Tag Archives: Doctor Who

Moffat Who Take One

Tonight was a crunch night for the revived Doctor Who, perhaps more so than when it returned five years ago. Back then whilst there was a love for the old show, there was almost a suspicion that it wouldn’t fly, wouldn’t work with modern audiences. However fly it did, and despite a quick change of leading actor after only thirteen episodes under the hand of lead writer Russell T Davies it became a massive success.

Not that everybody was happy. I know a good few long term fans who were less than pleased with the almost soap opera-ish aspects that RTD brought in, and thought that his plots were less than stellar. There were some good stories, the ones written by Steven Moffat being particularly noteworthy, but despite the detractors from within the existing fanbase it was a success.

Last year with David Tennant the incumbent and incredibly popular Doctor having decided to move on, the production team saw it as a good time to move on also. For the fans, especially the RTD detractors there was much rejoicing when Steven Moffat was handed the lead writer role – hopefully that will bring a much better standard of plotting, and back to something more akin to the old Who the old fans were craving – but at the same time the RTD Who had proved massively popular with legions of new fans. Moffat then threw a total curve ball by picking an almost totally unknown actor, Matt Smith to play the title role.

So as the UK sat down to watch, how was the first outing for Moffat Who?

I’ll try and not give away too many spoilers, however in our household it was generally well received. The well plotted and entertaining Moffat style from his previous episodes has certainly survived his promotion. The episode kicked off with a great post regeneration sequence, including a sequence with food that was vaguely reminiscent of trying to find food for our daughter Lucy.

Like RTD who there is still a good deal of backstory – whether it will annoy the fans in quite the same way as it did previously remains to be seen. However whilst RTD seemed keen at times to distance himself from so called classic Who, all ten previous Doctors do make an appearance. There are also references to the TARDIS library and pool, and a clothes scene that harks back to the one TV outing for the eighth Doctor. The other thing that appears is the Doctor who knows more than he is letting on, most prominent during the seventh Doctor era. At the very end, after leaving, the Doctor comes back and really pushes Amy to come with him. When she asks why, he makes a comment about being lonely – but take a look at what is on the screen that he hurriedly turns off before she sees…

Matt Smith is different from his predecessors, but still has elements of them. As Beth points out on a couple of occasions he delivers lines in a way that is much the same as David Tennant. Certainly his age doesn’t seem to matter. Like any actor taking on the role he’ll need probably the whole series to find his feet in the role properly, but he certainly seems to have made a good start. Karen Gillan also makes an impressive debut as the new companion, her frustration with the inability of the Doctor to keep time harking back to another companion who once famously said “A broken clock keeps better time than you, at least it’s right twice a day!”.

Taking a look on Twitter after the show, whilst there are a few people who aren’t happy, the overwhelming majority seem to have enjoyed the show. Moffat does seem to have pulled it off, and the show has transformed once again. New music, new production team, new stars, new TARDIS even – but still Doctor Who.

Comic Relief Treats

So the iTunes Store seems to be getting into the whole Red Nose Day support, and already have a compilation of clips from the night available. However the real treats can be found if you take a look at the Best of Comic Relief Volume 1 which contains Blackadder: The Cavalier Years, Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death plus Comic Relief contributions from Ricky Gervais, Catherine Tate and the Vicar of Dibley, and the Best of Comic Relief Volume 2 which includes a special Men Behaving Badly, and an infamous Ali G interview with Posh and Becks.

Matt Who?

_45343466_newdocotr226There must be a lot of pretty happy bookies this morning. If you check out the posted odds against potential new Doctor Who’s listed on Outpost Gallifrey Matt Smith is not listed, indeed his name only appeared in the press as part of a BBC Breakfast item. From that it can be pretty safe to assume that the bookies won’t be paying out much at all now the eleventh Doctor has been announced.

It has to be said that the announcement came as somewhat of a surprise, perhaps most to the guys over at Doctor Who fan site Kasterborous who got a hot tip and announced Paterson Joseph as the new Doctor back in November, resulting in a bit of an embarrassing apology after the announcement yesterday.

