Sunday, April 13, 2008
Updates from the Whoniverse
Content would be nice, wouldn’t it? Got one part of a project done, you may hear more about that later. But now I’m free to talk about whatever, and there are a few things worth looking at over in one of my favorite fictional universes.
While the third season of DOCTOR WHO was heavily spoiled for almost everyone in the US by the time it finally struggled onto our screens, the Sci-Fi Channel is more on the ball this time and will start airing new-to-America material next Friday with the Christmas special “Voyage of the Damned.” The new season will follow, so that’ll be a gap of three to four weeks, far more acceptable.
Though the spunky and gorgeous Martha Jones departed far too quickly, I’m starting to come around to the idea of Catherine Tate’s Donna as the companion. In any case, we’re going to be spoiled for choice of assistants as this season wears on- not only will Martha return at some point, we will also get a return appearance by Rose Tyler, hopefully not as distraught as she was at the end of “Doomsday.” There are also going to be some classic baddies returning (I think the Daleks are guaranteed to show up at least once per year), and since this is technically the thirtieth full season of DOCTOR WHO, it should be a big fun celebration. I remain as optimistic as ever, though I’d hoped I’d be seeing this in Britain by now.
The Sci-Fi Channel has also seen fit to pick up THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES, the “kiddie” spin-off of the show that airs on CBBC in Britain. I’ve enthused about the ability of Lis Sladen to carry a show earlier, but now that she’s got a program in which things actually happen she’s really starting to realize her potential. The pilot, which aired last Friday, was a tad bumpy, having to introduce the cast, write in a strange vat-grown child with the traits and knowledge of 10,000 or so people, and deal with the main plot of aliens trying to conquer the Earth through an organic energy drink. But there were some lovely moments, including an ethereal scene where Sarah interacts with a singing, angelic alien poet before sending her home among the stars. K-9 appears in a cameo, though an attempt to give him his own animated series has kept him off the show proper, which is a shame. Still, as odd as it is to see this airing on the same night as BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, it’s fun, with Sarah Jane still kicking ass and the child cast having quite a bit of potential as well. It’s the kind of show that makes me wish I had a young daughter to watch it with- Sarah’s an excellent role model.
And then there’s TORCHWOOD. BBC America may deserve some credit for us getting WHO quicker, because through heavy promotion and good scheduling they’ve managed to make this darker, “adult” WHO spin-off into the biggest thing on their channel, which led to them getting Season 2 within a few weeks of the Brits. That run finishes off next Saturday, and it’s an odd program, which compared to these others is saying something. There’s still a basic tension between the desire to be taken seriously (which usually leads to very dull episodes about existentialism and the like) and the desire to just be a more sexed-up and violent spin on WHO. Some genre shows are very good at being serious, but they don’t seem to have the hang of it here yet- a recent triad of episodes featuring Owen just seemed to rehash themes we’d gone over before, without much to offer people who don’t buy into the basic philosophy. However, despite not being the most assured drama on television, TORCHWOOD remains perversely entertaining, and I credit this to the characters, who range from genuinely sympathetic to so broken you have to enjoy them. Toshiko Sato, adorably and believably rendered by Naoko Mori (who is within one degree of Julia Sawalha, and so benefits from additional transferred cuteness), still is not used as much as she should, Gwen has become more sympathetic due to a decision to finally let Rhys in on the whole alien hunting thing (which led to a brilliant wedding episode), Ianto remains whatever the heck he is, Owen’s become a bit less fun as of late but has his moments, and Jack still holds everything together as best he can. It’s still got a hold on me.
I still remember when it was a matter of considerable doubt whether DOCTOR WHO would ever be made again, so to not just have it back but to have two variations on it airing alongside is more than one could have hoped for.