Tagged: Mark Gatiss

Doctor Who Series 9 To Premiere September 19

In a continuing torrent of news and excitement from a regional comic convention on the west coast, BBC America announced the premiere date of series nine of Doctor Who – September 19th.

Having filmed in Cardiff since January, Peter Capaldi said:

“Soaring through all of time and space, series nine sees the Doctor throw himself into life with a new hunger for adventure. The Cosmos is there for the taking, thrilling, epic and enticing, and his to play in. But he’s almost reckless in his abandon. It’s almost like he’s running from something, something that if it ever catches him will turn his life upside down.”

Michelle Gomez will return as Missy, the latest incarnation of The Master, in the season’s two-part premiere The Magician’s Assistant / The Witch’s Familiar. Highlights of the series so far revealed include the return of Kate Stewart, U.N.I.T., Osgood, and the Zygons, an episode featuring Vikings in space, a city of Daleks, and a new race of mercenaries known as The Mire.

Mark Gatiss returns to writing for the series, as well as new contributors including Sarah Dollard and Catherine Tregenna.

New Who Review – “Robot of Sherwood”

Robot Hood, Robot Hood, riding through the glen,
Robot Hood, Robot Hood, and his band of men…

Clara wants to meet someone legendary, The Doctor tells her they’re all made up, so when he actually shows up, The Doctor is convinced he’s a…

By Mark Gatiss
Directed by Paul Murphy

Clara admits she’s always wanted to meet Robin Hood, who The Doctor waves off as merely a legend.  But as we’ve learned, one does not simply tell Clara Oswald she can’t have something, so off they go to Sherwood.  The Doctor is shocked to discover Robin Hood show up and attempt to appropriate his conveyance.  The Doctor is naturally convinced this is all a trick or plot of some type.  He is at once right, and wrong.  There is a plot, but it’s on the part of the (also real) Sheriff of Nottingham, who has allied himself with a race of robotic spacefarers whose ship is secreted within his castle.  The district-wide canvassing for gold is to built circuitry for the alien craft, to allow it to generate enough power to take off, from which the Sheriff will (dare I say it) rule the world.

The episode is simply too charming and funny to call it anything from a delight.  The dialogue, especially the pissing contests between The Doctor and Robin are hilarious, and for of his claims that he hates banter, The Doctor is very good at it.

At its core, however, it’s far too similar to the series opener – a spaceship, lost in time, crashing to earth and needing help from the locals to take off again, albeit the stuff it needs to repair itself is a bit different.

THE MONSTER FILES – The Robot Knights are more of a minion than a monster, but they’re far from the first.  From The Robots of Death to the Heavenly Host in Voyage of the Damned, they’re powerful and useful.


Tom Riley (Robin Hood) is known for playing another historical figure; Leonardo Da Vinci on the show Da Vinci’s Demons,.and Oh My God he was in the second St Trinian’s movie as well, a film whose venn diagram with Doctor Who is rapidly approaching a single circle.

Ben Miller (Sheriff of Nottingham) looked way too much like The Master for it to have been anything but a massive in-joke by the crew.  He was going to be a physicist before he met Alexander Armstrong, with whom he went off to start a very successful career in comedy.  He played Johnny English’s assistant Bough in the first film, and appeared

BACKGROUND BITS AND BOBS – Trivia and production details

A PICTURE IS WORTH… – That one photograph in the middle of the montage of interpretations of Robin in the alien computer?


Yeah, that was Patrick Troughton.  before he was the second Doctor, he was the first person to play Robin Hood on television.

 WE’RE GOING TO HAVE TO CUT THIS ONE SHORT – This episode originally featured a scene of a beheading, specifically, that of the Sheriff of Nottingham, who is as a result revealed as a cyborg (and presumably puts the head right back on).  Due to recent events featuring actual beheadings of two journalists by terrorists in the Middle East, it was decided such a scene might be traumatic to some, and the scene was edited.  However, the episode also featured a robot’s head being severed and falling to the floor, not to mention The Doctor joking about the idea of Robin Hood’s head still laughing after it was removed from his neck, so clearly the desire to avoid triggering was somewhat limited.

