Doctor Who

Lovarzi's Fourth Doctor Scarf in Have I Got News For You? Trailer November 02, 2016 22:52 - Philip Bates

In the run-up to Doctor Who's 50th anniversary celebrations in 2013, we loved this trailer for the 46th series of Have I Got News For You?, BBC1's hit panel show. Team captains, Ian Hislop and Paul Merton certainly demonstrated their great sense of style with our original, best-selling Fourth Doctor Scarf!

Have I Got News For You? has a long history of hilarious panellists and guest presenters, but our favourites are undoubtedly Tom Baker (in 1998 and 2008) and David Tennant, who acted as host in 2015 and earlier this year.


Doctor Who Merchandise: Peter Davison's Autobiography Out Now! October 06, 2016 01:00 - Philip Bates

As the cold evening draw in, it's great to wrap up warm in a Fifth Doctor Sweater and read a good book. And we can think of nothing better than Is There Life Outside The Box?: An Actor Despairs, the autobiography of Peter Davison.

Davison became a household name in All Creatures Great and Small, and was soon chosen to fill the considerable shoes of departing Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker in Doctor Who. He debuted as the Time Lord in 1982's Castrovalva, and across three seasons, faced Daleks, Cybermen, Silurians and Sea Devils, Omega, the Mara, and plenty more besides!

He was the incumbent Doctor for the show's 20th anniversary, but left the following year in The Caves of Androzani, a four-part serial written by Robert Holmes which frequently tops lists of fan favourite stories.

Peter then returned to the role in 2009 for the charity short, Time Crash, in which he appeared opposite the Tenth Doctor, David Tennant. As part of Doctor Who's 50th anniversary, Davison also wrote the comedy special, The Five(Ish) Doctors Reboot, starring himself alongside numerous celebrities including Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, and Paul McGann.

His autobiography has been a long time coming, and is full of his characteristic self-deprecating wit. Its subtitle, An Actor Despairs, is a riff on An Actor Prepares, an inspirational book often used by studying actors to help master their craft. Here's the synopsis for Is There Life Outside The Box?, out now:

His fans have spoken, but despite their requests, Peter Davison has gone ahead and written his autobiography anyway. It wasn't the book they tried to stop; it was more like the book they didn't want him to start. An aspiring singer-songwriter, once dubbed Woking's answer to Bob Dylan (by his mum, who once heard a Bob Dylan song).

From colonial roots - his dad was Guyanese and his mother was born in India - the family settled in Surrey where Peter's academic achievements were so unspectacular, he even managed to fail CSE woodwork, eliciting a lament from his astonished teacher ("All you have to do is recognise wood!").

Despite this, Peter has secured his place in science fiction history, becoming the fifth Doctor Who, despite nearly turning down the role. The Time Lord connection continued with the marriage of his daughter Georgia to Dr Who number ten, David Tennant.

The artist formerly known as Peter Malcolm Gordon Moffett has starred in a number of television series including Love for Lydia, A Very Peculiar Practice, At Home with the Braithwaites, and The Last Detective, and became a national treasure for having his arm up a cow in his role as Tristan Farnon in All Creatures Great and Small. He was also in a Michael Winner movie...

He made his first stage appearance with an amateur dramatic company, but The Byfleet Players' loss is now the West End's gain as he now has a number of musicals to his name, including Legally Blonde, Chicago, and Spamalot. Most recently, he starred in the box office record-breaking Gypsy where he rubbed shoulders backstage with Dames Meryl Streep, Maggie Smith, and Judi Dench, all asking him for directions to Imelda Staunton's dressing room.

One thing is for sure: of all the British screen and stage actors of the last fifty years, Peter Davison is certainly one of them and, within these pages, intrepid readers will at last have the dubious honour of sharing in his life and times as he despairs over whether there truly ever can be life outside the box.


Lovarzi's Series 9 Guide: The Woman Who Lived October 24, 2015 08:42 - Philip Bates

Transmission: 24.10.2015.

Writer: Catherine Tregenna.

Director: Ed Bazalgette.

Guest Starring: Maisie Williams; Rufus Hound; Gareth Berliner; Elisabeth Hopper; Struan Rodger; John Voce; Ariyon Bakare; and Karen Seacombe.

It's 1651, Hounslow, and the Doctor is using his curioscanner to track down an alien artefact – when he accidentally interrupts a highway robbery. This is the notorious highwayman, The Knightmare, and his sidekick, and they form an uneasy alliance. But both sides have secrets.

