Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Time of the Doctor and the Death of the Sixth Doctor (that's right, Sixth!)

I'm still reeling from Time of the Doctor. I loved it but need to watch it again to fully form my thoughts on it. So instead of a review I'm going to use information gleaned from the episode to further my pro-Sixth Doctor agenda. Suffice to say there will be SPOILERS FOR TIME OF THE DOCTOR!!!

Here are a few facts:
  • Due to Colin Baker's shoddy treatment at the hands of the BBC, the Sixth Doctor never had a regeneration story. The BBC made do with Sylvester McCoy, with an obscured face and wearing a curly, blond wig, regenerating after an undignified bump on the head.
  • Until recently Colin and Paul McGann were the the only Doctors without a regeneration story. This year's minisode prequel to Day of the Doctor, entitled Night of the Doctor, finally showed us the Eighth Doctor's transformation into his next incarnation. This leaves Colin as the only Doctor without a death scene.
  • Several audio & novelised adventures have been set between the end of Colin's last TV adventure and the Sixth Doctor's bump on the head. 
  • At one point during his TV adventures the Sixth Doctor claims he is 900. Shortly after his regeneration the Seventh Doctor claims to be 953. However the Ninth later claims to be 900, and in the Day of the Doctor the Eleventh indicates that he may lie about his age from time to time. So, it's safe to say that we really don't have a definite idea of how much time passes in between the Sixth Doctor's last televised adventure and his abrupt transformation into his Seventh incarnation. 
  • Mel is with the Sixth Doctor when he dies, but as the Fifth and Eleventh Doctors have demonstrated, The Doctor has been known to drop off his companions and then pick them up again further down his timeline.
  • Time of the Doctor further establishes something already indicated to us by the First Doctor and the War Doctor. The Doctor's bodies age!
  • Time of the Doctor also shows us that an aged Doctor can appear youthful again during his regeneration.

What I'm trying to say with all this is that there is no reason why an older Colin Baker cannot film a proper regeneration scene for the Sixth Doctor! Current showrunner Steven Moffat has (rather foolishly and unfairly in my opinion) been reluctant to feature the Sixth Doctor in new episodes due to the significant differences between how Colin looks now and how he looked while he played The Doctor. But, as we've established, centuries may have passed during the time the Sixth Doctor was off our screens, and a pre regeneration rejuvenation of the sort the Eleventh experienced can explain McCoy's blond curly wig.

Imagine a ten minute minisode featuring an aging Sixth Doctor, alone in the console room (Mel is in another room), realising that he's about to die and delivering a haunting soliloquy on mortality of the sort that only Colin's Doctor could deliver. I can't be the only one who thinks that would be fantastic, right? This needs to happen!

The campaign begins here! Moffat, give Colin the long overdue send off he deserves!

Monday, 25 November 2013

The Day of The Valeyard

On the 23rd of November 2013, The Day of the Doctor, the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who, was simulcast around the world. I'm not going to offer a critique, suffice to say I REALLY BLOODY LOVED IT!!!! What I am going to bang on about is what implications the events of Day of the Doctor have for the much maligned 14 part Doctor Who adventure from 1986, The Trial of a Time Lord. Yeah! Bet you weren't expecting that! If you're like me and you love The Trial of a Time Lord and find the character of The Valeyard fascinating then this blog post may very well blow your mind. If however, you're like most Doctor Who fans and think Trial is a muddled, overlong load of old wank then you might want to skip this.


Let's take a look at the basic plot of The Trial of a Time Lord & The Day of The Doctor.

  • The Trial of a Time Lord features The Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) being put on trial by his fellow Time Lords for his interference in the affairs of other worlds. He is being prosecuted by a mysterious man in black known only as The Valeyard. At one point during the trial The Valeyard also charges The Doctor with genocide, based on The Doctor's actions while battling the Vervoids. Eventually The Master reveals that The Valeyard is a future incarnation of The Doctor, who is attempting to steal his past self's remaining regenerations.