“Old fashioned heroes only exist in old fashioned storybooks” – And that right there is the theme of the episode.  What happens to Robert of Loxley – to sink into myth and legend – is exactly what The Doctor tried to do to himself in the previous season.  He attempted to erase himself from history and all the databases in the universe.  He naturally had a harder time of it as while Robin Hood only operated for a few years, tops, in one area of England, The Doctor has been poking it in and shaking it all about all over the universe throughout time.

“What about Mars?  The Ice warrior Hives!” – Clara met the Ice Warriors last season in Cold War, and The Doctor of course met them a few times before.

“…or we might be inside a Miniscope!” – The Miniscope is a device designed to allow appreciative audiences to observe the activities of captive (tho unaware of same) beings in a miniaturized and sealed natural environment. The Doctor and Jo Grant were briefly trapped in one in the adventure Carnival of Monsters.

“And this is my spoon” – The Seventh Doctor played the spoons, though he didn’t use them in the more defensive manner he did here.  This scene is much more a Robin Hood reference than anything else – it’s a tip of the hat to the iconic quarterstaff(*) battle between Robin Hood and Little John, as portrayed in too many iterations of the tale to count.

“I’ve had some experience –Richard the Lionheart” – Indeed he has – back in the first Doctor’s adventure The Crusade.  The story was preceded by The Web Planet, the last episode of which had been recovered from a Middle Eastern broadcaster. As a result, it was edited to not include the “next episode” card for The Crusade, as for obvious reasons, that episode was not sold to the Middle East.

“Hai!” – Another callback to the Pertwee era, The Doctor strikes Robin with a Venusian Akido blow.

“Who will rid me of this turbulent Doctor?” – Henry II, King of England once famously asked “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” in reference to Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury.

BIG BAD WOLF REPORT – Further increasing the similarities to this episode and Deep Breath, this alien ship is also heading for “The Promised Land”, just as the main Clockwork Droid said he was aiming to reach in the earlier episode.  While we don’t see Missy back, The Doctor did notice the similarity.  What’s interesting is that The Doctor assumed the Droid was speaking metaphorically, based on the humanity he’d picked up over the years, but this ship had a course set for it, as if it were a physical location.

NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO – …and gentle be present…to all you’ve ever close kept in your loving heart.  Listen, coming up this Saturday.

* – “Actually, it’s a buck-and-a-quarter quarterstaff, but I’m not teillin’ HIM that…”

John Ostrander: “Sherlock” Season Three: Is The Game Off?

Several years ago, when I first heard that the BBC was doing a version of the Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories re-set in the modern day, I was skeptical. I’ve long loved the Holmes stories. I believe I finished reading the Canon for the first time by the age of ten. For me, part of the charm was the fog/smog filled Victorian streets of London, with the hansom cabs, the gaslights, et al. For me, the era and setting were as much characters in the stories as Holmes and Watson. I might have given the series a pass except that the co-creator and frequent writer for the series was going to be Steven Moffat.

I knew Moffat from some remarkable work he had done on Doctor Who. He has penned what I felt were some of the best episodes I’d ever watched on the series, full of surprises but also deep feeling, moments that truly touched me. So I gave his new series, co-created with writer/actor Mark Gatiss, a look and was generally delighted. The modern setting worked surprisingly well and, while not faithful to the letter of the stories, kept to the spirit of Conan Doyle’s canon. The series benefited as well from a very strong Holmes and Watson in the persons of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman respectively.

