Hold onto your hats because I’m about to spin you right round, baby right round; apparently (according to my mysterious ‘insider source’) there are other television shows apart from Doctor Who!
Who would have thunk it? What the thunk!
So, drawing the shortest of short straws, I’ve been elected/threaten with physical harm to be a representative of Kasterborous and ‘investigate’ these ‘others’ in order to ascertain a) Which of these shows are the best this year has to offer and b) What makes them worthy of leaving the TARDIS for such uncharted telly-based adventures in Newdom.
Naturally, to help me through this difficult transistor period, I’ve specifically chosen programmes which feature in some way, shape or form, recognisable Doctor Who stars and guest stars – it’s best not to go whole hog and cold turkey completely from Who, he said using perhaps the grossest mixture of meat based metaphors since Aldi’s mythical, car crash in cellophane, the Three Bird Roast…
That things real?
May God have mercy on us all…
So without further ado, and with no large amount of fanfare (times are hard; I’ve had to settle for a moth fluttering past a trumpet as my signature theme) here it is – 2013 Shows from the Who Team You Should Watch!
Masters of Sex (featuring Michael Sheen)
Michael Sheen – extraordinary mimic and former TARDIS eater – wants to talk to you about sex. But more importantly, a countries shifting cultural attitudes towards sex as we approach something baring an uncanny resembles to modernity in altogether better clothes (or out of them).
A more explicit Mad Men-influenced look at the landmark study into sexual mores by Masters and Johnson; Masters of Sex features some of the former Doctor Who guest stars finest acting in an already distinguished career.
At the heart (and the other organs) of the show is the relationship between Sheen’s Dr William Masters – an introverted, determined character, and his wife, the luminescent, beguiling Virginia Johnson, played by the equally superb Lizzy Caplan.
Despite a glacial start, it’s her spark that grounds this unbelievable true story – evolving as it does towards being a genuine pretender to Mad Men’s crown and to something altogether more unique and, more importantly, human.
For a drama all about sex, it just goes to prove that it’s all about chemistry.
Broadchurch (starring David Tennant, Olivia Coleman, Arthur Darvill and David Bradley, along with Who contributor, Writer & Creator Chris Chibnall)
Before the influx of quality imported crime dramas, TV detectives would wrap up the kind of case that forms the central arch of the impeccable Broadchurch in roughly an hour; give or take a quick, pleasant laugh at the end to remind audiences that ‘Hey! The case is solved! Murder is over now!’
Now, the onus is on crafting the kind of perpetual tormented atmosphere that Broadchurch excels at, amounting to a reflective study into loss and anger amongst some of the most rugged, beautifully shot scenery this country has to offer.
Broadchurch succeeds where others fail because, unlike the detective shows of old, those charged with finding the murderer of an 11 year-old boy, at times, seem ill-equipped for the job at hand.
Olivia Coleman’s Ellie Milller is both personally affected and seemingly unprepared for the weight the job requires, while David Tennant’s Alec Hardy, coming off a similar botch investigation and nursing his own ill health, at times seems like a liability rather than the ideal man to lead the case.
However, over the course of eight episodes, as the impact slowly dawns on the quiet coastal community, it’s that haunting atmosphere that lingers long after the case itself has concluded.
Direction is shared between James Strong (The Impossible Planet/ The Satan Pit; Planet of the Dead) and Euros Lyn (The End of the World; Fear Her).
Chris Chibnall (42; Dinosaurs on a Spaceship) is working on a second series, thankfully, which will also see the return of Rory Pond/Williams himself, Arthur Darvill.
The Escape Artist (starring David Tennant, Sophie Okonedo, Roy Marsden and Patrick Ryecart)
Sliding almost undetected across our schedules in and amongst a brace of other David Tennant led dramas, The Escape Artist shone because it chose to favour the head rather than the heart; presenting, by its conclusion, a cerebral attack on the judicial system which, even if it did at times wobble under its ludicrousness, chose to leave its main character who, in his own words, had lost his heart but was ultimately triumphant.
If that seems a little wishy-washy, it’s intended to leave you not with the traditional fist-pumping climax – the kind that sees your characters reflecting on the dawn of a new day as they walk triumphantly down the steps of their respective Court – but with something a little more challenging.
