Tagged: Paul McGann

Mindy Newell: Doctor… Who?

It’s Sunday night, 7:19 P.M. on my clock, which makes the premiere of the 2016 Doctor Who Christmas Special just an hour and 41 minutes away. The long drought is almost over.

I’ve been getting my Whovian fix this week by watching as much as I can of BBCAmerica’s marathon of episodes, which has been running since last Tuesday. It was interesting to watch the progression of Doctors, as it gave me a chance to really compare Eccleston, Tennant, Smith, and Capaldi’s characterizations of the Time Lord.

To be honest, I can’t really say all that much about Christopher Eccleston’s turn – it always seemed a little flat to me, as though the actor rather quickly regretted signing on to the role, and so was doing that – merely playing a role until the contract ran out. (I remind everyone that this is all imho, not, for a change, im-not-so-ho.) However, I do love that lone season because of the supporting characters – Rose Tyler, the shop girl who dares to dream of another life; Rose’s widowed mom Jackie, who drinks and sleeps around just a little too much to forget her own unfulfilled dreams and who is very much one possible template for Rose’s future; and Mickey Smith, Rose’s working-class boyfriend who is oh-so-ordinary.

David Tennant’s Doctor was the one that really caught the world’s attention. Sexy and cocky, he nonetheless truly regained his “humanity” in this incarnation, allowing his feelings to surface, especially in his relationship in Rose (call me a romantic, but I believe that he truly loved her) and with Donna Noble’s grandfather, Wifred Mott.

And then there was Matt Smith. What I think is interesting in Matt’s interpretation is that he was while he was young and joyful and adventurous, he could also very much be dangerous, dark, and duplicitous. (“The Doctor lies,” said River.)

What about John Hurt, you may ask, as the War Doctor? His was the source of the darkness within – but, at the same time, his was also the source of the Time Lord’s humanity. It was etched on his face – the sorrow, self-loathing, but also, the love that drove him to commit the ultimate destructive act.

And what of Paul McGann, the Eighth Doctor? Im-not-so-ho, he was probably the most self-aware of the four, for in his decision to reject the very name of “the Doctor” – a word that means healer and saver of life – and to accept the guise of “the Warrior,” he allowed us to see the resignation to the fate that the Time Lord had been running from all those centuries.

It’s 35 minutes to the Christmas Special. As I told John in my reply to his column yesterday – and also on the phone to editor Mike – I’m feeling “a bit trepidatious” about what’s about to play out. I’m afraid that the suits at the BBC, dismayed at the drop in Doctor Who’s audience after the dashing Matt Smith left and Peter Capaldi took over – as my niece, a rabid Smith fan, said, “He’s old!!!” – told Moffat to write something that would bring back the youngsters, and hey, here’s an idea, let’s include a superhero, superheroes are hot right now. Not only does it seem to me to be a mercenary and crass directive, the mix of genres feels weird and just “not right.” Down on your knees begging, y’know?

Then again, as Mike Gold pointed out to me, Doctor Who has pushed the boundaries before and succeeded. (“The soufflé isn’t the soufflé, the soufflé is the recipe.”)

Oh, yeah, I forgot.

Peter Capaldi. What about him? A scared little boy. A lost soul. A revengeful son-of-a-bitch. A work in progress.

And also…

Love that hair!

Mike Gold: Who Is Peter Capaldi?

When Peter Capaldi was presented to us as the new lead in Doctor Who, a tiny bell dinged in the back of my brainpan. I recalled his appearance on Craig Ferguson’s show; he and Craig were in a couple punk rock bands in the 1980s and had remained very good friends. I thought that was amusing as Ferguson is a big Who fan – he’s had a TARDIS on his teevee desk for many years now.

Capaldi’s casting was praised from hither to yon, and initially I dismissed all that for typical showbiz “sincerity.” But this wave expanded and seemed genuine. Since I’ve had little I could do the past month or two outside of annoying my daughter (and I already was pretty good at that), I decided to track down some of his work and determine his worthiness for myself. (more…)

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.

New Who Review: The Day of the Doctor

New Who Review: The Day of the Doctor

It’s not often you get to describe an event as being fifty years in the making. even less so do you get to mean it.  Three Doctors in three timelines converge to give them all a chance to change a terrible moment in their collective past.

