The Weekly Checkup: Doctor Who/Torchwood News and Views – August 13, 2011

Hopefully this column won’t suffer from some crazy technical glitch like last week. Huge thanks to my editorial staff for responding to frantic texts while I was away for the weekend to fix it.

This week, we get our first Companion Piece, focusing on the Doctor’s very first companion and we try  to puzzle out her fate.  And of course, we also have our usual array of news and commentary.

There won’t be a Torchwood review this week, sadly. I still haven’t watched last week’s episode. I heard some serious things happen, including according to my mom, “a member of the team being lost,” though I asked her not to spoil it further. On with the news!


Matt and Karen to star as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth?

The Daily Record is reporting that Matt Smith and Karen Gillan would like to do Macbeth together after they finish with Doctor Who.

I like this idea a lot; David Tennant and Catherine Tate are currently doing “Much Ago About Nothing” after they finished their run on Doctor Who. Macbeth is obviously a much more serious role, and I would love to see what kind of range Matt and Karen have.

I also loved Karen’s comments about being typecast, “I don’t worry about typecasting because you’re in control of your own career, at the end of the day. You can choose the things that you want to do.”  Obviously, I am not an actor, producer, etc, so I have no idea how valid the typecasting argument is, but it’s always rang kind of hallow to me. There are plenty of actors and actresses who have redefined themselves.  Look at Tom Hanks.  He sure didn’t let Splash or Bosom Buddies be the definition of his career.


Series 6, Part 1 Recap

BBC America posted this great recap of all the best moment of the early half of the season.

It does remind me…what happened to the Silences? I definitely wanna see more of these guys. Probably the best villains created for Doctor Who outside of the Daleks and Weeping Angels.  I know fans of Cybermen, Silurians, Sea Devils, Sontarans will be annoyed, but these guys have nothing on the big three scares.

Considering how well written Doctor Who has been under Steven Moffat, I wonder if the “She’s not a killer, she’s a doctor” line from “Curse of the Black Spot” was intentionally mirrored in the last episode when we hear about how other cultures think of the Doctor. Or I could just be looking for connections that aren’t there…Moffat does love his mind games.

A friend of mine pointed out that “The Doctor’s Wife” felt a bit out of place in this season, and you will notice it got the shortest segment of the recap (though Rebel Flesh and Almost People kind of got downplayed too). A great episode, but it was supposed to air last season, and you can tell they didn’t try to reshape the episode to fit in with the season. Definitely the right choice.

Rory was so bad ass in “A Good Man Goes To War.” Arthur Davill has made him by far the best male companion the Doctor has ever had (sorry, Jack). We know that Matt and Karen are back for next season, I really hope Arthur will be too. Sadly they left out by favorite line with a Sontaran declaring his tremendous ability to produce lactic fluid.

All I know for sure is I CAN’T WAIT FOR AUGUST 27!! By the way, they still haven’t confirmed when it will be airing in the UK (which is normal), but I would suspect it will be the same day.

 


Day of the Daleks and Colony in Space coming to DVD

Doctor Who News is reporting that two Jon Pertwee serials will be getting DVD releases in the UK. Day of the Daleks (due September 9th) and Colony in Space (Amazon reports October 3rd, Doctor Who Magazine is saying October 24th). They don’t say when they will be coming out in America, but the last year or so, the DVD’s have been coming out the same time here, so I assume they will be the same.

Colony In Space

Starring Jon Pertwee as Doctor Who, with Katy Manning as Jo Grant
Written by Malcolm Hulke
Directed by Michael Briant

Broadcast: 10th April – 15 May 1971

The Time Lords discover that the Master has stolen their secret file on the Doomsday Weapon and decide to send the Doctor to retrieve it for them.

The TARDIS takes the Doctor and Jo to the desolate planet Uxarieus in the year 2472. There they become involved in a dispute between some beleaguered colonists and the crew of an Interplanetary Mining Corporation (IMC) spaceship over the ownership rights to the planet. The Doctor learns that the indigenous Primitives and their High Priests worship a large machine tended by a creature called the Guardian.

