UPDATED WITH 50th ANNIVERSARY EPISODE CASTING!! ‘The Bells of Saint John’ Summon The Friday Docback As DOCTOR WHO Series/Season 7 Resumes!! A Spoiler-Free Mini-Review, + Newslets, And HornOrSilk’s Review Of ‘The Justice of Jalxar’ Big Finish Audio!!
UPDATE 30 MARCH 2013 9:31 AM CST USA
BBC has now confirmed that David Tennant will reprise his role as the tenth Doctor in a 3D 50th Anniversary episode which'll go before cameras immediately and transmit later this year.
David Tennant and Billie Piper will join current Doctor and companion, Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman, while John Hurt (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Alien, Harry Potter) will also co-star.
..says THIS BBC issuance, which also indicates that the great John Hurt will also appear. The episode will be scripted by Steven Moffat and directed by Nick Hurran (Asylum of the Daleks, The Girl Who Waited).
With a quick look at The Bells of Saint John, the first in the second wave of DOCTOR WHO Series/Season 7 episodes (herein Series/Season 7B, or S7B). It’s scripted by Steven Moffat and effectively plugs Clara (played by an unfathomably hot Jenna-Louise Coleman) into her ongoing role as the Doctor’s companion (previously, she’s been introduced twice and died twice...making for a delightfully ‘What the fuck?!’ entrance for her character).
Ken Plume and I have a theory about who this Clara might be and how this ‘impossible’ girl might actually be rational or possible, which we present in a brand new installment of our WHOTININNIES podcast, which’ll post Saturday evening immediately after DW has transmitted in both UK and North America. I’ll drop a link into **** THIS EXACT PLACE **** can now be found HERE! and will also re-link in next week’s The Rings of Oxyconton...I mean...The Rings of Akhaten...Docback.
Subsequent episodes in this new Season/Series include Cold War, Hide, Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, The Crimson Horror, Nightmare in Silver, and the Season/Series 7 finale, whose title we’ve yet to learn.
PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT to refresh your memory regarding the ‘Code of Conduct’ posted below. We are very serious about these rules. Docbacks do not function like any other Talkbacks on AICN and are (for the most part) unlike any other WHO forum you’re likely find on the Internet. If you’re looking for fun, friendly, welcoming, intelligent discussion about all things WHO (certainly emphasizing these new S7B episodes for the next two-ish months), this is a great place to start. These rules are not put in place to (in any sense) govern or censor content or ideas. Rather, they exist solely to encourage respectful and friendly, snark-free discourse and presentation. And with this? Enjoy!
My spoiler-free mini-review of The Bells of Saint John can be found below. But first...
SOPHIA MYLES HINTS AT POSSIBLE DOCTOR WHO RETURN
There’s lately been a clattering of hope and indicators that the lovely Sophia Myles might be returning to DOCTOR WHO; she previously appeared as Reinette opposite David Tennant’s Doctor in the Moffat-scripted The Girl in the Fireplace and would presumably be revisiting that role...this time working with Matt Smith.
Hopes for this possibility have been newly rekindled, thanks to this Tuesday Tweet from Ms. Myles...
So, what’s important in about this Tweet is that Ms. Myles is very careful not to indicate that her return is 100% certain. Having ‘figured everything out’ does not implicitly state that she’s coming back to the show. It may simply mean she now has a clearer sense of where her return stands in the grand scheme of things.
In fact, given the popularity of Girl in the Fireplace, there might be a number of reasons Team Moffat would hesitate to return her to the role - as tempting as doing so may be. For example, we don’t exactly see Moffat rushing to revisit Silence in the Library or The Empty Child (which he also scripted), other earlier WHOs which enjoy a great deal of fan respect. This is almost certainly because 1) they were never fully intended to be revisited to begin with, thus finding a way to do so organically and reasonably could prove dodgy, and/or 2) there may well be a desire not to diminish or undercut the original stories by pointedly diving back into their universes. Such undercutting does happen a lot on movies and television - I seem to recall a few rather great ‘Reginald Barcaly’ episodes in STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION - followed by some not-so-good ones - which then cheapened his character a bit, and didn’t help the show at all. These kind of undertakings are among the ultimate creative examples of ‘just because something CAN be done...doesn’t mean it SHOULD be done.’
I’m in no way suggesting Ms. Myles WON’T come back to WHO...I’m merely illustrating that actually bringing her back may not be as assured, or as simple, as one might think.
Now onto more certain news...
THE MILL, THE COMPANY WHO HANDLED VFX FOR DOCTOR WHO, IS CLOSING
Per THIS piece in Hollywood Reporter. This will almost certainly impact DOCTOR WHO, as The Mill has...for a long while...very much helped to determine the vibe and aesthetic of the show. So much so that their work on DW is, somewhat ironically, currently nominated for a 2013 BAFTA.
