Tagged: BBC

Benedict Cumberbatch with Christmas stories for you

Benedict Cumberbatch gives us a Christmas reading of “A Visit From St. Nicholas”:

Oh, all right– here’s what you really want to see today, the preview episode of the next season of Sherlock, “Many Happy Returns’:

Sherlock happily returns January 1 in the UK, and the 19th on PBS in the US.

Oh, and did we mention the BBC is rerunning the audio play of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere for this week, starring Mr. C.? We didn’t? Well, we did now. Go. Listen. Enjoy, along with

Jen Krueger: I Love This Show, Please Kill It

Krueger Art 131224When I watched the recent season finale of Homeland, I was left speechless. If you’re not caught up on this Showtime thriller about the CIA and terrorism, don’t worry; I won’t give anything away. Confining myself to spoiler-free praise, I’ll just say it struck me as pitch perfect and was satisfying to a degree that television shows achieve rarely, if ever. I loved it so much, in fact, that as the credits rolled I found myself hoping the show would get canceled before any more episodes air.

It’s almost impossible for a TV show to stay great from pilot to series finale. I know, I know, Breaking Bad proved it can be done, but Vince Gilligan’s masterpiece is the exception that underscores the rule. There are just too many things to ruin great shows, and an executive hitting the cancellation button even isn’t first on the list. Simply being left on the air too long is more than enough to take the wind out of the sails of something once lovable, whether it’s because the show starts stretching into weird new territory like on Fringe, or because intended end points keep being passed by in the hopes of squeezing out another lucrative ratings year, like with Dexter. And of course there’s the plot and punchline recycling that can occur when a show’s left lingering, making episode formulas uncomfortably obvious (*cough cough* Simpsons).

Outside circumstances rearing their heads can be damaging too. With many shows, a featured actor leaving would minimally rock the boat, and some end up capsizing altogether rather than recovering. Just hearing that Topher Grace was leaving That ’70s Show was enough to make me tune out, and leave me completely unsurprised when I heard the first Eric Foreman-less season was also the show’s last. The 2007 Writer’s Guild strike took down its fair share of TV, from amazing shows immediately unable to sustain themselves through it like The Riches, to shows that pushed through but hobbled on forever changed, like Heroes.

But while there have been plenty of shows that have gone downhill in front of my eyes, there are of course many others cancelled before their time. If you’ve never seen the 2008 BBC show Survivors, do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s an amazing yet little known sci-fi drama that follows a small group of people who lived through a widespread virus wiping out most of the population, and it’s the best treatment I’ve ever seen of the “band of survivors must start anew” premise. The caveat that comes along with this recommendation is the fact that the second season finale ends on a cliffhanger so amazing that I was literally yelling at my television when I realized the show hadn’t been renewed for a third series. Then again, maybe letting sleeping dogs lie is best; Arrested Development‘s fourth season didn’t live up to the first three by even the most generous standards.

Yet even on the rare occasion that a show manages to go out gracefully under the pall of cancellation, I still can’t help being sad for it. The writers for the criminally under-appreciated Terriers knew there was a strong possibility they’d never see a second season, and deftly handled their finale in such a way that viewers could interpret the episode as teeing up another major story arc if renewal did come through, or as a beautiful farewell if the hammer fell, which it sadly did. Going out so skillfully even though they hadn’t gotten their narrative due was impressive, but oxymoronically reinforced that they should’ve been given another season to find a bigger audience.

So if it’s so hard for shows on TV to stay great and for great shows to stay on TV, why do I want one of my favorites off the air? Because, intentionally or not, the writers served up a season finale to Homeland this year that put the perfect cap on the show. Yes, there are some signs about what season four will entail, and yes, the writers of this particular show have proven time and again that they’re capable of taking the story and characters into increasingly compelling territory even when it seems they’ve already struck a narrative critical mass. But the way this finale wrapped up a major story arc (again, no spoilers!) left me with the rarest of my potential reactions to a TV show: content. I could walk away from these characters now and be happy to leave them because I know they’re all right where they should be.

Of course, I realize I could preserve this feeling of contentment by choosing not to watch the fourth season of Homeland when it debuts. But I’d be lying to myself if I pretended to have the willpower for that. I mean, did you see how amazing the third season finale was?!

