Peter was quite blinkered to the regenerated Doctors down the years - William Hartnell was THE Doctor as far as he was concerned and his dislike for sci-fi meant he had kept a distance from fans. But when Big Finish approached him to bring Steven Taylor back to life, he jumped at the chance and enjoys every minute of it.
William also felt Hartnell was THE Doctor but felt only Sylvester McCoy got close to replacing him in his view.

Asked about the fans, Peter related an amusing email he had received enquiring if he was aware that gay Whoovians found his character hot! In response he explained how down the years he had been propositioned by gay actors, one of which was quite persistent, eventually telling Peter to make his mind up, “I’m not a taxi service. I don't charge waiting time!”

I then spent some time gathering autographs in my River Song book. It was wonderful to see Maureen O’Brien as I always thought she was an under-rated companion.

I also met Pamela Salem, who only the night before I had caught in an episode of Ever Decreasing Circles, playing the estranged wife of Paul Ryman.

Finally I got Karen Gledhill who starred alongside Pamela in Remembrance Of The Daleks and now in the Counter Measures spin-off Big Finish series.

I missed most of the lunchtime panel, but caught Matthew Waterhouse recalling watching over 1,000 episodes of Dark Shadows, which he had mentioned in his autobiography, resulting in him being asked to star in the Big Finish range.

He waxed lyrical about how the original had been shot as live; broadcast five days a week; and had all the wobbly sets, visible cameras and actors forgetting their lines which Doctor Who had erroneously been accused of down the years.
Nick Briggs chipped in that the closing credits would often be over a locked off shot of the empty set, and in one episode a lead actor walks into view wearing a dressing gown until he realises he's on camera and quickly darts our of view!

There was then a cosplay competition, judged by Strax himself, Dan Starkey. There was £50 of Big Finish CDs on offer for the winner. Ironically I lost out to a friend of mine - wearing one of my Sixth Doctor costumes!

The final panel I attended was a three-in-one, covering spin-off series Vienna, Dark Shadows: Blood Lust, and of particular interest to me, Terrahawks.

On hand was Jamie Anderson, son of puppetry legend Gerry Anderson.

With a new Thunderbirds tv series already in the pipeline, attention turned to Terrahawks as potential adaptation fodder. Most of the original voice cast are still available, including Denise Bryer who at 85 will return to voice Zelda.

Jamie told an amusing tale of how Mora Griffiths, was cast as Kate Kestrel for the SOS single not for her singing talent, but because she uncannily looked like the already made puppet!

While all of this was going on, Tom was signing autographs like a trooper. We all had numbered tickets and we were to get our chance in order, so being 237 I knew I had a while to wait before I needed to even think about queuing, giving me the chance for lunch!

Finally they were calling tickets over 220, so I headed over to meet Tom.
There was only one thing I wanted signed - and I wanted him to write something very special for me, and with him on top form I knew he would be up for it.

If you've followed this blog, you may have seen Target novel he signed for me in 1977. As a dedicated 11 year old Doctor Who fan I was beyond excited to meet my hero, but was terrified of him spelling my name wrong. So when I finally got to the front of the queue and I was asked my name, I said “Steven - with a V!” So Tom wrote the dedication as “To Steven with a V from Who with a Tom Baker”. Down the years it has been a phrase that makes quite a lyrical sound in my mind.

Now I have a River Song book for my autographs, I want Tom to rewrite the same dedication for me, 37 years later, which he was more than happy to do.

I asked him to sign page one of the book, and he did a great job.

Thanks Tom - it made my day.