Doctor Who: Ben Jackson, The Lost Companion

Categories: Doctor Who

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The Tumblr picture to your right was one that a friend sent me and it makes me a little sad. The screencap comes from the 50th anniversary special "The Day of the Doctor" where Clara Oswald is taken into the UNIT Black Archives and passes a board decorated with known associates of The Doctor. Fun as it might be to imagine, as the poster did, that the small picture of a young man featured was that of Peeta Mellark from the Hunger Games in a neat bit of crossover humor, it's actually one of the least discussed companions in Doctor Who history, Ben Jackson.

Admittedly, the resemblance between Hunger Games actor Josh Hutcherson and Ben's actor Michael Craze is actually sort of striking. That said, Ben remains obscure even for fairly well-informed fans. It's a little odd considering some of the landmarks that Craze was present for in the show's history such as the first regeneration, the birth of the Cyberman, one of the last purely historical adventures and more.

Ben and his friend Polly Wright were the final companions of the First Doctor, and joined him on his last three television adventures after the departure of Dodo Chaplet. He was a sailor from Cockney with a solid working-class background. He and Polly chanced upon The Doctor when he was trying to thwart the sentient supercomputer WOTAN. He was a man of action who was an indispensable asset to The Doctor in the fight, and he and Polly made an effective team from the second they stumbled into the Tardis trying to return a key to The Doctor as he left London following WOTAN's defeat.

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Doctor Who: 10 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Regeneration

Categories: Doctor Who

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"The Stolen Earth"
It's one of The Doctor's most amazing feats, the ability to cheat death by changing his form and adopting a new face and personality. How exactly the process works remains a mystery explored in depth only in non-television media, and therefore is of dubious canonicity. Still, there's a fair amount of little-known trivia about regeneration.

10. It Was Initially Extremely Stupid
How to get the aging, ill and expensive William Hartnell out of the role of The Doctor and replace him with a new actor didn't jump fully formed from a writer's brain. The first suggestion was to just literally switch him out during "The Celestial Toymaker" and play it off like magic. When the BBC scrapped the idea the more biological explanation was written in. However, the effect was going to be accomplished simply by having Hartnell fall down with his cape over his face, only for it to be revealed as Patrick Troughton underneath in the next shot. Luckily, a vision mixer named Shirley Coward came up with a more impressive sequence, and long history of effects-laden regenerations has been the norm since then.


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Doctor Who: Why Are All the Doctor's Enemies Becoming His Friends?

Categories: Doctor Who

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"The Big Bang"
It started at the very end of the Russell T. Davies era, but for some reason the modern incarnation of Doctor Who has given The Doctor a friend from almost every major recurring villain class. If there is one lesson that we can truly learn from Steven Moffat, it seems to be that friendship is magic.

Let's look at a list. Since the show returned in 2005, eight major recurring enemies have returned and two have been created. You've got the Nestene Consciousness, the Daleks, the Cybermen, the Master, Davros, the Silurians, the Sontarans and the Great Intelligence added to Moffat's own Weeping Angels and the Silence. You could throw the Macra and the Zygons in there if you like, but considering that they have one adventure each in the classic series, the word "recurring" seems a bit strong.

Of the 12 enemies on that list, eight have become The Doctor's allies and seven of them since 2010 alone.

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Doctor Who: Mind the Gaps in the Narrative

Categories: Doctor Who

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"The Power of Three"
If you asked me to pick my absolute least favorite episode of Doctor Who across its entire history then I would definitely pick "Power of Three." It's not that it's a bad episode exactly. It has more to do with how much of a cop-out it is. Amy and Rory come to terms with their desire to keep traveling with The Doctor, even giving us a cheesy but moving ending monologue on how powerful they are as a trio. The very next week the whole thing was rendered moot by "Angels Take Manhattan".

Now, that was deeply disappointing in terms of what we saw on the screen, but it was also an example of something brilliant the revived show has consciously introduced to Doctor Who that is almost entirely absent in the classic show. Basically what we saw was the creation of a narrative gap where future stories can be set.

In the years between the series cancellation in 1989 and its revival in 2005 Doctor Who existed in the form of books, comics, and audio stories. Though these are now just excellent supplements for the continuing show for 16 years they were all fans had.

At first it was just the continuation of the adventures of the Seventh and later Eighth Doctors. It wasn't until 1994 that Virgin realized that there was money to be made and stories to tell in its Missing Adventures line focusing on Doctors before the "current" one. BBC followed suit after it took the license back and founded the Past Adventures line to coincide with the Eighth Doctor Adventures. Big Finish expanded the idea when it began producing audio plays featuring actors from all across the show's history in its dramas.

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Doctor Who: Why Shona McCullough Needs To Join the Tardis Crew

Categories: Doctor Who

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Though there was a quite a divide about Series 8 as a whole I don't think any Whovian had anything but love for the Christmas special "Last Christmas". It had horror, mind-twists, and for what hopefully is the foreseeable future Clara and the Twelfth Doctor finally seemed to come clean and start anew with each. It was like Series 8 was six-hour version of "Power of the Daleks" with Clara standing in for Ben Jackson and finally accepting The Doctor had changed.

It also sparked a rumor regarding a new companion in the Tardis in the form of Shona McCullough played by Faye Marsay. Shona stole a lot of the spotlight in the episode, even from the guest starring Nick Frost as Santa. From her lily-white dance moves in her first scene to her threatening The Doctor with "I will mark you, old man" she stood out as a combination of childish need and gutsy heroism.