Unfortunately, such matters are not an uncommon occurrence for either television or film - there have been many such instances in which FX houses have been swapped or somehow augmented during a television or film production. The primary issue here, besides the hugely unfortunate loss of jobs in a funky economy and within an unpredictable industry, is the issue of quality control. If you’ve ever watched BABYLON 5 from start to finish, for example, you’ll notice a significant quality shift in the visual effects between Seasons 3 and 4. This was, quite simply, because B5 swaped FX companies between those Seasons, resulting in a largely (completely?) new VFX personnel, and a diminished quality of technology. In that case, the artists and tech simply were not as gifted as the company being left behind...and this was quickly and obviously evident within the show itself.
I am NOT predicting or suggesting the same darkness will befall DOCTOR WHO. Just noting that whoever replaces The Mill will either have to work very hard to match the quality of work this company has brought to the table over the years, or should strive to establish a new style and aesthetic for the show that’ll hopefully equal or surpass that to which we’ve become accustomed (particularly in the Moffat era).
The Mill, on the whole, has done exceptional work across the board. The first substantive splash I personally recall is their digital resurrection of Oliver Reed for Ridley Scott’s GLADIATOR, allowing the now-virtual actor to complete scenes left unlensed when he passed due to a heart attack during production.
I’d like to extend heartfelt best wishes and highest hopes to outgoing Mill staff...and the most sincere Godspeed to whomever steps in to fill the void they leave behind.
THE KROTONS ORIGINAL SCORE RELEASING END OF MAY
We mentioned last week that the the never-before-issued score to the Davison-era Caves of Androzani (Story # ) was being issued by Silva Screen - part of a series of releases intended to bring us vintage DOCTOR WHO scores which’ve never before been available.
Silva has now announced that The Krotons (Troughton, Story #47 ) will be the next in said series, and should arrive late May. Here’s the CD cover art.
You can learn more about the issuance HERE.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT, HERE’S A PREQUEL MINISODE TO THIS WEEK’S BELLS OF SAINT JOHN...
JUST ADD STRAX!! (IN CASE YOU MISSED IT #2)
Ever wonder how uppity and confused Sontaran Strax went from being apparently dead at The Battle of Demon’s Run (in the Season/Series 6 episode A Good Man Goes to War)...to alive & working in Victorian England alongside sexy Silurian Vastra and her very cute wife Jenny (The Snowmen Christmas episode)? There’s a new minisode which explains this.
You can find the Steven Moffat scripted Demon's Run: Two Days Later minisode in dazzling HD HERE at iTunes, or HERE at Amazon. A new wave of DOCTOR WHO episodes resumes this Saturday, March 30, on BBC America, Space, and BBC One.
DOCBACKER HORNORSILK REVIEWS THE JUSTICE OF JALXAR BIG FINISH AUDIO
Here’s our friend HornOrSilk with a look at Big Finish’s Justice of Jaxlar audio, which returns classic TV WHO’s Tom Baker and Marry Tamm to their Doctor and Romana roles respectively, along with Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter (reprising the Jango and Lightfoot roles they brilliantly created in The Talons of Weng-Chiang TV story [T. Baker, Story #91]).
Fourth Doctor Adventures 2.04. 2.04. The Justice of Jalxar
Written By: John Dorney
It was not a surprise. When Tom Baker agreed to do Big Finish, one would think he would meet up with Jago and Lightfoot. As with any stories which give us what we desire, we must not expect too much, otherwise we can come out disappointed. This story is good, but at least to me, not exceptional. I know many who feel otherwise about it. Yet, I think I was hoping for this to take place after Colin’s adventures with Jago and Lightfoot, to cause a kind of timey-wimey fun, and so, what I said about expectations are proven true with my own experience with this audio adventure.
The story itself is fairly well described by Big Finish:
“They call him The Pugilist.
It is the dawn of a new century and a vigilante is on the loose. The scourge of the criminal underclass. The saviour of the virtuous and the protector of the weak. The police are baffled, the public enamoured… but Professor George Litefoot and Henry Gordon Jago are on the case. Or at least they will be when they've finished their beer
What is the source of The Pugilist's spectacular supernatural powers? Is he alone in his noble quest? And what is his connection to the spate of corpses discovered around London?
As they descend further into a nefarious netherworld, the infernal investigators may be out of their depth. They're going to need help if they're to get out of this alive. The help of an old friend and his new assistant. The help… of the Doctor and Romana.”
Now, this is fun story. I think there is a lot of play going on, and it will make fans of Jago and Lightfoot smile. But, I feel the way they have become popular with the fans, they have somehow been elevated to being more than they are. The Doctor is shown to believe they are exceptional, and so when he needs help, he thinks immediately of them. This, in part, is because they have become heroes in their own stories. There is, nonetheless, a feeling that this has somewhat lost what made them special in the first place. But this is easily forgiven. We know that Doctor Who now shows how the Doctor changes people, makes them better. So Big Finish is following this meme here.
