Wednesday, 18 May 2005

Tuesday-Wednesday Series News Roundup


May 18, 2005 • Posted By Shaun Lyon
The Empty Child

Press Pack Seven is now available on the BBC website. The press pack discusses the two-part story starting with this weekend's The Empty Child. "Discovering he had been chosen as one of the writers on the new series of Doctor Who helped to seal a perfect day for Steven Moffat, writer of Coupling. 'I heard I'd got the job on the way to the Comedy Awards, where we won for my BBC TWO series Coupling, and I got to meet (former Doctor Who) Peter Davison,' he recalls. Like the other writers working on the Doctor's return, Steven is a big Doctor Who fan. 'I remember me and (fellow Doctor Who writer) Mark Gatiss drunkenly pitching the return of the show to the BBC's Head of Comedy at a party once and him saying 'It sounds very interesting, but I'm comedy'. Getting involved in the new series was absolutely thrilling, but I guess I took a deep breath before I started writing my episodes.'" The press pack notes that Moffat scripted one of three two-parters in the new run, a sinister tale set in London during the Blitz, where a mysterious presence is mutating humans into something not of this world. Best known for his comedy work, he says: "Comedy is just another sort of drama really, and there's always been comedy in Doctor Who to offset its scariness. To my mind, Doctor Who should be predominantly scary, but you can't make it too terrifying if you're aiming it at a family audience. I've always seen it as a kind of badly-behaved children's show. It scared and thrilled me as a kid and will hopefully do the same to a new generation of viewers this time round." Also interviewed are Richard Wilson and John Barrowman, who star as Dr. Constantine and Captain Jack Harkness. "He can't quite believe it. But Richard Wilson was happy to take on the role of a second doctor in the continuing adventures of a certain Time Lord. The 'One Foot In The Grave' star plays Dr Constantine, a bemused hospital medic in a new two-part story..." says the article. "I thought the writing was of a very high standard and very interesting," explains Wilson. "I think that is one of the strengths of the new series of Doctor Who." Barrowman notes that his character is "actually a Time Agent - part of a kind of space CIA - and he's trying to find two years of his memory that have disappeared. He's a rogue Time Agent and he knows he's done something in the past and he's not sure what it is or whether it is good or bad, because his memory has been erased. But he's also an intergalactic conman and he starts off by trying to con the Doctor and Rose." Read the whole interview at the website. (Manchester Online has reprinted some of this.)

The weekly revision to the official site is now in place for The Empty Child, this week with sound: "Please let me in, Mummy. I'm scared of the bombs." As usual, the first part of the photo gallery for the episode has been added, concentrating on the regulars and guest star Richard Wilson, with more photo stories and video diaries promised for Saturday evening. There are also a couple of news items, covering Russell T Davies' appearance on Radio 4's Front Row last night (with a link to the listen again service) and a review of The Clockwise Man, the first of the Ninth Doctor novels published this week. The Fear Forecast childrens' column is also posted.

