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4/05/2005 07:14:00 pm - Reported by Shaun Lyon


April 5, 2005 • Posted By Shaun Lyon
Will Doctor Who soon move to a new time slot... or is its lead in, "Strictly Dance Fever," going to be shifted? That's the big question, as the BBC'sNational Lottery website states that "Julian Clary is hosting The National Lottery Come and Have a Go on BBC ONE, April the 23rd, from 7.20pm." As our correspondent Dominic May wrote, either "Strictly Dance Fever" is considered a flop and Doctor Who moves to an earlier time slot... or perhaps Doctor Who moves to a slot after the lottery show. (Perhaps "Casualty" moves to Sundays?) Either way, it would also impact the transmission of "Doctor Who Confidential." As soon as we know for sure about the time switch, we'll let you know.

Phase Three of the BBC Doctor Who Press Pack was released today. The first segment is an interview with Simon Callow, who plays Charles Dickens in the next episode to be transmitted, "The Unquiet Dead." "When I heard that Dickens was going to be in Doctor Who, my heart rather sank," Simon admits. "I get sent a lot of scripts which feature him as a kind of all-purpose Victorian literary character and really understand little, if anything, about him, his life or his books. But, as well as being brilliantly written, Mark [Gatiss]'s script was obviously the work of someone who knows exactly what Dickens is all about." He also discusses what his career might have held, had the BBC been paying attention: "When the BBC decided to bring Doctor Who back as a feature film a few years ago, one national newspaper ran a poll to ask its readers who should be the new Doctor, and I topped it. Sadly, the producers failed to take note of this highly important statement of public opinion, so I never got my chance!" Writer Mark Gatiss is also interviewed, where he talks about the ideas for his episode. "The original idea came from Russell T Davies, but it was ideal for me - a Victorian ghost story set at Christmas with dead coming back to life! I've always had this thing about possession. Alan Bennett once said that we all have only a few beans in the tin to rattle, and I do tend to keep coming back to the idea of things being possessed. They're always my favourite kind of stories and it really must scare me on some basical level, the concept of being occupied by other entities." Of course, being part of the series was a dream come true for Mark: "Being asked to write for the new series was the best present I've ever had. But having wanted the show to return for so long, it was also a bit daunting and I think we (the writers) all ran around like headless chickens for a while. But then you just have to get on with it and the hard work really starts, but it's always a joy because of the love and loyalty we have for the show."

The Globe and Mail newspaper in Canada features an article entitled "Who's Back. And Who's Looking Vastly Entertaining" regarding the debut of the series tonight on CBC Television. "If you've never been exposed to Dr. Who, you're probably wondering why there is all the fuss. Well, there are plenty of reasons for the fandango of interest," says the article. "Tonight's first episode of Dr. Who is terrific. It's wacky, colourful, lively and vastly entertaining. (I'll tell you here that I was never smitten with the series. Even when I saw it as a kid, I thought it was a very square drama.) In fact, it's a great example of a tired concept being expertly revived and cast. The BBC brought in Russell T. Davies, creator of the original Queer as Folk, to write it and he's done a superb job." You can read the full review (note: spoilers!) at the Globe and Mail site. Interestingly, the American newspapers the Detroit Free Press and Seattle Post Intelligencer also discuss the new series briefly; obviously, American viewers close to the Canadian border will likely luck out in this situation. Meanwhile, other Canadian newspapers including the Toronto Star and The Record (Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario) are covering the series' debut in their print editions.

Colin Baker, writing in his column in the Bucks Free Press, today gave his own impressions of the new Doctor Who series. "I watched the first episode of the new Doctor Who with a mixture of delight and ruefulness. Delight because it is precisely the mix of innovative creativity and connection to the past that the future of the programme needed," Baker wrote. "Christopher Eccleston is absolutely spot on. He looks splendid; that's the costume I would have liked black leather jacket, black T-shirt - although, I must admit it looks better on him. He has just the right mix of humour, passion, quirkiness and single-mindedness to provide the dynamo that is necessary at the centre of the programme. Billie Piper too is an unexpected revelation and has made the perfect start. And the writing, special effects, filmic style and "look" have been pitched at precisely the right level. All of which has contributed to a whole fresh and inspiring feel to the programme." He notes that Eccleston is "following a Liverpudlian (Paul McGann), a Scot (Sylvester McCoy), and another Mancunian (me) none of whom would have been invited, or allowed, to play the role as a northerner," and finishes up with the comment "The Doctor is back with a vengeance."

Simon Pegg is the subject of an article that ran in several places today noting that he "has revealed he has been cast as a villain called The Editor in the new series of Doctor Who." The article notes that (spoilers... select to read): "He makes a cameo appearance in episode seven of the sci-fi show, as controller of the 500th floor of a mysterious building from which time travellers do not return. The Spaced actor is one of several guest stars in the BBC1 drama, featuring Christopher Eccleston as the Time Lord and Billie Piper as his assistant. Pegg, 35, who told Nuts magazine he had been cast as The Editor, said, 'I'm in one episode of the new Doctor Who. I think it's going to be spectacular.'" The article's been carried at This is LondonDaily Record,Sky NewsScotsmanRTEUTV, and Western Mail.