I’ve not listened to the Jago and Lightfoot series. I’ve listened to their Companion Chronicles and to one of their adventures with the 6th Doctor. Yet, with all of them, and they way they have been raised, I feel that there is a kind of banter with them that shows them to almost be caricatures of their characters in Talons. It is, in a way, to be expected. Their popularization will require them to take as much as possible from their own televised appearance and use it for their stories, to make them “feel right.” It is not a bad thing in itself. But yet, I do wish for something different. After all they have supposedly gone through, I expect something different from them. But this a minor thing. They are, in a way, sitcom characters and so they are treated as much here.
Despite this, all of the four leads (the Doctor, Romana, Jago and Lightfood) are played well here. Tom still seems to be a bit off (but not as much as he was in his first season. Mary Tamm is in top form here. She gets to show off her Roman’s persona well as she mixes with Jago and Lightfoot (who, despite their caricature nature, are played well by Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter, as is to be expected).
The Pugilist character is enjoyable. He is an over-the-top hero, whose over-the-top nature leads to disaster. The consequence of trying to be a superhero is shown here. It isn’t a great thing. The nature of the beast is that the superhero really is a beast, even when attempting to be a hero.
And there is the issue of justice. What is it? Is it a sense of guilt?
With all of this, I would give the story an 8/10. I wish for something a bit more than this for Jago and Lightfoot’s story with Tom Baker. It’s better than most Big Finish stories, but, there are some exceptional stories far greater than this.
While Doctor Who is about to return to the screen, the audio adventures continue. While I believe everyone will want to talk about the show, I still want to continue the reviews for the new audio adventures. I will return to reviews of “classic” audios when the show is over.
THE BELLS OF SAINT JOHN (SPOILER FREE MINI-REVIEW)
After months of aggravating absence, DOCTOR WHO roars back onto the scene with The Bells of Saint John (by reigning WHOmaster Steven Moffat).
It’s an agreeably breezy episode which recalls a number of time-tested, Moffat-scripted fan favorites: an eerie, disembodied voice gag akin to Silence in the Library, an opening similar to Blink, and creepy ‘Spoonheads’ evoke The Empty Child. Despite such callbacks, Bells still manages to feel unique and utterly nuWHO, serving as something of a soft reboot: it re-re-introduces Jenna-Louise Coleman as companion-in-waiting Clara (as alluded above, our previous introductions to her resulted in her death on both occasions). Bells also hints at ‘bigger game’ being afoot - a situation which may well (although not necessarily) prove a challenge to the Doctor and his newfound cohort over the longer haul.
There’s a pathos and sweetness anchoring the Doctor & Clara’s relationship. An affection, some sort of transcendent, existential attachment. A sense these two character are truly connected to each other, even if they - or we - are not entirely sure how. This works wonders for the Doctor/companion relationship, and imbues the characters’ interactions with a touching quality substantially different than the Doctor/Amy dynamic we recently exited. In the Amy Pond era, much of the heart and soul of the show seemed to be focused towards/emanating from Amy herself - which is why I believe some people found her character frustrating or alienating...DOCTOR WHO often felt like it was more about her than its long-standing title character. That’s not the case here. Whatever magic/connection is running between the Doctor and Clara, it’s definitely about BOTH of them this time around. Hopefully, the endgame payoff will be proportionally more rewarding and potent.
Photography by Simon Dennis is crisp and slick and pointedly evokes a style far closer to Moffat’s SHERLOCK than we’ve ever seen before on WHO. It looks very nice and works very well, but it’s an altogether different visual approach to the work of long-time WHO Director of Photography Stephan Pehrsson (Pehrsson will still be around it seems...)
Snappy direction by Colm McCarthy (RIPPER STREET) similarly evokes SHERLOCK (including the occasional HUD graphic), but based on the previews for next week’s episode, I’m not getting a sense that this trend will continue to any significant extent. Guest performer Celia Imrie commands her scenes from the outset as a brusk, matter-of-fact, but interesting [[[occupation deleted due to spoilage]]], although it’s hard to sluff off inevitable comparisons to Judy Dench. Our final view of Emrie’s character may be remembered as one of the eerier moments in the show’s recent history.
All around, Bells is a fun, fast, odd, and adventurous - recalling a number of gags and vibes from WHO’s past, while revving up its own distinctive engine and shouting, “I’m ready to go!” It’ll be fun to see how the Doctor and Clara play out in the long game, as...for the moment...it’s looking like their journeys should offer an agreeable blast of very fresh air.
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