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Feature: Doctor Who (2000s)

Fourth Dimension

Donna and the Doctor

With the fourth season just around the corner, we sift through the rumours and facts…

It’s about time. No, that’s not a catch-all description for the nature of Doctor Who, but rather an observation that the fourth series of everyone’s favourite UK Sci-Fi show is almost upon us. It feels like a long time since the third season ended with the Doctor alone in the TARDIS once more, and since then we’ve dropped in on the Time Lord’s 10th incarnation – and, indeed, his fifth – in a Children in Need short, and seen him team up with Kylie Minogue in the Christmas blockbuster Voyage of the Damned. The show’s stock has never been higher, as proved by its constant stream of column inches in the tabloids, its branding onto every possible thing you could ever want to buy at the shops and the frantic guesswork undertaken by fans who want to know what’s coming up. The BBC suits must be kicking themselves that it left such a potentially hot property lie relatively dormant for so long.

While the bulk of the wondering relates to the long-term future of the show and the presence of star David Tennant in it and Russell T Davies producing it, it’s worth reminding ourselves that both will continue to be around for all 13 episodes of the new season, plus the four hour-long specials to be shown in 2009. That’s plenty more adventuring in Time and Space to keep us amused for now. With a first look at what’s coming up appearing after Voyage of the Damned, and a longer one now to be found in cinemas everywhere, anticipation is once more reaching fever pitch. So what’s real and what’s rampant conjecture?

The new season finds the Doctor solo once again and back on Earth in the present day for Russell T Davies’s Partners in Crime, where Donna Noble (Catherine Tate), former runaway bride, is keen to get back in touch during another alien-related crisis. Thanks to a sneaky bit of pre-planning on Davies’s part, it turns out her grandfather has recently had a close encounter with the Doctor. He was Wilfred Mott, the newspaper seller sticking around in a deserted London at Christmas and played by Bernard Cribbins in Voyage – and he’s back during the season as we get to know Donna’s nearest and dearest, including her mum Sylvia (Jacqueline King). The villain of the piece is former Rover’s Return barmaid and Where the Heart Is nurse Sarah Lancashire, who plays Miss Foster.

Continuing the theme of ‘one in the Past, one in the Future’ to follow on, second episode The Fires of Pompeii finds the TARDIS landing in… go on, guess, and then visiting the Planet of the Ood. The Vesuvius epic features some Italy location filming along with a crispy-looking critter, Victoria ‘Sally from Drop the Dead Donkey’ Wicks and Peter ‘best thighs in the business’ Capaldi, recently to be found in The Thick of It and Skins. It’s written by James Moran, who made a splash writing Horror-Comedy Severance for the screen and recently added Torchwood’s second Season Two episode Sleeper to his résumé. Hopefully he’ll be toning down the gore a little for Saturday nights.

Planet of the Ood continues the Severance links by featuring Tim McInnerny (best known as Blackadder’s Percy and Darling) amongst its cast and promises to get inside the minds of the Ood, the race seen in Season Two’s The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit two-parter, and explore their culture. The writer is Keith Temple, whose credits include Emmerdale, Heartbeat, Casualty, Byker Grove and Doc Martin, while the director is that stalwart of old and new Who, Graeme Harper.

by Paul Spragg

Read the full feature in
Starburst #361

Photo © BBC
Feature © Visual Imagination 2008. Not for reproduction

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Starburst #361
April 2008
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