Doctor Who Column: Reverse The Polarity With Darren Blackburn: New Series Tidbits

Posted by: Darren Blackburn, U.K. Correspondent
05/08/2010 - 5:40pm | Updated: 1 year 18 weeks Ago
“Okay. What have you got for me this time?” - 11th Doctor   Note: Spoilers ahead, so please be warned!   Make a note in your diaries: April 17th! That’s when BBC America starts showing Matt Smith’s first series of Doctor Who. Which, let’s face it, is brilliant news for the U.S. as you’ll be practically head to head with us over here in merry England as we get to see the first episode during Easter, two weeks prior. So before I end up gorged eating too many choccy eggs and my teevee screen obscured by a big fluffy rabbit with a nasty grin, let’s get you lot up to speed with the basics. This year, it’s all change. Having written some of the most popular episodes ever, including “The Girl In the Fireplace,” “The Empty Child,” “Silence in the Library” and my fave, “Blink,” Steven Moffat -- he who brought you Clockwork Robots in Revolutionary France and once cast Joanna Lumley as a female Doctor (it happened) -- the “Moff” now returns as head writer and executive producer for the start of the 11th Doctor’s new era. Like previous full series, Series 1 will again consist of 13 episodes with three being two-part stories. Before I delve into the stories proper, a bit about the main actors involved. Now here, we’re all on a level playing field. Just like Tom Baker back in 1974, Matt Smith, 26, is a virtual unknown; the youngest actor ever to play the famous role. Prior to being cast as David Tennant’s successor in January 2009, Matt only has a handful of UK television credits, notably acting opposite Billie Piper (Rose Tyler) in period dramas “The Ruby in the Smoke” and “The Shadow of the North” in 2006 followed by “Party Animals” in 2007. Originally aspiring to be a professional soccer player, Matt became a theatre actor in 2003, staring opposite U.S. actor Christian Slater in the London West End adaptation of “Swimming with Sharks“. Like Smith, the new companion, Amy Pond, is also played by a relative newcomer, Karen Gillan, 23, from bonny Scotland mostly has theatre and modeling credits. Her first big break was starring in the police murder drama, “Rebus,” before starring in a previous Tennant episode, “The Fires of Pompeii,” playing one of the Pyrovillian Soothsayers. Amy, just as Rose, Martha and Donna, will have a “family” connection – well, a bit different this time. Amy it seems when we first meet her is actually dating her long-term boyfriend, Ryan, and recently in one of the more notorious national newspapers, there could be a very unexpected “twist” to Amy’s circumstances with The Doctor! Both Smith and Gillian are very young actors and yes, it’s a veritable gamble that Moffat is playing here, casting virtual unknowns to an audience in excess of 10 million viewers who tuned in regularly to the series since 2005. So as you’ll expect when the first full trailer aired, the Who forums across the net were very divided with what they saw. For me, as one of the “old guard,” change has always been part of the series ever since the concept of regeneration was conceived to change William Hartnell into Patrick Troughton. This is just another unfolding chapter in -- well it is -- the most successful syndicated series ever made. So for the moment, I’ll keep my plasmic shields in place and let the series air before I come to any verdict, unlike other fans who are giving their grief even before the first episode has been shown. However, as with previous series, very familiar British actors will be on hand to support them in their adventures. Foremost is Alex Kingsland, familiar to U.S. viewers who watched ER and returns here as Professor River Song from “Silence in the Library” and “Forrest of the Dead” with no doubt more spoilers for the new Doctor. What the exact relation the Doctor will have with Amy Pond is as yet unknown. For me, I hope the “Companion loves the Doctor” routine is put to rest, perhaps as her boyfriend is a pivotal recurring character. There’s also hope that a lot of the Russel T. Davies craziness (such as the Master becoming everyone on the planet and no more Captain Jack!!, Absorbaloffs or Slitheens or Adipose!) will be replaced with a more adult “Torchwoodesque” feel; in other words, it’s time to ensure the kiddies hide behind the sofa -- and the adults too! But now, you want more about the series itself -- the stories, the potential tit-bits about them. Okay, here we go but note: spoilers ahead! Story 1 is called “The Eleventh Hour” by Steven Moffat -- rather appropriately, and is the traditional post-regeneration story, although production-wise it was shot fourth. If you didn’t see the end of “The End of Time,” well, the Tardis was in a bit of bother crashing crazily towards Earth with a newly regenerated Doc shouting “Geronimo” a lot. Set in the quaint country village of Leadworth in modern Britain, the Doc meets new companion Amy in a very sexy police uniform and