The Weekly Checkup: Doctor Who/Torchwood News and Views – August 20, 2011

Lots to cover this week, including the results of our first reader’s poll. So let’s just get right to it.

Doctor Who Wallpaper

A British company called Black Dog Murals is making these terrific Doctor Who wallpaper murals. Check them out!

What’s really cool is that they will customize them in scale to fit your wall.  I would love one with just the TARDIS going through the Time Vortex, but these designs are still really cool for fans.  That said, even though I write this column, even I am not that fanatical to have these on my walls.

Prequel to Let’s Kill Hitler

BBC posted up a great prequel for Let’s Kill Hitler (which airs on BBC and BBC America next Saturday, August 27).

I truly love how Doctor Who can take a dramatic moment, and still manage to infuse it with humor. Hearing the Doctor’s problems with his answering machine is balanced perfectly by the pain in Amy’s voice and the grim expression on the Doctor’s face. This is very powerful television.  Matt Smith constantly shows new sides to his version of The Doctor, and I am really thinking the best will be yet to come this season.

Steven Moffat explains “Why Hitler”

I saw this blog entry on BBC America, and thought it was interesting:

POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT: Doctor Who scribe Steven Moffat has revealed the reason why he went after tyrannical Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in the forthcoming mid-season premiere, “Let’s Kill Hitler.” It’s totally his way of giving him proper kick in the face, really.

“Hitler is quite an iconic name to be honest – in an evil and ghastly way,” Moffat said during a screening in London on Monday (August 15). “I think my younger son said, ‘Won’t Hitler be offended?’ In Indiana Jones, there was a brilliant gag where Indiana Jones accidentally gets Hitler’s autograph. I think if you really want to p**s off Hitler, now that he’s dead, you don’t make him into an icon of evil, you take the mickey out of him, make him a joke, make him be punched by Rory. I can imagine how cross Adolf would be if he watched the episode.”

Funny related Hitler anecdote (a phrase I never thought I would get to use): at San Diego Comic Con, someone asked John Barrowman to sing during the Torchwood panel. He asked for suggestions, and someone yelled “Springtime for Hitler” (he was in the 2005 film remake of The Producers).  He said, “I am not singing Springtime for Hitler!!!”  He ended up leading the crowd in a great sing along of “Tomorrow” from Annie.

Moffat is truly a mad genius, and if anyone can make Hitler into an entertaining Doctor Who story, it’s definitely him.  I still wanna know exactly what Hitler has to do with the missing Melody Pond, but I suspect the answer will be brilliant.

Martha Jones finds herself a new Doctor

I saw this trailer for the new season of Law & Order: UK, and was amused to see Freema Agyeman (the very underrated Martha Jones from Doctor Who Season 3) alongside Peter Davison, the Fifth Doctor.  Freema actually has been starring in this series since the beginning, and sadly it doesn’t seem to air here, unless they show it on BBC America, which I do not get.  Thanks to Cablevision for that.  You guys are awesome…he says sarcastically.

So Martha ditched David Tennant to hook up with a totally different Doctor!! I just hope that Torchwood manages to catch us with Mickey and Martha. I would have loved to see them join the team as was rumored a few years ago.


Torchwood: Miracle Day – Episode 5: “Categories of Life” Review


Summary (courtesy of Tardis Index File Wiki): In Washington D.C., Vera is told that the medical panels are over and a report was submitted by the Health and Human Services Secretary directly to Congress. The categories of life have been unanimously approved for legislation. She learns there are three new categories for the living since no one dies. Horrified at what the legislation may mandate, Vera calls Rex to join the covert investigation he and Torchwood are making.

Gwen returns to the UK under her alias of Yvonne Pallister to find her father has been taken to one of the overflow camps. Rhys greets her disguised as her driver. Her mother has prepared for Gwen’s arrival and has located Gwen’s father at the Cowbridge Camp, formerly derelict army barracks closed down in 1996 – now an overflow camp for patients in South Wales. The next day Gwen travels with Andy to Cowbridge. Andy remarks that though the system is “bloody chaos, at least it works”, relieving the pressure on geriatrics and other hospital departments. Gwen asks “Who’s paying for all this? PhiCorp. You got healthcare being run by private business and believe me, that’s just the start of your problems.”

Gwen heads to admin, demanding the release of her father. A military officer suggests she fills in a claims form. Andy supports her by fabricating a story about her father being removed under police authority. Told that the camp is not under the Welsh police, she is handed a package titled “Overflow Camp Health Care Provider Framework”. Gwen turns this over to see PhiCorp’s logo.

