Doctor Who returns!

i-62225eebb4f65ab225ab5354871550e2-freema-agyeman-david-tennant-tardis-1a.jpgI have to wonder what we Anglophiles did before the invention of BitTorrent. I guess we probably waited months or years for the best British TV to make its way across the pond, usually to be shown on PBS, if at all. Now, I can look forward to the return of one of my favorite shows, Doctor Who, whose modern reincarnation with David Tennant is starting its third series tonight at 7 PM (London time, of course). I like the show so much that, even after BitTorrent-ing the episodes, I still ended up buying the DVDs when they made their way to the U.S., as a means of showing my support for the show and getting higher quality video.

Of course, like my fellow Who-phile Mark, I'll be waiting for it to show up on my favorite torrent site, where the denizens are quite good at posting torrent files for high quality video, usually mere hours after the show airs. This year's series has some intriguing episode titles, such as The Shakespeare Code, The Daleks in Manhattan, Evolution of the Daleks (Dr. Egnor, were he a Doctor Who fan, would not be pleased), and the season finale Last of the Time Lords. The last one is particularly interesting, because rumors have it that Captain Jack Harkness will return for the season's last two or three episodes and that John Simm (Sam Tyler of Life On Mars, my other British TV obsession of the moment) will be appearing as the new incarnation of one of the greatest Doctor Who villains of all time, the Master. It's an intriguing choice, although I have to wonder if he's too young to play The Master properly, and I can't wait to see how they bring the Master back.

Of course, the other question about the third series will be how well Freema Agyeman settles in as Martha Jones, the Doctor's new traveling companion. I will miss Rose to some extent, but I think letting her go at the end of last season was a good idea. I was getting tired of the whole faux "sexual tension" thing the producers and writers had been doing with her and the Doctor through much of the second season. It had gotten out of hand and had played out about as far as it could without them actually hopping in the sack--something that could and should never happen on Doctor Who. However, I do have to wonder what it is about the producers that they can only have really young and (in the case of Agyeman) really hot young companions for the Doctor. Sure, they're good eye candy for male fanboys, but are they always the best choice? For example, at the end of The Runaway Bride, which aired on Christmas Day last year, the Doctor asked the titular character Donna Nobel (played by Catherine Tate, who is considerably older than Agyeman) to come with him, but she refused. Nobel had proven herself the Doctor's match in sarcasm and wit through the show, and it would have probably been considerably more interesting if she had indeed become the Doctor's latest companion, rather than another young hottie.

Oh, well, we'll see. I didn't think much of Rose Tyler either early in the first season.

In the meantime, via Boing Boing, I found this most amazing gem of a snippet from the first Doctor's reign as Doctor Who:

I particularly like the mention of The Beatles as being "classical music." Who knew that Doctor Who could have been so prescient?

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I almost can't wait for tonite's Who torrent to show up either. Of course, for some reason it always takes my system 12 hours to get it, but it gets here eventually. And yes, I too buy the American dvd set as soon as it's out.

By Joe Shelby (not verified) on 31 Mar 2007 #permalink

I actually bought the British DVDs (I have a region-free DVD player), because I didn't want to wait for the Region 1 release...

I was actually thinking John Simm would make a good replacement for David Tennant if the rumours about Tennant leaving at the end of this series are true.

Since you mentioned Captain Jack, what did you think of the Torchwood series?

When I was a kid one of my claims to fame was that my father had been a historical advisor to the original (William Hartnell) Doctor Who programmes. Believe you me there was nothing in the world that could give you more playground cred in the early 60s. Unfortunately it doesn't make it to German, however Life on Mars does and I really enjoyed the first series and am looking forward to the second one in autumn.

I've been at a conference in Oxford and have just watched the latest Doctor Who tonight.

Nahh nahh!

By Chris Noble (not verified) on 31 Mar 2007 #permalink

Unfortunately it doesn't make it to German, however Life on Mars does and I really enjoyed the first series and am looking forward to the second one in autumn.

There's always BitTorrent. Our lame cable company doesn't carry BBC America; so there's no other way for me to see the series. In any case, I just watched Episode 6 of series 2 last night. Sadly, that means there are only two episodes left of the show, as this is the last season. I still can't quite see how it's going to end. Supposedly they're going to explain Sam's situation in the last episode.