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis (maybe)

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold (definitely)


REVIEW: Doctor Who Specials Feature History & Comedy

The BBC did a cracking job of filling the week before the Doctor Who 50th anniversary with new programming to appeal to Whovians across the globe.  Noted scientist Brian Cox hosted a seminar about the nature of space and time, while noted actor Brian Cox starred in An Adventure in Space and Time.  Paul McGann starred in a short adventure featuring the eighth Doctor, while Doctors Five, Six, and Seven hatched their own plan to crash the festivities.

David Bradley as William Hartnell as The Doctor in An Adventure in Space and Time

Mark Gatiss penned An Adventure in Space and Time, a dramatic adaptation of the early years of the classic series.  Brian Cox and Jessica Raine (Call the Midwife) starred as Sydney Newman and Verity Lambert respectively, the minds behind the show, while David Bradley (Game of Thrones, Harry Potter) took the role of William Hartnell, the first Doctor.  Hartnell was unsure of his ability to take on the role, and Verity supported and encouraged him, each helping the other make a name for themselves in television history.  Bradley does a wonderful job of showing Hartnell’s range of emotion as the harsh schedule of the show takes its toll on him in only three years. A recurring motif of a series of publicity pictures for each new cast change portrays the progression wonderfully.

There’s a number of cameos of classic Who actors in the film. William Russell (the original Ian Chesterton) plays a BBC guard, and early companions Anneke Wills and Jean Marsh (Upstairs Downstairs), and current voice of the Daleks Nicholas Briggs as the original voice of the Daleks, Peter Hawkins.  One final cameo at the end is too wonderful and precious to spoil – let’s just say Gatiss is not afraid to let the line between reality and fantasy blur if needs be.

While the adventure is scheduled for release in the UK on December 2, there’s no date for a US release as of yet.

A lot of fans were upset that the “classic Doctors” were not asked to participate in the anniversary episode (save for McGann, who naturally had to keep his appearance strictly secret), so Peter Davison decided to take matters into his own hands.  He wrote and directed The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, a half-hour adventure in which, well, in which Peter Davison takes matters into his own hands about not being asked to participate in the anniversary.  He, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy hatch a mad plan to crash the filming of The Day of the Doctor and garner appearances.  In a series of mad escapades worthy of Lucy Ricardo trying to get into Ricky’s show (ask your parents), the trio get help from John Barrowman, Peter’s daughter Georgia Moffett and her husband, one David Tennant.

The adventure was filmed alongside the anniversary episode, with our heroes conspiring behind the scenes as the “actual” footage is filmed off-camera  It features cameos from just about everyone that’s been on Doctor Who that “wasn’t invited” to be in the anniversary, up to and including Russel T. Davies.  Tom Baker does not appear, instead using the very same footage from The Five Doctors that they pulled from Shada to cover for his non-appearance there.  Georgia gets a producer’s credit for the adventure, with Steven Moffat and Brian Minchin as executive producers.  It’s a wonderful piece of work from all involved, clearly a love letter to both the old guard and its fans.

The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot is also available for viewing at the BBC website.

Mike Gold: Burning Questions

gold-art-131106-150x167-5086447Tired, cranky, and on-deadline with an empty thought balloon hovering over my head. But I have these questions that are keeping me up nights, questions that must be answered. For example:

1) Who’s got Who?

IDW’s Doctor Who ends at the Christmas special. They bid on renewal of the license, unsuccessfully. Others bid as well. Somebody got it, and, as of this writing, nobody knows who. Or Who. Whom? Anyway, conventional wisdom says it’s Titan Comics out in the U of K. Some think it might be the BBC itself. I think Panini might have taken a shot at it – they’ve been publishing Doctor Who Magazine for quite some time.

But for some amusing reason, the BBC is keeping quiet about it. And while they’re not known for being the most enthusiastic business people in the neighborhood, on the occasion of the Doctor’s 50th anniversary they ain’t leaving nobody’s money on the table.

2) Exiles from the DC Nation?

