A year ago, a new radio series of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy secured the front cover of the Radio Times; this week, the next batch of radio episodes, a rerun of the 1981 television series and the release of the movie - along with the UK general election - all have to make way for VOTE DALEK! The foldout cover recreates one of the classic 1964 "Daleks invade London" shots (and is also being made available as a double-sided "giant" poster available to readers in exchange for a couple of tokens from the magazine. Daleks are everywhere in this week's edition, beginning with the Editor's Letter (page 3), which reckons that the real choice next week is not whether to re-elect the government but whether to cast your vote for the Daleks by pressing the button for BBC1 on Saturday. "The week's best television" (page 4) is headed by Saturday's episode: "One of the television's greatest icons is back on the box - and it's not very happy. But we are, just to see a Dalek head to head with the Doc once more." There are a couple of reader's letters (page 9) of interest, one complaining that Aliens of London's cliffhanger "was immediately spoilt by the preview of the second half of the story", another noting that the final moments of Casanova were ruined when "some crass programmer decided that was the moment to plug the return of Phil Mitchell to EastEnders." (This issue is also commented on by Alison Graham on page 61, with a nice photo montage of Phil Mitchell apparently attacking Casanova.) David Tennant, kilted, glass in hand and leaning against a poster of the Radio Times TARDIS cover of six weeks ago, is the main photo in a feature on the Bafta TV awards; he "revealed that he'd landed the role [...] months ago: 'It's been very hard keeping it a secret.' And would he last longer than Eccleston? 'I would love to do hundreds of episodes, but let's get through the first year before we think about that.'" (This may well be the first accurate transcription of what he actually said that night!) The big feature on Dalek begins on page 18 - four pages of photographs, details about the new Dalek design, an interview with Rob Shearman and comments from Bruno Langley, Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper and Nick Briggs. "When I wrote the first Dalek episode, I wasn't sure that 'Ex-ter-min-ate!' wasn't a bit silly. So I put it in a couple of times but I didn't really want it to be ranted," says Shearman, who admits his "softly softly" approach didn't go down well with executive producer Russell T Davies. "Russell's notes came back saying, 'Why not? I want to have kids in the playground saying Ex-termin-ate! all the time.' Of course, he was right." There's also a plug for BBC Books' Monsters and Villains paperback, available to order from RT Direct (ú7.99 incl. p&p). Dalek also restores Doctor Who to Pick of the Day in Saturday's Choices (page 62), with a large photo and preview: "So, the story we've all been waiting for, and it's a dream set-up [...] The mechanised monster has been majestically refurbished, and has some new tricks hidden under its beefed-up carapace [...] It's full of intriguing backstory and cool effects, but it's also quite intense [...] How great to see the Dalek back, though. CE-LE-BRATE!" The same page has a short piece ("The Inside Story") on the brief period last year when "it looked as if the Daleks would never be back". Rob Shearman is quoted again, saying, "We came up with a major villain that would have made the series slightly different [...] I daresay Russell will bring it back. He won't want that surprise spoilt." A Dalek heads the BBC1 listings column for Saturday (page 64), the blurb for the episode itself reading: "Rose finds herself caught in the middle of a fight to the death when the Time Lord's oldest and deadliest enemy rises once again." Doctor Who Confidential is listed on the facing page: "The Daleks have been the nemesis of the Time Lord since they first appeared - complete with sucker, ray gun and bad attitude - in 1963. Sylvester McCoy, Colin Baker, Peter Davison and Christopher Eccleston are among the Doctors talking about four decades of attempting to avoid extermination."
Ratings are in for the weekend's other broadcasts: according to ViewingFigures, Doctor Who Confidential on Saturday night had 425,350 viewers, with 355,500 watching the Sunday repeat, while the repeats ofWorld War Three (episode five) scored 168,000 viewers in the overnight broadcast (shown after midnight on early Sunday morning) and 477,030 viewers for Sunday at 7pm. Once again the figures were high in the multi channel ratings; "Confidential" was second in its timeslot with a 3.35% viewing share, beaten only by "The Simpsons" on Sky One, while the repeat showings on Sunday of "World War III" and "Confidential" were placed third and fourth with a 3.50% and 2.34% viewing share, again beaten only by programs from Sky One. We are also told that the figures on BBC3 for Doctor Who are the best the channel have had since it was launched.
Dalek, episode six coming this weekend, is reviewed by this week's The Observer. "At last we have an episode of Doctor Who to cherish and it's no coincidence that it features the return of one of the Doctor's oldest and most ruthless foes: a Dalek (above).... Veteran Who writer and Dalek enthusiast Robert Shearman has delivered a polished script which eclipses all those which have preceded it in this series.... Excellent." Yesterday's News Of The World also had an article about 'Dalek' which included two picture spoilers, one of which was a large image of the Dalek with its casing open.
