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Matt Smith Stepping Down from Doctor Who

2 06 2013
matt-smith-doctor-who-bow-tie

Matt Smith in costume as the 11th incarnation of the Doctor. Copyright BBC Worldwide.

It was announced yesterday that Matt Smith will be stepping down from Doctor Who in December.

The 11th incarnation of the famous time traveling alien will appear in the much anticipated 50th Anniversary Special, which will air on Nov. 23, 2013, and then regenerate in the 2013 Christmas Special into an as-of-yet-unnamed 12th incarnation.

Smith, 30, joined the show in 2010, taking over the reigns from David Tennant who portayed the much loved 10th incarnation of the Doctor. I was, at first, unsure of whether Smith was the right fit for the role or not, having been a huge Tennant fan; however, Smith grew on me, like I think he did for many other fans of the show, and I will be sad to see him depart the role.

On his departure, Smith said, “”Doctor Who has been the most brilliant experience for me as an actor and a bloke, and that largely is down to the cast, crew and fans of the show…It’s been an honour to play this part, to follow the legacy of brilliant actors, and helm the TARDIS for a spell with ‘the ginger, the nose and the impossible one’. But when ya gotta go, ya gotta go and Trenzalore calls. Thank you guys. Matt.”

It is always a bittersweet moment at the announcement that one actor will step down and a new will arise as the Doctor. Speculation as to whom will take over the role has already lit up the interwebs with much emphasis on the possibility of an African-American or female actor/actress being a potential replacement.

I am by no means a sexist, but I will be honest that the idea of a female Doctor doesn’t seem right to me. Yes, Time Lords regenerate into different appearances and personalities, but this late the game, a gender switch seems like it would not be good for the story. The ethnicity change I could see as being an interesting twist, however, given that all 11 incarnations of the Doctor to date have been Caucasian males.

But, whatever the future holds for The Doctor, I’ll be tuning in and trust that the showrunners will make a good decision on whomever they decide to go with, male or female. With a heavy heart I will prepare to bid the 11th farewell, but with open arms look forward to welcoming the 12th with my viewership!

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Casanova (2005) Review

21 06 2012

Copyright 2005 BBC

★ ★ ★

OK, so I’ll be honest from the get go.  The only reason I watched this was because it had two of my favorite actors in it: Peter O’ Toole and David Tennant (10th Doctor!).  Furthermore, it was written and produced by Russell T. Davies, who was the head writer and show starter for the 2005 reboot of Doctor Who.  Davies and Tennant’s working relationship actually began on this picture.

I’m sure most people are at least generally aware of who Giacomo Casanova was, if for nothing more than the fact that his name is a common term for lotharios the world over.  Well, this movie is a loose adaptation of his life, pulling many overall generalized points from the history books, but embellishing them extensively for entertainment purposes.  The narrative switches back and forth between old Casanova (Peter O’ Toole), who now serves as a librarian for an Italian nobleman, and young Casanova (David Tennant) as he makes his way in the world.  A lonely chambermaid makes fast friends with the older Casanova, who has just finished writing his life’s tale.  During her innocent stays in his chambers, he recounts the many adventures and loves found and lost during his lifetime, with a primary focus on one elusive woman: Henriette (Rose Byrne).  Through the back and forth of the narrative, the life of Casanova is presented in only a way Russell T. Davies could come up with (i.e. extravagantly and at many times flamboyantly).

The “series” encompasses two one and a half hour segments, so it’s not really a movie, but not quite a mini-series.  I really enjoyed the first segment and thought there were some very entertaining scenes, but the second installation was a bit of a let down and I found myself growing bored by the end.  The fun of this film only seems to last so long, though the performances by O’ Toole and Tennant are a treat to watch.  However, I may err on the side of caution here because I am biased, so I would even hesitate to give too much credit in that regard.

In short, a fun and exciting television “mini-series” that starts strong, but fizzles out some towards the end.  If you are a Tennant or O’ Toole fan, I think you would have a greater chance of enjoying this sometimes disjointed flick, but even those who are not may find some interest here.





