Doctor Who

BBC Wales has announced three key appointments to its flagship production Doctor Who as the new series starring the 11th Doctor, Matt Smith, prepares for shooting.

Tracie Simpson (producer of Doctor Who: Planet Of The Dead) and Peter Bennett (producer of the forthcoming Torchwood series) have been appointed as producers on the multi-award winning BBC One show.

Beth Willis, producer of the hugely popular and award-winning BBC drama series Ashes To Ashes, will join new Lead Writer Steven Moffat and Piers Wenger as an executive producer.

Willis will work closely with Bennett and Simpson – both veterans of the BBC One drama – on the day-to-day running of the new series as part of her executive role. She will combine her role on Doctor Who with work across a range of other BBC Wales dramas.

The appointment of the new team marks the start of a new chapter in the life of the series. Pre-production begins next month with shooting due to get under way later in the summer in and around the Cardiff area.

Doctor Who Lead Writer and Executive Producer Steven Moffat said: “Beth and Tracie and Pete aren’t the A Team, they’re the people the A Team call. Tracie and Pete are the backstage stars of Doctor Who and having them on board as producers isn’t just the best possible news for Matt Smith’s first series, it’s a massive relief.

“And Beth Willis, fresh from the brilliant Ashes To Ashes, is joining Piers and I as an executive so finally there’ll be someone to wear the trousers.”

BBC Wales Head of Drama Piers Wenger said: “Having Beth, Pete and Tracie on board is nothing short of thrilling. In their time on the show, Tracie and Pete have worked miracles. Joining forces with a talent like Beth will ensure that Doctor Who remains one of the most exciting and, frankly, formidable production teams around.”

David Tennant and Michelle Ryan

Finally! Easter weekend saw Doctor Who finally return to our screens for one night only (plus repeats on Sunday and Monday, of course…) and give insane Whovians like myself a reason for living that doesn’t involve haunting internet forums to compare sonic screwdrivers.

With just 4 hours of David Tennant remaining (the Easter Special, an Autumn Special, a Christmas Day episode and a New Years Day installment) Doctor Who fans across the UK were gripping their seats with anticipation of Planet of the Dead – and they weren’t let down!

Showrunner Russell T Davies joined Gareth “The Shakespeare Code” Roberts on script duties bringing us an adventure that owed as much to dark matter and wormhole searching at CERN as it did to Harry Potter and Pitch Black.

Director James Strong brought some jaw dropping desert vistas to life on a Bank Holiday weekend that usually features Lawrence of Arabia somewhere among the TV listings as a Doctor Who episode filmed in Dubai appeared on our screens for the first time – and in High Definition!

The plot concerned the Doctor looking for a wormhole in London, bumping into escaping cat burglar Lady Christina de Souza on a bus (like you do) before the vehicle – pursued by police – fell through a widening wormhole onto a desert planet. The bus was unable to to return through the wormhole, and the passengers were unable to travel back through without the bus’ insulating (“faraday cage”-like) properties.

On the desert planet, two stranded Tritovore explained in clicks and beeps that the planet previously had an advanced society – as recently as 1 year before -and this had been destroyed by a plague of swarming, flying mantarays with metallic exoskeletons whose constant swirling around the planet is intended to open a wormhole for them to travel to their next world, and feed again.

Hokey fluff of course, but superbly executed!

Star David Tennant was his usual reliable self, while the supporting cast on the bus were capable character performers.

It was the guest stars who shone on Planet of the Dead however – Michelle Ryan (Lady Christina de Souza) was graceful and sexy in a black catsuit on the desert planet without once complaining of sweating, while back on Earth comedian and actor Lee Evans was superb as UNIT adviser Professor Malcolm Taylor.

It is of course all downhill for the Doctor from now on, as the audience was reminded by the psychic lady on the bus.

“He will knock four times…”

Catherine Tate and Bernard Cribbins

It has been rumoured for some time now – but it has finally been confirmed in a recent BBC Breakfast News chat with Russell T Davies.