"There is some evil in all of us, Doctor – even you. The Valeyard is an amalgamation of the darker sides of your nature, somewhere between your twelfth and final incarnation, and I may say you do not improve with age." - The Master 

  • The Day of The Doctor reveals that The Doctor had a hitherto unrevealed incarnation, played by John Hurt, who fought in the Time War between the Daleks & the Time Lords. This incarnation of The Doctor ended the Time War by destroying Gallifrey and wiping out the Time Lords. This Doctor then went on to regenerate into Christopher Eccleston's Doctor, who eventually became David Tennant's Doctor and then Matt Smith's Doctor. Day of The Doctor ends with every single incarnation of The Doctor freezing Gallifrey in a pocket dimension, thus saving John Hurt's Doctor from having to destroy it. Unfortunately The Hurt Doctor cannot retain his memory of this and so he regenerates into Eccleston believing that he had wiped out the Time Lords. Since Matt Smith's Doctor is the most recent Doctor he retains his memory of the episode's events and sets off on a quest to find the lost Time Lords.

Still with me? Well then, you may well be asking what connects these two adventures? Nothing. Until you consider what current showrunner Steven Moffat has recently said about The Doctor's remaining regenerations! In the 1976 adventure, The Deadly Assassin it's established that Time Lords can only regenerate 12 times, giving them a total of 13 lives. Hurt is considered an official incarnation of The Doctor, and in Series 4 David Tennant's Doctor used up a regeneration to heal himself and create a duplicate of himself from his severed hand. Moffat has confirmed that this makes Matt Smith the final, 13th Doctor!

Which puts The Valeyard in a totally different light!

If Matt Smith is actually the 13th & final Doctor then that means that The Valeyard is "an amalgamation of the darker sides of (The Doctor's) nature" from somewhere between David Tennant and Matt Smith! This means The Valeyard remembers the Time War but still thinks he's wiped out the Time Lords! And what charge is he trying to pin on The Sixth Doctor? Genocide! Condemning his past self for the destruction of the Vervoids is in fact a way for The Valeyard to condemn himself for the destruction of Gallifrey! The Valeyard is putting himself on trial for what he perceives to be his own crimes during the Time War! The Trial of the Time Lord is the story of The Doctor trying to punish himself!

He's also trying to claim The Sixth Doctor's remaining regenerations! Why? Maybe so he can fight the Time War again, except this time he can correct his mistake and avoid wiping out the Time Lords! The Valeyard is undoubtedly made from The Doctor's darker nature. He does after all, attempt to destroy the members of the court with a particle disseminator. But could his motives actually be fairly noble? Could The Valeyard be driven by the desire to prevent the destruction of his people and assuage his guilt by punishing his past self?

Is The Valeyard a hero?

All this is pure fan-wank on my part of course. I'm quite sure that tying into Trial was the last thing on Moffat's mind when he wrote The Day of The Doctor. But if this blog post has persuaded you to look at The Trial of a Time Lord a little more favourably, and to revisit those superb verbal sparring matches between Colin Baker and Michael Jayston, then my fan-wankerry will have have achieved something great!

Is Doctor Who Sexist?

A guest post from my good pal Emma

Doctor Who has been all over the place lately and I couldn't be happier. Like most people, I'm able to dismiss the negative (usually ill-informed) nay sayers and without it tarnishing my enjoyment of the programme. What has made me irate is that people are STILL trying to throw the old 'Doctor Who is sexist' argument around and complaining that the Doctor isn't female. I am a feminist and a Doctor Who fan and, if you'll indulge me a little longer, I'll explain why that isn't a contradiction.

Firstly, Verity Lambert. There, that was easy. If you don't know who she is then you have no business calling the show sexist.

Secondly, the companions. The biggest gripe people seem to have with them is that the female role has been demoted to that of an 'assistant.' That viewpoint not only conveniently ignores the fact that there have been many male companions but also immediately assumes that the Doctor is the only character having any impact, when the companions have a lasting influence on him. Without Ian and Barbara's friendship we wouldn't have the Doctor that we see today.

Okay, so Leela didn't wear many clothes but she was brave, loyal, independent and determined. Are people shouting 'sexist!' happy to dismiss those qualities because of the way she looks? Is it just me that finds that view a little narrow? Personally, it does make me a little uncomfortable when a female character is wearing fewer clothes than the male one, but that does not diminish the importance of the female role.

