Found in the TARDIS Closets: Thirteenth Doctor’s Costume Unveiled

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Fresh on the heels of the cast reveal for the Thirteenth Doctor’s inaugural season, the BBC has unveiled her wardrobe as well.

The bright colors and whimsical touches (socks peeking from boots, suspenders, rainbow stripe) signal a pleasant departure from some of the more somber sartorial choices that the new Doctor Who series has delivered. Fezzes might have been cool, but the new look calls to mind for me nothing more than the playfulness seen in the Third through Sixth Doctors’ ensembles: puffy cravats and velour smoking jackets, wild scarves and hats, cricket-wear (with celery!), and whatever it was that Colin Baker wore.

It’s a new look for a new era, and I’m more than pleased that the show runners are embracing change—by going back to the show’s roots. For the first time in years, I’m excited about the series to come.

A Surfeit of Companions? New Doctor Who Cast Announced

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It’s practically a parlor game amongst fans of Doctor Who: what constitutes a companion? By and large, companions are understood to travel extensively with the Doctor. In the “classic” days, the only real argument concerned Sara Kingdom and Katarina, whose single journeys on the TARDIS made them eligible (in some misguided minds) for that elevated status.

The UNIT era introduced the notion of a standing cast of characters who were demonstrably not companions, if only because the Doctor never invited the Brig and Friends into the blue box, and after that, the Doctor’s adventures tended to the stand-alone, with no fixed location to which he frequently returned and thus no real room for a recurring cast outside the companion(s) du jour.

When the series came back in 2005, however, story arcs and recurring characters became the norm; the Ninth Doctor gained not just Rose Tyler but her extended family and friends. Though I’m hesitant to call Mickey a companion— in the classic sense of a person effectively chosen by the Doctor—and even less so Jackie, the new series has stretched the definition of companion such that they probably should be considered as such.

So the BBC’s announcement of the recurring cast for the Thirteenth Doctor’s inaugural season has me wondering: does the Doctor now have three actual “classic” companions, for the first time since the Fifth Doctor, or are we looking at another friends-and-family plan of people who are in the Doctor’s orbit and enter and leave as the needs of the inevitable story arc demand?

Image via BBC America at http://www.bbcamerica.com/anglophenia/2017/10/meet-the-cast-of-the-all-new-doctor-who-series-coming-to-bbc-america-fall-2018

From left to right: Mandip Gill, Bradley Walsh, Jodie Whittaker, Tosin Cole. Image via BBC America.

Details on the roles that Mandip Gill, Bradley Walsh, and Tosin Cole will play are, understandably, under wraps, with the series not resuming until next Fall and much still to be decided on the direction of the storyline. Count me in favor of returning to the old style of companions, though, of people who basically live on the TARDIS full time and come along on the Doctor’s journeys by default rather than being whisked away from their normal lives and returned, after a month of derring-do, a second after they left.

Consider me, indeed, old school in preferring the Stevens and Vickies and Leelas who have nowhere else to go after the Doctor turns their worlds upside down. The contemporary effort of tying the Doctor so tightly to Earth (modern Britain, more precisely), much like the Third Doctor’s exile, certainly makes for more relatable characters and settings. Cybermen and Daleks on the high street are always a bit startling. But it’s past time for the Doctor to get out there again, freed from terra firma, without having to worry about getting a companion home before the kettle boils over.

(Image via BBC America.)

Thirteenth Doctor Announced: Jodie Whittaker Takes the TARDIS Key

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The BBC announced the identity of the Thirteenth Doctor today, unveiling English actor Jodie Whittaker as the latest regeneration of our favorite time traveller.

Jodie Whittaker is the Thirteenth Doctor; screencap via http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p058vj2q

As the first woman to inhabit the title role in Doctor Who, Whittaker will undoubtedly come in for much scrutiny, but such retrograde hemming and hawing is par for the well-travelled course. Every change of actor has come with doomsayers, and yet these changes are at the heart(s) of the show.

The Doctor’s only real constant should be an old soul; all else remains quite mutable. Sometimes lost in discourses about the Doctor’s identity is the simple fact of his/her alienness. The Doctor is not human, not familiar, not normal, and every change of actor in the role should cause a bit of discomfort when compared to the prior actors. Certainly moving from an irascible male Scottish actor with significant eyebrows to a female English actor with blond hair provides that vital hint of dissonance that makes the show work.

