Myke Bartlett's Blog
August 2, 2016
âThe most valuable thing science can give to a society is not a load of facts, but the central idea that you can always be shown to be wrong.âÂ
My interview with Professor Brian Cox for The Weekly Review
July 25, 2016
âThereâs an amazing amount of ageism and sexism in the business. If you look at a script, there are a lot of places where women could play roles that just by habit and laziness and lack of imagination are cast as men.â
I spoke to Susan Sarandon about Hollywood sexism, ageing gracefully and Thelma & Louise for The Weekly Review.
June 10, 2016
âOne of the things Iâve always based my career on, and also my life, is not to change for anybody.â
I interviewed John Barrowman about Doctor Who, groping fans for charity and why there wonât be a Torchwood musical.
May 26, 2016
The truth is, I love Doctor Who: The Movie (the 1996 half-American TV movie with Paul McGann). Itâs an incarnation of the long-running show that, at best, seems to be tolerated by Whovians.Â
Given it was an unsuccessful attempt to relaunch the then-dead programme as an American, X-Files-type series, thereâs a general air of failure that lurks over it. The kindest words said usually amount to: Great Doctor, lousy story.
Admittedly, I canât really defend the denouement, if only because I donât really know what happens. Something about rewinding time and alarm clocks which, if examined too deeply, kind of spoils the potential for drama in every other episode of Who. But the Movie is hardly the first (or last) episode to rely on some last minute technical gobbledygook or sciencey magic to resolve a crisis.
What the Movie has is a genuine joie de vivre. From its opening moments, thereâs an energy that earlier episodes never quite mustered. Sure, the voiceover is more mystifying than explanatory and, yes, starting inside your spaceship that is, astonishingly, smaller on the outside is a disastrous move. But the direction has such flair, sweeping through the spectacular TARDIS interior, whooshing us down to Earth, through some clever and startling cuts, that we canât help but be swept along.Â
This is Who at its most cinematic. Witness new companion Grace Holloway sprint down hospital corridors, dressed for the opera. For the first time, the show felt like proper drama, rather than the ephemeral Saturday night entertainment it was originally intended.
Thatâs not say the tone is note-perfect. Most of the humour works â it had been a long time since Who had actually contained intentional humour â but there are unquestionably moments of thudding joke-crapness. (Although I rather like those moments, for their quaint 90s-ness.)
Key to its success as a drama is, undoubtedly, the casting of a proper actor in the lead role. Following the seriesâ demise in 1989, newspaper rumours about new Doctors tended to go: Eric Idle, Tim Curry, John Cleese, Paul Daniels and Eric Idle. Always Eric Idle. McGann was not a comedian. McGann was not a lazy caricature of British eccentricism. McGann was a fine, young actor with a great body of dramatic work including The Monocled Mutineer, The Hanging Gale, Nice Town (which really deserves a DVD release) and Withnail & I.
Put simply, McGann makes the best debut of any Doctor to date. This is particularly impressive, given he spends much of his 60 minutes of screen time in an amnesiac state. He is charismatic, enigmatic, hydromatic (No, wait, thatâs Greased Lightning) and romantic.Â
He is at once the most human and most alien of Doctors. He seems more attuned to the emotional lives of others (to the point of telepathy) than previous incarnations, but keeps himself apart â even the much-criticised snog with Grace lacks any real passion. Weâre charmed by him, but weâre not sure how much we trust him. Itâs a shame that subsequent attempts (in spin-off fiction) to develop McGannâs Eighth Doctor focused more on the romance and the apparent sweetness than his slipperiness.
Cards on the table â McGann is my favourite Doctor. (Tom Baker aside, obviously. Tom is in a universe of his own.) He treats the part as a proper acting gig, rather than an excuse to flail around and hog the screen. As the recent minisode proved, he brings a welcome emotional weight to the role and despatches the required humour with subtlety. He understands that the funniest things are rarely those moments that are telegraphed as such.
Grace Holloway, his quasi-companion, is no less wonderful. In the hands of Daphne Ashbrook, she is strong, funny, vulnerable and, again, more human than most of the Docâs sidekicks. She has a dropkick boyfriend, she has a high-powered job, and she has a nice line in sarcastic banter. We know people like her and we like people like her.Â
Itâs a shame, perhaps, that the story doesnât wholly belong to her. The structure would make a lot more sense if we began with her being called into hospital, to attend to a mysterious gunshot victim. When the series returned in 2005, writer Russell T Davies understood the drama in letting the mystery of the Doctor unfold, rather than cancelled out by an infodump.
For all of its alleged flaws, The TV Movie is great fun. When it first showed back in 1996, ordinary, sane people were talking about Doctor Who again. People who hadnât watched the show for more than a decade. Remember, this was before Buffy brought a snappy self-awareness to sci-fi, which made it okay for the mainstream to tune in.
I honestly believe Who is at its best at its least geeky â when it caters to the mainstream by incorporating elements of other things we love. This is something the TV Movie does very well. People who donât watch sci-fi will recognise elements of ER, The X-Files (okay, technically sci-fi, but more horror-based and massive at the time) and Sherlock Holmes. At the time, I appreciated the lack of bug-eyed monsters. This was Who attempting to ground itself in the proudly cynical 1990s, without losing any of its wit, invention or joy.
In the UK, the episode rated more highly than Who had for 20 years or would again until David Tennant was in full swing. It proved similarly popular in Australia, where it was repeated several times over the next couple of years. In the US, of course, it was killed by Roseanne.Â
Whatâs most frustrating about the Movie, perhaps, is how poorly it does its job as a pilot. As McGann flies off at the end, itâs pretty much impossible to work out what sort of series might have followed. Would Grace return? Would they travel around the US (or Canada), solving spooky crimes a la The X-Files? Would the Doctor set up shop in San Francisco? Would we have seen monsters?
Although a series of radio adventures have plugged the gap, we never really got to see where McGannâs Doctor would have taken us. Still, the recent glimpse suggests it would have been somewhere pretty fantastic.
May 25, 2016
âJeremy was a little bit of a chauvinist, maybe.â
I interviewed Top Gearâs first female host Sabine Schmitz for The Weekly Review.
May 17, 2016
May 9, 2016
May 8, 2016
âI think itâll be cool if we win and bring Eurovision to Australia next year. The airlines will be happy.â