NB. Since all of this kicked off The Moff has issued a kind of 'get your kids of my lawn' response and private Eye basically suggested that the BBC leaked the news in an effort to undermine Moffat, with whom it is quickly losing patience. Make of that what you will.
A new Doctor Who film? Those fans who might conceivably have watched The Twin Dilemma when originally broadcast may recall a few other Doctor Who films supposedly in the pipeline through the decades.
Tom's Doctor Who meets Scratchman, written by himself and Ian Marter, starring Vincent Price and funded by crumpled £1 notes mailed to Tom from keen fans.
The ones suggested in the very early 90s that would star Donald Sutherland and feature a rapping TARDIS perhaps (I defaced the images of Sutherland in anger) or the more recent Tennant-and-Piper rumours.
Then there was the TVM. Well, they got McGann pretty much right, but the rest was an absolute mess - a more fitting example you could not find of what happens when people who don't understand or care for Doctor Who make Doctor Who.
Today has brought with it the news that Harry Potter director David Yates will helm a new Hollywood film featuring a strange character called Doctor Who (never heard of him) that will reboot the series and stick two fingers up at 50 years of canon.
Quite why these rumours have come to light again - about two years after they were first mooted and repeated today with historic quotes - is not clear. Are BBC Worldwide trying to kickstart the project? Has a bored hack in search of an article dug up an old story? Or has someone sniffed that something is actually happening on this front?
We'll wait and see. For now let's look at the claims Yates made about his new film. In a move that could not have alienated the show's fanbase more if he's threatened to cast Vin Diesel, Yates claims that the film will be "starting from scratch".
Why on Earth would you do that? The show has the most malleable format in the genre, perhaps all TV. You can change the lead cast without ditching anything. This is something that has happened innumerable times over the show's history.
If Yates wants a good example of how to kick off a new series - or new interpretation - he need only look to Rose, a terrible episode but a great example of kickstarting something new without abandoning all the good stuff.
It's an important reminder that we've had people at the helm who cared about the show - we know that RTD kiboshed stuff like a female Doctor, a Young Doctor Who series on CBBC and more; and that even Tennant was very protective of what the show did and didn't do.
It's impossible to image Moffat taking the show into taboo territory too. We've been lucky that since the reboot - and in the good old days - we had people who looked after the show as best they could.
Unfortunately, Worldwide is a financial entity and must surely be scenting hard cash and, conceivably, a billion-quid money-spinner like Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter over a multi-film series that would make the TV show look like A Fix With Sontarans in comparison.
That's presumably the thinking behind recruiting a director with no apparent understanding of Doctor Who whose looking to recruit a writer with no apparent understanding of Doctor Who.
Yates pays tribute to Davies and Moffat's visions - and in the same breath announces that he's going to trash it all. Where's the logic to that?
He also says Doctor Who "needs quite a radical transformation to take it into a bigger arena". Does it? Isn't the exact point of the show - its appeal and its essence and its very artron energy - that it's a quaint little British show? Certainly it does epic storylines and its format and tone is elastic but it's always recognisably the same.
RTD and Moff clearly understand this and fandom has largely taken to their series. Perhaps it didn't need older fans, but the likes of the two show-runners are fans after all.
The show doesn't necessarily need a fan to take it to the big screen - or a Brit. But I feel sure that it would be a better product for it - and we have two people who can wield an enormous amount of power in the TV and media world, not to mention people like Neil Gaiman, Stephen Fry and Mark Gatiss who are steeped in the show and are professionals in their own right.
Alas, if what we read is to be believed then Yates directing makes perfect sense in the eyes of BBC Worldwide. They won't give two flying figs if the Doctor carries a gun, shags a busty American and has a time capsule voiced by Mos Def (actually, I like Mos Def, that could work) if it brings in the bucks.
What would this do for the TV show? Undoubtedly, if successful, it would kill it off. How could you have a TV series and a film series running in parallel that directly contradict one another? The film idea dovetails with the growing suspicion that Who might bow out on the small screen shortly after the 50-year anniversary. Torchwood, in all likelihood is gone. The Sarah-Jane Adventures are sadly no more. Confidential is canned. In a very short space of time Doctor Who has been whittled away to the main show, and there are increasing ructions over production, money and quality in the mothership.
All told then, I don't really see an upside to the film. We've had six largely enjoyable seasons of NuWho that has given repeated, respectful nods backwards. It's all about to be usurped by a new film series that chucks it all in the bin.
The two films we have are cute curios, but they're hardly high quality. The abandoned film projects all looked awful. The TVM was dreadful. Yet the BBC appears to have learned nothing.