A similar criticism is also leveled at Jo Grant. This is the woman who outwits both the second and third Doctor in The Three Doctors. Sarah Jane Smith is beautifully disparaging towards the Fourth Doctor in this clip from  Pyramids of Mars:

Martha Jones saved the world from the Master whilst the Doctor was stuck in a cage, Rose Tyler destroyed the Daleks after the Doctor had resigned himself to becoming one of their 'angels', Zoe Heriot is a genius, Donna Noble stops Davros , Nyssa leaves the Doctor to help save another race, Clara Oswald saved Gallifrey. The Doctor values all of his companions, even bloody Adric.  So why can't we?

Then there's the Doctor himself.  

A man who believes that everyone is important, a man who doesn't use violence but intellect to fight. A man who made a promise to never be cruel or cowardly and to never give up and never give in. He's clever, kind and funny and a brilliant role model for everyone everywhere. I could lament over the lack of similar female role models, but that's not what this blog post is about. My point is, what's wrong with having a brilliant role model of any gender watched by millions every week? Doctor Who certainly isn't a 'boys' programme; my niece loves it as does my son. Everybody needs a role model and gender shouldn't play a part in that, even though, sadly it does.

Watching my three year old son watch Doctor Who is as fantastic as watching Doctor Who. I would not let my child near anything that portrayed women as inferior to men. What I very much hope for is that he will watch and learn from Doctor Who for many, many years. That he will play imaginative games at school based on that week's episode, that we will spend many a Saturday afternoon making Daleks. That, as a teenager, he will reject superficial entertainment and be compassionate and intelligent enough to recognise appalling treatment of women (or anybody else for that matter) and abhor it. And that Doctor Who will have played a small part in making him that way.

This is perhaps deviating from the point a little, but, to paraphrase some northern guy, if children see brilliant television when they are young they will demand it as they get older. Doctor Who sets the tone.

I'm a Doctor Who fan and a feminist. It's no contradiction. 

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Doctor Who: An Adventure in Space and Time

David Bradley as William Hartnell

Tonight Mark Gatiss' drama about the early years of Doctor Who, An Adventure in Space and Time will air on BBC2. I was leafing through some old issues of Doctor Who Magazine recently when I came across a fascinating interview with Gatiss from 2003, in which he discusses how he pitched the idea of a dramatisation of William Hartnell's time on the show for the 40th Anniversary of Doctor Who. He also expresses his disappointment that it wasn't picked up. It really is wonderful that it finally got made and is being broadcast as part of the 50th Anniversary celebrations. I can't wait to see it.

From Doctor Who Magazine #335 (2003)

Saturday, 5 October 2013

What If Different Actors Had Played Doctor Who?

In 1963 William Hartnell became the first actor to play the lead role in the greatest television programme of all time, Doctor Who. He was followed over the next 50 years by Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith, and next year, Peter Capaldi. But these actors were not the only people in line for this most coveted of roles. Many actors have auditioned for the role, many have been offered the role only to turn it down, and many have featured in casting rumours spread by tabloid newspapers and internet message boards.

Journey with me now to the parallel world of Earth 2! A world much like our own but with subtle differences. On this Earth, different actors were cast in the role of Doctor Who! Were they better or worse at the role than the Doctors of our Earth? Judge for yourself....

1. Hugh David (1963-1966)

Before Verity Lambert came on board as producer for the BBC's brand new sci-fi series, Doctor Who, Rex Tucker was in charge. Tucker's choice for the role of the Doctor was his friend, Hugh David. When Lambert came aboard she had reservations about David. At the age of 38, Lambert felt that David was too young for the part. Luckily Tucker was able to convince Lambert that David was the right man for the job, and a legend was born! David played the Doctor as youthful yet wise beyond his years. His smile was charming and dashing, and yet there was a sinister, unpredictable side to his Doctor. He was initially joined in his TARDIS by his mysterious niece Susan (Carol Anne Ford) and two teachers, Ian Chesterton (William Russell) and Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill). The subtly played hint of a love triangle between the Doctor, Ian, and Barbara was considered quite daring for the time, but it kept viewers coming back, week after week. After three years David began to tire of the high public profile that came with the job and decided to retire from acting in order to direct. The search was on for a new Doctor.....

On our Earth... Lambert rejected the youthful David and William Hartnell was cast as the Doctor.

