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Bookmark and Share TARDIS Report: Catch-Up Edition

5/30/2006 12:04:00 am - Reported by Shaun Lyon


May 30, 2006 • Posted By Shaun Lyon
The following TARDIS Report is a summary of press coverage, news items and clips from the past ten days (or so). There's still a lot more to cover from the backlog, and that'll be included as part of future TARDIS reports for the rest of the week; here are the highlights:

Television Coverage

A ten-second 'The One to Watch Tonight' trailer for The Idiot's Lanternaired throughout Saturday from 11.29am on BBC One. A slightly longer version of this trail was also shown over the closing credits for Neighbours on BBC One on Friday at just before 6pm.

Maureen Lipman was interviewed by Andrew Marr on Sunday AM the morning after 'The Idiot's Lantern', discussing the poor state of television drama today, though being very complimentary about Doctor Who. A couple of clips from Saturday's episode accompanied the piece. The programme can be seen online until Saturday on the BBC News Player, via this link, with Lipman's 5-minute appearance about 30 minutes into the programme.

K9 will be making an appearance on Blue Peter on Wednesday 31 May (5pm, BBC One).

Official site update

The Doctor Who website was updated as usual on Saturday evening after transmission of The Idiot's Lantern, with the regular downloadable commentary this week by Ron Cook (Mr Magpie), Louise Paige (Costume Designer) and Sheelagh Wells (Make-up Designer). The photo gallery was updated with ten new pictures alongside the ten available since last Tuesday, and there are three short video diaries about the location manager, art direction and period props, as well as behind-the-scenes photographs and the TARDISODE for The Impossible Planet. This week's spin-off game, Defeat the Wire!, involves finding hidden messages amongst dozens of brief clips from various television and radio shows; it can be found direct from the official site or from the Who is Doctor Who? site, updated this week by 'A Friend', since Mickey Smith is no longer around to do it. It's possible that 'A Friend' is "David R. aka DeffyD79", a pupil at Deffry Vale ('School Reunion') and "The Voice of Deffry Vale's Youth" (see here andhere).

UK ratings - latest updates

A correction to yesterday's report on Saturday's overnight ratings figures: the 5-minute breakdowns do not show a peak of 7.78m for Doctor Who. The 15-minute peak for The Idiot's Lantern was 6.7m between 7.30 and 7.45pm (against Soccer Aid's 6.8m in the same quarter hour); the 5-minute peak for Doctor Who was in fact 6.72m at 7.35-7.40pm. The figure of 7.78m was in fact the peak audience for Soccer Aid, occurring immediately after Doctor Who had finished at 7.45pm.

Sunday's 7pm rerun of The Idiot's Lantern had overnight ratings of 635,800, a 4.6% audience share and at the higher end of the ratings achieved by Doctor Who in this timeslot this year. Once again, the episode was first in its timeslot (multichannel) and third in the day's multichannel chart. The Cut Down Confidential that followed was seen by 374,000 (2.6%), eighth for the day in the multichannel chart.

Last week's early evening repeats on BBC Three had the following overnight audience ratings and shares:

New Earth Monday 22nd May 7pm: 237,000 - 1.2% share
Tooth and Claw Tuesday 23rd May 7pm: 253,000 - 1.3%
School Reunion Wednesday 24th May 7pm: 267,000 - 1.6%
The Girl in the Fireplace Thursday 25th May 7pm: 239,000 - 1.4%
Rise of the Cybermen Friday 26th May 7pm: 144,000 - 1%

The regular 9pm repeat of The Age of Steel on BBC Three on Friday was watched by 384,000 (2%). This repeat, as on the previous Sunday, had no red-button commentary for Freeview audiences, with extra material from the Chelsea Flower Show being shown across BBCi. On Sunday 28, the first repeat of The Idiot's Lantern was also missing its advertised commentary, a concert by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers being BBCi's sole extra on Freeview. (These commentaries were available for digital satellite viewers, and are of course accessible on the official Doctor Who site and on iTunes.)

