Doctor Whooligan: Karen Gillan On Leaving Who, The Sixth Doctor Era, David Tennant News, Eve Myles On Stage

There is not too much to report this week for the upcoming season of Doctor Who. However Karen Gillan has been very busy talking about Dr. Who and We’ll Take Manhattan.

KAREN GILLAN ON HER DEPARTURE

Karen Gillan recently spoke about exiting Doctor Who on the Graham Norton Show,  “I have known for ages that I am leaving and it’s such a massive relief that it is out and I can speak freely about it.  I’m back next year for a few episodes but it’s not actually confirmed when I go.”

She also discussed playing Jean Shrimpton  in the forthcoming BBC 4 drama, We’ll Take Manhattan.

“She (Shrimpton) gave her consent to having it made but then didn’t want anything to do with it because she is quite reclusive.  But she saw it and she really liked it and left a voicemail saying she thought it was really accurate.  That was the best compliment I could have got.”

Gillan was then asked whether playing Jean Shrimpton made her miss her modelling days.

“It was an okay way to earn money because I had been working in a pub before that, but it’s not something I ever aspired to do in life. Some of the things I had to do were weird – for one job I had to wear a bucket on my head.”

Gillan who has in the past had a reputation as a party girl was asked d if she ever goes wild.

“No, because I have to get up so early in the mornings so it’s oatcakes for me in the evenings on my own.” Questioned further, she says, “I really like them, sometimes with hummus but mostly just dry.”

Gillan also was mum on how Amy leaves during the next season.

IMAGE OF THE FENDAHLEEN ACTION SET

If you dig Doctor Who toys then the new Doctor Who: Image of the Fendahleen Collectors Set is right up your alley. There is no 4th Doctor figure, but it does include a Leela figure, Fendhaleen infant and Fendhaleen adult figures plus a skull and stand.

The detail is pretty amazing.

Image of the Fendahl aired in 1977 and was the third story of Season 15. The set is available through Forbidden Planet International. http://www.forbiddenplanet.co.uk/index.php

TENNANT TO HOST BBC AUDIO DRAMA AWARDS

David Tennant has been named as the presenter for the inaugural BBC Audio Drama Awards. These awards honor the achievement of audio dramas which have been produced for on-air or online broadcast.

Awards will be given out to recognize the achievements of actors, writers, producers, sound designers and others who work in the audio drama genre.

Interestingly enough, Tennant has also been nominated in the Best Actor Category field for his role in Murray Gold’s Kafka The Musical. The first annual BBC Audio Drama Awards will be handed out on January 29th at the BBC Broadcasting House.

Read The Stage article here: http://www.thestage.co.uk/news/newsstory.php/34856/david-tennant-and-june-whitfield-make

Tennant has also been cast alongside Heather Graham in Beth Lauren’s romantic comedy Emotional Rescue. The film will begin shooting in New York in a few weeks. The film is scheduled for release later this year.

THE COLIN BAKER YEARS

Despite appearing onscreen previously as Maxil in Arc of Infinty, Colin Baker’s arrival as the lead in Doctor Who was like a sharp jab to the face for many fans. When he emerged at the end of The Caves of Androzani, few were ready for the jarringly, bold, arrogant and combative nature of his portrayal of The Doctor. As he progressed in the role over his first few stories it was clear that this was a Doctor unlike any before. He was brash, autocratic and bold. He was violent and willing to go to more extremes than prior Doctors. He chewed up scenery and leveled everything in his wake. It was certainly a whole new ballgame for fans of the show.

The unlikable tone of the Sixth Doctor that began at the end of The Caves of Androzani carries through most of  his first story, The Twin Dilemma. As a Doctor Who story it is dreadful. The story suffered from a script that didn’t really fit the 6th Doctor. Plus, audiences were having to adjust to his costume, his large ego and his penchant for loud tantrums.

