Pos­i­tive re­views

Both Doc­tor Who and The Walk­ing Dead, TV se­ries, aired their lat­est sea­son pre­mieres on the same day.

Gulf Times Community - - FRONT PAGE - By An­drew A Smith

NEW LAUNCH: Ti­tan Comics launched a new "Doc­tor Who" ti­tle with the new Doc­tor on Sept. 26, 2018.

I’ve never been as ex­cited for a sea­son of Doc­tor Who as I am right now, in this mo­ment — Wil Wheaton, ac­tor

Two veteran genre shows aired their lat­est sea­son pre­mieres Oct. 7, to (mostly) pos­i­tive re­views. That’s crit­i­cal, be­cause both Doc­tor Who and The Walk­ing Dead are un­der­go­ing soft re­boots.

The older of the two is the veteran BBC pro­gram (or “pro­gramme,” I should say) Doc­tor

Who. It be­gan air­ing in 1963, and Whit­taker is the 14th ac­tor to play the lead role. (Im­por­tant note: One Doc­tor, played by John Hurt, did not call him­self Doc­tor, so Whit­taker is of­fi­cially re­ferred to as the 13th. Some Who fans are split on that ter­mi­nol­ogy, so it’s prob­a­bly best not to bring it up.)

On other TV shows, re­plac­ing the lead ac­tor is a calamity. But on

Doc­tor Who it’s a fea­ture, built into the show’s premise. As all good Who­vians know, The Doc­tor is a Time Lord from the planet Gal­lifrey who rou­tinely re­gen­er­ates into new bod­ies, so when Wil­liam Hart­nell mor­phed into Pa­trick Troughton in 1966, it was the start of a grand tra­di­tion.

Which brings us to Whit­taker, the first woman to play the Doc­tor. And there’s a new showrun­ner as well, Chris Chib­nall, cre­ator of the Bri­tish crime se­ries Broad­church, which starred Whit­taker and David Ten­nant, who played the Doc­tor from 2005 to 2010.

So BBC held a cel­e­bra­tion. The se­ries pre­miere was simul­cast in the US, all over the United King­dom and at New York Comic-Con, with Bri­tish per­son­al­ity Maude Gar­rett host­ing a pre-show party in Brook­lyn and a post-show dis­cus­sion with three prom­i­nent Who­vians. In­ter­spersed among the com­mer­cials were snip­pets of the Doc­tor Who panel at NYCC.

Then there was the show it­self. Fresh, fast-mov­ing and newviewer friendly, it at­tracted 1.37 mil­lion view­ers in the US, and a whop­ping 8.2 mil­lion in the UK. The prime-time re­run in the show’s reg­u­lar times­lot added an­other half mil­lion, ren­der­ing a to­tal that is near-record for the se­ries.

And if any of those eye­balls were at­tached to new view­ers, they were re­warded for their cu­rios­ity. When the new Doc­tor ap­pears – lit­er­ally fall­ing into a train car from space – her re­gen­er­a­tion leaves her disori­ented and “fizzing” a bit in­side, with her mem­ory com­ing back piece­meal. So her new com­pan­ions – three this time – are the au­di­ence’s POV in learn­ing the Time Lord mythol­ogy as the Doc­tor re-dis­cov­ers it her­self.

The Doc­tor is ini­tially with­out her trusty multi-pur­pose tool, the Sonic Screw­driver – so she has to make one in a South York­shire factory (“with added Sh­effield steel”), and de­scribes it as she does. “It’s more of a Sonic Swiss Army knife,” she says, “only with­out the knife, be­cause only id­iots carry knives.”

She de­fines her mis­sion state­ment, not once, but twice. “I’m the Doc­tor,” she says early in the episode. “When peo­ple need help, I never refuse.” And later, “I’m the Doc­tor, sort­ing out fair play through the uni­verse!”

The tran­si­tion from male to fe­male is taken in stride – and hu­mour. When told she’s a woman, Whit­taker replies earnestly, “Am I? Does it suit? ... Sorry, half an hour ago I was a white-haired Scots­man.” Shop­ping for a new out­fit is played for laughs, and her se­lec­tion is a some­thing of cross be­tween a chil­dren’s TV host and Robin Wil­liams on Mork & Mindy.

Crit­i­cal re­cep­tion has been over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive in both the US and UK, and you can’t throw a screw­driver on the In­ter­net with­out hit­ting a Jodie Whit­taker in­ter­view. That was re­flected in the af­ter­party

as well.

“I’ve never been as ex­cited for a sea­son of Doc­tor Who as I am right now, in this mo­ment,” said Wil Wheaton, who played Wes­ley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Gen­er­a­tion. “I can­not wait to see what she does. Her comedic tim­ing is flaw­less ... I can­not wait for the next episode.”

“This is the best time to start watch­ing Doc­tor Who,” echoed Gar­rett. And she may be right.