Today's Media Guardian asks, "Where have the viewers gone? BBC1's Doctor Who revival has been lavished with critical praise and awards, but there are signs midway through its second series that viewers may be tiring of the time travelling sci-fi drama. Saturday's Doctor Who, the seventh out of 13 episodes in the second series, was the lowest-rated yet since the show returned last year to rave reviews and big audiences. ... A fairly typical Doctor Who storyline then, but one which only attracted 6.3 million viewers and a 32% audience share. Doctor Who has shed 2.3 million viewers and 10 share points in two weeks, since the Cybermen episode of May 13, which got a ratings boost to 8.6 million by following the Liverpool v West Ham FA Cup final on BBC1. A week later the second and concluding episode of the Rise of the Cybermen two-parter dropped to 6.9 million viewers and a 36% share. One possible explanation for Doctor Who's ratings decline could be the show's scheduling. After being delayed by 20 minutes, to 7.20pm, on May 13 because of the FA Cup going to penalties; the following Saturday's instalment went out nearly an hour earlier at 6.40pm, to accommodate the Eurovision Song Contest. Last Saturday Doctor Who was at 7pm and the show is scheduled at the same time for the next two weeks. But after that the show could face further scheduling disruption because of BBC1's World Cup coverage. Doctor Who has also faced stiffer competition from ITV1 in the past couple of weeks, with The Prince's Trust 30th anniversary concert and Soccer Aid scheduled against it. Before that, ITV1 had put movie repeats against Doctor Who, with disappointing results. Last year Doctor Who was more consistently scheduled at 7pm, with only one episode, on FA Cup final day, starting at a different time, 6.30pm." Also reported in theIndependent.

Yahoo News reports that "The BBC said it was pleased with Doctor Who's performance after Saturday's viewing figures fell to 6.3 million. The seventh episode in the second series of the show, which was relaunched last year, had a 32.8% audience share and peaked at 6.7 million viewers. The episode featured the Doctor and his sidekick Rose fighting an attempt by an alien to feed off the minds of people watching on TV the Queen's 1953 coronation. MediaGuardian.co.uk reported that the figures were the lowest-yet for the show. But a BBC spokeswoman said: "We are delighted with the viewing figures that the second series of Doctor Who has received so far. The series is proving to be incredibly popular with audiences and has continued to outperform strong competition from its competitors week on week. However, episode seven did transmit over a Bank Holiday weekend when more people are likely to be away."

The Impossible Planet Coverage

Heat's reviewer gives this Saturday's episode the max 5 stars and writes: "If you've been wondering why a Time Lord with access to all the places in the universe and the whole of time to choose from keeps ending up on Earth within a two-century range of history, blame series producer Russell T Davies - he likes to keep the Doctor close to home so that the kiddie viewers can be frightened by familiar things. But he can't keep the Doctor in Cardiff - or wherever Cardiff is standing in for - every week, so over the course of this two-parter we get one of the Tardis' occasional trips further afield. The Doctor and Rose drop in on an extraterrestrial mission group from (where else?) Earth, who have journeyed across space to visit a crummy, rock-strewn planet spinning round a black hole. With only the thoroughly ugly Oood for company (imagine an egg eating a squid - or save yourself the effort and just look at the picture above), our plucky travellers have to contend with something very old and very pissed-off living beneath the planet's surface." (reviewer: Chris Longridge). The magazine also has Doctor Who at number six in it's top 10 Best TV shows for the week.

Closer has The Impossible Planet as one of their top Choices for Saturday: "Imagine the scenario - you go into space, get stuck on a planet and end up right next to a black hole. Bummer! This is the tricky situation Rose and the Doctor find themselves in tonight, along with uptight archaeologist Toby (Strictly Come Dancing's Will Thorp) and a team of space explorers. Even worse, there's something nasty below the planet's surface that isn't happy at being disturbed."

