Tag Archives: Russell T Davies

Joy of Sets: New Doctor Who – Series 1

Christopher Eccleston

[Contains mild spoilers]

It’s easy to forget what sort of pressure there must have been for the rebooted Doctor Who to be a success back in 2005. Doctor Who was still a cult thing (though a popular cult thing) and the most recent attempt to resuscitate the series had been the Doctor Who movie with Paul McGann.

Rewatching ‘Rose’ as it introduces a whole new generation to the Doctor, the Tardis, the aliens and the monsters, is still a pleasure. It reminds us that it’s often the monsters that could be close to home that are the scariest – shop window dummies that come alive and make a sinister creaking noise as they move – but the fact that the Doctor remains cheerful in the face of danger stops it becoming horrific.

I adored Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor. He was perfect as the first rebooted Time Lord – sarky, funny, serious, rude and good at running. In fact, the first word he says as the Doctor is one that defined the Russell T Davies era for many: “Run!”

I was hooked from episode one, but there’s no denying that Rose does look (if you’ll pardon the expression) a little plastic compared to later episodes. Though I’m prepared to overlook everything for this exchange: Rose – “If you’re an alien, how comes you sound like you’re from the north?” Ninth Doctor – “Lots of planets have a north.”

Across 13 episodes we get to experience the mercurial nature of the Doctor, always the cleverest man in the room, but so often missing the point – at least as far as humans are concerned.

Reasons to rewatch this box set?

1. Christopher Eccleston (see above).

2. Dalek. Asks hard questions of the Doctor and shows us his brittle, battle-scarred side – it’s not a pretty sight. Also demonstrates that the Daleks have learned to conquer that old enemy – stairs…

3. Aliens of London/World War Three is not the ‘tosh’ that some dismiss it as. It’s not the best of the first series, but forgive the writers for trying to make the younger half of their audience laugh (few things make eight-year-olds laugh as hard as farts after all) and pay attention to a chilling conceit – aliens hiding in the upper echelons of government and planning a nuclear holocaust so they can sell off the planet to the highest bidders – and all the ‘domestic’ stuff that the Doctor hates so much. Russell T Davies captures the fallout of a 19-year-old girl vanishing perfectly – of course her mum would be distraught, of course her boyfriend would be a murder suspect. Including the emotional baggage didn’t turn Doctor Who into a soap opera, it gave it heart.

4. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances. My personal favourites of the first series. There are still moments that give me chills even on third or fourth rewatch. It has Captain Jack, though at the beginning of his character arc his ways aren’t as winning as they will be, Christopher Eccleston dancing, the gasmask monsters, a reference to Oliver, and “Everybody lives Rose! Just this once, everybody lives!”

The parting of the ways5. The Long Game/The Parting of the Ways. It still had me on the edge of my seat and it still made me cry. There are thrills of fear and love and it’s the moment where we see how the Doctor has made better people not just of Rose and Jack, but Mickey and Jackie too. It’s the story that makes me wish Christopher Eccleston had stayed longer  - even though David Tennant is My Doctor (and I’m itching to get onto Series 2 now). This two-parter was a great ending to a great series.

It’s been an absolute joy to rewatch. Fantastic? I should coco…

Posted by Jo the Hat

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Torchwood: Miracle Day – Saving the best for last?

A wise man (Ashes to Ashes writer Matthew Graham) recently advised me to judge programmes on what they try to achieve, rather than what I want them to achieve.

I have been trying my hardest to apply this, especially where Torchwood: Miracle Day is concerned. But even now, I’m not entirely sure what the aims of Miracle Day are. (A comment from John Barrowman is illuminating though. He has said that he’d rather make a compromised/Americanised Torchwood than not have it on TV at all – without Starz money, Miracle Day wouldn’t have happened afterall.)

Actually I think Miracle Day’s biggest problem may be the gap between what the production team wanted to achieve and what the Torchwood fan base wanted it to achieve. Children of Earth proved that you could change the format and tone of Torchwood without disappointing its fans (well, apart from the ones who are still pissed off that they killed Ianto). For all the darkness at the heart of CoE however, that heart was still pumping Torchwood blood around the body. Miracle Day feels like a mutation too far.

Is a compromised Torchwood better than no Torchwood at all? Have the flashes of good Torchwood been worth the soul-sucking awfulness of some of those early episodes – especially all that ‘we call mobiles cell phones over here’ nonsense? I’m still not sure, even after a good night’s sleep.

Perhaps a quick rattle through the good, the bad and the bearable mechanics of The Blood Line will help me to decide.

(Spoilers below the line…)

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Torchwood: Miracle Day – Back on track in time for the final lap

Typical. Bloody typical (feel free to read those words in a Welsh accent – they were certainly typed in one). Now that I’m properly hooked, there’s only one more episode of Miracle Day to go. Still, as a soppy old thing at heart, I’m also pleased that Torchwood isn’t letting me down anymore.