The week's best television in the new edition of the Radio Times has the FA Cup Final as its top pick for Saturday, ending Doctor Who's previously unbroken run, but The Empty Child is still included (page 4). With an illustration of guest star Richard Wilson, the RT says "I don't believe it! Richard Wilson crops up as a doctor - but not the Doctor - while Rose hangs around London in a giddy Second World War mystery." The full-page behind-the-scenes feature (page 15) concentrates on the introduction of John Barrowman ("When I was told I'd got the job... I literally screamed and jumped around") as Captain Jack, who is pictured with Christopher Eccleston, alongside a main picture of a number of gas-masked figures and a repeat of the Richard Wilson shot from earlier in the magazine. A half-page advertisement for the Volume 1 DVD appears, rather cunningly, on the same page as the cast lists for this week's soaps (page 47), and includes a quote from The Guardian: "TV really doesn't get better than this, ever." In the listings section (page 64), Saturday's episode is again in second place (this time behind the Eurovision Song Contest): "... the show has had to adapt and become slicker... it's best for the old guard to sit back and enjoy the ride. ... an enticing mystery set in a Blitz-ravaged London ... There's persuasive period detail and a crazy barrage-balloon flight, but the episode also contains nightmarish imagery (including a grotesque morphing sequence) that's probably too much for little ones." Also recommended is the ninth edition of Doctor Who Confidential: "This zesty little series is a goldmine for those who like their special effects with a little bit of elucidation ... Tonight we learn how Billie Piper 'flew' across London, while a brilliant montage of classic (ie rubbish) Who effects reminds us how far the series has come." he programme listing for the epsidoe (page 66) reads, "At the height of the Blitz, Rose meets the dashing Captain Jack Harkness", while on the next page that for Confidential offers, "Gone are the days of wobbly sets - for this 21st-century transformation of the perennial sci-fi classic, CGI effects have given the Doctor some state-of-the-art aliens to battle." As previously reported on Outpost Gallifrey, Saturday's episode is listed as running from 6.30pm for forty minutes (with Confidential following 7.10pm) while both repeats (Saturday 12.20am, Sunday 7.15pm) apparently run for forty-five minutes; no repeat of Confidential is listed for Sunday evening.

The next episode of the series has apparently been cut because of tone issues and also some ruminations of bisexuality.BBC News reports that "The next episode of Doctor Who has been toned down after producers decided one scene was 'a bit too horrible'. The episode, to be shown on BBC One on Saturday, sees the Doctor travel back to tackle a strange virus in the Blitz. It turns former 'One Foot in the Grave' actor Richard Wilson's face into a gas mask - but producers have cut out the sound of his skull cracking. But producer Phil Collinson said it was still the scariest episode so far. 'It was about time we did a scary one.' 'It's a little thing involving the scene with Richard Wilson's character and the gas mask,' said producer Phil Collinson." Several press reports also focus on the fact that the episode "reveals that the Time Lord attracts the attentions of a bisexual character in a later storyline. Producers have axed a scene in which skulls could be heard cracking in what has been billed as the scariest episode of the new Doctor Who series yet. And at a media screening of the show yesterday, it emerged that 'time agent' Captain Jack Harkness flirts with the Doctor in a future episode." It is too early to tell what, exactly, has been cut, or if the story is simply more hype. Also reported at the MirrorMedia GuardianManchester Online,Breaking NewsIrish ExaminerCBBC NewsWaveguide,the ScotsmanPress AssociationYahoo News.

Pre-airing reviews of The Empty Child are being posted. Heat magazine's Boyd Hilton gives it 5 stars: "The esteemed brains of the BBC Press Office are dubbing this 2-part story 'the scariest Doctor Who yet'. And they have a point. There's something about the sight of a bunch of zombie-like mutants with gas masks for faces that really gives us the willies. Add to the mix a hunky new love interest for Billie Piper's Rose and a wonderful cameo from Richard Wilson, and you have yet another triumphant episode." Closer magazine comments on the episode: "This series just gets better and better. Tonight, we're in London in 1941, at the height of the Blitz. The army is guarding a mysterious cylinder, while homeless children living on bomb sites are being terrorised bya scary kid infected with a strange virus. In the midst of the mayhem, love hearts are flashing in Rose's eyes when she meets a hunky captain. And look out for One Foot In The Grave's Richard Wilson as Dr Constantine, a GP in charge of a busy wartime hospital ward."

