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Doctor in need of treatment

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2008-04-07 Times.jpg

  • Publication: The Times
  • Date: 2008-04-07
  • Author: Andrew Billen
  • Page: Times2, p. 19
  • Language: English

As an episode of Doctor Who, the first of its latest season (BBC One, Saturday) made a pretty good Catherine Tate Show. Admittedly Tate wasn't "doing" more than one character — a plucky loser called Donna — and, admittedly, Sarah Lancashire stole the show with her impersonation of Jo Supernanny Frost, but the tone was sketch show, sketch shorn, sketch show, albeit one that lasted even longer than a Catherine Tate sketch. I really hoped it would end and turn out to be a spoof on behalf of charity.

Writer Russell T. Davies, the overindulged genius who will probably end up with a knighthood for regenerating this national icon, had two large targets in his sights: the slimming industry and bossy nannies. Missing, somehow both, he fired a tranquilliser dart into the heart of Doctor Who. There is so much right about the new Doctor. Few can doubt that David Tennant is an original incarnation of our Gallifreyan friend. The casting is impressive. The show's special effects are terrific. Indeed, if it were just that Tennant can be m annoying as a teenager with ADD, that celebs now regard a cameo on Doctor Who as they once would have an invitation on to Morecambe and Wise, and that the technical wizardry encourages the scriptwriters to blow up the universe every week, I wouldn't cavil.

My worry is that Davies has forgotten that Doctor Who's main task is to send children scuttling behind sofas while entertaining their fathers with the odd philosophical idea. the occasional classical reference, a joke or two they would probably not wish to explain and a wee bit of space totty. It is not there to explore the Doctor's sex life, labour the acceptability of male on male lip action or send up other television programmes. Most of all, it is not there to send junior chuckling to bed.

But Saturday's story was laughable: an alien plot to produce babies for intergalactic adoption by sucking the fat from overweight Brits who took diet pills whose only side effect was that the fat literally walked out of your side in the form of infants that looked like a cross between pencil erasers and the Pillsbury Doughboy. These were later beamed up to a spaceship by Miss Foster (mother, geddit?) as played by Lancashire. To compound the facetiousness, the Doctor was later observed zooming though the skies waving through the Tardis's open doors at Bernard Cribbins, who was looking at the stars through a telescope on his allotment. Let us get this straight. The Tardis materialises and dematerialises though time and space, it does not blast off, career down streets or dart between clouds. Davies is thinking of a Thunderbird.

And then there is the Catherine Tate problem. Actually, as the new assistant, she was fine and gave a toned down performance, but she is so well known for comedy that she cannot but exacerbate Davies's instinct to play the show for laughs. Even so, she had to face another dilemma, entirely of Davies's making. Because, thanks to his relationship with Rose, the Doctor is now a sexual being. every time he hires a new companion the will-they-snog question has to be resolved. Last time, Martha fancied him but he was still pining after Rose. This time Donna, it was excruciatingly explained, doesn't fancy the Doctor and the Doctor doesn't fancy her (maybe he can't get Nan out of his head). Let that be an end of it.

Out of the box

I hope you caught BBC Four's tribute on Saturday to Verity Lambert the woman responsible for so much great television from Doctor Who to Love Soup. A correspondent Maggie Allen. joined the BBC at the same time and remembers life not being easy for her. "Verity had been brought to the BBC by Sydney Newman, the new Head of Drama (a great character) from ABC TV and everyone bitchily sad she only got the job of producer because she," was sleeping with him (she wasn't). She quickly proved her credentials. She would frequently ask to "borrow' me and I loved working with her... She was very classy ("finished" at the Sorbome), always dressed beautifully and I liked her a lot Whenever, we met up we would always share fond memories of working on Doctor Who." And thank you. Maggie, for sharing those.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Billen, Andrew (2008-04-07). Doctor in need of treatment. The Times p. Times2, p. 19.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Billen, Andrew. "Doctor in need of treatment." The Times [add city] 2008-04-07, Times2, p. 19. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Billen, Andrew. "Doctor in need of treatment." The Times, edition, sec., 2008-04-07
  • Turabian: Billen, Andrew. "Doctor in need of treatment." The Times, 2008-04-07, section, Times2, p. 19 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Doctor in need of treatment | url= | work=The Times | pages=Times2, p. 19 | date=2008-04-07 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=15 April 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Doctor in need of treatment | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=15 April 2024}}</ref>