Silence will Fall

BY John Smith

The Long Road

Jolly Old England

Thanks to a friend, Glenna for this one.

Lǣce Hwā: Doctor Who in Anglo-Saxon England

The TARDIS occasionally found its way to early medieval England and these visits of the nation’s most beloved ‘Time Lord’ can also teach us something about Anglo-Saxon history and the Old English language. This post is the first of a series of three blogs that deal with the visits of BBC’s Doctor Who to Anglo-Saxon England.

Doctor Who in Anglo-Saxon England

Doctor Who is a science-fiction television programme, running from 1963 to 1989 and from 2005 to the present day. The programme revolves around the adventures of a mysterious ‘Time Lord’ who is known only as ‘The Doctor’, travelling through time and space in his TARDIS (which looks like a police box). In addition to his time travelling skills, the Doctor is also able to regenerate his body when near death, which explains why twelve different actors have been able to play this role in the TV series so far. Aside from time and space travel, the series is best known for its range of aliens and its horrible special effects. Incredibly popular, Doctor Who has become a significant part of British culture and has produced various spin-offs, in the form of magzines, novels, comic books and action figures.

Originally, Doctor Who was meant as a children’s TV show that would teach British history in a fun and entertaining way by bringing in aliens. What I am planning to do in the next few blogs is to use the series as it was intended: as a flashy guide to history; in my case, Anglo-Saxon history and culture. In order to do so, I have tried to locate TV episodes, comics and short fiction stories that feature the Doctor travelling to Anglo-Saxon England (my overview is unlikely to be complete, given the ever-growing Doctor Who franchise; recommendations are welcome, so please leave comments). We will see that the Doctor was present at many pivotal moments in Anglo-Saxon history; met various historical individuals; and, on occasion, prevented history from being changed forever. The current post deals with the Doctor’s encounters with Vikings and Anglo-Saxon celebrities; the second post will deal with King Alfred the Great and the third and last post will focus on the Doctor’s involvement in the Norman Conquest.

Doctor Conkerer: The Doctor in fifth-century Britain

The story of Anglo-Saxon England usually begins in the fifth century, when the Angles, Saxons and Jutes migrated to Britain. Naturally, some of these fifth-century invaders had a run-in with a blue police box, as is revealed in the comic strip ‘Doctor Conkerer’ in Dr. Who Magazine, no. 162 (July 1990):

BlogWho1

In this comic, the seventh Doctor is playing a game of conkers (for which you need the seed of a horse-chestnut tree on a string – a conker). After he has run out of conkers, the Doctor decides to make a short stop to gather some more. The TARDIS lands in fifth-century Britain and the Doctor chances upon some ruffians shouting “YAARR!” and “RAAHH!”. Rather than meeting the Angles, Saxons or Jutes, as we might expect, he meets another group of Germanic invaders: the Vikings, some three hundred years before they actually set foot in Britain! Be that as it may, the Doctor witnesses these anachronistic Vikings capture a British boy and decides to come to the rescue. He burns the longships of the Vikings and knocks out Viking leader Olaf with a well-aimed strike of a conker:

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The Doctor frees the British boy and brings him back to his village. Upon leaving the scene, the Doctor says to himself “Brilliant game, conkers. Wonder who first came up with it!”. This turns out to be the boy rescued by the Doctor, who is seen explaining the game to his mates. This first visit of the Doctor to early medieval Britain is slightly disappointing in terms of its educational value, if only because of the anachronisms (aside from the anachronistic Vikings, the game of conkers dates back to the 19th century).The next visit of the Doctor to early medieval Britain brings us into the territory of legend:

Shock reveal: The Doctor is Merlin!

According to the early medieval chroniclers Gildas (c. 500-570) and Bede (672/673-735), the Angles, Saxons and Jutes had been invited to Britain by the British King Vortigern, who required mercenaries to fight the invading Picts. A reference to this Vortigern is found in the TV episode ‘Battlefield’ (S26E01; 1989) of Doctor Who, in which a spaceship (containing the body of King Arthur and his sword Excalibur) is found on the bottom of Lake Vortigern…

DrWhoLakeVortigern

Like Vortigern, the legendary King Arthur is also associated with the invading Anglo-Saxons. Later medieval writers, such as Geoffrey of Monmouth, have assumed that it was King Arthur who led the Britons in the fight against the invaders from the Continent. This British resistance is one of the reasons why it took the Anglo-Saxons at least 150 years  to conquer the area that is now known as England.

