Category: Doctor Who

Doctor Who gets a new companion for his 50th anniversary

Jenna-Louise Coleman to star in "Doctor Who"

"Doctor Who" is currently shooting the seventh season of its current run, but lead writer and executive producer Steven Moffat is already looking ahead to next year, which marks the Doctor's 50th anniversary. And as part of the celebration, the Doctor is getting a new companion, actress Jenna-Louise Coleman.

Coleman is no stranger to the BBC; she's previously appeared on the series "Emmerdale" and "Waterloo Road." And for those who don't have a penchant for British soap operas, she was on the big screen last summer in "Captain America: The First Avenger."

Moffat is promising big things with Coleman, while simultaneously playing it close to the vest. "It's not often the Doctor meets someone who can talk even faster than he does, but it's about to happen. Jenna is going to lead him on his merriest dance yet. And that's all you're getting for now. Who she's playing, how the Doctor meets her, and even where he finds her, are all part of one of the biggest mysteries the Time Lord ever encounters. Even by the Doctor's standards, this isn't your usual boy meets girl."

But what about Amy Pond (Karen Gillen) and her husband, Rory (Arthur Darvill)? They're in the current season (their third with the Doctor) but the end is looming large and the BBC is describing their departure as "heartbreaking."

Meanwhile, the 11th Doctor, Matt Smith will be returning for the show's eighth season, which will mark the character's 50th year on TV. It all began as a black-and-white series in England in 1963 and is now listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest running science fiction series on TV.

In addition to the TV series, director David Yates has stated that he's working on a "Doctor Who" movie, though Moffat has said it would have nothing to do with the TV version of the Doctor.

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-- Patrick Kevin Day

Photo: Jenna-Louise Coleman. Credit: BBC

TCA 2011: No Hitler love on 'Doctor Who'

Matt Smith in "Doctor Who"

"Doctor Who" fans, think you know the truth about River? Think again.

"You don't know it yet," said head writer and executive producer Steve Moffat. There is "loads more" to come for the character, played by Alex Kingston.

Moffat, along with fellow executive producers Piers Wenger and Beth Willis and stars Matt Smith and Karen Gillian, appeared Thursday during the "Doctor Who" panel at the TCA media tour, and his comment wasn't the only tease offered.

The other, though, was slightly more personal: Smith, the latest in a string of actors who have assumed the role of the time-traveling humanoid alien, said he is not adverse to taking baths as the Doctor. Though, if he were sticking to the character, a talking duck might have to be incorporated, he admitted.

TMI?

The 48-year-old international cult series returns Aug. 27 with "Let's Kill Hitler" as the search for Melody Pond begins with the TARDIS landing in 1930s Berlin. The episode has sparked some controversy concerning a moment where the time traveler and his team have to decide whether to "save" Hitler's life.

"We are against Hitler," Moffat said emphatically. "I'm glad he's gone. Don't worry, we're not really going to save Hitler. He's dead already, so we cant."

Instead, fans can expect some "twists and turns" with the next phase of the season, according to Wenger.

"The second half explores the emotional impact that the big plot twists have had on the characters," he said.

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-- Yvonne Villarreal
Twitter.com/villarrealy

Photo: Matt Smith as the Doctor in "Doctor Who." Credit: BBC

Critic's Notebook: "Doctor Who," man of plastic

Can't get enough "Doctor Who"? Too long between episodes? Missing David Tennant? Thought Kylie Minogue should have had a crack at something more than just a Christmas special? Luke Molloy apparently does, too.

I know nothing of Luke apart from his "YouTube" channel and username (doctorwhoo2); that current Doctor Matt Smith is so far only his seventh-favorite (Tennant, Tom Baker and Sylvester McCoy are tied for first); and that he lives in the U.K. and lists his occupation as "actor" and his hobby as "being a computer whizkid," which seems right enough.

Luke is the young auteur -- pretty darn young, I'd say, by the sound of his voice -- of "Doctor Who Figure Adventures." And he is not the only person making "Doctor Who" figure adventures, fan-created episodes enacted with action-figures, like "Robot Chicken" but without the irony -- which is itself only a subset of a much larger, and fairly venerable, body of homemade way-out-of-canon "Doctor Who" adventures, some serious, some satirical, and many, if not most, featuring wholly original incarnations of the Doctor. (The great advantage of playing at being the Doctor, as opposed to, say, Captain Kirk, is that he changes his skin anyway -- he might as well be you as anyone else.) Click here to transport to a directory to this world of wonders, which is itself only a subset of an even larger body of fan-created films dedicated to franchises as varied as "A Nightmare on Elm Street," "Saw," Harry Potter and Indiana Jones, all coming to an Internet near you.