Doctor Who doesn't need a film. If it's coming to an end as a going concern on TV the natural development is to segue into a 'specials' format. Canon or the heritage aren't the issue I have with a new film. I simply fear it would be bloody awful - and history has plenty of warnings when it comes to big screen Who.
Bill Pullman replies to criticisms of his performance.
Meanwhile another cast member gives her honest assessment.
Finally another cast member sums up the whole affair.
A review of Torchwood, written towards the end of its first season...
Late autumn. The perfect time, you might think, if you’re a well-to-do BBC executive, for a dark, paranoid, suspenseful sci-fi drama, perhaps some sort of marriage between The X-Files, Doctor Who and Blade Runner. Something adult and scary, yet still recognisably British and warming. And who better to devise such a concoction as TV drama’s man-of-the-moment, Russell T Davies, responsible for bringing Doctor Who back to our screens? And who better to write and produce it than Chris Chibnall, creator of the BBC’s very, very own Born And Bred? Eh? I ask you?
Actually that’s not quite true, because the idea for such a programme, i.e. Torchwood (Wednesday, BBC 2, 9pm), originated with Davies at around the time he brought back Doctor Who. You can see his train of thought – ‘Torchwood’ is an anagram of ‘Doctor Who’ – what better reason to create a spin-off? Torchwood! How wonderful and clever! And things probably progressed from there, as you can imagine.
Strategically, bringing about a spin-off from Doctor Who is a good move, what with there still being a bit of Doctor Who-related mania hanging around. There are hundreds of badly-rendered figurines of David Tennant filling the shelves, but those figures may as well be of Russell T Davies himself, who seems emblematic of the popular traits in Doctor Who. He likes his drama slightly sentimental, slightly overblown, very camp and quite self-indulgent. This is handy, as he himself seems to fit that description in real life almost perfectly.
Head of the top-secret organisation around which Torchwood is based is a character from Doctor Who, the 'omnisexual' Tom Cruise-esque Captain Jack Harkness. But for the sake of added boys-own kitsch, he’s often just referred to as ‘Captain Jack’. Captain Jack is a peculiar figure. John Barrowman is excellent in the role, but the scripts often switch suddenly between two characterisations: sex-obsessed bisexual man from the future, or a slightly dark, mysterious figure we never quite get a grip on. They don’t really go hand-in-hand.
To add depth to the character, it’s revealed that he’s immortal – an excuse for endless scenes on top of the institute’s roof-top in the middle of Cardiff, as Jack does some moralising/soul-searching, whilst the camera swirls round maddeningly, 24-like, as if it’s some sort of paranoid thriller, which is almost laughable.
Torchwood’s a very obvious mixed bag. It seems to want to assert itself as a British X-Files, but more often it seems to resemble Spooks. At least, it would do, if Spooks were some sort of postmodern joke on modern drama written to appeal to grown-ups with a distinctly camp, childish sense of humour. Spooks seems to have pretty much the last word as far as most new BBC drama’s concerned; a huge, slick, tiresome monolith that tries to make you believe that the City of London’s the most exciting place planet Earth has to offer.
One of the daftest nods is the Torchwood team’s Batman-esque vehicle, which comes complete with integrated plasma screens that display maps of Cardiff. The vehicle is a big, black people-carrier. It really is the antithesis of cool. It’s even got those moronic blue LED’s taped to the sides, not to mention the word ‘Torchwood’ inscribed on the top in big, yellow lettering, just in case you fail to realise it’s property of a top-secret organisation.
And this is Torchwood’s problem – it’s incoherent. There’s the odd hint of darkness here and there, the odd rain-slicked alleyway, but otherwise Torchwood is much like Doctor Who with gratuitous sex, swearing and increased camp. If Davies and Chibnall really had wanted to create a British X-Files, they couldn’t have bollocked-up the job more if they’d tried. But one suspects that two childish middle-aged men were given more-or-less free rein to indulge themselves, and they grasped the opportunity with both hands. Does it work? It seems right for the time, but that’s not saying much. Watch it again in ten years time, and decide.
Showing RTD knocking one out for 90 minutes may have been slightly less indulgent than The Stolen Earth and the second parter, which is no doubt called the Impossible Everything Apocalypse or something (I checked, it's called Journey's End).
By this time the new series was feeling very tired, and a crying out for a new broom. But RTD had other ideas. One last big wank. Until The End of Time.
Cribbins - Brilliant as always, his webcam line is the highlight of the first episode
Julian Bleach - Davros is a real success in this. Lunatic, screaming mania – but done with real conviction
Jack - When not playing some sort of weary, ageless, lonely but stupidly horny demi-God, Jack is an enjoyable character played with evident relish by Barrowman.
