Archive for the ‘EDITORIALS’ Category

Streamlined or Sawn-off?

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

The year ahead looks to be an interesting time for Doctor Who and its two spin-offs. While a second series of The Sarah-Jane Adventures prepares for production, series three of Torchwood, and 2009′s Doctor Whospecials are in pre-production with a reduced series for both. Of Who enough is known to quell fan panic – the series’ star is currently treading the boards and the show itself is effectively between producers, so all is well (unless RTD is planning on having  crack at that stealth regeneration thing he tried out in 2005 for this series… nah…). It’s just a matter of working out whether the coming year will give us four or five stories. It’ll probably be four.

Five on the other hand is the magic number for Torchwood, a series which is not yet out of troubled waters, yet clawed a few figures back with some (some) tighter scripts this year. There’s still too much going on that’s unresolved, and a weird sense of priorities going on with regard to characterisation (zombie team members, Captain Prat Heartless for two), but it would appear there are enough viewers for the moment. On the other hand, it seems there’s not quite so much money in the kitty – hence a cut-down one-story miniseries over one week. It’s a risky move, and it’s perhaps telling that the weaker series in audience is an all-in-one salvo, while the senior programme can afford the luxury of a thinly-spread series of one-offs. plus, there’s been something made of Torchwood‘s move to the less edgy/higher profile (take your pick) BBC1 – for good or not is unknown, but with the show being already watered down this year for family audiences there’s the sense that this could be a make-or-break time for Torchwood Cardiff (“now 33.3% Torchwood London”). Two of its core cast are gone, presumably for good (including, as some have observed, its most promising actor) and hopefully for a continued career on TV. The show itself is half as long, with half the team it had behind the scenes. From there – who knows? Although a third full series hasn’t been ruled out this stage (and is indeed rumoured, with up to ten episodes), it’s impossible to view this move in Torchwood”s fortunes as comforting as Doctor Who‘s ‘don’t-call-it-a-Gap-Year.’

So then, 2009 will be slightly lessened episode-wise for both the core series and its first spin-off. Will fandom cope after four years of being increasingly spoiled? Will the Sarah Jane Adventuresreap greater audiences as certain areas of fandom realise that cold turkey isn’t the meal for them? Or will less Who content on the telly produce an increase in fan activity as regulars find new ways to cope?

Who can say? It’ll be interesting to find out.

PA  

The Grand Moffat Harking

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

At last it seems the months of speculation, rumours and in some corners, fervent wishing have come to an end, and it has been officially announced that Steven Moffat will be taking up the keys to the good van Doctor Who from Series Five. By which we assume, the full series, and not the currently-being-filmed 2009 specials.

It is, of course, huge news – arguably the biggest since the series’ return, and though the impact on fandom on the Web has already been very large (we only appear to have just literally woken to the report here in NZ), there’s still a good deal we don’t know about what lies ahead. These are perilously early days, but it would appear that the days ahead, and the new series, are both in very good hands indeed. Moffat is for the mean-time a busy man – he is scripting the Tintin movies, and has a new series Adam and Eve in production with wife Sue Virtue. We’ve a year of specials (numbers of which depend on semantics) to get through first, and before then, the rest of Series Four. But fandom is an impatient beast, willing to leave half a plate unfinished to skip to dessert, and cheese, coffee and after dinner mints. If there was ever an example of rude haste, then we’re it. The remaining days of Russell T Davies’ vision of the revived series are yet to play out. We can assume however that the transition will be a gentle one.

So ZeusBlog‘s prediction for the months to come is more of the same, but in different ways. You’ll likely hear lots of cheering and a few hearts being broken, the odd “too soon!” and questions about whether this new broom will usher in a new Doctor with it (definitely a “too soon” question to be asked). People will recall Blink and The Empty Child and imagine them to be the template for the series to come. I disagree. Some will cheer the end of bottom and fart gags in the series, forgetting that Moffat also gave us The Curse of Fatal Death. As seen in his other series he’s a man of varied stories and interesting turns, and he will surprise us. So it may not be time yet to get out that Photoshop montage you’ve been working on for your Forum avatar featuring James Nesbitt as the Eleventh Doctor with his companion Sally Sparrow. The future is over a year away, and as usual, much of it isn’t yet written. In the mean-time, we can be grateful that the series continues to be popular and entertaining.