The clues are all there. She refers to The Doctor as a magician and the announced first episode of Series 9 is "The Magician's Apprentice". In the scene where the remaining crew all hold hands The Doctor is deeply reluctant to be touched by anyone other than Clara until Clara instructs him to hold onto Shona. When the dreamers disappear at the end of the episode Shona goes last after promising to meet up for curry with Clara in the real world.

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Doctor Who: Dear BBC, Please Ignore the Big American Ratings

Categories: Doctor Who

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"Deep Breath"
All the tallies are in and Pater Capaldi's first season in the Tardis was a ratings success both in England and in the United States. Especially the United States, where "Deep Breath" was the highest-rated season premier yet, and last year's "Day of the Doctor" shattered records. The American ratings success is an even bigger deal when you consider that American Whovians usually have to spend all day Saturday off social media to avoid spoilers and watch Doctor Who on a relatively small cable network as opposed to the largest television station in Britain. Clearly our country offers some real potential for growth in the long-running science fiction show.

I'm here to humbly ask that the BBC, Steven Moffat and everyone in writing for Doctor Who to please ignore that.

I don't mean stop sending us episodes and stuff like that. Never stop that. What I mean is that if someone in a meeting says, "You know, the show is doing big numbers in America. We should add something more American to it," it is my sincere hope that someone hit that person in the nose.

First of all, we don't need it. Seriously, guys, we're perfectly good over here. We produce a ton of movies and television on our own, and plenty of it involves monsters from outer space and time travel and other Who staples. All of it is just as ridiculously American as it could possibly be because frankly we're not a subtle people.

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Doctor Who: Jenna Coleman to Break Two Major Doctor Who Records

Categories: Doctor Who

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"Rings of Akhaten"
After months of speculation and conflicting reports Jenna Coleman announced that she will return as Clara Oswald for the entirety of Series 9 of Doctor Who. In doing so she stands to become the most long-serving companion in the show's history.

Exactly how to measure the duration of a companion actor's stint on Doctor Who is a subject that I've already covered in depth previously. There are several ways to define it, but in two out of the three main ways Jenna Coleman will soon top the list.

The first is in time spent continuously on the show. The current record is held by Janet Fielding, who played Tegan Jovanka opposite the Fifth Doctor. Fielding debuted in "Logopolis" on February 28, 1981 and was with the show until "Resurrection of the Daleks" on February 15, 1984. She just narrowly beat out Elisabeth Sladen's Sarah Jane Smith for most time logged.

Jenna Coleman debuted in "Asylum of the Daleks" on September 1, 2012, though she would not reappear as a regular cast member until Christmas of that year. That means to beat Fielding's record she only needs to be on television past August 19, 2015 to be the new holder of the record. Considering that filming for Series 9 will not start until January and Orphan Black will likely hold Doctor Who's time slot until July it's a near certainty Coleman will make it when the season starts in August or September.

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Doctor Who: "Last Christmas" Hits Every Mark Perfectly

Categories: Doctor Who

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My apologies for the lateness of this review as I spent most of Christmas evening in the emergency room with my daughter, who is fully recovered now.

The Doctor and Santa Claus...You have to be a little worried, right? Much like the Christmas Harry Potter crossover Russell T. Davies tried to put together during Tennant's time it might just be a bridge too far. Even for Steven Moffat, a writer who works his absolute best in the context of a fairy tale, it's a daunting task.

Surprisingly, the subject is handled just as perfectly as it can be.

"Last Christmas" excels well in horror. Capaldi's run has been somewhat strangely dominated by zombie-like enemies. We had the titular mummy in "Mummy on the Orient Express" and the Boneless from "Flatline" already, and you could conceivable add the corpse Cybermen and the Clockwise Men to the list if you were so inclined. The Sleepers certainly fit that mold, being reminiscent of either the infected from The Last of Us or probably more accurately the Headcrab Zombies from Half-Life.

For all that they've been largely done before they do still bring out an element of real horror. Add in the nightmarish nature of the multilayered dreamscapes that the monsters use to sedate and trap their victims and you've got a pretty creepy little winter's tale.

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Doctor Who: The 3 Most Wibbly-Wobbly Timey-Wimey Moments

Categories: Doctor Who

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"Blink"
The universe of Doctor Who is nowhere near the vastness of our own real universe, but it's still pretty damned big. Counting all media, the adventures of The Doctor number in multiple thousands.

And just as in real life, sometimes it gives birth to moments of strange happenstance and coincidence that indicate either a brilliant master plan or just the bizarre randomness of creation getting kind of drunk and snarky. There are three instances in the modern series that show this off, and once you see them, you'll never be able to unsee them.

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Doctor Who: Are Weeping Angels Really Time Lords?

Categories: Doctor Who

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The Weeping Angels remain one of the few significant contributions to The Doctor's rogue's gallery made in the revived series. Since "Blink" they've appeared in four episodes and a handful of short stories and novels. Unlike the Silence or the Ood, though, they remain very mysterious in origin. According to the Tenth Doctor they have been around since the beginning of the universe, and that seems to be the extent of his knowledge regarding them.

The idea that the Angels may somehow be connected to the Time Lords is not new speculation. It's been wondered about since "The End of Time" when Rassilon declared that the two members of the High Council who had voted against his plan to destroy the corporeal universe and ascend to beings of pure consciousness would "stand as monument to their shame, like the Weeping Angels of old". Many fans took this to mean that Rassilon might have special knowledge of the Angels, or perhaps had even created them for the Time War. Likely it was just a throwaway mention for fans, and all it really indicates is that Rassilon, like The Doctor, knows they exist.

There are similarities. Both races are essentially humanoid. Both races have mild telepathic powers and in some form seem to control time. Really, though, aside from Rassilon's line and those few bits of evidence there's not much reason to think the two are otherwise related.

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