Sure, we’re asked to take several leaps of faith in The Gathering (I’ll elaborate below the spoiler line) but viewers who do get some reward this week.

The story rips along with plenty of betrayal, surprises galore and some zippy one-liners too. Welcome back Torchwood, we’ve missed you.

(Spoilers below the line…) Continue reading


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Torchwood: Miracle Day – You can’t just watch, you have to take sides

(This week, and every week, spoilers ahoy…)

So, episode two of Russell T Davies’s latest thought experiment rolls on.

There’s plenty of serious consideration given to the consequences of the global miracle this week – brilliant Dr Vera Juarez (Arlene Tur in ridiculous-for-any-woman-but especially-an-ER-doctor high heels) realises that the old system of triage is useless (they need to treat minor injuries first and get beds free for the seriously injured who have all the time in the world to wait for treatment), not to mention that humans are going to become incubators for infection and that bacteria are going to become seriously resistant to antibiotics if they keep treating the living dead with them. It’s all very thoughtful, but it can’t make up for the fact that there isn’t nearly enough Torchwood humour and sexiness going on right now.

We do have jeopardy and plenty of emotions though – Eve Myles giving it her all as she’s torn apart from Rhys and Anwen at Heathrow, and conveying the perfect mix of anger and pleasure at having Jack back to mess up her life. Their relationship continues to be real-life-complicated (one part attraction, two parts annoyance, three parts loyalty etc) and subtly played by Myles and John Barrowman.

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Torchwood: Miracle Day – The pieces are placed on the board

I have loved Torchwood in all its guises – chasing fish-headed aliens in fast cars, fighting and snogging Spike the vampire (sorry, Captain John) and the dark and deeply traumatic Children of Earth (CoE).

With one hour of Miracle Day under my belt, I’m pretty sure I’m going to love this incarnation too.

It’s 60 minutes spent setting up the pieces on the board, but it’s done with the usual humour and explosions, and with an eye to welcoming Torchwood virgins aboard.

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TV News – Torchwood: Death to death

“Where do you go after Children of Earth?” Eve Myles asks in a BBC interview. Apparently one place you go is Los Angeles, as the forthcoming series of Torchwood is partly filmed there.

Where you go conceptually is a mind-blowing idea – what happens if death stops? Russell T Davies has got ten episodes to explore the social and economic consequences. “We’re built on a world that’s destined to die,” he says. “We’re supposed to have three score years and ten and then pop off. Our culture and our economy is based around that.” He says he’s “very, very proud” of the series, which has all the Torchwood trademark elements of running around, shouting, shooting, drama and humour. And everything will be resolved at the end of the ten episodes and not left dangling, promises Russell T.

John Barrowman loves playing Captain Jack Harkness because “He’s a hero, but he’s been a bad guy in his time. People like to see characters who are a little flawed.” Maybe not quite as flawed as the baddie of the series, who is played by Bill Pullman. His character is a convicted child killer – who survives his own execution. With preview photos showing Gwen’s father on his deathbed, the stage is set for some huge moral and emotional themes to be played out.

Torchwood: Miracle Day airs in July in the US and later in the summer in the UK.

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Lip Service: slick & sexy but no Queer as Folk

I *loved* Queer as Folk. What a joyous couple of series they were, ten years ago or so now. Written by the genius that is Russell T Davies, it was rude, sexy, in-your-face marvellous as well as being really funny. It made me want to be a gay man in Manchester with a fabulous flat. Ideally, having sex with the wonderful Aiden Gillen, (which means I’m probably a bit confused, in a sexual sense, but never mind). I loved Craig Kelly in it too, and most of all I thought Denise Black was utterly fantastic.

I’d heard that Lip Service is a female version, set in Glasgow. Well, ish. It’s got everyone, even Tess who is an impoverished unemployed actor, living in stupendously gorgeous living spaces. Everyone is young, slender and very beautiful. And I’m (vicariously) quite enjoying the fact that everyone has lots of sex. It’s nice to think not everyone is tucked up in cosy pyjamas of an evening watching I’m a Celebrity whilst throwing crisps at Gillian McKeith.

The action centres around androgynous and gorgeous (but fucked up) photographer, Frankie, who has returned to Glasgow from New York after the unexpected death of her stepmother. When she left Scotland, she also ran out on architect girlfriend Cat. Cat is now in a relationship with policewoman Sam, which Frankie is hellbent on breaking up.

It’s engaging and interesting to be sure, enjoyable as well as being very stylish. And there are plenty of relationship complications to keep this fan of Mistresses happy. But it’s not of the calibre of Queer as Folk. Without Russell T Davies, it never was going to be.

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Doctor Who (5.5): Ducks, Pond and River

I think it’s fair to say that the only thing I saw coming this week (apart from the Doctor defeating his foe, naturellement) was the Doctor’s cunning plan to get everyone out of the trap at the end of last week’s episode.

