Saturday, July 5, 2014

Doctor Who Weekend: The Americans Are Coming! The Americans Are Coming!

Hi there! Dave-El here and welcome to I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You, the internet's answer to the carrier pigeon. 

As today is 1 day removed from the 4th of July, America's Independence Day, I decided to devote today's Doctor Who Weekend post to the subject of Americans in Doctor Who.  

With all of time and space, everything that ever happened or ever will, it's amazing how often the Doctor's adventures take him and his companions to times and places within the United Kingdom. But once in a while, that big ol' country across that big ol' pond called the Atlantic Ocean gets acknowledged in the Doctor's travels. 

This is not a comprehensive list, just the moments that I am aware of where American characters have made an appearance in Doctor Who.  

Foremost on this list is the 1st Doctor adventure, The Gunfighters. This particular serial has a poor reputation, citing historical inaccuracies, bad accents, musical narration ("Ballard of the Last Chance Saloon"), bad ratings and more.  While some of the bad rep may have been earned, some of that rep also owes to preconceived perceptions of the story. Still, Part 4 of The Gunfighters received the lowest Audience Appreciation figures of any Doctor Who episode. 

In the 3rd Doctor adventure, The Claws of Axos (click here for my write up on that), an agent from Washington DC, Bob Filer, comes to Great Britain to bring the Master to American justice. 

The most significant and ongoing presence of an American character on Doctor Who was that of Perpugilliam Brown or Peri. As played by Brit actress Nicola Bryant, Peri's American accent was notorious for not remaining consistent. (I'm not being critical of Nicola here; I'm sure the American aspect of the character was not her idea and besides, not a lot of Brits are like Hugh Laurie who can pull off a really great American accent.) Producer John Nathan-Turner's reasoning for making the Doctor's companion an American was in line with why Tegan Jovanka was made an Australian, to better increase the show's appear outside of Britain. Suffice to say, Peri's appeal to America had less to do with her accent and more for her propensity for low cut, form fitting tops.  

I recall in the 7th Doctor adventure, Silver Nemesis, there is a bizarre cutaway scene with a female American visitor giving someone a lift. She was an over the top Southern gal but why she was important to the story, I have no idea.  

This brings us to the 8th Doctor and Dr. Grace Holloway, not only an American character but played by American actress Daphne Ashbrook. This was the first time that a companion gets into liplock action with the Doctor. 

When the series was revived in 2005, the 9th Doctor and Rose encounter Henry van Statten, a megalomaniacal American businessman with a fetish for alien tech. He's a greedy son of a bitch who, once he realizes the Doctor is an alien, has the Doctor tortured for information. Somebody's been channeling their inner Dick Cheney, perhaps?  

The next time America shows up in Doctor Who, the 10th Doctor and Martha visit Depression era New York. Future Spider-man Andrew Garfield plays a genial drifter from Tennessee while various other characters affect "Nu Yawk" accents almost to the point of caricature. ("LAZ-LO!") To be fair, I don't know how many American actors wouldn't approach such accents the same way.

It wasn't until the 11th Doctor along with Amy and Rory that not only did the characters make it to the USA but so the actors themselves. The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon saw Doctor Who actors actually on American soil. Not only that but we had several American characters including President Richard Nixon. And I love this exchange: 

The Doctor (acting calm while surrounded by Secret Service agents with their guns drawn): "They're not going to just shoot me."
River: "Doctor, they're Americans!"
The Doctor (suddenly panicked): "Don't shoot!" 

Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Matthew Darvill made a return trip to shoot scenes for The Angels Take Manhattan a year later for the 7th series. Earlier in that series, A Town Called Mercy was set in the American Old West, the first time since The Gunfighters. However, this was not shot in America or England but in Spain where the famous westerns of Sergio Leone were filmed.  

While I can't recall any American characters appearing in subsequent episodes, the Americans do get name checked by UNIT's Kate Stewart in The Day of the Doctor when she voices concerns over Americans getting hold of time travel technology and re-writing history. As she tells Clara, "You've seen their films." (That line got a big laugh here in America.)  

So far, Doctor Who performers and crew have not made a return visit to America although 12th Doctor Peter Capaldi and the Doctor Who gang have been back to Spain for some shooting there. I don't know if any of the forthcoming stories will have any American characters. But it's always a kick to see Doctor Who in America so I hope a return visit, either virtually or actually, is in the cards soon. 


So the clock is ticking, ticking, ticking....

ALL NEW Doctor Who is COMING!!! 

And the question of the moment is....

In the meantime, coming up on a future edition of Doctor Who Weekend...

Someone's playing games with time with Clara Oswald and the Coal Hill School caught in the middle. The Doctor has a new face but an old enemy is up to no good. 

What is... The Time of the Dominion

A new fan fiction from Dave-El featuring the 12th Doctor...coming soon! 

Watching Television: Super P.I.s, Zombie Realtors & More

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