Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Suzanne says... canon or non-canon?

If you are an avid reader of those pieces (Hello, Suman!), you know that I already mentioned how difficult it may be for an aspiring Whovian to jump into that extended universe. 

Once all TV serials and the movie have been watched, Big Finish audiobooks seem to be the right place to continue your journey. And since you are at it, you start digging a bit further, before realising that there have been a lot of audiobooks or books recorded or published thorough the years and you start wondering: what is canon and what is non-canon?

First, let us clarify what canon means:
“In fiction, canon is the material accepted as officially part of the story in an individual universe of that story.” (Source: Wikipedia)
Pretty easy, right? But let’s read a bit further down the definition:
“When there are multiple "official" works or original media, the question of what is and what is not canonical can be unclear.” (Source: Wikipedia)
As always, exceptions emerge from a straight forward definition, making the whole process a bit more complicated than expected. So, let’s take a closer look at the Whoniverse and let’s try to clarify things a bit. What do the show runners have to say about canon and non-canon?
“The makers of Doctor Who have generally avoided making pronouncements about canonicity, with Russell T Davies explaining that he does not think about the concept for the Doctor Who TV series or its spin-offs.” (Source: Wikipedia)
Now if you are a tiny bit like me, you will probably smile at this quote. I’m sorry, Mr. Davies, but I don’t buy it. In fact, I’m even tempted to say that while I can understand Doctor Who makers avoiding making pronouncements, I’m quite certain that canonicity was the main topic of a few formal meetings.

I sympathise with the difficulty Doctor Who makers are faced with, though. Doctor Who has always inspired a great deal of fan creation, some of which has been so good that those fans actually made it to work for the show. Think about Mark Gatiss for instance. Now, let’s twist the plot a little: if Mark Gatiss works for the show, then are his fanwork predating that time canon? Let’s imagine that the answer to this question is: “yes”. That would mean that any Doctor Who fiction (or art) made by an individual who has worked on or for the show is canon. You probably see it like me: it would be even more confusing. 

Let’s go back to our example. Mark Gatiss wrote stories that were published in the Virgin New Adventures collection and the question arose already: are the Virgin New Adventures books canon?
“The closest we ever got to a BBC pronouncement on canonicity was a couple of years after the end of the original series of Doctor Who. The show’s last production team declared that Virgin’s Doctor Who novels, the New Adventures, were an official continuation of the series, overseen by the last producer, John Nathan-Turner, with the last writing team onboard, heading towards the aims that that team had put in place.” (Paul Cornell)
In an essay about canonicity in Doctor Who (which you can read here) Paul Cornell states that canonicity is probably best defined when there is only one author. Because Doctor Who is a cooperative work of sorts, unless there is an authority taking the stand and telling once and for all what is canon and what is not, there is no canon in Doctor Who. With that in mind, I can imagine that the meetings I was talking about earlier came to the same conclusion. Maybe those who attended said meetings never came to an agreement regarding canonicity and therefore the status quo would be “there is no canon in Doctor Who”. 

And while the BBC has clearly stated that fan works of any kind are strictly prohibited (just try to post an extract of a Who episode on Youtube adding the keywords BBC and Doctor Who to see it been suppressed in less than 2 seconds for copyrights reason!), therefore unofficially exposing its view on the matter, aka “from now on, what is not BBC approved is not canon”, there will always remain a reasonable doubt about earlier works. 

So while some may argue desperately about what is and isn't canon, it's probably easier just to admit that there is no canon in Doctor Who, if only to save us all the headache. 
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Tuesday, 15 August 2017

New Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition out now

Panini UK has released the latest Special Edition of Doctor Who Magazine, devoted to the many non-fiction books based on the series.

Referencing The Doctor traces the history of the series’ reference works, from the very first episode guides compiled by Doctor Who story editors for their colleagues in the 1960s, to the fanzines of the 1970s, the first authorised books based on the series and the plethora of books available today.

