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Dr. Who, the classic British sci-fi series, has made quite a mark in America, except for those poor folks who don’t have BBC America as an offering on their cable system. Call your provider, we say, and demand one of the most fascinating and innovative channels ever. Imagine Demons, (a contemporary spin on Bram Stokers Dracula), The Inbetweeners, about children in that awkward age, Top Gear-Polar Special, and Britain’s Missing Top Model, a new and innovative reality show featuring models with disabilities. And of course, the fabulous Dr. Who.

Doctor Who


If like me you’re one of the uninitiated, don’t miss the next special, Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars which premieres Saturday, December 19. By then you’ll be hooked, so you can jump into the Dr. Who 2-part holiday special End of Time airing December 26th, 2009 and January 2nd, 2010. Sadly, the special signals the end of Scottish actor David Tennant’s reign as the Good Doctor as he’s called, and the debut of English thespian Matt Smith’s new Who, the 11th actor to play the part.

The series has long been a favorite in Great Britain. How long? The original series aired from 1963-1989, and then was rebooted in 2005. David Tennant – we Yanks might recognize Tennant as Barty Crouch, Jr. from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - has helmed the series as the title character since the 2005 Christmas special. Unlike most revivals of classic series, this one picked up right where the ’89 season left off.


The show focuses on the various adventures of Dr. Who, the last surviving member of a race of advanced aliens known as the “Time Lords.” The 906-year-old Dr. Who travels through time and space in his TARDIS craft, which long ago lost its shape-shifting ability when it got stuck in the form of a British Police Box (think of it as a phone booth for police). 


With Tennant’s time on the show drawing to a close, he explained to Dish why he was leaving the show that inspired him to begin acting in the first place. “I think that sometimes you have to sort of take a deep breath and make a difficult decision, and I like the fact that I stand a chance of leaving an audience and myself wanting more rather than people asking when I’m leaving. I never had a definite stepping-off point, but when Russell [Davies, the Executive Producer/Writer] and Julie [Gardner, his costar] were moving on, it seemed like the obvious time.”


The 10th actor to portray the character in the series, he has mixed feelings about his departure after five years of portraying the Doc. “It’s very exciting, but it’s also very sad. It’s thrilling to be handing over the show in such good health actually… we’ve all sort of come on this journey together, and it feels like we’re coming to the end of something very special. So it’s a whole mixture of emotions, actually, and probably until they actually transmit, I won’t quite know how it feels.”


As for his future career, Tennant refuses to speculate. “Long term, I don’t really know. In the immediate future, I’ve just done a television version of ‘Hamlet,’ which is broadcasting soon. And I’m doing a film called ‘St. Trinians 2’ at the moment. But I don’t know after that.”


Tennant’s last official adventure may be the Christmas special, but he’s holding open the possibility that his popular incarnation of Dr. Who could make a return in a cameo, “I’ll wait for the correct opportunity, but I’ve got the costume hanging up in my wardrobe. And as long as I can keep my waistline, and still fit into the trousers, never say never.” 


The exact plot of the two-part Christmas special, The End of Time is still being kept under wraps, but we do know it will center on the rebirth of “The Master,” Dr. Who’s recurring arch-nemesis. Battles will rage across a war-torn London as an ancient alien prophecy is fulfilled. All this will culminate in the end of David Tennant’s portrayal of Dr. Who and the character’s “regeneration” – which happens every time a new actor is introduced to play the role – this time into Matt Smith’s version of the iconic doctor. 


The youngest Doctor ever cast, the 27 year-old Smith’s selection has stirred controversy among fans. He has big shoes to fill. David Tennant’s portrayal of Who has earned him plenty of accolades; he was voted “Best Doctor” by the fanzine Dr. Who Magazine, and made his way on to lists of the sexiest, most stylish, and most influential men from the likes of Cosmopolitan to New Woman.


Doctor WhoAlthough Smith was virtually unknown before his casting, the former footballer has been acting since a serious back injury ended his athletic dreams. He started his professional acting career in 2003. Since then he has had plenty of face-time in his native England, most notably starring alongside Christian Slater in a stage production of Swimming with Sharks. Besides his work on stage, he has also worked in film (Fresh Kills) and numerous BBC television projects (The Ruby in the Smoke, The Shadow in the North, and the series Party Animals).


Only time will tell if Matt Smith’s portrayal is just what – ahem – the doctor ordered, or if fans will offer a second opinion. We’ll get the prognosis when he makes his debut in Part II of The End of Time, airing January 2nd on BBC America. 


The finale to the era of David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor, is one of the most eagerly anticipated adventures in the history of Doctor Who. The next special, Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars premieres Saturday December 19 at 9:00pm ET/PT.


The final two specials, Doctor Who: The End of Time, Part One and Doctor Who: The End of Time, Part Two, will premiere over the holiday season.  Guest stars John Simm, Timothy Dalton, Catherine Tate and Bernard Cribbins join Tennant on his final journey. Doctor Who: The End of Time, Part One premieres Saturday December 26, 9:00pm ET/PT. The End of Time, Part Two premieres Saturday, January 2, 8:00 p.m. ET/PT


The BBC will release The Waters of Mars and The End of Time, Part One and Part Two on DVD and Blu-ray, Tuesday, February 2, 2010.  A 5-disc set, Doctor Who: Specials Collection, which includes The Next Doctor, Planet of the Dead, Waters of Mars, The End of Time, Part One and Part Two and a 16-page booklet with an introduction written by David Tennant, hits stores the same day. / Issue 103 - September 2018
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