Saturday, January 25, 2014

Doctor Who Saturday: Spin Off City

"Hey, hey, hey! The Doctor and the gang are here to play!" 

Greetings! Welcome to my blog, I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You, now equipped with its own sonic swizzle stick.

I'm Dave-El and today is Doctor Who Saturday.  So what do I have up my sleeve for this week's installment?

Below is a picture with a silly caption left over from last week's post. This is a publicity still from the 2005 Doctor Who episode The Doctor Dances with John Barrowman as Capt. Jack Harkness

"Some days, you just can't get rid of a bomb.*"
*Yes, this is the classic line delivered by Adam West in the Batman movie from 1966.

There was no denying Barrowman's charm as the roguish Capt. Jack and it seemed a shame to not have more chances to see this fascinatingly complex character other than in occasional guest appearances on Doctor Who. So after the end of Doctor Who's 2nd series, Jack Harkness was the featured character in a spin off series, Torchwood

Torchwood accomplished what had never been successfully done before: launch a TV series spin off from Doctor Who

There were ideas floated for possible spin off concepts during the classic era, most notably a series starring the characters of Jago & Lightfoot from The Talons of Weng-Chiang. That never came about although the two adventurers did get some audio adventures later on.

The closest the classic show ever came to actually realizing a spin off was with 1981's K-9 and Company with featured the Doctor's robot dog teaming up with Elisabeth Slanden's Sarah Jane Smith. But only 1 special was produced. 

Following the 2006 episode School Reunion which brought back both Lis Sladen as Sarah Jane and K-9 (John Leeson doing the voice, no less), a 2nd spin off project was commissioned, The Sarah Jane Adventures with Sarah Jane and various teenage companions solving mysteries involving aliens.**

**Around this time, a K-9 series was being produced that was not produced by the BBC or any Doctor Who production staff. I have not seen any of these but from what I've heard, that's probably for the best.

The key to Torchwood and SJA is that while both were built on the foundations of Doctor Who, both followed different approaches to their material with Torchwood being darker and edgier while SJA had a more kid friendly appeal. 

SJA was probably the more consistently well-regarded of the two series in terms of strength of the storytelling. It didn't hurt that the Doctor actually made a couple of appearances. And the affection people had for Lis Sladen and her Sarah Jane Smith. Sadly, the series came to an end when cancer took Sladen's life at too young an age. 

Torchwood continued to muddle through with episodes of varying quality and a less defined mission statement for existing other than Capt. Jack could have more explicit sex scenes. The third series, the 5 episode Children of Earth arc, is considered the pinnacle of the Torchwood series. A subsequent 4th series produced in conjunction with the American cable channel Starz was basically a weak rehash of X-Files tropes with a barely tenuous connection to the previous series. After those 10 episodes, nothing more has been heard of Torchwood and the likelihood of it returning is virtually not existent. 

Currently, Doctor Who serves as its own best ambassador of its universe but there are still ideas that fans would like to see developed outside of the series proper. The most prominent of these is the Paternoster Gang of Vastra, Jenny and Strax from The Snowmen, The Crimson Horror and The Name of the Doctor. I think it would make for a most intriguing and imaginative series, especially played against the Victorian era backdrop. 

Another Jenny comes to mind for a spin off, the Time Lord clone from The Doctor's Daughter. A young woman with kick ass moves and a warrior's skills yet seeking to live up to the Doctor's ideals, this character is usually at the top of Whovians' lists for spin off ideas.

Other ideas of varying merit include:
  • Martha and Mickey as the alien fighting married couple we saw at the end of The End of Time Part Two
  • The Space Pirates from the end of The Curse of the Black Spot
  • Liz 10 from The Beast Below
  • Canton Everett Delaware III from The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon along with his alien fighting sidekick, President Nixon. (Well, why not?) 
  • The Teselecta from Let's Kill Hitler and The Wedding of River Song
  • Queen Nefertiti and John Riddell from Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

Of course, the magic of some of these characters is that they are in fact created for a short time and a specific purpose and perhaps that magic would wear a bit thin if they were brought to life on a consistent basis. Still, it is a fascinating exercise to speculate on the possibilities of having something Doctor Who-related to watch between series of actual Doctor Who.  

Ooh, how about an animated spin off featuring the Adipose?

OK, I'm pushing my luck now, aren't I?


Tomorrow on the blog: 

This (Non) Sporting Life#4

And next week on the blog:

Another NEW installment of Doctor Who Saturday.

Until then, be good to one another.

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