Under the threat of arrest, Gwen, Andy, and Rhys leave Cowbridge. Gwen, infuriated as the red tape stopping her after everything she’s experienced with Torchwood Three, tells Rhys “we’re gonna break in here, we’re gonna find my father, and we’re gonna get him out – tonight.”

In Venice Beach, in California, Esther confides in Jack about her insecurities about being “useless” to the team. Esther mentions the death of her mom in 2003 and asks Jack about his mom. He answers vaguely. As Esther asks Jack where he’s from, they receive text messages from Rex. They meet Rex and are introduced to Vera. Vera mentions she was lucky to catch a flight because most of them were full due to the Miracle Rally later that night.

Back at the makeshift Torchwood “hub”, Vera tells off Rex and explains she flew across the country to support her patients who are now being held against their will in the overflow camps. They smile and kiss.

Reconvening with Jack and Esther, Vera asks “Am I Torchwood now?”. Jack replies “Welcome aboard”. The group, including Gwen via video conference, clarify how the categories of life work. Category one is anyone without brain function or anyone who would have ordinarily died; category three is people with no injuries; category two is everyone in between – people alive and functioning with an illness/injury that will persist, but won’t kill. Rex notices the categories are arbitrary – he himself was a category “one”, but has become a “two”.

They discuss who is behind PhiCorp. Rex thinks there is more going on behind the pharmaceutical company and Esther points out the consistent presence of modules at every overflow camp based on building specs she collected from Jilly Kitzinger’s desktop. These modules are buildings seen in all the camp plans, but they are sealed off and hidden from view – only revealed in undoctored satellite photographs. Esther lets Gwen know that these modules also exist overseas in the overflow camp in Wales.

Gwen and Vera wonder if these modules are for vivisections. Esther thinks this would explain the rush to strip category ones of their rights. Jack and the team agree that they need to infiltrate the camps and find out. Gwen will go on a night shift at Cowbridge as “Nurse Pallister”. Esther will join the clerical staff and do paperwork on the module at San Pedro. Vera will join Esther at San Pedro as a medical inspector. Rex argues he will get to the heart of the module due to his sustained injury from a pole running through his chest, which allows him to be taken to San Pedro posing as a patient. Jack (a fragile mortal man according to Esther) is left behind.

Jack decides to go to the Miracle Rally in Los Angeles. He tries to persuade Oswald Danes to turn against PhiCorp. At the same time, Jilly tries to get him to give a prepared speech to help PhiCorp move their agenda forward. In the end, Danes ends up speaking his mind, but still ends up supporting PhiCorp.

Nurse Pallister and Rhys enter Cowbridge. Gwen finds her father, Geraint. She begins explaining that it is not safe for him to stay and that he needs to get out of the camp as quickly as possible. Just as they reach Rhys’ truck, he collapses from what appears to be another heart attack. Gwen calls for help. She is horrified to find out that he is now being labeled a category one because he went unconscious.

In San Pedro, Esther recategorizes Rex as a category one in the computer system. Shes gives Rex a video camera to record footage of what he sees while he is moved to the module where category one patients are kept. Vera is taken to camp supervisor Colin Maloney. Vera insists she be taken to the module. Maloney decides to bring her to see patients first. At first, Vera is impressed by category twos being seen every hour.

Rex is taken to the module. Inside, he gets up in the dark, Patients sit on racks like objects. Rex feels the walls and thinks they may be ceramic. He finds it strange, cold, and similar to a refrigeration unit. He steps outside.

Vera gets off Maloney’s golf cart tour to check out a building. Maloney tries to stop her. She sees patients without insurance left unattended, in filth, some labeled category one when they are still perfectly conscious. Vera, in a rage, says the system will never work because of men like Maloney who see healthcare as a business and she will prosecute him.

The situation escalates and in a panic Maloney disarms a military officer and shoots Vera twice. Maloney drives Vera to the module and puts her in one of the cold units where Rex was previously dropped off. At the same time Rex notices that the module is small – only three units. There is no way all category one patients could be accommodated. As Vera begins crying over her injuries, left in the dark, Maloney is shown switching “on” the module she is in – releasing gas and flames inside.

In Cowbridge, Rhys finishes his undercover “job” driving “burn victims” to the module. It registers with Gwen that the module houses ovens to burn category ones. She sees smoke piping up from one of the units. In San Pedro, Rex catches sight of Vera inside one of the modules as the interior is engulfed by flames and he desperately shouts her name, trying to open the door. The episode ends with Rex crying, filming the fire.