Each season consists of just three ninety minute episodes and each has ended on something of a cliffhanger or at least we are left with questions to be answered. We’re introduced to their version of Holmes’s arch nemesis, James Moriarty, at the end of the first season as he puts Holmes and Watson into a death trap with no seeming escape. At the end of the second season, Moffat and Gatiss do their version of the last meeting of the two. In their version, it results with Moriarty blowing his own brains out and Holmes forced to jump to his apparent death. We know Holmes is not dead by the end of the episode but we don’t know how he managed it. That would have to wait for Season Three. In theory.

Spoiler Alert. Lots of spoilers below. (more…)

Jen Krueger: Surviving the Fall

krueger-art-130107-138x225-2905200When we last saw the BBC’s Sherlock Holmes, he watched from afar as John Watson beseeched, “Don’t be dead,” to a headstone bearing Sherlock’s name. Watson does this at the end of “The Reichenbach Fall” after seeing Sherlock seemingly leap to his demise, and I thought it bold of series creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat to tackle this update of Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Final Problem” in their second series. A faked death on a show is as logistically tricky as a real one, and if there’s one thing that almost always creates a make or break moment for a TV show, it’s dealing with a major character’s death.

For a lot of shows, it’s a break moment. Perhaps some of the problem comes from the fact that a character’s death is often prompted by an actor’s exit from the show. When Dan Stevens decided to leave Downton Abbey at the end of his three year contract, his character Matthew Crawley was killed in a car crash that struck me as a spiteful way to explain his forthcoming absence in series four. Aside from the fact that the crash itself didn’t look severe enough to be fatal (I mean, how fast was he going, 30 m.p.h.?), it also felt like an afterthought to the 2012 Christmas special, as if the episode had been scripted to end in the preceding scene and the death was tacked on once it was official Stevens wouldn’t re-up. This was particularly disappointing from a show that had so recently served up an amazing character death by killing off Sybil Crawley mid-season. Even if I hadn’t hated her character (we get it, you like irking daddy by playing blue-collar), I would still have been pleased with her demise because of the way it affected the other characters on the show. Watching her parents, sisters, and husband deal with their grief was more interesting than Sybil herself had ever been, yet asking viewers to watch the family hit the reset button at the top of series four to mourn Matthew is grating.

But perhaps worse than the character deaths that are forced are the ones I don’t believe even within the world of the show. When Peter Bishop stepped into the doomsday device at the end of season three of Fringe, I didn’t for a second buy him exiting the show. His character was too important, and the circumstances of his disappearance too obviously pointed to a return for me to believe I’d never see Peter on the show again, which seemed to be what the writers hoped I would assume. Instead, watching became a waiting game centered on his return, and one that wasn’t concluded quickly or satisfactorily enough to justify his unbelievable disappearance in the first place.

That’s not to say shows can’t kill important characters successfully. When Boardwalk Empire concluded its second season by offing Jimmy Darmody, the character who’d served as the audience’s entrance into the (under)world of the show, it was wonderfully stunning. Even though the drama had blossomed into a sizeable ensemble by the time Jimmy was eliminated, he was still the most frequent point of view character, which meant his death irrevocably changed the show’s direction. But Boardwalk Empire had managed to build to Jimmy’s death in such a way that it seemed inevitable, and created plot momentum that carried forward into even the most recent season finale.

Of course, the holy grail of TV character death is the surprise demise. Four episodes into its third season, Southland unceremoniously killed detective Nate Moretta on the job. The disturbingly quick and brutal death was shocking in and of itself, but it also demonstrated no character on the show was safe regardless of their rank, skill, or narrative importance. From that moment on, I watched Southland with my stomach in knots every time a character I liked was in peril because I truly didn’t know if they’d emerge from it unscathed, or at all.

Though the titular character of Sherlock didn’t actually die in the series two finale, his faked death was just as striking to me as the most successful of these actual TV character deaths. The charade has the same effect on Watson as the real thing would have, meaning the audience still gets the emotional payoff of a pivotal character death, while how Sherlock managed to pull it off is a mystery fans are as eager to solve as they are any of the eponymous detective’s cases. Which, of course, is precisely the point. American audiences will get their answers in the series three premiere on January 19, but having already seen it myself, I can say “The Empty Hearse” sated my curiosity and I’m very glad that, as this prequel minisode promises, #SherlockLives.