2. Rupert Davies (1966-69)

After the success of Hugh David's Doctor the BBC needed someone they knew the British public enjoyed seeing on their screens. As a result they cast former Maigret star Rupert Davies as the Second Doctor! But Davies proved to be much more than "the safe choice". He deliberately played the Doctor as the exact opposite of the laconic, pipe smoking Maigret. His Doctor was verbose, cheerful and active. His portrayal also provided a nice contrast to Hugh David's earnest heart-breaker. The Second Doctor was a huge success and Davies set the tone for the actors that followed him into the role.

On our Earth... Rupert Davies was offered the role, along with Valentine Dyall and Michael Hordern, but none of them wanted to commit to a long running series. The part ultimately went to Patrick Troughton.

3. Ron Moody (1970-74)

Fresh from his successful turn as Fagin in Oliver! Moody jumped at the chance to play the Doctor. Like Davies, he played against type, portraying the Doctor as a serious man of action. Moody left the role in 1979, stating "I'm having so much fun that if I don't go now I'll never leave!" He has since become one of the show's greatest ambassadors, appearing at conventions, reunions, and of course, in the long running Doctor Who musical, The Ultimate Adventure. Since 1999, Moody has been playing the Doctor once more in a series of audio adventures for Big Finish.

On our Earth... Moody turned the role down and has since admitted it's a decision he regrets. The role went to Jon Pertwee. 

4. Graham Crowden (1974-1981)

With an acting CV full of mad scientists and eccentrics, Graham Crowden was the obvious choice for the part of the Fourth Doctor. While many accused Crowden of being over the top, there was a wide eyed madness to his portrayal that viewers found irresistible. While he was initially reluctant to commit himself to a long running series, Crowden ended up staying for seven years, a decision he later regretted. "I enjoyed my time on Doctor Who of course, but staying so long was a mistake" he told Doctor Who Magazine in 1993, "I should have listened to my instincts and only stayed for one series, and then got back to my first love, the theatre." Although Crowden distanced himself from the role over the years, towards the end of his life he began to talk more often, and more fondly about the role he made his own.

On our Earth... Crowden turned down the role, only wishing to commit himself for one season. The part eventually went to Tom Baker.

5. Richard Griffiths (1981-84)

Richard Griffiths' Doctor saw a return to the more thoughtful characterisation made famous by Hugh David. Like David, Griffiths was a less active Doctor, preferring to let his companions do the dirty work. Although his Doctor was a philosophical sort of man, he wasn't always serious. Griffiths brought with him an avuncular charm and a twinkle in his eye that balanced out his Doctor's thoughtful nature beautifully.

On our Earth... Griffiths was unavailable and the part went to Peter Davison. He was considered again for the part of the Eighth Doctor in 1989, but the series was cancelled.

6. Brian Blessed (1984-1986)

Brian Blessed's Sixth Doctor could not have been more different from the Fifth Doctor. Where Griffiths' Doctor was gentle and earnest, Blessed's Doctor was brash, aggressive, and above all, loud! Famously, when Blessed bellowed out his first line as the Doctor after regenerating, "CHANGE MY DEAR, AND ABOUT BLOODY TIME!", the walls of the TARDIS set visibly shook. Viewing figures were down during this period, and the knives were out for the show at the BBC. After an 18 month hiatus (during which time Blessed climbed Mount Everest in his Doctor Who costume for charity), the show was given one more series to win back its viewers. It failed to do so and producer John Nathan Turner was told to replace Blessed. While Blessed was enthusiastic about the role, his passion led to arguments behind the scenes, and as a result Blessed believes that JNT was only too happy to get rid of him. Despite this, Blessed remains popular with fans of the show today and has joined Moody in recording audio adventures of the Sixth Doctor for Big Finish.

On our Earth... Colin Baker was JNT's only choice for the part, but following the announcement of Davison's departure rumours appeared in the tabloids that Blessed had been given the role.

7. Ken Campbell (1987-1989)

Ken Campbell's time as the Doctor got off to a rocky start. When asked to return to film a regeneration scene, Brian Blessed famously told JNT to "SHOVE YOUR REGENERATION UP YOUR BLOODY ARSE!" As a result, Campbell was made to film the regeneration scene in an enormous false beard. Campbell's sinister and macabre Doctor initially jarred with the lighter tone of Season 24, but with the darker undercurrents of Seasons 25 and 26, Campbell really came into his own. Unfortunately, in 1989, the series was cancelled.

