Can you imagine if back in 2001, Joss Whedon decided that instead of airing season six of “Buffy” and season three of “Angel” that he going to make an “Angel” mini-series and a series of five stand alone “Buffy” movies? That’s what Russell T Davies decided to do with “Doctor Who” and “Torchwood” in 2009, because he’s British and they’ve got like their own TV stations.
Rather than broadcasting a fifth series in 2009, “Doctor Who” is instead broadcasting a series of five 60 minute specials scattered through the year: “The Next Doctor” broadcast in the UK on Christmas Day 2008, “Planet of the Dead” broadcast in the UK on April 11th, 2009, “The Waters of Mars” is scheduled for November, and a yet unnamed two-parter is scheduled for Christmas. BBC America has the rights to all of these specials bridging series 4 and series 5, although they took their sweet time getting the ball rolling. “The Next Doctor” finally broadcasts on BBC America on June 27th, and “Planet of the Dead” follows relatively closely on July 26th. If you don’t get BBC America, presumably the specials will be released on DVD in 2010 (they’ve been good about getting previous series out very quickly on DVD) but there is no official word yet.
The specials are always good for getting some off-the-wall actors as one-off companions. “The Next Doctor” featured David Morrissey (I can assure you that it’s really funny to try to convince co-watchers that this is Morrissey from the Smiths). “Planet of the Dead” snagged Michelle Ryan (star of the short-lived “Bionic Woman” reboot). “The Waters of Mars” will feature Lindsay Duncan (Servilia from “Rome”). And the two parter will be bringing back Bernard Cribbins as Donna’s grandfather as a full-fledged companion.
The specials also mark two watersheds for the show. First, show runner Russell T Davies is turning over the reins to Steven Moffat for the fifth series, scheduled to air in 2010. Second, David Tennant will be bowing out as the Doctor, turning the role over to Matt Smith (who will be the eleventh actor to play the role). It’s been noted elsewhere at length that Smith is the youngest actor ever to play the Doctor, and at this rate the Fourteenth Doctor will be a sperm.
“Torchwood” also will be foregoing a traditional series in 2009, instead broadcasting a five episode mini-series called “Children of Earth” in July. It will air from July 6th through 10th in the UK and July 20th through 24th on BBC America. It will almost immediately be available on DVD and Blu-Ray, being released concurrently at the end of July in both the UK and North America. Russell T Davies has stated that he has another series ready to film, pending ratings of the mini-series.
“The Sarah Jane Adventures,” the nominally for-kids “Doctor Who” spin-off is broadcasting a normal third series (hey, one out of the three shows ain’t bad) this fall on the BBC. David Tennant is confirmed to be guest starring as the Doctor in two of the episodes. Series one has been released on DVD in America, and the SciFi Channel did broadcast that first series last year. However, I can’t find word anywhere of any plans to release either series two or the forthcoming series three in America either on broadcast or DVD.
Here’s a nifty teaser for “Torchwood: Children of Earth.”