The Day of the Doctor
by Steven Moffat
Directed by Nick Hurran

The Doctor is in the present, in his most recent incarnation, picking up Clara, when he gets picked up himself, by UNIT, to investigate a mystery at the National Museum.  Meanwhile (well, I say meanwhile…) in his previous incarnation, he’s investigating a mystery in Elizabethan Britain, an attack by the Zygons that could lead all the way to the Queen herself.  And in another part of the Universe entirely, The War Doctor is making a decision that will put the lives of countless innocents in his hands, a choice that will darken and color his life for centuries to come.

Considering that it is physically impossible to create an episode that has everyone and everything that every fan wants, this episode was as close to perfect as could be.  It embraced plotlines that were started in the Davies era, tied in moments and points in Moffat’s own time of running the show, and did a job of undoing a dark moment in The Doctor’s history worthy of Geoff Johns.  I screamed out loud three times, and it would have been four, if one fellow had been able to keep his mouth shut.

THE MONSTER FILES: The Zygons only got one appearance in the original series, the eponymous Terror of the Zygons, but it was enough to keep the popular in the alternative media for years.  Shapeshifting beings, they invade by taking over from within, taking the forms of important people.  They got an off-camera return in The Power of Three as they tried to invade during Amy and Rory’s second honeymoon.

BACKGROUND BITS AND BOBS:Trivia and production details

Oh my GOD is this gonna be a long one.  This episode is packed with self-references and tips of the hat, as well as calling back to points from many other episodes.  I’ll see if I can hit them all…

THE QUESTION ISN’T WHERE, IT’S WHEN: More precisely, from when.  Matt Smith’s Doctor is clearly experiencing this adventure in the “present,” as in after the events of the last season.  Considering Ten(nant) is traveling alone, and is having the adventure he refers to when talking to Ood Sigma in the beginning of The End of Time, he’s clearly from a period between The Waters of Mars and that episode.  We don’t know exactly how much time he spent gallivanting about between those episodes, clearly long enough for his memories of the details of this paradoxical adventure (while still remembering the bits about the Virgin Queen) that he still saw a need to re-imprison the Time Lords with the help of The Master.

Similarly, The War Doctor is experiencing this adventure at the end of this regeneration.  But while we saw his “birth” in the Paul McGann mini-episode, we don’t know exactly how long he has been around, fighting in (and against) the Time War.  He was in his seven hundreds at the end of the original series, and nine hundred at the beginning of the new, so there’s quite a lot of years to spread around between Seven, Eight, and The War Doctor.

So in brief, we’re seeing all three Doctors having this adventure very near the end of their respective regenerations.  So each of them have seen all they’re going to see through their eyes, and that’s about the best time.

CALL FOR THE DOCTOR QUICK, QUICK, QUICK: Kate Stewart, the head of UNIT, daughter of The Brig, has a custom ring for The Doctor on her phone.
Also, note that The Doctor’s number is once again 07700900461, as it was in The Stolen Earth. About 2500 people thought that might be a working number (at least for a tie-in recording or bit of marketing, anyway) when that adventure aired, and tried calling it.  no idea how many will try it this time.

“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be: Be one”: They hit the ground running with the self-references.  I.M. Foreman‘s scrap yard was where we first met the Doctor, Susan and the TARDIS, lo those fifty years ago.  Susan attended Coal Hill secondary school, where she aroused the curiosity of teachers Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton, who as we see here, now serves as headmaster.  Sarah Jane Smith did a bit of investigating, and tracked down Ian and Barbara (now Barbara Chesterton), and reported to her son Luke that they no longer appear to age.  Also, notice that as we see Clara erasing the quote from Marcus Aurelius on her whiteboard, the words “NO MORE” are in the center of the screen.

“Draft”: The Triumph Clara’s driving is the one The Doctor drove up the side of The Shard in The Bells of Saint John.  When last we saw Clara and The Doctor, she was not getting along with the TARDIS, now she’d shutting the doors with a click of her fingers.  Clearly quite some time has passed since the events of The Name of the Doctor – enough time for her to get a job as a teacher, and to make peace with the TARDIS.  And yet she and The Doctor still keep their “See you next Wednesday” relationship, as it’s clear she’s not traveling with him regularly, tho she has no problem with picking up and running when he pops by.