The thing to bear in mind is that although the production team, especially Russell T Davies were making lots of press comment about the casting process during the pre-publicity for the Christmas show, the senior members of the production team were totally changing, so despite the seemingly random names RTD was throwing about, the decision was made by Steven MoffatRTD was told once the casting had been made, but had no input. The whole Paterson Joseph story seems to have started as a name amongst many, and his name in particular, partly thanks to his skin colour rolled up with events across the pond took off such that one bookie stopped taking bets on him as the new actor.

Throughout all of this, Stephen Moffat kept quietly out of the limelight, and pretty much as expected made his own decision, casting the person that he thought really nailed the part, Matt Smith, a rising star who whilst his work has impressed, hasn’t figured large with most of the general public. He is unknown enough that BBC News has done a special “Who on earth is Matt Smith?â€? item.

So what are my thoughts? I’m certainly inclined to trust the judgement of Stephen Moffat – they apparently saw Matt Smith second in the process, but carried on seeing a number of other actors, always coming back to Matt. Also, let us not forget that David Tennant certainly wasn’t a big star when he took the part, and earlier still Tom Baker was working on a building site when he got the part. Although well known actors have got the part in the past it is certainly not unusual for it to go to someone relatively unknown like Matt Smith.

Let the Discussions Begin

So in amongst the usual selection of specials and weird cross-overs Children in Need last night included a preview of the first two minutes of the upcoming Christmas Doctor Who, The Next Doctor.

After David Tennant’s recent announcement there is much speculation over the title of the new episode, more so once you’ve watched the clip…

So is, as the title suggests, David Morrissey really the next Doctor? Is it the Doctor from a parallel universe, or an imposter? Beth is leaning towards the latter, in particular because he name checks things like the TARDIS and the sonic screwdriver, and then prominently says he is a Time Lord, me I’m maybe more towards the parallel universe, especially with the Cybermen around. Needless to say there is a good deal of discussion across the net as to exactly what is going on

Tying Up the Loose Ends

In talking about episode twelve of Doctor Who last week, I expressed the hope that we wouldn’t get a total cop out of a resolution to the Doctor regenerating cliff-hanger – so what did we get? A total cop out of a solution where the Doctor directs his regeneration energy into his hand in the jar. If the Doctor is able to partially heal and then stop the regeneration by redirecting remaining regeneration energy somewhere else, why hasn’t he done it before? It’s not as it it hasn’t been established that the Doctor has special healing capabilities before – the climax of Frontier in Space leading in to the beginning of Planet of the Daleks for example – however it wouldn’t have had quite such a big climax to lead into Journey’s End if they had done that. The regeneration energy is also needed as a vehicle for the creation of another Doctor from the hand in the jar, and to give Donna the abilities to save the universe, but also the reason why she must leave the Doctor.

Sadly, much as with last year, the cop outs extended to the way that the threat of the Daleks is dealt with. As the Doctor and his companions are trapped by Davros and the Daleks it becomes clear that Davros is very much not in charge – however this idea once started is just abandoned as the whole plan to destroy reality is defeated by a technobabble based solution revolving around a convenient machine in the Dalek base that allows Donna, now embrued with all of the Doctor’s knowledge having touched the hand in the jar, to remotely disable all of the Daleks, and for the half-human clone of the Doctor to destroy them all.

The previously unknown powers that might have been useful previously pop up again after this with the TARDIS hauling the planet Earth back home (although don’t thing too much about the effect of the Earth vanishing and then being hauled back into place might have on the rest of the solar system) and then in the final scenes the Doctor seems to be able to telepathically erase bits of Donna’s memory, again something that has not been seen before. This scene is equally frustrating because it is just rushed through – indeed it could be argued that Donna was mentally violated by the Doctor in that she is not given any choice about what happens – whether to die as a result of the effect of the merger with the Doctor’s mind, or to have those memories and all her memories of the Doctor removed, but to live. Certainly I think there would have been more pathos to the whole thing if Donna herself had to choose.

