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Doctor Who "Bigger on the inside..."

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Old January 17 2012, 06:29 AM   #1
Hober Mallow
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Doctor Who, first time through

So I've started watching Who from the very beginning, starting with Netlix's Doctor Who: the Beginning, featuring the first three William Hartnel story arcs. I decided to share my impressions with the more hardcore fans here. I won't post long reviews, I'll just give my general impressions of each story and get some of your views.

I'm not new to Who, but neither am I all that steeped into the show's mythology. I watched the show as a kid on a semi-regular basis for a time, have seen the McGann TV movie, and the first couple seasons of the new show.

My first Doctor was Peter Davidson. At the time I didn't realize that there were other actors who had played the Doctor, or that the series had been on the air for decades by that time. So Davidson was the Doctor as far as I was concered.

Then came the regeneration into Colin Baker. I misunderstood what was happening. When the Master's face appeared and ordered the Doctor to "Die!" I thought that the Master's mind had merged with the Doctor, and that Colin Baker was supposed to look like a cross between the Master and the Doctor. My idea was "confirmed" to me in the next episode, when it seemed to me the Doctor's evil "Master" side attacked his companion.

I stopped watching not long afterwards. When I tuned in again, the Doctor was a funny little man with a funny hat. I guess that's when I figured out the Doctor could regenerate his form.

A few years later, I started watching again, and my local PBS station was playing the Tom Baker episodes. It wasn't long before Tom Baker supplanted Peter Davidson in my mind as the Doctor. There's just something about Tom Baker; once you've seen his Doctor, you can't help but compare all the other Doctors to him -- even the earlier ones.

Anyhoo, I'll get to my "reviews" now, and I'll keep it up if it seems like anyone cares. My posts may, however, be sporadic.

"An Unearthly Child"

Starts out great. The central focus of the first episode isn't the mystery of the Doctor, but the mystery of Susan. I love the fairly cryptic, "I was born in another time," comment.

Then they went back in time, met some cavemen who speak pidgin English, and I fell asleep.

The Doctor in this arc could not be more different from later Doctors; not only does he not particularly care about humans (or humans specifically of the 20th Century, if we're to stick with only what we know about the Doc from this early period; obviously it's not known that he's an alien and may simply be a human from the future), he seems to consider them beneath him and Susan. The most shocking scene from a "looking-back" perspective is the scene in which the Doctor is prepared to murder an injured caveman in order that they might not be slowed down in their progress.

Most of the story is dull. I was glad when it was over because I knew what was coming up...

"The Daleks(!)"

Radiation is increasing. Here we go!

We visit Skaro for the first time. There's a city in the distance. The Doctor wants to investigate, so he sabotages the TARDIS so the others have no choice but to go with the Doc to the city.

We meet the Daleks. "Exterminate!" We meet the Thals.

What surprises me the most about Hartnell's Doc is just how inactive he is. Okay, he's an old man... but then we have Ian. Ian is hardly the type of companion who we're used to in later seasons, the one who has to follow the Doctor's lead because he has no idea what's going on and the Doctor isn't showing all his cards. No, this Ian is actually more like the future Doctors than Hartell's character. He's the take charge kind of guy with a seeming obligation to get involved.

How to reconcile the cantankerous old Doctor, who finds humans worthy of little more than an upturned nose and who'd rather fly off in the TARDIS and leave everyone else to their fates than be bothered to get involved, with the later versions of the character?

Here's my idea for a retconned explanation:

The Doctor's experiences with Susan and Ian changed him utterly. First, we have Susan's love of 20th Century earth, a love he would adopt partly because of her, and party because of Ian. In time, he comes to admire Ian's spirit of adventure, Ian's taking of moral positions and putting them into action, his getting involved, and that this, more than physical regeneration, gave the Doctor a renewed spirit. Eventually, even the Gallifreyans would take notice of the Doc's newfound obsession with earth, especially earth of the 20th Century, as they mention to Patrick Troughton's Doctor before they force his regeneration and institue his exile on earth.

Well, it's just an idea. And I've only just seen the first few Hartnell story arcs, so feel free to disagree.