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.


New Who Review: The Crimson Horror

Gated communities are usually met with some suspicion and mistrust – in this case it’s rightly founded.  Something is wrong in Sweetville, and The Doctor is red in the face about it.  A bunch of friends reappear to help combat…

by Mark Gatiss
Directed by Saul Metzstein

People are turning up dead in the canal in Victorian Yorkshire, their bodies in varied states of petrifaction and their skin a lobster red.  Madame Vastra and Jenny are asked to investigate, and when they realize that The Doctor is somehow involved, they hurry to investigate.  A woman is establishing her own ark on dry land, planning to survive the next torrent, not of rain, but of poison.

Mark Gatiss balances comedy and horror with a deft hand, being given the reins on the investigating Silurian and her companions.  This may be the closest we ever get to a completely solo Vastra and Jenny adventure, and it’s a delight.  The Northern accents alone are worth the price of admission.


Dame Diana Rigg (Mrs. Winifred Gillyflower) really should need no introduction, but there are young people who think The Avengers is only a comic book.  As well as playing Mrs Emma Peel (rightly described by comedian Rick Overton as “One generation of boys’ first serious erection”) on The Avengers, not to mention the Countess Teresa di Vicenzo (AKA the briefly Mrs. James Bond) in On her Majesty’s Secret Service) she started out at a high point, and kept on going higher,  In addition to a house favorite The Assassination Bureau (also starring Roger Delgado, the original Master) and a wonderful version of King Lear with Olivier, John Hurt and Leo McKern, she’s gone from Strength to Strength.  She also burning up basic cable in a popular turn on Game of Thrones.

Rachael Stirling (Ada Gillyflower) is Diana Rigg’s daughter, and this is the first time they’ve worked together.  She’s had an impressive career in acting, including a couple episodes of shows featured on Mystery!, which her mother was hosting at the time. Recently she was in Snow White and the Huntsman and the series The Bletchley Circle.

Two guests this episode have the distinction of playing several members of the same alien race, several times, over the course of the new series.
Neve McIntosh
and her delicious accent played sister Silurians Alaya and Restac in the two-parter The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood last year, and plays Madame Vastra here.
Dan Starkey (Commander Strax) also played two Sontarans in one story, The Sontaran Stratagem / The Poison Sky. He almost shot Mickey Smith and Martha Smith-Jones as Jask at The End Of Time, and first played the funniest wet-nurse you’ll ever see in A Good Man Goes to War. Since the Sontarans are a clone-race, having one actor play various members makes perfect sense. Christopher Ryan (Mike “the cool person” from The Young Ones) has also played two different Sontarans in different episodes. Dan also appears in Russell T Davies new series Wizards vs. Aliens as Randal Moon, hobgoblin extraordinaire.

THE MONSTER FILES – Mr. Sweet, a parasite species surviving from the Jurassic period, and possibly longer, is far from the first being getting the help of a human, though in this case it might be said that Mrs Gillyflower was the brains of the outfit.

BACKGROUND BITS AND BOBS – Trivia and production details

SET PIECES – Yorkshire was played by Cardiff in this episode, with a picturesque side-street getting a lovely touch-up, including a full set of gates and columns

…IS ONLY A MOTION AWAY – Dame Diana and Rachael Stirling are not the first parent and child pairing to appear on Doctor Who.  Mark Sheppard and his father William Morgan Sheppard both played the same role, that of Canton Everett Delaware III, in The Impossible Astronaut. David Troughton, Patrick’s son,  has appeared a couple of times, once as the Prince in The Curse of Peladon, once many years as Profiessor Hobbes in Midnight, and first, many years before, in his father’s last adventure The War Games.