The UK’s Ti­tan Comics has been pub­lish­ing Doc­tor Who minis­eries for years, mostly of Doc­tors 9-12, which are then col­lected in trade pa­per­backs. Ti­tan launched a new se­ries Sept. 27 with Doc­tor Who: The Thir­teenth Doc­tor #0,

a 72-page spe­cial with short, never-be­fore-seen ad­ven­tures of the pre­vi­ous 13 Doc­tors (in­clud­ing the non-Doc­tor, John Hurt) as the new in­car­na­tion re­mem­bers them. Like the TV show, it serves as an in­tro­duc­tion to the Who mythol­ogy for begin­ners and new ad­ven­ture for the vets.

Mean­while, the other ma­jor sea­son pre­miere Oct. 7 – Sea­son 9 of The Walk­ing Dead – launched to sim­i­lar num­bers. But that’s not a good thing for the AMC jug­ger­naut.

Like the un­dead walk­ers on the show, rat­ings have been slowly de­com­pos­ing. The Sea­son 9 pre­miere drew only 6.08 mil­lion, down from 11.44 for the Sea­son 8 pre­miere. Ac­cord­ing to The

Hol­ly­wood Re­porter, the 6.08 mil­lion “made for the se­ries’ small­est to­tal au­di­ence since mid­way through Sea­son 2.”

It should be noted that these num­bers don’t count who­ever signed up for AMC Pre­miere, the net­work’s stream­ing ser­vice, and watched the show 24 hours ear­lier. AMC doesn’t re­lease those num­bers, so maybe that’s where all the miss­ing eye­balls went.

Or maybe the soft re­set of the se­ries has less ap­peal. Sea­son 9 opens a year and a half af­ter the war with Ne­gan, which closed Sea­son 8. Ti­tled A New World, the episode finds the five com­mu­ni­ties – Alexan­dria, Hill­top, The King­dom, Sanc­tu­ary and Sea­side – largely at peace. The 21st cen­tury is fall­ing away, with bridges col­laps­ing, road­ways bro­ken up by plant growth and horses re­plac­ing gas­driven ve­hi­cles. This New World is agrar­ian, as the sim­ple strug­gle to sur­vive has largely been won, and the em­pha­sis now is on sus­tain­able farm­ing.

There are still zom­bies, of course, but the threat is man­age­able. The ma­jor threat to the new world or­der is in­ter­nal di­vi­sions, as re­sent­ful Hill­top­pers feed the Saviours, whose crops have failed. A lead­er­ship strug­gle at Hill­top ends in a stun­ning cli­max, which demon­strates bet­ter than words how Mag­gie’s lead­er­ship dif­fers from Rick’s.

That brings up the in­fa­mous Spoiler Warn­ing, so if you haven’t seen the episode, skip the next three para­graphs.

While we never see Ne­gan (Jef­frey Dean Mor­gan), he is ref­er­enced through­out the 90-minute pre­miere. In the fi­nal episode of Sea­son 8, Rick (An­drew Lin­coln) de­cided to in­car­cer­ate Ne­gan in Alexan­dria, in­stead of ex­e­cut­ing him, as a sign of progress to a bet­ter world. His con­tin­ued ex­is­tence is a burr un­der the sad­dle for both Mag­gie (Lauren Co­han) and Daryl (Nor­man Ree­dus). Mag­gie won’t even visit Alexan­dria.

In the sea­son pre­miere, we learn the oily and unc­tu­ous Gregory (Xan­der Berke­ley) has lost a Hill­top lead­er­ship elec­tion to Mag­gie – and it doesn’t sit well with him. He gets a griev­ing fa­ther drunk, con­vinces him it’s Mag­gie’s fault that his son has died, and sets an am­bush. It fails, as does Gregory’s later per­sonal at­tempt with a knife (in the comics he uses poi­son).

“You can’t even mur­der some­one right!” huffs Mag­gie, as she de­feats him. And then, that night, has him ex­e­cuted by pub­lic hang­ing! And if that’s what Mag­gie does to some­one who failed an as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt, you can just imag­ine what she wants to do to Ne­gan, who suc­cess­fully as­sas­si­nated her hus­band.

There was some more ac­tion else­where in the episode – a set-piece with a glass floor over zom­bies springs to mind – but the show seems to have veered into in­ter­per­sonal drama more than ac­tion-ad­ven­ture. And if there’s some­thing crit­ics like, it’s drama.

“In a wel­come change for this se­ries, that nar­ra­tive fris­son of­fers some in­trigu­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties,” said the AV Club re­view. “The best episode in years,” crowed Forbes.com. OK, Mash­able called it “mostly bor­ing,” and there’s cer­tainly room to crit­i­cise this overly-long and talky episode. But over­all, crit­ics seemed pleased.

The fi­nal judg­ment will come from the view­ers. Will Jodie Whit­taker be em­braced by Who­vians at large? Will a Western with zom­bies find favour with

Walk­ing Dead fans? If noth­ing else, Sun­day nights will give au­di­ences a lot to talk about on Mon­day morn­ing. – TNS

NEW LOOK: Jodie Whit­taker takes over as the Doc­tor in Doc­tor Who.

PRE­MIER: It’s back to horses and wooden houses on The Walk­ing Dead, star­ring An­drew Lin­coln as Rick Grimes, right, and Danai Gurira as Mi­chonne.

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