Thursday, 27 March 2014

Doctor Who: Step Back in Time - Series One

With Doctor Who's eighth series starring Peter Capaldi's brand-new incarnation of the Doctor in a few short months, it's time to start a retrospective look at the Doctor Who of years gone by. First up, it's 2005 and the show has been off the air for 16 years. Until one Saturday teatime nine years ago yesterday, Doctor Who returned, triumphant. The rest is history... and the future and occasionally the present.

Starring: Christopher Eccleston (the Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), John Barrowman (Captain Jack), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith) and Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler). 
Produced by: Phil Collinson
Executive Produced by: Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner and Mal Young

Best Episodes

Rose by Russell T Davies
The episode that relaunched Doctor Who for the 21st century serves as a tremendous introduction to all the elements that define the Davies era; the root in the contemporary world, the Doctor's brooding nature and the companion at the heart of the story. A rollocking adventure that promises a whole lot more to come...

Father's Day by Paul Cornell
Although more gung-ho adventures such as 'Dalek' usually get all the attention, 'Father's Day' is an equally terrific episode, and perhaps the first that shows how much the Doctor Who of 2000s is built around its characters. If you like your timey-wimey monster mayhem tinged with touching human drama, this is the Who for you.  

The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances by Steven Moffat
No list of the best of Series One would be complete without this wondrous two-parter. Moffat really shows us what he's made of here with his customary mix of humour, scares and cleverness being sharper than ever. Starring the creepiest 'monster' in years, 'The Empty Child' proved that Doctor Who still had fangs...


From the opening credits of 'Rose' we know that the traditional dynamic of Doctor Who has changed. No longer will the companion, though the original run produced many bright and shining ones, be reduced to needing the Doctor to save them or handily asking all the right questions. This show was all about the Doctor and Rose Tyler, his latest time-travelling companion. Though don't tell her there's been others.
Steven Moffat has gone on record saying that the first two series of the revived show 'belonged' to Billie Piper and in many ways it's hard to argue. Though the tortured yet barnstorming Ninth Doctor is undoubtedly our hero (and as much as I love his fellow Time Lords, Christopher Eccleston offers perhaps the most robust performance of any Doctor) Rose is our eyes and ears. We learn about the Doctor as she does. Who he is, his mysterious, war torn past and, by the end, his little 'trick for cheating death'...
Throughout the series, the Doctor and Rose are also joined on their travels by Adam Mitchell, the companion who was kicked out the TARDIS after one episode, and the whole lot more loveable Captain Jack Harkness who has, of course, since gone on to helm his own spin-off series in Torchwood. Mention must also be given to Rose's mother, Jackie, and her ex-boyfriend, Mickey, who serve to anchor the show to the real world. Though one would get his turn in the TARDIS eventually...

Story arc

Doctor Who had properly materialised in the 21st century with this innovation for the series itself but beloved motif of every other contemporary television show; the story arc. The linking narrative of Series One is slight on the ground but rightly so as something more direct would have detracted from the easing-in to the world of Doctor Who that the series aimed for. The message of 'Bad Wolf' littered through space and time is a neat device and one which is still referenced in the show now, think last November's 'The Day of the Doctor.' Paradoxes have since become a fixture of Doctor Who, particularly in Moffat stories, but the 'Bad Wolf' meme (created by a god-like Rose only after seeing the phrase already) proved that the show was fresher and more imaginative than ever. Doctor Who was back. But it wasn't staying still.
Did someone say 'Barcelona'?

 Next month: Series Two... New Doctor, that's weird.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Monthly Scribbles: A Study in Danny Pink And Other Stories

Well, that's another month gone by. As the shortest month of the year, February we hardly knew you. But before it sinks into the murky backwaters of our memories to be replaced by the bouncing baby March (yes, I know it's nearly a week old, sssh!), let's take a look at the things that shook the world this past month. And for 'shook the world' read 'relevant to me.'

New Doctor Who companion unveiled

In the Whoniverse, February brought the news that the Twelfth Doctor and Clara will be joined in Series Eight of the show by Danny Pink, played by Samuel Anderson. Danny (whose name is strangely reminiscent of Marc Warren's Hustle character, Danny Blue) will be a fellow teacher at Coal Hill School alongside Clara who was seen working at the school, which first appeared in Doctor Who's pilot episode 'An Unearthly Child', in November's The Day of the Doctor. While it waits to be seen what sort of character Danny will be - another love interest in the vein of past male companions Mickey and Rory? - it's a clever move by Moffat to mirror the Doctor's original two companions, Ian and Barbara, who both worked at Coal Hill. All we need now is the Doctor's granddaughter to join them in the TARDIS and the original TARDIS team will be recreated. Now if only a close relation of the Doctor's was still around to come back in the show, then we'd have a real 'generated anomaly'...

Writing Across the Web

For those loyal Scribble fans who eagerly await new material from this site (hello Mum), I apologise for the sparse number of posts over the last month but I've had my fingers in so many pies I didn't have any free to write blog posts with.
February saw me undertake numerous online endeavours including three articles for Whatculture. Fancy reading about Sherlock Holmes' ten weirdest adaptations? Or if you've got a hankering for a headache, why not spend some timey-wimey reading over the greatest time-travel orientated episodes of Doctor Who, either written by Steven Moffat or from the other talented timey-wimey writers to grace the show. If you are in the mood for some fiction, a flash fiction of mine, concerning the social media addiction of a super-villain, can be read over on The Flashnificents. Oh, and I almost forgot, I've also started writing for Hypable, and you can read a couple of news pieces I wrote up for them here. Phew.



Based on the famed (at least in Doctor Who circles) untelevised story, modern Who scribe Gareth Roberts (whose episodes include 'The Lodger' and 'The Shakespeare Code') takes the baton from Douglas Adams in this fun romp - and I mean that in the best possible way - that merges the Adamsian Who of the late seventies with modern sensibilities.
Shada sees the Fourth Doctor and Romana in Cambridge to visit the Doctor's absent-minded old friend, Professor Chronotis. However, with the ruthless alien Skagra also in the area, it becomes a race to stop the most dangerous book in the universe from ever being read...
The book (that is the novel, not the dangerous universe-destroying one) is a delight, with Roberts treading exactly the right line between affectionate nods to Adams' style yet understanding not to attempt to write like him. While some of it may be familiar if you're a fan of Adams' work (after the TV story was abandoned, Adams used many plot details in his Dirk Gently novel), Shada is a treat for any Who fan or anyone who enjoys humorous science fiction.

Jonathan Creek: 'The Letters of Septimus Noone'

Last Friday night, the first full series in ten years of the Alan Davies-starring detective series, Jonathan Creek, began. I was once quite the fan of the show, with its impossible crimes and dedication to Holmesian logic. However, since Sherlock I'm afraid it's rather been knocked from the top spot of 'Cleverest Detective Show on TV.' Nevertheless, I was hopeful that the show could still deliver.
Sadly, this first episode left me a bit underwhelmed. An unorthodox 'mystery' (I.e. as an audience, we are shown the stages of the murder rather than being asked to work them out) meant that there was little of the customary guessing-game that one likes to play with shows like this. As well as narratively, the set-up of the show has changed as instead of being an eccentric bachelor in his wind mill, Jonathan is now retired from sleuthing and living in a country house - with a wife! As Polly, Sarah Alexander is a solid successor to Sheridan Smith's sidekick and, although it seems a tad too cosy, could make for an interesting development across the series. On the basis of this episode, while Jonathan is still a competent show and deserves this new series, it is not without its creaks.
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