“Tell Malcolm we need new batteries” – Malcolm Taylor is the acting scientific advisor for UNIT, and was played by Lee Evans in Planet of the Dead, and when I heard his name, I let loose with my third-loudest shout of the evening.  If you folks think you were upset that Rose or Eccleston didn’t appear…
And those are presumably the “Ravens of Death” she claimed to have in The Power of Three.

“Nice Scarf” – Considering what we appear to learn at the end of the episode, that scarf MAY not be a replica.  It might have been a gift. From the original owner.
There’s a bit of debate going on as to exactly who Osgood is. Rich Johnson at Bleeding Cool seems to believe that she’s Kate’s daughter – while her first line was her calling “Mum”, I took that to mean the honorific “Ma’am”, and not “Mom”.  But we both noticed there was a UNIT tech named Tom Osgood in The Daemons, and a few of the prose stories, so that seems a more possible guess on her father, anyway.

“I’d be brilliant at having a job”: Well, he really does work for UNIT, when he’s around, and he did pretty well in the two jobs he took when he was helping Craig Owen in The Lodger and Closing Time.

“The High Council is in emergency session, they have plans of their own”: Those would be the plans set into action in The End of Time. We first heard of The Moment in that episode, as it too took place (partly, in flashback) during the end of the Time War.

“The Doctor has The Moment”: In a delightful bit of ingenious design, the initial gear-like design for of The Moment somewhat resembles the Antikythera mechanism, an Out Of Place Artifact found in Greece that (theoretically) could plot the positions of the stars to astounding accuracy.

“The interface is hot”: For those who are grousing that Billie Piper is not playing Rose, not my comment above.  If we were watching an adventure where The Doctor was traveling with Rose, we’d be watching a Doctor who had not yet met Martha, Donna Noble, the crew of Bowie Base One, a Doctor who had, in short, barely begun to live.  This was a way to have Billie a part of the show, while still giving us the best Doctor to experience the story. Also note that it’s a lovely parallel to Ten meeting Rose at the end of The End of Time, before they’ve met in that first adventure, Rose. The War Doctor meets her (or at least sees her visage) before he regenerates and meets (and saves) her in that department store.  So once again, The Bad Wolf was guiding them all to fulfill the almost predestined moment so far in the future.

“Elizabeth the First…you knew her, then?”: Based on what we see here, and what Ten implies later, we shall have to leave tactfully alone the question of what definition of “knew” is being used here… This is England 1562, 37 years before The Shakespeare Code, where we “First” meet the queen, and The Doctor is totally unaware of why she’d be so angry at him.  I expect that happens a lot.

It’s a machine that goes “ding”: It’s presumably similar to The Machine That Goes “Ding” When There’s Stuff, as seen in Blink. While that one was more tuned to temporal anomalies, this one is attuned to physical ones, like the energy expended by a shapeshifting alien.

“Is it important?” “In 1,200 years, I haven’t stepped in anything that wasn’t”” Another callback, this time to A Christmas Carol, when he said it about people.

“I need you to send me one of my father’s incident files”: She is almost certainly asking for the files on the incident we know as The Three Doctors, the tenth anniversary adventure.  As they had to do in the past, they had to come up with a way around using one Doctor, but not for the same reason. William Hartnell was not well at the time, an advancement of the illness that cause him to leave the show in the first place.  So he was not able to take an active part in the story, instead relegated to appearing via the scanner screen.  Ten years later, Tom Baker wasn’t able to appear in The Five Doctors, so they used footage from Shada in his stead.  Hartnell had already passed, so Richard Hurndall took on the role of the First Doctor.
For all the grousing many fans are making that they “left out Eccleston” from this adventure, it’s been verified via the man himself and he chose not to participate in the episode.  His departure from the series was not entirely cordial; no firm details have come to light because he’s a professional, but it’s generally understood there was no small amount of bad blood.
The reference to “Seventies or eighties, depending” is a sly nod to the fact that the Pertwee years of the show were filmed in the seventies, but were supposed to be taking place an unspecified number of years in the future, to try and explain the higher tech items that were sprinkled around.

“Reverse the polarity”: “Reverse the polarity of the Neutron Flow” was one of Jon Pertwee’s legendary catch phrases, but like “Beam me up Scotty”, usually misremembered.  That exact phrase was only used once in the series, and as a hat tip in The Five Doctors”, it was the shorter quote used here that got used in numerous episodes.