The single disc release features remastered versions of all six episodes, and includes the restoration of four seconds of material missing from the original VHS release of the story.

Special Features

  • Commentary – cast members Katy Manning (Jo Grant), Bernard Kay (Caldwell), Morris Perry (Dent), plus Michael Briant (director), Terrance Dicks (script editor), and Graeme Harper (assistant floor manager); moderated by Toby Hadoke
  • IMC Needs You! – documentary on the making of the story, featuring Katy Manning, Bernard Kay, Michael Briant, Graeme Harper, plus producer Barry Letts.
  • From the Cutting Room Floor – trims from the location and model filming, including annotations
  • Coming Soon – a trailer for a forthcoming DVD release
  • Programme subtitles
  • Subtitle Production Notes
  • Photo Gallery – production, design and publicity photos from the story
  • Radio Times Listings in Adobe PDF format

Day of The Daleks

Starring Jon Pertwee as Doctor Who, with Katy Manning as Jo Grant
Written by Louis Marks
Directed by Paul Bernard

Broadcast: 1st January – 22 January 1972

World peace hangs in the balance and Sir Reginald Styles, a high-ranking diplomat, is the only person that stands between mankind and a third and final World War. But a mysterious and savage guerrilla force from the 22nd Century believe Styles is the agent that shaped their terrifying future and therefore must die…

The Doctor and Jo find themselves flung into the guerrillas’ world; a brutal dictatorship policed by the merciless and ape-like Ogrons. The Daleks have invaded Earth, enslaved the population and face certain triumph unless the Doctor betrays all he believes in and condones the cold-blooded murder of Styles in an attempt to change the course of history… forever.

Special Features

Disk 1

  • 4 x 25 mins approx colour episodes with mono audio (Original Version).
  • Commentary – stereo. With actors Anna Barry and Jim Winston, producer Barry Letts, script editor Terrance Dicks and vision mixer Mike Catherwood.
  • Blasting the Past (dur. 30′ 30″) – cast and crew look back on the making of this story. With actors Katy Manning, Jimmy Winston and Anna Barry, producer Barry Letts, script editor Terrance Dicks, monster maker John Friedlander, Dalek operator Ricky Newby, Dalek voice artiste Nicholas Briggs, classic series writer Ben Aaronovitch, new series writer Paul Cornell and Doctor Who Magazine writer Dave Owen.
  • A View from the Gallery – producer Barry Letts and vision mixer Mike Catherwood talk about the art of vision mixing on a multi-camera studio show like Doctor Who.
  • Nationwide – a report from a primary school on the day they took delivery of a Dalek, first prize in a Radio Times competition.
  • Blue Peter – presenter Peter Purves remembers his time as a companion to William Hartnell’s Doctor and is joined in the studio by a trio of Daleks.
  • Photo Gallery – production, design and publicity photos from the story.

Disk 2

  • 4 x 25 mins approx colour episodes with mono audio (Special Edition).
  • The Making of Day of the Daleks – Special Edition – producer Steve Broster guides us through the creation of his Special Edition of this story. With voice artiste Nicholas Briggs, audio engineer Mark Ayres, cameraman John Kelly, Dalek builder Toby Chamberlain, UNIT soldier Kevan Looseley and Ogron Nick Nicholson.
  • Now and Then – the latest instalment of our long-running series revisits the locations used in Day of the Daleks to see how much or little they have changed over the years. Narrated by Toby Hadoke.
  • The UNIT Family – Part Two – the second instalment of our series looking at the Doctor’s years on Earth as scientific advisor to the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce and the strong family bonds created during that time. With Katy Manning, Barry Letts, Terrance Dicks, actors Nicholas Courtney, John Levene, Richard Franklin and Fernanda Marlowe, stuntman Derek Ware.
  • The UNIT Dating Conundrum – over the years, many fans have tried to rationalise the chronological setting of the UNIT stories from clues within the narrative, despite the obstacles seemingly put in their way by the production team. Narrator Toby Hadoke explains why dating the stories is so difficult, assisted by Terrance Dicks, Dave Owen, Nicholas Briggs and Ben Aaronovitch.
  • The Cheating Memory – Special Edition producer Steve Broster tries to discover why the reality of Day of the Daleks doesn’t quite live up to the memory he has of first seeing it, aged six. With psychologist Dr. Sarita Robinson, Nicholas Briggs and Ben Aaronovitch.