The Press Association newswire featured a story today interviewing Bruno Langley, who plays Adam in the next two episodes of the series. "Not everyone can claim to have been chased down a corridor by a Dalek screaming `Exterminate!', but for Bruno Langley - best known for his role as Todd Grimshaw in Coronation Street - it was all in a day's work on the set of Doctor Who," says the article. As Langley says, "When they brought the Dalek onto the set, it was really exciting and everyone was taking photos. I do remember [Doctor Who] being on, but it was a bit before my time. I liked Alien and Terminator and stuff like that." Langley notes that his character, boy genius Adam Mitchell, notes that stairs aren't a problem for the Daleks. "I get the Doctor and Rose into a bit of trouble because I like meddling with things. Him thinking he's a genius gets him into bother." He also notes that the door is left open for Adam. "There's a chance of me coming back if the storyline allows it. I'd love to do it." He and Billie Piper "got on great - I was working with her for two months. She's a great girl. I think she's really got a lot going for her. She should probably make her way to America soon. I think Adam's more interested in technology side of things. Of course he fancies Rose, she's a gorgeous girl, but he's got more on his mind."
In today's Express: "BBC bosses, obliged to advise under-eights to watch the new Doctor Who with their parents following complaints that the show was too scary, should have extended the warning to yellow-bellied MPs. Shadow education secretary Tim Collins, 40, a well-known fan of the Timelord, admits: 'I love the new series - I find it scary. I'm still running behind the sofa in the same way I did when I was a child.'" The Express on Sunday, meanwhile, printed spoilers this past weekend about the forthcoming episode, but also comments from Christopher Eccleston: "The Daleks are burnt into our consciousness as children, " says Eccleston. "I must admit, the first day I walked on set and was confronted by a Dalek, my heart missed a beat." Mark Gatiss, who wrote "The Unquiet Dead," sayid that "No series would be the same without [the Daleks]. When Chris Eccleston tells you they're terrifying, they're terrifying." And Nick Briggs, who did the voices, says, "I love the Daleks because they're truly scary. Of course, if a dustbin came into this room, you'd laugh but if it then spoke in that terrifying voice about exterminating you and blasted away at you with its ray-gun, you wouldn't be laughing any more."
Christopher Bidmead, former Doctor Who script editor in the late 1970's/early 1980's, wrote an article for today'sDaily Telegraph. "'This is quality television,' my 13-year-old daughter Evie cried out in the middle of episode three of the new Doctor Who series. Like me, she's been impressed by the delicious special effects, the fast-moving action and the witty juxtaposition of street cred and fantasy sci-fi. Yes, OK, quality television indeed. But is it 'Doctor Who'? I ask her. And, of course, she doesn't understand the question. At the end of 1979, as Tom Baker was nearing the end of his time as the Doctor, the BBC invited me in to talk about the post of script editor for the upcoming series. I'd been scriptwriting for a commercial TV soap opera, and had done a few science features for New Scientist. Somebody at the BBC had jumped to the conclusion that this combination might equip me to steer the Doctor in his adventures through time and space for a season or two. That someone turned out to be executive producer Barry Letts. I got the job, I think, because Barry and I saw eye-to-eye on one important point - during the '70s Doctor Who had become just too silly. A distinguished producer of the show in earlier days, Barry recalled the ideas behind its launch: the Doctor exemplified for young viewers the power of scientific thinking to solve problems. Science stretched into fantastic future shapes, yes, but the show had a serious social purpose. It must never be silly, never be mere magic. In the following months, I sweated away behind a row of telephones in Union House, Shepherd's Bush, recruiting my contingent of writers. (Nigel 'Quatermass' Kneale, the first candidate on my ambitious list, hated the show and hung up on me.) Inevitably, the influence of earlier seasons still hung over us, and much of the work was stripping out those tendencies from the new scripts. Instead of 'bafflegab' that allowed the good Doctor to rescue his party by deftly 'reversing the positron flow', we tried to build our stories on solid, if fancifully extended, scientific ideas. Ironically, the previous Doctor Who script editor, Douglas Adams, had crammed his own Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy with real scientific concepts, although stretched to their breaking point and beyond. But, when it came to Doctor Who, it seemed he was happy for the show to continue along the psychedelic course set for it through the '70s. Our purging of silliness from the show wasn't just political correctness. It made the stories much better. The Doctor's 'sonic screwdriver', for example, was magical baggage we had to lose. A pen-sized gizmo that could blast through tempered steel, translate Azurian into English, and fend off the Karturi by generating an impenetrable neutron dome might be just the ticket in real life, but in fiction was a sure-fire story-killer. We didn't want our audience shouting out from behind the sofa 'where's the sonic screwdriver?' whenever peril threatened. We wanted a strong narrative line, and we relished the way our storylines could arc over four episodes, bristling with cliffhangers. All of which seems to be missing from the current season. Perhaps it's fear of a short audience attention span that has contracted the stories to single or double episodes. To compensate, we get snappy dialogue and a couple of cracking lead actors who do a lot of running around. If a quarter of a century ago the first two laws of Doctor Who were 'Science' and 'Story', then the third was 'Keep It Special'. It might be a super sight gag, or a spooky spine tingle, but if it had shades of Benny Hill, or The Prisoner, out it went. And that, for me, is why today's Doctor Who just isn't Doctor Who. But every time my daugher Evie spots this season's debt to something like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for her it just adds to the fun. So what do I know?"