So everybody was running around counter-clockwise in tiny concentric circles wondering who was not going to be offered a ride to Los Angeles when DC Comics’ New York facility goes west in 2015. That loud sigh of relief you heard Monday was from the New York staffers after honcho Diane Nelson said nobody was getting fired because of the move, that everybody would keep their jobs if they so desired.

Yes, indeed. However, they have all of 2014 to thin the herd if they so desire. And offering you a west coast job without fully covering moving costs is another way to thin the herd. Of course, some DC staffers own houses, condos, or co-ops, but they’ve got a year to sell them. And then learn how to drive a car – not all New Yorkers know how to do that.

3) Hourman? Really?

Evidently, The CW (in which Warner Bros. has a strong minority ownership position) has an Hourman teevee show in development. They’re not saying which version of the character they’re working on – is there even a viable Hourman in The New 52? – but if Arrow is any indication, they’ll pick what they want from most of them. In case you came in late, Hourman is about this dude who invented a pill that he thinks gives him superpowers for… an hour. Most latter versions featured people who were related to the original.

This is not a great idea for a teevee show. Hell, you can’t even show a bad guy smoking a cigarette on-screen. The good guy dropping a tab and flying around seems even more problematical. And when he crashes to Earth at Minute 61, they will be ripping off The Greatest American Hero.

You remember The Greatest American Hero, don’t you? DC unsuccessfully sued the producers, claiming it was a rip-off of Superman. Hey, that’s how irony works.

4) Are you Thor about this?

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be picking up the leftover plot strings from Thor: The Dark World. That’s pretty cool. But we’ve been warned not to expect any of the major stars to show up on the “small” screen.

I dunno about that. Maybe. But after Samuel L. Jackson showed up at the end of the pilot episode, I think everything is up for grabs.




REVIEW: Doctor Who: “Terror of the Zygons”

The Zygons only appeared in one episode of the classic series, but their look was so unique they continued to appear in the novels, audio plays and more.  After an off-camera cameo in this season’s The Power of Three, they’ll be featured on the anniversary episode, The Day of the Doctor.

Their original adventure, Terror of the Zygons, get the restoration treatment in this new DVD release.  The episodes are in great shape, and includes a :director’s cut” of episode one, with a deleted scene, a rarity in the original series where nearly no waste was allowed.  The adventures feature commentary by the series producer Phillip Hinchcliffe and the writer, Robert Banks Stewart.  The subtitle option of the trivia track is an exhaustive repository of production factoids that almost guarantees you facts you didn’t know previously.

The extras on disk two are a delight – in addition to a documentary about the making of the episode, where Sussex took the role of Scotland.  There’s a truly hilarious interview with Tom Baker, who rules the screen with a series of mad stories.  Elisabeth Sladen shares lots of stories about the early Baker adventures in her short, and there’s part three of a continuing doco on the UNIT team, featuring interviews with Lohn Levene and Nicholas Courttney.  Also included is an episode of BBC educational program Merry Go Round, starring Elisabeth Sladen, about the oil derricks of the type that played so important a part of this adventure.  A news piece from South Today features an interview with Baker on the location in Sussex, about the episode and his success in the series.

The early series’ adventures don’t often get seen by new fans who are largely unaware of the show before 2005.  These classic series DVD releases give the new fans that chance to see more of the history of the show, and see that many of those stories still hold up today.

Review: “Doctor Who: The Ice Warriors”

The Ice Warriors

Some of the latest releases from the BBC in their classic Doctor Who episodes are well timed, as they feature characters which made a reappearance this season. The Ice Warriors is a Troughton episode which feature the classic monster that made its return in Mark GatissCold War.

The Ice Warriors is one of the early adventures with missing episodes, specifically episodes two and three.  In addition to the usual stellar job of restoring the existing episodes, the missing parts are here recreated with animated footage, tied to existing soundtracks. The restoration team provides alternative style commentary tracks for the animated episodes, presenting archival interviews with Bernard Bresslaw and writer Brian Hayles, and readings of transcribed interviews with other cast and crewmembers.