“Why are you pointing your screwdrivers like that?”: The War Doctor gives voice to many of the complaints old-guard fans have had about the new series – all the kissing, the Sonic Screwdriver acting more like a weapon (and a magic wand), and much more.  Not to mock the fans, but more to point out the fact that the creators know full well how much the show has changed. And indeed, it’s the constant change of the show that has kept it alive.

“We’ll need access to the Black Archive”: Of all the stuff in that warehouse, I spotted River Song’s Manolos, a Cyberman head, a Sontaran blaster and the chair they had Ten trussed up in in The End of Time, which at this point in time…hasn’t happened yet.  The Black Archive first got mentioned on Sarah Jane Adventures, in the episode Enemy of the Bane, guest-starring Nicholas Courtney in his last appearances as The Brigadier.

“You have a top-level security rating from your last visit”: The question is, is that just a continuance of the fact that everyone has their memories wiped as they leave, one of the many times that Clara has appeared in The Doctor’s past, or a precursor to an upcoming story?  Also on that board with the more recent Companions are Tegan Jovanka, Nyssa of Traken, Kamelion, Five’s short-lived android companion, even Ian and Barbara.  Also, photographed with Captain Erisa Magambo is Rose Tyler…but there’s a problem there.  The only time they met were in the alternate timeline of Turn Left.  So…where did that photo come from?

“We don’t have the activation code”: The numbers The Doctor scratches into the wall of their cell is 1716231163.  Or more clearly, 17:16 23/11/63, the exact date and time that episode one of An Unearthly Child was originally broadcast.

“Same software…different face”: We’re not talking about the screwdriver any more, are we, blondie?  Because later on in the episode, we find out that in a very similar way, The Doctor has been mulling a problem over for the same 400 years, one that he gets to solve himself, not by someone just opening the right door at the last minute.
Moffat is so so good at playing with time as a plot point.  Sending the activation code into the future by writing it on the wall, and the idea of the scan taking the long way round and finishing up just as it’s needed.

“Oh, you’ve redecorated…I don’t like it”: A twice-joked joke, back for a third time.  Patrick Troughton said it about Jon Pertwee’s TARDIS in The Three Doctors, and Eleven said it about Craig’s home in Closing Time.

“At worst, we failed at doing the right thing, as opposed to succeeding in doing the wrong”: What this episode does is essentially undoes an act that The Doctor has regretted for centuries.  But as is always true of situations like this, it has to be undone in a way so nobody KNOWS it was undone, otherwise any events springing from it will not happen as they did, and you get paradoxes springing up like dandelions. So that, more than any other, is why all the Doctors from the time The Moment was supposedly used had to believe they DID use it.  Only until after the present Doctor lives through his portion of the history can he be allowed to remember.  It’s a temporal version of eating your cake and having it too.

“Wearing a bit thin”: Which is exactly how Hartnell described himself shortly before the first regeneration in The Tenth Planet, ushering in the miracle that would keep the show going for five decades.

“I don’t want to go”: Technically, this is the first time he says that – he’ll say it again in The End of Time.  They even worked it into the script of An Adventure in Space and Time.

“I could be a curator”: He is the Curator.  The letter from Elizabeth I appoints The Doctor as official Curator of the Undergallery, “to be summoned in the event of any crises concerning it.”  Now, how he gets all the way back around to the time, place and form we see here, well, that’s all the fun is finding out, isn’t it?

BIG BAD REPORT / CLEVER THEORY DEPARTMENT: For once, the arc of the upcoming season might be a positive.  Gallifrey Falls No More, and clearly The Doctor wants to find it.  But there’s a problem.  They may not have been destroyed, but this is clearly still the Time Lords who saw no problem with breaking out of their temporal prison by destroying the Earth, with the goal of controlling all of time and space.  Now one could argue that it was more the mad plans of the Lord President (played by Timothy Dalton in The End of Time) nd the rest of the Time Lords (save two) fell into line.  But that’s an argument we heard around the middle of last century, and it didn’t fly too well or too often.  If I have the timeline right, The Time Lords will be banished back into the Time Lock after EoT, and find almost immediately that their plan was unneeded, as The Doctor saves the planet and shunts it off somewhere.  So in the time that has passed, have they come to their senses and spent their time rebuilding, or have the grown even more enraged as they pounded at the walls of their temporal prison?  It’s the same question Wilf asked in EoT – will the Time Lords’ return be a good thing?  A lot of possibilities.

