Friday, 29 April 2011

Doctor Who: The Doctor's Wife Preview

Neil Gaiman's Doctor Who episode, The Doctor's Wife, is probably the most anticipated script of Series 6. This acclaimed writer (pictured left) has hinted that his character Idris (Suranne Jones, pictured centre) is an "old acquaintance with a new face" and the story is a "love letter to the fans". Gaiman also told DWM that his adventure begins with something or someone we have not seen since The War Games (1969). The official BBC press release provides this synopsis:

"The Doctor receives a distress signal from an old friend. Could there really be another living Time Lord out there? Hopes raised, he follows the signal to a junkyard planet sitting upon a mysterious asteroid in a Bubble universe, populated by a very strange family, as the time-travelling drama continues.
The Doctor, Amy and Rory are given the warmest of welcomes by Auntie, Uncle and Nephew. But the beautiful and insane Idris greets them in a more unusual fashion – what is she trying to tell the Doctor? As the Doctor investigates, he unwittingly puts his friends in the gravest danger."
So who or what is Idris, and can she really be the Doctor's wife? In Welsh mythology, King Idris was a giant whose seat was Cader Idris, a mountain ridge in Snowdonia. He was an astronomer who had the power to mete out madness, death, or even poetic inspiration. Idris was also an Islamic prophet (known as Enoch to Christians).
The name itself is of Celtic origin (Latin=Idrus, English=Ider), meaning "ardent" or "righteous". Of most interest to Whovians, is the literal interpretation of this boy's name: "running lord" could easily apply to the Doctor himself. Indeed, at the top of the new season opener, The Impossible Astronaut, the Doctor declares that he's been "running" all his life.
There has been much speculation that Idris is a TimeLady. Then who, or how? Or is she in fact a manifestation of a/the TARDIS? Remember the proto-TARDIS travel machines employed by the WarLord's race for their War Games? The acronym SIDRAT was used just once in that mammoth story, and it's meaning was only revealed 10 years later in Malcolm Hulke's novelisation: Space and Inter-Dimensional Robot All-purpose Transporter.
If they survived the fate of the unnamed Aliens, did the SIDRATs end up on Gaiman's scrapyard planet? Or did the TimeLords confiscate the rogue time capsules and augment them with TARDIS technology to create an advanced, organic version (akin to the Type 102, see below), codenamed Idris? Why bother? Did they just scrap these inferior models, which were the result of stolen tech, and short-lived anyway?
The BBC Books' Eighth Doctor adventures (EDA) range (1997-2005) featured a companion, called Compassion. She was born on 26th century Earth as Laura Tobin, and her race, the Remote, were originally human. Compassion first met the Doctor in Interference: Book One, and by the time of her final story, The Ancestor Cell, she had evolved into a living TARDIS (the Type 102). The Doctor and Fitz even used her to flee the TimeLords via her own Randomiser, and built-in weapons system.
The revelation that Idris is in reality a time-machine in humanoid form (or even a reengineered stellar device) doesn't seem so outlandish then (what became of the Hand of Omega after destroying Skaro)? However, in Rise of the Cybermen, the Doctor says that his was the only surviving TARDIS in the universe, and we last saw secret TimeLord tech when the Daleks stole the Genesis Ark.
The Doctor's Wife is broadcast on BBC1, on Saturday May 14th, and features the return of the Ood.
The cast also includes Big Finish co-star Adrian Schiller (Uncle), Elizabeth Berrington (Auntie), and Michael Sheen (voice of House), who also appeared in The Deal (2003, Channel 4) as Cherie and Tony Blair. Their co-stars were Who guest actors David Morrissey, Ian Hanmore, John Normington, and Clare Clifford.

