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Power of the Prime Time Lord

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Dr Who has spawned record TV, book and merchandising sales and now three new spin-off series. Behold the...

DCTOR Who has become such a global phenomenon that it has spawned three new spin-off series for the BBC. And with them will come a host of merchandise.

The first new series is Torchwood, penned by Russell T Davies, the scriptwriter and executive producer of Doctor Who.

The Sunday Express has seen a selection of scenes from this new, edgy BBC3 show which seems destined to be an immediate hit.

The second spin-off is an animated series starring Doctor Who's robot dog K9 for the children's channel Jetix, which is currently in development.

And last week, the BBC confirmed to the Sunday Express that Russell T Davies is creating a new show around the Doctor's former assistant Sarah Jane, called Sarah Jane Investigates. The show would go out on children's teen channel CBBC.

Just so the diehard "Whovians" don't get disappointed the BBC is planning to release 1968's Cyber-epic The Invasion, including fully-animated recreations of two missing episodes, in November.

The Invasion stars Patrick Troughton, the second in the line of actors who have played the Doctor, in a battle with the Cybermen. Episodes one and four from this eight-part story have long been missing from the BBC's archives but the soundtracks survived.

Sophie Walpole, head of the BBC's interactive drama and entertainment division, said: "In the year that the Cybermen have returned to Doctor Who, it seemed a good idea to complete one of their finest outings from the Sixties. We have found a unique and innovative way of presenting this classic adventure with new animation fitted to the lovingly restored soundtrack"

Here are some pertinent figures from Doctor Who: The Industry.

Series One has been sold to 29 broadcasters in 27 markets (it is shown on two broadcasters each in Canada and Belgium) - a number which increases regularly.

The most recent sales include Thailand and Japan. In South Korea, this was the first UK drama series to be sold to a Korean public station and the first time the prime-time slot was allocated to drama.

Away from TV sales, there is Doctor Who: The Magazine. BBC Magazines has also launched Doctor Who Adventures, a fortnightly magazine aimed at children aged six to 12.

In the all-important DVD market, more than half a million discs of the first series have been sold in Britain. This is expected to double for the second series.

In books, last year the BBC published six hardback spin-off novels from Series One plus Monsters & Villains, The Shooting Scripts and updated the Doctor Who "bible", Doctor Who - The Legend Continues. Total book sales in the UK are almost 300,000. It all adds up to a huge global money spinner, which ranks along-side such cash cows as Teletubbies, Plant Earth and The Office.

A spokeswoman for BBC Worldwide told me: "The new Doctor Who is a terrific modern retelling of a science fiction legend. It is not only a commercial success in territories but it has also helped to reinvigorate the international appetite for contemporary British drama

"Its appeal translates strongly into other formats such as DVDs, books, audiobooks, toys, games, watches, stationery, gadgets and clothing.

"New product lines going on sale this autumn include a Cyberman voice-changer, a remote controlled K9 and the Tardis playset. It just doesn't stop."

A Doctor Who spin-off nowadays can have the slightest of beginnings. Andrew Francis, of BBC3, told me: "When the first of the new Doctor Whos were being filmed in Cardiff two years ago, we wanted a way to disguise just what was on the DVDs when they were being sent to London to be viewed by BBC bosses.

"So we labelled them as Torchwood. That's how the idea started. It just stuck with creator Russell T Davies and six months later he started writing." While Torchwood, which stars John Barrowman as Captain

Jack Harness, is a spin-off Francis insists it is an entirely separate entity to the Doctor Who series starring David Tennant and Billie Piper as Rose Tyler.

"There is no crossover between the two. Fans of Doctor Who will pick up some references but that's it. There are aliens but no monsters. Captain Jack uses 'alien technology' to solve crimes, both alien and human. It's X Files meets This Life, as there's this crack team of investigators fighting the impossible."

Francis says it would be spoiling it to expand on the alien technology "All I can say is that as the 13-part series develops in 50-minute episodes, Captain Jack picks up alien artefacts, which he uses to investigate crimes."

In a clip seen by the Sunday Express, a Hannibal Lecter figure plunges his teeth into the neck of a victim. Francis adds: "The other thing about Torchwood is that it's post-watershed. There is violence but nothing is gratuitous."

Tom Spilsbury, deputy editor of Doctor Who Magazine and friend of Russell T Davies, says there's a particularly clever dimension to the current spin-off mentality.

"What's interesting about them is that's they're not just being aimed at the same audience. The K9 animation is for young children, Sarah Jane Investigates sounds like it's probably for teenagers on CBBC, while Torchwood is clearly for adults. It's quite different to Star Trek, for example, which had many spin-offs but aimed at the same fans."

Spilsbury has seen almost a 400 per cent increase in his readership since the new Doctor Who hit the screens last year. "We had a lot of support in the lean years, particularly from Russell, but our circulation is now around 35,000. We also turn out graphic novels and comic strips on a Doctor Who theme," he said.

"The strength of Doctor Who this time around is that it belongs to the kids. It also shows no sign of losing viewers. Towards the end of the last series, its ratings were beating both FastEnders and Coronation Street. It only got toppled by the World Cup. It's the only show where the BBC publicity department doesn't need to do any work."

But is there another spin-off ripe for the doing? Former Doctor Who Peter Davison believes the show's producers would like an heir to the Tardis because the Doctor can only regenerate 12 times. The current Doctor, David Tennant, is the 10th incarnation.

Davison, who's promoting a new sitcom for ITV1, Quick Guide to Parenting, said: "There was an interesting line in an episode from the last series.

"Rose was talking about her father to Doctor Who. And she suddenly said, out of the blue: 'How would you know what it's like?' He replies, 'I know. I've been there. In fact, I've been a father.' She said, 'What?' But that was as far as it went. I sense the son of Doctor Who coming on."

I can already sense Russell T Davies moving towards his word processor.

Caption: TIMELESS: David Tennant as Doctor Who and Billie Piper as Rose Tyler with their trusty time machine the Tardis

Caption: WHO'S WHO: Actor John Barrowman In Torchwood with a scary monster, left, and, above K9 and Sarah Jane (Elizabeth Sladen) with David Tennant

Spelling correction: Elisabeth Sladen

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  • APA 6th ed.: Stephenson, David (2006-08-06). Power of the Prime Time Lord. Sunday Express p. 10.
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  • Chicago 15th ed.: Stephenson, David. "Power of the Prime Time Lord." Sunday Express, edition, sec., 2006-08-06
  • Turabian: Stephenson, David. "Power of the Prime Time Lord." Sunday Express, 2006-08-06, section, 10 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Power of the Prime Time Lord | url= | work=Sunday Express | pages=10 | date=2006-08-06 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=24 June 2024 }}</ref>
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