With regards to the costume, the 6th Doctor’s bright and loud coat of many patterns and colors was indeed eye jarring. In fact it positively was the weirdest thing ever seen on an actor in the role. Baker’s boisterous Doctor was accented with bright yellow trousers and an unseemly overcoat. Everything about his dress was loud.

The white shirt with question marks on it was fine, so was the vest and the strange polka dot tie. But the jacket was a thing to behold. It was a Technicolor acid bath that somehow lent itself to Baker’s portrayal. Upon hindsight, Baker was hoping to build a Doctor much like his coat, garish and loud but with layers of textures and shapes beneath it which were different, rough and deep.

The Twin Dilemma also saw The Doctor behave violently as never before, attacking Peri (his companion who carried over from the Davison era) and spewing venom at every chance. As far as first impressions go it was not the best. Yet somehow Baker’s 6th incarnation was compelling even though his debut story was horrid.

After a season break he returned for his first full season, Season 22. The season saw an overhaul of the episode format. Stories now were composed of 45 minute episodes so what was once a four parter was now a two parter etc… The season also featured more horror and violence then in previous seasons. There was plenty of torture, decapitation and pain to go around. Much to the chagrin of critics inside and outside of the BBC.

If that was not enough, the production team went all out, bringing back The Cybermen, The Master, The Sontarans and The Daleks. There was also a nod to the show’s early history with the return of the 2nd Doctor and Jamie in The Two Doctors. There was also a return of the show to a Saturday night-time slot.

It began with Attack of The Cybermen. This story was a chance for the production team to tone down the volume of Baker’s rancor from the previous story. They did this a teeny bit.  As the season begins, Baker’s Doctor is clearly at odds with the universe, particularly his old foes, The Cybermen.

I have always thought that Attack of the Cybermen was an overlooked gem of the classic era. Despite its hoky studio sets it remained claustrophobic. The plot was intense and the Cybermen were indeed menacing once again. However they ‘fixed’ the TARDIS and completely messed up with handling the returning character of Lytton but overall it is one of Colin”s better episodes. It set the right tone to begin Season 22 and seemed to give us a chance to see what Colin’s unpredictable Doctor was going to do next. After the fireworks of his debut the Doctor returned to a moral center. However this Doctor would resort to violence to win the day.

Vengeance of Varos was amazing. It had one of the better scripts of the Baker era and touched upon many key social issues. In a season where many old foes returned it was great to see a story with a fresh premise and an even more unsettling villain in Sil. The Sixth Doctor’s ego is still in full effect in this story as he fights a system where public executions serve as entertainment. Despite all the torture and grimness of this episode we see glimpses of the empathy that makes The Doctor such a crusader against evil. We do begin to see the relationship with Peri gel more and gain better footing.

Mark of the Rani could have been so much better. The manic antics of the Doctor subsided here a tad as he  squares off against two Time Lord baddies, The Master and the Rani. The Rani is no pushover. She is far more sadistic than the Master and is not afraid  to alter genetics to get her way. She is a rogue Time Lord who has managed to become a dictator of her own planet. She is clearly an intellectual rival for both The Master and The Doctor.

Things in this  aggro filled story go a bit daft when people begin turning into trees. The  Luddites seem to be nothing more than caricatures and The Master seems to be lost a little as things progress. He almost becomes the buffoon of a comedy farce.

Colin Baker has some great scenes with Peri and The Master. You really sense a rivalry exists between the two when he and Anthony Ainley confront each other onscreen. Nicola Bryant is actually given some more challenging stuff to do here as well. Writers Pip & Jane Baker also threw in some great one liners and managed to have the dynamic between The Master & The Rani be complicated enough to leave the audience guessing.

Mark of The Rani was pretty violent at times and it made some executives a bit nervous. However it was nowhere as violent as what was coming next.

Next up is the season’s three-part centerpiece, The Two Doctors. The story is basically a road movie with the 2nd and 6th Doctors in Seville. It opens superbly in black and white with Jamie and the 2nd Doctor in the console room. It eventually shifts to color but the opening shots ere a nice touch.

