Saturday 7 May 2022

Doctor Who overshadowed in Centenary special?

Whatever your thoughts were on Legend of the Sea Devils, the trailer for the upcoming special, to mark the BBC's centenary year, overshadowed Jodie Whittaker's penultimate episode as Doctor Who.

Nick Smith, our resident US-based Whovian, fresh from swashbuckling underwater adventures, looks ahead to Thirteen's regeneration story.

Guest post by Nick Smith

Who knew the appearance of Tegan (Janet Fielding) and Ace (Sophie Aldred) from 1980s Doctor Who would be greeted with such excitement? Twitter has been tweeting non-stop since the Centenary Special trailer debuted after Legend of the Sea Devils in April, with a shot of the Doc’s regeneration overshadowed by the return of two of the toughest, least screamy classic companions.

There is a concern, however, that the mainstream show won’t treat them with the same excellence as the spin-off audios and novels have. How could it capture in an hour what the Virgin books had thousands of pages and the Big Finish stories have had decades to develop?

Beyond the show, Ace has become an adept Spacefleet combatant, a Time Vigilante, a CIA (Celestial Intervention Agency) operative and above all, an inquisitive, resourceful woman. Luckily, the character of Ace has strong origins to build from thanks to her creator Ian Briggs, who laid the foundations for a much-loved, long-term character.

School Reunion gave us just enough of Sarah Jane Smith's (Elisabeth Sladen) backstory to help us sympathize with her, allowing the audience to fill in the gap between her last televised appearance in The Five Doctors and NuWho. But current showrunner Chris Chibnall is not a ‘less is more’ kind of guy.

As with the Flux, Chibnall seems to be throwing in everything but the kitchen sink judging by the trailer: Daleks, UNIT’s Kate Stewart, Ashad the Lone Cyberman, Dan in a Bowie Base One-style space suit and a lot of gun-toting to boot.

Ironically, Chibnall is best at quiet, character-driven scenes – for example, Ryan (Tosin Cole) and his Dad (Daniel Adegboyega) in Resolution or the 13th Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and Yaz (Mandip Gill) in Legend of the Sea Devils - without a bunch of sturm und drang going on. He’s challenging himself rather than playing to his strengths and giving us the kind of soap scenes we get lathered within contemporary, earthbound, non-Who series.

It's great to see Vinder (Jacob Anderson from Game of Thrones) and Sacha Dhawan’s Master returning because they are both shining lights in the firmament of this era. Both actors are fantastic to watch and seem to bring a genuine passion to their performances.

That kind of oomph will help build momentum for the moment all the haters have been waiting for… the arrival of the 14th Doctor.

Doctor Who returns this autumn on BBC One, BBC America and BBC iPlayer.

Are you looking forward to the centenary special? Let me know in the comments below.

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