The comprehensive guide features exclusive interviews, behind-the-scenes features and numerous rare photographs, from the black-and-white days of Doctor Who to the latest series starring Peter Capaldi.

Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition: Referencing The Doctor is on sale now, priced £5.99.

[Source: Panini
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Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Jodie Whittaker talks fan reactions and cosplays

Whilst the internet went into a frenzy over the casting of the Thirteenth Doctor, the actress herself had no idea what was going on.

Jodie Whittaker, who was recently announced as the actress taking over from Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, revealed that she did not see any of the reactions online because she is not on social media.

In her first broadcast interview since the announcement, she told BBC Radio 6:
"This will be a blessing and a curse. I've missed a lot of the fun stuff and probably the bad stuff because I'm not on any type of social media and never have been. So if I get something it's a mate screen grabbing something and sending it to me. They obviously edit... actually, sometimes they don't!"
Whittaker also revealed that she has spoken to some of the other actors who have played the role, who gave her some advice about the role and the experience:
"The overwhelming sense was this is such an exciting journey. It's to be enjoyed. There's no advice you can do - no person plays this part the same. What a freeing thing it is."
Of course, there was also the subject of the Doctor being female, but she reassured fans:
"We can celebrate differences. I hope my gender isn't a fearful thing. In this (Doctor Who) world, there aren't rules."
Whittaker also watched a video showing fans who were already cosplaying her Doctor based on the brief glimpse in the announcement video clip and she was clearly impressed.

You can see the full interview here:

[Source: BBC]
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Suzanne says...I wish I lived in the UK!

It’s not easy to be a fan these days. One might argue that internet and social networks made it much easier for fans to indulge in their passion and in a way, they are probably right. But being a fan can be quite frustrating sometimes...

Doctor Who has become a global phenomenon, especially in recent years, with world tours and simulcasts. Trailers are now shown at San Diego Comic Con in America before they're shown in the UK - where the show is made! So with the show growing and becoming globally popular, there are even more fans across the world.

Being a fan of a TV show means that you actually watch said TV show and love it to the point where you now introduce yourself like this: "Hi, I’m Suzanne and I’m a Whovian." But what if you live in a foreign country that doesn’t air that TV show (on a regular basis)? Yes, some fans struggle to Watch Doctor Who episodes and sometimes they even struggle to get the DVDs too, not to mention merchandise!

Let’s face it, Doctor Who has become a marketing value and us Whovians are easy targets. We love our hero so much that we find it hard to resist. We want the latest screwdriver replica, we want that beautiful figurine... but what we don’t want are over the top shipping costs! And sadly, that’s what we usually get. Being a Whovian is already expensive when you live in the UK, but it gets incredibly expensive depending on which part of the world you live in.

And what about the comic cons and other conventions? I can already see tears in some of the readers’ eyes. Which fan hasn’t dreamt of meeting the Doctor or his companion(s) in the flesh? Despite the fact that we love Doctor Who as a whole entity, we can’t resist the idea of meeting with the cast and make our dream come true, even if we know that it’s just a show and that Tom Baker or Peter Capaldi aren’t the real incarnations of the Doctor (or are they?). Conventions and comic cons have spread over the years, allowing fans to meet with their favourite actors, but not everyone can afford those conventions, let alone travel hundreds or thousands of kilometres for a few minutes of pure (fan) happiness.

Yes, sometimes I dream that I lived in the UK, because I would be able to save the money I spend on shipping costs and spend it in Doctor Who memorabilia. I wish I lived in the UK because it would be easier to watch my favourite show at the time it’s aired. I wish I lived in the UK because I could attend conventions and meet the actors.

Oh, and I wish I lived in Cardiff so I could go to the filming locations and watch the creating process of Doctor Who!

Dreams. Don’t they define us Whovians? Being a fan of a science-fiction show already means that our mind is ready to welcome creative imagination. So I wonder: do the fans without the kind of frustrations I enounced above dream the same way I do? Do they wish it were a little harder to get the latest Doctor Who item so they could cherish it as a treasure the same way I do?