comes across the Face Tendril. It’s rumored that Story 1 will run 60 minutes, a rare treat if true! Story 2, again by Moffat, is “The Beast Below” and features a new monster, the Smilers, which have a nightmare/warped nursery kinda feel to them. It’s rumored that this will feature a lot of new shots inside the new Tardis -- oh yes, forgot! New Tardis exterior and interior, folks! The exterior has been revamped and now echoes a proper 1960’s Police Public Call Box (or Booth) with larger windows and the return of the long missing St. John Ambulance logo last seen in the Peter Cushing Dalek films way back in 1966. Bet most of you weren’t even around then. The new interior is still under-wraps after the destruction of the “Corel desktop” in EOT. Expect a more retro-feel to it. Story 3: well, they’re back! The Pepperpots! Those pesky Skarosians come gliding outta the shadows once more in the Mark Gattis opus (“The Idiots Lantern”) “Victory of the Daleks.” Set during World War II, it features famous Prime Minister Winston Churchill and a new strategy to stop the Germans invading Blighty -- except with the new weapons, who is really in charge? The Daleks will have a new design and nifty flak jackets to boot. Onto our first two-parter, again by Steven Moffat, and this is one I’m really looking forward to as this features not only River Song but the return of one of the best new monsters ever created: the Weeping Angels! Yes, they’re back, those quantum locked angels of stone, more dangerous than ever and this time, maybe even not blinking will save you from them! The rumored titles are “Time of Angels” and “Flesh & Stone” and is a direct prequel to River Song’s first appearance in “Silence in the Library.” Spoilers! Story 6 is “Vampires in Venice” – yeah, blood suckers! Actually vampires have a lot of history with the Doctor, for way back in the Tom Baker story “State of Decay” (1980) it was revealed that the Time Lords had a major war with Vampires, driving them into an adjacent dimension to cleanse the universe of their stench. It’ll be interesting if writer Toby Whitehouse (“School Reunion”) pays any note to the Vampire War. Incidentally this story was shot in Crotia, doubling for 15th Century Italy. Story 7 “as yet untitled” is written by Simon Nye. Now you may not know the name but Nye is one of the most hailed UK comedy writers of the modern generation, most famous for his sitcom Men Behaving Badly. No details about the story yet. Story 8/9, the second two-parter, is written by Chris Chibnall (“42” and wrote a number of Torchwood episodes) and is rumored to feature the return of the new-look Silurians, the classic Jon Pertwee monsters from the 1970’s. Last seen in the 5th Doctor story, “Warriors of the Deep,” I truly hope this story, 26 years on, reestablishes their rep because WOD was an absolute stinker. The rumored titles are “The Ground Beneath Their Feet” and “Cold Blood”. Story 10 -- possibly a Doctor-only story, hence the title “Vincent and The Doctor” -- is another historical featuring famous artist Vincent Van Gogh, he who painted sunflowers and cut off his right ear. This is a special tale written by Richard Curtis, who wrote the legendary British comedy films Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and Bridget Jones’ Diary, and something called “Blackadder,” Yeah, that Richard Curtis! Just hope he delivers, and oh: apparently this one features a vivid yellow monster. Story 11, as yet untitled, is written by Gareth Roberts (“The Shakespeare Code” and “The Unicorn and the Wasp” ) and could be a “companion only” tale. And now, finally. the big ending written by Steven Moffat. The working title is “The Pandorica Opens.” Not a lot known except recent nighttime filming took place at one of England’s most famous attractions, the Neolithic Stonehenge, and in a museum featuring a lot of Egyptian artifacts. A cryptic comment from the Moff was “Don’t assume that by time you watch this one you’ve faced the biggest threat yet.” This is related to a rumor that some ancient menace from the past is silently pursuing the newly-regenerated Doctor and will come to some fruition here but continue into the next series. Well, I hope that wets your appetites. Soon as I get more info, expect another column and when the episodes start airing, I’ll be doing some reviews: Spoilers; everywhere be warned! So again, get a pen. Get your diary or make a note on your I-Pod or Facebook or scribble it on your forehead or on a blackboard 20 million times like Bart Simpson. April 17th! BBC America! Got that? Good, because the Doctor’s come to call on you! Before I go, a little additional feature. Next time, if anyone has a Who question -- like “Who are the Daleks?” or “Did the Doctor really wear a stick of celery in his lapel?” -- the first two I see every month I’ll research and answer next time ((Editor's Note: Post your questions here!). So thanks for reading. Time to dematerialize … Darren Blackburn. Somewhere in the UK   « « Geronimo! | Review: "The Eleventh Hour" » »