Doctor Who: The Gathering?

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The core trait of Doctor Who is its malleability, its ability to change actors, emotional tones, and even genres from story to story, all the while remaining at heart the same show. Wild West, Ancient Rome, Skaro, or London through the ages; rational scientist, court jester, curmudgeonly soul; history, romance, action, farce: it’s all still Doctor Who. So it’s no surprise that the BBC has occasionally allowed everyone’s favorite time traveller to be “mashed up” with other pop culture phenomena, as in the exceedingly strange comic crossover featuring Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor and Patrick Stewart as Star Trek‘s Captain Picard facing off against the Cybermen and the Borg…

The most recent collaboration featuring the Doctor comes from Wizards of the Coast, who just announced a limited series of cards featuring the Doctor (in all manner of regeneration), companions, settings, and foes for their long-running collectible card game, Magic: The Gathering.

Artwork by Alexander Gering/WotC

Due out in 2023 to correspond with the series’ 60th anniversary celebrations, the cards will be available in a variety of formats: Commander Decks, special booster packs, and limited edition, print-on-demand Secret Lair boxes. My assumption is that the cards will not be usable for play in the most common M:TG game setting, known as “Standard,” which is a moving grouping of cards from the last several sets released, but instead will be legal in the more expansive Commander and Modern formats.

Artwork by Greg Staples/WotC

Even though I’ve long-since stopped playing Magic, the cards themselves should be quite attractive. The art on Magic cards takes up roughly half of the card itself, and WotC spares very little expense on the artwork. Just judging from the few samples already released, I have little doubt these sets will be in serious demand by fans and collectors of Magic and Doctor Who alike.

And yes, it’s almost certain that there will be a card titled “Exterminate!” featuring the Daleks…

(Obligatory Legal Note: This post is unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Images used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.)

Fourteen Found: Ncuti Gatwa is the Fourteenth Doctor

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Fresh regeneration news today from Gallifrey (and, er, the BBC), with the announcement that Ncuti Gatwa will take on the role of the Fourteenth Doctor.

As is now tradition with new Doctors, I find myself unaware of Gatwa’s prior work, which says more about my media consumption habits than his CV. His background seems to be in comedy, having starred most recently in the Netflix series Sex Education. It strikes me that very few Doctor Who leads have worked mostly on the comedic side prior to assuming the role. The part of the Doctor definitely requires a light, comedic touch at times, particularly with Russell T. Davies taking the series helm once more, so hopefully he’ll have scripts that play to his strengths there while staying true to the Doctor’s inherently serious mien.

Much like Matt Smith, Gatwa looks to be on the young side for the role, but he’s roughly as old as Peter Davison was upon taking the part of the Fifth Doctor, and Davison’s take on the part was anything but callow. If there’s one thing the BBC knows how to do, it’s casting, so I’m confident that Gatwa’s run on Doctor Who will add something new and interesting to the continuing lore of the series.

It must, of course, be noted that Gatwa will be the first person of color to lead the show, which is nearing its sixtieth anniversary. He is not the first person of color to play the Doctor, that title going to Jo Martin’s Fugitive Doctor, who debuted during Jodie Whittaker’s run as a previously unknown regeneration and fits in somewhere around the First Doctor’s timeline (as best anyone can tell). As with Whittaker’s expansion of the role’s possibilities, Gatwa’s appointment gives credence to the core conceit of the series, that the Doctor can be anyone via the magic of regeneration, and I look forward to following the Fourteenth Doctor’s adventures.

Whittaker Waves Goodbye: Thirteenth Doctor to Regenerate

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The BBC announced today that Jodie Whittaker intends to step down from the role of the Thirteenth Doctor after three seasons on Doctor Who, the final season airing later this year and her run concluding with with a trio of specials in 2022:

Much like with Peter Capaldi’s exit as the Twelfth Doctor, the BBC has made this announcement a good year ahead of Whittaker’s last scenes on the series being aired. News like this, though, would be nearly impossible to keep under wraps in this day and age. The set of specials to end the run calls to mind David Tennant’s departure, and while his specials were uneven at best, being freed from any running arc or companion linkages kept the focus on his Tenth Doctor, as befits a farewell.

Jodie Whittaker deserves no less. Her performance thus far, though hindered at times by the writing just like Capaldi, has kept Doctor Who both fresh and resonant. She has embodied an infectious joy and curiosity in her iteration of our favorite time traveller, with just a bit of the Second Doctor’s cheek and Fourth Doctor’s wit always lurking in the background.

Show runner Chris Chibnall also departs at the end of the specials, marking all change on the series. I frankly haven’t been terribly impressed with his overall impact on the show. While I love Jo Martin’s Fugitive Doctor, and would happily watch a full series of her pre-Hartnell exploits, the wholesale reconfiguration of the Doctor Who canon that accompanied her revelation takes some getting used to, even as someone who accepts the Morbius Doctors without much complaint. Change in general is fine, canon being a secondary consideration to good storytelling, but the story that accompanied the changes here just didn’t earn the right to such wholesale revision.

Jodie Whittaker was, of course, the first woman to play the role of the Doctor, and ideally not the last. One hopes that the BBC continues to expand the definitions of who the Doctor can be.

Classic Doctor Who Airs Again (Sort Of)

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Though probably not done in homage to this site’s long-standing Doctor Who Project, Twitch and the BBC have teamed up to give “classic” Doctor Who the marathon treatment. Weekdays from May 29th through July 23rd, the streaming site will be broadcasting most of the extant episodes of the series, showing a block of stories in order each day.

Doctor Who Marathon on Twitch

Sadly, the schedule indicates that they’re skipping some stories that are missing significant segments on film. Perhaps an understandable choice—Twitch is a video streaming site, after all—but it robs viewers of some signal moments and cuts the First and Second Doctor’s era to a mere twenty-six stories combined. So William Hartnell’s regeneration (and the first appearance of the Cybermen) in “The Tenth Planet” won’t be presented, even though only the final episode is missing and has been re-created via animation and tele-snap. And yet they’re showing “The Web of Fear,” which is similarly missing an episode that has been re-constructed. Bit of Yeti-bias there if you ask me…

Regardless of such quibbles, this Doctor Who marathon on Twitch promises to introduce these stories to a brand new audience. While I don’t think these fresh faces will be hiding behind couches like audiences of old, I’m hopeful that the original Doctors will nonetheless charm and delight a contemporary crowd and bring much-deserved attention to this monumental body of work.

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.)