As legend would have it, King Arthur was aided by  a mysterious man who could predict the future: Merlin. ‘Battlefield’ reveals that this Merlin is none other than a reincarnation of the Doctor, as becomes clear when the knight Ancelyn flies through the roof of a hotel and recognises the seventh Doctor:

ANCELYN: Merlin. Against all hope.
….
ACE: You’ve got it wrong, mate. This is the Doctor.
ANCELYN: Oh, he has many faces, but in my reckoning, he is Merlin.
DOCTOR: You recognise my face, then?
ANCELYN: No, not your aspect, but your manner that betrays you. Do you not ride the ship of time? Does it not deceive the senses being larger within than out? Merlin, cease these games

There you have it, the British resistance against the Anglo-Saxons may have had some extraterrestrial help!

Woden’s Warriors: The Doctor meets some real Vikings

After the Anglo-Saxons have migrated and conquered most of what is now known as England, they are converted to Christianity. These events, however, seem to have gone by unaffected by the Doctor. His next visit (aside from a picnic with Bede, see below), takes place when the Anglo-Saxons themselves are faced with an invasion: the Vikings (for real, this time).

In ‘Woden’s warriors’, published in TV Comic Annual 1976, the fourth Doctor and his companion Sarah Jane accidentally land in Viking Age Britain. As they wander about,  they suddenly hear the sounds of a horn: the Vikings have found the TARDIS and they think it is a gift from Woden. In order to find out whether that is truly the case, the Viking leader Heekon sets fire to the police box and, noting that it does not burn, he is convinced that this ‘magic box’ will aid them in their battle against the (Anglo-)Saxons:

BlogWho4

The tide is not turned in the Vikings’ favour, however. The Saxons are prepared, since they have been forewarned by the Doctor and Sarah-Jane. The Vikings are put to flight and their boats are set aflame! Next, the Saxons celebrate their victory in ‘traditional style’, which means that Sarah-Jane is not allowed to eat before the men have finished. The Doctor chuckles: “Yes, there is a lot to be said for the Saxon view of a woman’s role”:

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I, for one, am not aware of any such rule having been in place in Anglo-Saxon England; likely, this little scene is an attempt to show that rules that undermine a woman’s rights are ‘medieval’ and old-fashioned – Sarah-Jane’s repulsion seems in line with the second-wave feminism of the Seventies…

Who’s who in Anglo-Saxon England: The Doctor and Anglo-Saxon celebrities

Throughout the Doctor Who franchise, there are frequent references to historical figures that the Doctor had supposedly met. Some of these figures belong to Anglo-Saxon history. A prime example is the Venerable Bede (672/673-735), who once shared a salmon with the Doctor, as the fourth Doctor relates in the TV episode “The Talons of Weng-Chiang” (S14E06; 1977):

I caught a salmon there [the River Fleet] once. Would have hung over the sides of this table. Shared it with the venerable Bede, he adored fish.

One wonders what Bede, a Northumbrian monk who probably never went far beyond the confines of the monasteries in Monkwearmouth and Jarrow (now: Bede’s World), was doing in London at the time! Anyway, Bede’s predilection for fish may explain why the monk felt it necessary to point out that Britain “is remarkable also for rivers abounding in fish, and plentiful springs. It has the greatest plenty of salmon and eels” (Bede, Historia Ecclesiastica, bk. 1, ch. 1).

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Another Anglo-Saxon celebrity known to the Doctor was King Athelstan  (c.894–939), whose coronation in 924 is referred to in the 2009 TV-special “The Planet of the Dead”. Here, the tenth Doctor finds out that Lady Christina de Souza has stolen the precious ‘Cup of Athelstan’. This cup, we are told, was a gift from Hywel (c.880-950), King of the Welsh, to Athelstan upon the latter’s coronation in 924 as “the first king of Britain”. Even though Athelstan wasn’t really the first King of Britain, he was indeed crowned King of the Anglo-Saxons in 924. He became the first King of the English in 927, after he conquered the last remaining Viking kingdom of York. The Welsh kings did indeed submit to him, but he never really had the title of ‘first king of Britain’. Ah well, I suppose one can forgive a reincarnating, time and space travelling humanoid alien for not always having his facts straight!