The Mirror notes that Christopher Eccleston "has come under fire from former Doctor Who star Peter Davison for quitting after just one series. He accused the 41-year-old actor of 'letting down' the show as fans won't enjoy it as much knowing that he is leaving. Davison, 54 - who played the doctor from 1982 for three series - added: "He is letting down the programme. His commitment should have been for at least a couple, maybe three, series. I hate to see, after all the effort that went into getting the programme back on TV, Doctor Who scuppered by an actor saying 'I don't want to do this anymore'. ... It is now difficult for people to watch knowing he has walked out on the show. I don't think you can engage with the new doctor in the way you should be able to.'" Sky News, Contact Music and Ananova have also picked up the article.
Today's Mirror also notes that "Billie Piper hasn't been studying her Dr Who handbook. The actress was quizzed by Christian O'Connell on his Xfm breakfast show about the return of the Daleks in next week's episode. But, embarrassingly, the 22-year-old - who plays the Timelord's sidekick Rose Tyler in the hit BBC1 show - didn't have a clue that Davros was the evil creator of the Daleks. Billie said she hadn't watched any of the series. 'I'm usually out socialising. I'm going to wait and watch the whole box set in one go,' she said. But when Christian asked her if Davros is still in charge of the Daleks, she answered: 'Who's that?' O'Connell replied: 'Oh Billie! Have a word with yourself.'"
An interesting letter in yesterday's South Wales Echo corrects information reported earlier in the paper about location filming on "The Unquiet Dead," episode three. "I would like to point out that not all the episode was filmed in Swansea... A great deal of the internal and some external scenes were actually filmed at the Headlands National Children's Home in Penarth," writes school principal Dave Haswell. "We would like to thank the BBC production team for allowing our children and staff here at Headlands to view the film sets and props that were used, our children found them amazing. The principle actors Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper and Simon Callow were only too happy to sign autographs and chat with our children between filming. We at Headlands wish the Doctor Who series all the best for the future."
The Sunday Times political gossip column, "Atticus" reported yesterday that the Labour Party had made an informal approach to Christopher Eccleston to elicit his support for the election campaign, but had been politely refused û on the grounds that as a high profile BBC TV star, he had to remain neutral. It also suggested that the Tories thought he might support them (!) on the grounds that Tim Collins had thrown his weight behind the show. Also, in the Time's "Culture" magazine, Doctor Who is selected as one of the "Set Your Video For This" items, with the simple tagline: "One Word For You: Daleks"!. It also appears in the picks of the day for Saturday 30th April, with a mention of the Daleks ability to go up stairs.
Russell T Davies is interviewed in the May edition of Gay Times magazine. In the two-page article he discusses the ratings success of the new series ("No-one ever expected those viewing figures. No-one in even the most drunken meeting ever thought that."), why he didn't watch 'Rose' when it aired on BBC1, the Dr Who-obsessed character Vince from the original U.K. version of Queer As Folk, the appeal of Dr Who to gay men, and the presence of sexuality in the new series. On the first showing of 'Rose' on BBC1 he says: "Some friends asked me to come over so I ended up going to their house and getting pissed. We didn't watch it. The week before, we screened the first episode for the DVD trade mags - and that was the 373rd time for me. That's when I thought, 'I'm sick of seeing it'. But I'd shown it to my friends a couple of months before, and they really liked it." On Vince from Queer As Folk: "He was an easy character to write because I knew what he'd go home and do. And I was sick of seeing Doctor Who fans on TV with long scarves, so I wanted to take a really sexy young man and make him a Doctor Who fan - and, most importantly, have all his friends know about it. He wasn't in the closet about it at all, he could talk openly about how he really loved 'The Tenth Planet'." On sexuality in the new series, he says: "We do get someone calling the Doctor 'gay' for the first time in Doctor Who's history. He's moaning about just being slapped by someone and he's going on about it, so Rose says, 'You're so gay'. There we are: that's a first. The whole thing is set in 2005, so there's a much more open understanding of sexuality [than in the original series]." And he makes a couple of comments about one of the characters from later in the series, Captian Jack: "The story doesn't discuss it explicitly, but quite obviously he'd sleep with anyone. One of my favourite bits is where Jack thinks he's going to his death, and he does a big 'goodbye' speech to Rose and gives her a kiss, then does a big speech to the Doctor and gives him a kiss. Just a little kiss. His character's from the 51st century, so I thought, 'If we're not like that in the 51st century, when will we be?'. No-one's made a fuss about it, because it's been done really naturally and it's really funny, as well." Russell also praises up-coming guest star Bruno Langley, and then finally concludes that, "The whole show is stunning; it's everything I ever wanted to make. It's so colourful; so big and bold - and you wouldn't think it was shot in Cardiff."