I sincerely believe that all Whovians share the same dream. They enjoy Doctor Who (almost in) the same way and the fact that some of them have an easy access to objects, film locations, or conventions doesn’t change a thing. In the end, they will still dream about the time when they can meet with actors or hold that screwdriver replica, and they will be excited about the new series the same way I do.

But... I still wish I lived in the UK, because I could introduce myself such as:
“Hi, I’m Suzanne and I’m a Whovian.”
...and I wouldn’t get the usual reply:
“A what?”
Because let’s face it. Being a fan of an UK show and living outside the UK doesn’t make things very easy when you’re desperate to talk about it.

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Thursday, 3 August 2017

New Doctor Who Mr Men books and figurines announced

After the success of the recent Mr Men and Doctor Who mash-up, the two British institutions are bringing children even more fun with four new books AND four new figurines.

Earlier this year, the first four books in the range - Dr. First, Dr. Fourth, Dr. Eleventh and Dr. Twelfth - were published, featuring stories and illustrations from Adam Hargreaves, son of Mr Men & Little Miss creator Roger Hargreaves. The books were met with much enthusiasm from Whovians and Mr. Men fans alike, including a special event taking place at the Doctor Who Experience to celebrate the release. 

The next four books in the range - featuring Dr. Second, Dr. Seventh, Dr. Eighth and Dr. Ninth - will be released in August and are currently available to pre-order from Amazon and other retailers. A special Christmas book featuring Dr. Tenth is also due for release in October.
A special Christmas book featuring Dr. Tenth is also due for release in October and available to pre-order.

There will also be a special box box set containing every Mr Men Doctor so far (First, Second, Fourth, Seventh, Eight, Night, Eleventh, and Twelfth) called The Doctors: Time and Space Collection. The set, comes in a collectible box and includes a poster featuring brand new artwork by Hargreaves, is available to pre-order online.

As well as the books, the first four Mr Men Doctors are also being realised as collectible figurines, which will be available to purchase this Autumn for £9.99. Based on actors William Hartnell, Tom Baker, Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi, the figures recreate each Doctor in the classic Mr Men style.
The full range of Mr Men/Doctor Who merchandise is available from the Mr Men And Little Miss online shop here, featuring clothing, mugs, prints and stationery.

Adam Hargreaves himself also recently spoke about drawing the Doctors and how he managed to capture their likeness and personality:
"The tricky bit about drawing the Doctors as Mr. Men is finding a balance between getting a good caricature and resemblance of the real actor and also maintaining a true Mr. Men style. I have tried to avoid just drawing a cartoon version of a Doctor’s face and then plonking this in a circle with arms and legs. A Mr. Man story is an exploration of one particular human characteristic or emotion which my dad did by taking that personification and placing it in the world and then highlighting this absurdity using his daft, silly sense of humour. How would your day unfold if you were only possessed of a grumpy nature? What sort of job would you do if you could only rush around manically?"
So, all that should keep you busy until the Christmas special and with more Doctors still waiting to get the Hargreaves treatment, who knows, maybe one day we'll see a Little Miss version of Jodie Whittaker's Thirteenth Doctor.

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Monday, 31 July 2017

Suzanne Says… How has violence evolved in Doctor Who?

For over 50 years, Doctor Who has been evolving. The changing lead actor, the advancement to colour and the improvement in special effects have all changed the show dramatically. But there is one aspect that has evolved and strikes me as very interesting: violence in the show.

Doctor Who was meant for children, but it soon turned into a family show while today, it might still be a family show but teenagers and young adults are the ones who watch it most. The audience shifted a bit and let’s be honest here: as much as I love Doctor Who, I’d rather have my younger children watch the First Doctor than the Eleventh or Twelfth Doctor’s adventures.