Dalek invasion - A few of the invasion scenes were quite good, certainly considering how weak the New Series had previously done the Earth invasion stuff.
Donna - Tate surprised me by how good she was, when she's not being written as a complete shouty twat.
The Daleks - Totally neutered by now, the Daleks in the new series have been a case of diminishing returns. Every appearance seems to be bigger and more outlandish than before; with the result that the only feeling they inspire now is apathy.
Regeneration tease - Perhaps the fourth, fifth or sixth time someone was about to die in the series and then just... didn't. Talk about writing yourself into a corner; the worst thing was no-one in their right mind believed it in the first place. Also sets up the ridiculous two Doctors, then three Doctors, then Donna dies (but doesn't) drivel later on.
The gates of Elysium...the Nightmare Child... - Oh do fuck off. All of this drivel is genuinely hard to listen to, especially when it's always delivered with Tennant's tight-lipped spittle-drenched shouting.
Rose - Rose's long-suspected but little-desired return is a predictably tedious, self-absorbed affair, but it's really not helped by Piper's quite weird, lisping appearance.
Sarah-Jane - Seems out-of-place and quite annoying here. Lis Sladen's frightened acting is just awful. Only her very brief dialogue with Davros makes any sense.
Harriet Jones - Who gives a fuck?
Close up of man saying 'Ladies and gentlemen, we are at war - Utter shit
Dalek Caan - Embarrassing
Martha - Pains me to say as it, as she's rarely helped by scripts, but Freema has one of her weaker episodes, and it shows her up alongside the others.
Jackie - I'd've preferred it if Bruno Langley had come back.
Murray Gold - terrible, terrible, terrible
An absolute car crash. It's totally incoherent; at no stage does it make even the remotest sense; fan-wank is piled on in such proportions that even fan-fic authors would baulk.
There's some kind of weird 'you know it's wrong' pleasure to seeing such a hodge-podge play out on screen, with everything imaginable thrown at the wall. Jelly, cream, chocolate, jam, vodka, Red Bull and heroin – but mainly cheese.
A very few crumbs stick, but if this wasn't evidence that RTD had run out of juice by now, I don't know what was.
• Caves and Twins? What are you dribbling on about?
Go here: Caves and Twins
Another archive TV review from our kidda.
Life On Mars is back. Rather like the new Doctor Who and Torchwood has allowed Russell T Davies to purge a lifetime’s worth of stupid, banal ideas too silly to use on any other project (farting aliens? It’s been done before), and channel them into a children’s sci-fi show, so Life On Mars allows its makers to re-live their youth growing up in the 70s with lots of over-the-top cockney cop shows.
But there’s more to it than that. You’d get into trouble if you just did a straightforward pastiche of a 70s cop show in this day and age. So Life On Mars incorporates a neat framing-device; it has its lead character suffering from some kind of head injury, so he only thinks he’s back in the 70s!
So lots of highbrow viewers, who would normally dismiss such self-indulgent tosh, can watch safe in the knowledge that they’re participating in a kind of clever comment on modern drama. And not some kind of televisual form of self-abuse after all.
• Meanwhile, BBC2 has been showing one of those social experiment shows in the form of The Verdict. A team of 12 celebrity jurors adjudicate on a fictional case (in this instance a rape case, just to really get them foaming at the mouths). The case is portrayed as close as possible to real life, with a real judge and real barristers.
The quality of the celebrities ranges from famous (Honor Blackman) to niche (Patsy Palmer, Michael Portillo, Alex James and just about all the others) and finally prats (to avoid even the slightest possibility of litigation, this individual shall remain unnamed, but suffice it to say that he has the words ‘Collymore’ and ‘Stan’ in his nomenclature).
Collymore, with his almost universal reputation for brutishness, is only there to make a fool of himself and reveal the worrying heights of intemperate mob-thinking in this country, and he does a very good job of conjuring up such an atmosphere in the early exchanges.
But while it may come as no surprise to see Collymore expose himself as a reactionary ignoramus of the highest order, it’s startling how annoyingly reasonable Portillo seems these days. His observations are intelligent and reasonable. Was he always like this? He often comes across as a card-carrying liberal. I’d quite like to have a drink with him.
All this coming from a man who used to shit in John Major’s chocolate soufflé and cackle devilishly for hours afterwards, plotting his wicked way towards the Tory leadership. Jeffrey Archer is also in the line-up, however, and he comes across much as you might expect him to. I guess some things never change.