Stephen Moffat maintains both the pace and the tension of the Time of Angels, and, I think, writes even better dialogue for the Doctor than Russell T Davies (and he gave him some fabulous lines too), viz: “It’s a death-trap, a time bomb and now it’s a dead end. Nobody panic.”

There is only one real plot going on here – escaping the angels (yes, we deal with ongoing stuff, why Amy doesn’t know about Daleks (the biggest reset button in history – v useful for a new writer taking over a show like this); who is River Song (still don’t know, but the implication is that she kills the Doctor at some point – can’t believe it’s without his permission, or indeed instruction though); the cracks in the universe (time energy from a fire at the end of the universe bleeding back and wiping away whatever it comes into contact with – including the poor old ducks, I guess); and Amy’s wedding (I have to say I wish she hadn’t tried to snog the Doctor – I know she’s just been traumatised and it’s common to want to get it on with your rescuer, and it’s an excuse to drag Rory off into the TARDIS, but I still wish there had been another way).

So, we’re breaking through deadlocked doors, escaping angels, running through a forest in the middle of the ship (the oxygen factory – guessing the Moff ain’t in climate change denial) avoiding more angels, saving Amy’s life from the Angel in her mind’s eye, and defeating the angel army in convincing (if slightly reminiscent of Doomsday) style.

What makes this episode sing is the cracking dialogue, the interweaving of all those ongoing plot elements with the main one, and some fabulous lighting and SFX.

The angels are creepier than ever – moving in the strobe light of gunfire first and then, when Amy can’t see them (if she opens her eyes she will die as the angel in her mind will take her over), actually moving like creatures of flesh rather than stone. Oh and their laughter – yikes.

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Doctor Who (5.2): Staying out of trouble – badly

With the niceties of introducing new Doctor, companion and TARDIS taken care of last week, Stephen Moffat gets back to what he’s really, really, exceptionally good at. Giving children nightmares. This man really knows how to push kids’ buttons (and always has – I was a huge fan of Press Gang back in the ’80s).

We open in a normal looking classroom, with kids queuing to leave and a mechanical voice doling out praise.

The voice belongs to a  mechanical dummy that looks like it should be at the end of Southend Pier. Even when a Smiler is smiling, he’s pretty sinister.

When he’s angry – and boy, you won’t like him when he’s angry – he’s diabolical.

The last boy in line gets a zero, and is told by his friend Mandy that he can’t come in the lift with a zero – “you know what happens”. She promises to wait for him twenty floors down, but Timmy steps into the next lift – which also has a resident Smiler – and quickly finds the lift plummeting 150 levels (my personal nightmare) before the floor slides back to reveal a fiery red glowing doom. Cue the new fire and ice titles…

It isn’t long before Amy and the Doctor stop mucking about in a quiet bit of space (who wouldn’t want to go for a spacewalk with the Doctor as the safety rope?) and descend to Starship UK (all the nations of the Earth having fled the kind of solar catastrophe so lovingly described by Prof Brian Cox in his first Wonders of the Solar System).

The Doctor explains (lies) to Amy that the main rule is only to observe, never interfere, and then like so many Federation officers before (or perhaps after) him goes on to break his own prime directive within five minutes. Amy tartly observes that it’s ‘no interfering unless it’s for a child crying’. The Doctor infers from the one child (Mandy) crying silently and being ignored by all the parents around that they have landed in a police state.

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Lustbox: David Tennant – Dr McDreamy

It’s not actually in Dr Who that I love David Tennant the most. He’s been great as The Doctor of course, but there is too much gurning for my liking. And my love of the programme will never be as intense as when I was eight years old, however much better produced it is now, and well scripted too of course, and for this I doff my cap at the marvel that is Russell T Davies. The problem with David Tennant playing The Doctor is that we don’t get to hear the rich chocolately yumminess of the actor’s Scottish accent. This was recently there for our audible pleasure when he chaired Never Mind the Buzzcocks

I miss Simon Amstell’s vicious wit on the programme, it’s become a more gentle beast now, with the gorgeously, surreally fabulous Noel Fielding (who said of himself that ”I count as a girl anyway’) so it’s still a great show. And having a Dr Who themed special complete with tardis, dalek in one of the line-ups and David Tennant in the driving seat was a lovely treat, especially sparking off the really quite bonkers, but nicely so, Catherine Tate and a splendidly acerbic Bernard Cribbens.

What I like about Tennant is that he appears to lack vanity, pomposity and any indication of a massive ego, despite being mobbed wherever he goes. He maintains an endearing slight air of geekiness and has a lovely cheeky face. He first caught my eye when he played Casanova in the 2005 mini-series. Never mind Colin Firth, I can’t see a frilly white shirt without thinking about Tennant ripping it off. And to be fair, he’s not just gorgeous, he is a very good actor too. He was also delightful on Radio 4′s Chain Reaction interviewing Richard Wilson, which gave us a double aural Scottish treat.

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