‘Behind Enemy Lines’ With DOCTOR WHO

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The Waters of Mars

It’s hardly surprising that we know next to nothing about DOCTOR WHO series eight — which just started shooting for a probably fall debut — but at least we know something about Peter Capaldi‘s debut season as the 12th Doctor.

For instance, while executive producer Steven Moffat has written the premiere episode, the follow-up is being written by Phil Ford, who, while he does have some experience with the Time Lord — he penned “The Waters of Mars” for the 10th Doctor — has much more experience writing a bunch of THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES and an episode of TORCHWOOD. Still, fresh blood for a fresh Doctor, eh? Ford would offer only the barest of bare-bones hints about his story: “Behind enemy lines.”
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R.I.P. Elisabeth Sladen (1948-2011)

Elisabeth Sladen, who has played the most popular, most enduring companion in the history of DOCTOR WHO, the irrepressible Sarah Jane Smith, on and off since 1973, has died at age 63, following a battle with cancer.

There’s a saying in DOCTOR WHO fandom that the first Doctor you ever saw was “your Doctor.” Well, by that measure, Sladen’s plucky Sarah Jane was “my companion.” She and the well-meaning but bumbling Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter) were the companions for Genesis of the Daleks,” the very first DOCTOR WHO story I remember seeing, way back in the primitive days of late 1970s syndication. Back then, WWOR Channel 9 out of New York City purchased a bloc of Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor stories, and introduced them to a benighted America that had previously never known the Time Lord. I vividly recall her in that yellow rain slicker and blue knit cap, clambering over the rocks.
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Preview: “The Death of the Doctor”

Normally, I hate Mondays (okay, I despise Mondays), but I am actually looking forward to this particular Monday, Oct. 25, which will see the debut of a new installment of THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES, part one of a story called “The Death of the Doctor.” Yes, that Doctor.

The 11th Doctor himself, Matt Smith, guests on SJA, which focuses on the adventures of the Doctor’s former companion Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen). The even better news is that the Time Lord is not the only special guest. Another of the Doctor’s former assistants, Jo Grant (Katy Manning), gets in on the action, too. But now she is called “Jo Jones” – she’s still with Prof. Cliff Jones all these years after “The Green Death.” Although Sarah and Jo both worked with the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) they have never met before. And don’t worry, you only have to wait until Tuesday to see part two.

Have a peek at the circumstances that bring this terrific trio together at last:

Watch another trailer after the cut…
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DOCTOR WHO regenerates undying controversy

I simply cannot wait to see the new THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES story “The Death of the Doctor.” Not just because it will feature Sarah Jane (Elisabeth Sladen) meeting 11th Doctor Matt Smith and former companion Jo Grant (Katy Manning), but because the story will address the issue of how many regenerations the Doctor is allowed.

First of all, it is important to note that the Doctor does not claim he is immortal. Since I am in the USA, I have not yet seen the episode in question, but according to this report, Clyde asks the Doctor how many times he can regenerate, and the Doctor says there is no limit. That’s it. No limit to regenerations. This official lifting of the 12-regeneration limit does not make him immortal. It merely reverts the series to its original position on regeneration, which is that Time Lords can be effectively immortal – if they are lucky. There is no indication that permanent death has been taken off the table: If both of the Doctor’s hearts are destroyed, he cannot regenerate. If he is drowned, he cannot regenerate (that one comes from “Turn Left,” penned by Russell T Davies, who wrote the new SJA episode in question). So, everyone who thinks it’s important for the Doctor to put his life on the line, relax.

In the words of former story editor Douglas Adams, Don’t panic.
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Sarah Jane and Jo: Together Again for the First Time!

Details are leaking out about “The Death of the Doctor,” a two-part story to air in the forthcoming fourth series of THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES that will feature guest appearances by Matt Smith as the Doctor and Katy Manning reprising her role as Jo Grant, erstwhile assistant to the Third Doctor, appearing alongside series star Elisabeth Sladen.

The official story synopsis reads as follows:

“When the Doctor is declared dead, old companions Sarah Jane and Jo Grant meet for the very first time, and join forces to discover the truth. As an interstellar conspiracy gathers around UNIT HQ, Clyde finds that he holds the fate of the Time Lord in his hand – quite literally.”

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Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 4/28/08

Friday is SF/fantasy night. I just wish I got home in time to see GHOST WHISPERERone of these weeks. Nevertheless, I did see some good stuff.

