Things Doctor Who-y that happened while I was on holiday

This is all old news, but just in case you missed it, here’s a rundown on the top Who stories of last week:

Sarah Jane’s back… again, in another Doctor Who spin-off… again
Sarah Jane SmithThe Beeb has finally confirmed that The Sarah Jane Adventures will be happening. Lis Sladen’s back as (almost) everybody’s favourite old-school Who assistant, complete with helpful investigative teenage neighbour. K9 will appear in the first episode, a 60-minute special, but won’t be in the rest of the series. Has a hint of Dark Season to it, don’t you think?

It’s worth pointing out that that’s yet another series Russell T Davies is spreading himself thinly over. When’s he going to find time to sleep?

McGann’s the other official BBC Doctor

Paul McGann as the DoctorThe Eighth Doctor aka Paul McGann is to get his own original BBC7 series in the New Year. McGann’s Doctor is already a reasonably familiar presence on BBC7, thanks to airings of various of his Big Finish stories. This season of stories, however, will be originals and will feature Sheridan Smith from Two Pints of Lager… as his companion, rather than the delightful India Fisher as Edwardian adventuress Charley Pollard. They’ll still be produced by Big Finish, however, and enhanced versions will appear on CD later next year.

I’ll withhold judgement on the stories till I hear them (ooh, goodie, new things to review!) rather than “go knee jerk”, but having seen her filming Two Pints, I would say that Sheridan Smith is actually a pretty good actress (who doesn’t fluff her lines constantly like certain cast members) so could do well here. Why they’ve switched from India Fisher, though, I don’t know: pick your own conspiracy about Charley being too posh, etc for younger audiences to identify with or how it might annoy Conrad Westmaas if India Fisher got a solo companion role.

Most unlikeliest event in human history occurs

Janet FieldingJanet Fielding has agreed to narrate an audio book version of rubbish Peter Davison story Warriors of the Deep. Caroline John (Liz Shaw) and Katy Manning (Jo Grant) will be narrating Doctor Who and the Silurians and The Sea Devils as well, as part of the ‘Monsters on Earth’ limited edition CD.

I’ll tell you something: if you’ve never seen Janet Fielding go on at length about how Doctor Who is rubbish, anti-feminist, etc, in front of a mass of seething Whovians, you haven’t seen courage yet. Now she’s narrating one of the most awful stories she ever appeared in? Bizarre. Still, at least you won’t have to see the polystyrene sets and the Myrka in this version…


And at number 25…

Coming up with last few characters in the list of the top 25 TV characters ever has proved harder than I thought. I managed to come up with 23 and 24 yesterday morning. That’s caused a bit of a stir over at the Doctor Who LiveJournal forum. Some agreed with my inclusion of Liz Shaw. Some didn’t pick up on my tongue-in-cheek style. Oh well.

Anyway, ever since, I’ve been trying to come up with number 25. You should have seen the look on my wife’s face when I explained why I seemed distracted in Sainsbury’s: “Well, I’m trying to think up the 25th greatest character in TV history.” “Oh, right….”

I came up with a few options, some of whom might be good for your own lists, if you haven’t already got them:

  • Frank Burnside from The Bill
  • Miranda from Sex and the City (thanks Marie)
  • Maggie Forbes from The Gentle Touch (which goes back to my point about how we forget strong female characters in favour of slightly less strong female characters such as Jane Tennison from Prime Suspect, in this case)
  • Dirty Den from EastEnders (until he came back from the dead)
  • Dr Cox from Scrubs (thanks Lisa)
  • Niles Crane from Frasier (thanks again Lisa)
  • Regan from The Sweeney
  • JR from Dallas
  • Matthew Burton from It’s Your Move (Jason Bateman showing off some extreme talent at a very early age)
  • Jason King from Department S and Jason King (the original Austin Powers)
  • Kit Curran from The Kit Curran Radio Show
  • Julie Newmar’s Catwoman in Batman
  • Basil Fawlty from Fawlty Towers
  • Howling Mad Murdoch from The A-Team
  • Tom Chance from Chance in a Million

Eventually, though, I hit on it. I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten him (or is it her)! You might well kick yourself when you hear their name.