Doctor Who: The Movie (II)

16 11 2011

Announced Director David Yates

A couple of days ago Variety, one of the leading trade publications for those working in Hollywood, announced that a big budget Doctor Who movie is in the works in cooperation with BBC Worldwide.  Though no script or actors have been announced, the film will be directed by four-time Harry Potter alumnus David Yates.

According to Yates, the film is planning to be a stand alone venture, separate from the current sixth series of the reboot starring Matt Smith as the eleventh incarnation of the time traveling Doctor.  Furthermore, both American and British writers will be considered for the scripting duties; being a main stay of British culture, an American writer could upset fans.  However, Yates points to the precision of American writer Steve Kloves in capturing the British element of the Harry Potter films expertly as reason for leaving stateside writers in contention for the film.

I find the news to be both exciting, yet also quite worrisome.  In the past, two features starring Peter Cushing in the 1960s were made that are not considered part of the standard canon; in 1996, a telefilm starring Paul McGann was released in cooperation with the FOX Network, which is considered as part of the canon, counting McGann as Doctor number eight.

The excitement lies, of course, in the mere idea of Doctor Who getting royal treatment with a large budget and mass audience release.  Yet, the worry also stems from the same reasons for excitement.  Doctor Who has long been a cult program in some regards, with legions of fateful fans.  As a television series, it is just now somewhat breaking into the mainstream with the popularity of the 2005 reboot and younger, exciting Doctors like David Tennant and Matt Smith.  To fully commercialize on the series, I feel that a sacred aspect of this now nearly 50-year canon of two series and a telefilm might be dismantled.

To be fair, however, if there is one person that can pull this off, I think that the BBC made a wise decision in choosing director David Yates.  Yates, a National Film and Television School graduate, had early success in television before directing his first Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  His adaptation was such a success, that he continued on as the director for the following three films.  He seems to have a good knack for understanding the sacred nature of beloved cultural icons such as Harry Potter or the Doctor.  In my opinion, his idea to split the seventh book into two movies to better serve the source material was an excellent choice.

Though it looks like the project may be three to four years away from release, it will be interesting to see how it is handled.  Hopefully, the production will not stray too far from the 50-year history to upset long-time fans, but will be able to be commercialized enough to recruit more fans for the beloved Time Lord.  After all, the more fans there are for a fictional character, the longer that character seems to stick around in popular culture.  As a huge fan of the series, I know we would all hate to see another nearly 16 year gap with no Doctor on television or film.





Doctor Who is Pushing 50

12 10 2011

Copyright BBC

Article first published as Looking Forward to Doctor Who Turning 50 on Blogcritics.

Just over a week ago, the sixth series (or 32nd, depending on how you look at it) of Doctor Who wrapped up with the incredible episode The Wedding of River Song, posing the series-long question, “Doctor Who?”

For those of you not in the know, the original series began in 1963 with William Hartnell as Doctor numero uno and was on the air through six other Doctors until its cancellation in 1989.  Following a 1996 television movie with eighth Doctor Paul McGann, the series was rebooted by Russell T. Davies in 2005 and continues to this day on the BBC, currently in the eleventh “incarnation” of the Doctor, a now 900-something year old alien who travels through time and space in a machine guised as a police box.

Since the series six finale, the Doctor and companions will be off the air until the 2011 Christmas Special and then back in 2012 for a seventh series, continuing to star Matt Smith as the eleventh Doctor.  However, it will be the following season that I am interested in focusing on, as the series itself reaches its 50th Anniversary in early 2013.

All of the produced anniversary specials have centered around the Doctor crossing his own time stream, sometimes more than once, which results in a multi-Doctor episode, bringing back former actors who have played the lovable Time Lord.  The only two anniversary specials so far in the series were The Three Doctors in 1973 (with William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee) and The Five Doctors (with Richard Hurndall sitting in for the deceased Hartnell, Troughton, Pertwee, Peter Davison and Tom Baker, kind of).  For what would have been the 30th and 40th anniversaries, the show was off the air unfortunately.

