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Saturday, 26 March 2005 - Reported by Shaun Lyon
Some of the press and updates from Saturday morning, today on Opening Day:

Last night, Mark Cossey, Executive Producer of Doctor Who Confidential on BBC Three was on BBC Midnight. He had little to say, beyond "Please watch it." We heartily agree - watch it!

Today's Financial Times says "the BBC's reincarnation of Doctor Who is likely to give some middle-aged viewers a rude awakening." "Is anyone better placed to illustrate just how fast time travels than Doctor Who? Tonight's Easter weekend resurrection of the Doctor is going to make some uncomfortable viewing for middle-aged fans," says Robert Shrimsley. "It may be he who is the alien, but the manner and style of his return makes it all too painfully clear that is we who now inhabit a different planet from our youth. Anyone looking to relive their childhood by dragging their puzzled and nonplussed spawn in front of the television to watch the 'show I loved when I was your age' is set for a rude awakening. For it is not only in the significantly enhanced special effects that the much-heralded return of the Doctor leaves those who knew him the first time around clearly aware of how time has passed us by. The revival is, above everything else, one of those Hornby train set moments where parents have to bite their tongues and remember that this is meant to be for their children. ... While we may still have the Daleks and the Tardis, the monsters and the (quite) glamorous assistant, this reincarnation is largely aimed - as it always was - at the young

Also in today's Financial Times, a discussion of Russell T Davies' influences. "No television drama has ever stoked the imaginations of its fans quite like Doctor Who. When the BBC decided to axe the time-travel fantasy because of falling ratings in 1989 after a run of 26 years, the Doctor's devotees fought back in a unique way: they started making up their own stories. It was reminiscent of Fahrenheit 451 where, in a future without culture, members of the resistance defiantly commit great works of literature to memory. The fans simply refused to accept the doctor's demise. They produced novels (there are now about 350), audio plays and animated stories on the internet to keep the character alive. ... The Doctor's appeal goes deeper than mere nostalgia. As a child, Davies dreamed of discovering the Tardis somewhere in his hometown of Swansea and running away with the Doctor to frolic in a world of limitless imagination and adventure. ... 'Doctor Who made me a writer,' says Davies. 'It really did. My earliest memory is of William Hartnell turning into Patrick Troughton. I was only three at the time. You forget how strong it is when you are a kid. I used to make up Doctor Who stories. I used to walk home from school burning with them!'" It goes on to mention that "One of the ironies of Doctor Who is that, for all the power of the Time Lords of Gallifrey, the show itself has proved pitifully vulnerable to the passing of a mere handful of decades. Most episodes from the 1960s, including a glorious story about monstrous yetis in the London Underground that gave me nightmares when I was nine, have been lost. They survive only as stills, scripts, sound recordings and memory. Russell T. Davies wouldn't have it any other way. 'I love the fact we are missing episodes. How romantic is that? All these programmes we'll just have to imagine forever!' He is adamant that the new series must concern itself with both the present and future. 'It has got to be for new viewers. Even for the old viewers it's got to be new, otherwise there is no point. Otherwise, you become a nostalgic pastiche.'"

Today's Daily Record says that "a fortune is being gambled on tonight's big telly clash - Doctor Who versus Ant and Dec. Viewers will be torn between Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper's new adventures in the Tardis and the Geordies' show featuring David Beckham. Bookies have been taking hundreds of bets on the winners, with Ant and Dec, who usually get eight million viewers, edging in front. Ladbrokes spokesman Warren Lush said: 'I can't remember the last time there was such expectations over a new drama series like Doctor Who. The bookmaking industry is taking a five-figure sum over this and many hundreds of pounds from individuals. Most of the money has been for Ant and Dec. You can't underestimate them, and it's typical that they have David Beckham on. He could clinch it for them.' But he added: 'The BBC could have a slow-burner on their hands, as Doctor Who's audience grows to win the war.'" Today's Scotsman also mentions the challenge with Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway. "Doctor Who fans are trembling with anticipation today û and itÆs not from behind their sofas through fear of the dreaded Daleks. They will be glued to their televisions tonight, having had to wait 16 years for the Time Lord to return to BBC1." They note that bookies Ladbrokes have cut the odds on Ant and DecÆs Saturday Night Takeaway winning the ratings battle with BBC1Æs Dr Who from 8/11 to 1/2, while the sci-fi classic has drifted from evens to 6/4. Ladbrokes spokesman Warren Lush said: "Money suggests Ant and Dec will take away the highest ratings but we havenÆt seen such an intense battle for viewers on Saturday night since the finals of Strictly Come Dancing and The X Factor went head-to-head at the end of last year."