At number 25 is…

Jim Bergerac.

Nah. Just kidding it’s….

Continue reading “And at number 25…”


More favourite characters

The top TV characters meme lives on! Stu_N has added his list to the mix; Marie’s crafted a much-admired ‘women only’ list; and there are other suggestions in the comments list of the original meme.

In addition to my original 20, we’ve now added

21) Stringer Bell from The Wire

22) Stewie Griffin of Family Guy (thanks Rosby!)

Stu_N has tempted me with David Callan, Will Scarlet and Steel, but I’m still not sure they’re great characters. I’m half-tempted to add Robert de Rainault – aka the Sheriff of Nottingham from Robin of Sherwood – simply because he was:

a) clever, unlike every other version of the Sheriff of Nottingham so far (and I suspect to come)

b) able to kill Robin Hood. Yes, kill him, stone dead. Well, technically, “so filled with crossbow bolts then trampled by horses that we couldn’t stick his head on a pike outside Nottingham castle because no one would recognise him” dead.

But I’ve decided not to. Again, good but not great. Still Stu_N and Marie both had one name in common on their lists, which has prompted me to come up with a 23 and a 24 for my list.

Drum roll (humour me)…

At 23, we have Liz Shaw from Doctor Who; and at 24, we have, from The Avengers… Cathy Gale.

Who they? I’m glad you asked. Because in both 23 and 24’s cases we have a similar thing happening. We have two pioneering, feminist characters whom everyone’s forgotten, in favour of two not-quite-so feminist characters.

Let me alpha nerd you for a moment…

Continue reading “More favourite characters”

Review: Doctor Who – The Sun’s DVDs

After almost exactly six weeks, my DVDs from The Sun have arrived. How’s that for precision? Haven’t watched them all yet but impressions so far:

The Day of Armageddon (Hartnell): I’ve never seen this one before and I realise I have almost no recollection of the other episodes in the story either. But Hartnell’s a bit more spry than I remember – he’s practically doing forward rolls over Daleks at times – Kevin Stoney looks really silly with his “Guardian of the Solar System” make-up and Peter Hawkins can’t disguise his Bill and Ben voice enough to make the Daleks anything more than laughable. All the same, I’d forgotten just how complicated Hartnell plots were. UPDATE: I’d also forgotten just how keen they were on ‘hard sci-fi’ aliens, despite their limited budgets. And the incidental music is fantastic.

The Faceless Ones (Troughton): One of my all-time favourite stories – I even wrote a sequel at university that had the working title of “Gratuitous Violence of the Chameleons” (you can tell where I was coming from and why my screenwriting career never came to anything) – this one’s a bit duller than I remember. I think the other surviving episode, number three, was the better one. Instead, we get the Doctor and co being chased around 1960s Gatwick airport by an all-star cast including Colin Gordon, Wanda Ventham and Donald Pickering. Lots of violent deaths, brainwashing and implacable aliens all the same, so thumbs up.

The Spearhead from Space (Pertwee): It’s entirely shot on film, it’s the first Jon Pertwee story, it’s written almost entirely with adults in mind and it’s got the best companion ever in it (Liz Shaw), ripping the piss out of the Brigadier and eventually saving the day through sheer scientific genius and daring – pah to everyone who thought feminism on Doctor Who started with Sarah Jane Smith. Anyway, what more to do you need to know? It’s fantastic! Go and buy the full story. You’ll have to forward wind past the traditional comedy yokel poacher scenes that were so beloved of the Pertwee era.

The Robots of Death (Tom Baker): Ignore the silly costumes, silly special effects, silly make-up and silly Tom Baker. This is a cracking murder-mystery with some deeply disturbing robots. Trouble is, the title gives the game away a bit, but it’s still a classic, even if you only get to see the first episode – imagine giving someone an Agatha Christie novel but ripping out the last chapter first. Same thing here.