Reveal gives this week's eppy 4 (out of 5) stars and list it as one of their 'Must Sees': "The time travellers are trapped on a desolate planet orbiting a black hole, where they encounter a sinister race of aliens and a team of human explorers." And on guest star Will Thorp: he was "last seen waltzing and jiving on Strictly Come Dancing, but the ex-Casualty star ... plays Toby, a friendly soul who has the misfortune of being possessed by a demon!"

Star magazine's preview mentions: "In the first episode of this two-part story, our poor little Rosebud finds herself stranded on the dreadfully desolate world in the orbit of a Black Hole. The weary time-travellers then have to contend with strange rumblings from beneath the planet's surface..."

People

Sky Showbiz quotes Billie Piper as wanting "to see Dancing on Ice star and former Doctor Who assistant Bonnie Langford back as a guest on the show. 'I think it would be hilarious to see the two people who have worked with him at war,' said Billie."

According to Sky Showbiz, "Dancing On Ice star John Barrowman is the man you girls want to sit in with the lovely Fern Britton on This Morning. John stepped in last month for a few days and the switchboard went into meltdown. The plan is to get him back as quickly as possible."

Another article says that "Peter Kay may have just appeared in the hit show Doctor Who as a baddie, but I hear that the Bolton-born comic is keen to land the role of the main man when David Tennant moves on. He told me: "I think the doctor should come from Bolton next time; he's always been a bit posh for me liking." This is Lancashire says, "This is Bolton comedian Peter Kay as you have never seen him before. The Phoenix Nights star has swapped Brian Potter's wheelchair for green skin and pointy ears as he plays a new Jabba-the-Hut style villain in Dr Who. The creature, named Abzorbaloff, kills its victims by absorbing them into its massive body. Their faces can be seen through its translucent green flesh. He first appears as a man called Victor Kennedy then reveals his true evil identity. ... The Bolton comic was given the role in the second series of the sci-fi hit after he wrote a fan letter to Doctor Who creator Russell T Davies saying how much he enjoyed the first series. The Abzorbaloff was designed by nine-year-old William Grantham, of Colchester, Essex, for a 'Design a Doctor Who Monster' competition held by Blue Peter last year. Kay had to endure five hours in make-up to emerge as the flabby horror. Russell T Davies said: 'We are delighted to welcome Peter onboard the TARDIS! The casting of Peter came about after he wrote me the most brilliant letter to say how much he'd enjoyed Series One of Doctor Who. 'From, that point on, we started talking about a guest appearance. However, this is not a comedy turn. Peter is a versatile actor who has appeared in Paul Abbott's Butterfly Collectors and The Secret Life of Michael Fry.' Mr Davies said the hand-written note was signed 'Yours sincerely, Peter Kay. PS garlic bread', after one of Kay's famous catchphrases. Kay joins an array of well-known actors who have already signed up to the series including; Pauline Collins, Anthony Head, Maureen Lipman, Roger Lloyd-Pack, Sophia Myles, Tracy-Ann Oberman and Danny Webb. On Monday, Kay topped a list of the 100 funniest people alive in a survey by lads' magazine Zoo." Other coverage of Peter Kay's appearance can be found in the Manchester Evening News.

The Guardian has comments from Maureen Lipman, complaining about her new haircut and wondering if she can blame it on Doctor Who! "I'm normally very happy with my hairdressing arrangements. Danny does a brilliant cut for 28 quid and I've sent so many friends to him that these days I can't get an appointment. But I shall have to grovel next time I go, or pretend the make-up girls did it on the set of Doctor Who to make me look more alien."