Donna and Wilf are back!

Ok – Russell didn’t say that Catherine Tate is back for the Christmas Doctor Who, but he also didn’t sat she wouldn’t be. Given that he has admitted that Bernard Cribbins’ Wilf Mott – Donna Noble’s grandfather – will be the Doctor’s companion in the Christmas 2009 Doctor Who, it makes sense to expect the sight of Catherine Tate as Donna, the Doctor’s last permanent companion whose memory of her travels through time and space in the TARDIS were cruelly robbed in order to save her life.

Oh and of course Catherine has been spotted on location this week, which rather lets that cat out of the bag!

To be honest though, the return of Cribbins to a the show is special.  Here is an actor of 50 years’ experience making his mark at the age of 80 on a whole new generation of fans.

As a child, I marvelled at his Jackanory appearances (he was far and away my favourite) and laughed at his japes in the 1966 Daleks Invasion Earth 2150AD movie which was shown every summer on BBC TV throughout the 1980s

Later I discovered the wonders of British Comedy – not least Fawlty Towers, and Cribbins turn in one particularly memorable episode (they were all particularly memorable, of course) as a cutlery salesman mistaken by Basil Fawlty (John Cleese) for a hotel inspector constantly reduces me to tears of laughter.

Bernard Cribbins is a quality all rounder, adept at comedy, music (witness his 1962 hit “Right Said Fred”) and drama. His scenes in the alternate world of the Doctor Who episode Turn Left were some of the most touching in the series’ long history. Meanwhile who could forget him in The Railway Children?

I’m delighted at seeing Cribbins take centre stage in my favourite show over Christmas for a number of reasons – not least since we share a seasonal birthday!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been literally biting my nails in anticipation of the next Doctor Who special!

Of course as a major fan of the show that’s hardly a surprise – but after Easter there’s no more Doctor Who until Christmas, and I’m expecting big things this Easter.

“Planet of the Dead” is set for airing over Easter Weekend (scheduling still to be confirmed…), and we’ve got the trailer below…

 

Starring David Tennant and Michele Ryan as the Doctor and a new friend, Lady Christine da Souza, “Planet of the Dead” is written by outgoing Executive Producer Russell T Davies and Gareth Roberts.  Roberts’ other work includes being the main writer behind The Sarah Jane Adventures as well as recent Doctor Who episodes “The Unicorn and the Wasp” and “The Shakespeare Code”.

Of course, “Planet of the Dead” leads us into the final trio of David Tennant-starring Doctor Who specials which will see him relinquish the role to Matt Smith over the Christmas break.

So get the most out of “Planet of the Dead” – it guest stars Lee Evans as a UNIT scientist, a red London bus getting tossed through time and space to another world and a new, fearsome race of aliens – the Tritovore!

Not only that, there’s also an unusual fly-headed alien in a boiler suit, lots of other characters on the bus with the Doctor and the threat that they won’t get home – but how did they get there in the first place?

Doctor Who fans have been left in a state of shock by official photographs of the Tritovore – the new alien creature that the Doctor will encounter in the 2009 Easter Special Planet of the Dead.

After being promised a “disgusting” and memorable alien monster, fans were astonished to learn that the insectoid alien did little to aid in the suspension of disbelief.

Building on the success of the tentacle-mouthed Ood, the Doctor Who production team settled on a combination of disturbing head, appropriate hands and a boiler suit for the Tritovore – a seemingly startling choice of attire for an alien humanoid insect on a desert planet.

The similarities in design to David Cronenberg’s monstrous Fly played by Jeff Goldblum in the 1986 movie are quite evident.

Filmed in the United Arab Emirates port and commerce centre Dubai, Planet of the Dead stars David Tennant as the Doctor, with ex-EastEnder and Bionic Woman Michelle Ryan in a catsuit as Lady Christine da Souza. Comic Lee Evans (The Fifth Element, There’s Something About Mary) also guest stars in the story about a bus full of passengers that are taken through time and space to a distant alien world…

Expected to air on Easter Sunday, a trailer for the adventure is likely to appear on our screens during the next few days following its premier at the Millenium Stadium recently at half time during the Six Nations Rugby match between Wales and Ireland.

