JUST back from tonight’s launch for series four of Doctor Who.
We saw episodes one and two, followed by a Q&A with David Tennant, Catherine Tate and Russell T Davies.
The talk was of Doctor Who’s daughter, the Time Lord and Donna Noble just being “mates” and the return of the Sontarans.
Both David and Russell refused to comment about their futures with the show after this 13-part series and four further specials.
Catherine also said she couldn’t comment when asked if she was in the specials.
OK, looking now at the clock, the launch was technically last night.
As it’s late, I’ll take events in chronological order ahead of more in the MEN over the next few days.
Controller of BBC Fiction Jane Tranter introduced the screening at a cinema in London’s West End.
She pointed out that the Doctor Who team had been involved over the last four years with 56 episodes, including this year’s yet to be filmed Christmas special.
“And soon they’ll be limbering up for yet another marathon stint with four huge specials and then a fifth series looming,” added Jane.
“For me, this fourth series of Doctor Who is our best yet.
“It is the series that appears to have everyone and everything in it and be about absolutely everything the universe has got to offer.
“But believe me, there is much more still to come after this.”
So to episode one: Partners In Crime, written by Russell, who described it as a “hoot” and “good family entertainment”.
Sarah Lancashire guest stars as the mysterious Miss Foster, a name with some significance.
She’s head of Adipose Industries, a company offering a miracle diet.
One capsule a day and the fat just walks away.
Having turned him down once, Donna, played by Catherine, is now awaiting the Doctor’s return.
After a series of near misses, they eventually meet in a confusion of lip reading and sign language.
And soon they’re reunited – as partners in crime.
Amid the main plot lines are several longer term clues for Whovians, including a line about bees disappearing.
Martha and Rose also get mentions, ahead of their returns later in the series.
Plus nods from Russell to both Close Encounters and Take That.
It’s a great start to the series, with Donna making plain she won’t stand any nonsense from the Doctor.
Episode two is called The Fires Of Pompeii, set in AD 79.
Guest stars include Peter Capaldi, Phil Davis and Sasha Behar, who played Mad Maya Sharma in Coronation Street.
The Doctor takes on some fire-breathing rock creatures with a water pistol and, naturally, makes a joke about not getting into a lava.
This being Pompeii, there are also some stunning special effects.
Different in tone to episode one, it further cements the relationship between the Time Lord and his new companion.
We also saw a short glimpse of the rest of the series, including a return for Rose’s mum and the long suffering Mickey.
Among those watching in the audience were Bernard Cribbins, who plays Donna’s grandfather, plus Simon Pegg and Elisabeth Sladen.
Highlights from the Q&A included:
Catherine on Donna not fancying the Doctor: “She knows he’s an alien and she knows he’s got two hearts. She don’t want to know what else he’s doubling up on. I think that’s a fair point.”
Catherine on her Doctor Who doll: “Having not been really into the idea – frankly resisting it, but it was in the contract so I couldn’t get out of it. When they showed me the prototype of my doll, I loved it. I was literally running around. I don’t think I’m supposed to like it as much as I do.”
David on the range of episodes in this series, including one called The Doctor’s Daughter – although it’s already been reported there is a twist: “We get to see the Doctor’s daughter, played by the Doctor’s daughter.” (A reference to actress Georgia Moffett, the real life daughter of former Doctor Who star Peter Davison) And episode 10 is maybe creepy in a way that we’ve not done before. That’s probably the most psychologically scary we’ve ever done.”
Russell on episode 11: “Donna goes through the mill emotionally – more than anyone’s ever done. I just love that.”
A youngster asked if the Doctor could ever be a woman. David replied: “Well, nothing’s impossible in the world of Doctor Who, I would imagine.” Russell agreed: “No…Thora Hird’s dead though, it’s a shame. Anything could happen.”
David talking about the arrival of new characters at the end of this series and of Donna flirting with someone who isn’t the Doctor.
It also emerged that the return of the Sontarans in episode four left Catherine slightly bothered.
Originally seen in the 1970s and 1980s, the warriors with potato heads have been re-imagined for 2008 (pictured).
It took Catherine a full weekend to realise they weren’t sophisticated machines powered by electricity – but operated from the inside by actors.
She finally discovered the truth when one of the performers, all five foot in height or under, took off his helmet.
“Bob pops up or whatever,” she recalled. “I nearly died.”
Doctor Who returns to BBC1 at 6.20pm on Saturday.
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BBC Doctor Who Official Site