Actually, I'm tempted to order the DVD of the complete series from I, too, have a region-free DVD player. (Ordering British DVDs using is more affordable than you would expect; the shipping charges are less than I would have guessed.) I also have a DVD burner on my computer set to Region 2. I use that and Handbrake to rip UK DVDs to the computer, after which I rip them back onto DVDs encoded in NTSC, so that I can play them on any American DVD player, all in case region-free DVD players become scarce as HD-DVD and its new encryption scheme take over. I just finished ripping the entire Blake's 7 DVD set of all four series, but I still have to put them on DVD, something I'll do a a few at a time over the next several weeks.

Since you mentioned Captain Jack, what did you think of the Torchwood series?

I did BitTorrent all of them, and I had a mixed reaction. The show has definite potential, but suffers from a number of irritating flaws. One particularly irritating flaw is that the producers seem so intent on making it an "adult" (or "serious") show, as opposed to Doctor Who, which started out as a children's show and has become more "adult," that a lot of the sex and sexual themes in the show feel forced, particularly the lesbianism in Greeks Bearing Gifts (which seemed completely unnecessary), the whole "orgasm monster" episode, the shacking up of various characters, and the utter unbelievability of Jack kissing another man in 1941 in public in a room full of soldiers to such a mild reaction. The incredibly gory and breathtakingly bad episode about the country cannibals, an obvious homage to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, was another example. All of this seemed forced and didn't flow naturally from the stories as it should.

Basically, the series was very uneven, with some really good episodes like They Keep Killing Suzie interspersed with the most godawful crap like Countrycide (the cannibal episode). Add to that the fact that John Barrowman's American accent is pretty crappy (which may not be a big deal in the UK, but as an American I find it highly distracting) and, at least in this show, he's just not that good an actor, and the series has some real problems.

On the other hand, the concept is sound and has potential, and Eve Myles is quite good. It does a nice job of tying into the Who universe while still maintaining its own identity.

Basically, if the second series can come up with more consistently good writing, this show could be as good as Doctor Who.

I had basically the same reaction to Torchwood. My wife gave up on it after the first half of the series, but I stuck it out to the end.

I think the cast was too large, which led to real problems (this is character 1's episode, this is character 2's episode, etc.) Plus I had a hard time with Dr. Owen Harper (Burn Gorman) as a leading man...

GD: Tennant has officially signed on for the complete series 4 next year. It was announced about 2 weeks ago.

As for your reaction to Torchwood ("cast was too large"), was your reaction to, say Star Trek TNG (and DS9 and Voyager) any different? Or was it more comfortable to have the "character N's episode" concept play out when there are 26 stories a year instead of just 13?

Personally, I don't mind but that's because I "grew up" with TNG, so to speak.

I do think that with a large regular cast, it's inevitable. The alternative is where one character dominates and all others remain subservient, a-la the "Crowded Tardis" of Davison's first season.

By Joe Shelby (not verified) on 31 Mar 2007 #permalink

I've been at a conference in Oxford and have just watched the latest Doctor Who tonight.

Nahh nahh!

So have I--now.

The torrent file was faster than usual and finished downloading this evening. (Usually I end up having to let it go overnight before the download is complete.)

What is your favorite bittorrent site? I've been having a hard time finding one I like that is consistently good.

Add to that the fact that John Barrowman's American accent is pretty crappy (which may not be a big deal in the UK, but as an American I find it highly distracting) and, at least in this show, he's just not that good an actor, and the series has some real problems.

Having seen John Barrowman on various chat shows and game shows in the UK, I can't tell the difference between his Torchwood accent and his real one
Though I must admit, subtle differences in US accents are not easy for me to spot

By G.Shelley (not verified) on 31 Mar 2007 #permalink

Just so you know - the first episode of Season 3 was really, really good indeed. Much better than pretty much all of last series (which I felt had a few too many sub-par episodes) and the new assistant is excellent.

And Torchwood was a massive wasted opportunity. Showed promise in a couple of standout episodes, but mas mostly unwatchable.

thank you for the reminder!

hopefully by the time the kids are in bed (i use the phrase loosely) our d/l will be complete and we can spend the evening with the good doctor.

now if only our bit torrent client didn't absolutely *kill* our internet throughput.

Just so you know - the first episode of Season 3 was really, really good indeed. Much better than pretty much all of last series (which I felt had a few too many sub-par episodes) and the new assistant is excellent.