Okay, it's going to be a week or so before I get the next story in the mail. I wish Netflix streamed more Who.
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Old January 17 2012, 09:55 AM   #2
VDCNI
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Re: Doctor Who, first time through

Hope you enjoy it. I've seen them all but am planning to do a big watch/listen from the start once the DVD's have all been released.

I actually like the caveman bits of the first story - yes nothing much happens but it's a great character piece - for the Doctor and Ian anyway, Barbara doesn't really come into her own until the next few stories. It also has a much better script and acting from the guest cast than The Daleks.

I'm not a fan of the Daleks but their first story is very strong - Nation is great at ideas and pretty solid on the action stuff but struggles with dialogue and the Thals are pretty nothing characters - though Philip Bond does some good stuff with his more cynical Thal and he and Jackie Hill do a nice job with the potential romance given that there's not really much there in the script.

Your retcon is pretty much fan consensus - that travelling with humans changes the Doctor and the next story is a major factor in that development though Barbara is just if not more important in that than Ian or Susan. There's also an element that the Doctor and companions had to be more pro-active eventually as there is a limit to the stories you can tell when all they want to do is get back to the Tardis.
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Old January 17 2012, 10:53 AM   #3
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Re: Doctor Who, first time through

Hober Mallow wrote: View Post
Then came the regeneration into Colin Baker. I misunderstood what was happening. When the Master's face appeared and ordered the Doctor to "Die!" I thought that the Master's mind had merged with the Doctor, and that Colin Baker was supposed to look like a cross between the Master and the Doctor. My idea was "confirmed" to me in the next episode, when it seemed to me the Doctor's evil "Master" side attacked his companion
Huh, interesting theory. I've read many fan theories on The Sixth Doctor's demeanor (including Colin Baker's take as developed in the Big Finish audio plays), but I have to say I kind of like it. I'm not going to agree with it but it's interesting nonetheless.

As VCDNI has already confirmed, your theory on The First Doctor is pretty much spot on. The Doctor's travels with Ian and Barbara changed the course of his life and all of the following companions continue to have a profound effect on him.
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Old January 17 2012, 05:03 PM   #4
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Re: Doctor Who, first time through

Hober Mallow wrote: View Post
Here's my idea for a retconned explanation:

The Doctor's experiences with Susan and Ian changed him utterly. First, we have Susan's love of 20th Century earth, a love he would adopt partly because of her, and party because of Ian. In time, he comes to admire Ian's spirit of adventure, Ian's taking of moral positions and putting them into action, his getting involved, and that this, more than physical regeneration, gave the Doctor a renewed spirit. Eventually, even the Gallifreyans would take notice of the Doc's newfound obsession with earth, especially earth of the 20th Century, as they mention to Patrick Troughton's Doctor before they force his regeneration and institue his exile on earth.
That's pretty much the consensus, and something that later writers have taken up and run with; Russell T Davies did a sort of condensed version of the early Hartnell character arc in the Eccleston season, with Rose Tyler meeting a damaged, scarred Doctor and changing him for the better. I wouldn't even call that theory a retcon - it seems to be what was presented on screen at the time. After all, the first Doctor changes radically and becomes much closer to the more familiar character, even before the first regeneration.

Also, a tiny point; it's Davison, not Davidson.
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Old January 17 2012, 07:41 PM   #5
Hober Mallow
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Re: Doctor Who, first time through

Iamnotspock wrote: View Post
I wouldn't even call that theory a retcon - it seems to be what was presented on screen at the time. After all, the first Doctor changes radically and becomes much closer to the more familiar character, even before the first regeneration.
Interesting. As I move through the rest of the Hartnell-era (or, at least, through the complete episodes Netflix has) I'll be watching for the Doctor's development.

Also, a tiny point; it's Davison, not Davidson.
Ah, thank you.
VDCNI wrote: View Post
I'm not a fan of the Daleks but their first story is very strong - Nation is great at ideas and pretty solid on the action stuff but struggles with dialogue and the Thals are pretty nothing characters - though Philip Bond does some good stuff with his more cynical Thal and he and Jackie Hill do a nice job with the potential romance given that there's not really much there in the script.
My Netflix DVD actually skipped during the scene in which the Doctor and Ian remove a Dalek from his sausage casing so that Ian could climb inside. Did we actually get to see the Dalek at this point, aside from the rubber glove under a blanket we see a moment later?