So, in short, odds are high that we will see another multi-Doctor episode, and that is some very exciting news for Who fans.  Everyone has their own ideas how the 50th Anniversary special should go, and I’m sure many, including myself, would love to see a return of David Tennant to the role for the special.  However, when really thinking hard on the subject, I come up with a storyline that wouldn’t include Tennant, but rather eighth and ninth Doctors Paul McGann and Christopher Eccleston.

When the series rebooted in 2005 with Eccleston, he had already regenerated from the eighth incarnation.  This is the only regeneration in the history of the series that we don’t actually see happen on screen or, at least, see the death of one and birth of the other.  Furthermore, it is alluded to constantly in the first few seasons that there was a Great Time War, in which the Time Lords and evil Daleks obliterated each other, leaving the Doctor as the “Last of the Time Lords.”

If I could sit down with Head Writer Steven Moffat, this is my pitch: have eleventh Doctor, Matt Smitth, recieve a distress signal from Eighth Doctor, Paul McGann, through the Time Locked war, similar to the bending out of universe phenomena in The Doctor’s Wife.  Realizing he will die and cut off his own time stream if he doesn’t go for help, the eleventh Doctor enters the final hours of the Great Time War.  The eighth Doctor explains what is happening on Gallifrey and the two must work together to obliterate the Dalek, and in turn, Time Lord races to save the universe.  In the end, however, the eighth Doctor doesn’t make it out alive, dying and regenerating into the ninth Doctor, Christopher Eccleston, where he travels to the beginning of his tenure and meeting Rose.

Not only would that create a multi-Doctor episode, but it would give Paul McGann the chance to portray his wonderful interpretation of the Doctor once more on screen in a more tightly written episode (as McGann’s only appearence was the mediocore Doctor Who Movie in 1996).  What would your dream 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who be?  Which former Doctors would you like to see return?





Doctor Who: All Eleven Doctors Ranked Worst to Best

5 09 2011

So, I’ve finally had a chance to see at least one serial of all eleven doctors in Doctor Who.  I understand that this post will be completely subjective, but honestly, this is my blog, so isn’t it all completely subjective any way?  Well, here goes, my list of favorite actors who have portrayed the time-traveling Time Lord simply known as “The Doctor” from 1963 all the way up to last Saturday night:

11. Colin Baker – 1984-86 – Doctor #6

I’m so sorry, Colin.  He always gets a bad rap and, to be fair, there was a lot of pressure against the show during this time and some of the worst scripts as well.  Even still, however, something about (this) Baker’s portrayal of the Doctor just rubs you wrong.  Compared to many of the other Doctors, he was brash, (more) arrogant and sometimes just downright mean to his companions.  Not to mention, what the hell was he wearing!?!  Most of the Doctor’s outfits over the years, though eccentric, have still been pretty cool.  This rainbow infested disaster, however, wouldn’t even make the “cool” ranking of a four year old.  Again, Colin, I’m sorry, you seem like a great guy in real life, but as the Doctor, I just couldn’t dig your interpretation.

10. William Hartnell – 1963-66 – Doctor #1

I know, some of you are going to berate me for putting the original Doctor this low on the list.  It’s true, he provided the groundwork that all the other Doctors elaborated upon, not to mention he made the show famous from the beginning episodes.  This crotchety grandfather-like figure as the Doctor just doesn’t have enough fun though!  I like Doctors that know how to be serious, but also have that ridiculously zany element we’ve all come to know and love.  Hartnell’s first Doctor also seemed too absent-minded and feeble for me to completely enjoy.  In fact, unfortunately due to his poor health near his final episodes as the character, Hartnell would flub lines, so some of the idiosyncrasies of the character can’t wholly be deduced to acting.  It’s a shame he was so ill near the end and God bless the man for continuing to do what he loved for as long as he could.  A salute to you, sir, for your original portrayal and I dug the Victorian costume, but my favorite Doctors lie ahead.