Earthshock (Peter Davison): “The Cybermen want to destroy Earth, and will use any means at their disposal” says the back of the DVD and on the front is a lovely picture of a Cyberman. Hmm. This is episode one. Essentially, false advertising then, since the Cybermen don’t do anything in this episode other than stare at a monitor and say “Destroy them! Destroy them at once!” in the last ten seconds. Plus it does ruin the cliffhanger (why are they ending there? We already know the Cybermen are the baddies). But this is another cracker of an episode with all sorts of unpleasantness happening in creepy caves. We do have to put up with the traditional Davison moanathon by the various companions, though. “Doctor, why haven’t you taken me home yet? Doctor, why haven’t you let me fly the TARDIS yet? Doctor, why have you overdone my eggs – you know I like them runny?” Shut up you whiny little brats. Where’s Liz Shaw when you need her?

Rose (Christopher Eccleston): Actually, the weakest link of the whole lot. Some nice lines of dialogue and the Nestene are back from Spearhead from Space (without Liz Shaw though), but still not wholly brilliant. Am not going to bother putting it into the DVD player, because I know I’m going to be cringing the whole way through it. Sorry, Eccles.


The next assistant

Or should that be companion? I don’t know the terminology these days. Anyway, as well all know know from yesterday, The Sun wasn’t telling porkies and Billie Piper is leaving Doctor Who at the end of this season. We’ve had various theories, most of which seem to be about Michelle Ryan, but some of today’s papers have ‘exclusively’ revealed who’s in the running to be the next companion (even though The Sun says she’s already been cast).

Nikki SandersonThe Daily Express (no link because their web site is pants) says former Coronation Street star Nikki Sanderson is going to be the name of choice, this time. I suspect that rumour’s about as reliable as their weekly Princess Diana revelations, in part because young Nikki seems to have done an awful lot of Loaded shoots, which probably won’t endear her to the Beeb as a possible star of its family flagship. You never know though.

Freema AgyemanMeanwhile, The Sun, which as we all know is the paper that managed to get the exclusive rights to the BBC’s press release first, is claiming Billie’s replacement is going to be Freema Agyeman, who appeared on the short-lived revival of Crossroads. She’s also appearing in the final two episodes of this season. Again, seems a little unlikely, but since it’s The Sun, which appears to have a hotline to RTD these days, we might have to give this particular rumour a little more weight.
Plus maybe RTD is thinking along the same lines as us and reckons it’s time for the TARDIS to finally get multi-cultural. Or maybe she’s a really good actress and we just never noticed. All the same, probably not.

None of today’s other papers have names yet: most are just following up with the news; the Daily Star, as always, is claiming their news is exclusive; the Daily Mirror is busy slagging off Billie in its ‘TV Land’ column, accusing of her dishonesty for making us all think she was signed up for season three (which she still might be).

Michelle RyanThank God for Welsh papers though. The Western Mail goes out on a limb and names… Michelle Ryan as the name in waiting, mainly thanks to an interview with Paul Murphy of TV Choice magazine. It also hedges its bets with a few other names, all of which are probably wrong. But who would have guessed “Billie Piper” two years ago?

Sarah Dunn“Sarah Dunn, who is leaving Hollyoaks this week”

Eve Myles“Eve Myles, currently starring in Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood”

Roxanne Pallet“and former Emmerdale actress Roxanne Pallet”

The Western Mail has also commissioned John Campbell Rees, 39, from Treherbert, who has a science-fiction degree from the University of Glamorgan (I never knew there was such a thing…) and is a self-confessed Doctor Who super-fan, to tell us all (officially) who are the best/most important Doctor Who companions/assistants. Turns out, they were Sarah-Jane Smith, Romana, Victoria Waterfield, Susan Foreman and Jamie McCrimmon.

Caroline John as Liz ShawHa! No Liz Shaw? Your list is worthless, I tell you!