People says of Camille Coduri, "She's fiddled with Doctor Who's sonic screwdriver, starred as a kinky stripper and will soon sizzle as an ex-porn star. Curvy Camille Coduri even adds a certain sexiness to playing time traveller Billie Piper's mum. But the actress insists she's an old-fashioned girl at heart. Happily married and a devoted mum to two kids in real life, Camille enjoys looking sexy but has strong views on screen nudity, steamy photo shoots and pornography. 'You don't need to get your bra off to prove yourself,' says the actress who, at 40, has a string of impressive film and TV roles to her name. 'A lot of these young actresses who do it are really beautiful and talented and I just think... have a bit of dignity.' Camille's latest role - as an ex-porn star in a new BBC3 series called Sinchronicity - has also given her strong views on that subject. 'I went on the web to research the role and it shocked me 100 per cent. I didn't think that I could be shocked until then,' she explains. 'But pornography upsets me and winds me up because it is for men and as long as that is going on women will never be equal.' ... Camille also loves being part of Doctor Who. 'It has definitely been one of the happiest times in my life,' she says. 'It's hugely funny to film. More often than not you are tearing down the road screaming when you really want to be wetting yourself laughing.'" The Manchester Evening News also interviews Coduri briefly about her new show. "Doctor Who star Camille Coduri, who also happens to be a Manchester City supporter, plays pregnant mum Janice, wife of Lennie and mother of both Sammy and teenager Nicky (Nicola Bland). 'Janice is very different from Rose's mum, Jackie, in Doctor Who,' she maintains. 'It's funny how you slot right into the time and the era. Obviously, the clothing and make-up help, but we were all behaving in that London sixties way. It's all the little details that go into something like this - the string shopping bags, the retro wallpaper and so on.' Now working in Manchester on a new BBC3 drama series, called Sinchronicity, Camille has nothing but praise for young Imogen, who, along with Pickles, is the star of the show. 'The dog wasn't really interested in you, unless you had a sausage up your sleeve,' she smiles."

Yahoo News says that "Soap lovers will spot a couple of famous faces in the returning stage favourite Me and My Girl.Sylvester McCoy and Trevor Bannister are lined-up for a theatrical stint, and both have appeared in various soaps. McCoy is best known for playing Doctor Who during the late 1980s, but he's also cropped up in Hollyoaks, The Bill and Casualty. Bannister will be remembered by many for his role as Mr Lucas in sitcom Are You Being Served? Taking the lead role will be Richard Frame, who played Father Damian Harrison in Family Affairs last year. In Me and My Girl he'll be performing as Bill, a cockney bloke who discovers he's the heir to a fortune. ... The production begins its tour in Plymouth in August, and will call at such places as Sheffield, York, Edinburgh, Bradford and Brighton before finishing its run in Southampton at the end of April 2007."

Paul O'Grady interviewed Jamie Foreman on his show on 26 May before his debut as Eddie Connolly in The Idiot's Lantern. A few quotes include: 'The costumes are fantastic.' and 'It's such fun to do.' On being asked if his character was a goodie or baddie, Jamie would only say that he is: 'very misunderstood... is 53, just got back from Burma.' On the latest Time Lord: 'I think David Tennant will be one of the best Doctors ever.' On Doctor Who: 'It's like watching a Spielberg movie.' (they also showed a short clip showing a confrontation scene between Jamie Foreman's character and an angry Doctor demanding to know what's going on.)

The UK Press Association says that "Casualty veteran Will Thorp is to feature in a Doctor Who adventure beginning on June 3. He admits he was delighted to receive a couple of scripts from head writer and executive producer Russell T Davies. 'I would have said 'yes' to it whatever (the part) was,' Thorp said recently. In The Impossible Planet, the Doctor and Rose arrive on a desolate world orbiting a black hole. They find themselves trapped with Toby (Thorp), a twentysomething archaeologist. However, something ancient lurking beneath the planet's surface begins to wake, and our heroes face a race against time to prevent themselves being whisked off into oblivion. The supporting cast includes Ronny Jhutti, who played Sohail Karim in EastEnders from 1988 to 1990, and the conclusion can be seen on Jun 10. Will, a massive Doctor Who fan, had to keep pinching himself while making the episodes to check if he wasn't dreaming. 'It was like being in the playground,' he laughs. Thorp is currently working on a touring version of Strangers On A Train with another Doctor Who veteran, Colin Baker."