“No , sir…all thirteen”: In two seconds, Peter Capaldi premiered as The Doctor, and his eyebrows have already garnered their own fandom.  It also verifies what has been assumed to be true since new news of the New Doctor came out: The next Doctor is the last of his current cycle of regenerations.  Moffat has stated clearly that the 12-regeneration limit is still in place, whimsical comment in Sarah Jane Adventures notwithstanding. So in addition to the search for Gallifrey, we’ll certainly hear more than a bit about him reaching the seeming end of his lives.  One has to wonder if the resolution of one plotline will resolve the other.


In the more short-term, Silence Will Fall.

See you back here at Christmas.

The Question Will Be Answered – New Doctor to be announced Sunday on live show

Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor

After much discussion a more than a sizable amount of betting, the BBC have announced that the actor to play the 12th (that we know of) title character on Doctor Who will be introduced to the public this Sunday at 7PM in the UK.  Titled Doctor Who Live: The Next Doctor, and hosted by TV and radio show presenter Zoe Ball.  The show will feature current Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith and showrunner Steven Moffatt, and the new actor will make their first appearance.

Revelation of the new Doctor has always been a media circus in England – bookies regularly take bets on who the actor will be, and stories rife with rumors and predictions will always draw eyes.  Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith was introduced in a special episode of Doctor Who Confidential – this is seemingly the next logical step for dealing with the instantaneous dissemination world of just a few years later.

While this will answer the question that has been on fans’ lips for some weeks now, it’s only one of several that have cropped up since.  The most immediate is how much of the new Doctor will we see in the last of this year’s episodes?

Matt Smith seemingly slipped a couple of times in panels at San Diego, saying that he had already filmed “his last episode”, namely the anniversary special.  He followed up quickly that he’d be back for Christmas, and he promised it’d be “a real belter”, but considering there’s no guarantee when the regeneration will take place.  They’ve made sure to select the new Doctor before the filming of the Christmas episode begins.

While it’s traditional to show the regeneration at the end of a season, that’s not how it started.  William Hartnell regenerated into Patrick Troughton in the middle of the season, and Troughton got right to it the next week in Evil of the Daleks.  David Tennant got his first full episode as The Doctor in the first Christmas episode The Christmas Invasion, after Christopher Eccleston left and regenerated at the end of his first and only series.  Smith appeared for only seconds at the end of The End of Time, returning for his first episode the next Spring.

We’re already seeing a two-Doctor episode for the anniversary, namely Tennant and Smith. That’s with the potential of more – Moffatt claims to have been “lying through his teeth” about what’s in the special, and rumors of a brief cameo scene by Paul McGann have started popping up again.  What, dare I suggest, if the Doctor regenerates at the end of the Anniversary special, and Smith only appears as an unseen Tyler Durden like advisor in the new Doctor’s mind?

For all the frenzy Sunday’s announcement will make, it will only be met with equal madness over the next few months until both remaining Smith episodes will bring.

Come Along.

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.

Matt Smith leaving “Doctor Who” at Christmas, Internet asks for tissue

Matt Smith as the Eleventh DoctorThe BBC announced officially this weekend that Matt Smith, current star of Doctor Who, will be leaving the series in the Christmas episode.

Both Matt and showrunner Steven Moffat have already been quoted heaping glowing praise on each other, and rightly so.  Doctor Who fandom has already kicked into overdrive, showering tumblr and other blog pages with a deluge of tribute graphics, please to remain, and other spontaneous eruptions of raw emotion.

Doctor Who fans will now once again pass through the seven stages of grief, a process that some have never experienced, being new to the show, some have already seen once or twice, or for older fans (raises hand), seven, eight, or as many as eleven times.

One of the most amazing things about Doctor Who is this process of regeneration.  While other actors have been replaced on television shows, Doctor Who invented a process that made it a part of the narrative.  Time Lords, the Doctor’s people, have the ability to completely rejuvenate themselves in times of extreme trauma, completely reborn, with a new body and a new personalty.  It allows the show to not only move on past the departure of its star, but forge into brand new directions.

Along with the regeneration process will be an equally traditional series of events:

The news media will kick the rumor mills into high gear – Names will be floated, denials will be made, and actors will play coy, taking advantage of the publicity to get their name in the sun.