Your retcon is pretty much fan consensus - that travelling with humans changes the Doctor and the next story is a major factor in that development though Barbara is just if not more important in that than Ian or Susan. There's also an element that the Doctor and companions had to be more pro-active eventually as there is a limit to the stories you can tell when all they want to do is get back to the Tardis.
Yes, it would make for an uninteresting series if the main character didn't really want to, well... be the main character. Sort of like Captain Pike from the first Trek pilot. I liked Hunter as the captain in "The Cage," but he was more of an anti-hero to Kirk's hero. No matter what happened to Kirk, he never questioned whether or not he wanted to or should be a starship captain.

Looking forward to the Doc's character development.
Emh wrote: View Post
Huh, interesting theory. I've read many fan theories on The Sixth Doctor's demeanor (including Colin Baker's take as developed in the Big Finish audio plays), but I have to say I kind of like it. I'm not going to agree with it but it's interesting nonetheless.
It was just my ignorance about regeneration. But it'll be fun for me to see that scene again in light of what I know now about the Doctor. It's been probably twenty years since I've seen that episode.
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Old January 17 2012, 07:43 PM   #6
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Re: Doctor Who, first time through

Whatever one thinks of Rose, she did the Doctor some good between his first meeting with her and his eventual regeneration into his 10th incarnation.

It did in retrospect seem like a shortened version of the 1st Doctor softening up to his companions and locations he ended up in. Nice.

And yes, it IS Davison, not Davidson, never has been and never will despite endless people making the mistake. Including Doctor Who Magazine when he was first announced as the new Doctor. Oh well...
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Old January 19 2012, 12:29 AM   #7
23skidoo
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Re: Doctor Who, first time through

I also like the "Master as Doctor" theory, and it would have made a much better introductory storyline than Twin Dilemma.

Hober, are you only going to watch the existing stories, or will you also seek out the soundtrack recordings for the missing episodes? There are several box sets available and last I looked they'd covered all the missing Hartnell stories. I don't know if Netflix does CDs though they may be available on iTunes if you're into that. Also, there should have been a 2-parter tacked on to the end of The Daleks, "The Edge of Destruction" which is a key episode because it set up a number of elements of the series some of which paid off in 2011. There should also have been a 30-minute condensed audio version of the missing story "Marco Polo" which if nothing else would help bridge the gap between Edge of Destruction and the next complete story, Keys of Marinus (which I warn you isn't particularly good, but the season gets better after that).

Alex
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Old January 19 2012, 12:42 AM   #8
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Re: Doctor Who, first time through

23skidoo wrote: View Post
I also like the "Master as Doctor" theory, and it would have made a much better introductory storyline than Twin Dilemma.

Hober, are you only going to watch the existing stories, or will you also seek out the soundtrack recordings for the missing episodes? There are several box sets available and last I looked they'd covered all the missing Hartnell stories. I don't know if Netflix does CDs though they may be available on iTunes if you're into that. Also, there should have been a 2-parter tacked on to the end of The Daleks, "The Edge of Destruction" which is a key episode because it set up a number of elements of the series some of which paid off in 2011. There should also have been a 30-minute condensed audio version of the missing story "Marco Polo" which if nothing else would help bridge the gap between Edge of Destruction and the next complete story, Keys of Marinus (which I warn you isn't particularly good, but the season gets better after that).

Alex
Also, you can find fan reconstructions of the missing stories on Youtube or Dailymotion
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Old January 19 2012, 07:38 AM   #9
Hober Mallow
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Re: Doctor Who, first time through

23skidoo wrote: View Post
Hober, are you only going to watch the existing stories, or will you also seek out the soundtrack recordings for the missing episodes?
I'm planning on scouring youtube to see what I can find. I can't really spend any extra money, so I'm limited to what I can find on Netflix and youtube, or wherever else on the net. Unfortunately, there's only five or six Troughton story arcs available; I'm not sure what I'm going to do there, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. It's gonna be a while before I get through the Hartnel episodes. Luckily, Netflix seems to have all of the complete Hartnell stories.