Here’s to the days ahead and those beyond.

PA 

Tip-toeing into the new year

Sunday, January 27th, 2008

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It’s 2008, and the series and fandom is swinging slowly toward Doctor Who‘s 45th anniversary. Russell T Davies has promised a great series cliffhanger ostensibly to mark the event, although some might note with concern that the word “fanwank” was used by him to describe it.  Indeed, there seems to be a significant number of fans viewing the promised series finale with its confirmed returning companions, rumoured villains and speculated links with next year’s TV specials with no small amount of circumspection. You can see also on the Doctor Who Forum the existential questions being formed along the lines of: what do the ‘Not We’ (non-fans) think of x?

It’s nothing that new, but recently this divination of audience figures and reviews seems to be more cautiously oriented towards the opinions of the general public and major dailies rather than the usual SF media. Need it be said that at the end of the day and despite our enthusiasm for the series, we know full well that its fate is not ultimately in our hands. Perhaps an all-star finale for this year will be every bit as succesful if not moreso than the patchy ratings darling Voyage of the Damned, and maybe that’s all that matters in the larger scheme of things? Beyond the immediate future lies the likelihood of a new production team, with Phil Collinson having already doffed his hat in farewell. The series has so far survived a change of lead and a change of companion; the inevitable challenge must now be a change of producer. When that occurs we may have an answer.

For now though, welcome back to the blog. There have been some changes for the new year. After co-editing Zeus Blog for 2007 and being the driving force behind Zeus Plug, Jono has announced his plans to leave New Zealand for the UK in April, and has stood down from blogging duties. Joking aside, I and the other regular contributors will miss his presence – although it’s strange to be writing this in the knowledge that in the online world London really is no farther away than Auckland, or even the other side of town.

Despite one’s best efforts though, blogs can sometimes be quite static things, and as one-sided as a lot of Web media, something we’d like to address in some new features. Zeus Blog will continue to review the new series as well as Torchwood and the Sarah Jane Adventures; Fast Return will remain as well as the occasional editorial, but with Battle of the Seasons now finally complete it’s time for a new head-to-head competition. This time the votes will be open to you the reader, and so the search for the ultimate winner can be something we’ll all be able to participate in and enjoy together. The new competition starts in February, and it’ll be Monstrous!

PA

Because Lots of Planets Have a North…

Monday, December 24th, 2007

rassilon.jpg…it goes without saying that that should also have a North Pole. And who’s to say gallifrey isn’t one of those planets? And if they do have a North Pole, then who should live there but this guy? Oh some fan will tell you there’s a festival in the New Adventures called ‘Otherstide’ or somesuch, but we’ll let them ramble on in the dark to themselves. No, it stands to reason that Rassillon is and was the real Gallifreyan Santa – he has it all – the white whiskers, the grotto, the booming laugh, the presents scattered all over the place, and if anyone knows who’s naughty or nice, he proves himself quite up to the task.rassilon.jpg

Cod theories aside, a very merry Chrimbo from all of us at Zeus Blog. And a safe one. We’ll be back in a few days with a review of Voyage to the Bottom of Kylie, or whatever it’s called (give us a chance, we are hemispherically challenged after all!), and our inaugural Fast Return wrap-up for the year, and then before we know it it’ll be 2008. Change – you, me, everything. Zeus Blog will still be around, so stay tuned…

Don’t Let Go

Thursday, October 18th, 2007

 

So, last week I bought Timelash. I know what you’re thinking. Some of you think me mad, others are perhaps rolling their eyes. You knew it was coming. But I’m not here to defend my purchase or try to change anyone’s minds over the quality of the story – I did that back in TSV 56. And on the subject of back issues, I would like to address my very first comments for Zeus Plug; the editorial for issue 1, called ‘Let Go’.