This story sees the return of The Sontarans as well as the introduction of Androgums, a race of gormaunds who have been genetically altered by the evil Dr. Dastari. The Doctor and Jamie are sent on a mission to a space station by the Time Lords to prevent some disturbing time experiments. Things get deadly when the Sontarans show up and capture the 2nd  Doctor and Jamie. The 6th Doctor has his fishing trip disrupted and eventually meets up with his previous self.

Frankly the best bits of this story involve seeing Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines on-screen again. The scenes with Trougthon and Colin Baker are magical. Frazer works well with both Doctors and seems to have not missed a step after all these years away from the character of Jamie McCrimmon. Colin dials back the attitude here so his costars do not become overwhelmed. The Two Doctors shows how great an actor Colin Baker was. He was willing to step back and become part of an ensemble while letting Patrick Troughton have his day in the sun. He also displays some serious comedic chops in his banter with Troughton. We also see the rebellious streak of the 6th Doctor come to light once more.

The weakness of The Two Doctors may be the parts where the 2nd Doctor, now being turned into an Androgum, goes out  on the town to eat, eat and eat. This angle doesn’t really work and it throws a wet rag over the pacing and timing of the story. Still this is a pretty great adventure.

Timelash was the black stain on Season 22. It was really terrible. The idea of having H.G. Wells travel in the TARDIS was clever but got completely lost in a murky plot. Paul Darrow was the guest star and his over the top performance was even hammier than Graham Crowden’s in The Horns of Nimon. The best thing in Timelash is Colin Baker’s performance. He belittles HG Wells and breaks out the puns with great flourish.

Critics bashed Revelation of The Daleks for its violence and cruelty as the story seemed to intensify the ongoing conflict with the Daleks with more carnage. The season finale sees the 6th Doctor plunging headfirst into a battle with his old enemy Davros. The centuries old battle of wits between the Doctor and the Daleks was invigorated by the fact that this Doctor was willing to set aside restraint in favor of violence to beat the Daleks.  The self confidence he displays in battling the Daleks was miles apart from any other approach to the Doctor/Dalek relationship previously seen onscreen. It was really something.

Revelation of the Daleks was not perfect but it was pretty good.  It was also the last time, I think, that Colin Baker got to play The Doctor on his own terms. In an interesting turn we see a new development in his character, the 6th Doctor, despite the caustic and pompous demeanor offers glimpses of  the compassion for others seen so frequently in his predecessors. I think it is here where Baker has the lights go on as a performer with regard as to how to proceed as The Doctor onscreen.

From here I think he knew how he wanted to move on with fleshing out his version of The Doctor. As is the case with every Doctor, there is a feeling out process where the actor playing the Doctor experiments with the role, tinkering with the perceptions and ideas of how the Time Lord appears onscreen. This story sees Colin Baker transcend all of that and hold his own.

The TARDIS takes the Doctor and Peri to Necros where people are not really resting in peace. The Doctor suspects there are some sinister things going on when he comes to pay his respects to his friend Professor Arthur Stengos. This leads the Doctor to discover that Davros is using the frozen dead of the planet to make a new breed of Daleks.

I love Colin in this story. He doesn’t hold anything back and it is as if all the pent-up rage, held back over the course of the season, is unleashed  with full force on his adversaries. The Doctor’s insolent treatment of Davros is something new and refreshing. His scenes with Davros bring out a rawness in The Doctor which has been suppressed for so long.  It is interesting to observe how the 6th Doctor walks a narrow emotional tightrope that ranges being haughty to benevolent as the plot unfolds.

It was not known at the time but Revelation of the Daleks would end 1985 in controversy. The high body count in this story, combined with the destructiveness of the overall season did not please the inner circle of the BBC. Moreover, the sense of disorder, agitation and fierceness of Colin Baker’s Doctor worried many critics who complained that the children’s show was becoming ‘too dark.’