On our Earth... Campbell auditioned for the role but his Doctor was deemed "too dark". The part went to his protege, Sylvester McCoy.

8. Michael Jackson (1996)

Having once been considered for the part of The Doctor in an unmade Hollywood movie in the '80s, Michael Jackson was still keen to play the part when 20th Century Fox and the BBC announced they were making a new series of Doctor Who. The Beeb weren't as keen but Fox insisted, and so Jackson became the Eighth Doctor. A TV Movie was made, but it was never picked up for a series, and it's not hard to see why. Jackson insisted that the Doctor have the ability to actually transform into his own TARDIS. The final scene, where Jackson's Doctor rescues hundreds of children from the clutches of The Master with the power of song, did not go down well with hardcore fans or casual viewers. The Doctor's habit of emitting a heavenly glow while adopting a Christ-like pose attracted a large number of complaints. On the plus side, the scene where Ken Campbell regenerates into Michael Jackson recently came Number One in a Channel 4 countdown of the "Most Surreal Moments in 20th Century Pop Culture".

On our Earth... Jacko was considered for the part in the aforementioned unmade, '80s, Hollywood movie version of Doctor Who, but was never considered for the 1996 TV Movie. The part went to Paul McGann.

9. Hugh Grant (2005)

When Russell T. Davies was tasked with bringing Doctor Who back to our screens, he asked Hollywood movie star Hugh Grant to play the Doctor just on the off-chance. To his surprise Grant said yes. Grant's casting was met with a chorus of disapproval from hardcore fans, a chorus that grew louder and angrier when pop star Billie Piper was cast alongside him. Grant and Piper however, amazed everybody with their performance. Grant's youthful earnestness harkened back to the days of Hugh David and yet he also brought a raw anger to his portrayal that won over the most skeptical naysayers. Despite his fine work on the show Grant moved on after one series. He maintained that it was not the heftier Hollywood pay-cheques that had tempted him back, but rather the larger variety of roles that were now being offered to him following his innovative performance as The Doctor.

On our Earth... RTD offered the role to Grant, but Grant turned it down, thinking the show would flop. Christopher Eccleston played the Doctor.

10. Eddie Izzard (2005-2010)

Comedian Eddie Izzard was the top choice for many fans when he was first announced, but today fandom is divided on the issue of the Tenth Doctor. Many praise his eccentric characterisation and energy, and draw comparisons with earlier Doctors, such as Rupert Davies and Graham Crowden. Others however have argued that Izzard didn't posses the acting chops to handle the romantic scenes with his co-star Billie Piper, or the Doctor's grief over his role in the Time War. Izzard also received praise for his decision to portray the Doctor as, in Izzard's words, an "action transvestite", with the Doctor's costume's growing more flamboyant as Izzard's run went on.

On our Earth... David Tennant was Russell T. Davies' choice for the Tenth Doctor, but in 2003 Tom Baker claimed erroneously that Izzard had been cast as the Ninth.

11. Paterson Joseph (2010-2013)

While Paterson Joseph initially caused headlines for being the second black actor to play the Doctor, he soon drew attention for no other reason than his stunning portrayal of the Doctor, considered by many to be the best. One TV critic went as far as to say (rather unfairly perhaps) "This is the first real actor to play the part since Richard Griffiths!" Joseph's Doctor was arguably the most alien the character has ever been, but he was equally adept when called on display a more vulnerable side to the Doctor, particularly during the episodes involving Alex Kingston's River Song. He also displayed the same gift for humour that he brought to his role as Alan Johnson in Peep Show. On November the 23rd Joseph will be teaming up with Eddie Izzard for a special episode celebrating the show's 50th Anniversary. Izzard will be reprising his role as the Tenth Doctor. Then on Christmas Day the Eleventh Doctor will regenerate and Joseph will be making way for the recently cast Twelfth Doctor, Daniel Rigby.

On our Earth... Paterson Joseph was announced as the Eleventh Doctor by gossip columnist Rich Johnston on Comic Book Resources, but the part eventually went to Matt Smith. Smith will be making way for the Twelfth Doctor, Peter Capaldi this Christmas. Daniel Rigby was one of the actors rumoured to have won the part before Capaldi was announced.