The Knightmare, for instance, hasn't mentioned the lion-esque fire-breathing alien...

If you've seen The Girl Who Died, you'll know exactly who the title of this episode refers to: Maisie Williams is back as Ashildr, having had the responsibility of immortality thrust upon her by the Doctor. Or maybe she's learnt about recklessness, because here, she's not the trustworthy storyteller we saw defending the Viking village last week.

"Maisie's fantastic," writer, Catherine Tregenna told Doctor Who Magazine. "What she has to encompass, in this case of this particular character, is huge and I think it requires a lot of layers. She's got to be a match for the Doctor and outwit him... It's an incredibly layered and nuanced performance and I'm really impressed."

This is Tregenna's first script for Doctor Who¸ but fans will recognise her name from Torchwood of which she wrote four episodes, Captain Jack Harkness, Meat, Adam, and the fan-favourite Out of Time. Since then, she's been working on shows including Law & Order: UK, Lewis, and DCI Banks. Though she particularly loved last year's Listen, penned by showrunner Steven Moffat, this script is more akin to Robot of Sherwood – at least in the way the Doctor deals with the people around him.

We'll obviously explore Ashildr further, but producer, Brian Minchin says "comedian, Rufus Hound [steals] every scene." Hound, who appeared on 2013's The Next Doctor Live when Peter Capaldi was announced as the Time Lord, plays highwayman, Sam Swift, and he says he's pretty keen to return... as the Doctor's companion!

"What he represents is a kind of 'seize the day' attitude," Tregenna explains. "Bless him, he's got most of my silly jokes."

Ed Bazalgette returns for directing duties, while another familiar face also returns. Sort of. You might recognise his voice but he played another face: the Face of Boe. Struan Rodger was the (mostly telepathic) voice of the giant head that the Ninth Doctor and Rose first met in The End of the World (2005), but who returned for New Earth (2006) and 2007's Gridlock. This time, we'll actually get to see what he looks like!

This episode mainly focuses on the Doctor and Ashildr, exploring the consequences of the latter's seeming-immortality, so it's a somewhat companion-lite story. But don't worry: Jenna Coleman will be back for the following week's The Zygon Invasion...

The Woman Who Lived airs on 24th October on BBCOne at 8:20pm. Keep your eyes peeled for our review over the next few days.


Review: The Girl Who Died October 24, 2015 08:42 - Philip Bates

This was the week Doctor Who went bonkers. Again.

This is what our barmy show does with increasing regularity. The whole premise of the series is slightly unhinged. Sometimes, it works; other times it doesn't; and quite often, you're not quite sure what to make of it. That's the case here.

Much of this episode was great, and then it got weird. A couple of weeks ago, I said it would be wrong to judge Under the Lake by how well Before the Flood went, but a lot rests on The Woman Who Lived to put the last ten minutes of The Girl Who Died into context.

But that's the last few scenes, not the entire story. Because there was a lot to enjoy here.

After the success of his efforts in Series 8, Jamie Mathieson had heavy expectations to contend with: indeed, he won awards from Doctor Who Magazine for Mummy on the Orient Express and Flatline. With The Girl Who Died, however, he gives us something entirely different.

Sure, it's his first historical, but the tone of the piece is largely in contrast with his previous stories. You can see why so many previews called this a 'romp' but stayed away from that ominous 'filler' label that carelessly disregards stories just because they're not a series opener, finale, or show great character development for the Doctor and his companions.

'Romp' implies something light, funny, and generally somewhat frivolous. We definitely get this. The humour here works better than last year's 'romp' Robot of Sherwood through no fault of that particular tale. Series 8 set out to prove Peter Capaldi's Twelfth Doctor to be darker. After the intense Deep Breath and Into the Dalek, Robot of Sherwood jarred a little, despite being deftly written with strong characters, solid direction, and great performances.

Fortunately, the production team seems to have realised this year that he may be less user-friendly, but he's still the Doctor. It means that we've had severe stories for the past month, but the Doctor has been undoubtedly the hero we all want him to be. He's more jovial, and that's perfect.

The Time Lord is funny – generally and certainly in The Girl Who Died – without losing his gravitas. That's the beauty of this character.

