GeekPlanetOnline's resident Doctor Who Correspondent Martin Thompson takes a deeper look at the adventures of a mad man in a box, along with his friends, foes and fandom. With over fifty years of rubber monsters, changing faces, dented police boxes, exterminations and pointed goatees to look at, he has more than a few things to say on the subject...
Ever feel like you’re a bit late to the party?
Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary feels like something that I should have commented on ages ago with ideas, feelings etc. However, at this point we are about four months away from 23rd November 2013 and what we are promised will be, to paraphrase Mike and Ike’s comment on Evil Dead: The Musical, the greatest piece of entertainment in the history of history period! Recently it has been announced that the special is due to be simocast worldwide to avoid spoilers. Perhaps this is the cinema release they were hinting at earlier in the year.
I could discuss my hopes for the anniversary but a lot of them have started to come true already. First off, a ‘Road to Totter's Lane’ style drama about the early years. An Adventure in Space and Time by Mark Gatiss is shaping up nicely with David Bradley looking like perfect casting as William Hartnell. How about inserting the current Doctor and companion into an old story like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Trials and Tribble-ations? Well, we have had a bit of that already with The Name of The Doctor and that wonderful teaser sequence. This would also be prime regeneration time but that looks like it will happen a little later at Christmas, unless the special will see the Eleventh Doctor regenerating halfway through. A multi Doctor story was at the top of many fans wish lists and we have it, of a sort, and as a fan of the Tenth Doctor, just seeing the Eleventh Doctor and his predecessor on screen together will be enough for me to enjoy the special. Christopher Eccleston not returning isn’t the greatest surprise in the world, and I would have been more stunned had he decided to don the leather jacket once more. I’m surprised that so many people have now decided that they are going to dislike the special because of the announcement that no classic Doctors are going to be back, and that Moffat has been accused of ignoring the show pre-2005. Bringing back those Doctors would come with its own headaches anyway, a few trips through the aging vortex anyone?
Hopefully Moffat has found a way to homage the classic series and maybe in a similar way to The Name of the Doctor. Since the Doctor and Clara are still caught in his time stream there’s every chance we could go anywhere in the series’ history.
This milestone anniversary isn’t just limited to the television though and with Doctor Who readily available in virtually every format imaginable, they are each taking on the anniversary in their own way. To briefly continue with television, a repeat season would be nice, especially featuring the classic series. I’ve often thought that the classic serials, at least the four parters, would be nice shown one per day, perhaps early morning or early evening when the kids come home from school.
With four channels, the BBC could achieve this and indeed has in the past with The Daleks, The Green Death and The Hand of Fear all getting repeats on BBC 4. It’s amazing to see the leap the show has made in all that time: what was once considered nothing more than a children’s teatime slice of sci-fi is now being shown on the channel the BBC reserve for high culture and the arts. I look forward to their Rastamouse retrospective in 2061. The British Film Institute have also been doing their own screenings of Doctor Who by showing one story from each Doctor per month with a Q&A from members of the production team afterwards.
The fact that there are 11 Doctors that can be easily divided up into neat little eras has been a boon to the celebrations, especially with monthly releases. BBC Books re-released 11 of their titles, one for each Doctor, in one go earlier in the year. Each is an original novel apart from the Seventh Doctor's entry which, for some reason, is a reprint of the novelisation of Remembrance of the Daleks. Surely he deserved something more original? You couldn’t have an anniversary without the Target books though; a vital source of Doctor Who for those in the 1970s and 1980s for whom repeats, videos and DVDs were things of dreams. A handful of Target novelisations were re-released with nice new covers last year. This is the 21st century though and our reading habits have changed to include the ebook. Puffin are releasing one ebook per month, each featuring a different Doctor and written by a different author from the world of young adult fiction. So far these have included Eoin Colfer, Patrick Ness and Richelle Mead. BBC Books, for their part, have brought out three Eleventh Doctor novels with a loose anniversary theme. The Doctor battles his two greatest enemies in The Dalek Contract and Plague of the Cybermen while Shroud of Sorrow is set in 1963. A number of factual books have been released but two official ones are Doctor Who: The Vault and fictional biography The Doctor: His Lives and Times.
Over on audio, Big Finish and the BBC’s AudioGO have teamed up to avoid those pesky rights issues and bring us an audio drama featuring all the Doctors. Destiny of the Doctor focuses on a different incarnation each month with a linking theme. Big Finish themselves are bringing out multi Doctor epic The Light at the End featuring the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Doctors, which will also be available on vinyl. A trilogy of plays titled 1963 featuring the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa is also slated for release. Juliet Landau (the wonderfully bonkers Drusilla in Buffy the Vampire Slayer) has also recently announced that she is to play a new incarnation of Romana in at least two plays. Over in comics, IDW have been releasing Prisoners of Time which, like Destiny of the Doctor, features a different incarnation each month, with every story featuring a hooded figure stealing each Doctor’s companions. For my money though, any anniversary special will have to live up Doctor Who Magazine’s own anniversary comic strip The Hunters of the Burning Stone. This six part adventure starring a solo Eleventh Doctor managed to tie up the ongoing story in the comics and reference the series' past successfully without going overboard in a way that The Forgotten did. Ian and Barbara return as companions and we find out how the TARDIS chameleon circuit was - and must be - damaged. This is also due for a separate release in paperback later in the year.
Of course, there are still a number of other releases out there with a set of Doctor Who commemorative stamps from the Post Office and a Union jack Dalek toy amongst them. Over on DVD we have the Regeneration box set and a special Fourth Doctor Time Capsule already in the shops, plus a number of stories with missing episodes due for release with new animated episodes to plug the gaps. There are also a few special events cropping up over that November weekend with an official BBC convention being held in London. For my part I’ll be watching it with some friends in Cheshire.
Despite not getting a full series of Doctor Who on television in this special year, the celebration has continued in many other formats, even though we are not yet in November. I have no doubt that the media will be saturated by the series by then. Many fans were up in arms that a trailer released at San Diego Comic Con has not yet aired in the UK. The sad thing is though, that the special will not live up to the hype for many. How could it possibly? But it should be a decent celebration with two new Doctors waiting in the wings and the always unpredictable Moffat at the helm. And with the range of events and products on offer to us, there should be an anniversary celebration suitable for everyone.