I’m looking forward to seeing how Whittaker performs in the role, and I hope that the scripts for the forthcoming season treat the transformation with wit and verve and use the enormity of the change to drive the series forward.

(Image via BBC.)

Mister Doctor Men: Doctor Who Meets Roger Hargreaves

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The various incarnations of the Doctor have long lent themselves to caricatures: the Second Doctor’s flute, the Fourth Doctor’s flowing scarf, the Fifth Doctor’s, um, celery. So a combination of Doctor Who and the art style of Roger Hargreaves, of Mr. Men and Little Miss fame, seems, in retrospect, blazingly obvious.

Image from Dr. First by Adam Hargreaves, available via Penguin Books

Adam Hargreaves has carried on his father’s work, and in collaboration with the BBC and Penguin Books, he’s turned out a series of Doctor Who children’s books that plans to devote one installment to each Doctor. The First, Fourth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Doctor books have already been released, with the Second, Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth in the queue for this summer.

The results so far are certainly charming, though also undeniably aimed towards, well, children. (Of course, there’s an argument to be made that the entire series is aimed towards children, but we’ll ignore that debate for the time being.)

Image from Dr. Fourth by Adam Hargreaves, available via Penguin Books

For adult Whovians, the thin volumes serve as delightful little confections, priced perhaps a bit high for the amount of time one might reasonably spend with them but otherwise a nice addition to any Doctor Who book collection. I’m certainly appreciative of the inclusion of all of the Doctors, even the oft-overlooked Eighth. And for those hoping to introduce our favorite time traveller to young children, I can think of no better entry point than these cheerful and oddly respectful volumes.

(Images from Dr. First and Dr. Fourth by Adam Hargreaves.)

Capaldi Calls It Quits: Twelfth Doctor to Regenerate

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It took the original run of Doctor Who eighteen seasons to reach its Fifth Doctor. The new series has reached that milestone in ten seasons, as the BBC has announced that Peter Capaldi, the Twelfth Doctor (fourth of the current run) will be leaving the series at the end of Series Ten, due to start April 15th of this year:

The decision seems to be on the part of Peter Capaldi rather than the BBC, which I imagine would have liked to have a familiar face on screen as new showrunner Chris Chibnall takes over for Series Eleven. Not that I can blame Capaldi, since the series has seemed an afterthought on the part of the BBC for some time, with extended hiatuses the norm.

The Twelfth Doctor

I must confess that I never quite warmed to this iteration of the Doctor. Though I greatly appreciated the return to the more mature and irascible sort of Gallifreyan as depicted by the William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton, Capaldi’s Doctor never seemed to have scripts with sufficient depth of character to allow him to really shine. His portrayal might have fared better in the original run; I can see him performing quite well in some of Troughton’s stories, and Capaldi has always appeared to have a love of the show and the character that matches Hartnell’s similar appreciation for the role.

The timing of the announcement seems a bit odd, as an entire series of Capaldi’s era, plus a Christmas special, remains to be aired. Ostensibly, there’s no way to keep this news silent once the decision is made, but I wonder if the inevitable speculation frenzy over the next Doctor will overshadow the stories to come. And will the BBC choose (and announce) a new Doctor a good year before we can expect a Series Eleven? Only time (which Time Lords seem to have in spades) will tell . . .

Troughton's Trove: Nine Missing Doctor Who Episodes Recovered

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It reads as though from a movie script: hands gingerly picking up a dusty object from a forgotten archive, wiping off decades of grime, unearthing a lost treasure. In this case, the treasure is eleven episodes of Doctor Who, nine of which had been previously missing, from a television archive in Nigeria, according to the BBC.

The episodes, recovered by Philip Morris, complete the story “The Enemy of the World” and fill in much of “The Web of Fear,” both Second Doctor stories from Season Five. Coming on the heels of the recovery of single episodes from “Galaxy 4” and “The Underwater Menace” in late 2011, this huge recovery gives hope that there are more caches of forgotten Doctor Who episodes scattered about the Commonwealth. This discovery, and its attendant publicity, should spur some careful searching of dusty film closets. They have to be out there somewhere.

Still from The Web of Fear

While we wait for yet more discoveries, the BBC has remastered the episodes and made the two stories (with stills and audio narration for the missing episode of “The Web of Fear”) available on Apple’s iTunes at a relatively reasonable $10 each—a policy I would very much like to see them take with the other extant stories. It’s a small price to pay for Yetis in the London Underground and Patrick Troughton playing both the Second Doctor and an evil Australian dictator named Salamander, I think.