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Who's hot

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  • Publication: The Times
  • Date: 2007-03-30
  • Author: Caitlin Moran
  • Page: Times2, p. 4
  • Language: English

Doctor Who is the BBC's new flagship show in all but name and David Tennant is not only the best Doctor yet, but the hottest. CAITLIN MORAN meets the timelord and his new assistant, and visits Cybermen and Daleks on the set in Wales

Cardiff railway station, 10am. The. cab driver isn't sure where exactly we are going. He pulls to a halt at the end of the rank, and hails the cab opposite.

"I've got passengers for Doctor Who," he says, with an expansive gesture at us in the back. "Where do I turn off?" "For Doctor Who?" the other cab-driver says. "For Doctor Who?" There is a long pause, where a more overexcited cab passenger might begin to speculate as to whether Doctor Who is shot on Earth at all. Maybe it's accessible only via a closely guarded magnetic anomaly in a disused bronze mine, guarded by the Sontarans. "You go right at the BP petrol station, mate." Doctor Who and its spin-offs — Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Mysteries, Doctor Who Confidential and Totally Doctor Who — occupy Cardiff in much the same manner that an army barracks occupies a small town. With a 200-strong crew, 180 special FX technicians, 200 prosthetics technicians, 2,000 extras and 200 guest stars, the population of the city is divided into civilians and noncivilian7;" Who and non-Who. The pivotal question in Cardiff nightlife is "You on Who, then?"

"Some of them act a bit cliquey like they've seen attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion," says a friend who lives in Cardiff, "when in actual fact they've just spent all day waving a foam-rubber leg around." But as with the Army, this clannishness is understandable — Doctor Who is both a huge and a hugely secretive operation. Having made the decision to try to keep the plots a surprise —extremely rare in television, where tabloid pre-publicity is key in getting ratings spikes — phenomenal amounts of thought and energy are put into keeping details from the public. On the way to Cardiff the show's press officer, Lesley, has a wary weather-eye out for possible leaks.

'We can't discuss the show on the train," she says firmly, as soon as we sit down. "People have done it before and had passengers who have overheard ring the tabloids. Everyone knows what you're talking about as -on as you say 'the Doctor', you see." So an hour later, when I am standing in a dark, otherwise deserted warehouse with the Tardis looming over me like the monolith in 2001, I feel genuine frissons of both privilege and slight fear. Privilege because I am in a place where thousands of the show's fans would love to be. After all, a mere 20ft away there is a top-secret spaceship being referred to as "the James Bond set", which will titillate the spod glands of any Western adult between the ages of 17 and 50.

And fear because the Tardis — despite sitting on top of a pallet — looks unexpectedly legendary. It has the aura of something that has bounced off comets, arced over nebulae and oscillated through the farthest reaches of space-time. Even though, when I knock on its door, it is clearly made of wood.

The Doctor Who warehouse is a surreal place. Despite our last sighting of the Cyber-men during Series 2, when an army of millions tried to take over the Earth, there are in fact only ten Cybermen in existence. Well, four now, due to breakages. I can see three of their legs poking out of a large cardboard box at right angles. The Daleks meanwhile are, contrary to all celebrity lore, actually bigger than they seem on television.

Being quite common, my first instinct is to steal something cool. I cannot be alone in this impulse: These warehouses are, presumably, an open invitation to cast and crew to take "mementos". Everyone wants a Cyberman codpiece on their mantelpiece, surely? "To be honest, no," says our tour guide, Edward Russell, brand executive of Doctor Who. "It's like a family. It wouldn't be worth their while because if they were caught they'd never work again. Everyone on this show is very protective." He makes it sound as if, in the event of any transgression of trust, a hit-squad of Daleks might be seen trundling into a local pub and emerging minutes later with smoking ray-guns.

Of course, anyone venturing into an operation this big and, indeed, a universe this vast, requires a charismatic galactic chaperone. And as we all know by now, the resurrection of Doctor Who is down to one man — the joyous, expansive and prodigiously talented Russell T. Davies, the man who traded all his success with Queer As Folk, Bob and Rose and Casanova to do what the BBC had thought impossible for 16 years, namely to regenerate the abandoned Who and turn it into the BBC's flagship. It is he, above all others, who is responsible for the best programme in Britain in the 21st century being, against all the laws of probability, a children's show, made on a minuscule budget, in Wales, by gays.

But perhaps Davies's most crucial decision was his choice for the Doctor. For although in the first series Christopher Eccleston's leather-jacketed, slightly demented hard-nut Doctor was the right man to make a break from the show's heritage of frock coats, frilly cuffs and hammery, it is in David Tennant, the tenth and current Doctor, that the show has found its most appealing emissary. While Eccleston approached the role prosaically as a difficult be done well, Tennant has taken it on with, well, love. A fan since childhood, he has been voted "The Best Doctor Ever" in acknowledgement that his performances, above allothers, have best embodied the show's values: anarchy, vigour, moral rigour, silliness and a reverential awe at how big, scary, complex, beautiful and full of bipedal aliens made of foam rubber the Universe is.

Meeting him in the tearooms of the Landmark Hotel in Marylebone, it's clear why Davies cast him in the role. He has a quick wit, excess energy and self-deprecates at every opportunity ("Look at my mobile! It's really boring! It's about as intergalactic as a brick!"). He is also, let's be frank, the first hot Doctor. He is the primary timephwoard. He was voted "Hottest Man in the Universe" by The Pink Paper, and New Woman magazine placed him at No 13 in its poll of 10,000 women's crushes — just below Brad Pitt. Tennant, however, disputes this assignation. "Tom Baker!" he says, with a Bakerish roar. "Come on! He was a huge hit with the ladies." He was more of a specialist taste, I offer, primly. Something that WHSmith would keep behind the counter and you'd have to ask for.

"I'm sure Peter Davidson was in polls at the time," he continues, gallantly. Perhaps aware that he is seconds away from attempting to mount a defence of the sexual allure of Sylvester McCoy, Tennant changes the conversation with a confidence that just, to be honest, proves how hot he is.

"This is a terrible anecdote, so I must tell it," he says, settling into a chair with a coffee. "Last year Billie [Piper] and I kept getting invited to guest at award ceremonies but we could never go — we were either filming in Cardiff or we would be presenting Best Wig or something, and what's the point of that? But when the Brit Awards rolled around, we let it be known through our 'people' that we'd love to present a Brit for Best Drunkard or something. But, pleasingly for the laws of hubris, they said 'No, we'll be fine, thank you'. They turned down the Doctor and Rose! Famous. across the Universe!" Tennant does a self-deprecating boggle.

Talking to him is a mildly surreal experience. On the one hand, it's the Doctor! You're talking to the Doctor! On the other hand, he is as obsessive and passionate about the show as any fan. This is a man who can talk about the gravitic anomalyser without a protective layer of irony.

Dismissing the possibility that, paradoxically, becoming the Doctor could ultimately ruin the show for him — "I know what you mean, because all the surprises are gone, but I'd have gone mad if I'd turned it down and

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  • APA 6th ed.: Moran, Caitlin (2007-03-30). Who's hot. The Times p. Times2, p. 4.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Moran, Caitlin. "Who's hot." The Times [add city] 2007-03-30, Times2, p. 4. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Moran, Caitlin. "Who's hot." The Times, edition, sec., 2007-03-30
  • Turabian: Moran, Caitlin. "Who's hot." The Times, 2007-03-30, section, Times2, p. 4 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Who's hot | url= | work=The Times | pages=Times2, p. 4 | date=2007-03-30 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=25 October 2021 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Who's hot | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=25 October 2021}}</ref>