Doctor Who on the Web

The website of The Stage is carrying a feature by Paul Hayes on theinternet streaming of BBC One that allowed many overseas fans to watch 'Dalek' on April 30. "When plans of a secret BBC test to stream its UK channels over the internet leaked out, overseas users logged on. Many said they would be prepared to pay to do so again." The article notes that "The BBC's research and development arm, based at Kingswood Warren, was conducting a test for the streaming of the BBC's television channels to UK-based broadband internet customers, in a move to provide a service similar to that already offered free for all by BBC Radio, whereby all stations are available to listen to live over the internet, with selected programmes stored in a ├ŽListen Again' archive for at least a week following transmission. Offered free of charge, the radio services are available to any internet user in the world and are extremely popular with expatriates and overeseas fans of the BBC. The television equivalent would most likely not be available internationally, as quite apart from complicated rights issues, there would be a storm of complaints were television services paid for by the licence fee to be freely available to a potential audience of millions outside of Britain. But the tests being conducted of the broadband streaming service were just that - tests." Liz Mitchell of the BBC press office explained that it was "an internal demonstration stream which was intended for an internal audience." However, "the website addresses for the channels being tested for internet broadcast - BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Four and BBC News 24 - were either deliberately leaked by somebody or accidentally stumbled across by some lucky user. The links first appeared on a message board on a fan website of comedian Chris Morris and the internet being what it is the news quickly spread, finding its way to the message boards of Outpost Gallifrey, an American Doctor Who fan website hugely popular in the science-fiction community, with over 10,000 registered members. It so happens that Saturday, April 30 was the transmission date for Dalek, the sixth and perhaps most highly-anticipated episode of the new series of Doctor Who, which saw the return of the eponymous pepperpot. The sudden revelation that if they had a broadband internet connection they could watch the episode completely free of charge at exactly the same time as their fellow fans in the UK was greeted with considerable surprise and delight by those posting on the message board." The article quotes several fans on their reactions to the live feed and discusses the obvious market for streaming BBC television over the internet. "The idea is fraught with problems. These are not simply technical - how do you make a service free for users in the UK but ensure overseas users can only access it by subscription? - but there are rights issues too. Films and sports events held by other broadcasters in other countries could not be streamed and there may also be difficulties with showing BBC programmes that have been purchased by foreign networks. Doctor Who, for example, is already showing in Canada on CBC, is due to start in Australia on ABC in late May and has also been sold to New Zealand, Italy and the Netherlands. It is unlikely that any of these countries' broadcasters who have paid a great deal of money for the screening rights to the programme - entering into a co-production deal in the case of CBC - would be particularly thrilled to know that a substantial chunk of the fan audience in their countries has had the opportunity to see such an eagerly-awaited episode already, for no charge and no profit to them." It notes that the this was a one-off and the feeds were cut. "While this was not an ideal situation as the URL was not intended for a public audience, it was a simple technical error made while investigating technologies for encoding and transmission protocols, which was fixed as soon as possible," said Mitchell.

People

James Hawes, director of "The Empty Child" and "The Doctor Dances," will direct this year's Christmas Special that introduces David Tennant as the tenth Doctor, says TV Zone Magazine's next issue due out on May 26, which includes an interview with Hawes.

Confirming the reports that Christopher Eccleston will soon be filming "Double Life" with writer/director Joe AhearneSFX reports that Ahearne will also not be returning to the series for its second year. "I won't be working on the second series," Ahearne tells SFX, "but not because of this. I don't know exactly when the film is going to go. It's slated for this year but you never know with movies, dates change all the time. I'm not involved with the second series because I've just done five episodes of the current series and spent seven months living in Cardiff since September last year, and as wonderful and fantastic and amazing as it is it does take you over. I just want to get back to London really..."

Eccleston's interview with SFX magazine has been reprinted by several newspapers. Today's Daily Star says that Eccleston told them (when in actuality, he told SFX) that the series took its toll on him. "You can't have a life. You can't socialise. It's like having a Tardis in your skull and every time you open your mouth you see a Tardis. There were days when I got psoriasis, I got eczema. My face blew up in the Dalek episode. I looked literally disfigured with tiredness and poor skin." Eccleston admitted that playing the Doctor was still a lot easier than the labouring jobs he took while he was a struggling actor in his twenties, but he pointed out that the hours were a grind. "It is actually hard graft. With TV, you do a 14-hour day and then you're doing your line-learning. I think that's what would p*ss off most labourers and people who work in factories - get up at 6.30am, leave 7.30 at night, then starting learning lines, six days a week. I ain't moaning about it, but if you play the Doctor the hardest thing is you can't have a life." Despite his decision to leave the series, Eccleston said he loved playing the character alongside co-star Billie Piper: "I loved being part of that amazing team. By and large, it was a joy." Other places picking up the story include Female FirstDigital Spy,Contact Music.