The betting will begin – Gambling is legal in the UK, and the local bookies have traditionally taken wagers on the identity of the new Doctor.  And the aforementioned media will report the current oddsmaking, as if it has some connection to reality. As in the rumor mill, new names will emerge and rise and fall in the rankings, and it’ll be a delight to watch.Unless you’ve put money down, in which case it’ll be harrowing.

The discussions about making The Doctor a woman will re-emerge – So too making him black, or Asian, or any of the other “types” of people a character can be.  Both Mike Gold and Yr obt svt. have discussed the recurring meme, more about the fervor and hysteria around it.

The fans will swear blind it will never be as good as (insert name here) – Nothing is ever as good as what you have now, or if you are older (just leaves hand in air), than what you had when you were younger.  Each Doctor was perfect, and nobody can ever replace him, until about five minutes into the first new episode when the new guy grabs you and rubs your tummy with his acting and makes you forget the last guy’s name for a moment.  The show will careen off in a new direction, just like a trip in the TARDIS itself, and the trip will be thrilling and terrifying, and ultimately satisfying.

Someone’s life will never be the same again – Moffat has it right – “Somewhere out there right now – all unknowing, just going about their business – is someone who’s about to become the Doctor“.  The show was popular during its original run, but now it’s dead center in popular culture, and the person selected to play The Doctor will shoot  to super-stardom before a frame’s been shot.  Matt Smith has already taken advantage of the opportunities the role has afforded him – he’s currently filming Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut How to Make a Monster, and plans to direct himself.

With six months to go before the final Smith adventure airs, and several weeks before it starts filming, fandom will be filled with many emotions, a rampant desire to learn new details, and will spent a great deal of time trying to separate reality from fantasy.  Moffat and the BBC will begin the arduous process of choosing the actor to entrust with their golden franchise (if, indeed, they haven’t already started…or even finished), all the time trying to ride the line between keeping it all a secret and letting just enough details slip to keep the media hungry.

There may be an important wrinkle to the new Doctor’s story that may take the show in a dramatic direction.  Matt’s Doctor is the eleventh regeneration, but events at the end of the final episode of the series suggest that there’s one more to be accounted for.  John Hurt was revealed to be playing The Doctor as well, and fans has surmised he may be (have been) a regeneration between Eight (Paul McGann) and Nine (Christopher Eccleston).  If so, even though Matt’s calls himself the eleventh Doctor, he’d be the twelfth…and the next one would be the thirteenth.  According to the show’s history, a Time Lord can only regenerate twelve times, for a total of thirteen bodies, which would make the next Doctor…the last.

Which will likely never occur.  Russell T. Davies has already said that when the time to get around that little plot device that seemed SO far away when they came up with it decades ago, “I’m sure someone will wave the Amulet of Zog and sort it all out”.  But it’ll be the process to get to that eventual happy end that will make the show all the more exciting,.

Doctor Who: The 50th Anniversary Rumor mill

In a absence of fact, rumor and Clever Theories rush in to fill the vacuum.  And considering the security surrounding The 50th anniversary Doctor Who adventure, and the ravenous hunger of the public for details, there’s no doubt the media is falling over itself to deliver any snippet it can, real or imagined.

So far the actual facts are few and far between.

It will be broadcast in 3-D Whether or not there will be any cinematic presentations in that format is unkown, but wouldn’t be a bad idea.

We know of only one other Doctor who will appear – namely David Tennant, with Billie Piper returning as Rose Tyler.  No news on from what point of his history this even will take place, however, though based on their costuming, it’s a fair bet Tennant is playing the proper Doctor and not “Doctor Two”, the one from Pete’s world.

The Zygons are back – publicity photos confirm this. However, Robert Banks Stewart, writer of Terror of the Zygons (not to mention The Seeds of Doom), confirmed he gave permission to use the baddies, and claims in this interview that the Daleks and Cybermen will appear as well.  His data source is suspect, and none of either baddie have been sighted on location.

Jemma Redgrave will be back as Kate Stewart, the new head of UNIT.  Other guest stars include John Hurt and Joanna Page, “Stacey” from Gavin and Stacey, in which James Corden was Gavin.

Christopher Eccleston will not appear – He’s stated, and the BBC has confirmed that while he talked to Moffat about a return to the series, he has chosen against it.  Now there’s every possibility that’s a clever lie, intended to keep a surprise a secret. But one must know when to fish, and when to cut bait, so considering Eccleston’s reticence to stay with Who any longer than he did, it’s fairly safe to presume this is the truth.