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All Change…

Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

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So then. Season Five is on – but not until 2010, and it’s unconfirmed whether David Tennant will be returning. In the mean-time we’ve a full year of the Tenth Doctor plus three one-off TV movies (well, two and the now traditional Christmas Special). What form those movies will take is yet to be revealed, and we may well expect it to be some time before anything concrete emerges. Perhaps they’ll be self-contained, perhaps they’ll be linked, perhaps these movies will way-lay any concerns over flagging audience figures by featuring ‘big gun’ monsters and villains? Perhaps it’s too early for predictions. But the reactions are coming in thick and fast, as you’d expect.

Kasterborous don’t like it.

BehindtheSofa are a little more balanced

And the NZDWFC Message Board is buzzing. As it should be.

It all comes down to how you interpret the news and the BBC spin. There’s cause for concern – a possible loss of momentum, fewer stories, the Doctor a little less outside of centre stage (although in a fifth year the show would be doing well to be still occupying that spot, surely?) On the other hand, it’s very encouraging to see the BBC display such faith in the show’s lead character that they will seemingly give him leave to pursue some work with the RSC. Maybe that’s a sign of a healthy franchise. And who knows – we may still have Torchwood and Sarah Jane to bide us over in the mean-time (that’s a BIG may!)

The series has changed before, and the new series was a change in itself. Telly ain’t what it was when the Doctor last took a hiatus. Here’s hoping the signs will be right for a happy return for season five.

PA

Doc, You Meant Harry?

Friday, August 24th, 2007

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It’s one of the little pleasures stemming from the ever-increasing output over the last few years – we’re finally getting to see some well researched, well produced documentaries on our DVDs.

The best of which recently has been Endgame on the Survival DVD, which looks at what would have happened had the series continued beyond Season 26. Fascinating in its ideas, its revelations (sorry fanboys… there was no masterplan) and its interviewees (particularly with Peter Creegan – the man who swung the axe), the doco benefits greatly from focussing on a relatively recent period of time, and includes pretty much all of the key players.

Other notable successes have also been the various New Beginnings docos (when did we EVER think we’d see footage of Tom Baker throwing tantrums on set!), the Invasion animation presentation, and the ‘how it all began’ on the Beginning box-set, which is the model for how to make a documentary interesting when there really isn’t much to show.

This is a far cry from the first DVD documentary that I saw – the talking head-fest that was the Seeds of Death retrospective. Sssssssnore. Essentially a group of talking heads, it sits at a bloated 40-something minutes, when a tight 15 would have been of much more interest.

Luckily though, it does seem like the DVD team have sorted themselves out and we’re now getting more than just a collection of cobwebbed anecdotes. Personally, I’d love to see an indepth Season 23 one, perhaps tied in with a Trial box set, and how about some focussing on the early years, such as the tumultuous season 6, or a certain aspect of the show like console room design, or even the history of that stalwart of Doctor Who production – CSO!

They don’t need to be long… they just need to be good.

JP – creator of the most groan inducing heading ever.

“What?… What??!”

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

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And so, it’s all over until Christmas for another year. Jono is away resting for the big review of episodes Twelve and Thirteen, but before he wakes up, let’s – just quietly – talk about the week that’s been. Shhh – he’s sleeping! He’ll need it.

Ah, look at him – so peaceful. You and I on the other hand may well have woken blinking in the bright glare of the triple-whammy of the season closing, the now-traditional Christmas Special lead-in scene, and news of who would be riding shotgun with the Doctor for 2008. Truth be told it’s been a funny last couple of weeks. That finale, eh? So much promise. Was Jack underused? Did you think the Toclafane were supposed to be something other than what they were revealed to be? Should Martha have taken the long walk? We’ll let Mr Park tell us what he thinks. For me, I was bewildered, a little disappointed, a fair bit nonplussed. To varying degrees it seems to be a common complaint, although I’ll stop short of invoking Divine Intervention. But that last scene. The Titanic, Russell? Really? I can’t decide whether the idea genuinely defies creativity, or whether an implied storyline of aliens/time meddling versus a real life catastrophe isn’t a bit… bleurgh. And not very Christmassy. But for the moment it’s just a scene and a few casting notes, not a storyline just yet. Ghostbusters 2 managed to have the Titanic in it without welding it to the main plot, and I may yet see those Ice Warriors I predicted for this year’s panto family special. Wait and see, I guess.

