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New Podcast! The TARDIS Crew – “Torchwood – Children of Earth (Part 2)”

I was thrilled to be invited to join the great Ben and Baz Greenland for an episode of their podcast, The TARDIS Crew.

This is the second half of the episode covering Torchwood: Children of Earth, and it’s fun to get to discuss the five-episode miniseries as the culmination of Russell T. Davies’ work on both Torchwood and Doctor Who. We discuss the metaphor at the heart of the show, the queer-coding of the central narrative, and the way in which it effectively completes Jack’s arc of transforming the character into an even more dysfunctional version of the Doctor.

You can listen directly to the episode below or by clicking here.

New Podcast! The TARDIS Crew – “Torchwood – Children of Earth (Part 1)”

I was thrilled to be invited to join the great Ben and Baz Greenland for an episode of their podcast, The TARDIS Crew.

The guys are doing a retrospective deep dive on Russell T. Davies’ last tenure overseeing the Doctor Who franchise, and asked if I’d like to talk about any of his specific work on the show. I was delighted to get the chance to talk about Torchwood: Children of Earth, which stands out as not only the best that Torchwood has ever been, but belongs in the conversation as one of the best pieces of Doctor Who ever made. It’s a fun and freeform discussion, that we split into two parts for ease of listening.

You can listen directly to the episode below or by clicking here.

Torchwood: Miracle Day – Rendition (Review)

Rendition serves as a demonstration of the flaws with Torchwood: Miracle Day. While some of those flaws – the flaws inherent to the production between the BBC and Starz, the difficulty with scale – were built into The New World, Rendition hits upon quite a few more. Most obviously, it’s an entire episode dedicated to filler. Pretty much the only plot line that advances in a meaningful way is that involving Oswald Danes. Otherwise, Rendition feels like a bit of a holding pattern, a time-wasting exercise designed to pad out the season to ten episodes.

Dead on arrival?

Dead on arrival?

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Torchwood: Miracle Day – The New World (Review)

In a way, Torchwood: Miracle Day is a miracle itself. It’s a sign of just how far Russell T. Davies has brought Doctor Who, to the point where one of the franchise’s spin-offs could be an international co-production between America and the United Kingdom. Sure, Starz is hardly the best and brightest of American networks, but it’s no small accomplishment on the part of Davies.

America has been something of a promised land for the franchise since the eighties, when John Nathan Turner would spend considerable time and money visiting American fan conventions or casting multinational companions or even arranging international co-financing or to air The Five Doctors first in international territories. None of those examples really took, and most of America only really knew the franchise through PBS airings of the Tom Baker era.

Jack's back...

Jack’s back…

Davies did a lot of work to bring Doctor Who to America. That work really came to fruition during the Steven Moffat era, with a massive opening two-parter set in 1970’s America and the use of Utah as a crucial location. Massive visits to Comic Con became an annual ritual for the show, its producers and performers. The Day of the Doctor will be broadcast live around the world at the same time, no small accomplishment.

While it’s undoubtedly on a much smaller scale, it is nice that Miracle Day affords Davies a chance to be part of this expansion – spearheading his own project that directly intersects with American television. Starz is hardly Fox, the network that Davies originally pitched to, but it is a significant achievement, and a lot of Miracle Day is best understood as an opportunity for the franchise “to go American.”

Defying classification...

Defying classification…

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Doctor Who: Kill the Moon (Review)

I don’t like people being sick in my TARDIS. No being sick. And no hanky-panky.

If The Caretaker began the transition into the second half of the season, Kill the Moon completes it. The Twelfth Doctor is established. Peter Capaldi has found his footing. The audience has a clear grasp of what distinguishes his take on the character from the iterations played by David Tennant or Matt Smith. The orderly transition of lead actors is complete; the show can no go about its business. Along with The Caretaker, Kill the Moon marks the point at which the season starts building clearly and concretely towards Death in Heaven.

This is the point at which the show feels free to get a little experimental. With the exception of Listen, the first six stories of the season were all relatively conservative. Deep Breath returned to the Paternoster Gang in order to ease the transition to the new lead. Into the Dalek was the obligatory “Dalek episode.” Although it featured a fictional celebrity, Robot of Sherwood was a throwback to the old school celebrity historical. Time Heist was a light run-around. The Caretaker was the “dump the Doctor into the real world” story.

"Yes, I'm wearing my One Direction shirt. Wanna make something of it?"

“Yes, I’m wearing my One Direction shirt. Wanna make something of it?”

In contrast, the second-half of the season is more bold and experimental. Steven Moffat is not credited as a co-writer, suggesting that the training wheels are coming off. While the first six episodes were all written by established Doctor Who writers, the four episodes between The Caretaker and Dark Water are all credited to newbies. More than that, there is a spirit of experimentation. Kill the Moon and In the Forest of the Night are perhaps two of the most divisive and controversial episodes of the show since it returned in 2005. Only Love and Monsters comes close.

Kill the Moon is bold, provocative, insane and more than a little twisted.