Monday, 25 April 2011

New John Simm Interview

At the recent press launch for Series 6 in New York, Steven Moffat was asked if Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) could play the Master when he returns. Moffat remarked that John Simm wouldn't want to relinquish the role just yet, a view supported by an interview with Simm in today's The i newspaper.
Talking to James Rampton, Simm discusses why he enjoys portraying anti-heroes: "I'm drawn to the dark side" says the actor, who won a whole new following when he played the Master, Doctor Who's unhinged, bottle-blond nemesis. "I prefer the Master [to the Doctor]... to be able to match David Tennant's Doctor-he couldn't be a pantomine villain twirling his moustache. He was insane, manic; but still the Doctor's equal... Such fun to play."
"So would Simm like to get out the peroxide and play the Master again? "Well, the new Doctor, Matt Smith, is young, so they'll probably get someone from Skins to play the Master now" grins the actor. "All the same, Steven Moffat is a fantastic writer, so if he phoned, I'd love to have another go at the Master. Put that in please!"
BBC1's new 3-part thriller, Exile, starring Simm, Jim Broadbent, and Olivia Colman (see Doctor Who Vs. Hot Fuzz airs next week.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

A Tribute to Elizabeth Sladen (1948-2011)

It is with utter disbelief and shock that I sit here and compose this memorial blog to Elizabeth Sladen, only two months after the loss of that other Doctor Who ambassador, Nicholas Courtney. Confirmation of her death followed massive internet speculation on twitter et al, last night, and Whovians, young and old, are stunned. Tributes, led by Russell T Davies, continue to pour in from all over the world. John Barrowman of Torchwood called her the matriarch of Who, and to Tom Baker, she is "Darling Lis". Sladen has also been remembered by Steven Moffat, David Tennant, Finn Jones, Matt Smith, Noel Clarke, Mark Gatiss, Stephen Fry, Nichola Bryant, Colin Baker, Mary Tamm, Murray Gold, Alexander Armstrong, her agent Roger Carey, and the offices of Corrie, Newsround, and the Liverpool Playhouse. The Sun said she was "the greatest Doctor Who girl ever" and most fans would agree.
Liz Sladen was born Elizabeth Trainor in Liverpool, on February 1st 1948. She attended drama school for 2 years after leaving grammar school, then began work at the Playhouse, where she met her future husband, Brian Miller. Sladen's first, uncredited, screen appearance was in the film Ferry Cross the Mersey (1965) as an extra, then she moved to repertory theatre, in productions like Othello. Her first television work was on ITV Playhouse (1968), then 6 episodes of Coronation Street in 1970. She later appeared in Doomwatch, Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, The Bill, and Peak Practice.
When Katy Manning decided to exit Doctor Who in 1973, Z Cars producer Ron Craddock recommended Sladen to his counterpart on Who, Barry Letts. She was cast as journalist Sarah Jane Smith, and her debut story was The Time Warrior, which also introduced her future nemesis, the Sontarans. Sladen stayed with the programme for three and a half seasons alongside Jon Pertwee, then Tom Baker, before leaving in The Hand of Fear. She returned as Sarah Jane in the show's first ever TV spin-off, K9 and Company (1981), then in The Five Doctors, Dimensions in Time (1993), and Downtime (1995). Sladen also featured in The Paradise of Death (for Radio 5), and The Ghosts of N-Space (Radio 2, 1996), opposite Pertwee and Courtney again, and also in 2 series of Sarah Jane Smith for Big Finish audios (2002/2005) with her daughter Sadie.
With the successful revival of the series, Sladen was invited back for School Reunion (2006), with John Leeson who returned to voice K9, and the current TimeLord, Tennant. This led RTD to create the award-winning The Sarah Jane Adventures, which began with a special on New Year's Day, 2007. Four full seasons followed, and the drama remains the most watched show ever on CBBC. Series 2 included Courtney's final TV appearance as the Brigadier, whilst the Doctor also returned, in S3 (Tennant) and S4 (Smith, here with Sarah Jane's predecessor, Jo Grant played again by Manning). Sladen also worked on Doctor Who again, on the S4 finale episodes, and had a cameo in The End of Time, Part 2. It is unclear if the BBC will screen the 3 remaining Sarah Jane stories, but CBBC plan to screen a tribute programme this Saturday.
Phil Collinson and others have noted Sladen's unique ability to enchant and inspire two generations of children, 30 years apart, and that legacy is immense.
Elizabeth Sladen died yesterday after a long and private battle with cancer, and is survived by her actor husband of 42 years, and her actress daughter.