The show has most notably evolved in an artistic and graphic way. Thanks to special effects, the incredible can become believable. But back then, in 1963, creating a science fiction show was not that easy. Special effects weren’t that advanced (I’m going to avoid mentioning the limited budget that certainly didn’t help either) but viewers were still impressed with what the show had to offer.

But the show has evolved with society; it had to meet the audience’s needs and expectations. It’s not unlike a literary phenomenon. Take gothic literature for instance. The idea of something terrible and/or supernatural being suggested is impressive enough for the reader who doesn’t ask for more in the 19th Century. Then, as society evolves, the readers want more. They want details; they want descriptions of said terrible and/or supernatural events. The genre eventually evolves to become more graphic. A sub-genre was born: “gore”. This is a shortcut of course. It took something like a century or so to reach that point. But today, progress being so fast, it took only 55 years to go from a show “suggesting” violence to one that is actually showing it.

I always keep that scene from The War Machines in mind, when soldiers shoot at the machines and the only indication of the guns being shot is the noise they make. I found that scene quite fascinating because of the message it conveys. This is quite a violent scene. This is war. And yet, it’s ‘suggested’. Now imagine the same scene shot today. There would special effects, fire, smoke, stunts… I think that we can all agree that the scene wouldn’t look anything like the one shot in 1966.

Now, considering that the Doctor hates weapons, that he hates violence, what does that evolution of the show tells us? That the goal evolves too. When the Doctor says: “No one dies today”, I don’t know for you but I’m scared, mostly because I don’t believe him. Because death happens a lot in Doctor Who and while it was suggested 50 years ago, now we can’t just try to ignore it.

However, if there is one thing that hasn’t changed in over 50 years, it’s the Doctor’s relation to violence. Aside from the odd outburst of Venusian aikido, he still rejects violence with all his hearts and only resolves in using it when there is no other choice. As Steven Moffat put it:
When they made this particular hero, they didn't give him a gun - they gave him a screwdriver to fix things. They didn't give him a tank or a warship or an x-wing fighter - they gave him a box from which you can call for help. And they didn't give him a superpower or pointy ears or a heat-ray--they gave him an extra HEART. They gave him two hearts! And that's an extraordinary thing. There will never come a time when we don't need a hero like the Doctor.
But then why is there so much violence and so many invasions and losses in Doctor Who these past years? Maybe because this is part of our evolution, maybe because we are surrounded by violence and therefore we need to acknowledge the fact that we would like having a hero able to love humanity despite its tendency to destruction.

So while The Walking Dead shows the worse in humanity as a lesson, Doctor Who leads to another path. A path where violence is not the answer, but is (sadly) a reality that needs to be fought against.
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David Bradley on the emotional events and conflict between Doctors in the Christmas Special

David Bradley, who will be teaming up with Peter Capaldi's Twelfth Doctor this Christmas in Twice Upon a Time, stopped by London Film & Comic Con this weekend and revealed some details about what to expect from the multi-Doctor special.

Bradley revealed that there would be some conflict between the Doctors regarding their different social attitudes, which are almost a half-century apart:
"What we did emphasise [about the First Doctor] was the old fashioned nature and how he is from the 60s. He goes into the Twelfth Doctor’s Tardis and says ‘it’s a bit dusty around here, it’s in an awful state isn’t it? Where’s Polly? Shouldn’t she give it a spring clean?' And then Peter’s saying ‘you can’t say that’.
"[The First Doctor] brings all his 60s sensibilities, what’s lovingly called casual chauvinism. He’s just talking [as if] the [companions] are there just to help out, and do the dusting and do all the domestic chores – his attitudes to a lot of things come right from the 60s, so there’s a lot of conflict between Hartnell’s Doctor and Peter’s Doctor about how things have changed in the last 50 years... we had quite a bit of fun with that."
As you'd expect from a regeneration episode, it seems that Twice Upon a Time will aim for the heartstrings in its final act, which Bradley hinted at in further comments:
“There’s an event towards the end of [the Christmas special] that happens and when it happened, well, we just did a take and neither Peter nor I expected it. There was no CGI involved, it was all happening and we were both almost blubbing by the time that the take ended. I can’t say, I’m not going to say, what it was but it was quite an event and we weren’t prepared for all the things that were going to be going on around us as we were doing our dialogue. 
“And as I say to you, we got quite lumpy. They’ve kept that out of the trailer but it takes it all to another dimension…”
Twice Upon a Time will air this Christmas.

