Category Archives: russell t. davies

Doctor Who: The Lodger

“The Lodger” begins with the Doctor kicked from the TARDIS, a machine that has proven in the past to be as temperamental as an agitated lover. I have to wonder at this point in the series, with only two episodes to go, if perhaps the TARDIS is being controlled by outside forces.

Next we tumble into what seems to be a completely unrelated sedate drama about a platonic couple – the man of which cannot verbalize his feelings for the woman – and a troublesome upstairs renter. It has a certain British sitcom vibe to it, but the situation could easily be “Everybody Hates Chris,” “Three’s Company,” Duplex or Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger. But this is “Doctor Who,” so you know there’s got to be more to it.

So the Doctor finds himself stranded with the TARDIS having ejected him and finds himself drawn into the above Britcom. Much like David Tennant did in the “Human Nature” two-parter, Matt Smith tries to blend in as both a human and a renter in the house, thinking that the upstairs tenant has something to do with what went wrong with the TARDIS. So the Doctor has some human misadventures, notably being wet, naked and in a towel (!) – has anyone else noticed how often he gets wet? And he also plays football (soccer for us Yanks). It’s a lot of fun until you take into account this aired the same day as the US/UK round of the World Cup – then it seems a bit forced.

While this is going on Amy is trying to get control of the TARDIS. She’s pushing and pulling controls left and right and taking the turbulent ride of her life while the blue Police Box is out of flux. In all the confusion I couldn’t help but wonder when she would stumble across Rory’s engagement ring.

And then things get bad. It all comes out all right though, for the moment. The universe is saved again, this time with a head butt and a kiss. There is of course still a question of where this second TARDIS came from. Only a Time Lord can build a TARDIS. Could it be the Rani? Or maybe the Doctor’s other personality the Dream Lord? No time to think about it, because then things get worse.

“The Lodger” was written by Gareth Roberts who has a long peripheral history with Doctor Who, having penned many novels in the New Adventures and Lost Adventures series of books as well as several of the audio dramas featuring the Doctor. He’s also written a few episodes of the series, some with Russell T. Davies and some alone. “The Lodger” also features a couple of previous Doctor cameos, and a bizarre and quite honestly hysterical new power for the Time Lord. Fun. Roberts turns in an interesting if oddball and madcap assignment here.

So until next time, remember… “Bowties are cool.”

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Kid Who’s Debut

Last night the fifth new season of “Doctor Who” began on the BBC. As anyone who knows about the mysterious time traveler will tell you, The Doctor is a unique character as he can regenerate when he dies. This trick allows new actors to take on the role when the previous has grown tired of it. It also allows for sometimes a virtually new kind of character to emerge. Thus is the case of Matt Smith, the youngest actor to portray The Doctor, causing many in doubt to call him ‘Kid Who.’

Season five’s opening episode “The Eleventh Hour” opens with a bang. The newly generated Doctor is trying to climb back into the runaway and about to crash TARDIS over London and nearly misses getting his goodies snagged by the top of Big Ben. An opening that promises excitement is always good, and it’s quickly followed up by the new series intro and theme. As opposed to other previous versions of the theme, this one grabbed me right away.

Any urge that one might have to say Matt Smith is a bit young is almost immediately diffused by the introduction of companion Amy Pond as a little girl. Ha, got you, the first new companion is a bit too young. She catches up though, and the young Karen Gillan (who had previously appeared as the soothsayer in the Pompeii episode early in season four) is in my opinion a spunky and refreshing mix of Rose, Martha and Donna. I like her.

There is quite a bit of charming mischievousness and understated menace of David Tennant in Matt Smith’s Doctor. The rest takes a bit of getting used to but I really do like him. The climax of “The Eleventh Hour” definitely cements Smith as The Doctor in my opinion however, very strong presentation. My favorite line of this new incarnation – ”I’m the Doctor, I’m worse than everybody’s aunt.”

Stephen Moffet, who takes over the series from departing Russell T. Davies, delivers a very tasty script featuring not only the best of a new regeneration, the establishment of a new order, new subplots and frightening new aliens. Still not sure about the new TARDIS having the old set from “American Bandstand,” but I’m sure I’ll get used to it. I really did love this. I’m not going to pass judgment and say it’s better than the old, but it is quite terrific.

