Mister Doctor Men: Doctor Who Meets Roger Hargreaves


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


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


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.

A New Who: Peter Capaldi is the Twelfth Doctor


Evil, by Stuart Crawford on flickr.com, via a Creative Commons Attribution/Noncommerical/No Derivatives license.Well, that didn’t take long. A scant two months after announcing that Matt Smith would vacate the role of the Doctor, the BBC has announced that Peter Capaldi will be the next inhabitant of the TARDIS.

Unlike, well, all the new Who actors to play the Doctor, I actually knew of Capaldi’s work prior to the announcement, though solely from his turns on Torchwood and, interestingly, Doctor Who (in “The Fires of Pompeii”). I’m heartened by the fact that an actor with some considerable experience has taken on the role, particularly after the relative neophyte Matt Smith. Though hard to imagine, Capaldi is roughly the same age as William Hartnell when he took on the role of the First Doctor in 1963; and, like Hartnell, Capaldi brings both a dramatic and comedic background to the role.

I don’t find it difficult to see a sharper Doctor in Capaldi, one with a harder edge than Smith or Tennant, closer, indeed to Hartnell, but with some of the impishness of Troughton. I can’t imagine this Doctor being gravitas-deficient.

Time will only tell if showrunner Steven Moffat allows Capaldi to shape the character in an uniquely personal way or if he’ll simply ask Capaldi to parrot some catch-phrase (“Bow ties are allons-y!”) while the younger companion(s) run around chasing some MacGuffin that promises to tie up a season’s worth of loose ends in an utterly unsatisfying and frankly insulting manner.

(Image courtesy of Stuart Crawford via a Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike license.)

No Longer Lost in Time and Space: Two Recovered Doctor Who Episodes


Screenshot from The Underwater Menace via the BBCGood news from a jumble sale. The BBC reports that two presumed lost episodes from Doctor Who have turned up in the care of a retired television engineer who bought them in the 1980s.

As noted in our examination of the only partially extant “Marco Polo,” the BBC routinely wiped the expensive video tapes for re-use, resulting in the presumed loss of quite a few episodes from Doctor Who‘s early years. As Shaun Ley of the BBC observes:

The find makes only a modest dent in the number of missing episodes, with 106 instalments broadcast between 1964 and 1969 still being sought.

The two episodes, “Air Lock” from William Hartnell’s Season Three opener “Galaxy Four” and the untitled part 2 of Patrick Troughton’s “The Underwater Menace,” will apparently be made available via DVD at some point in the future.

I’d certainly prefer sooner rather than later, as I’m slowly closing in on Season Three in the Doctor Who Project. I have the novelization ready to go, but being able to see at least one of the four episodes of “Galaxy Four” would be of some help, as I don’t think the novelizations capture all of the Hartnellizations in the televised script. Until then, I’ll have to make do with the short clips the BBC has made available.

(Image via the BBC)

A Companion to the End: Elisabeth Sladen


Detail of 10/04/2009 17:24 on flickr.com by alun.vega via a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike license.The BBC has announced that actor Elisabeth Sladen, who played companion Sarah Jane Smith on Doctor Who alongside the Third and Fourth Doctors (and appeared again with the Tenth Doctor), has passed away.

Just as many people claim to have their own Doctor, the one who pops into mind when the Doctor is mentioned, Elisabeth Sladen’s portrayal of journalist Sarah Jane Smith is surely the most iconic of all the companions.

Her riveting performance in the Tenth Doctor episode “School Reunion,” early in David Tennant’s run, solidified my appreciation of the new series. Ever since Fourth Doctor Tom Baker dropped her off in what he thought, wrongly, was her native Croydon, Sarah Jane Smith had been waiting for the Doctor to return. He never did, until a chance meeting decades later brought them together again. The pain and wonder Elisabeth Sladen brought to her portayal of Sarah Jane Smith in “School Reunion” encapsulates the dilemma of all the Doctor’s companions: a few moments of wonder balanced against a lifetime that seems mundane in comparison.

Tor.com has a small appreciation of Elisabeth Sladen, as does Fourth Doctor Tom Baker on his website.

(Image detail courtesy of alun vega via a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike license.)