What’s next for Doctor Who?

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With a Christmas Special “The Return of Dr. Mysterio” almost upon us and a new season looming, the rumors are coming in regarding what fans can expect next for Doctor Who.

One popular rumor is that Chris Chibnall will be changing the creative process and using a team of writers to construct the season rather than individual scripts. The rumor goes on to state that in the 11th series after Moffat’s departure, Chris Chibnall will be getting a ‘clean slate,’ meaning a different direction, a new face for The Doctor and a new companion along with a new but familiar tone hearkening back to the the Tennant era.

Via DoctorWhoTV:

Insiders say the Broadchurch writer will have a “clean slate” to start afresh for his first series – rather bad news for actress Pearl Mackie, who plays new assistant Bill in Steven Moffat’s last run, currently filming for next year.

Pearl, 29, yet to be seen by viewers, is said to have been signed on a one-year contract and is expected to depart with Peter Capaldi , 58, and Moffat after 2017’s Christmas special.

The replacement Time Lord is likely to be played by a younger actor in a bid to help boost the flagging sales of dolls, books, DVDs and toys.

Our source says: “BBC management wants a return to the format from the David Tennant era, when you had a dashing male lead and young female companion.

“Merchandising has dropped off sharply in recent years and there is a strong desire to boost the show’s popularity among kids.”

One way to do that, of course, is by returning to its traditional tea-time slot, rather than the post-Strictly position it languished in last year.

Next year’s show is expected to air in spring rather than autumn, to avoid the Saturday clash with Strictly.

Chibnall, putting the finishes to the third and final series of ITV’s Broadchurch, will very soon put together his own team of writers and producers for Doctor Who. They are expected to work in parallel with Moffat’s unit, who finish up in the late spring of next year.

BBC chiefs have also stressed that they want a full series every year (there hasn’t been one at all in 2016) and more accessible story arcs than those seen in recent times.

Each time the classic series underwent a change that involved a new producer, there were more often than not massive changes. The problem in predicting the course of modern Doctor Who is that the pop culture landscape has changed so drastically. Whereas the constant change was once a strength of Doctor Who’s appeal it is now something of a detriment. dten-crying

Each time the modern Doctor regenerates, the internet weeps with agony as viewers swear they will never watch now that ‘their Doctor’ is gone. This was especially true during the transition from Tennant to Smith but soon the viewers came back or were replaced with an even larger group of fans.

tumblr_inline_mwjez7uh6q1qz53j7During the Matt Smith era, Doctor Who became a true international phenomena and (I wager to say) garnered more attention than the series had ever seen before. Video games, home video releases and streaming media along with special showings and 3D trailers in cinemas made Doctor Who a mega blockbuster. The 50th anniversary special was the pinnacle of this popularity. Anyone unfamiliar with Doctor Who before 2013 found that it had become inescapable (for good or ill).

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Then showrunner Steven Moffat made a bold choice following this period by changing the character, who had been a mad adventurer and heart-throb into a cranky and moody alien who worked within his own morality. This softened some then took a massive twist in the ninth season when the previously pensive and streamlined ‘thin white duke’ no nonsense Time Lord entered playing electric guitar atop a tank dressed in baggy trousers, a hoodie and Raybans in place of his signature sonic screwdriver.

DoctorWho_MagiciansApprentice_Doctor_ShadesThis was a sign of a troubled series.

Now I am a fan of the previous season and think that without the usual gimmicks and events, Moffat rose to the occasion and crafted a (more or less) stronger season. The writing was sharper, the aliens more interesting and the flow of the season more unpredictable. However, the Doctor had become whimsical and catered to a younger audience in a rather embarrassing way. The program gambled on change and got nervous when rating slipped. That may be the case again as Moffat, whom the BBC may view as having a golden touch, leaves.

But to imitate the Tennant era will not fool anyone, even the fans of that period. I have every hope that Doctor Who will continue to evolve and change (even when I don’t like the changes) as it moves forward. Further, I hope it takes greater risks and embraces more unusual storytelling techniques rather than the standard ‘Bill and Ted’ time travel formula that it has enjoyed for the past five years.

Flux aeterna.