If nothing else, maybe you kind folks can give me short synopses of missing stories when I come to them, if I can't find any audio or fan reconstructions on the net.

Also, there should have been a 2-parter tacked on to the end of The Daleks, "The Edge of Destruction" which is a key episode because it set up a number of elements of the series some of which paid off in 2011.
Interesting. "Edge of Destruction," part of the "Doctor Who: The Beginning" set, is the next DVD in my Netflix queue, right after some crap my girlfriend ordered. You say it's only a two-parter? That kinda sucks. But if it's a key episode, I'll watch it carefully.

There should also have been a 30-minute condensed audio version of the missing story "Marco Polo--"
Looks like it's on youtube, or at least a part of it.

--which if nothing else would help bridge the gap between Edge of Destruction and the next complete story, Keys of Marinus (which I warn you isn't particularly good, but the season gets better after that).
That one's in my DVD queue as well, and "The Aztecs" is streaming, so I won't have to wait for that one in the mail. Actually, I think most of the Pertwee and Tom Baker stories are streaming, so once I get there, I'll be able to watch more than one story every week or two.

Sindatur wrote: View Post
Also, you can find fan reconstructions of the missing stories on Youtube or Dailymotion
I'll scout out Dailymotion to see what they have. Thanks.
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Old January 20 2012, 02:25 PM   #10
23skidoo
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Re: Doctor Who, first time through

Hober Mallow wrote: View Post
I'm planning on scouring youtube to see what I can find. I can't really spend any extra money, so I'm limited to what I can find on Netflix and youtube, or wherever else on the net. Unfortunately, there's only five or six Troughton story arcs available; I'm not sure what I'm going to do there, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. It's gonna be a while before I get through the Hartnel episodes. Luckily, Netflix seems to have all of the complete Hartnell stories.

If nothing else, maybe you kind folks can give me short synopses of missing stories when I come to them, if I can't find any audio or fan reconstructions on the net.
There are plenty of websites featuring detailed synopses, including the Doctor Who Reference Guide http://drwhoguide.com/who.htm and the TARDIS Index File wiki at tardis.wikia.com.

Also, keep in mind the three-DVD set called Lost in Time, which contains surviving individual episodes from lost or incomplete stories. There's nothing from Marco Polo, sadly, but when you get up to The Crusade and The Daleks Master Plan in the order of things, it may be worth checking out so you can see at least some of what was being done at the time.

Also, there should have been a 2-parter tacked on to the end of The Daleks, "The Edge of Destruction" which is a key episode because it set up a number of elements of the series some of which paid off in 2011.
Interesting. "Edge of Destruction," part of the "Doctor Who: The Beginning" set, is the next DVD in my Netflix queue, right after some crap my girlfriend ordered. You say it's only a two-parter? That kinda sucks. But if it's a key episode, I'll watch it carefully.
Back in the day they did a few two- and three-parters. Edge of Destruction was made as 2 because the series was only commissioned for 13 episodes to start with, so this was written as a potential finale. I'm surprised you got The Daleks yet Edge of Destruction wasn't included because it and Unearthly Child made up the Beginning box set. Maybe Netflix has different versions. (Or did I misread you - if you're streaming as opposed to getting the DVDs then of course you might not have the extra features.)

Re: Marco Polo

Looks like it's on youtube, or at least a part of it.
Assuming Netflix is distributing the same versions of the DVDs and we're not talking streaming, it should be an extra feature on the DVD with Edge of Destruction.