The Financial Times wrote on 27 May, "Tom Baker walks into a central London hotel bar wielding a walking stick, dismissing journalists as traitors and uttering emphatic expletives. He is a big man, tall and well-built, with a good head of white hair. He doesn't want to sit in a quiet corner but rather in the thick of it, where he can 'see human life'. He slides into a faux-leather armchair, catches the waiter's attention and orders a drink in his deep, resonant, theatrical voice. 'A Bombardier, thank-you, sir.' The beer arrives and Baker pours it carefully into a pint glass. 'Good health to you. Nice to see you.' Here is an actor still going strong at the grand age of 72; in fact, he is enjoying a renaissance late in life. He may always be best remembered for being one of the popular incarnations of Doctor Who (between 1974 and 1981) but in recent years Baker has become highly fashionable again. After a few decades of cameo roles in various modern TV comedies, Baker became the narrator in the phenomenally successful Little Britain. He is not quite ready, however, to discuss his work. Instead, he takes a moment to enjoy the drink then produces a copy of Philip Roth's novel Everyman and waves it in the air. 'I'm getting deeper and deeper into this new Roth. God, it's so sad. So, so sad. He's 74, I think. Usually his novels are much bigger than this. It's a meditation on death. When people don't have any religious faith, death becomes obscene.' He barely pauses for breath. 'This bar is a good place to meet a pal. [In] the pubs round here it's hard to finish a sentence without some tosser from the BBC saying 'Tom! Do you remember doing some programme or other with me?' Or some girl saying 'Don't you remember me, Tom. We used to be married?'' ... When I ask about Christopher Ecclestone and David Tennant as the most recent incarnations of Doctor Who, he says: 'I always get sweet messages - not from Christopher Ecclestone, who I was very surprised to see leave so soon; he's a very powerful actor - but from the little chap. David what? Oh yes, Tennant. When I was in Monarch of the Glen, a make-up artist friend of his asked me to send him a card, which I did. He sounds very sweet.' Whenever he's in London, Tom Baker is stopped in the street by fans of Doctor Who. Is it a relief to escape to France? 'It doesn't drive me mad. People are willing to share things with me because they think they love me. Fan love is quite different because it endures. When I used to see a disintegrating George Best or some great old cricket player like Denis Compton, the nostalgia would always catapult me back to my youth. People who talk to me in the street make quite affecting little speeches about what I meant to them. There are plenty of actors more distinguished then I am but I bet that never happens to them.' ... Would Baker like to be offered a part in the new Doctor Who? He shrugs. 'I've done my time but if the BBC had any bloody flair, if they had real genius, they'd have brought me back to play the Master.' He seems a little hurt that no one has even offered a cameo and, as is his style, quickly moves on to something else." More of the interview at the site.

The Idiot's Lantern Reactions

The Guardian blog: "This week's episode, the Idiot's Lantern, attracted 6.3m viewers, the lowest of the year to date. I'm sure it is no coincidence that it was also the worst episode of the year thus far - a satire of the brain rotting properties of television set in 1953 during the Queen's coronation. It exhibited all the worst attributes that have been turning the series into a smug pantomime. ... At least the villainous Wire on the weekend, played by Maureen Lipman, was a proper evil baddy, in the episode titled the Idiot's Lantern written by League of Gentleman co-creator Mark Gatiss, but the plot was pretty thin, with no time to develop - another major problem of the modern series - everything is so rushed. While it's pretty clear David Tennant is a better Doctor than Christopher Eccleston ever was, the series redeeming features are in danger of getting swamped by self indulgent, self satisfied output that suggests that the production team is producing the show for their mates and not the audience. Maybe success has all gone to their heads