It’s hard for any drama to recover once it chooses to off an seemingly untouchable marque star – it makes light of our ultimately one-sided relationship with dramas like this, that even as our heroes are pursued, no harm will come to the ‘family in peril’ when in reality, the latter is often horrifyingly true.
Perhaps in attempting to both have its cake and eat it, it lost that connection which stopped it achieving the kind of expected heights these tense, inquisitive law based dramas should reach.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – expectations need to be subverted; sometimes something needs to make light of the rules that we abide by – the results might not be pretty but they can be entertaining in a different way.
It opens the doors for further exploration…
The case continues.
Last Tango in Halifax (Featuring Derek Jacobi, Anne Reid, Sarah Lancashire, Nina Sosanya, Sacha Dhawan, and music from Murray Gold)
It seems bizarre, pitched as it was as some sort of hidden, deadly weapon against facile pandering to younger audiences – to read some of the reactions to this wonderful sensitive drama you’d think telly, in its attempts to plumb the depths of ‘yoof’ culture had unwittingly stumbled upon an old, unexploded landmine amongst the sod- blowing apart preconceptions about audiences willingness to watch realistic portrayals of elderly folk and telly’s need to produce them.
The fact remains – in and amongst such metaphorical demarking of lines in the sand – that the drama is pitched perfectly; a sentimental fairy tale romance; the likes of which could only come from people who have had to put aside such dreams for their responsibilities for most of their adult life, and the modern, pressing concerns that those responsibilities bring – namely their disbelieving, incredulous children and grandchildren.
The cast are stunning: Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid in particular can seemingly convey such heart-breaking and heart-warming emotions in nothing more than a subtle gesture and the writing is on par with that of Alan Bennett.
Don’t let the sweet, vaguely twee nature of the descriptions fool you into dismissing this; you’ll be missing out on one of the year’s best dramas.
Imagine: Who’s Afraid of Machiavelli? (Featuring Peter Capaldi)
Here it is; the future…or something very similar.
It was hard not to draw parallels with Doctor Who during this, a study of The Prince by Machiavelli, the very term Machiavellian and what exactly that means and its place within the current political system (newsflash: it’s still horrifying relevant now, even if our shiny faced PM attempts to disarm you with a robot’s impression of a description of charm he found in the wreckage of a train-crushed working families modest home*).
In fact, while the choice of Capaldi had more to do with his previous role as ‘the master of the dark arts’ Malcolm Tucker (and him also being a pretty stunning actor too) in the peerless and Peer filled The Thick of It, it seemed like a conscious choice to reflect some very Doctor-like traits.
The long coat? Check.
A Title Card Proclaiming the Location In a Font Representative of That Area Interposed on The Landscape? Check.
That Moment When the Doctor Stares Contemplatively Out at the Horizon? Check (although Capaldi was on board the London Eye, so he could have just been wondering why he didn’t bring a camera… other than the one pointing at his face obviously)
The Moment When the Doctor Makes A Devastating Speech to An Alien Race that are Threatening the Universe that Evokes All One Thousand Years of His Existence? Check (and its presented in a roving, heavily cut fashion much like the moment in The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit where he connects the dots with what could be the actual Prince of Darkness).
It would be funny if Capaldi weren’t so scary – it goes without saying that these dramatic recantations of The Prince’s philosophy were the cherry on the cake you wouldn’t dare touch less you incur his wrath, in this edifying, engagingly produced documentary.
*My lawyers have advised me to remind you, dear reader, that this is all demented fiction, to not refer to them as ‘my lawyers’ ever again and that they ordered Ham and Pineapple, not Cheese and Tomato.
Other TV shows you might be interested in from the Who team include The Great Train Robbery, written by Chris Chibnall; The Tractate Middoth, adapted by Mark Gatiss and starring Sacha Dhawan; Arrow, with Professor River So – - uh, Alex Kingston; and, continuing tonight, Death Comes to Pemberley, starring The Snowmen‘s Tom Ward, The Long Game‘s Anna Maxwell Martin, and our lovely companion, Jenna Coleman! What, aside from Doctor Who of course, have been your telly highlights this year…?