9. Tom Baker – 1974-81 – Doctor #4

O.K., so I’m sure most of you expected to see the second Baker a bit higher on the list.  I’ve given him a fair shake by watching several serials, but just can’t put him any higher than this lowly position of number 9.  During his run, which was the longest of any Doctor to date, he epitomized the character with his off-the-wall elusive behavior, wild hair and elongated scarf.  In my opinion, however, I just couldn’t buy into it.  His delivery at times seems stilted and his inability to take charge of the situation was just too distracting for me to fully ingest his portrayal of the Doctor.  So, for you upset over this choice, would you like a Jelly Baby?

8. Peter Davison – 1981-84 – Doctor #5

From this point in our list on are Doctors that I really liked.  Not until our 5th entry do we get to the Doctors that I loved, but the next few entries at least get my one thumb up approval.  Davison, when cast, was the youngest Doctor to date.  In fact, he is still the second youngest even 30 years later.  With an outfit that looked like a mix of tennis court yuppie and panama jack, not to mention the curious piece of celery, this Doctor ushered us into the 1980s.  He was young, spirited and actually took great care in listening to his companions.  I really enjoyed Davison as the Doctor and think he did a wonderful job, even despite the fact that some of his episodes weren’t the best written.  His final episode, The Caves of Androzani (a bit overrated in my opinion, but still great), continues to top lists of the best episodes ever for the series.

7. Christopher Eccleston – 2005 – Doctor #9

I began the series with the 2005 reboot, so this was essentially my first Doctor (though not MY Doctor as many people state).  I have to give him some credit for engaging me in the program and helping bring me into the world of Whovians.  Though, in reality, he has been my least favorite of the rebooted Doctors.  He switched back and forth between quirky and crazy to intensely serious on the drop of a hat.  This element alone is enough to make you ask exactly what type of emotions is going through this war-born Time Lord.  I wish he would have picked a side, one way or the other, but other than that  – nice run Eccleston!

6. – Sylvester McCoy – 1987-89, 1996 – Doctor #7

I know a lot of people hate McCoy.  I know, it was with his Doctor that the series sank to all-time lows and initiated a nearly 16 year hiatus (of course, outside of the Doctor Who Movie in 1996).  To further clarify my placement of McCoy, I have only seen serials from his latter tenure which included companion Ace.  From what I have seen from these later episodes, which have consistently been rated much higher than his earlier episodes, I have really enjoyed him.  He has a dark demeanor and is very much a Sherlock Holmes-like Doctor.  Not to mention, his interactions with Ace are some of the best Doctor/Companion interactions I think I’ve seen on the show outside of Rose and the 10th Doctor.  And, trust me, that’s saying a lot!

5. Paul McGann – 1996 – Doctor #8

Outside of audio stories, McGann only had one chance on television to grace us with his portrayal of the Doctor.  Though the movie wasn’t amazing, I liked it.  What I loved, however, was Paul McGann’s awesome performance.  He was witty, eccentric, yet very much in control and concerned with saving the world.  His outfit was completely bad-ass as well!  A Victorian Buffalo Bill mixture that is elegant, yet weird.  I wish we could have seen Paul McGann grow the character onscreen a bit more.  I immediately enjoyed his portrayal, and everyone knows it usually takes several episodes before you start to warm up to a new Doctor.  If he’d had the chance, I think he could have been one of the best yet.

4. Matt Smith – 2010-present – Doctor #11

Our current Doctor, Matt Smith.  At first, I was not sure what to think of him, but he has proven himself quite well.  He is definitely eccentric and on the weird side of Doctor characterizations, but he also knows how to take control and fight back when the situation calls for it.  Furthermore, with Stephen Moffatt behind him as the creative force, his stories are becoming some of the best yet.  Smith has also single-handedly made bow ties quite cool once again!  Who knows, in time, I may move Smith up even higher on my list, but for now, he will stand at the still admirable number 4 position. Geronimo!