WHOLOCK – With Gatiss and Moffat also being in charge of the oh-so-very popular Sherlock starring Bilbo and Smaug Benedict Cubmerbatch and Martin Freeman, there are ever going to be in-jokes that trickle through.  An unrecorded adventure of Sherlock Holmes was “the repulsive story of the red leech” as reported in The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez.

“Do you know what an optigram is?” – The Doctor used a process to read the last images off the eye of a Wirrn in a Tom Baker adventure The Ark in Space.  Rather than just one image, he was able to read several minutes of footage.

“Will you be preserved…when judgment rains down upon us all?” – One of the finest bits of foreshadowing i quite a while, Mrs. Gillyflower tells everyone her plans right then and there, and nobody catches it till much later.

“I once spent hell of a long time trying to get a gobby Australian to Heathrow Airport” – That would be Tegan Jovanka, long-time companion of the Doctor mainly during the Davison years.  Sarah Jane Smith investigated some of The Doctor’s friends, and said that at last report, Tegan was home in Australia, campaigning for Aborigine rights.  The reference is sent home with the following line “Brave heart, Clara”, paraphrasing Five’s motivational to Tegan.

“Doctor and Mrs. Smith…you’ll do very nicely” – Doctor John Smith was The Doctor’s go-to pseudonym when working on Earth during the Pertwee years.  He used it, or tried to, in Midnight.

“And you will have reached your destination” – I want to know how long Gatiss sat in his study giggling to himself over that wildly anachronistic reference to the TomTom GPS (Satnav) system.

“This one’s on me” – Can I just marvel in the delicious irony of a British woman kicking ass in a catsuit in an adventure featuring Diana Rigg?

“It’s you.. my monster” – Not the first time we’ve heard the word “monster” this season.  The line “Every lonely monster…needs a companion” in Hide was also clearly not just about the scary alien.

“Very enterprising” – There’s another parallel to The Snowmen here – in both cases, the antagonist finds something brand new, so different as to be alien (literally in the first case, figuratively here in Mrs. Gillyflower’s case), and in both cases, as The Doctor puts it in The Snowmen, both follow the Victorian ideal and try to find a way to profit from it.  Not even financially, but a way to achieve their ends.


“It’s complicated” – The Doctor was aiming for London 1893, the year after the events of The Snowmen, where The Doctor first met Victorian Clara.  This is the first time Vastra, Jenny and Strax have met Modern Clara, and found her most confusing.  Her look at “herself” in London of 1892 will almost certainly cause some questions to be asked a week hence.

NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO – Neil Gaiman. I could stop there.  But I don’t have to, because there’s also Cybermen, Warwick Davis and Neil Gaiman.  Did I say that twice?  Nightmare in Silver, a week away.

The New Who review – “Cold War”

You’d think we’d have learned as a people – if you find a large humanoid form frozen in the ice, don’t thaw it out.  And really don’t thaw it out if you’re cut off from humanity, like in an arctic research base, or as in this episode, a sinking Soviet Russian submarine.  With The Doctor being mistaken for a spy, and an ancient Martian conqueror trying to blow up the world, things were set for an unpleasant interpretation of the term…

by Mark Gatiss
Directed by Douglas Mackinnon

A Russian submarine unearths an Ice Warrior, frozen in the permafrost of the North Pole.  The Doctor arrives (aiming for Las Vegas) and attempts to broker a peace between the already very skittish Russian crew and a warrior who presumes that his people are dead, and that he has nothing to lose.

Gatiss pulls off a great version of the traditional “trapped with a monster” story, wit well-timed scares, the one guy who thinks he can side with the monster, and a smattering of 80s dance tunes.  Tense, exciting, and an ending that is rather a surprise.  The direction is dead-on for such a film – snatches of images only, never a shot of the full beast, cause there’s no need.