Who da man? Matt Smith da man, and he’s also The Doctor.

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Sherlock Holmes Destroy All Monsters

Sherlock Holmes ~ Yeah, this is the other film called “Sherlock Holmes” that came out in 2009. This one, from The Asylum, has been nicknamed in genre circles “Sherlock Holmes Destroy All Monsters” because of its plot involving giant monsters overrunning Victorian London. It’s also been alternately known as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, not that that helps much. For those not in the know, The Asylum specializes in making near-beer copies straight-to-DVD of blockbusters currently in theatres.

While it’s more Jurassic Park than Destroy All Monsters, it is an interesting entry, told from Watson’s point of view some forty to fifty years after the fact, and old Watson himself hypes it as Holmes’ “greatest and least known achievement.” Holmes is played by a relative unknown named Ben Syder, while young Watson is Gareth David-Lloyd of “Torchwood” fame. Villain of English legend, and the villain of this piece as well, Springheel Jack is brought to life by Domenic Keating, late of “Enterprise.” Both, while being quirky genre favorites disappoint here.

The movie moves painfully slow and neither lead has the charisma (at least here) to keep viewers interested. I seriously believe that Ben Syder may be the worst Sherlock Holmes ever, and must surely be related to someone involved in the production. Gareth Davod-Lloyd looks alternately bored and sedated, nowhere near as cool (or even uncool) as his “Torchwood” character Ianto – but at least he is more engaging than Syder.

When it does get exciting (it’s rare, but it happens) the action comes off like a flavorless episode of the old “Doctor Who.” There’s even a weird Cyberman-like episode that wants so badly to be Russel T. Davies-ish, it’s painful. And, now that I think of it, this flick probably owes more to the Who episode “The Next Doctor” than it does Sherlock Holmes. Don’t blink, or you’ll miss the badly CGI-ed dinosaurs, and the giant robots. Believe me, it’s nowhere near as cool as I just made that sound. Give this one a miss, and go see the other Sherlock Holmes movie again. You’ll thank me.

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Planet of the Dead

Doctor Who returned to television this Easter in high definition, and he brought along little Zoe, the new (if brief) Bionic Woman.

“Doctor Who” is much more a big thing in 2009 because a) David Tennant will be leaving at the end of the year and b) it’s not a regular TV series but a quartet of specials this year – the final one featuring Tennant’s regeneration into Kid Who, Matt Smith. “Planet of the Dead” is the second of these 2009 specials.

Other than the scifi elements, “Planet of the Dead” at first bears a scary resemblance to that 1970s O.J. Simpson telemovie Detour to Terror. I’m sorry, a bus in the desert just puts me there, no choice. This special is another one of Russell T. Davies’ drawing-room-mystery episodes. As much as I love Davies for bringing The Doctor back, rejuvenating the franchise and bringing the whole package into the 21st century, I am annoyed by his penchant for having a certain type of story every year. We have seen this before in each of the last seasons, like the obligatory Dalek story and the scary one and the different point of view one. It gets old when it’s expected.

That said, “Planet of the Dead” is pretty cool and has a lot stuffed into it. Michelle Ryan plays Lady Christina, a Tomb Raider template thief who would make a great companion, and her chemistry with The Doctor rocks. A companion who leads him around is a great change of pace – however that may be needed once Kid Who shows up. We also get to see the return of UNIT as well as a few interesting new UNIT characters that we’ll hopefully get to see more of.

The end has surprises of its own, including possibilities for a Lady Christina spin-off and a prophecy for what is to come for the end of David Tennant’s run. Do I smell a return appearance for The Master coming up? Time will tell. Next up is “Waters of Mars” in September. Can’t wait.

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Boo Who

The new “Doctor Who” series will be bailing after next year, supposedly going out on top.

What is the real thinking behind this? Overworked? Stressed? Incapable of handing a pet project over to others so that no one can enjoy it? Really, folks, To me it feels like Davies is saying, “If I can’t have you, no one will.”

Here’s the official story:

http://www.thesun.co.uk/article/0,,2001320029-2007250185,00.html