Going to Comic-Con is awesome on many levels, but going as press is, if you’ll forgive my butchery of the English language, even awesomer. Not that we keyboard-stained wretches get into crowded events more easily than everyone else—Comic-Con is remarkably egalitarian that way—but we do get the opportunity to interview some of our favorite actors, directors, and creators. Some of those interviews I’ll be publishing as blog posts in coming weeks, but I thought I’d share the interviews with the of Doctor Who folks right way.
While we wait for the Doctor Who specials to air on US television screens, the nice people at the BBC sent us this clip of David Tennant‘s guest appearance on Top Gear in a segment known as “Star in a Reasonably Priced Car”. If you don’t know this British show, Top Gear is to cars as SportsCenter is to sport — wry, cleverly written, and fanatic in the best sense of the word. (A DVD of the show’s 10th season was released this week, from whence this segment comes) It turns out that although David Tennant may be a master of time and space when he plays the Doctor, third gear is another matter…
Confounding months of speculation, this weekend the BBC announced who will replace David Tennant as the Doctor: the almost completely unknown Matt Smith, who is best known for his acting chops on the stage rather than the screen. (On a side note, the bookmaker firm Paddy Power, which took in $58,000 worth of bets on who might be cast, has indicated the name may have leaked early based on late betting patterns).
So what do you think? Does Smith look like he has what it takes to be the 11th Doctor? What do you think makes for a good Doctor anyway?
The rebooted Doctor Who just keeps going from strength to strength. (If you’ve managed to avoid seeing a single episode of Doctor Who since it started airing in 1963, the show features an enigmatic time traveller, the Doctor, who foils various nefarious schemes, usually with the aid of at least one companion.) Since being revived in 2005, the show has already cycled through a number of major cast changes, with two incarnations of the Doctor and three primary companions. Each combination of Doctor and companion usually produces a very different chemistry, and Season Four is no exception, with David Tennant playing the role of the Doctor and Catherine Tate playing Donna Noble.
Donna and the Doctor’s relationship is like that between adult siblings or very old friends, and it’s a nice change of pace from the romantic overtones that played out with the previous two companions. The dynamic is enhanced by the fact that Tate/Noble is older than the typical early-twenty-something female companion, and so perhaps a little less susceptible to looking at the adventurous Doctor with a starry-eyed gaze. Donna is perfectly willing cut the Doctor down to size if she thinks he’s getting a little too pleased with himself. This leads to some of the most memorable exchanges of the show to date, and Tate plays the part with impeccable comic timing and gusto. Tennant is, well, still the best Doctor ever (with Tom Baker in a more than honorable second place.)
The Doctor and Donna’s friendship plays out across a season of ambitious stories. The fall of Pompeii, a factory of alien slaves, a library the size of a planet that plays host to some of the scariest monsters ever, and the intensely claustrophobic confines of a damaged shuttle all form the background to some thrilling (and sometimes genuinely moving) plots. The season builds to a no-holds-barred climax which acts as a reunion show of sorts: A group of the Doctor’s former companions (including Torchwood’s Captain Jack and Sarah Jane Smith) band together to stop a dark threat from the past. Some Who watchers objected to the second half of the finale, feeling that the conclusion tried too hard to make fans happy in some respects. But I think the show stayed true to the darker and more ambiguous nature of the show, with an ending that really packed a punch.
The DVD’s also include the standalone 2006 Christmas Special, in which the Doctor teams up with Astrid Peth, played by none other than Kylie Minogue. (The real scene stealers are The Hosts, angelic robot concierges that go very, very bad.) There’s also a set of making-of features, one for each episode, deleted scenes (including a slightly, but significantly, alternate ending to the Season Four finale), and a bunch of other extras. If you decide to only ever own one season of Doctor Who, make it this one.
Sarah Jane Smith is one of the most enduring figures in the Doctor Who universe, appearing as a regular companion to two incarnations of the Doctor (Jon Pertee’s third Doctor and Tom Baker’s fourth Doctor) between 1973 and ’76 and occasionally popping up ever since. The character currently has her own spin-off show, The Sarah Jane Adventures that is nominally intended for children. BBC America has just released the first season of The Sarah Jane Adventures on DVD (look for Science Not Fiction’s review tomorrow), and so I got to talk to the woman behind Sarah Jane, actress Elisabeth Sladen, about playing such a popular character and other things Who.