The Eighth Doctor gets a new look

 

Doctor No. 8 (Paul McGann)

 

After 26 years on TV, Doctor Who was cancelled in 1989, just as many feel it was getting a much needed breath of fresh air thanks to the Seventh Doctor as played by Sylvester McCoy and Ace played by Sophie Aldred. When the series went off the air, the torch was still held by several spin-off projects ranging from novels to comic strips and also audio CDs by Big Finish. In 1996, the Seventh Doctor perished to make way for the Eighth incarnation.

Introduced in what was intended as a pilot for a new Doctor Who TV series but has since become known as the 1996 TV Movie, Paul McGann is a missed opportunity with only one televised outing to date. A dashing and vibrant personality, even those who dislike the TV Movie find that McGann was a brilliant casting decision as the new Doctor. In the years that passed, snippets of possible storylines have emerged that sound pretty barmy to yours truly (from the Doctor working as an agent of Barusa to traveling with a robot version of the Master and of course the spider-Daleks) so maybe it was a blessing in disguise that we ‘missed out’ on a new Doctor Who TV series in ’96.

In the TV Movie, the Doctor is reborn under a cloth in the morgue just before New Year’s Day in 1999. Seeking to cloth himself, he picks pieces from the lockers of the hospital staff. Fortunately the doctors have used their lockers to store their fancy dress outfits for the night’s festivities, otherwise the Doctor could have ended up wearing a windbreaker and sneakers. A mixture of a vintage gunslinger and Victorian gentleman, the outfit is quintessentially Doctor-ish. The one beef that McGann had with the look was that he was forced to wear a long curly wig that he thought looked absurd. The actor himself had short-cropped hair and felt that it would have worked fine, but the producers insisted on the wig, perhaps thinking that viewers would find it reminiscent of Tom Baker.

Aside- interestingly enough, Patrick Troughton was also intended to don a wig as the Doctor. However, when put it on back stage his co-stars couldn’t stop laughing as he looked like the curly haired Marx Brother, Harpo.  Thinking quickly, they brushed Troughton’s hair into a Beatles do and the rest is history. Also, William Hartnell wore a wig, both Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker had to curl their hair in later stories… well, Pertwee  didn’t really have to… and producer John Nathan Turner insisted that Colin Baker grow out what could only be described as a bizarre bright yellow curly mullet in his last series. It seemed silly when he said it, but maybe McGann is right and playing the Doctor really IS a ‘hair job.’

Since the TV Movie aired, McGann has been the subject of numerous comic strips, novels, and audio dramas much like the other classic Doctors, but there always seemed to be something different about the McGann era. Perhaps its to do with the fact that fans only got a short period of time to gain an idea of what the Eight Doctor was all about and that we have never seen a regeneration sequence or learned how he ‘died’ that makes this Doctor still so full of possibility. McGann himself has stated that no one from the BBC has spoken to him since he walked off the set in 1996 and that he has never spoken to Russel T Davies. He would be interested in returning to the role if the story was right and has continued to act the part of ambassador for Doctor Who by attending conventions and signing events.

This past weekend at the Armageddon Pop Culture Expo in New Zealand, Whovians got an unexpected surprise when McGann entered the auditorium wearing what was referred to as his ‘new costume’ and brandishing a new prop, the revised sonic screwdriver.

Video via TardisNewsroom:

The costume is a mixture of the Victorian gentleman frock coat of the Eighth Doctor and the action man leather coat of the Ninth Doctor. Based on a vintage naval design, the Doctor has retained the elegant gold buttons of his frock coat but the leather jacket lends a feel of adventure and grit to the character without losing the refined gentlemanly feel. Additionally, the Doctor is seen wearing a courier bag that presumably holds all of the things that Patrick Troughton managed to hide in his long coat.

It’s a great look, but why make the costume at all if it will never be filmed?

Given that the Eight Doctor has not appeared on screen (aside from flashbacks), it is unusual to even bother creating a physical costume and prop as well. It could certainly be an attempt to drum up publicity for the new Eight Doctor audio adventures, but why bother to get Weta Workshop (the same shop that gave us the amazing props and effects in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, District Nine, the Chronicles of Narnia and many more)?

Fans are wondering if this appearance (coinciding as it has with the worldwide re-release of the 1996 TV Movie) could hint at a televised appearance of the Eight Doctor, perhaps alongside the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) or solo in a new adventure. At age 50, McGann still looks just as handsome as he did when took the part. An accomplished actor and popular with fans of the series, it would still be noteworthy for the BBC to film him as the Doctor in a new production or at least as a co-star opposite the current Doctor.