However, like much of the ending, it was rushed, as there were quite a lot of farewells to get in. First off, Sarah Jane heads off, then Jack heads back to Torchwood apparently taking Martha and Mickey with him. Rose and her mother are deposited back into their parallel world, along with the clone of the Doctor – when you think about it, a bit of a lousy consolation prize for the girl who has declared undying love for the Doctor, being left with his potentially unstable clone. All of this then leaves the Doctor heading off alone once again, as he has done at the end of each season aside from the first.

I think what bugs me most about this, is that much as with last year, and probably more than episode twelve, this is a reminder that Russell T Davies was a childhood fan of the show, and through his series finale episodes in particular he produces the kind of massive spectacular stories that most childhood fans produce. But having to produce a vaguely coherent story he then has to resolve all of these spectacular ideas, which is where the whole thing falls down. When you look back at episodes such as Midnight it is apparent that he can produce a good story, however all to often he goes for the big spectacle ideas that end up coming over as being not much more than fan fiction with a budget. When looking back at the last four years it is interesting to note that the well respected writers such as Steven Moffat and Paul Cornell are the ones that are producing stories that push the format with new ideas, and who generally avoid dealing with established characters or monsters. Whether Steven Moffat will continue to eschew established monsters, and especially avoid the kind of end of season spectaculars we have come to expect remains to be seen. If he doesn’t, we can only hope that Steven Moffat will realise that at the heart of the story we still need a coherent plot.

So were there any redeeming features? Once again, Julian Bleach delivered a fantastic performance as Davros, and certainly I hope he gets the opportunity to reprise the role, perhaps with a bit better plot to work with. Bernard Cribbins again gave a good performance in the closing scenes as the Doctor returns his granddaughter. Certainly you can’t help wishing that perhaps the character would have got at least one journey in the TARDIS during his time on the show. There were a few laughs during the programme too, with a running joke between Donna and Jack, and the return of characters such as Jackie and Mickey giving the opportunity for some reminders of previous relationships.

All in all, with the departures of Phil Collinson, Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner, this was very much a swan song episode for the three of them, tying up a load of loose ends and finishing up the stories for characters created during their era in charge of the show. Much as in the past, when the next full series returns in 2010, I’m expecting that it will feel rather different, as Steven Moffat makes his mark. Whilst there may be elements that will be carried over, certainly other things will be rather different – getting rid of fanfic style finales for a start we hope.

Can You Keep a Secret?

Back when Doctor Who was re-launched, after a well received opening, the whole thing was very nearly derailed by the shock news that Christopher Eccleston had resigned from the role that leaked out after just one episode. Following on from that debacle they’ve always tried to keep the big shocks secret, although that didn’t stop rumours about the return of the Master last year, nor did it stop the Sun from printing a picture of Davros in the run up to the finale this year. However, I’m certainly not the only fan who was rather surprised when this happened at the very end of last nights episode…

So what exactly is going on? It was announced ages ago that David Tennant was signed on for the specials next year, indeed he has apparently been seen filming the show for Christmas already. Only last week there were reports that the BBC was offering him £1.3 million to stay in the role. About the only high profile “David is leavingâ€? came from Catherine Tate back before Christmas. So has the BBC finally succeeded in keeping something secret from fandom? We’ll have to wait until next week to find out – certainly the trailer is giving nothing away, and the press office release is still only listing Tennant in the part.

Anyway, what about the rest of the episode? I’d mentioned last week my fear that it would be a return to a traditional Russell T Davies episode in that all the numerous guest stars would crowd out elements such as the plot. Certainly from the blink-and-you-miss-it nature of the opening titles, plus a further list of names captioned over the opening scenes, it was clear that there were a lot of big names to fit in. But to some extent, looking back at the episode as a whole although there were a lot of strands there wasn’t really that much of a coherent plot, indeed although we establish that it is the Daleks who have Stolen Earth, by the end of the episode we really have no idea of why the planet has been taken, it having taken most of the running time of the episode for the Doctor to even find where the planet has been taken.

