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Culture TV
Culture: A Brand New Doctor Who?
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Friday, 03 August 2007 Written by Alexander G. Rubio
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David Tennant as the Doctor, with
his travelling companion Martha
Jones, played by Freema Agyeman
It's like this: There's this guy, who can't die. Well, he can die, but he is then promptly reincarnated as a new version of himself. And this mysterious time-travelling adventurer known simply as The Doctor (David Tennant), jaunts around in time and space along with his companion in a something called the TARDIS, which looks very much like a mid 20th century London police telephone box, and has most excellent adventures fighting over sized pepperpots with a thing for extermination and other menaces to life, civilisation, and afternoon tea.

If any of this makes sense, you're either British, or have been subjected to some hefty doses of British television. The show in question is of course "Doctor Who", which airs on the SciFi Channel in the US, one of the true institutions in the world of small screen science fiction, at present working its way towards its fourth season, which is also the 30th season (depending on who's counting), with The Doctor being the tenth in line so far. Confused much?

Well, you see, "Doctor Who" first made an appearance as far back as 1963. He was then a crotchety old man, played by William Hartnell, and the whole time travel thingamajig was simply thought up as a clever shtick to trick youngsters into watching some educational programing on science and history. The educational bit fell by the wayside right quick. And then the actor did as well...

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The 10 Doctors. From the top left:William
Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee,
Tom Baker, Christopher Eccleston, Peter
Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul
McGann and the present, David Tennant
Hartnell, as you might notice in the picture on the right, was hardly in his prime. And in 1966 he was simply too frail and ill to keep playing The Doctor. That was the end of that then. Not quite. Someone came up with a clever plan.

What if this old geezer wasn't some mad scientist inventor, but in fact an alien from another planet. And what if this race of technologically advanced aliens didn't kick the bucket in the same way you or I would? What if, and here we may trace the influence of 60s liberal drug culture, instead of dying, they simply reincarnate on the spot, as a brand new, fully grown, different looking version of themselves? And could you pass the doobie?

And so the first Doctor died, only to be reborn as a flute playing lunatic with a tape recorder fetish, and went on to new adventures across time and space and places that could only have been dreamt up after one too many stamps of acid.

The actual show was a trip too. There were effects so special you could run them in the Special Olympics, walls that wobbled if you looked at them hard, alien pepperpots with toilet plungers for appendages and more knobs, levers and flashing lights pulled out of an old Morris than you could swing a cat at. It was all thoroughly charming, silly and entertaining, and now and then even moving.

But by the late 80s, and the 26th season, the steam had just run out of the TARDIS. The stories had gone from camp to kitsch and had become silly, in the bad sense of the word. "Doctor Who" was canceled. But, as had happened with the American show "Star Trek", the legions of fans, some of whom had grown up watching the show, kept the faith and flame alive, organising conventions, publishing zines and generally making a nuisance of themselves at the BBC switchboard.

An attempt was made to resurrect the character in 1996, when Paul McGann was launched as the eight Doctor. But his tenure in the TARDIS lasted only one stand alone movie, aside from some later adventures in audio plays.

But then, a couple of years ago, writer/producer Russell T. Davies was approached by the BBC and asked to give it a go, and he did, and it was good.
"I think the BBC had their eye on it as a very good property that could be resurrected," Davies said in an interview. "And the drama department, as well as the controller of BBC1, wanted to work with me, which sounds very arrogant, but it's the truth. They'd been asking me to write all sorts of things; every year, they'd phone up and say, 'Do you want to adapt A Tale of Two Cities? or 'Do you want to write another series about gay men?' [Davies was best known for his series Queer as Folk.] Or something like that, and every year I quite confidently (and cheekily) sat there and said, 'No, I just want to do Doctor Who!'"
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James Nesbitt
The first season of the revived series featured character actor Christopher Eccleston as the ninth Doctor, followed by Tennant as the tenth and present a year later.

Rumours have been swirling for some time that Davies would step down as show runner following the next season. The man most fans would like to see replace him is Steven Moffat, who has penned some of the most memorable episodes in the new series, such as "The Empty Child" and "Blink". Unsurprisingly, when he was recently asked if he would indeed be taking the job at a press conference for the show "Jekyll" in California, he declined to comment.

But British tabloid The Sun now claims that it's more or less a done deal. Their other claim might not be as welcome among the fans though, that he'll be bringing with him the star of "Jekyll", James Nesbitt as the new Doctor. Their source says:
“Moffat has worked with James on Jekyll and the talk in BBC Drama is that he’s a shoo-in as the next Doctor.

“First a Scottish Doctor — now we could have a Northern Irish one.”
It must however be noted that The Sun's score tally on Who rumours is rather dodgy.

"Doctor Who" returns for its fourth season on BBC One next year, but the third season is currently being aired Fridays on SciFi Channel in the U.S. It’s darker spin-off series "Torchwood" will premiere its second season, with a cross-over by Who companion Freema Agyeman, early next year on BBC Two.