Sadly any ideas of growth Colin Baker had for  his turn as The Doctor were lost in the ensuing hiatus imposed by the BBC. That is because  just as things were rolling along, in February of 1985, at the midway point of Season 22, the BBC announced that there would be an eighteenth month break for the program. The break was crushing news for the entire production team. Unfortunately, this would not be the end of the BBC brass meddling in the Colin Baker era.

TRIAL OF A TIMELORD

Almost everything about Trial of A Timelord was rubbish. The Doctor is taken out of time and space and put on trial by the Timelords. Leading the prosecution is the mysterious Valeyard. Something or someone is trying to set him up and he must spend the entire season seeking out who his foe really is.

From the onset it was apparent that behind the scenes, Doctor Who was fighting for its life. As a result  Season 23 saw experimentation as the writers and production team tried some different things in hope sof rescuing the show. The violence was toned way down, the Doctor was less volatile and the season long story arc was told in non-linear time with various cutaways from the drama to court room scenes filled with lengthy speeches and furious counter arguments. The stories in that season suffered badly from continuity flaws, poor writing and bad acting. Watching Colin Baker match up against Lynda Bellingham  and Michael Jayston was intriguing. The guest stars for the season were led by Brian Blessed, Honor Blackman and Tony Selby. Of all of these Blessed clearly steals the show.

Trial Of A Timelord also suffered from overly complex and convoluted plot lines. Many of which were intangible at the time. There were lots of problems. Peri got written out in a completely haphazard way and a new companion,  Mel, was thrown into the mix in the same way.The courtroom drama sometimes stilted the developing story and distracted audiences. All of this was confusing and silly. Despite all of this however, Colin Baker was in top form. He was taking the Doctor to some dark places and he again mixed the blustery bravado of the 6th Doctor with moments of tenderness and charm.

The scenes with Colin Baker and Anthony Ainley were sharply acted but you could tell the actors really wanted to do more. Ainley was delightedly ghoulish as The Master who suddenly somehow must ‘help’ The Doctor. It would have been better to just put them both in one story together with this scenario and get on with in. After all this formula worked well  for the 3rd Doctor and The Master in the 1970s,  Instead Ainley is seen on a screen with bad disco effects behind him. Tragic.

Then there is the Valeyard. He was as dastardly as they come. Never in all of Doctor Who villainy has a character worn black plastic and heavy cloth with such flourish and regality.

Near the end of Trial Of A Timelord the identity of The Valeyard is revealed as a synthesis of the dark side of the Doctor’s nature, captured somewhere between his twelfth and thirteenth incarnations. The motive of The Valeyard is to defeat The Doctor and seize his remaining lives.

On paper this may have seemed like a cool idea. In execution it was a head scratcher for fans. It would have been better to just make him an entirely new character. The premise is an interesting one to base a character on but by the end of everything it didn’t make much sense. To is credit Michael Jayston gave us a totally awesome and refreshing villain, one needed for the series for quite some time.

I love watching the scenes with Colin Baker and Michael Jayston. As actors, they really had a go of at it and appeared to relish their scenes together. I think it is in these parts of Trial Of A Timelord where you see  Colin Baker going forward  with his vision of the character. He was combative yet  compassionate, fiery yet logical and very cerebral. During this season we see the Doctor as more of an anti-hero then every before. His trial really transformed him from a character that was a wise sage of the cosmos into a snarling protagonist who was willing to stop at nothing to win.

Of the stories in this season Terror of the Vervoids is the big winner while The Ultimate Foe stands as an unmitigated disaster. The original Robert Holmes ending for this episode was jettisoned and replaced with a somewhat inconclusive one which rendered the entire season rather pointless. It was a virtual reality failure. As an ending it simply failed to deliver a payoff that satisfied fans.

None of this was Colin Baker’s fault. He was working against the clock to bring new life into the show and to his portrayal of The Doctor.  As the Doctor was on trial on television, Baker was on trial himself with the BBC. From the start he faced levels of resentment and frustration that no other actor in the role has ever had to deal with.