The Guardian says that "BBC1 floors Celebrity Wrestling," reporting on the weekend's ratings debacle for ITV: "ITV1's audience share fell below 17% on Saturday when its two new entertainment shows were trounced in the ratings. Celebrity Wrestling, despite all the pre-launch hype, failed to topple BBC1's Doctor Who, while ITV1's Hell's Kitchen sank to its second lowest audience so far. ITV's decision to replace Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway with a string of grappling D-listers failed to pay off - Celebrity Wrestling attracted just 3.8 million viewers and a scant 21% share. Ant and Dec signed off with a bang last week, beating Doctor Who for the first time in four weeks and helping ITV1 to an all-hours share of 20.8%. Saturday Night Takeaway, averaging an audience of more than 7.1 million, nudged ahead of Doctor Who, which pulled 7 million viewers, its lowest audience to date. This week, however, BBC1's timelord attracted nearly twice as many viewers as Celebrity Wrestling." Broadcast Now also covers this.
A CBBC News poll shows that Doctor Who and The Simpsons are tied for first place on "What is your favourite TV programme?" (at least, at press time). Both shows lead with 15.25% of the vote.
The Daily Star said yesterday that Billie Piper "got her revenge on estranged husband Chris Evans - by setting the Daleks on him. She got one of the telly baddies to shout: 'Exterminate! Exterminate!' down the phone at him. The sexy actress kept playing the prank on the 38-year-old media tycoon at the height of their marriage troubles while she was filming the hit BBC sci-fi series. Billie, 22, who plays the Doctor's sidekick Rose in the show, kept asking the man behind the Daleks' voices on the show to speak into her mobile. He would give callers - including Evans - a shock by uttering the evil Daleks' notorious catchphrase. Actor Nicholas Briggs, 35, revealed: 'Billie came up to me on set with her mobile and she'd tell the person on the other end, "There's someone to speak to you." Then she'd hand over the phone and I'd go, "Exterminate! Exterminate! You are an enemy of the Daleks!" She did it with all her friends. Billie also asked me if I'd record her voicemail message, so she could tell callers they'd be exterminated if they didn't leave a message." It also notes that Barnaby Edwards, who operated the Dalek, said Billie spent hours chatting to him about her life - while he was stuck inside the mechanical monster. "Billie was great. She would lean on the Dalek and we'd chat about all sorts. I can't reveal what, though!"
"Take me to your earth leader. Exterminate!" says today's Times. "So what has Russell T. Davies, chief writer and executive producer of Doctor Who, got against Tony Blair?" the newspaper asks, discussing a plot point about the aliens in the two-part story "Aliens of London" and "World War Three"... and saying that the aliens have a habit of "only revealing their true selves when they lie." We must wonder exactly who at the Times is watching the show... since the idea that the aliens reveal themselves when they lie was a rumor reported last summer -- and it's not true, as the rumor was later debunked by Russell T Davies!
Some additional press clips today: the Guardian notes that "Christopher Eccleston's replacements are already auditioning on ITV," discussing the ITV series "Hit Me Baby One More Time" which shows on Saturday nights; today'sDaily Record repeats interview comments from David Tennant; the Cool Stuff section in this weekÆs Sci Fi Weekly is all about the new Dr Who miniatures, written by fan writer Sean Huxter; the Ask Men website currently features a Doctor Who montage as their video of the day from April 18 (but it's still available now); Leeds Today discusses the police box that has "put a little corner of Yorkshire in the spotlight," noting that "Wetherby Police Station's old-fashioned 1950s style police box is a dead ringer for Dr Who's Tardis û and is attracting a flow of visitors and fans of the time lord"; theDaily Record says that "Billie Piper wishes she had a sofa to hide behind as a Dalek has her in its sights" discussing this weekend's new episode; and theofficial Doctor Who Website has once again been updated to include photos and details on "Dalek" in advance of the broadcast.
(Thanks to Paul Engelberg, Steve Tribe, Andy Parish, Simon Mapp, Adam Williams, Steven Perry, Assad Khaishgi, Sean Parnell)