As the first month of the lockdown comes to an end, it’s been the most packed week yet
Two epic Doctor Who stories, free Big Finish, new fiction from Paul Cornell, video messages from the best mums in the universe, and a tearful farewell. Plus, unexpectedly a hell of a lot of pictures of bird. It’s week four of the Doctor Who Lockdown.
Lockdownload – The Beginning
On Monday, Big Finish released the latest in their Lockdownload strand. These audio dramas are made completely free in order to help those at home both in need of more distraction that ever, and perhaps with smaller budgets than ever as the pandemic effects some industries harder than others. This week it was the turn of The Beginning, starring Carole Ann Ford as Susan. The story of the Doctor’s escape from Gallifrey with his granddaughter, it takes us back to where it all began.
This week featured not just one but two of the star studded Doctor Who Lockdown live-tweet sessions organized by Emily Cook of Doctor Who Magazine. The first came on Tuesday with #HellOfABird. The global event saw thousands of fans watching along with Steven Moffat, director Rachel Talalay and Jami Reid-Quarrell (the Veil). It was an hour filled with new script details and behind the scenes stories from the team. Peter Capaldi, meanwhile, sent along a special message with his own memories of the shoot.
— Eric Anthony (@operations_nerd) April 15, 2020
Marvellously, not only was #HellOfABird the number one trending topic on Twitter in the UK, it stayed there for much of the next day as slightly confused bird enthusiasts took it as a cue to start posting their favourite snaps of our feathered friends. And Milk FX shared test FX of the Confession Dial. While video of the previz sequences for the Doctor’s fall were also posted on the Doctor Who Lockdown YouTube Channel.
On Sunday, though, came possibly the most ambitious Doctor Who Lockdown event yet. The epic Series Four finale, The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End united a spectacular line up of the Whoniverse’s greatest heroes. And the #SubwaveNetwork was no less extraordinary. Writer Russell T Davies teamed up with legendary director Graeme Harper, and a team including David Tennant, Catherine Tate, John Barrowman and Freema Agyeman to tweet out their reactions to watching the episodes alongside the rest of us. But there was more! Nicholas Briggs, Nicholas Pegg and Barnaby Edwards (collectively the voice and physical presence of the Daleks) were on hand to remember the day they shot the Doctor. While Neill Gorton, the creator of effects like Davros’ mask and the insane Dalek Caan also shared his insights.
— Russell T Davies (@russelldavies63) April 19, 2020
It was a night that nearly broke Twitter (multiple fans were temporarily locked out after exceeding their 100 tweet limit!) It was marked by Davies’ typical wit and inside knowledge, including unseen script pages and cartoons. And also by the banter of old friends catching up. Georgia Tennant kept her usually social media shy husband topped up with wine, while John Barrowman insisted he was on coffee (which nobody seemed to believe). And then Eve Myles noticed Barrowman’s mug seemed to be one he’d taken from her. And that was just one five minute slice of the action. Basically, it was a fun time all round.
Although they weren’t part of the live tweet, the Mums of Doctor Who also joined forces (while keeping safe alone.) During the fifteen minute intermission between episodes, Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Adjoa Andoh (Francine Jones) and Jacqueline King (Sylvia Noble) sent messages of encouragement and love to fans and the old team.
Farewell, Sarah Jane
But before the live tweet came a bittersweet coda to The Sarah Jane Adventures. The special short was written by Russell T Davies and narrated by Jacob Dudman. Featuring appearances by Tommy Knight (Luke), Daniel Anthony (Clyde), Anjli Mohindra (Rani), Mina Anwar (Gita), as well as Katy Manning (Jo) and Sophie Aldred (Ace), it provided a fitting capstone to the character of Sarah Jane Smith. It came too on the ninth anniversary of the death of Elisabeth Sladen. This made it effectively a heartfelt tribute to one of the most beloved actors in the Doctor Who canon too. A sensitively written piece it even manages the magic of being both a farewell to Sarah Jane and a comfort to those fans who aren’t ready to say goodbye.
The Long Song Singalong
That wasn’t all from the Doctor Who Lockdown effort, either, with plans for a Long Song being announced. The scheme is to assemble a global virtual choir of fans. Everyone will be contributing a recording of themselves singing The Long Song from The Rings of Akhaten. Send your audio file to [email protected] by 10th May to have your performance synced into the choir.
Other watchalongs are available, of course, to misquote the classic Radio Times slogan. And it’s the Radio Times which organized a second Torchwood outing. John Barrowman, Burn Gorman, Gareth David-Lloyd and Naoko Mori reformed Torchwood on an Instagram live stream to watch second season premiere Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and share their reactions with fans.
The Shadow Passes
The official Doctor Who site’s strand of new prose short stories continued this week too. The Shadow Passes came from the mind of iconic writer Paul Cornell. Cornell created the highly regarded Doctor Who TV stories Father’s Day and Human Nature/Family of Blood. Moreover he’s the author of dozens of the best Doctor Who novels and comics of the past thirty years. When circumstances force the Thirteenth Doctor and her companions forced into isolation for weeks on end, it’s an opportunity to learn more about each other as they rise to conquer a very different type of threat.
Coming this week
There’s more from Paul Cornell this week as the live tweets continue with #DoctorOfMine on Sunday. Both Human Nature and The Family of Blood will get Cornell’s fresh reactions to them, along with the story’s director. The #GameOfRassilon is on Saturday, meanwhile, as fans of the show’s 20th century run give The Five Doctors time to shine in its own live tweet. While the Quiz of Rassilon returns for another evening of madness and quizzing
The Big Night In on BBC One is on Wednesday, with the teams behind Comic Relief and Children in Need coming together for a fun and laughs in aid of those worst affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, while paying tribute to those putting themselves on the front line to protect us. The night will feature appearances by David Tennant and Catherine Tate and will, of course, by co-hosted by Lenny Henry (Spyfall). Finally, this week’s Lockdownload from Big Finish is the first Cicero, while the rest of the Roman detective’s first series of adventures are 50% off.