Commentary: Thanks to Tardis Index File for the great summary. They are one of the best Doctor Who sites on the web, so check them out.

This was one powerful episode of Torchwood. I am a little sad that Vera’s story was brought to such a horrible end by such a horrible little prick, but it was definitely great television. I really was hoping that Vera would become the “new Owen.”

Just like most of this series, Categories of Life truly had some strong social commentary. With all the talks during the health care debate about “death panels,” let’s face it, the idea of the dividing life into separate categories wasn’t that far out of there.

Rex and Esther are really starting to develop into strong characters. Mekhi Phifer has always been a great actor, and this role really shows off his range. Rex’s pain at seeing Vera’s final fate was something you could actually feel, but he still stayed focused on the mission at hand.

Esther has been getting a bad rap from the fans, but I really like everything that Alexa Havins brings to the role. She definitely got some great moments to shine in this episode, and I hope that continues as the series progresses.

Bill Pullman continues to steal the show as Oswald Danes. I was on the edge of my seat during the speech during the rally. When the PhiCorp logo popped up at the end, I actually yelled at the TV.

I am amazed how much John Barrowman has sort of faded to the background of this show.  He still has a lot of great moments, but the rest of the cast does such a great job, it doesn’t feel like Barrowman needs to carry the show all the time.  And just so I don’t leave her out, Eve Myles had done a great job portraying Gwen’s personal struggles involving her father and family through all of this.  Gwen’s character has changed so much since the first days of Torchwood, and Eve makes it seem so natural.

I can’t believe we are already halfway through the season. It’s going to be downright unforgivable if we don’t get more Torchwood.

My Doctor: Jon Pertwee

As I mentioned back in my first column, I started watching Doctor Who with the first episode of the relaunched Doctor Who,“Rose.” I was hooked immediately, and caught up on the new series as fast as I could. Over time, I’ve been watching the earlier series of Doctor Who. I have watched every serial available on DVD for William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Tom Baker, and the third Doctor, Jon Pertwee.  To be honest, I usually can’t get into TV shows from the 60’s and 70’s, but Doctor Who has aged amazingly well.

I have a fondness for every Doctor I’ve seen so far, and for a longest time I would have said Chris Eccleston was My Doctor. But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Jon Pertwee had ended up dethroning him. Don’t get me wrong. I love all the Doctors, but there was just a lot of things that Pertwee did that no other incarnation of the Doctor has been able to match.

When Pertwee took over as the Doctor, the show went through some dramatic changes. For one, Pertwee’s first season was the first to be shown in color.  It was also the first time we didn’t get to see the regeneration on screen (as far as I know, the only other time that would happen was when Paul McGann turned into Chris Eccleston…at least we assume that is what happened).

These days, it’s very common for Doctor Who episodes to take place on modern Earth, but the first two Doctors very rarely spent time there.  The first few Pertwee seasons took place completely on Earth, with the Doctor exiled and working for UNIT dealing with all kinds of sci-fi weirdness on Earth, like evil plastic mannequins.

Pertwee’s run as the Doctor also introduced us to The Master, played brilliantly by Roger Delgado.  The Master would provide a much more clever and devious adversary than the Daleks or the Cybermen. You can tell Roger Delgado was having a lot of fun in the role, and Jon Pertwee played off him perfectly.

One thing I loved about Jon Pertwee was that he managed to play the Doctor as very human.  The scene where he has to say goodbye to Jo during her wedding is probably the best moment the Doctor ever got to that point. He could be kind one minute, playful the next, and downright furious the next. There was just so much depth to this version of the Doctor.  He never seemed to be as alien as some of the other incarnations, and he built strong ties to his friends and allies on Earth.

In addition to being a snappy dresser and obsessed over his car Bessie, the Third Doctor was a master of Venusian Aikido…which mostly consisted of the most goofy looking judo moves ever.

If you want to see the Third Doctor at his best, I would definitely suggest that you check out:

– Spearhead from Space
– Doctor Who and the Silurians
– Inferno
– The Green Death
– The Time Warrior (first Sontaran and first Sarah Jane)

All right, enough about My Doctor. What about you guys?

Reader’s poll: Who is your favorite incarnation of the Doctor?