Planet of the Dead is the first in a series of four Doctor Who specials that will conclude with David Tennant stepping down from the role after 4 years.

David Tennant with Michelle Ryan on location

As David Tennant’s time as the star of Doctor Who draws to an ever-nearing close, the rumourmill is beginning to get into full swing with a selection of interesting theories based around a few vague facts.

In amongst rumours of the return of the Time Lords, the Master (Life on Mars‘ John Simm), Harriet Jones (Penelope Wilton) and even Catherine Tate as Donna Noble are a few facts gleaned from various guest stars scheduled to appear in the run of 4 specials set to begin with “Planet of the Dead” at Easter and carry on with the final three adventures over Christmas and New Year.

Key amongst these “facts” is the quote from former Casualty, Flying Doctors and Neighbours actor Peter O’Brien – who also appeared in Russell T Davies’ Queer as Folk – given to the Sydney Telegraph in Australia that he will be appearing in one of the final episodes that comprise David Tennant’s final story arc.

He also mentions that the story is set on Mars – potentially opening the doors for the return of one of Doctor Who’s classic monsters, the Ice Warriors of Mars.

Little else is known of the adventure, but the return of the Ice Warriors would be a huge draw to long time fans of Doctor Who eager to see the resurrection of one of the more interesting alien races seen during the show’s 45+ years. Famous for their reptilian appearance and icy habitat, the Ice Warrior’s talk with a sinister whisper, and work towards the glacial colonisation of Earth as a substitute for their own dead planet.

Filming of the final Doctor Who episodes to star David Tennant is expected to commence in May, with completion on primary footage scheduled for late June/early July.  From here it’s into post-production for director Euros Lyn (also directing the Torchwood: Children of Earth serial) while David Tennant steps in front of cameras once again for the movie 1939 alongside Bill Nighy, Julie Christie and Christopher Lee.

David Tennant’s time as the Doctor is quickly counting down, and in the last few days he’s been shooting the second of the “2009 Specials” leading up to the Tenth Doctor’s regeneration and the introduction of a new Doctor Who, Matt Smith.

With distinguished character actress Lindsay Duncan (recently seen in the BBC drama “Thatcher” as the fearsome former Prime Minister) alongside him, Tennant has already filmed scenes opposite Ood (tentacle-chinned aliens from past adventures “The Satan Pit” and “Planet of the Ood”) in the snow and alongside a robot that bears more than a passing resemblance to the star of Disney’s recent hit Wall-E.

Little is known of the plot of any of the later adventures, although “Planet of the Dead” – which co-stars Michelle Ryan and Lee Evans – is believed to feature a bus that travels through space and time to a distant desert planet.  Location shooting in Dubai was used to realise this desert planet, with damage to the bus prop attracting attention and headlines, and allegedly leading to chief writer Russell T Davies implementing rewrites.

A total of four specials are planned, with the first “Planet of the Dead” originally slated for broadcast over Easter.  A further two are planned for later this year and production on them will more than likely follow on from the current shooting in order for the Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith to take his turn at the helm of the TARDIS, find a new companion and take his turn adventuring through space and time.

Actor Matt Smith, who is the new Doctor Who, could receive £1 million to play the Time Lord for the next five years.

The Sun, reported that a £200,000 a year deal has been agreed on the show, which commits the 26-year-old to the show for three years, with the possibility of continuing the role for a further two years.

Smith will become the 11th Doctor in 2010, after David Tennant leaves the position. An insider at the popular cult show told The Sun: “Bosses don’t want Matt doing a David and leaving when things are going great.”

BBC and the Doctor Who bosses have not confirmed the payment speculation, or the commitment deal, but Smith’s pay is in stark contrast to the pay David Tennant gets, a reported £1 million a year, as he is a much established and well known actor.

Smith was in the news recently for admitting that he is not much of a Doctor Who fan, and he has rarely watched an episode.