The Doctor also visited Alfred the Great and various protagonists of the Norman Conquest, but these visits will be dealt with in future blog posts. Stay tuned!

 

I know a Secret

But first, Me.:)

Phoenix Comicon. June 2-5, 2016. Phoenix, AZ.

My Panels: “The Time Lords of Gallifrey”

Thursday June 2, 2016. Noon.

I got the Sci-Fi Track kick off spot.

Blurb: Over the 52+ history of the show The Doctor’s own people have made appearances. Most of them, not so good. Lets all talk about the differences, the characters From The Meddling Monk to Rassilon, and the History of this oldest race in the Universe.”10 Million Years…” to look at.

“What Makes a good Companion?”
Friday June 3rd, 3pm.
What are the real qualities that make a good Doctor Who Companion. Not everyone , That’s you Adam, is cut out for it. Would you make the grade?
Let’s examine 5  of The Best to determine what it takes to be a companion of The Oncoming Storm. Then we’ll open it up to you. Do you have what it takes?
Then I’m also on a Torchwood panel on Saturday at 3pm.
Gonna be Fun.
*********************

Peter Capaldi has revealed how a theatre trip to see the new Doctor Who companion turned into a test of his acting skills.

“I knew Pearl had the job, but I couldn’t tell anyone and she couldn’t tell anyone,” he said.

“It was only because I had worked in that theatre previously and all the front of house staff knew me, so they said ‘Peter, you must go backstage’.

“So, that was a great performance of mine pretending that I didn’t know Pearl!”

Mackie’s role as new Doctor Who companion Bill was revealed on BBC One on Saturday, during the FA Cup semi-final in a special scene showing Capaldi’s Time Lord and Bill being chased by Daleks.

The 28-year-old actress replaces Jenna Coleman, whose character Clara Oswald left the show in 2015.

Filming for the 10th series of the long-running science fiction show starts next month and will air in 2017.

Image copyright Paul Vought
Image caption Peter Capaldi was a guest at the Doctor Who artwork exhibition launch at the Cartoon Museum

Speaking about his new co-star, Capaldi said: “The nice thing is that she is not part of the Doctor Who world – so the whole idea of travelling in time and space will be new to her.

“It’s a while since we’ve had a companion like that.”

‘Level-headed’

Doctor Who executive producer Steven Moffat, who was also at the exhibition launch on Thursday, said he was confident Mackie would cope with her new-found fame.

“There is nothing you can say to prepare people for being suddenly terribly famous,” he said. “She is a very level-headed, clever girl. She’ll be absolutely fine.”

He added Mackie had been the obvious choice at the auditions.

“We saw some fantastic actresses for that part, they were all amazing genuinely all amazing – it’s not often you can say that. But she was the first one through the door and she was just extraordinary.”

And how difficult had it been keeping the casting secret?

“No one got it until some insider dealer went and placed a bet,” Moffat said.

“It wasn’t me – I wouldn’t do that – but I’m sure we’ll find out who it was.”

Doctor Who: The Target Books Artwork Exhibition is at the Cartoon Museum 28 April – 15 May.

The actor went to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time in early April – before Pearl Mackie was announced as his new co-star.

When he was invited to meet the cast after the show, Capaldi and Mackie had to pretend they had never met.

In reality they’d already filmed a top secret scene together with the Daleks.

“I wanted to see the show but I didn’t expect to be asked backstage to meet everyone,” Capaldi told the BBC at this week’s launch of a Doctor Who artwork exhibition at London’s Cartoon Museum.

“I knew Pearl had the job, but I couldn’t tell anyone and she couldn’t tell anyone,” he said.

“It was only because I had worked in that theatre previously and all the front of house staff knew me, so they said ‘Peter, you must go backstage’.

“So, that was a great performance of mine pretending that I didn’t know Pearl!”