“I have a new hand, and it’s a fighting hand!”  The tenth doctor made his defining statement in his first appearance.  I love the David Tennant’s doctor for his uncanny ability to be a lover and a fighter in one single breath.  His seemingly manic behaviors gave us a deeper insight to the trauma that he experienced before his ninth incarnation and his struggle to accept his solitary role in the universe. David Tennant continued to develop the brilliant, but wounded personality that Christopher Eccleston used to ignite a new generation’s love of Doctor Who, and managed to spread that fire across the globe.
-Gina Maillaro

Have you ever had seven layer dip? Its awesome cause of the various opposing flavors and textures that mingle together to create one overall savory snack. When asked who my favorite Doctor was, I immediately thought of seven layer dip… and not just ‘cause I was hungry. My Doctor, Doctor #10, is just like this dip. Now, I’m a modern day fan, having started watching a few years after the newest series began. My first ever episode was a repeat of “Blink” with David Tennant as our fair Doctor. I joined the masses of Dr Who fans who watched from behind their couch quivering in fear with their hands over their eyes. During this episode, I texted my brother and demanded he loan me the rest of the series. Within three weeks, my husband and I were caught up on the four recent seasons of Doctor Who and waited anxiously with the rest of the Whovians for the specials to air.

With that said, the only three doctors I’ve been exposed to are Eccleston, Tennant, and Smith. By far, my favorite is Tennant. And frankly, it’s the layers that made me fall in love with him. I love that he is extremely vulnerable, while at the same time, completely bad-ass. I love that he shoots off jokes, while bravely saving the world (again). I love the manic eyes! The energy and psychosis that Tennant brought to the role is what made me watch season 2, 3, and 4 over and over. The underlying hints that Tennant implies that there is so much more to the Doctor than just what he is saying. Together, it’s all just brilliant. Every scene is layered with so much emotion that it’s hard to appreciate it all in one viewing. So, when I think of David Tennant, as Ten, I think seven-layer dip. 🙂 Also, the geeky chic style didn’t hurt any. Man, I love me a suit with good ol’ fashioned Chucks!
– Patti Delloiacono

I watched Tom Baker as Doctor Who in the ‘80s on PBS.  It was never a show I devoted myself to with any zeal, but it was a cheesy good time.  I did watch the American television movie in ‘90s, but didn’t really feel any pull to it either.  Patti already related the story of how we got to watching the current series, so I won’t bore you with a rehash.  I will say that the episodes with Christopher Eccleston were enticing enough to keep me watching during that first season, but it wasn’t until my Doctor – Tennant – appeared that I finally was captured by the adventures of the good doctor.

David Tennant has a normal guy quality that I am drawn to in actors.  Sure it’s a goofy, geekish quality, but then I’m a bit of a goof and a geek myself.  Oh, and there’s the charisma of David Tennant.  When he’s on screen I challenge you to try and look away. The man seems to effortlessly command your attention whether the sequence be dramatic, romantic, action-oriented, or best of all comedic.  He’s a one of a kind type actor and it was by far the very best of times for Doctor Who during his tenure.  I don’t think the series has recovered from the loss of David Tennant.  Then again, maybe I’m more Tennant enthusiast than Whovian.
– Chris Delloiacono

Tom Baker, because he was the doctor so long and had that awesome awesome scarf. Really, I’m only tangentially aware of Dr. Who, but any time someone mentions the series, that is the guy I picture as the lead. I’ve seen some Tennant and Eccleston episodes, and it’s legitimately difficult for me to picture them as aspects of the same guy.
– Mike Weaver

For a long time it was Baker, the 4th Doctor. Mainly because that was the one I got used to seeing growing up. Tennant, the 10th Doctor, got close to replacing him, but nostalgia held on to Baker. Even though both Tennant, and Eccleston were great Doctors. Pertwee did manage to impress me with the presence he brought to the role. Trough it all though Matt Smith has won my heart. He brings a fair amount wit, charm, and zaniness to the role. Oh, and Fez’s are cool.
– Logan

I only have a casual association of the franchise over the years, but I have to say the 4th Doctor is the most “iconic” to my mind if you lined them up and asked me to choose, but the 10th and 11th look more relatable at first glance and are the protagonists that invite me to watch it here and there.
– Amanda Madison

Mine’s the crazy Doctor who flies around on a flying scooter/Segway thing, indiscriminately firing a giant laser at his enemies in Dalek Attack.

– Tasha

I’d have to say David Tennant just because his run as the Doctor has secured me as a fan.
– Grey Scherl

Familiar just with Doctors 8 through 11, with a very minuscule flash of 4, I’m sure I couldn’t help but pick any but the Tenth (even if it breaks my heart to toss aside 9 and 11, because I love those guys too). Maybe it’s just because most of my favorite episodes were from his tenure on the show. Maybe it was David Tennant’s mannerisms. Maybe I loved the darkness the Tenth Doctor was capable of, right along side his great feats of empathy and hope and brilliance. Maybe the Tenth just had the best Companions to play off of (Rory is the man, but as long as Eleven has to go without Captian Jack as a Companion, he’ll never win the “Best Companions” award).