DOCTOR WHO: Hey, look, it’s Rose! The new season premiere wrapped up with a shout-out to the past, as Billie Piper reprised her fan-favorite role as former companion Rose in a crowd scene. I was ecstatic, but why did Rose look so sad? And why did she disappear into thin air right before our eyes? Well, keeping in mind that Rose works for Torchwood in her alternate reality, I’m theorizing that she may have bridged the gap between dimensions by using alien technology that came through her version of the Rift. We shall see…. The fourth season premiere, “Partners in Crime,” was really about the Doctor’s new companion, Donna Noble (previously seen in “The Runaway Bride”). This time, Donna was noticeably less annoying, even though she is clearly more abrasive than any companion since Tegan (who traveled with the Fourth and Fifth incarnations of the Doctor. I’m not saying annoying — that prize goes to Mel, of course). This softening is welcome, because no one wants another Adric (who coincidentally also traveled with the Fourth and Fifth Doctors). No, in this case, Donna was played for broad comedy — which is probably fitting, since she’s portrayed by comedienne Catherine Tate. When Donna and the Doctor got into that hilarious pantomime exchange, I was ROTFLMAO. There was little funny, however, about Donna’s mother, who is yet another maternal harridan. I’m no doctor, but I wonder if somebody on the writing staff has mommy issues; Rose and Martha also had oil/water relationships with their mothers (at least at first). However, this was somewhat balanced out by Donna’s grandfather (whom sharp-eyed viewers will recall from the London newsstand during last week’s “Voyage of the Damned”).

The story itself was lightweight — pun intended — revolving as it did around a weight-loss pill that secretly implanted alien embryos inside human hosts; the creatures (called Adipose) then become living fat — tiny, blocky creatures that smile and coo. I was a bit disappointed that the story (the Doctor and Donna independently investigating the same operation, too closely resembled season two’s “School Reunion,” and I prefer the Doctor to be more proactive. Also, the plot too closely resembled the pilot of the WHO spin-off THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES (in which a creature called Bane tricked people into drinking orange soda laced with alien DNA.)Who else thinks the Doctor will sorely regret tossing Ms. Foster’s sonic pen into a trash bin? It was pointed out to me by a friend that the megacute Adipose are ready-made for mass-marketing, and I have to agree. Who wouldn’t want a plush toy modeled after living fat? Cutest. Monsters. Ever. (I think they edge out STAR TREK‘s Tribbles because Adipose — kinda sorta — have faces.) Next up for the Doctor and Donna: Pompeii in A.D. 79: Volcano day!

Next up for me, however, was BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. This episode opened with a touching memorial for Cally, whom Tory “spaced” last week. While it was interesting to see details of a religious ceremony, I wondered how anyone knew Cally was dead. Since she was blown out of an airlock there obviously was no body, and Tory presumably took care of any security video in order to cover up her own involvement. I decided that a patrol Raptor must have spotted Cally’s corpse — or maybe it collided with another ship in the fleet. (You thought it was messy when a bigmosquito hits your windshield!) Speaking of Raptors, Chief Tyrol frakked up by forgetting to replace a capacitor, almost killing Racetrack and Skulls (who managed to walk away from one helluva Raptor crash). Too often SF shows forget that spacecraft are supposed to be working vehicles that need regular maintenance! Later, Galen melted down over his wife’s death. “I got stuck with the best of limited options,” he railed, by way of explaining his marriage. He lamented that Boomer turned out to be a Cylon. A Cylon that Cally killed. Yes, that was the “Anvil of Irony” dropping on the scene. On the plus side, remembering the chief’s crush on Sharon signals that this show does not forget the myriad minutiae of its history.

Keeping up with the religious theme, Baltar continued slouching toward apotheosis. He is obviously starting to buy into this messiah nonsense, allowing Six to use it to manipulate him. “The time has come to make a stand,” he said, just before bursting in on a religious ceremony to denounce Zeus as “a serial rapist” (well, he is — just ask Leda!). The dark side of zealotry was also seen in The Sons of Ares, a self-righteous militia. Concerned about escalating violence, President Roslin tried to pass laws aimed at Baltar’s sect, but the Quorum balked at religious oppression in the polytheistic fleet. I had to crack up when Baltar advised his followers to “Love yourself.” Is there anyone, anywhere, who loves himself more than Gaius Baltar? “You are perfect, just as you are,” he declared to his flock. Sounds like he’s founding the Church of Billy Joel.

The idea of perfection is one Tory can definitely get behind. “We were made to be perfect,” she exulted. As Tory revels in her new identity, actress Rekha Sharma has been vamped up (not that that took much work). Tory tried to show Baltar how pain can become pleasure (but he wasn’t really buying). Meanwhile, Col. Tigh wondered if Six could turn off her emotions, so she beat the frak out of him to teach him how to turn off pain. (He called her a “frakkin’ freak machine.” LOL).