--which if nothing else would help bridge the gap between Edge of Destruction and the next complete story, Keys of Marinus (which I warn you isn't particularly good, but the season gets better after that).
That one's in my DVD queue as well, and "The Aztecs" is streaming, so I won't have to wait for that one in the mail. Actually, I think most of the Pertwee and Tom Baker stories are streaming, so once I get there, I'll be able to watch more than one story every week or two.
The earlier stories should be watched in order if you can, though, as one story tends to lead into the next. Aztecs should be watched after Marinus (and you'll see Ian wearing a Chinese costume throughout Marinus - which was a carryover from Marco Polo). The world won't come to an end if you watch them out of order, though - there was no "Bad Wolf"-like arc back in the day, but you wouldn't want to see, for example, the two-parter "The Rescue" before watching "The Dalek Invasion of Earth". (They're coming up in Season 2) And The Aztecs is also important as while Marco Polo was the first true historical story (periodically early Who does an historical story with no sci-fi elements other than the TARDIS), it's the one that sets out some of the ground rules for time travel that have resonated ever since (even if they're broken by the Doctor quite frequently!)

Both those sites I gave you can help with confirming story order (as can IMDb and other places). BBC Video also kindly numbers its releases in order of broadcast, not DVD release.

Alex
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Old January 20 2012, 08:59 PM   #11
Hober Mallow
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Re: Doctor Who, first time through

23skidoo wrote: View Post
I'm surprised you got The Daleks yet Edge of Destruction wasn't included because it and Unearthly Child made up the Beginning box set. Maybe Netflix has different versions. (Or did I misread you - if you're streaming as opposed to getting the DVDs then of course you might not have the extra features.)
Yeah, it's all part of the boxset. The plan I have with Netflix only allows me to order one disc at a time, so I had to order each story individually. For some reason, Unearthly Child is on disc 3, the Daleks dicc 1, and Edge disc 2; fortunately, I'm at least familiar enough with Who to know which disc to order first, or I would have been confused.

Assuming Netflix is distributing the same versions of the DVDs and we're not talking streaming, it should be an extra feature on the DVD with Edge of Destruction.
Ah, excellent. That would actually help out a lot if some footage of missing episodes appear as extra features. Yeah, there are only a few Hartnell stories streaming, so I'll be ordering most of the discs. But if more missing episode clips are bonus features on the other discs, maybe I'll just order all the discs and stream nothing until the Pertwee-era

The earlier stories should be watched in order if you can, though, as one story tends to lead into the next. Aztecs should be watched after Marinus (and you'll see Ian wearing a Chinese costume throughout Marinus - which was a carryover from Marco Polo). The world won't come to an end if you watch them out of order, though - there was no "Bad Wolf"-like arc back in the day, but you wouldn't want to see, for example, the two-parter "The Rescue" before watching "The Dalek Invasion of Earth". (They're coming up in Season 2) And The Aztecs is also important as while Marco Polo was the first true historical story (periodically early Who does an historical story with no sci-fi elements other than the TARDIS), it's the one that sets out some of the ground rules for time travel that have resonated ever since (even if they're broken by the Doctor quite frequently!)
Sonds good. I'll definitely be watching in order.

Both those sites I gave you can help with confirming story order (as can IMDb and other places). BBC Video also kindly numbers its releases in order of broadcast, not DVD release.
Thanks, I'll check out those sources to make sure I stay on track.
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Old January 28 2012, 12:25 AM   #12
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Re: Doctor Who, first time through

Just dropped off my girlfriend's cheesy horror flick. I should get "Edge of Destruction" in the mail Monday.

At this rate I'l be through the entire series by the end of the next ice age.
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Old January 28 2012, 12:34 PM   #13
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Re: Doctor Who, first time through

Hober Mallow wrote: View Post
My Netflix DVD actually skipped during the scene in which the Doctor and Ian remove a Dalek from his sausage casing so that Ian could climb inside. Did we actually get to see the Dalek at this point, aside from the rubber glove under a blanket we see a moment later?
Nope, it was hidden from view, Hartnell and Russell doing their best 'I am disgusted by what I see' faces. The creature is scooped out, wrapped up in the cape, and we only see the rubber glove.
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Old January 28 2012, 05:50 PM   #14
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Re: Doctor Who, first time through

I am actually doing the same run through from the beginning right now. I know much less about the series though, so it's mostly new to me. I just finished The Aztecs last night.
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Old January 28 2012, 10:45 PM   #15
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Re: Doctor Who, first time through

I tend to stick to the Tom Baker serials and the current episodes featuring Matt Smith with karen Gillan these days. Just my personal preference.
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