30 May, 2009

New Companion

The new Doctor Who companion will be played by Karen Gillan.

Just last week I was discussing the new companion with Toby Hadoke, a fellow fan who was visiting from the UK. As well-informed as Toby is about various aspects of the series, he didn't know who would be playing the new companion. We both thought that an announcement had to be imminent though - and sure enough just days later a name has been revealed.

I was working on my book late tonight and happened to flick over to Facebook and spot that someone had just mentioned the casting. I looked up the BBC News site to see the full announcement, which again had only just been posted. This is quite a novelty for me as usually by the time I find out about a piece of major Doctor Who news it's already all over the Internet.

I notice that a Google search for Karen's name at this stage doesn't bring up many useful results - all that will soon change, I'm sure. I also see that Karen's Wikipedia page was only created today - mere minutes after the announcement.

So who is Karen Gillan? All I've seen of her is her role as an unnamed soothsayer in The Fires of Pompeii. I expect there will be many fans rewatching that episode now in an attempt to get an idea of what Karen is like as an actress.

I think it's interesting that a trend's developing, in that Karen follows in the footsteps of Freema Agyeman and Catherine Tate, each of whom first appeared in a one-off role in the new series prior to being offered a regular part as the companion. Perhaps we're getting to the point where we'll start looking rather closer at each actress who appears in Doctor Who and sizing her up as the next companion!

10 May, 2009

Boldly Going...

The first Star Trek movie I watched on the big screen was The Wrath of Khan. I went to see it with my first girlfriend, who was far more obsessed with Star Trek than I was. She was utterly inconsolable when Spock died at the end.

Seeing the new Star Trek film today I was left wondering how she might have reacted. No doubt she would have been relieved that Spock survived, but there’s some fairly radical retooling going on regarding the series continuity, with some devastating events that might induce weeping among some hardcore Trekkies.

I’ve watched most Star Trek episodes and movies and I once belonged to an SF club dominated by trekkies, but I wouldn’t call myself a fan. It certainly didn’t bother me that the new film effectively erases or at least drastically alters events from the moment of Captain Kirk’s birth onwards.

The new film does for Star Trek what the Daniel Craig version of Casino Royale did for the James Bond franchise in that it goes back to the beginning and retells the origins with a fresh outlook and a thoroughly modern appearance. The slate isn’t wiped entirely clean however. Just as Casino Royale retained Judi Dench’s M as a link from the old to the new, Star Trek has Leonard Nimoy’s Spock popping up to reassure viewers that this really is still the same old series.

The changes to the heavily-continuity laden Trek universe wrought by the film very cleverly reboots the franchise from the beginning - all bets are off as to what happens next for Kirk and his crew - whilst at the same time still allowing for the prior existence (from the elderly Spock’s perspective at least) of all of the television series and movies.

I thought the cast were on the whole very good, allowing for the fact that the actors had the difficult task of replacing some very well-established performers. For me the stand-out was Karl Urban, who absolutely nailed Dr McCoy’s dry cynicism.

Above all else, this film unequivocally breaks the ‘curse’ of the odd-numbered Star Trek films!