CBBC News: "'I heard they rot your brains. Rot them into soup and your brain comes pouring out your ears, that's what television does!' So says an elderly woman in the pre-title sequence of this week's episode. Officially, I suppose I should be offended as I've spent most of my working life involved in TV, and most of my non-working life watching it. Indeed, this episode is even called The Idiot's Lantern - a nickname for TV sets. Unsurprisingly then, TVs have a key role in the plot. ... This is a very different episode, written by Mark Gatiss, who penned last season's Unquiet Dead. It rattles along well enough, but unfortunately doesn't have the energy that previous episodes have had. It has a slightly clumsy sub plot about equality between men and women, and a villain who's never really satisfactorily explained - I much prefer us to understand more about their background. That said, there's some nice stuff in here. The revelation of what's happening to the victims is fabulous (hats off to the special effects wizards at The Mill). And it's good to see Rose well entwined in the nastiness that's going on. Every series has to have its peaks and troughs though, and after the frantic excitement of the Cyberman episodes, this was always going to be a smaller, less epic adventure where the mystery was wrapped up very quickly. And many will enjoy its more intimate nature. But I'm now really looking forward to the next two-parter which Billie Piper told me was the most frightening thing they've done yet!"

BlogCritics: "After the big Tom MacRae 'Rise Of The Cybermen'-'The Age Of Steel' two-parter, Mark Gatiss' 'The Idiot's Lantern' seemed more underwhelming than overwhelming. While too many plots were happening in the former, there didn't really seem to be a plot with the latter - or at least one that was tied to everything well enough. ... There's a nice little nod to 'Logopolis' with the final chase/fight scene on the tower. Wouldn't it have been interesting to have that as a cliffhanger rather than the RTD Cybermen two-parter a few episodes away? The Doctor could simply fall off after being exhausted from fighting The Wire and cut to credits, as it appeared he was seemingly out of breath. On second thought, it probably would have been terrible given the spoilers that he would come back in the next few episodes of the next season. After being tight on the accents with the past few episodes, we return to more grumbling. This time the fault lies with Jamie Foreman's Eddie, whose language is so thick I couldn't figure out if that was a character trait or the lack of ability to convey his words. Tennant did that a few times himself, which is even more irritating since the show is about The Doctor. Understand, this is not a demand for British actors to speak clear English -- I just want to be able to hear the words coming out of their mouths. The London Police bits seemed a bit tagged on. Rather than use them to store all the faceless, Gatiss could have easily stuck them in one of the houses that had a large basement or something that wouldn't have involved having to tag on more characters. The less of them you have, the more centered you can be on the plot at hand, something Doctor Who often loses when it adds on the baggage. I almost couldn't review this episode because it seemed so blah." (BlogCritics also reviews the two part "Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel.)

Other Press Items

Influential UK multi-channel TV guide What Satellite and Digital TVannounced the results of its annual readers' awards on May 24 and Doctor Who won "Best Sci Fi Show".

The Western Daily Press noted that "They are virtually indestructible, have a fearsome arsenal of weapons and millions of them want to destroy all human beings - oh, and they raise a lot of money for charity by opening village fairs. Yes, the Daleks have arrived in the West with the formation of a new group of Dr Who-hating, terrifying machines, on a mission to raise cash for a cancer charity. Three Dr Who fans have spent months painstakingly recreating the contraptions, complete with motorised movement, moveable weapons and Dalek-voice machines. And the first on their list of communities to exterminate this summer was the normally quiet and picturesque village of West Lavington in the heart of Wiltshire. And amid the schoolchildren maypole dancers, beer tent and sea scouts displays, the three Daleks cut an eerie and slightly terrifying sight after they opened the village's May Fair."

BlogCritics says that Americans should give the new series a chance. "I haven't been on Outpost Gallifrey in months as a regular poster (I lurk mostly) - I don't need to be overwhelmed by dozens of threads that usually go over ten pages long on the same subject. Some of the subjects lose their point in petty fighting and the like, but some make valid points. One of the most eye-opening ones was merely these words: 'Why is Who doing so badly in the U.S. (United States) ratings?' There are lots of reasons given in the thread why the show is doing badly (which is currently airing on the Sci-Fi Channel with Series 1): timeslots, language differences, and the rather strange narrative that the show has had for its entire run since '63. It could just be that Americans largely dislike foreign shows because they don't have a clear and concise explanation of what their show is about right away. It requires too much energy for them (although this same audience watches the often headache-inducing 24 and Prison Break on Fox). For me, it's a matter of the script and who writes it. In my reviews of 'New Earth' and 'Tooth and Claw', one of my chief complaints was the clear lack of understanding of the words spoken by the actors, David Tennant especially. Those, however, are under the pen of Russell Davies. Under someone such as Steven Moffat, there is a sense of clarity in not only the dialogue, but even in the story itself. Things got better with his episode, 'The Girl In The Fireplace,' as well as the current Tom MacRae Cybermen two-parter that just finished. I suppose 'School Reunion' deserves a mention, too. If the show keeps displaying good work and a clear sense of what's being said and done on the screen, the show will eventually win U.S. viewers. As it stands right now with Series 1 being aired in the United States, we may not give ourselves a chance to find that out. Oh well, there's always DVD and the old VHS tapes."