Today's The Sun interviews a Doctor Who fan who says "his obsession saved him from mental illness. The show took over Will Hadcroft as a teenager, driving him to tape-record episodes, collect memorabilia and even build his own K9. Will, who first sought help for anxiety attacks, was told by experts his obsession had helped him cope with AspergerÆs syndrome, a form of autism. He said: 'I always felt like an alien, like IÆd fallen to Earth from somewhere else. I used to wish I had a Tardis I could get in. My psychiatrist said, æYou are not mentally ill, but if you had not used the show as an escape route you almost certainly would have beenÆ.' Will, a 34-year-old bank worker from Bolton, Lancs, has written a book about his condition which was endorsed by his favourite Dr Who, Colin Baker." (Will is also a reader and contributor to Outpost Gallifrey, and we salute him for the opportunity to give the interview!)

The Sun today had a picture today of ghosts haunting the Doctor and Rose in "The Unquiet Dead". "The spirit, called a Gelth, appears in the third episode, when the Time Lord and Rose travel back to Victorian Cardiff. They link up with novelist Charles Dickens to battle the ethereal creature. Talk about Grave Expectations." The Sun also calls Doctor WhoBest New Series in its What to Watch This Weekend listings.

The Independent discusses feminism in an article "The Prognosis for Feminism is Not Good" in which there's an interesting paragraph of note: "How lovely, then, to see that one little corner of the debate remains relatively uncomplicated. Reams of wordage have been dedicated to considering the issue of whether Billie Piper will make a properly emancipated assistant to Doctor Who, or whether she will descend, as so many have before her, into damsel-on-the-train-track cliche. Less intellectual energy has been spent on considering how it is that while the good Doctor can travel through time and space with ease, the body that is so marvellously mutable never manages, even briefly, to adopt a new gender."

Director James Hawes, who helmed the two part 1940's serial by Steven Moffat for this first season, discusses his thoughts in today's Independent. "I am not a Dr Who geek. True, I strode off in 1978 from my rural comprehensive to Oxford in a Tom Baker outfit, but I quickly dumped the scarf, got a girlfriend and honestly never gave The Doctor a thought for 20 years. Then, when my son Owain was four and I 40, I happened on a second- hand video shop during one of those long, wet, quality-time Sunday afternoons that hung-over, part-time single parents so heartily dread. Among the piles of old Disney films on VHS, I saw a Dr Who from the black-and-white days. I hadn't even known they existed. The title set off little bells of memory. I bought it and we retired to the sofa. Owain loved it - he jumped and hid in delighted fear, just as I'd done - but it scared the existential hell out of me." The article notes that Hawes has a new book coming out, "Speak for England" (we assume this is the same person as the director, anyway!)

Today's Times says "Abandon hope, all you who press Enter here" as it discusses futuristic gadgets with a brief DW mention: "Doctor Who landed back on sublunary screens last night. His pet gizmo is a 'sonic screwdriver'. This is a state-of-the-art MerlinÆs wand. It unlocks the high-tech traps that encompass Doctor Who about the Tardis. His is the sort of magical multitasking tool that all do-it-yourself girls and boys dream of finding in their Christmas stockings."

The Telegraph today says that after a long absence, "smack, bang, up-to-date. It works. Thumbs up. Let them live. It is like watching a completely new programme but with enough references to the great tradition to make it authentic. It has the Tardis, the monsters, the female companion responsible for the sexual awakening of boy viewers everywhere, the sonic screwdriver and that crucial balance between scariness and comedy. But no scarves. Gone are the flamboyance and the air of theatricality. The theme tune is more edgily orchestrated, like the whole show. Christopher Eccleston's doctor, with his black leather jacket and northern accent, is modern, urban and of today, manically driven by his desire to save the world." It notes that its popularity "is not for an adult to say. My teenage son twice purred 'This is really cool,' which augurs well. But he worried that his friends would not watch it. 'It's sad watching programmes your parents liked.' Do these children have no sense of tradition?"

There is a mention of Doctor Who on the the Red Dwarf website today. It encourages people to watch the show because it's british sci-fi, has a good writing team, but mostly because it has two Red Dwarf Alum, Mike Tucker of Special effects fame, and actor Joseph Green seen on Red Dwarf VIII. You can visit the Red Dwarf official site here. (Hey, isn't it time for the boys from the Dwarf to come back too!?!?)

(Thanks to Paul Engelberg, Steve Tribe, Matt Landry, Chuck Foster)

FILTER: - Series 1/27 - Press