Extras include new two new mini-documentaries on both the making of the original adventure, and the new animated adventures.  Commentary tracks are featured on the full episodes with with the cast and crew.  For the completist, they’ve even included the original intro  footage from the previous VHS release by Deborah Watfield and Frazer Hines, and the original restoration of the adventure, using photographs and a narration to explain the action, interspersed into the dialogue.  A special set of Who-themed episode of children’s craft show Blue Peter are included, featuring presenter Peter Purves, who appeared on Doctor Who as astronaut companion Steven Taylor.  Frazer Hines continues his personal reminiscences of the series which began on the release of The Krotons.

It’s a classic episode from the early run of the series, a first look at a popular villain.


Two Doctor Who Episodes Found, Released Today!

patrick_troughtonThe BBC has confirmed the recovery of nine episodes of th Patricke Troughton era Doctor Who, a complete set of The Enemy of the World, and all but part three of  The Web of Fear.  Both adventures are available now from iTunes, with DVD releases to follow. Part three of Web of Fear, still missing, is included with a restored audio track and a series of telesnaps.  It’s unknown if it may at some time receive the animated treatment that many past adventures have gotten.

The rumors circulating around fandom since the early summer have ended up being truer than many assumed, but not as true as most hoped.  The episodes, hailing from Nigeria (not Ethiopia, as the rumor claimed) and ended up falling far short of the outlandish tales of a hundred or more episodes.

While it was standard practice to record the broadcasts onto 16mm film, those films (And those of many shows, both British and American) were lost as stations wiped tapes and destroyed films as a cost cutting measure. In the early days of television, most assumed there’d be no desire to re-watch television programs, also resulting in the lack of residual agreements for so many stars of early American TV.

The episodes were sold to foreign markets after their initial broadcast, and many times the episodes were passed on through several countries as they continued to be sold.  The tapes/films usually came with an order to return or destroy the masters upon broadcast.  It’s only through that ordered being ignored that allows these episodes to be found today.

It can only be hoped that more episodes may be found in TV station vaults, but as time passes, the possibilities dwindle.  Unless more episodes were found here and are secretly awaiting restoration, this may be the last big score we’ll see in quite a while.

Until the discovery of time travel of course, which will likely first be used to recover our recent history than ancient history.  Yeah, it’s be nice to record the Sermon on the Mount, but I for one would rather get all those Ernie Kovacs Shows back.

BBC News confirms “A Number” of Doctor Who missing episodes found

Those who were waiting for the BBC itself to weigh in with a statement can stop waiting. BBC News announced on their website today that “a number” of lost Doctor Who episodes have been found, and returned.

As discussed in our story from earlier in the week, the titular “number”, reaching as high as 106 in rumors  that have circulated for most of the summer, may be “two”.  The Radio Times reported two found adventures over the weekend, quietly following a more bombastic and hand-wavey piece by the tabloid The Mirror that went with the more sensationalist 106 figure.

The rumors (repeated almost verbatim in the Mirror piece) claim the questionably-sized cache was found in a TV station vault in Ethiopia.  The BBC piece (which can be assumed the least apocryphal, or at least, the least wildly inaccurate, ) avoids any specifics of source, other than that some episodes have been recovered.  This lack of detail may indicate that even they are just reporting the existence of a rumor.  Some writers have reminded the populace that even BBC News gets it wrong about events in their own organization.

A press conference, originally announced for Tuesday, was postponed to later in the week.  No specific details of the conference have been shared, but the BBC article suggests that news about how these episodes will be made available for viewing will be included.  This parallels the Radio Times’ report that the episodes will be available via iTunes.

So, very slow progress, but considering that more than a couple experts had once posited that all the episodes that would ever be found have been, ANY progress is monumental.  And as Steven Moffat has discussed himself in a recent interview, the media knows that reporting anything about Doctor Who will bring eyes to their pages, traditional or electronic.

Watch this proverbial space for more news, likely occurring over New York Comic Con, where the staff of ComicMix (including yr. obt. svt.) will attempt to separate the news from the rumor, and likely then going ahead and reporting both.