Images via Geeky Tyrant (lots more on this link, including speculation)

 

The Doctor (Paul McGann) in his new costume

 

 

The 'new' sonic screwdriver

 

Let the speculation begin (and please visit the above linked sites as they have additional information).

New Doctor Who Confirmed… or not?

In an interview regarding the remake of Dalek creator Terry Nation’s the Survivors, star Philip Rhys may have let the cat out of the bag kinda early.

For those of you keeping track of the story: Former series producer Russell T Davies has stated that the plan was always for David Tennant to leave after his run with the RFC in Hamlet. Despite this, the press has reported that Tennant demanded more money (even though he is reportedly the highest paid actor on the BBC books) including a feature film, causing incoming producer Steven Moffat to scramble for a replacement when these demands were not met. Davies says that this is all untrue and that the next Doctor has been decided for some time.

Who to believe?

Do you recall the bizarre circumstances surrounding Chris Eccleston‘s departure in 2005? From ‘Eccleston always planned to do only one year’ to ‘the workload was too much for him,’ RTD had a few conflicting stories on that one and cast former associate from Cassanova and narrator from the Behind the Scenes specials David Tennant as Doctor #10 which has always struck me as dubious.

My point is that I do not trust the guy and think that we will not know what is truly going on in the casting of the main role in Doctor Who for some time.

On the character of the Doctor, much has been done over the 40+ years that the series has been around. From a clown to a dandy to an egocentric galactic detective, the Doctor has been many things depending on the intentions of the production team and star. Personally I think that the current Doctor too closely resembles Harry Potter.

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Complete with magic wand and a gifted (even when shot point blank, he manages to survive) yet tragic life (he can never love… boo hoo), the Doctor has never been more boring. Once a character who would institute change in those around him, the Doctor now condemns villains to more painful deaths than seen in a Warner Brothers cartoon. Villains are simply bad and must be stopped, killed, squashed, etc. The Doctor is perfect, sexy and brilliant despite the fact that he is obsessed with pop culture and stating the obvious (lines like ‘we’re in the past, fantastic!, we’re in a spaceship, fantastic!’ always make me feel like I am watching a a radio drama).

I just hope that the next era of the program is a more intelligent and stimulating one for viewers rather than the entertainment produced for the ‘hard to think’ that we have seen for the past 4 years. Each episode of the last three years has been nearly identical with the Doctor condemning someone to death while the entire planet withers in fear and praises him. I’d really like to see a little variety.

marcopolo_d1-1d-109_400For variety, just look at the first season of Doctor Who in 1963. From historical sagas(Marco Polo) to sci-fi quests (Keys of Marinus), the first season can easily serve as a blueprint of what you can do with this series if you just try hard enough. The character of the Doctor was also more sophisticated and rich, seeing an alien deviate from self-preservation to indignant altruism, it was always interesting.

I am ofcourse in a minority here and I accept that. Fans are already declaring that without the star Tennant the series will fail and be canceled. I simply point to the fact that the series has changed many times in many ways over its long run and each time there were such doomsayers. That’s not to say that these voices are wrong, I just hope that they are pleasantly surprised. There is nothing better than a new direction being introduced to a TV program or what have you to breath new life into it.

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I still say that Paterson Joseph would bring an entirely new air to the program. In any case, I hope that whoever takes up the mantle next is accepted by the viewers rather than condemned as ‘not David Tennant.’ If that kind of thinking has been held onto back in the day, the transference from Jon Pertwee to Tom Baker in 1972 would have been absolutely tragic… and it wasn’t.

Doctor Who- The Phoenix Rises

For the 20th Anniversary of Doctor Who, producer John Nathan Turner had decided to pull out all the stops. Not content with a season themed with references to the programs legacy from the Master to the Brigadier, JNT had a major event planned that would perfectly link the past and present of the series.

Using the recently discovered recording of a long lost episode from the 1960’s, JNT would create new bridging material with currently reigning Doctor, Peter Davison. The ‘missing’ story was entitled ‘The Hidden Planet’ and featured William Hartnell, the first Doctor. Written by veteran scribe Malcolm Hulke (The Silurians), the story was never finished. The ingenious plan would have the first Doctor involved in a gripping mystery on one planet while on a sister sphere the fifth Doctor would be involved in a related adventure. The two Doctors would therefore work together while remaining oblivious to the other’s involvement.