The Independent says that "Doctor Who is accustomed to renaissance. He clutches at his hearts, announces that this is the end and, in a blur and blaze of Colour Separation Overlay, becomes a man with an entirely different Equity number. That's nothing, however, to the renaissance currently being experienced by Doctor Who: Russell T Davies grinning his big Welsh grin all over the BAFTAs, ratings so huge that they have altered industry prognoses about the future of TV drama; a nation enthralled by the chavvy, chipmunky majesty of Billie Piper. My tutor at university used to say that one of the most significant things about the Renaissance was that it was the moment at which it became impossible for one person to have read every book in existence. What era can we be said to have entered when it is no longer possible for a single person to have consumed every text bearing the Doctor Who logo? This month, the tally of new material includes four episodes of the new Saturday night series on BBC1, four instalments each of the cable spin-offs Doctor Who Confidential and Totally Doctor Who, one issue of Doctor Who Magazine, two issues of the Doctor Who Adventures comic, two audio-only dramas on CD, three hardback novels, one paperback novella, seven mass market non-fiction books and one academic study by the Professor of Film at Leicester University. So to participate completely in the cultural practice of Doctor Who, you would have to devote every waking hour to it. You would have to give up your job and renounce family and friends. You would have to stay hunched in your room for days at a time. (If you've just thought of an unkind joke about Doctor Who fans, hush your mouth - at least they don't go on the rampage through city centres when they don't like the result on Saturday.) James Chapman is not the first academic to subject Doctor Who to seminar-style analysis. That honour goes to a double act, John Tulloch and Manuel Alvarado, whose Doctor Who: The Unfolding Text (1983) applied the theoretical discipline of the Frankfurt school to Doctor Who's melodramas of alien invasion, alien possession and alien killer plastic inflatable armchairs. As Chapman observes, this approach caused so much amusement in the Doctor Who production office that one of the book's more impenetrable sentences made it into the series. In the 1987 story 'Dragonfire', a glum-looking heavy asks Sylvester McCoy's Doctor: 'What do you think of the assertion that the semiotic thickness of a performed text varies according to the redundancy of its auxiliary performance codes?' The Doctor, for once, is speechless. When The Unfolding Text was published, Doctor Who non-fiction existed principally to tell you what the acronym TARDIS stood for, and that Patrick Troughton played the central part in the style of 'a cosmic hobo' - whatever that was. The potential readership just wasn't ready to investigate the hermeneutic coding of William Hartnell's astrakhan hat. And, judging by Chapman's book, neither are they now. Chapman's approach is unpretentious, readable, solidly authoritative and self-consciously anti-theoretical. 'The Doctor may have conquered Daleks, Cybermen and Ice Warriors,' he argues, 'but would he survive an encounter with Foucault, Derrida or Deleuze?' ... Doctor Who isn't just 28 seasons of television drama and one TV movie with Paul McGann in a dodgy wig. It's also 43 unbroken years of comic strips, 100-odd audio dramas, 300-odd novels, thousands of web pages and a mixed bag of stage plays, radio plays, webcasts, feature films, annuals, sketches and story anthologies. More importantly, Doctor Who is something that we do as well as watch or read. Its concepts and metaphors have invaded our language. It has colonised the British consciousness more effectively than any race of rubber-skinned aliens. It is a monstrous, unstoppable, ever-growing discourse. So what would happen if, on some time-trip to the Left Bank in the 1970s, Deleuze , Derrida and Foucault encountered Doctor Who? That's easy. It would simply slide on top of them like a giant green blancmange with a four-foot phallus."