At this point, we must assume that there is nothing that can be assumed, and as sage advice, I shall draw your attention this dialogue from the classic of political satire, Yes, Minister:

Bernard Woolley: (I’ve heard) that there is £1 million worth of diamonds from South Africa in a Downing Street safe, but of course it’s only a rumour.
James Hacker: Is that true?
Woolley: Oh, yes.
Hacker: So, there ARE all those diamonds in Downing Street!
Woolley: Are there?
Hacker: You just said there were.
Woolley: No, I didn’t.
Hacker: Yes, you did! You said you’d heard this rumour, I said is it true, you said yes!
Woolley: I said yes, it was true that it was a rumour.
Hacker: You said you heard it was true!
Woolley: No, I said it was true that I heard it!

Still Not Ginger – Peter Capaldi is the New Doctor

Announced at the climax of a globally-broadcast special, The BBC introduced the twelfth actor to play The Doctor, Peter Capaldi.

He’s a BAFTA-winning actor, winning for the role of Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It.  He’s appeared twice on Who-related series, he played Caecilius in The Fires of Pompeii, and John Frobisher in Torchwood: Children of Earth.  In Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, he played the angel Islington.  He is currently filming the BBC adaptation of the Three Musketeers, in which he plays Cardinal Richelieu.

Showrunner Steven Moffat says he’d considered Capaldi when he was casting the eleventh Doctor, though he decided it wasn’t quite the time.

This wasn’t  his first time traveling in time, either – He played Doug Hatton in the recurring sketch “Drunk in Time” on The All new Alexei Sayle Show.

Peter most recently appeared in World War Z, playing a physician working with the World Health Organization.  Or, as he’s listed on the IMDB, “WHO Doctor“.

No details have been yet shared as to how much a part he will played in the final two episodes of the year. Though it’s traditional for the new Doctor to only appear in the last moments of the last episode, the Christmas episode has not been filmed, and David Tennant made his first full appearance in the first Christmas episode, “The Christmas Invasion”.

Mr. Capaldi’s movements will likely be closely followed, and any appearance he makes in the Christmas episode will likely be widely reported.  The Management awaits his work with extreme interest.

Doctor Who 50th anniversary special to be simulcast globally


Initially reported by UK tabloid The Sun and quickly verified by the BBC, the 50th anniversary special episode of Doctor Who will be broadcast simultaneously across the world, touted as the largest simulcast of a drama ever.

The special has been sold to approximately 200 countries, so the amount of timing and cooperation required will be quite high.  Sources say the move was done to eliminate any chance of spoilers for people in countries who traditionally receive the episodes after the initial broadcast in the UK.

This would put the broadcast spread across four hours of the early afternoon (depending on time zone) in the United States, and in the early hours of the 24th of November on the far side of the world like Australia and New Zealand.

The special will be broadcast in both 2D and 3D.  Complete details have not been released on which version will be broadcast in which markets.  The special features the return of David Tennant and Billie Piper as The Doctor and Rose Tyler, as well as classic villains The Daleks and Zygons.  At San Diego Comic-Con, showrunner Steven Moffat claims he’s been “lying through his teeth” about what and who is in the episode, resulting in the resurgence of rumors of other unreported cameos, including Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor, making only one on-screen appearance, in the Fox-produced TV movie.

When the 20th anniversary episode The Five Doctors was produced in 1983, it did not receive a similarly-coordinated release.  Indeed, American fans got to see the special BEFORE the UK.  The network of public television stations who were broadcasting the series got permission to show the special on November 23 exactly, which was a Wednesday.  The BBC didn’t show it in the UK till that Saturday, the traditional day of broadcast for the series in England.  By  a wonderful coincidence, November 23rd falls on Saturday this year, allowing the anniversary to take place on the day it originally aired with no schedule-juggling.

This plan is not only a huge PR coup for the BBC, it’s also a wonderful example of life imitating art.  In Last of the Time Lords, Martha Jones walked the Earth for nearly a year, spreading the tale of The Doctor, in preparation for everyone on the planet to think about him and chant his name at a precise day and moment, the resulting wave of psychic energy intended to give the Time Lord the power to undo the actions of The Master and save the day.  With the BBC setting up to do the very same thing, one can only wonder what the real-world wave of power might do.

Personally, I’m hoping it’ll provide the power to jump-start the working TARDIS that the BBC Radiophonics Workshop has secretly been working on for years.