02 December 2007

To days to come... All my love to long ago

I was chatting to one of the girls last night and the subject of Doctor Who came up. I'm not entirely sure how, but suffice to say that if you were geeked out by Friday's witterings about clever redheads, you'd better brace yourselves.

So, we were gabbing on about how Russell T. Davies has somehow got the concept for the modern take on the Doctor -- and the series in general -- spot on, but how the episodes he writes himself tend to be less than inspiring. The real pinnacles of the series to date have been the episodes by Steven Moffat - the terrifying two-parter of 'The Empty Child' and 'The Doctor Dances' in the first series, and the astounding 'Blink' in the third series. I'm told that 'The Girl in the Fireplace' in the second series is as good, if not better, than either, but haven't managed to see it yet. I know, shame on me.

Moffat also wrote the very short 'Time Crash', which aired on the BBC's 2007 Children in Need, and which I only saw for the first time last night. Witty, curiously touching, loaded with in-jokes and adorned with a sly jab at the Master's sexuality, it takes place in the final moments of the third series, between Martha's departure and the improbable breaching of the TARDIS's hull by the Titanic.

Anyway, we nattered a while about what the Christmas episode is likely to entail, with me speculating that it might include a surprise appearance by Christopher Eccleston.

Not a hope, I was told: Kylie Minogue is certainly onboard -- apparently playing a maid called Astrid -- but we'd surely have heard if Eccleston had been signed up. It's a fair point, as it seems that he refuses even to talk about the programme nowadays. Indeed, not long before I decamped from Manchester I was told how Eccleston had been in Matt and Phred's a few weeks earlier and had torn strips off another customer who he'd overheard identifying him to friends as 'Doctor Who'. Maybe. You can understand his fear of getting branded as everyone's favourite Gallifreyan from the North.

The thing is, though: the Doctor, and specifically the Doctor's Ninth Incarnation -- yes, that's Eccleston -- seems to have been on the Titanic. Check it on the ever reliable Wikipedia. So will David Tennant and the delectable Ms Minogue be spending the whole episode running round the ship avoiding a tall man with protruding ears and a leather jacket, who'll only be seen from behind? Or will they need to, it being, well, a big ship? Or will we be treated to nonsense about a Titanic in another universe or some such?

I'm still not convinced he won't show. The secrecy around this episode seems about as tight as could be hoped for, which would make sense if he's involved. And it would seem bizarre of the producers to have ended the last series with a cliffhanger collision with a ship that's already embedded in continuity, specifically being alluded to in the first and second episodes of Eccleston's run, if they didn't plan on having him feature in the show itself. Even the timing of 'Time Crash' is curious -- why does it fall at that precise point in continuity, rather than at some nonspecific moment in the Doctor's travels? A multiple Doctor story taking place just moments before what really ought to be a multiple Doctor story?

It seems to me that if Eccleston isn't going to appear at Christmas then one of his predecessors is bound to.


nmrboy said...

not being a large watcher of doctor who - yeah yeah, i know, whatever - can i just say that steven moffat wrote coupling, which was brilliant in many ways and would reward a youtube rummage or a box set purchase. glad to see his writing is still being favourably received.

on a side note, my first exposure to billie piper (ahem) was working in a supermarket, and one of the guys (we were all at school) there answering 'because we want to!', a la billie, to a question. not knowing what he was talking about, he did practically the whole song for me, standing in the cereals aisle. i hope he remembers it as well as i do. so cool, josh, so cool.


Daily P.O.P. said...

Just a nitpick and I'll leave it, but his name is Eccleston, not Ecclestone. It's a common mistake and one that Peter Davison (Davidson) had to live with for a while as well.

While it would be great to see Eccles return, I have heard many tales as to why he left and one of them involved the quality of the material. If you ever saw any of the interviews he gave prior to the series premiering, you'd see that he was very passionate about working on an intelligent series with a strong message. Yet, this wasn't always the case. You can see him struggle as an actor every time he has to make that goofy 'I'm so wacky' face as the Doctor.

Like any really good Doctor, nearly any episode with him in it is watchable as he really believes in what he's doing, but ultimately I think he's disappointed with the end result.

Farting fat aliens and Daleks taking over with reality TV gameshows was probably not where Eccleston thought the series was going to go.

The Thirsty Gargoyle said...

And correction noted. Funny, I've always said 'Eccleston' rather than 'Ecclestone'. I wonder why I'd thought it spelled like that.

I tend to think the farting fat aliens were a massive mistake all round. I know people who gave up on the series when they were introduced. A mistake, I think, as that would have denied them the brilliance of 'The Empty Child', but an understandable one.