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Critic's Notebook: 'Doctor Who' midterm checkup

DocwhoThe Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, along with his made-up and real-life companions in front of and behind the camera, is about two-thirds through his first season of "Doctor Who." (Episode 8 of 13 airs  Saturday night on BBC America.) Smith's is the face you see on the cover of Doctor Who Magazine now and in the comic strip that runs within it (action figures coming soon), while Tenth Doctor David Tennant -- Smith plays the same character but in a different skin, if you need that explained to you -- has moved on to the permanent near-future of a freelance actor; his NBC pilot "Rex Is Not Your Lawyer" was not picked up, but he will be joining Toni Collette and Colin Farrell in a DreamWorks remake of the 1985 vampire flick, "Fright Night."

How's it been so far? Good, I'd say, very good. Excellent. I love it, it has not let me down. Series Five, as it is officially called, looked promising from Episode 1, but you never know. "Doctor Who" may be an English cultural tradition to stand alongside corgis and fish and chips, but it is just a TV show, after all, and a kids' show at that and is not immune to failure. New show-runner Steven Moffat (taking over from Russell T. Davies, who revived the brand in 2005 after a long hiatus) was a known quantity and a fan favorite, author of some of the Ninth and Tenth doctors' deepest and cleverest episodes -- he has a talent, useful in this context, for folding time back on itself in interesting ways, like conceptual origami. But given the high expectations -- Tennant being easily the most popular Doctor since Doctor Four, Tom Baker -- it was not outside the realm of possibility that the new "Who," if it did not kill the franchise outright, might at least make fans volubly grumpy.

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To sleep, perchance to stream: David Tennant's 'Hamlet' is online for free

David Tennant's "Hamlet" -- William Shakespeare's "Hamlet," that is, with David Tennant in it -- a film version of the 2008 Royal Shakespeare Company production, starring the man heretofore best known as the Tenth Doctor, aired on PBS Wednesday night, unfortunately with no notice or comment from this department. I am sorry for that, because it's good. But it is up online now, to watch for free, and I take this not fatally belated chance to steer you its way.

  

There is everything in the world in this play, whose strength is reflected in the variety of ways you can play the words -- some of the best-ordered words in the English language -- without hurting the material: Action, a ghost, sex, murder, revenge, madness feigned and real, philosophy, things not dreamt of in philosophy, Hitchcock-grade suspense, vaudeville-house comedy. It's a story about delayed action that hurtles like a bullet toward its chaotic, briefly redemptive end, and director Gregory Doran keeps the proceedings lean and ticking. The players are in modern dress, more or less -- it is a sort of parallel-world modernity, as incidentally befits a Time Lord. There is enough political context to signify a society under pressure, with CCTV-camera footage to salt the paranoia.

Not surprisingly to those who have watched him circumnavigate space and time for the last four years, Tennant's is an energetic, mercurial Hamlet, subject to abrupt changes of mood but witty even when he pretends his wits are lost. (There's, you know, a method in his madness.) Melancholy, furious, frantic, even dying -- that is not a spoiler, people, or shouldn't be -- he ever grabs for the clever remark, the cutting pun, the Groucho-dry quip. There is so much darkness and death in the play, it's easy to forget that it's also jam-packed with comedy. Shakespeare's jokes don't always travel well across the centuries, but they are intelligible here, and Tennant honors the stand-up within, without overplaying him.

The surrounding cast -- "supporting" does not quite do them justice -- is excellent, but I'll make special mention of Oliver Ford Davies as a more than usually sympathetic and sensible Polonius. And as Claudius (he is also the Ghost), starship trouper Patrick Stewart -- making this a kind of sci-fi super-summit -- is the picture of genial, civilized rot, in a role he played opposite Derek Jacobi for the BBC three decades earlier. Talk about your Time Lords.

-- Robert Lloyd

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David Tennant: "Doctor Who" was "impossibly fortunate"

Review: Two books (mostly) about TV writing: Russell Davies' 'The Writer's Tale,' Mike Sacks' 'And Here's The Kicker'

Writerstale When I am not watching television to write about television, or writing about television, sometimes I read a book. And while ideally this represents a complete break from my day job -- or, to be more accurate, from my day-and-night job -- two of the more enjoyable books I've read recently are about writing, and mostly about writing for television. One of the great pleasures for a writer in reading about writing is the comfort of knowing that other writers have as hard a time at it as you do, in whatever form they work, trying to make something -- that is, something good -- that seems to have been no work at all. Television has its share of bad writing -- which given the sheer bulk of the medium can seem distressingly superabundant -- but the good stuff fills me with immoderate respect. I know I couldn't do it.

