Goodbye, Sarah Jane

I am very, very sad — tears-in-the-eyes sad — to learn that Elisabeth Sladen has died. She was the Doctor’s most steadfast companion, and the sweetest. I can feel the mourning of Who fans everywhere right now; it’s a spooky and overwhelming sensation.

The Doctor’s skyrocketing popularity in America: a lament

The Mark 2 fibreglass (Tom Yardley-Jones) Tard...
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I am ambivalent about the increasing popularity of Doctor Who here in the United States (evidence of which is embedded below in the Fine Brothers’ fine video summarizing the last 47 years of the show). On the one hand, I am happy that more of my fellow Yankees finally “get” my favorite sci-fi show; on the other hand, I must come to grips with the fact that my love for the show no longer distinguishes me as quirky or unique (if it ever did).

We all know this phenomenon. We saw bands before they were cool… we watched audiences walk out in contempt at early Nirvana shows; we saw RuPaul performing on acid without a wig to a baffled crowd at the Pyramid. We “got it” ages before anyone else….

Oh well. Time to settle into my banality and run down the clock. The new season of Doctor Who will be a comfort in my dotage.

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The Eleventh, Possibly Best Doctor?

Some of you have been puzzled by my silence on the subject of Doctor Who over the past few months. Your confusion is understandable — after all, we’re eight episodes into the latest series, and not a peep? What gives? One reader thought that I had been stunned into silence by the show’s radical overhaul; that I had been left traumatized and mute by the sight of a new TARDIS.

I’m sorry to disappoint, but the explanation is far more ordinary: work. I just couldn’t find the time to see any of the new shows until recently. But now I’m caught up, having had my own little Who marathon over the past week. And now that I’m up to speed, I can assure you that I’m anything but traumatized by the new directions. Indeed, let me declare: Matt Smith is an outstanding Doctor, perhaps one of the best.

There was much hand-wringing over the choice of Smith to succeed David Tennant, the most popular actor to inhabit the role. How could a 27-year old actor, however talented, summon the eon-scupted complexities of the 907-year old Time Lord, memorably portrayed by 10 acting heavyweights? Well, the fears are unfounded. I don’t know how, but Smith nails it capably.

The Doctor’s indefatigable curiosity and quirky tics are all there, often performed with subtle homage to his first ten incarnations. Echoes of Tom Baker, Sylvester McCoy, and Tennant all reverberate through the performance without ever lapsing into mimicry. Smith has truly inhabited the role.

His skill is especially apparent in scenes that touch on the Doctor’s ancient burdens. The sharp, plosive rage emitted by the Doctor in the episode “The Beast Below” is one fine example: “No one human has anything to say to me today,” he curtly declares to a room of his beloved, yet infuriating homo sapiens. Smith managed to pack the Doctor’s immeasurable back story into his delivery of the line. He also did a great job in the difficult task of portraying the Doctor’s second meeting with River Song –the mysterious woman from the future whom the Doctor met on her last day. He knows their relationship will become extraordinary, but he doesn’t yet know how because they keep meeting out of sequence. For Smith to wrap his head — and heart — around such a crazy relationship is testimony to his skill. (Alex Kingston must also receive kudos for her reprisal of the role, the best new scifi character on the block, in my book.)

In the days to come I’m going to write up individual episode reviews for the new season. But like the Doctor’s friendship with River Song, I will probably post them out of sequence, as whim takes me. But, as you may have noticed, I am completely on board with the new series. The bold and radical changes — not just the casting Smith, but also the promotion of Stephen Moffat to head writer — were a gamble that paid off, for this fan, at least. It is shaping up to be one of my favorite seasons, and that is saying something.

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The Doctor is (Nearly) In…

BlogtorWho has delivered the delicious news that the new series of Doctor Who will begin in the US on April 17th, a mere two weeks after the UK airing (seems the Beeb has learned a bit about the futility of making the Yanks wait forever for new episodes…..)

Here is the trailer for the upcoming series, which is a sure-cure for any geek suffering from erectile dysfunction 🙂

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Lalla Ward on Douglas, the Doctor and Dawkins

The sun rose brightly today in the Doctor Whoniverse, as Lalla Ward appeared on this morning’s BBC Radio 4 program Midweek with Libby Purves.

The honorable Lady Ward appears to discuss her current exhibit of wildlife thread paintings in London, but she also gives us nerds some deliciously dorky anecdotes. To wit: Patrick Stewart‘s admonition not to waste her time doing television (least of all science fiction!), how Douglas Adams introduced her to current hubby Richard Dawkins, and how she still enjoys “seeing old friends” when she does Doctor Who audio dramas.

You can listen to the show by following this link to the Midweek show and podcast. Get there quickly, as the Beeb has a tendency to restrict access to their shows after a short shelf life.

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