Friday, 2 April 2010

The Doctor is dead... Long live the Doctor!

The new series of Doctor Who is almost upon us, and I am embarrassingly excited. Almost as excited as I was on the day that I was told, as a lowly TV runner, that I would have to pay a visit to Millenium FX. I ended up being given a tour by none other then Neill Gorton, Doctor Who prosthetics guru extraordinaire, when he caught me gawping at the Girl in the Fireplace clockwork droid masks. To this day, it remains the highlight of my geek life.

Anyway, as so many Whovians are saying at the moment: In Moff We Trust. Yes, we're all pretty sure Steven Moffat will be brilliant. But, before a new Doctor comes bounding into our lives, let's take a quick pause to remember Russel T Davies.

I'm an RTD apologist. In fact, I don't think he needs apologising for. I think he's great. Who can read (the excellent) The Writer's Tale without completely loving the guy? Who can watch Queer As Folk and doubt that he's one of the biggest Doctor Who fans around? In the last four series', Moffat had the easy job of swanning in and writing some undeniable brilliant episodes, while Davies had about five a year to trot out on top of editing and Executive Producer duties. Inevitably, some of his episodes weren't great. The Aliens of London and Rise of the Cybermen two-parters were pretty much awful. But he also gave us Midnight, Tooth and Claw, The Christmas Invasion, The Parting of the Ways and Journey's End, which, for my money, are up there with Moffat's output (okay, maybe Blink and The Empty Child stand above them).

It's a shame that his and David Tennant's tenures on the show came to an end with last year's Specials, which never really worked. The development of the Tenth Doctor into a walking ego with a God complex was fascinating but poorly executed (far too rushed), and their final episode was extremely mawkish. Nonetheless, I sobbed like a baby for the last fifteen minutes. Was I mourning the loss of the Tenth Doctor (my Doctor, at the age of 24)? All his supporting cast? RTD? Of Tennant looking positively shaggable in that suit? All of the above, I suppose.

Doctor Who took me from 19 to 24, through uni and into working life. It even spilled over into my real life. I remember phoning my Dad in floods of tears after Father's Day. I remember rushing through BBC TV Centre in Birmingham with my eyes averted while Journey's End played on the big screens, on my way to a date and desperate to avoid spoilers. I was blown away by Christopher Eccleston's performance (he never gets anywhere near as much credit as he deserves - he was better in the role than Tennant, if not quite so appropriate for the family audience) and I thought his regeneration was surely the best ever, with a sign-off line to go down in history. I only wish Tennant could have had such a glorious send-off.

Odd - the Ninth Doctor got a triumphant regeneration for a lonely Doctor, the Tenth got a lonely regeneration for a triumphant Doctor. Look at me getting all analytical.

But we Doctor Who fans are fickle. Mere days after crying my eyes out over the loss of Tennant and Davies, I was already excited about Moffat and Smith. That's the genius thing about Doctor Who - it can start again with a completely fresh slate without anyone having to step out of a shower, and the fans still happily accept it, especially when it's in such safe hands (we hope).

Quick predictions for what we can expect from series five:
  1. A properly mad Doctor
  2. A companion who is only slightly less barmy (Moffat does like his oddballs)
  3. Wonderful female characters (from the man who gave us Sally Sparrow and River Song)
  4. Scares a-plenty (Moffat never pussy-footed around kids in the way RTD did)
  5. Lots of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff
  6. More of a fairy tale feel than a sci-fi one
  7. Sex ever-present, but never explicit (Oh, you mean they weren't talking about dancing?)

Come tomorrow evening, I'll finally know if my predictions were right. Ooh, there's that excitement again!

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