It began with the long hiatus in 1985 and came to a head in 1986. Clearly the hiatus of 1985 made it was obvious  that the clock was ticking. In 1986 the sands in the hourglass finally ran dry as the unthinkable finally happened. The powers that be at the BBC were unhappy with Doctor Who and hung the blame squarely on Colin Baker. Amongst their issues were his portrayal of The Doctor, which was not well received by the powers that be, and Season 22  was thought to be too violent for viewers. These were not people who wanted to wait for change.

As a result when these ominous honchos inside the BBC thought that Doctor Who needed to be retooled Colin Baker was unceremoniously sacked. Michael Grade, the BBC1  Controller and Jonathan Powell, who was the BBC Head of Series served as the hatchet men. The two executives believed that Baker’s Doctor never really caught on with the public even though he had only been given eleven stories to work with and faced an embarrassing hiatus.

It is a travesty that Colin Baker was only involved onscreen in Doctor Who for three years. For eighteen months of that time he was left in the dark and put out to dry. He got a very raw deal and because of that his Doctor remained underdeveloped and incomplete. A furious Baker did not return of the regeneration scene with Sylvester McCoy who became the 7th Doctor.

REBIRTH

Although his tenure on television was truncated Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor has had a rebirth of sorts via the Big Finish audios. This has allowed him to develop his own personal style  for The Doctor. These audios have given Baker a chance to take the character in deeper, more interesting directions then he could on television. Of all the classic Doctors who have had audio adventures clearly Colin Baker has benefitted the most from his run on Big Finish.

The Big Finish 6th Doctor remains smug and snide but in a far more nuanced way. Baker has dialed down his Doctor’s arrogance and self-confidence without letting go of the very core of the character he created on television.

To a certain extent he also has benefitted from better scripts as well. His audio Doctor has been given a new life partially because many of the stories are simply better than his TV serials. This also has allowed Colin Baker to move around and breathe in the skin of the character.

Thankfully these audios, along with fan support,  have helped sustain the legacy of the 6th Doctor.

IDW DOCTOR WHO COMICS UPDATE

This week marks the beginning of a special four part Doctor Who story entitled, As Time Goes By written by Eisner Award nominated scribe Joshua Hale Fialkov with cover art from artist Mark Buckingham. Volume 2, issue 13 features three special covers, one of which is rare and features Casablnaca-ish cover art by Matthew Dow Smith. (Thanks to IDW for the cover art)

The story sees Amy, Rory and The Doctor in 1941 racing to stop Hitler from world domination. Check out the IDW site here: http://www.idwpublishing.com

EVE MYLES NEWS

Torchwood’s Eve Myles is returning to the stage for All New People, the latest play from Scrubs star  Zach Braff. Performances are scheduled for the Manchester Opera House (Feb. 8-11, 2012), Glasgow’s King Theatre (Feb 14-18) and London’s Duke of York Theatre in the West End (Beginning on Feb 22nd and running for ten weeks).

Myles will play a British real estate agent named Emma. Peter DuBois is directing.

Next time: More news, DVDs and some other fun stuff….

Comments

  1. avatar says

    You had me at, “Leela.”

    The only companion who’d threaten to cut out anyone’s heart if they didn’t listen to The Doctor!

  2. avatarKaren O. says

    I so agree with your assessment of Colin Baker. It’s a shame he was never really allowed to play the Doctor as he wanted. But the Big Finish productions have shown us what he could have been on the screen (the comics were kinder to him as well.).Though I know it could never have worked on television, I love Evelyn Smythe as companion. The relationship between her and the Doctor is so well done – having a mature companion to work with shows us another side of him, one that can be deeply moving. Here’s to a great Doctor who was never given any real chance on television.

  3. avatarretnavybrat says

    Look at the choices we have on TV these days with all the reality shows and the talent shows where the audience votes every week. Makes “Vengeance on Varos” seem almost prophetic, doesn’t it?