Skitch Commentary: I have not seen either of these serials yet, but I always try to catch up on old Doctor Who DVD’s as they pop up on Netflix, so I definitely am looking forward to seeing them.  I love Pertwee, and Roger Delgado was just ridiculously fun as the Master.

 


BBC to air “Best Of Doctor Who” Specials

Doctor Who News is reporting that in the lead up to the return of Doctor Who on Saturday, August 27, BBC is airing three specials where they talk to Doctor Who fans about important topics like “Which Doctor Who monster would make the best roommate?” (DALEKS) or “What’s the most fashionable Timelord headgear, fez or Stetson?” (Both are cool).

The specials are going to air on BBC America as follows:

Doctor Who: Best of the Doctor – Saturday, August 13 at 9/8c.
Doctor Who: Best of the Monsters – Saturday, August 20 at 9/8c.
Doctor Who: Best of the Companions – Saturday, August 27 following the Doctor Who premiere episode, “Let’s Kill Hitler,” which airs at 9/8c.

I really do love all the love BBC America has given Doctor Who lately. It’s really starting to build a big fan base in the United States, and these specials all sound like they will be a great celebration of what it means to be a Doctor Who fan.

 


BBC responds to complaints about gay sex scenes in Torchwoord: Miracle Day

BBC posted the following complaint and response on their webpage:

Complaint

We’ve received complaints from some viewers who feel it is inappropriate to show gay sex in Torchwood.

The BBC’s response

We have strict Editorial Guidelines which govern the content of our programmes, and Torchwood is no exception. These clearly state:

“In all BBC output the portrayal of sex, or the exploration of sexual issues, should be editorially justified and treated with appropriate sensitivity. In post-watershed content, we must be able to justify the frank and realistic portrayal of sex and the exploration of themes and issues which some people might find offensive.”

Captain Jack Harkness is an established character in the series. We felt the content was justified in terms of the context and character and would be within the expectations of regular viewers. We aim to depict relationships whether heterosexual or homosexual in an honest and realistic way. These scenes are not meant to cause offence.

I have also heard comments that said that BBC really toned down both sex scenes in episode 3. To be honest, the scenes were pretty tame by premium cable standards. I’ve seen far more graphic sex scenes in Spartacus or True Blood (including a scene where a vampire twists another vampire’s head backwards during sex).

Since the BBC is supported by a mandatory fee to the public, they seem to have to answer to the public when they show something that might be offensive…like two naked dudes kissing.

I could understand the complaints if this happened during Doctor Who, which is more “all ages” but Torchwood is supposed to deal with more adult material, and I thought this complaint was kind of amusing. BBC’s response is typical PC nonsense, but I guess they really had no choice.

 


Companion Piece: Susan Foreman

Welcome to our first “Companion Piece.” This semi-regular feature in the Weekly Checkup gives us a chance to look at some of the Doctor’s traveling companions from over the past 50 years. Seemed fair that we should start with the Doctor’s first companion, Susan Foreman (played by Carole Ann Ford).

Susan is basically the first character we meet in Doctor Who. She attends the Coal Hill School in Shoreditch and seems to be a bright, but strange child. Two of her teachers (Barbara and Ian) want to know more about her, and they follow her back to her home…which they quickly discover is a junkyard.

They find her arguing with her grandfather, who seems to lock her in a police box. Rushing in to try and rescue her, they find themselves aboard the TARDIS. In order to keep them from revealing the truth, the Doctor basically kidnaps Barbara and Ian and takes them with him on his mad journey through time and space.

Yes…Doctor Who starts with a kidnapping of two perfectly innocent people.  And by the end of the first serial, we see the Doctor considering beating an unconsious caveman to death with a rock.  As you can see, the Doctor’s morality has developed some over the years…

We do know that the Doctor and Susan had been traveling for a while before they had landed on Earth to make repairs on the TARDIS. They seem to have been there for five months…which is a long time for the Doctor to stay in the same place. We also know that the Doctor and Susan were exiled from their people (though it is a while before we ever hear the name Time Lord). She also claims to have named the TARDIS, though this seemed to have been forgotten by most writers afterwards as all Time Lords call their rides TARDISes.