Speaking to The Sun, Smith said: “I wasn’t a Who fan. I have to be honest – I can’t claim to have watched the show in its entirety or have been a follower as avidly as some people are.

“I’m realising that people love this show, people are avid, avid fans of it, and know it, and know it’s history and are part of it.

“I can’t claim to know it as well as that, but I’m going to make it my business to do so, and fall into it in as much depth as I possibly can.”

Matt was surprised when he was offered the Time Lord role, as he thought he gave a poor audition.

He told Doctor Who magazine: “I thought I was a bit manic, a bit over-energised. I thought, I’ll never hear back from that one.”

The BBC today announced that Matt Smith has been cast in the role of the Doctor in the iconic BBC series Doctor Who.

Smith will be the 11th Time Lord and will take over from David Tennant who leaves the show at the end of 2009. He will be seen in the forthcoming fifth series that will be broadcast in 2010.

The fifth series will also have a new lead writer and Executive Producer in the form of the BAFTA award-winning writer Steven Moffat, who is taking over from Russell T Davies.

Moffat will be joined by Piers Wenger, who will be the new Executive Producer for BBC Wales making the show.

Following David Tennant’s decision to step down at the end of 2009, the team behind the new series set about casting the new Doctor so that new adventures could be created and scripts written with Matt in mind.

The identity of the new Doctor was revealed on a special edition of Doctor Who Confidential that was broadcast on BBC One today (3 January) at 5.35pm (17.35 GMT).

In it Smith revealed his initial reaction at taking on such a legendary role and his thoughts on what direction the Doctor might now be going with him playing the part.

Matt Smith said of his new role: “I’m just so excited about the journey that is in front of me. It’s a wonderful privilege and challenge that I hope I will thrive on.

“I feel proud and honoured to have been given this opportunity to join a team of people that has worked so tirelessly to make the show so thrilling.

“David Tennant has made the role his own, brilliantly, with grace, talent and persistent dedication. I hope to learn from the standards set by him.

“The challenge for me is to do justice to the show’s illustrious past, my predecessors, and most importantly, to those who watch it. I really cannot wait.”

Lead writer and Executive Producer Steven Moffat said: “The Doctor is a very special part, and it takes a very special actor to play him. You need to be old and young at the same time, a boffin and an action hero, a cheeky schoolboy and the wise old man of the universe.

“As soon as Matt walked through the door, and blew us away with a bold and brand new take on the Time Lord, we knew we had our man.

“2010 is a long time away but rest assured the 11th Doctor is coming – and the universe has never been so safe.”

Piers Wenger, Head Of Drama, BBC Wales, added: “With two hearts, a ferocious mind and over 900 years of experience behind him, it’s not every 26 year old actor who can take on a role like the Doctor but within moments of meeting Matt he showed the skill and imagination needed to create a Doctor all of his own.

“It’s just the beginning of the journey for Matt but with Steven Moffat’s scripts and the expertise of the production team in Cardiff behind him, there is no one more perfect than him to be taking the TARDIS to exciting new futures when the series returns in 2010.”

Ben Stephenson, Controller, BBC Drama, added: “I am delighted to see Matt take on this iconic role. It will see him continuing his relationship with the BBC following his performances in Ruby In The Smoke and Party Animals, and his upcoming role in Moses Jones.

“The combination of Matt, Steven and Piers will, I know, take Doctor Who onto new and even dizzier heights.”

Jay Hunt, Controller, BBC One, said: “Matt Smith will be a mesmerising 11th Time Lord, true to the spirit of the show.

“He is a worthy successor to David Tennant who has been utterly remarkable in the role and promises to continue to be in next year’s four special episodes.”

Doctor Who Confidential – The Eleventh Doctor can be seen on BBC iPlayer until 10 January 2009.

There will be four Doctor Who specials featuring David Tennant that will run in 2009 into New Year 2010 (dates to be confirmed).

An extended interview with Matt Smith can be seen at bbc.co.uk/doctorwho.