3. Jon Pertwee – 1970-74 – Doctor #3

Dare I say, our most adventurous Doctor?  With cape and dashing personality to match, Pertwee was the James Bond of Doctors.  He was cool, conservative and sometimes overly confident.  Forced for most of his tenure to assist U.N.I.T. on Earth, Pertwee had a great relationship with his companion, fellow researcher Jo.  Out of all the serious incarnations of the Doctor, who had little time for zaniness, Pertwee is my favorite.  Don’t get me wrong though, his witty and cynical remarks born from his ego are some of the funniest lines from this era of the series.  I can’t wait to continue working my way through Pertwee’s tenure as the Doctor, and remember, to always reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.

2. Patrick Troughton – 1966-69 – Doctor #2

Unfortunately, many of Troughton’s episodes no longer exist due to the BBC’s clearing policy in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  However, what is left is testament to his amazing portrayal of the character.  He was the first Doctor to not be so serious all the time, a “Cosmic Hobo” if you will.  Despite his goofy antics and somewhat aloof personality, this Doctor could be extremely effective and usually knew what was going on well before his stumped companions.  One of the subtlest actors in the role, this flute playing, Chaplinesque Doctor is one of my absolute favorite.  Now, if I can just scour the Earth for the rest of his lost episodes…

1. David Tennant – 2005-2010 – Doctor #10

This is it, the end of our list.  Here we come to MY doctor, David Tennant.  When he first arrived on the scene, I had no idea what to think of him.  As time progressed, however, Tennant’s portrayal of the Doctor as a goofy, caffeine-induced super hero, complete with maroon chucks and brown duster, became my favorite.  I don’t know whether I’ll ever like an actor in the role as much as I enjoyed Tennant.  He will definitely be a hard act to follow and whenever I think of the Doctor, this is who comes to my mind first. Well, there you have it, my countdown of the actors who have portrayed the Doctor.  Until next time, Allons Y!!!

**ALL IMAGES COPYRIGHT BBC WORLDWIDE**





Doctor Who: The Movie (1996) Review

19 08 2011

The Eighth Doctor, played by Paul McGann. Copyright 1996 BBC

★ ★ ★ 1/2

Ever since starting the 2005 reboot of Doctor Who earlier this year, I have been a super fan boy to the series.  It’s great!  So great, in fact, that I may actually purchase cable through the devil (Time Warner) soon so that I can watch the rest of season six as it airs live.  That aside, after catching up and having this break in the series this summer, I have tried to go back and watch some of the classic series serials.  The classic series spans some 600+ episodes, so I am sure it will be many years to come, if ever, for me to finish it; however, I am on a quest to at least watch serials of all the eleven doctors, so that I can see how each respective actor handled the role.  So far, I have seen serials with first, third, fourth, fifth, eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh doctors.  Some of the episodes included regenerations, so I have actually briefly seen Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy in the role as well.

Anyway, for those of you who don’t know, Doctor Who is about a Time Lord (alien) who travels through time and space in a machine that has stuck on the look of a 1960s police box called the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space).  The original series ran in serials from 1963-1989 and encompassed the first through seventh incarnations (he regenerates when he dies into a new form that retains some basic traits and memories, but wholly new personalities).  Following the end of the original series, there was a US/UK joint effort at rebooting the series in the form of a television movie; this is the movie in question, and it was released in 1996.  Due to many Americans being unfamiliar with the classic British show, it received abysmal reviews in the US and no further episodes were made.  In 2005, the series rebooted with the ninth doctor and continues to this day, currently with the eleventh incarnation portrayed by Matt Smith.

The television movie here up for review begins with the seventh incarnation of the Doctor, Sylvester McCoy, transporting the remains of longtime enemy and fellow Time Lord, the Master, back to their home planet of Gallifrey.  The Master’s spirit, though locked and concealed, manages to escape the box causing the TARDIS to spin out of control and “crash land” in San Francisco in 1999.  When the Seventh Doctor exits the TARDIS, he is shot by a gang of hoodlums chasing down another Asian hoodlum, Chang Lee (Lee Jee Tso).  The Doctor is rushed to a local hospital and, while in the ambulance, the Master’s spirit begins the process of taking over a temporary body; this being the body of the EMS employee.  In the hospital, because of his alien anatomy, heart surgeon Dr. Grace Holloway (Daphne Ashbrook) accidentally kills his seventh form on the table.  This sets the regeneration process in motion until the Doctor regenerates into his eighth form, played by one of my favorite (and most underrated) British actors, Paul McGann.  A bit amnesiac from the regeneration, the Doctor has to remember exactly who he is and starts a friendship, and slight romance, with Dr. Holloway who becomes his companion for this movie.  The Doctor has to stop the Master from destroying the fabric of the universe and stop the Master from taking over the Doctor’s body, since the Master’s temporary human body can’t handle the soul of a Time Lord.

