Doctor Who Into 2012


Fourteen new episodes of Doctor Who starring Matt Smith have been commissioned with “a good chunk” of them airing next year, the BBC has confirmed.

It follows a report in Private Eye that producers BBC Wales were proposing not to make a full series of the hit show in 2012 and instead air four specials.

A BBC spokesman said 14 new episodes have been ordered but it is not yet known how many will be aired in 2012.

The corporation may reveal more details later on Tuesday.

He denied the decision to split the current series 13-part run into two tranches was taken for financial reasons, saying showrunner Steven Moffat made the decision for “narrative” reasons.

The spokesman said: “The new commission is a big commitment, not many other shows have such a commitment so far in advance. We do not know yet how many will air in 2012.”


Doctor Who: The Impossible Astronaut


Poor Kevin O’Sullivan.  He really doesn’t seem to get it.  He’s been writing in the tabloid press.  Ok, The Sunday Times.  And this is what Kevin has to say about last night’s massively self-assured series opener, The Impossible Astronaut.  Kevin says it’s ‘impossible to understand’.  And Kevin claims that the episode has been written for ‘strictly sci-fi nerds only’.

Where has Kevin been hiding?  Maybe he’s been transported here from the pulp fiction days of the 1930s?  Maybe his is an artificial and volatile intelligence?  Or maybe, like The Silence in The Impossible Astronaut, as Kevin watched the intricate plot unfold, he promptly forgot about it again, as the next scene appeared.

Someone should tell Kevin science fiction is no longer a sub-culture.

Science fiction’s proliferation in the form of books, films, tv, games, and graphic novels reflects its increasing impact. It has moved into the mainstream with the advent of the information age it helped realise.  Of the fifty highest grossing movies of all time, science fiction films account for half the entries. Audiences of all ages will pay a tenner each to watch the latest science fiction blockbuster on the big screen. And in the ever-expanding field of computer gaming, science fiction titles dominate. The fastest selling media product in history was Microsoft’s science fiction video-game Halo 3, the game’s sales generating US$170 million on its first day.

This first episode of Matt Smith’s second season as The Doctor was watched by an average audience of 6.4 million viewers, according to overnight viewing figures.  They were handsomely rewarded.

The series starts with the shocking sight of The Doctor’s death scene.  A Viking burial and heart-wrenching send-off later, and The Tardis warps into the Oval Office.  Here we’re confronted with the entertaining spectacle of President Nixon’s bevy of Mad Men security goons being outflanked by the relativistic Time Lord.  As if that isn’t enough, the plot moves apace into the gothic sight of The Silence aliens, apparently inspired by Munch’s The Scream, before the final spectacle of a cinematic cliffhanger.

The American setting is well judged.  Stephen Moffat and his team have drawn a selection of potent symbols to paint out their US odyssey: Utah plains worthy of a John Ford western, The Doctor in a Stetson, and River donned with a leather holster, a specially constructed Oval Office (thanks Dr Who confidential), and of course NASA itself.  And through it all, our oddball British fab four soldier on, like a reverse cowboy episode of Scooby Doo.

It seems that killing The Doctor has introduced a number of interesting dynamics.  For one, no character seems safe.  For another, Amy, Rory and River face the daunting dilemma of keeping this secret from the man himself.  And it’s not the only mystery.  When will the Silence fall? And what exactly do these weirdoes want? Who made Amy pregnant? (That’s not a statement)  Who’s the screaming kid? Who’s the astronaut?! And what do this strange cornucopia of creatures want with The Doctor?


Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol

Written by Peter Grehan

It was inevitable that one day we would see a Doctor Who Christmas special that was a retelling of a Charles DickensA Christmas Carol. In fact it’s so obvious an opportunity for a series involving a time travelling character that I’m surprised we haven’t seen it already. But then perhaps it is only now, as Doctor Who beds itself firmly into the realm of fantasy, that it is considered appropriate to do so. I wonder if Doctor Who can still qualify to be called Science Fiction. Doing so can only add to the confusion of the Booksellers’ shelf classification where horror, fantasy and something we might recognise as science fiction reside together. Such is the trend nowadays that science fiction has a sub classification known as the New Weird (though I would argue that it is a genre that crosses elements of strangeness from existing genres, a sort of hybrid of writing). It seems that hard science has fallen out of favour, being held responsible for such horrors as pollution, nuclear weapons, global warming and Semtex. Besides it’s difficult to understand, requiring effort and application, whereas crystals, magic and mumbo jumbo is fun and deludes us into thinking we can somehow tune into an understanding of the Universe. Pity really, because one of the great things about good science fiction was that it could give you an understanding of science and how science worked while being entertaining and stimulating.

There is no doubt that this Doctor Who Christmas special had very high production values, visually it was stunning and a credit to all those creative professionals that worked on it. The acting to was first class with good performances from Matt Smith, Michael Gambon as Kazran and Elliot Sardick and Katherine Jenkins as  Abigail Pettigrew. The story itself though seemed incoherent at times with dialogue being lost in the exciting special sound effects and dramatic music (though that might have been partly due to my inner ear infection) and verged on the ridiculous at times, (flying sharks pulling sledges through the air). Very little seemed to be explained, or if it was it got lost in the desperate rush of telling the story. What exactly was the nature of those clouds, how did the liner get itself into that mess (did their breaks fail), how could fish survive and fly, and how come things like the portrait changed yet other things didn’t? I know some people will have gleaned the answers to these questions from the episode, but I bet a lot didn’t like me.

All that said I think this is probably the best ever Doctor Who Christmas special ever having far more originality and imagination with a problem to be solved that is on human scale we can relate to (no end to the world, universe, time scenarios here) than previous efforts.


Reddit Goes Alien

Reddit, the internet site that does social news, has introduced a new section on all things astrobiological.


William Gibson on Zero History


‘In terms of influence he is probably the most important novelist of the past two decades’ Steven Poole, Guardian

American-born William Gibson is one of the most acclaimed and successful writers of the last twenty years. He coined the phrase “cyberspace” and developed the concept in his bestselling first novel Neuromancer, creating an iconography for the Information Age long before widespread use of the Internet. Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive completed his first trilogy. He has written six further novels, moving gradually away from science fiction and futuristic work, instead writing about the strange contemporary world we inhabit.

Gibson will be talking about his life and work, and in particular his new book Zero History, which is set largely in London and captures the paranoia and fear of our post-Crash times.


Monday 4 October 2010

Doors open at 6.15. The event starts at 7.00pm and finishes at 8.30pm

WHERE Cadogan Hall

5 Sloane Terrace, London, SW1X 9DQ

Stalls: £25 Gallery: £20


Or watch on the IQ2 website. More info:

Guardian book review here


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