To do this he first heads off to visit the Shadow Proclamation. After being mentioned throughout the series over a number of years, their appearance was frankly rather a disappointment, after a great looking external shot the actual location looked like an office foyer. From an action point of view the Doctor and Donna effectively explain the back story that has been building up, so we get a list of missing planets which alongside several from the new series includes Calufrax Minor, the name being familiar to people who remember the Douglas Adams story The Pirate Planet. Ultimately it is the missing bees, which have been mentioned in throwaway lines that leads the Doctor to a way to locate the missing planets, and takes the TARDIS to the Medusa Cascade, referred to in Last of the Time Lords as the location of a time rift sealed by the Doctor during the Time War. However when the TARDIS arrives, there is no sign of the missing planets and the trail goes cold, leaving a despondent Doctor.

Most of the action is occurring on the Earth, with Torchwood, Sarah Jane and Martha ultimately being brought together through a secret communications network by Harriet Jones in an attempt to contact the Doctor. (It’s worth noting at this point that in a surprising lapse the BBC have missed a trick by not having the phone number used linked to something – 24 for example linked up a special surprise for people who phoned Jack Bauer’s number after it had appeared on screen.)

Once the signal is boosted enough to break through to the TARDIS and Harriet Jones is discovered by the Daleks and apparently exterminated – although note that we don’t see her die. Torchwood again are discovered by the same means, and Sarah Jane ends up face to face with two Daleks too. However it seems that the Daleks are well aware of the Doctor’s allies. Davros it is revealed has been saved from his death during the Time War by Dalek Caan who having escaped at the end of Evolution of the Daleks has broken the time lock around the Time War to save his creator, albeit at the cost of his sanity. Davros however has kept him alive as he now seems to be able to predict the future – making vague predictions about the arrival of the Doctor, the death of his most loyal companion, and the arrival of the Dark Lord.

The one factor that doesn’t seem to have figured in the plans – and indeed is someone never seen by the Daleks is Rose, who despite the Earth being shifted is still quite able to transfer in and out of the stolen Earth at will. She and the Doctor finally meet again at the climax of the episode, shortly before the Doctor is floored by a glancing hit from a Dalek gun, and the apparent regeneration process begins.

So what is going on? There are lots of strands to connect, and quite a few throw-away lines that I’m sure will come back to be significant – in particular the mysterious Osterhagen Key that Martha is given as she escapes New York, but later told never to use by Harriet Jones. The fact that Dalek Caan has broken the time lock around the Time War may yet prove to be significant, along with the stolen worlds being hidden outside the normal flow of time. I’m sure that there will be some more significance to some of the things that Dalek Caan has said too.

In all it was an enjoyable episode, but with some classic Russell T Davies techno-babble to hurry the plot along. I’m more inclined to credit the crisp direction from the highly experienced Graeme Harper that rose above the script for the final result. It wasn’t only the good director that made it enjoyable, there were also some fabulous performances from the extensive guest cast – Julian Bleach being a particularly creepy Davros, and some great moments from Bernard Cribbins reliving his earlier encounter with the Daleks with some well aimed paint gun pellets. The crossover elements relied somewhat on knowing the other programmes, and certainly there were lines in those scenes that would be totally lost on people who hadn’t watched them, however nothing that really required that you had watched. As you can no doubt gather from my comments further back, the ending was a real surprise, and certainly if David Tennant isn’t leaving I hope we don’t get a total cop-out of a resolution.

They have now released a trailer for next week – needless to say it doesn’t really give that much more away:

“Surprise” Return?

The trailer for Doctor Who next week started showing tonight – I notice that aside from a fully lit shot (for that see the Sun) – they are not bothering to try and hide the “surprise” return of Davros much any more…

Also from the flashes of faces in the trailer, it does look like this is going to be a three-way crossover between Doctor Who, Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures – whether it will be brief cameos or something more we’ll have to see, but with that many people, and a load of returning characters from the main series I doubt there will be a lot of screen time for many of them.

Fingers crossed that in amongst the cross overs and guest stars RTD left room for a decent plot – it has got Graeme Harper directing which is a plus, and the trailer looks good though…