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Classic Doctor Who Annual stories for audio release

A collection of stories originally published in Doctor Who Annuals from the 1960s through to the 1980s are to be made available on audio for the first time.

The Doctor Who Audio Annual, which will be released just in time for Christmas, will include stories featuring the first six incarnations of the Doctor, read by Peter Purves (Steven), Anneke Wills (Polly), Geoffrey Beevers (The Master), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), and Nicola Bryant (Peri).

The audio annual is set to include the following stories:

  • The Sons of Grekk: The First Doctor is held prisoner in a brutal, otherworldly society. 
  • The King of Golden Death: The Second Doctor, Polly and Ben have materialised inside an Ancient Egyptian pyramid. 
  • Dark Intruders: The Third Doctor, Jo and the Brigadier confront a familiar adversary.
  • Conundrum: The Fourth Doctor, Adric and K9 experience warped physics in the corridors of the TARDIS. 
  • Facing The Penalty: A delirious Fifth Doctor finds old friends and adversaries ganging up on him.
  • The Real Hereward: The Sixth Doctor and Peri plunge into a dangerous period of British history.

Also included on the upcoming audio release are two vintage essays on the Doctor, Who is Doctor Who? and The Phoenix in the TARDIS, originally both published in Doctor Who annuals in the 1960s.

The Doctor Who Audio Annual is now available to pre-order on audio CD ahead of its release on December 7th 2017.

[Source: Doctor Who]
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Thursday, 27 July 2017

Doctor Who: Mark Gatiss on unmade Tenth Doctor episode

Doctor Who writer Mark Gatiss has revealed details of one of his scripts for David Tennant's Tenth Doctor which never made it to screen.

The Suicide Exhibition was originally intended to air as part of the show's fourth series in 2008, but was eventually turned down in favour of The Fires of Pompeii. It was later proposed as one of the specials which saw Tennant round off his time as the Doctor in 2009, but ultimately went unmade.

Speaking in the latest edition of Doctor Who Magazine - out today - Gatiss discussed the idea behind his script, an 'Indiana Jones' story involving Nazis and the British Museum:
“The title came from this thing I was reading about how, in the First World War, they were evacuating stuff from museums to various Welsh museums. All this precious stuff, they hid in places like salt mines. But what they had in both World Wars was this amazing thing called the Suicide Exhibition. People still needed stuff to see, for spiritual succour. So if they had 300,000 Anglo Saxon pots, they just put some of them out that they could afford to lose! If a bomb fell, it wouldn’t matter, because they had loads of them."
With initial drafts of the episode set during World War One, Gatiss described the evolution the script went through following feedback from then-showrunner Russell T Davies:
"After the first draft, Russell said, ‘Let’s make it the Nazis and do the full Indiana Jones on it.’ The whole museum was a puzzle box of sliding doors and traps and stuff."
Despite the episode being 'on the verge of production' and Gatiss having 'put a lot of work into it', the writer doesn't harbour any hope that his unmade episode will ever get made:
"I would’ve liked to have done it, but it was not to be!"
The Suicide Exhibition may never have made it to air, but Gatiss has nevertheless contributed several episodes to Doctor Who since its 2005 revival, with the most recent being the Series 10 Ice Warrior adventure The Empress of Mars. Gatiss has also appeared in the show itself on multiple occasions, and will be returning once again at Christmas to guest star in this year's festive special Twice Upon A Time alongside Peter Capaldi's Twelfth Doctor and David Bradley as the First Doctor.

