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.)

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 . . .

Materializing Soon: LEGO Doctor Who Set Scheduled

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Not that there was much doubt it would eventually happen, but LEGO has finally scheduled the release for what, one hopes, is the first of many Doctor Who building sets. Landing right after Thanksgiving, on December 1st, the inaugural Doctor Who LEGO set features the TARDIS (with detachable police box and console play area), buildable Daleks, and minifigs for the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors, plus current companion Clara and a Weeping Angel for good measure.

Image via https://ideas.lego.com/blogs/1-blog/post/44

I had put my money on a November 23rd release, to coincide with the series’ anniversary, but December 1st isn’t too far off. I certainly hope that LEGO has sufficiently estimated demand for this product, as the early rumblings seem to suggest the Venn diagram of LEGO enthusiasts and Whovians overlaps to a fair (OK, absurd) extent, and the LEGO Ideas line tends to be limited run. Even at the US$60 price point, Doctor Who fans will not find it a difficult purchasing decision, though the choice of Doctors and companion leaves, perhaps, something to be desired. I realize my dream set of the First Doctor, Vicki, and Steven facing off the the Dhravins from “Galaxy Four” would make for a hard sell, but still, no Doctor from the original run? Not even a K-9?

Given that this set will sell as well as Yeti take to the Underground, ideally LEGO will produce variant consoles and the proper Doctors to go with them, either as separate sets or as expansions to this set. They’ve already done something similar with their planned LEGO Dimensions Doctor Who set, albeit in a mostly digital fashion, so I imagine that the licensing would not be impossibly prohibitive.

The popularity of the current iteration of the series makes the inclusion of the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors essentially mandatory, but a Whovian can dream of LEGO Sensorites…

(Image via LEGO Ideas Blog)

Another Brick Blue Box: Doctor Who Revealed for Lego Dimensions

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Following news earlier this year that a Doctor Who Lego set has been approved via the fan-suggested Lego Ideas brand, we now have seeming confirmation from Lego fansite Brickset that a Doctor Who “level pack” will be available for the forthcoming console game Lego Dimensions. Image via http://brickset.com/article/15231/more-dimensions-packs-revealed-in-instructions

Lego Dimensions follows on the heels of console games such as Skylanders and Disney Infinity that feature physical figures placed on a special sensor mat or base, allowing the figure to appear in virtual form on screen. Travellers’ Tales, the studio behind the highly successful Lego video games of the past decade, is also developing Lego Dimensions, so one more or less knows what to expect from the gameplay—puzzles, jumping, and bashing baddies into bloodless blocks. I’ve enjoyed their games for what they offer, and Lego Marvel Super Heroes was quite a bit more fun than it had any right to be, but they’re not excessively deep games. Lego Dimensions was only slightly on my radar. Until this announcement, of course.

The Doctor Who set would appear to include a TARDIS model, plus the Twelfth Doctor and K-9. If it’s at par with the announced level packs, retail will be around thirty dollars, with the mandatory starter pack at a hundred. To buy the set just for the pieces makes little sense, as there’s maybe five bucks in plastic involved, total. You’re paying $30 to play with the figures in the Lego Dimensions game, with animations and effects and such, plus an adventure level focused on the pieces. So this is not an automatic purchase for people who like little figures sitting in front of their computers.

The more significant take-away here is that Lego is moving forward with Doctor Who licensed products on at least two fronts, and with luck, we’ll see a wider range of Doctor Who figures, at the very least encompassing all the Doctors and many of the companions. If Travellers’ Tales can bring a level of gameplay to Lego Dimensions on par with Lego Marvel Super Heroes, the console game and its sets might be worth keeping an eye on.

Besides, there’s also apparently a Simpsons level pack in the works…

(Image via Brickset)

A New Who: Peter Capaldi is the Twelfth Doctor

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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/Noncommerical/No Derivatives license.)