To further sweeten the idea, the entire program would be filmed in Black and White, making the link between Doctors and eras almost seamless.

Sounds great, huh?

When I read about this mega event in Doctor Who Magazine, I was beside myself with anticipation. Doctor Who was enjoying an unprecedented fame and this was just a perfect addition to a fantastic celebratory year.

Except for the fact that the article was an elaborate April Fool’s joke, it would have been perfect, I should say.

With the the viral use of the internet and avid fans, it’s almost impossible to pull a fast one like this on Whovians the world over, but the 1980’s were a different time. That said… who else wishes any number of rumored endings had been true this year instead of the incredibly convoluted cop-out delivered as serious entertainment we had to endure.

The episode unseen is far sweeter, I guess.

Rose Tyler and the future of Doctor Who

Last week Doctor Who returned to the airwaves and while it was exciting to see David Tennant and Catherine Tate renewing their chemistry from last year’s Christmas Special Runaway Bride, the real surprise came at the end of the episode where a certain blond woman was seen, Rose Tyler. With popular actress Bille Piper returning to the series that made her a star, the Internet is ablaze with controversy and theory about what this could mean.

An innovative program begun in 1963, Doctor Who is a television production that is surrounded with majesty and magic alike. With stories by Robert Holmes, David Whittaker, John Luccarotti and many more told ground breaking tales of human history and psyche. Special effects that may seem simplistic and silly today but in reality paved the way for many a science fiction spectacle that we take for granted today. Stage actors and TV mavericks united in producing the most loved TV program of its like.

When Doctor Who returned to cathode ray tubes across the globe back in 2005, the first episode of this 21st Century version of the British institution was entitled simply ‘Rose.’ The focus of the first season was not so much on the star (The Doctor), but on the relationship between the Timelord and his unlikely human assistant Rose Tyler. A simple shop girl who went on to visit other planets and the end of human history itself, she even merged with the energy of the Doctor‘s ship itself and rewrote all of time to spell doom for the Daleks.

While the Doctor‘s sacrifice of one incarnation to make way for another at first unsettled Rose (and viewers!), in time she grew to understand this aspect of her strange traveling friend. A burgeoning romance bloomed between the two adventurers who ran unscathed through the fires of Hell and alien laser fire… until the inevitable caught up with them. A barrier a thousand worlds wide separated the time travelers that can never be bridged.

Until now, that is.

Producer Russel T Davies tackled Doctor Who in much the same way any other creator working on a project with such a massive legacy would. He created a device many call a ‘Mary Sue.’ His companion Rose Tyler was in many ways himself doting on his childhood hero and gushing at the wonders of his/her adventures. The ascension from companion to hero is a wish fulfillment that any fan would have and the devastating separation also a kind of inevitable turn of events. Even when Rose is not in the show, she is in the the show. With head writer Russel T Davies pulling the strings, all plot threads lead to Rose Tyler (if you’ll excuse the painfully mixed metaphor) and her importance to Doctor Who.

Despite all of this the Doctor and Rose cannot end up happily ever after.

Throughout season two of the series the Doctor and Rose are told that they will pay the price for the invulnerability to danger. In the season finale Doomsday, this comes to pass. Throughout season three the Doctor pines and pouts about Rose, the woman he once loved. Rose appears again in season four, but so far is a strange spectral image that fades into mystery.

2008 marks the 45th anniversary of the longest running science fiction series on television. It will also mark the end of producer Russel T Davies involvement. Despite many attempts to inform the public that he has been ‘convinced to stay,’ the producer has revealed in interviews that he is anxious to move on to other programs. This means that all of the toys must go back in the box that spawned them, including Rose Tyler. The three part season finale ending in a story entitled ‘Journey’s End’ will feature every companion (and likely monster/villain) ever in this new version of Doctor Who in a mighty stand off, ending in the only way that it can, death.

The death of Rose Tyler and this lovesick version of the Doctor will pave the way for a new life of the program that another producer and cast will take up. Much in the same way that Peter Bryant gave way to Barry Letts in 1970, 2008 will be the end of an era.

In 2009, Doctor Who will return as a series of specials that will no doubt honor the history of the program as the new production team huddles together to make the program anew. And what will come?

Only time will tell.