Unfortunately, since Doctor Who started in the 60’s, Susan didn’t really get much to do. Lots of crying and screaming or damsel in distress scenes. Okay, in the third serial, she got to go completely batshit crazy and threaten Ian with a knife, but unfortunately that was about the extent of the acting they let Carole Ann Ford do in the show.

What happened to Susan?

Susan was only in Doctor Who for the first season, and the beginning of the second season. In the serial, “The Dalek Invasion of Earth,” Susan fell in love with a human freedom fighter named David Campbell. She is hesitant to leave her grandfather, so the Doctor ends up locking her out of the TARDIS and leaving, so she can have a life and not feel guilty about it.  It was sweeter than it sounds, I promise.  Susan is the first companion we see leave, and it’s one of the most powerful moments in the early episodes.

From an out of character perspective, Carole Ann Ford felt the character was too limited, and wanted to leave. She definitely had some valid points. For a Time Lord, Susan was pretty much always crying or getting in to dumb situations. She was about 45 years ahead of her time. These days strong young female companions are the norm, and Rose, Martha, Donna, and Amy have all been great examples of how to create great female characters.

Susan would pop up in the show once more, in the Fifth Doctor serial, “The Five Doctors” though no mention is made of what happened to David.

From the Audio Books (where Carole Ann Ford reprised the role starting in 2009), we do know that Susan had a son on Earth named Alex. She would run into the Doctor again (the Eighth Doctor actually) in the Audio Books “An Earthly Child,” “Relative Dimensions,” “Lucie Miller,” and “To The Death.”

Did Susan survive the Last Great Time War?

The short answer is we don’t know for sure, but it doesn’t seem like it. Here is what we know for sure:

– In 2005’s “The End of the World,” the ninth Doctor tells Rose that he is the last of the Time Lords.

-A few episodes later, in “Father’s Day” he tells her that his whole family has died.

-In “The Empty Child,” someone tells the Doctor that he had been a father and grandfather, but not anymore. The Doctor replies, “I know the feeling.” This is the first time he specifically mentions being a grandfather in the current run of the show.

– In “Fear Her,” the Tenth Doctor mentions “I was a dad once.”

– In “The Doctor’s Daughter,” the Tenth Doctor mentions that he had been a father before, and was still hurt by their deaths. In this episode, the Doctor gets a “cloned daughter,” who he also believes dies in the episode, but we find out in the end he’s wrong about that.

– In “The Beast Below,” Amy asks the Eleventh Doctor is he has any kids, he doesn’t answer her, but seems to be uncomfortable by the question.

– And finally in the last episode, “A Good Man Goes to War,” Amy asks him again if he has any children. This time he says no. When she follows up with “Did you ever have children?” he changes the subject quickly.

It is possible that writers just make mistakes or changed things to suit the story they were trying to tell at the time (there is fifty years of history to be dealt with here, and Susan has been out of the show since 1964), but I really think it’s safe to assume from these comments that Susan did not make it out of the Last Great Time War alive. It is also possible that she could have died on Earth. It is typical that Time Lords need a TARDIS or the help of another Time Lord to regenerate, and Susan didn’t have access to either.

Now watch Steven Moffat have her show up and prove me wrong.  Evil genuis that one is.

Quick thanks to Wikipedia.  I don’t usually use them as a reliable source, but they definitely helped remind me of details I had forgotten.

 


Next week, I’m gonna write up a feature about My Doctor.  I have been pretty coy about who my favorite Doctor is until now, but I figure it’s about time to share.

I would love to hear about “Your Doctor.” So, if you have any comments about who your favorite Doctor (or Doctors) are and why, send them to me at jackknight@gmail.com and I’ll post them next week.  I’ve already gotten a bunch of great comments from people about this and can’t wait to share them.

See you all next time.

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