"Doctor Who meets Dickens!" says the cover of today's new edition of Radio Times (9û15 April) and, although there's no front cover picture, the magazine is maintaining its high level of new series coverage. Once again, this week's episode is the first selection in RT's pick of the week's best television (page 4) and a photograph of Simon Callow as Charles Dickens accompanies a short blurb: "Corking episode written by the League of Gentlemen's Mark Gatiss, when the Doc, aided by Charles Dicken (Simon Callow), fights the spirit world." Reader's Letters (page 9) include three very positive responses to the first episode ("I've not felt so enthused about a TV programme for years") under the heading "Saviour of Earthlings...", while a fourth letter is headed "... or an obvious spoof?" and suggests that "As comedy it was great, but as serious sci-fi, well, pull the other one." A standard publicity shot of the Doctor and Rose is captioned "putting the fun, and fear, back into Saturday nights." This week's "Doctor Who Watch" (page 16) presents an interview with writer Mark Gatiss and features four small photographs from Saturday's episode. (It's worth noting that no other television series gets a weekly feature to itself in this way - even EastEnders is covered as part of a general soaps column.) The Radio Times television editor, Alison Graham (page 61), notes that "The first episode [...] secured nearly ten million viewers and garnered great critical praise. As audiences become ever more fractured, it's heartening to see a genuine piece of popular teatime family viewing. Surely it's good for kids to have a communal TV touchstone that isn't a soap opera." (She does rather ruin things on page 94 when she suggests the presenter of a property show as Eccleston's replacement.) She also notes that Doctor Who was "the obvious winner over Easter", giving ratings for the weekend's other "success stories": Colditz 5.3m, Fingersmith 4.9m, The Queen's Castle 6.5m, Strictly Dance Fever 4.9m. Once we get to the week's listings (page 62), The Unquiet Dead is Saturday's Pick of the Day: with a nice photo from the story, "it's as blackly comic as you'd expect [from Mark Gatiss]. [...] It's all terrific fun and everyone throws themselves into it with gusto. There are genuine shivers, so be warned û tinies may find it disturbing." Another photo (of Eccleston and Callow, page 64) highlights the actual listing: "When the dead start walking and creatures made of gas are on the loose, Charles Dickens proves to be an unlikley ally for the Doctor and Rose". Doctor Who Confidential asks "Where - or rather when - would the Doctor be without the Tardis? [...] the programme looks back over the 40-year history of the intergalactic time machine" (page 65). Meanwhile, BBC Four takes advantage of this week's episode - on Saturday at 8.15pm, the channel is broadcasting The Mystersy of Charles Dickens with Simon Callow as Dickens, and there are other Dickens programmes throughout the week. UKTV Gold is offering The Horns of Nimon for anyone who prefers their Christmas panto a little less Dickensian! And Sunday's TV listings (page 73) confirm a repeat of the third part of Doctor Who Confidential on Sunday, immediately after the second showing of The Unquiet Dead. Finally, Russell T Davies: Unscripted (reported on OG on 4 April) is one of the week's Digital/Cable Highlights on Monday (page 78); it's on BBC Four at 10pm, repeated at 1.10am and 3.25am, and on Thursday 14 April at 11pm, while BBC One's showing of Davies' Casanova with David Tennant continues on Monday at 9pm.

Today's Times features a convincing argument for "why the next Doctor Who should be black." "When it comes to casting black characters, the producers of Doctor Who seem to be on another planet. The BBC should do more to provide positive role models. ... Like, I expect, many black people in the UK I watched the first episode of the new Doctor Who and cringed. When you are watching television, you tend to identify with people like you. Women identify with other women, men with other men, and people from one particular ethnic group with other people like them. The only character from an ethnic minority in this programme was the boyfriend of Rose - Doctor Who's new sidekick. ... There has been a lot of talk about positive role models for young African and Caribbean boys in the UK. Positive role models in society may improve kids' results at school. They offer a sense of belonging and being part of the mainstream. They give you something to aim for. But negative role models marginalise black kids, increasing their interest in other sources of positive affirmation, pride and respect, such as gangs, hip-hop and gun culture. The BBC may think it is doing its bit by having black presenters and other characters on TV. But that is not what inspires people. For that you need black people to be protagonists and heroes. And you rarely find black heroes on TV. ... But here is an idea. Christopher Eccleston, the ninth incarnation of the doctor is giving up at the end of the series. A new Doctor is required. All of them so far have been white men. Why can't the tenth Doctor be black?" The article, written by a societal psychiatrist who specializes in causes of mental illness, racism and social capital, is a very interesting read.

Christopher Eccleston will take part in a televised concert, A Party to Remember, to mark the 60th anniversary of VE Day. The concert, on May 8, will be hosted by BBC presenter Natasha Kaplinsky and GMTV host Eamonn Holmes. Among the other celebrities involved are singer Will Young, Kate Melua, Welsh opera star Katherine Jenkins and Heather Mills McCartney. Articles discussing the event can be found at BBC Newsic Network, theScotsman.

CBBC Newsround has a review of the second episode from one of its teenage readers.

Today's Daily Star has a brief note that mentions that Rhys Ifans, who was Hugh Grant's scruffy lodger Spike in hit movie "Notting Hill," is in the running to play the Doctor... but this could be a simple case of putting the actor's name into the papers.

Several papers and online news sources today carried the story about the BBC's apology to Christopher Eccleston, which we reported yesterday, including Channel 4CBBC NewsMediaGuardianManchester Online,This Is London,The ExaminerWaveGuideITV NewsContactMusic,The TelegraphDigitalSpyBreakingNews, andBrand Republic.

(Thanks to Paul Engelberg, Steve Tribe, Dominic May, Chuck Foster, Paul Hayes, Louise March, Zoe Hudson, Tony Jordan, Paul Jobber)