Mackie’s role as new Doctor Who companion Bill was revealed on BBC One on Saturday, during the FA Cup semi-final in a special scene showing Capaldi’s Time Lord and Bill being chased by Daleks.

The 28-year-old actress replaces Jenna Coleman, whose character Clara Oswald left the show in 2015.

Filming for the 10th series of the long-running science fiction show starts next month and will air in 2017.

Speaking about his new co-star, Capaldi said: “The nice thing is that she is not part of the Doctor Who world – so the whole idea of travelling in time and space will be new to her.

“It’s a while since we’ve had a companion like that.”

‘Level-headed’

Doctor Who executive producer Steven Moffat, who was also at the exhibition launch on Thursday, said he was confident Mackie would cope with her new-found fame.

“There is nothing you can say to prepare people for being suddenly terribly famous,” he said. “She is a very level-headed, clever girl. She’ll be absolutely fine.”

He added Mackie had been the obvious choice at the auditions.

“We saw some fantastic actresses for that part, they were all amazing genuinely all amazing – it’s not often you can say that. But she was the first one through the door and she was just extraordinary.”

And how difficult had it been keeping the casting secret?

“No one got it until some insider dealer went and placed a bet,” Moffat said.

“It wasn’t me – I wouldn’t do that – but I’m sure we’ll find out who it was.”

Doctor Who: The Target Books Artwork Exhibition is at the Cartoon Museum 28 April – 15 May.

Life is Funny

I have been trying to get my Doctor Who panels for Phoenix Comicon coming up June 2-5 for at least a month now.

I stay home sick yesterday (a story for another day) and I get more panelists volunteers than I need for both panels.

Wow, I should be sick more often. :)  (that is definitely a joke since I was miserably sick for two months this year already and got NOTHING constructive done).

So I going a head with them finally.

The Time Lords of Gallifrey:
They are the mysterious, almost god-like Masters of Time & Space. With literally all of Creation, everything that ever was or ever will be, as their backyard. Over the 52+ history of the show The Doctor’s own people have made appearances. Most of them, not so nice. Lets all talk about the differences, the characters From The Meddling Monk to Rassilon, and the History of this oldest race in the Whoniverse.

“10 Million Years of absolute power” indeed. Let’s take a to look at them together.
and
What Makes a good Companion?
So do you have what it takes to be a Companion of the The Doctor? Let’s examine 5  of The Best to determine what it takes to be a companion of The Oncoming Storm. Then we’ll open it up to you. Do you dare open those doors and step inside of the universe of The Doctor. Your life will never be the same afterwards. It will be a Trip of a Lifetime.

I’m also on a Torchwood Panel, but just a panelist.

http://www.phoenixcomicon.com/

Death

For a family show, Doctor Who can get pretty dark. Over the years the series has dealt with heartbreak, depression, PTSD and racism, treating subjects with gravity and seriousness despite them turning up in a silly TV series about a time-travelling phone box.

The Doctor: I lived. Everyone else died. (School Reunion)

But by far the biggest marker of Doctor Who darkness is the number of deaths in the series, ranging from offscreen planets and passers-by to beloved guest characters and even a companion or two.

Finch (School Reunion): Their lives are so fleeting. So many goodbyes. How lonely you must be, Doctor. Join us.

Often these deaths are seen to play on the Doctor’s conscience (most memorably David Tennant’s incarnation during 2008 finale Journey’s End), but in fairness to him you’re not going to save the galaxy without a few casualties. And it’s not like THAT many people have died, right?

Well, wrong – because one Doctor Who fan has crunched the numbers, and it turns out David Tennant’s Doctor probably did have a lot of deaths on his conscience. Generally speaking his tenure on the show saw the most deaths onscreen of any modern Doctor, with a series average of around 80 deaths (just pipped by the rather hard-working Christopher Eccleston’s 85) and an overall total to dwarf any others.

When it comes to companions, teaming Catherine Tate’s Donna with the Tenth Doctor looks to have been a particularly deadly combination, with her time in the Tardis resulting in a significantly higher level of onscreen deaths than companions before or after.

Overall, the result is clear – even without including the specials (which redditor 0thatguy left out of the calculations and hopes to update in the future), far more characters were killed during Russell T Davies’ tenure on the show, with Steven Moffat’s time at the helm a relative period of peace and prosperity for the galaxy.