"Better than pretty much all of last series"? You must be joking. Better than the two-part Cybermen episode? Better than the two-part season finale with the Daleks and the Cybermen? I have to disagree (although I will agree that, last season, Fear Her, for example, was, hands down, the worst Who episode since the series was resurrected.)

I will also agree that the series three opener was better than the series one opener (Rose) series two opener (New Earth), both of which (particularly the latter of the two) pretty mediocre. It always distressed me how the first couple of episodes of each series seemed to be among the weaker episodes. I could understand why Rose wasn't that great, given that it was the first episode of the new series, but that's it. I have high hopes for this series, given how much better than past series openers the series three opener was.

John Barrowman's American accent is his real accent (and yet, I'm American -- even Midwestern, like him -- and I find it unconvincing as well!). Maybe it's the effect of trying not to take on the accents around him, or the fact that he often sounds like he's awkwardly reciting his lines.

Tennant's signing for S4 is not officially announced -- they're still playing coy, hoping that people will feel actual suspense about whether he's continuing. UK papers have reported all kinds of contradictory things, of which "signed for all of S4" is only one. I do hope he stays, though.

I'm not sure John Barrowman's accent in Who is really his natural voice. When he was doing the rounds on TV late last year, he appeared on both Saturday Night With Jonathan Ross and Never Mind the Buzzcocks, and he was much more... energetic in his speech. There was an inflection there which he seems to flatten when he's Captain Jack.

I really suggest you get the Buzzcocks episode if it's up on bittorent, he's a riot.

By Alex Whiteside (not verified) on 01 Apr 2007 #permalink

Well, on one chat show apperance they did talk to him about his childhood and he's actually Scotish but moved to America as a child and took on an American accent because he was teased all the time about his Scotish one. That might be the difference you're hearing.

That could be it. I don't pick up on it as a "Scottish" or even "non-American" part of his accent, but it might be obviously "non-American" to American listeners so he may have worked with a voice coach to suppress it when he's acting.

Imagine Tennant and Barrowman both getting their Scottish accents on (if Barrowman could still pull one off). That'd be the best thing ever

By Alex Whiteside (not verified) on 02 Apr 2007 #permalink

For LIFE ON MARS fans, there is supposed to be a spin-off, called ASHES TO ASHES which will be set in the 80s, and which will at least star the other members of the squad, though they are not saying or implying that Sam will be part of it -- which would give too much of the ending of LoM away. (Thank goodness British shows don't have the same sort of publicity machines American ones do, where any "big surprise' has already been talked to death before it appears on the screen.)

For those who regret LoM being 'only' sixteen episodes, that's one thing I like about BriTV. LOST might not have become a lost cause if they had started declaring that it would run just one or two years. And the same with HEROES. (Both shows started out wonderfully and then collapsed into absurdity.)

Speaqking of American disasters, what do you expect from the American version of LIFE ON MARS? (The latest news is that they haven't been able to find an actor for the lead role, so it won't be debuting until mid-season next year. The only casting that seems definite is Rachelle LeFevre as the female detective.) I will admit that the only American producer who MIGHT pull this off is David Kelley, but I still expect a disaster.

By Prup (aka Jim … (not verified) on 02 Apr 2007 #permalink

Well, Tennant did get to get his Scottish on in the werewolf episode. ;-) It was interesting to see him bounce back and forth between the "fake" Scotch accent and his Doctor voice.

Also, if you had the opportunity to see the retrospective the BBC aired before "Rose" first aired, the narrator is none other than David Tennant, in his normal voice. At the time, of course, he had no idea he'd be asked to play the Doctor; he was just doing what any fanboy would love to do, and voicing over a Dr Who special.

Barrowman's accent is probably best described as "mid-Atlantic" -- that's how people like him (who grew up on both sides of the pond) are often described. It does produce a different sort of accent. Sometimes the results will lean to the east of the Atlantic, sometimes to the west. Another example of such an accent is Patrick McGoohan.

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 02 Apr 2007 #permalink

I think the most annoying and "fake" aspect of John Barrowman's "American Accent" is the way in which he invariably drops the "g" in words ending in "ing".

It's not "authentic" to any regional American accent, except to the end of sounding a bit stupid.

Otherwise, it's not bad, but since he was brought up here, it's hardly miraculous in its execution.