As far as I was concerned, however, the big revelation came when Six was picking up Baltar during the sequence when the soldier was beating him: He looked like a marionette hanging from tangled strings, suggesting he was being physically lifted by an invisible force. This must mean that the Six he sees in his head is much more than just a vision — she can affect the physical world. (So, all those times when Baltar had sex with Six in his mind, was his body also…um, having sex with Six?)

See you on the next Night Shift

Originally posted on Soap Opera Weekly.com

Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 4/18/08

Did anyone get the license plate of that truck? If so, send it to Ozzy, so the challenge powerhouse of SURVIVOR: MICRONESIA — FANS VS. FAVORITES will know what hit him! Ozzy had the hidden immunity idol in his back pocket, but despite some unease decided not to play it because he was so confident that Jason was going to be booted as part of a separate double-cross. In order for the group to win a fancy feast, everyone promised not to vote out Jason if he allowed Parvati to win immunity — a promise no one intended to keep. However, Cirie organized a blindside for the record books. As Ozzy chortled during Tribal Council, secure that Jason’s head was on the chopping block, I wondered what look would replace that cockiness. It turned out to be one of those looks that could kill! When the final tally was read, juror Elizawas apoplectic with shock and joy while Ozzy stared daggers at his former teammates. No doubt the newest juror will not be voting for ex-allies Parvati andAmanda to win a million bucks. Speaking of my girl Parvati, if she is really the strategist she thinks she is, she will target Cirie next, because that woman is reallypulling the strings in Dabu tribe. And one final point about the hidden immunity idol: Cool guys have to stop finding it, because they believe they’re too cool to need it. Dream on, guys. 

Dreams and flashbacks held sway in the 10 o’clock hour. ER began with Neela dreaming that she was parading through the ER naked. It wasn’t going to get better than Parminder Nagra flashing a little skin any time soon, so I flipped over to the season finale of ELI STONE, where the title character was in a coma after having surgery to treat the aneurysm that may or may not be responsible for the colorful visions (does Eli know GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Nikolas?) that dictate his missions from God — i.e., whom he will represent in court that week. The comatose Eli dreamed while other characters flashed back to memories of Eli. And, of course, WITHOUT A TRACE always features flashbacks to the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the missing person of the week. 

Last night I watched my first full episode of ER in years. One of the other staffers here at Weekly worships the show, and whenever he mentions it I say the exact same thing: “ER is still on?” Then we laugh, and I forget it’s on. This episode revolved around Neela working a double shift, so everybody kept saying to her, “You’re still here?” Which is the exact same dialogue I remember from season one — and this is, what, season 36? 46? Anyway, turned out Neela was especially morose because it was her birthday — she was 31 and unmarried, with no prospects. In other words, it was a story about a good-looking doctor whose frantic job leaves no time for a personal life. Same old, same old. So once again I ask: “ER is still on?”

Speaking of shows that are “still on,” DOCTOR WHO returns to Sci Fi tonight with “Voyage of the Damned,” the special Christmas episode that aired in Great Britain this past December. The 90-minute installment sets sail at 8:30, and leads into next week’s premiere of the rebooted series’ fourth season. DOCTOR WHO is probably my favorite series of all time, so as a true fan I know this is actually the fantasy series’ 30th season. It bowed way back in 1963 (in glorious black-and-white) and lasted until 1989, when it was put on extended hiatus. After a 1996 American TV-movie failed to sell as a pilot for a U.S. series, it languished until being revived back home in England in 2005. The title character is an alien traveler called “the Doctor” (not “Doctor Who”) who has a ship — which is disguised to appear as a British police kiosk, but is bigger on the inside — that allows him to travel anywhere in the universe as well as backward and forward in time; he can go anywhere, anywhen. The Doctor also has the ability to regenerate his body when near death, essentially transforming into a new man. Using this ingenious conceit, different actors have played the title role over the decades. The current star, David Tennant, portrays the 10th incarnation of the Doctor, and he assays the cosmic wanderer with a barely suppressed manic energy that makes the boyish-looking Doctor seem like a 903-year-old hyperactive teenager. Check it out tonight. (Also check Sci Fi tonight at 7 for the WHO spin-off THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES, then flip to BBC America tomorrow night at 9 for the second-season finale of the latest WHO spin-off, TORCHWOOD.) 

Then meet me back here next week for the post-mortem in the next Night Shift

Originally posted on Soap Opera Weekly.com