That said, we’re still not sure we’ll be booking tickets to the Whoniverse any time soon. We hear the people are lovely, but there’s an awful Dalek infestation they just can’t get rid of. 

Sarah Jane: No. The universe has to move forward. Pain and loss, they define us as much as happiness or love. Whether it’s a world or a relationship, everything has its time. And everything ends.

Lego Roam

Who is Pearl

Who is Pearl Mackie?

“Introducing Pearl Mackie as Bill.” So read the on-screen caption at the end of a short, sparky clip which saw Peter Capaldi’s Doctor and his new time-travelling companion hiding from the Daleks in a space station corridor.

Announced live on BBC One during half-time of the FA Cup semi-final (wonder how much crossover there is between Whovians and football fans? Stereotype would suggest not much), the identity of the Time Lord’s next companion was revealed as newcomer Mackie. She becomes the Doctor’s 41st companion and the 10th since the 2005 reboot.

It was refreshing to see the new recruit revealed through filmed footage, a new clip entitled “Friend From the Future”, rather than the actress giving interview bland non-answers in a studio interview. The fact that Mackie happens to shares a hairstyle with Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini, the sole goalscorer in the match at half-time, was a slice of time-space-soccer serendipity.

“I’m incredibly excited to be joining the Doctor Who family,” says Mackie. “It’s such an extraordinary British institution, I couldn’t be prouder to call the TARDIS my home! Peter is such a brilliant actor, and his Doctor is such a wacky and wonderful character. I can’t wait to see what adventures are in store for him and Bill throughout time and space.”

What is she known for?

Londoner Mackie, who graduated from Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in 2010, is a relative newcomer with previous TV credits including Brit film Svengali and daytime Doctors. She also appeared in a music video for pop band Years & Years alongside Ben “Q from the Bond films” Whishaw and rising star Tuppence Middleton.

Mackie is currently starring in the National Theatre’s production of The Curious Dog in the Night-Time, which runs until June. Presumably when that wraps up, she’ll start filming at the time travel franchise’s Cardiff base.

What else do we know about her?

Not terribly much. A late flurry of bets had been placed on newcomer Mackie in the two days preceding the announcement, to such an extent that she became the 4/6 odds-on favourite for the job. Secrecy clearly wasn’t quite as tight as the BBC wanted.

As an acting tutor for children, she’s described as having “vibrant optimism” with her special skills listed as “mixing maturity and immaturity” – which sounds on-brand for Doctor Who. Peter Capaldi says he’s “very excited” about Mackie joining him in the TARDIS. “We’ve been doing a bit of work together already,” said the Twelfth Doctor. 

Mackie’s appointment makes good casting sense in response to recent suggestions that it’s time to see a non-white actor back in the TARDIS. The last companion of colour was Freema Agyeman eight years ago. As Capaldi says: “Doctor Who is at its best when it reflects contemporary culture. It’s time for us to be recognisably in the 21st century.” 

What will her character be like?

Unlike previous incumbent Clara Oswald, whose Impossible Girl status meant she had prior knowledge of the Time Lord, Capaldi says “now we have someone who knows very little about the Doctor”. That was reflected in the special preview clip, in which Bill was inquisitively lippy but ignorant of the Daleks

Capaldi had expressed a preference for a female companion, quipping: “With the best will in the world, I don’t want a bloke, because I’m frightened that they’ll give him all the action and I’ll be standing around spouting scientific gobbledygook. I just think that combo of the slightly strange, alien Time Lord with the intelligent, enthusiastic, inquisitive girl is a good combo. I don’t know why – but it just seems to work.” 

Mackie herself says: “Reading the script at the audition, I thought Bill was wicked. Fantastically written, cool, strong, sharp, a little bit vulnerable with a bit of geekiness thrown in – I can’t wait to bring her to life and to see how she develops through the series. I always loved stage combat at drama school, so I can’t wait to get on set and kick some evil monsters into the next dimension!”