First published in the fall of 2008, and about to be reissued in an expanded, updated edition, "The Writer's Tale" (BBC Books) is a journal of a year in the (mostly) professional life of Russell T Davies, re-creator and show-runner of the British sci-fi series "Doctor Who," as recorded in e-mail exchanges with Benjamin Cook, a journalist specializing in the series. It tracks the creation of the reborn show's fourth season, a period that also includes Davies' announcement to the BBC, and the BBC's to the world, that he would be leaving the show. His last episode, the second part of "The End of Time" airs in the U.S. on Jan. 2 on BBC America; the new edition of "The Writer's Tale" will include this final season of specials.

For anyone, including myself, who has wondered exactly what it is a "show-runner" does, "The Writer's Tale" offers a blow-by-blow account at least from the runner's point-of-view. I did come away with an increased appreciation for the process of creating a world out of thin air, and how a collaborative art can somehow remain a personal one, and of the luck, good and bad, that influences what finally goes down onto the page and up onto the screen, from the felicities of casting to the money available, or unavailable, for special effects. Davies often seems often to start his scripts with an image of something he'd like to see -- a picture that leads to a story crafted to realize the picture -- and then goes about figuring out how to make it happen in a way that rings true. It is an honest (though necessarily somewhat circumspect) book that factors in the colds and crushes and not infrequent moments of self-doubt that also color and feed the work. And it's a picture book, as well, profusely illustrated with production and personal photographs and with Davies' own drawings, which are adept and charming.

Kicker Mike Sacks' "And Here's the Kicker" (Writer's Digest Books) is a sort of "Paris Review" of comedy, mostly screen comedy, featuring interviews with 21 writers on what they do, how they came to do it and, to the extent that each can formulate an answer, how they get it done. The last question is more a matter of personal working method and ritual than of How To Be Funny, which most agree is beyond explanation and, like other gifts, something you can hone but not acquire. Whether in forging a career or working out a gag, the consensus seems to be: Be persistent, be patient and don't settle for the first thing that comes along. Good comedy writing seems a form of magic to me, and not just the kind based in tricks and illusions, but something close to supernatural.

Published by a company that specializes in how-to books for writers, "Kicker" also includes practical career tips scattered among the interviews, but these seem more a sop to the venue than the actual reason for the book, which is the particular personal experiences of its subjects. (Most of the interviews do include an advice-for-young-writers question or two.) Sacks, an editor at Vanity Fair, has written humor for the New Yorker, McSweeney's and other publications, and he approaches each interview as a knowledgeable fan. His respondents represent several generations of comedy, from Irving Brecher, who wrote for the Marx Brothers, through Buck Henry ("The Graduate," "Get Smart") and Larry Gelbart ("MASH"), on to Paul Feig ("Freaks and Geeks"), Mitch Hurwitz ("Arrested Development") and Stephen Merchant ("The Office"). They skew toward white and male, although Allison Silverman, formerly of "The Colbert Report," and Merrill Markoe, who helped make David Letterman what he is, are here, as is Larry Wilmore ("The Bernie Mac Show," "senior black correspondent" on "The Daily Show"). But within those demographic limits there is a wide range of background and neurosis, of taste and vision and practice. Myriad are the paths to a punch line.

-- Robert Lloyd

Photo credits: BBC Books; Writer's Digest Books

Review: "Doctor Who: The End of Time, Part One" on BBC America

Docwho Saturday night, the night after Christmas, was the U.S.  premiere of Part 1 of "The End of Time," the first half of the last adventure of David Tennant's Tenth Doctor, as in "Doctor Who." (Shown here on BBC America, the episode premiered on Christmas Day in England, where, as my colleague Mary McNamara wrote from London, "They take their Christmas TV very seriously, fortunately, because everything else is closed on Xmas Day.") The Tennant Years, which began Christmas Day 2005, are coming to a close, along with the Russell T Davies Years, which began that March, when writer Davies brought the series back to television after a 16-year hiatus, one lonely TV movie notwithstanding.

This is, in its small but real way, epochal, and as a fan of the show, I have awaited this moment with trepidation and excitement and a concern both for the characters and for the real people who make them go, on the page and before and behind the camera -- not wanting it to end, wanting the end to be good. That the Tennant Doctor would die and regenerate into Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith, with Steven Moffat replacing Davies as the show runner, has been known for quite some time, and the Doctor himself has been aware of his impending demise since it was prophesied in the "Planet of the Dead" special earlier this year. This has introduced a novel note into his character, one of fear for his own life, of self-preservation and self-indulgence.

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