David Warner (Professor Grisenko) is Evil.  Or was, anywway, in the classic Time Bandits.  His career in and out of the genre is considerable – he played Jack the Ripper in another time-travel classic, Time After Time, voiced The Lobe in Freakazoid! (not to mention Ras Al Ghul on Batman the Animated Series) and played Sark in Tron.  His history with Doctor is equally deep. He was in fact offered the role of The Doctor in 1974, but turned it down.  Since then he’s appeared in a number of audio adventures, provided a voice in the Dreamland mini-series, and played The Doctor, albeit an alternate one in Big Finish’s Unbound series.

Liam Cunningham (Captain Zhukov) is currently fighting the winter in Game of Thrones as Ser Davos Seaworth. Like warner, he was almost The Doctor – he was in the running for the role in the 1996 TV movie, eventually played by Paul McGann.  He also appeared in the Titanic mini-series that brought us our first look at Jenna.

Tobias Menzies (Lieutenant Stepashin)  will also be appearing in GoT later this season. He also appeared in ROME as Marcus Brutus.

Mark Gatiss (writer) has been lobbying to bring back the Ice Warriors for some years, and Moffat finally relented.  He’s been busy co-writing and creating the new Sherlock series, as well as appearing in the recent series of Being Human.  He’s also written An Adventure in Time and Space, the anniversary story of the creation of the series, due to be broadcast near the time of the anniversary.

THE MONSTER FILES – The Ice Warriors first appeared in an eponymous tale during the Troughton era with a number of parallels to this story, in that both feature a frozen member of the Martian race thawed out in haste.  In the original adventure, the Ice Warrior Varga was played by Bernard Bresslaw, a regular castmember of the “Carry On” films.  He was 6’7″ in stocking feet, and was usually paired with the diminutive Charles Hawtry, letting the difference in size provide much of the comedy.  They reappeared shortly after in The Seeds of Death, mainly as a way of justifying the expensive costumes.  They reappeared in the Pertwee years in the two Peladon stories. By this time, the former Martians had renounced their warlike ways.  The tenth Doctor alluded to them in The Waters of Mars, theorizing in a cut scene that they may have discovered The Flood and froze it in the glacier, abandoning the planet in reponse, recognizing their threat.

Like so many classic series villains, they’ve appeared in many stories in novels and audio plays which served to greatly expand their history. The rank of Grand Marshall and some of the details of the caste system first appeared in the novel Legacy So far, little of the information we’ve seen in those expended adventured have been much used in the series, but contrariwise, little of it’s been expressly discounted either.

BACKGROUND BITS AND BOBS – Trivia and production details

A MODEL THE SIZE OF A QUARTER…AN EXCELLENT DECEPTION – This is one of the first times in years where the special effects on the series were done as model work and not CGI.  The Russian submarine was a huge model filled in a miasma of smoke standing in for water.

…AND AGARN’S WEARING A DRESS – I don’t know if there’s a name for it, but I am a complete sucker for the gag where a character makes a suggestion to do something, and another character is all “No, NO way, NOT happening, UH-uh”, and in the next shot, there’s the first character doing their suggestion.  It was described perfectly in this scene from Freakazoid!

“Am I speaking Russian?” The TARDIS translates languages for its inhabitants, except of course, when it’s dramatically or comedically expedient not to, like in last week’s episode.

“This wasn’t a test” – Except when it is, of course.  The Doctor placed Victorian Clara in a position of danger in The Snowmen, and when she asked “Is this s test?”, he told her it was.  Remember rule one – The Doctor lies.

“Jaw jaw, not War War” The Doctor is paraphrasing Winston Churchill, who we learned in Victory of the Daleks is a great friend of The Doctor.

“I reset the HADS” – The Hostile Action Displacement System is a defense mechanism on the TARDIS, last seen in another Troughton episode, The Krotons.  When attacked by a threat of sufficient force, the ship dematerializes, removing itself from danger.  It’s supposed to rematerialize a short distance and time from its departure point, but as is traditional, things on the TARDIS don’t always go smoothly.  It’s a perfect way to get the TARDIS out of the way and force The Doctor to think on his feet, and more inventive (not to mention obscure) that simply having it break down.