Issue 515 of Doctor Who Magazine is on sale from today, Thursday 27th July, priced at £5.99.

[Source: Doctor Who]
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Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Suzanne Says… Once Upon A Fan

Once a Whovian always a Whovian? I’m really tempted to agree with that statement, mostly because being a Whovian requires a lot of time investment (and yes, let’s say it: quite a financial investment as well).

Aren’t the fans from the early hour lucky? Not only did they watch Doctor Who when it was originally aired, including all the missing episodes, but they also witnessed the growth of a phenomenon.

I consider myself a “young” fan, because it’s only been a decade since I discovered Doctor Who, but even back then, I felt overwhelmed when I saw everything I had missed. I had 40 years of episodes to catch up with, not to mention all the books (Target Novels, Virgin…) to read and the audiobooks to listen to. People don’t realise how a fan’s life can be stressful sometimes.

A freshly converted Whovian in 2017 would have 50 years of show to discover and that is quite something. It requires some organisation to decide where to start. The obvious choice would be to start from 1963 like I did, and walk through the series until today. This is a nice journey since it allows seeing the evolution of the show and the Doctor. To think that children grew up with Doctor Who.

The beauty about Whovians is that their age ranges from “mature” to “pre teenager” (there are even some younger fans around). The phenomenon is quite intergenerational. Children from 1963 are now grownups who had kids on their own and even have grandkids. It’s not a coincidence that one of the first questions a Whovian asks to another one is:
Who is YOUR Doctor?
A neophyte could easily misunderstand this question as “who is your favourite Doctor?” when it’s a way to know to which generation you belong to. Like Railwaymen, Whovians have their own vocabulary. Only a Whovian can understand what “Blue TARDIS” means for instance!

The intergenerational aspect is quite important in the Whovian community as many “young” Whovians rely on “older” Whovians’” experience to advise them on where to start when it comes to step into the extensive whoniverse. I still remember when I first decided to listen to Big Finish audiobooks a year ago. I had this extensive catalogue at my disposal and I couldn’t decide which episode to pick first, so I asked an “older” Whovian for advice and he helped me take the first step into that universe.

With a community as extensive as the Whoniverse, Whovians have helped spread the phenomenon and it’s not surprising that words such as “Dalek” or “Tardis” would find their way into the English Dictionary.

Fans have a real influence on a show’s future. First, they saved Doctor Who, thanks to their involvement in the Whoniverse. Think for instance about Mark Gatiss who was very active as a fan of the show before he actually ended up working for it; and what about Peter Capaldi who was an enthusiastic Whovian himself. There are many examples of fans who used their creative skills to keep Doctor Who alive. It’s only fair that they would be the primary target of any commercial/advertisement campaign. Let’s just remember how the announcement for the coming 13th Doctor has been orchestrated. Teasing has become the keyword when it comes to attract fans’ attention. And it works. Becoming a fan is now a much less innocent process than it was decades ago. Now, we are driven to become fans. It’s subtle, but it’s there. It’s an evolution of sorts. Oh, and let’s also remember what I wrote last week about internet and social media’s influence. It goes both ways: Whovians can more easily connect with others and share information about their favourite show, but it is also used as a commercial/advertisement tool.

I think that we can all agree that Doctor Who is not just a TV show but that he is also a societal trend which makes it fascinating on a sociological level. After all, we are dealing with a science fiction program here, and science fiction is often considered a lesser genre (both in literature and in television). And yet, you won’t be called a “geek” if you say that you love Doctor Who. No, you will be called a Whovian, a more positive and fashionable title. And as I write these lines, I wonder. Is there such a title for Marvel fans? Am I a “Marvelian”? Or just “Marvellous”? It’s no coincidence that I would compare Doctor Who and Marvel’s universe since there are quite some similarities in the way both BBC and the Marvel company deals with their fanbase. There are similarities in both universes too, but that’s a different story for another day.
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