None of the earlier Doctors will be back either – Colin Baker, Paul McGann and Sylvester McCoy all confirmed at a convention in New Zealand that none of them had been approached.  McGann still help out hope for a last-minute call, commenting he was used to being called on Wednesday for a part that began on Thursday.  But one thinkg they all agree on is that Lord of the Rings auteur Peter Jackson would make a stellar Who director.  Jackson whimsically commented in earlier interviews that he’d love to do an episode, even refusing payment, saying he’d accept a Dalek in lieu of a check.  While I’m sure the BBC would love to have this happen, but there’s certainly nothing in the cards

Those are the facts at hand.  Everything from this point on is merely the reportage of various rumors, dreams and outright cockeyed flumdummery from the media.

The roles Hurt and Page are playing are unknown, but theories abound.  Based on her costume at the various location shootings, some believe Page may be playing Queen Elizabeth the first, a character who has been alluded to in past episodes, most notoriously when The Doctor implied that her sobriquet of The Virgin Queen was not  (any longer) the case.

John Hurt’s role is unknown as well, but the fans are ready with a clever theory.  There are those who suggest that he is a new incarnation of The Doctor, having taken place between McGann’s and Eccleton’s.  This is possibly sprouting from this picture of John Hurt from the filmnig, wearing an outfit somewhat reminiscent of both actors’ costumes.  Whatever he’s playing, he’s dedicated to the part – he left early from a party in his honor over the weekend to ensure he made first call in Cardiff the next day

The past Doctors may appear virtually – The latest rumor bouncing about is that Doctor Who may take a page from Star trek, specifically Deep Space Nine’s adventure Trials and Tribbleations The UK’s Daily Star (not exactly a paper of record, but still) reports that the BBC may be planning to digitally insert matt Smith into episodes from past Doctors’ eras in the same way they inserted the DS9 cast onto Space Station K-7 in The Trouble With Tribbles.  This wouldn’t be the first time they did something similar – Matt appeared dancing with Laurel and Hardy on Amy and Rory’s TV in The Impossible Astronaut, which may well be where the rumor got its start.

The BBC are keeping as tight a lid on the details of the episode as possible for obvious reasons. Matt Smith has reported it’s a wonderful story, but shared no details.  On Jonathan Ross, David Tennant suggested “paintings” may be involved in the story in some way.

As a rule, one must use the first rule of the internet when analyzing the various “news” you will hear over the next few months – “Pictures, or it didn’t happen.”


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.


Review: ‘Doctor Who the Movie’

When I tweeted that I was watching [[[Doctor Who the Movie]]], it provoked a spirited debate over the film’s merits. Apparently, the Paul McGann incarnation of the Doctor is beloved by many but far from all. Truth be told, I am a latecomer to the cult of The Doctor, arriving during the new series of adventures. I certainly know the history and previous incarnations but had never developed a taste for it. So, coming to his American telefilm from 1996 after the current era, gives me an unqiue perspective.

When Fox ordered the pilot film for a hoped-for series, they received the official blessing of the BBC plus the cameo participation of Sylvester McCoy, who was the previous incarnation when the series was finally canceled in 1989.

As discovered on the very detailed documentary accompanying the movie, the film took years to finally get made. And here’s the problem. While everyone involved dearly loved Doctor Who, notably Producer Philip Segal, and all desperately wanted to make a new series, no one seemed to possess a clear idea or vision of what it should be. Without that spark of creativity, the resulting film felt like Doctor Who, even looked like Doctor Who, but lacked the crackling fun and off-kilter storytelling that had been the series’ hallmark dating back to the beginning.

Additionally, the film had to stop and explain everything given that Doctor Who was new to the vast majority of Americans. As a result, the pacing has to adapt not only for American commercial breaks but stop to explain everything from the concept of a Time Lord to what a TARDIS can do. In many ways, the movie is a primer to the Doctor as he gains a companion, regenerates, fights The Master, and saves Earth from utter destruction. While not quite a cookie-cutter approach, it feels that way in watching the movie. Fox seemed to cool on the concept, dumping it on May 14, 1996, too late for pilot season and the DOA ratings didn’t help.

You can decide for yourself now that BBC Video has this week released Doctor Who the Movie in a two-disc Special Edition DVD. Disc one is the film, uncut, and with special features while the second disc is filled with features for the true Whovian. (more…)