Probably a combination of it all. Plus, the Tenth coined the term “Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey” which is kinda great.
– Jeremy McDonald

The Ninth Doctor. He just strikes me as such a straight badass, but without losing that quirkiness you expect from a Doctor.
– Zack Little

Baker- the longest running one so its kinda hard not to like him, but I also love his crazyness, and how he would sometimes casually insult people with a smile on his face

Matt Smith- I just think he perfectly personifies new who, and has a great balance of quirky eccentric, with being able to be wholly intimidating in the next minute, particularly with his outfit.
– Xero

I’ve only got experience with the First, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, so it’s an incomplete opinion, but I’d say 11th>9th>10th>1st>8th. Smith is excellent at both the serious and comedic stuff, and he’s been a major part of why even the weaker material he’s had still works very well.

Eccleston was probably best at the serious material, but the material he got was often so weak that he never got a chance to really shine.

Tennant had the same qualities that Smith has, but he got too self-indulgent by the end of his run, and combining that with Russell T. Davies problems with writing large scale stories made him almost a parody of his better work.

Hartnell is definitely an interesting contrast to the others, given that his time on the show predates so many of the series’ conventions. I kind of wish there was a bit more of the slightly sinister tone Hartnell had in the current series.

The Eighth Doctor obviously only had the one TV movie, which was so awful that he didn’t stand a chance.

Easily the 11th, personally I feel like he embodies the Doctor perfectly, a fancy free brilliant man who wants to see all and do all, and he’s not bogged down with “I’m the last of my species” angst the 10th was.
– SSJKirby

I love 11, but I have a feeling he is going to be a caricature of himself really quickly from here on out. Moffat and Co. are way too in love with some of his quirks.
– littlebigpiano

Have to go with Tennant. and second favorite is Pertwee.
You should ask who was your favorite companion? Because there have been tons and they’re really varied. From aliens to robot dogs to gingers.
– SonicHowl

I am going to have to go with Smith. He combines the best parts of all the Doctors: Eccentric, brilliant, noble and definatly not to be crossed.

This is an unfair question though. We didn’t know enough about the 8th and 9th Doctors for them to get a fair shake. Also, a lot of the First and Second Doctor stories are lost to time.
– akumsa42

I only really know 9, 10, 11. I like Tennat the most, he got me into it. But Smith is good too, in a different way.
– sir will

Smith, easily (and I’m not ashamed to say that I was one of those vocal Internet warriors loudly protesting the hiring of a ‘potato-faced child with Indie-band hair’ when it was first announced – I’m absolutely delighted to have been proven wrong, haha)
– Tom Clark

Matt Smith. My first Doctor, so I’m partial.
– TwoNumbThumbs

Tennant. A million times over, Tennant. He’s just so perfect, he’s a perfect blend of the fun and lighthearted elements of the Doctor while still embodying the darker side. I actually feel like he’s a combination of the 9th (dark) and 11th (light), and he does both of them so well. That’s why he’s my favorite.
– dotsdfe

Tom Baker will always be THE Doctor to me.
– holden4ever

I’ve been watching more and more classic Who the past few weeks, so I feel I can make a more informed decision.

I’ve seen the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th.
Of Classic Who I’d say my favorite is 4>3>2>1>8 (McGann was great, there just wasn’t enough of him)

New Who 11=10>9, I honestly can’t choose between 10 and 11, they are both so good.
– Ryan Lewis

I’ve only seen the new series… But easily Matt Smith. Before I had started watching the series and had just read a bit about the premise and who the Doctor is and stuff, I imagined the Doctor being almost exactly like what Matt Smith brings to the series as Eleven. He’s just perfect IMO.
– DarthAragorn

Right now, David Tennant. I’ve really only seen his and Smith’s runs (and Paul McGann’s with the movie) and I still love how Tennant was, especially with Donna in the fourth series. Smith is rapidly getting up there, but for me it’s still the 10th Doctor.
– Donomark

Thanks to everyone for all the input! Not all that surprising but David Tennant and Tom Baker got the most love, but quite a few of the Doctors got mentioned.  Hopefully, we can do more polls like this in the future. Someone requested a companion poll, and I am definitely up for that. And with that, another Weekly Checkup comes to an end.

See you all next time.

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