All-new double act: Pearl and the Doctor
All-new double act: Pearl and the Doctor Credit: BBC/Ray Burmiston

Capaldi called her “a fine, fine actress with a wonderful zest and charm. She’s a refreshing addition to the TARDIS and will bring a universe of exciting new possibilities to The Doctor’s adventures”. Charlotte Moore, the BBC’s acting Director of Television added: “Pearl brings a wonderful energy and lights up the screen. She will captivate Doctor Who fans old and new across the globe.”

Bill looks like she’ll hold her own banter-wise, while sporting jeans-and-trainers in contrast to the Doctor’s tailoring and frock coats. As is traditional with the Doctor’s sidekicks, also expect her to marvel at the dimensions of the Tardis, followed by much dashing down corridors to flee from alien danger “When I say run, run!”

Where is she likely sit in the pantheon of Doctor Who companions?

Mackie replaces the popular Jenna Coleman, who played Clara for three years – making her the longest-serving companion since the reboot – and starred alongside two Doctors: Matt “bow ties are cool” Smith before Peter “eyebrows” Capaldi. 

The BBC will hope Bill goes on to win hearts and capture the public imagination, similar to Billie Piper a decade ago as Rose Tyler – or the likes of Elisabeth Sladen (as Sarah-Jane Smith), Sophie Aldred (as Ace) or Louise Jameson (as Leela) in the classic Doctor Who era.

Mackie will start filming this summer for the series to air in spring 2017 – the final run for head writer, executive producer and all-round “Whopremo” Steven Moffat, who will be succeeded by Broadchurch boss Chris Chibnall.

What the fans say

At first, it was mainly Doctor Who fans being bored by the football analysis and annoyed the announcement was running later than advertised. Once Mackie was confirmed, though, reaction centred mainly on “who?” and her hair. 

I can imagine the anxiety and stress. Who care about the football match, get to commercial (announcement). I bit like the Super Bowl. But I just watch the commercials online and skip the game entirely.

But the BBC had a spike in their ratings for a few minutes!:)

Then they were tossed to and FRO but Pearl Who?:)

Filming of series 10 is due to start in a few weeks but the next series is not due until 2017 – so it’ll be a while until we see Capaldi on screen with his new travelling companion. (UK Telegraph)

So we still have a year to wait folks.😦

 

 

Capaldi 1 Pearl 2

The Pearl Revealed

Pearl Mackie has been named as the new Doctor Who companion alongside Peter Capaldi’s Time Lord in the Tardis.

mackie1

The Londoner’s role was announced on BBC One during half time of the FA Cup semi-final match between Everton and Manchester United.

Mackie, 28, replaces Jenna Coleman, whose character Clara Oswald left the show in 2015.

Filming for the next series of the long-running science fiction show will start this year but air in 2017.

Mackie, who graduated from Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in 2010, played Anne-Marie Frasier in Doctors in 2014 and is currently performing in the National Theatre’s West End production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.

“I’m incredibly excited to be joining the Doctor Who family,” she said. “It’s su an extraordinary British institution, I couldn’t be prouder to call the Tardis my home.”

‘Genuine delight’

She added: “Peter Capaldi is such a brilliant actor, and his Doctor is such a wacky and wonderful character, I can’t wait to see what adventures are in store for him and Bill throughout time and space.”

Mackie said her new character “Bill” was “wicked”, describing her as “cool, strong, sharp, a little bit vulnerable with a bit of geekiness thrown in”.

Image copyright BBC, Ray Burmiston
Image caption Mackie got her first encounter with a Dalek in the new Doctor Who trailer

Capaldi said: “It is a genuine delight to welcome Pearl Mackie to Doctor Who. A fine, fine actress with a wonderful zest and charm, she’s a refreshing addition to the Tardis and will bring a universe of exciting new possibilities to The Doctor’s adventures.”

Doctor Who, which was first shown in 1963, is heading for its 10th season since it was reintroduced to schedules in 2005 after a gap of nine years.

Coleman joined the show in 2012, and starred alongside two Doctors, Matt Smith and Capaldi, the 12th Doctor who joined in 2014.

She asked to be written out and left to take on the role of Queen Victoria in a major ITV drama series.

In January, it was announced that the head writer and executive producer of Doctor Who, Steven Moffat, was stepping down from the show.

The next series will be his last, after which he will be replaced by Broadchurch writer Chris Chibnall.

 

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