In fact, he's quite joyous, amid bouts of moodiness and contemplative brooding. His happiness at seeing Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) returned to the village is a stand-out moment. "I'm not a hugger," he announces while giving her a thumbs-up. And then he rushes up and hugs her. That's the enthusiasm the audience likes to see. He's embracing life, not questioning whether he's a good man or not or getting bogged down by his dislike of Danny Pink.

Series 9 is almost giving us a new Doctor and that's exactly the right direction to take this 52-year-old (nearly) show.

The Doctor isn't without the weight that he carries around with him, no matter the incarnation. The Doctor speaking baby was initially a nice bit of comedy in A Good Man Goes To War (2011), added to in the same year's Closing Time. In that episode, though, Matt Smith showed a great sadness and optimism when speaking to Stormageddon/Alfie, mulling over the years that separate the pair. In The Girl Who Died, Capaldi portrays the same aching depth of emotion when translating the crying baby of this Viking village.

These could quite easily be funny scenes, a bit of light relief, but it's played very differently. It's underlined by the Doctor asking if babies die with honour.

Of course, the Doctor then throws this in the opposite direction: a little distraction comes in the form of a party, just as the Mire arrive to attack the town. Naturally, this is just sleight of hand, and there's something very satisfying that the thing that defeats the deadliest mercenaries in the galaxy is a good story.

Well, it's what we're all here for, isn't it?

The strength of a story is a common theme in many serials under Steven Moffat's tenure as showrunner: in The Big Bang (2010), Amy brought the TARDIS back in time for her wedding because the Eleventh Doctor told her an old-new-borrowed-blue story; he also planned to defeat the Old God in The Rings of Akhaten (2013) with tales of his losses; and in Into the Dalek (2014), the Twelfth Doctor hoped to redeem the Dalek with a story of the universe's cyclical nature.

It makes Ashildr (Maisie Williams) worth saving. She's brave and strange because she imagines – ultimately, that's what scares the Mire into retreating. That and the Benny Hill theme tune.

Her casting caused a publicity storm, and while Williams gives a great performance, it would likely be an anticlimax if this were it for her. I'm sure The Woman Who Lived will give us plenty more to think about regarding her character and role in the Whoniverse.

The device that brings Ashildr back to life causes a few narrative problems. Notably, it's not actually mentioned before the Doctor uses it: it's almost as if we don't really need to know the specifics of how he can do this – we just have to accept that the Doctor can save anyone if 'The Rules' are ignored. The second Mire medical unit – how might that be utilised next week? – introduces the questions that we'll likely explore in The Woman Who Lived, essentially the meaning of immortality, and by contrast, mortality.

If the Mire had this automatic repair kit, why were they scared by the make-believe dragon? It might tie into the Doctor saying Ashildr will live forever "barring accidents", or maybe recalls the Doctor's own fear of dying (largely focused on in The End of Time) despite his ability to regenerate.

Further plot holes centre on the electric eels, which many have noted wouldn't generate that amount of electricity. And why were they even there? The Vikings may have explored and fished, but not in seas with electric eels in.

In other adventures, you can pass the former off by pointing to the sonic screwdriver, but the Doctor was without both that and the TARDIS.

Nonetheless, the siege on the village is immense fun, at turns touching, hilarious, and exciting.

Sadly, it's those final ten minutes that give the story a slightly uneven feel. A great deal of fuss was given to Peter Capaldi playing the Doctor after previously appearing in The Fires of Pompeii (2008), and Torchwood: Children of Earth (2009), and we were promised an explanation.

Of course, plenty of familiar faces crop up numerous times: companions (Karen Gillan and Freema Agyeman), guest stars (Philip Madoc, Martin Jarvis, Geoffrey Palmer -  I could go on), and yes, even another Doctor (Sixth Doctor, Colin Baker was in 1983's Arc of Infinity). But we've just accepted it. This time, however, there was an in-story reason. Supposedly.

Except it sort of falls flat. Russell T Davies apparently told Moffat he had a reason for the same faces popping up now and again, and you can't help but feel this wasn't it. It feels like a cop-out. It might've worked last year, when the Doctor was trying to come to terms with who he is, but this year, he knows. He's the Doctor and that's all he's ever really needed to know.

What's more, that's all the audience needs to know too.

It might be expanded upon in the future, but here, it makes the tale disjointed. Yes, we need to judge these final scenes on how The Woman Who Lived plays out.

And this fan is looking forward to it...!