The other ‘wait and see’ of course is Ms Tate – Donna as a companion. When I heard that the place was open I suggested her to a mate as a joke. Not many people laughing, I see. Not good news for a comedienne, and again – what’s the plan Russell? Will she go serious? Will she be there to lighten up a Doctor who she first saw as cold and distant and who we’ve seen grow steadily so in recent stories? Or is it more of the same wakka-wakka until the mid-season kicks in and familiar faces are brought back? Ah again – wait and see. He’s playing a cruel game, this one.

So all we’re sure is, we’re none of us certain of where this is all going. Rusty may have calculated that such a combination of marmitey elements would keep tongues wagging for another six months and we’ll all come back clamouring for more. Or it might be enormous double-hulled hubris. We can’t know. It’s too soon.

Don’t send Mister Winkler out on those waterskis just yet, it’s just another round of waiting, debating, speculating. Really, the months ahead are the moments we’re really fans for. The young fans out there have their episode memories, the magazines, the playground games to tide them over; but our playground has just re-opened promising flights of fancy that could be on the ball or wildly off-target, mad, sad, delirious, irate or hilarious. Real fandom starts as soon as the show stops. Get in amongst it.

PA

The Welcome Return of the Moustache Twirl

Monday, May 14th, 2007

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I got seriously excited by the latest trailer for the second half of Series 3, so excited in fact that we’ve spent most of the last week posting about it. And whilst scarecrows, Derek Jacobi and Captain Jack are all very exciting, that’s not the reason why I went into a fizz at the end of the minute-long preview.

No, it’s Mr Saxon that got me going. And it’s not even because it’s John Simm or that maybe he’s the Master or the Monk or whatever – it’s because New Doctor Who looks like it’s finally getting itself a proper villain.

We’ve had close – Van Statten was a bit one-note but was heading in the right direction, as was Margaret Blaine. Neither seemed particularly nasty though, which may have been perhaps due to the Ninth Doctor being quite dark and dangerous himself. Move on to the Tenth Doctor’s era, and there’s even fewer non-monster threats. Anthony Head seemed like he had the right stuff in the few real moments of tension in School Reunion, and had he been given an extra episode or two, might have been the new series’ first real baddie.

But Saxon looks like he’s going to be something different. After two season finales with ‘the big-gun monsters’ being wheeled out, it’s damn exciting to have what looks like a real human(oid) foil for the Doctor arriving on the scene. It’s a scene that’s been set up rather well so far, with some welcome restraint (who else was expecting a Mr Saxon reference to be crowbarred into 1930s New York?), and if all goes to plan, it should pay off magnificently in a few months time.

Of course, there’s no proof that this is actually going to happen. It could all end up being a mess, with Simm coming off as being another ‘could almost have been good’ villain. But somehow I doubt it, especially considering the chilling final images in the trailer. Never has a smile for the cameras been so creepy.

Yes, whatever the outcome, whether he turns out to be the Master, the Monk or just a plain old evil politician, we definitely have a villain of note on our hands, And that to me is eminently more exciting than a ‘surprise’ return of an old monster…

JP

We Should Be So Lucky…

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

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I’ll admit that when I first read on Outpost Gallifrey this week that Kylie Minogue was to star in the 2007 Christmas Special, my heart did sink a little. I mean, the idea of a pop star with little acting experience having a major role on Doctor Who is just inconceivable! Oh yeah… that’s right…

Thinking about it a little further though, whilst all the predictable calls of ‘stunt-casting!’ scream out from the message boards, perhaps, my fellow fans, it really wouldn’t be as bad as all that. We’ve had former Top of the Pops and Blue Peter hosts turn up and the sky hasn’t fallen in. We’ve had high-profile comediennes taking centre stage and the show hasn’t suffered (well.. some people think so, but I loved Ms Tate’s appearance).

We’ve even had the ultimate in Billie Piper – who would have thought, bar her turn in the The Canterbury Tales, that the same person who once sang the words ‘Honey To The Bee, That’s You For Me’ would be a hugely important part of the success of the new series.

So if, as unlikely as it may seem, Ms Minogue does end up having a role in the Christmas Special this year, Cyberwoman or otherwise, let’s hold fire on heralding the apocalypse until we actually see her.

And yes, I’ve seen Biodome.

JP