Another theme has arisen between this episode and the last – Song. Skaldak talks about “singing the songs of the Old Times” with his daughter.  It’s how The Doctor describes the call the Ice Warrior uses to summon his suit. It’s an odd choice of words, so I must assume it’s deliberate

NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO Hide.  The title, and very good advice.  Next Saturday.


Richard E. Grant returning to Doctor Who in second half of seventh season

In BBC America’s press release discussing the second half of the seventh season of Doctor Who (premiering March 30th), a number of guest stars were listed, including Dougray Scott, Warwick Davis, Dame Diana Rigg and her daughter Rachel Stirling. But one name listed may be a big clue to the season’s Big Bad.

Richard E. Grant, who appeared in the Christmas episode, The Snowmen, will be returning in the season’s eight episode run.  Grant played Dr. Walter Simeon, head of the Great Intelligence Institute and mastermind behind a plan to take over the world with an army of animated ice creatures.  The Great Intelligence, the disembodied life force  who allied with Simeon (and voiced by Sir Ian McKellen), was a Who villain from the Troughton days, with appearances in many of the other media adventures, and a cameo in the 20th anniversary adventure The Five Doctors.

BBC America would not confirm the character Grant will play in his return, but the rumors that the Great Intelligence would make a further appearance in the series certainly gives one reason to suspect that we’ve not seen the last of Dr. Simeon.

The Teaser photo, released yesterday by the BBC, offers numerous teasers about the new series, including our first look at The Spoonheads, the monster from the premiere episode, The Bells of St John, the first to be broadcast in 3-D.. Also featured are the Ice Warriors, returning via a story by Mark Gatiss, and the redesigned Cybermen from Neil Gaiman’s second DW adventure.

The series will also feature Jenna-Louise Coleman, and hopefully provide more information how the same woman with the same name could appear in three different times; the far future of Asylum of the Daleks, the Victorian age in The Snowmen, and modern day Britain.

Doctor Who premieres March 30th on the BBC, and on BBC America, as part of their “Supernatural Saturday” lineup.

League of Gentlemen’s Reece Shearsmith playing Patrick Troughton in 50th anniversary Doctor Who special

Additional casting for the 50th anniversary Doctor Who special An Adventure in Space and Time has been trickling out slowly as filming has proceeded.  Today it was revealed that the role of the second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, will be played by Reece Shearsmith, a member of the surreal comedy team The League of Gentlemen. The team also includes Doctor Who writer and actor Mark Gatiss, who wrote the anniversary adventure.

Reece Shearsmith

Reece Shearsmith (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I first asked Reece 12 years ago when I started thinking about this project.” Gatiss was quoted in the Mirror. “We were in the midst of League of Gentlemen and I just remember thinking, if anyone plays Patrick Troughton, it should be Reece. Like the Second Doctor, he’s small, saturnine and a comic genius. The complete package. He thought it was a fantastic idea and I’ve kind of nurtured it all this time.”

While the team have been long-time fans of the series, Reece is the only member of the League not to have made an appearance in the returned show.  In addition to writing several episodes for the new series, Mark Gatiss played Dr. Lazarus in The Lazarus Experiment, voiced one of the Spitfire pilots in his episode Victory of the Daleks, and was almost unrecognizable under makeup (and a pseudonym) as Gantok in The Wedding of River Song.  Steve Pemberton played Strackman Lux in the Moffat-penned two-parter Silence in the Library / The Forest of the Dead.

While he’d not made it to the big game till now, Reece’s history with Doctor Who is quite long indeed.  His first professional acting credit is with the fan-produced Doctor Who Homage series P.R.O.B.E. a production written by Gatiss.  The show attempted to pay homage to Doctor Who, even casting many classic Who actors like Caroline John (playing her Who role of Liz Shaw) and several Doctors including Peter Davison.