icNewcastle writes, "A Doctor Who fan's lifelong dream has become a reality after appearing on the popular TV show. Lecturer John Paul Green, 33, has watched the long running sci-fi series ever since he was in nappies. He said: 'I'd watch the show every Saturday and be captivated all afternoon.' John, who works in the arts, design, media and culture department at Sunderland University, even wrote to Jim'll Fix It as a seven year old, begging Jimmy Savile to get him a part, to no avail. But in a bizarre twist of fate 26 years later, it was an old pal who fixed it for him. Matthew Pardo, who studied at the Wearside university with John and is now a journalist living in Bath, got wind of Dr Who auditions because of links with the casting agency involved. John said: 'I was over the moon. This was my chance to become a part of Dr Who history.' He was among 40 extras who got a job and then, to his delight, was chosen as the one person to appear in a close-up with the two stars . . . David Tennant as the Doctor and Billie Piper as his assistant Rose Tyler. The 12-hour shoot took place in Cardiff in January and the result was his appearances in The Rise of the Cybermen and the Age of Steel broadcast on May 13 and 20. John plays a human in the early stages of being turned into a ruthless Cyberman. He said: 'Billie was lovely, really warm and down to earth and made an effort to talk to the extras. David Tennant's a great Dr Who. He really gets into character the moment the cameras are rolling. The hardest thing was keeping it a secret from everyone.' The only people to know about John's brush with fame were his partner Kay and his parents. Then, when the first episode he appeared in was aired, John arranged a barbecue for all his friends and then announced that watching Dr Who would be part of the night's entertainment . . . without telling them beforehand about his role. He said: 'People commented `that looks a lot like you', and then the penny dropped. They were all utterly shocked and couldn't believe I'd managed to keep it from them.' John claims he's not obsessed with Dr Who, but when his mobile rings during our interview the tone is the theme tune of the show. He also wrote his Masters degree dissertation on the programme, and got it signed by 15 former stars of the series. And he's met his favourite doctor, Tom Baker. So what's next for John? He beamed: 'I'd love to appear in the next big Bond film.'"

The Evening Express asks, "Is There a Doctor in the house? Because I know a Time Lord who is desperately in need of treatment. To describe the second series of Doctor Who as 'disappointing' is a bit like describing the Titanic as a wee mishap at sea. The storylines are already repetitive. Instead of the undead in Victorian London we get werewolves on Victorian Deeside. The menace of the Daleks is replaced with the stomping of the Cyberman. Sorry, but Trigger from Only Fools And Horses isn't what I expect in my evil genius. Tonight's episode will see eerie forces at work in post-war London, just like the eerie forces at work in wartime London. It's too early for Russell T Davies and his team to be re-treading themes. I mean, how many more times is Rose going to go running after alternate versions of her dead dad? That poignant, plinky-plonky music is grating. Last year's series was a brilliant updating of Doctor Who, giving the classic themes a new, surprising twist. But this series is just stale. And central to the problem is the Doctor himself. Chris Ecclestone brought a dark edge to his Time Lord. There was a tormented soul under that gleeful bonhomie. You were never sure what he was going to do next. But I can tell you exactly what David Tennant will do. He'll shout. He'll go all wide-eyed (one wider than the other) and stare. He'll cackle with laughter and call himself a genius. Pass the ham. The only tortured souls now are those of us who wish we had a Tardis to bring back the Doctor who breathed magic into the character."

Other press items: Bella Online comments on the recent BAFTA wins;CityPages has a brief article about the new series from the perspective of a mock fan; the Bucks Free Press covered an event with writer Gareth Roberts; Now Playing Mag talks about Doctor Who comics; the North Devon Gazette talks about a Dalek who "drops in at bookstore".

(Thanks to Paul Engelberg, Peter Weaver, Paul Hayes)