I am sat here in the south-south-eastern annex to the south-east wing of Kasterborous Towers. In a cupboard. With lots of coffee and what passes for a computer and a steam driven internet connection. Gathered around me on virtual cardboard boxes and packing crates, huddled around the single candle for warmth and light are the following notables:
Brian Terranova (associate editor of the esteemed organ known as Kasterborous.com); Christian Cawley (master of the web and chief writer for Kasterborous.com); Nick Brown (a vocal member of the Kasterborous forum and article contributor to Kasterborous.com); Anthony Howard (known to many as "captainjackharkness" from the Torchwood.tv and SJA.tv blogs); Matthew (editor, webmaster, head cook and bottle-washer from the wonderful EyeOfHorus website); and Steve Preston (another forum member, article writer for Kasterborous.com and half of the dynamic duo behind The Black Scrolls ‘zine).
And me. Your virtual host for this adventure into the quite-well-known, Lord Kopic, master of the news’bots over at Kopic’s Doctor Who and Torchwood News!
So, now that we have introductions out of the way, the coffee poured out and the candle re-ignited after it’s gone out for the fifth time… Welcome to the Kasterborous Round Table 2007!
We kicked off discussions by arguing the merits of Series 3. Most people agreed that this was the best series of "NuWho" so far, with some outstanding stories and performances. One dissenter, though, was Nick who thought Series 1 was better, "That honour I still reserve for the first season with Christopher Eccleston. Having read comments by others on Kasterborous and various other places though, it appears that I am in the minority." That’s right, Nick. Off to the dungeons with you, you heretic! Matthew hit the nail on the head with his comment, saying that S3 was "far more self-assured than its predecessors". He went on to say that Eccleston’s and Tennant’s premieres (S1 and S2) were more like "‘event television’ than a set of stories that you could dip in-and-out-of as a casual viewer without losing the plot or the will to live" and that "Like a new pair of shoes it takes time for them to ‘wear in’". And David Tennant is well and truly worn in now (and worn out) according to Steve, "Tennant really hit his stride here, with magnificent performances throughout. Just how he managed to sustain that through an entire year is an amazing feat. But he was looking bloody tired by the time he got to the last few episodes. "
Everyone agreed that Human Nature and Blink were the highlights, with Christian wading in with his size 15 bovver boots, "if those two don’t get nominated in next years Hugo’s, there’s something wrong, and if they do, I demand to see a punch up between the two heavyweights Moffat and Cornell to determine who takes the prize… both stories were note perfect."
Steve thought the series finale got a bit too messianic, "Then things really started to go pear-shaped in the final two episodes, with a throw-everything-into-the-mix Sound of Drums and the rollercoaster Last of the Time Lords, rollercoaster as it had some terrific highs but bloody hell, some almighty lows. The Toclafane, quite simply, are rubbish, and held no interest what so ever. The Doctor as Smeagol went on for far too long, although I’m sure it gave poor old David a well earned nap. But the bizarre ‘DOCTOR!’ finale with the resurrected Jesus Doctor, lending ever more incredulity to Russell T Davies claim to a godless life just brought a wry smile rather than a ‘phew! The Doctor’s saved them all’."
Nick goes on to confirm what we all thought about Last of the Time Lords, "I was waiting for a big Doctor-Master face off a la Pertwee-Delgado which was never forthcoming." Terra agreed with this sentiment and went on to say, "The low point for me was when the Doctor and the Master go face to face and the Doctor is a CGI pigmy. It felt like a waste to me to have two brilliant actors to play off of each other and they then make them work apart for most for the time."
Moving on to the inevitable discussions of companions and their relative merits, we are left in no doubt about how Steve feels about the inclusion of Catherine Tate in Series 4, "does it mean more high camp shouty matches and more low-intellect trash culture references? If so, it’s going to be a bloody year of hell, but worst of all is that there might be some terrific stories in the mix for 2008, sadly ruined by the tacked on cartoon character. All I can hope for is a visit to Androzani Minor in episode 13 with Donna having an unfortunate arse-over-tit into a spectrox nest."
Awwwww. That’s not very nice, Steve! Let’s find someone to say something nice about the casting of Catherine Tate…
Christian steps up to the mark, "well I’m getting used to it, but I wanted Sally Sparrow, and I should have damn well demanded Sally Sparrow! Or at least a year of Kylie. Imagine that? Tate should do the job if it’s toned down, but I don’t want too many laughs, I don’t want Tate bellowing at people and I don’t want it to be ‘Tate in Space’ – I suspect the production team are canny enough to know that too."
Well, that was sort of nice. At least there were no wishes for accidents to befall the character of Donna!