An Adventure in Space and Time is a dramatization of the creation of Doctor Who, centering mostly on the show during the early years, and the growing professional relationship between first Doctor William Hartnell and the show’s producer Verity Lambert.  It will be one of the last productions to be produced in the original BBC Television Centre, where the original series was filmed,  before the property is redeveloped.  David Bradley (Argus Filch from the Harry Potter films) will play Hartnell, and Call the Midwife‘s Jessica Raine will portray Verity Lambert.

A Doctor A Day – “The Idiot’s Lantern”

Using the new Doctor Who Limited Edition Gift Set, your noble author will make his way through as much of the modern series as he can before the Christmas episode,The Snowmen.

The Queen’s coronation increased sales of televisions in Britain faster than Howdy Doody did in the US.  But when one store sells sets for less than could possibly be profitable, The Doctor fears they may have an ulterior motive to expose everyone to…

by Mark Gatiss
Directed by Euros Lyn

“Are you sitting comfortably?  Good! They we’ll begin…”

The proprietor of Magpie Electricals is near bankruptcy until a strange new partner offers a way to turn his business around.  With the queen’s Coronation coming up, he suddenly finds a way to make TVs available for the outrageous price of five pounds a pop.  Needless to say, they’re selling like mad.

magpie_electricals__1920_x_1200__by_jarrrp-d4rdljm-300x187-2196629The Doctor and Rose arrive (accidentally, of course – they were aiming for Elvis’ appearance on Ed Sullivan) as sales are skyrocketing.  But at the same time, people are being taken from their homes, under blankets, by people claiming to be police.  Clearly seeing the proverbial Something is Going On, the pair investigate by visiting a family with one of Magpie’s tellys.  The husband is a right boor, controlling the family with an iron hand, but the wife and son are distraught.  Their grandmother has been transformed to a mindless, faceless shell.  Apparently, it’s been happening all over town, and it’s they who the police have been collecting up.

The Doctor finds where the victims have been collected and convinces the Detective Inspector to help solve the mystery as opposed to just cover it up. And Rose confronts Mr. Magpie, only to learn that he’s under the electronic thumb of an energy being called The Wire, who has been draining people of faces and brains via the new TVs.  Alas, she’s shortly in no position to impart this knowledge, as she’s promptly wiped.  When the police find her and bring her in, The Doctor goes cold and scary, vowing that there’ll be no stopping him.

They break into Magpie’s shop and find a number of odd things – a portable television set some three decades ahead of its time, and trapped in the televisions in the shop, the faces, and presumably the minds, of the victims of The Wire, including Rose.  The Wire plans to transfer itself to the portable set and connect up to the transmission station at Alexandra Palace, where it will be able to feed on everyone watching the Coronation.   Can The Doctor stop the plan in time?

Mark Gatiss’ episodes so far have had a very personal feel – large stakes, but ultimately featuring a small cast.  This one has London in the balance, but ultimately it’s about one family, and how the members of the family respond to the horrific changes around them.

The Doctor has had bad experiences on tall broadcast towers; he fell off one to his death, or at least regeneration, in Logopolis.  He’s faced more than a few energy-based foes as well—the Nestene Consciousness, the formless Gelth in The Unquiet Dead, and there was this foe from the Troughton days…oo, showed up twice…can’t seem to summon up its name now, can’t imagine why…

Magpie Electricals makes many more appearances in the series— since Mr. Magpie himself came to an unfortunate end, it’s presumed someone bought the brand name and used its notoriety to turn it into a powerhouse brand for literally centuries to come.  The Magpie brand shows up in all sorts of Earth-based technology up to and including the launch of Starship UK.  There’s been no suggestion there’s anything untoward going with them (tho one can never be sure), it seems more like it’s become a brand like the various products of KrebStar Industries on The Adventures of Pete and Pete, or the various food and cigarette trademarks in Quentin Tarantino’s films.