David Tennant has the same tumblr photo...

David Tennant has the same tumblr photo…

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Doctor Who: The Specials (Review/Retrospective)

In theory, the specials were a great idea. The BBC is in the middle of converting to high-definition broadcast. One of their best-loved and most respected dramas isn’t quite ready to make that leap, and will require extensive re-working in order to be sustainable for high-definition broadcast, which seems to be the future of home entertainment. It’ll be a year before the show can get back to churning out thirteen episodes and a Christmas Special.

However, the show runner who brought the show back from the dead and turned it into a highlight of your broadcast schedule, and the beloved lead actor who has become deeply associated with the lead role are willing to do a series of five specials that you can broadcast to fill the gap year. Producing a series of Doctor Who specials to tide over the viewing public and keep the show fresh in the public’s mind was a great idea. After all, you don’t want fans to forget about the show.


The plan has the added benefit of allowing Russell T. Davies and David Tennant a bit more freedom to stretch their wings. Davies can work on Torchwood in a way that he was never able to find time before, producing the superb Children of Earth. Tennant can work with Royal Shakespearean Company, playing the lead in Hamlet. All this, and fans get their prescription dose of Doctor Who and the BBC has the time to upgrade the show so it can broadcast in high definition. Everybody wins! Everybody stays happy!

Unfortunately, there’s a bit of a catch. It turns out that these five episodes have to do more than merely “tide” fans over. These five specials are also the last episodes that will be written by Davies and that will star Tennant. So these five specials become more than just a way to stop the public forgetting about Doctor Who. They also have to close out what has been a phenomenal era for the show, and wrap up everything in a nice big bow. And this is where the specials don’t really work.


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Doctor Who: Army of Ghosts (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

Army of Ghosts originally aired in 2006.

How long are you going to stay with me?


– the Doctor and Rose tempt fate

It’s only logical that anybody diving head-first into a fifty-year-old television show is going to have an opinion that radically diverges from the fandom consensus on a couple of stories. So, for example, I’ll concede that I like The Talons of Weng-Chiang, but less than most. However, the biggest divide – and the point on which I feel furthest from consensus – comes with Army of Ghosts and Doomsday, Russell T. Davies’ massive farewell to Rose Tyler, the companion he introduced all the way back in Rose. It’s generally acknowledged as one of the high points of Davies’ tenure and one of the truly great Tenth Doctor stories.

I am far from convinced.

The cracks are starting to show...

The cracks are starting to show…

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Doctor Who: The Age of Steel (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Age of Steel originally aired in 2006.

Human race. For such an intelligent lot, you aren’t half susceptible. Give anyone a chance to take control and you submit. Sometimes I think you like it.

– oh, Doctor, you kinky so-and-so

I really don’t like Rise of the Cybermen. I think it’s a waste of a potential origin story for one of the Doctor’s most iconic adversaries. However, most of the problems with this two-parter are front-loaded. The set-up, quite frankly, is relatively pedestrian. It’s Doctor Who on auto-pilot. The follow-up, Age of Steel, actually works a bit better. That’s not to suggest that the script is any smarter or any tighter. Indeed, this is very much Doctor Who in big blockbuster mode. However, Age of Steel does have one massive advantage. It has director Graeme Harper working on it.

At least they're stylish...

At least they’re stylish…

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Is Children of Earth about the Recession?

I’ve been thinking about the tendency of science fiction to use allegories and metaphors for morals and lessons. I’ve also been thinking about the rather epic and excellent Children of Earth miniseries that the Beeb ran last week and the Americans are receiving next week. With the report from An Bord Snip Nua being released today, it got me thinking about where the recession would force us to make cuts. And who would be the victims. It got me thinking: Is Children of Earth about the recession?

What a load of bankers...

What a load of bankers...

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Fanboys and Fandumb – Or Why Cult Media Can’t Have Good Things…

I am a nerd. I openly acknowledge that. In fact, I revel in it. I like to think I enjoy a broad sampling of all artforms, enjoying a nice play, a well-illustrated comic book, a compelling television miniseries, a smartly put together Oscar-baiting drama and a nice book, among other things. I’m not a snob – I love ‘big dumb fun’. I also like niche and wacky nerdy stuff. And I can appreciate the occasional bad writing that creeps into these genres – because isn’t bad writing everywhere? (Anyone reading this blog would likely agree.) And I really enjoy the vast majority of fans – the people who have a genuine interest in the subject matter. I never got why if you were an expert in Lewis Carroll Stevenson you were a literary connoisseur, but if you embraced the world of JRR Tolkien you were a fan. I love that people embrace these works and discuss them and think about them. That’s something encouraging to see in any media – engagement. But there is one element about these niche artforms that does throw me for a whirl, and it’s a perception that makes my somewhat shy to acknowledge that I embrace these forms of art. Yes: it’s the dreaded fanboy.

Things David Tennant would rather listen to than fanboy complaints...

Things David Tennant would rather listen to than fanboy complaints...

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