Hang on… There’s a quiet murmur of at the back of the cupboard as Terra makes it known that he "will be looking forward to Donna. I think it might be the return of the old school companion without a love story. I hope anyway." I carefully check Terra’s medication and up the dosage… Matthew agrees with Terra, so I check their coffees to see if there’s anything… y’know… funny in them… "I think that her inclusion will have a similar impetus on the series/brand that Eccleston provide in 2005," says Matthew, "A professional that has demonstrated an adept ability to be highly versatile. In addition to bringing a ‘maturity’ to the TARDIS that could echo the winning combination of BIG FINISH’s Sixth Doctor and Evelyn Smythe (veteran actress, Maggie Stable). A wise move after the ‘juvenile’ characters of Rose and Martha."
Hmmm. You have a good point there, Matthew. Maybe some maturity is what’s needed at this point. Anthony even admits to being optimistic about Donna, "I’m going to be optimistic," he says, "and keep my mouth shut. Yes, there were better candidates out there for RTD to choose from…" Christian interjects a demand for Sally Sparrow, but Anthony carries on, "but the fact remains that he did choose to bring Tate on board. We have to respect his decision, and hope that his instincts prove true and Donna Noble is a welcome addition to the Doctor Who team."
Having come to the conclusion that we all have very different opinions of Donna Noble we start to compare Martha and Rose. Christian is a Martha Jones fan. Can you tell…? "Martha, by far. You couldn’t have had her without a Rose beforehand, or anything like that, but I maintain that Rose suffered in S2 as a character; like you would laugh in a Dalek’s face – doubly unlikely knowing that your temporary power ‘destroyed’ the remaining Daleks and you can’t do anything about these new three. Martha on the other hand was down to earth, direct and straightforward, she had no agenda other than to see the universe, and later on the world. Her family and situation offered more interesting possibilities, plus Freema has a better figure than La Piper, and of course that wonderful sister who would have made such a good companion…"
Terra, on the other hand, sits firmly on the fence, "I can’t say if Martha or Rose were better then each other, I mean they had different parts to play and they both did a great job at them. However," and here he agrees with Christian, "Rose’s character went downhill for me in series two with her flippant attitude to danger and laughing off any situation as well as the Queen."
Steve liked Martha, too, and describes her as "a very much needed breath of fresh air after the all-consuming Rose and her Doc-obsession. It was all getting to be a bit of a private joke in series 2 so Martha, despite her crush on the big man, seemed to maintain a stronger connection with the viewer and thus provide a bridge to the mysterious ramblings of the Doc. And of course with Rose you get her bleedin’ entourage, all of whom can take a running jump for all I care." Steady on, Steve! Have a valium… "But with Smith and Jones I was shouting at the TV, ‘Davies not again you bloody fool!’ as he introduced an equally stereotyped set of parents and siblings that could have walked straight out of the book ‘100 character devices to avoid in soap opera’.
We take a short break there while I mop Steve’s fevered brow and hand around some yummy looking cookies I find in a box labelled "Evidence"…
I mention the Jones family again and Steve re-launches his tirade, "Things improved, with pretty much a no-show for the family through series 3, thankfully, but when they did re-appear, there was less of the stupid bickering and dodgy bird-on-the-side plotline for the Dad that so clearly failed to work. So with all that in place, I was looking forward to seeing which way Martha was going to go, as she pretty much had a very good run throughout series 3, providing Play School questions for the general public to the Doctor’s weirdness, and bringing medical assistance with her doctorly knowledge to those in need."
Anthony is definitely in the Martha camp, "It took a while to establish herself and to earn her keep in this fan’s heart, as at times the character of Martha felt a little on the underwhelming side. But that’s no fault of Agyeman (who consistently gives a confident performance) but the writing of Russell T Davies. Never mind the Doctor, I honestly believe it took Davies the better half of the series to get over Rose Tyler’s departure, a companion he helped to create – and one that established his era of the show. With her gone, Davies lost his voice a little – and Martha suffered as a result.
"A role on Torchwood offers Martha a chance to mature, and broaden as a character. Some said that Agyeman herself was under-developed as an actress (I think not) but I guess this’ll give her the chance to show off a wider acting range and prove her critics wrong. The crossover also converges the Doctor Who and Torchwood universes, and should help to create some clarity between the shows. As a result, the NuWhoniverse feels a lot bigger, grander and far more epic."
Picking up where he left off with the decline of Rose’s character in S2, Terra goes on to say, "Martha, thankfully didn’t get to have a downward spiral so far, we’ll see what Torchwood or series 4 brings for her. I can’t say that I would have ever pictured her as a Torchwood type character but looking back at the series I can see her personality fitting in well there."
The candle splutters, fizzes and goes out again. The only light in the cupboard is now the ghostly flicker of my computer screen. A sort of ‘ghost light’, if you will. There’s a muffled scream in the distance. We all turn to the door and notice, for the first time, the statue of an angel that we are sure wasn’t there before…
Will Christian smash the statue to bits with his size 15 bovver boots? Will Steve recover from his fevered rant in time? Will anyone survive the "Evidence" Cookies?
Tune in to Part Two of the Kasterborous Round Table 2007 and find out! Coming soon to a web browser near you.