Matt Smith pictures are available from www.bbcpictures.com.

Biography
Matt Smith, 26, grew up with his family including one sister in Northampton. He was head boy at Northampton School For Boys where he excelled at sports, music and drama.

Initially, Matt wanted to be a professional footballer and played for Northampton Town Under-11 & 12s, Nottingham Forest Under 12, 13 & 14s and Leicester City Under 15 & 16s before a back injury forced him out of the game.

Following his injury, and with the encouragement of one of his teachers, Jerry Hardingham, Matt decided to join the National Youth Theatre.

It was during this time that Matt first gained attention at the Royal Court Theatre when he was cast in the play Fresh Kills, directed by Wilson Milam, whilst still at the University Of East Anglia where he was studying Drama and Creative Writing.

Already a stalwart of the National Youth Theatre, his performance at the Court led to a variety of theatrical experiences at the National Theatre: in the award-winning History Boys (directed by Nick Hytner), On The Shore Of The Wide World (directed by Sarah Frankcom) and also in the acclaimed trio of plays Burn / Citizenship / Chatroom (directed by Anna Mackmin).

These roles led to Matt’s first outings on the small screen, alongside Billie Piper in Phillip Pullman’s period detective stories, The Ruby In The Smoke and The Shadow In The North (both BBC One), where he played Jim, right-hand man to Billie’s detective heroine Sally Lockhart.

These pieces were followed by the lead role of Danny in the BBC Two series Party Animals, the brilliantly observed drama set in the world of young politicians.

In a dazzling return to the Royal Court in 2007, Matt played Henry in Polly Stenham’s award-winning first play That Face, opposite Lindsay Duncan. His performance gained Matt an Evening Standard Best Newcomer nomination and a year later the play had a second life in the West End at the Duke of York’s Theatre.

In between the two runs, Matt played Guy opposite Christian Slater’s Buddy in Swimming With Sharks, Mike Leslie’s searing West End adaptation of the 1994 Hollywood film.

In this time he also played a lead role in the BAFTA winning BBC One series The Street, opposite Gina McKee and Lorraine Ashbourne.

Matt has recently completed work on Moses Jones for BBC Two, directed by Michael Offer, in which he plays the lead role of Dan Twentyman, alongside Shaun Parkes in the title role.

Sarah Lancashire, best known for roles in Coronation Street, Clocking Off and Rose & Maloney, is set to guest star in series four of the BAFTA award-winning Doctor Who, due to be seen on BBC One next year.

Sarah will guest star as Miss Foster, an enigmatic and powerful businesswoman, in episode one which reintroduces Catherine Tate as Donna Noble.

Sarah Lancashire says: “I’m absolutely thrilled to be in Doctor Who. It’s a brilliant episode and I’m looking forward to taking the Time Lord on.”

Award-winning actress Catherine Tate is reprising her role as Donna, the runaway bride who featured in last year’s Doctor Who Christmas special.

The start of the new series will see Donna tracking down The Doctor during an alien emergency in modern-day London.

The couple are destined to experience a series of wonderful adventures throughout the new series including meeting one of Doctor Who’s most popular aliens, The Ood, in a brand new episode, Planet Of The Ood.

Donna and The Doctor will also be travelling through time for an encounter with the legendary murder mystery novelist, Agatha Christie, and taking a trip to Pompeii.

Guest stars in the new series include Felicity Kendal, Fenella Woolgar, Tim McInnerny, Peter Capaldi, Phil Davis and Tracey Childs.

Freema Agyeman who has played Martha Jones, The Doctor’s companion throughout the critically-acclaimed third series, will return to the show to join The Doctor and Donna mid-series.

David Tennant will play The Doctor and Catherine Tate will play his new companion, Donna.

The fourth series of Doctor Who is now in production and will hit BBC One in Spring 2008.

The producer is Phil Collinson; Executive producers are Head of Drama, BBC Wales, Julie Gardner, and Russell T Davies.

Doctor Who is filmed in Cardiff.

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