Compared to the lower budget effects of the original series, this television movie is extremely high tech.  The camera moves, direction and editing are all much better than many of the older serials, just because of larger budget.  Unfortunately, the story isn’t as good as it could be.  It is oddly almost like a Terminator meets Doctor Who, as the Master in human form (played by Eric Roberts) is very reminiscent of T-1000.  I also hated the acting of Eric Roberts in this role, it was just too over-the-top and campy for me.  Yet, the worst actor in the lot, I think is Lee Jee Tso; he is just awful.  However, I liked Daphne Ashbrook as Dr. Holloway and actually really enjoyed Paul McGann as the doctor!  It’s a shame the script wasn’t better and that he didn’t have further chance to solidify himself in the role after this one televised appearance.  Furthermore, I have no idea why they allude to the fact that the Doctor is half human; it does nothing for the story and has never been alluded to before or after.  I just pretended that they didn’t say this about the Eighth Doctor, he is all Time Lord in my mind and that helps me enjoy the film more.

All complaints aside, I did enjoy the movie.  Yes, it could have been better, but it wasn’t a train wreck, especially for any true Doctor Who fan.  There are many nostalgic moments and lots of inside “jokes” for fans, and like I said, I really enjoyed Paul McGann as the Doctor.  Then again, Paul played in my all-time favorite British comedy, Withnail and I.  So, maybe I’m a bit biased.





Not your Basil Rathbone Holmes (Thank Goodness!)

21 07 2011

Copyright 2010 BBC/Masterpiece

In their down time from Doctor Who, current series head Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss set out to create a modern update on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic Sherlock Holmes.  Season One of the joint BBC and Masterpiece production aired in the summer of 2010 with three episodes, each totaling 88 minutes in length.

The first episode, A Study in Pink (an obvious take-off on Doyle’s “A Study in Scarlett”), lays out the groundwork and exposition for the characters of both Holmes and his associate Dr. John Watson.  This episode also introduces the two to each other for the first time, and has them decide to be roommates at the famous 221-B Baker Street address.  Staying very true to the books, all the idiosyncracies of the characters and their backgrounds are in tact, just with modern updates.  For instance, Watson served in the recent Afghanistan conflict in this version, where he received the bullet that injured his leg.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays Holmes and Martin Freeman plays Watson; they are both excellent in their roles.  I especially enjoyed Freeman’s performance as Watson; however, I am a bit bias, as my favorite character in the Holmes’ stories is generally that of Watson oddly enough.  I mean how cool would it be to be the companion of a mind like Holmes’s, a crack shot with a revolver and an expert medical doctor all-in-one?  Plus, you get the ladies and generally stand as a voice of reason to the sometimes aloof Holmes.

Not only does the series get placed in modern London, but they take expert advantage over the situation by incorporating many technological advances into the scripts.  Laptops, cell phones and other digital media devices are made use of in all three episodes extensively, sometimes even as key elements to the plot.  In addition, the producers came up with a clever way to visually present the use of such devices.  Rather than boring shots of a cell phone screen, they have animated text appear over the image to signify various text messages, etc.

The second series will be broadcast this fall in the same manner as the first, with three hour and a half long episodes.  I enjoyed Guy Ritchie’s theatrical version of Sherlock Holmes (2009) and am looking forward to the sequel later this year, but, though fun, it wasn’t a great movie.  This modernized adaptation of the classic stories is a different story; I don’t mind at all admitting that it is a brilliant, fresh take on series.  I absolutely love it.

For all you Netflix users out there, all three episodes of season one are available on Instant Watch.








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