This morning's edition of Metro, a free newspaper distributed in London, has a short item attributing a quote to Christopher Eccleston: "Christopher Eccleston would like to return as Dr Who - but not on TV. 'If there was a radio version I would definitely look at that as it won't take up so much time,' he said." Metro might be picking this up from the SFX interview. There has been no official word from either BBC Radio or bbc.co.uk concerning any plans for further audio/online adventures, and Big Finish's licence from the BBC covers only the "classic series" up to and including Paul McGann's Doctor, so BF would need a new licence to produce audio adventures for the Ninth Doctor. But there's always hope!

More Australia Coverage

The new series has been getting a lot of promotion in Australia both on radio and TV before the first episode airs on Saturday. Besides the obligatory TV and radio promos, the Eoin Cameron breakfast show has been running a competition asking simple Doctor Who questions over the air with the prize being an advanced screening of "Rose" at the ABC studios. Additionally, Wednesday's program was devoted to the series with interviews from Katy Manning and Phil Collinson as well as local identities. Listeners were also asked to phone in and impersonate a Dalek voice. Additionally the ABC have filmed an item for the show "How the Quest Was Won" which is fun newsy lifestyle type show where one of their reporters Jane Cunningham visits the "West Lodge" (The Perth DR WHO Fan Club) and meets Beta the Dalek. They also travel to Pingelly a small town 150km from the city. The air date is not yet known but should be shown nationwide in the next few weeks.

The Herald Sun reviews this weekend's episode, "Rose": "New series. We've seen many actors play the famed doctor since the sci-fi series started in 1963. This new 13-part series stars Christopher Eccleston (left) as a smarter, more contemporary Doc, but after the 13th episode, Eccleston, fearing he'd be typecast, said no more and quit. The opener is all about department-store employee Rose, who's sent to take a package to an electrician working in the basement. However, the sparky isn't there and Rose becomes locked in with several store-window dummies who come to life and threaten her, which is about when you-know-Who comes to the rescue. Fear not, the good doctor is at hand."

News.com Australia notes that "THE Time Lord is back and better than ever. The scarf has been replaced with a leather jacket and best of all, there's a whole new breed of daleks to contend with." There are interviews with production designer Edward Thomas.

Other news notes: The Advertiser Age article posted the other day now has a web edition posted. ABC News Australia discusses making Daleks locally as a tie-in to the debut.

Other Stories

More on the DVD rating issue: The Irish Independent says that "The whole fun of Doctor Who is hiding behind the sofa at the scary bits. Granted, it looks a bit tragic when you're 33 and your arse is too big to fit behind any normal sofa, but it's our Saturday night and we'll do what we want. But that delicious sense of terror is being withheld from kids by those idiots in the British Board of Film Classification, who have refused to give the new Doctor Who DVD a PG Cert, because of scenes of cruelty to . . . wait for it - a Dalek. 'However cross one might be with a Dalek, being cruel is not the way to deal with the issue. Some children might take it into the playground.' Of course, maybe the Doctor should have talked to the Dalek. Perhaps he should have opened a dialogue with him. Maybe they should have made daisy chains together? Where do these idiots come from? Gallifrey? We particularly liked their fear that kids might take it into the playground. Yeah, because kids really need inspiration to be beastly to each other during recess." Also, In the Newsalso has an article on it.

Part two of Planet of the Doctor, the CBC.ca Canadian network website's six-part documentary about Doctor Who, is now available on the site.

(Thanks to Steve Tribe, Paul Engelberg, Chuck Foster, Paul Greaves, Peter Weaver, Ian Berriman, Alan Creaser, and Paul Hayes)