Monday, February 12, 2007

DOCTOR WHO Spin-offs: The Sarah Jane Adventures & Torchwood

If you live in Great Britain, you naturally grew up with DOCTOR WHO. The show was, for years, just there, grinding on year after year. You may or may not have watched it, but was part of the TV schedule for a couple of generations.

If you lived in the US -- well ,then -- who (no pun intended) knows? I remember watching the Tom Baker version in the late 1970s. So cheap and so far out and so silly. The original series ran from 1963 to 1989, with a TV movie in 1996. A new series, produced by Russell T. Davies, resurrected the concept two years ago, and it's been met with ratings success.

Now, Mr. Davies and the BBC has added a couple of other TV shows to the WHOvian franchise (no, it's not DR. WHO: DEEP SPACE NINE or DR. WHO: THE NEXT GENERATION). Both of these new series have been unseen in the US so far.

THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES, which premiered last month on BBC One, is a new series based on a character that first appeared on the programme (hey, that's the way it's spelled) from 1973-76.

The one hour pilot, Invasion of the Bane, has been chopped up into multiple parts for YouTube distribution. The first part is here. And you can pick up the rest of the links there.

Another Doctor Who spin-off, TORCHWOOD, was broadcast by BBC Three this fall. TORCHWOOD is a covert agency, above the government, above the police, that investigates extraterrestrial visits and scavenges futuristic alien technology for its own use. Another WHO character alum, "Captain Jack Harkness," heads the group of investigators. YouTube has the first episode "Everything Changes." And there are more at YouTube, if you want to seek them out.

Both are running and jumping shows (to paraphrase Irwin Allen*). There is some care taken about character and coherency -- and, in each of the pilots, there is a central mystery that the plot is hung on -- but in the end, it's a lot of running and jumping.

And monsters, as well as a few wisecracks.

Some American SciFi fans do not like DOCTOR WHO because it's, well, intentionally a little silly. I always liked it, but I like STAR TREK, and, heck, TREK can get pretty silly too.

However, TORCHWOOD titillates, with some serious nods to sex (not just hetero), and some darker violence.

SJA is more for the kids, with lots of dubious goings on at a soda pop factory.

Both pilots start with (A) an outsider trying to figure out who this secret Smith person/Torchwood Institute is up to, while (B) our lead character(s) unravel a mystery having to do with the aforementioned monsters -- some from outer space, some in our id.

Anyway, these shows are out there in cyberland (until the cease & desist letter) if you want to have a taste of them before they officially arrive on broadcast TV in the US. I particularly liked the first 2 episodes of TORCHWOOD, which has been renewed for a second 13 episode season.

* "Allen held the quaint notion that American kids wanted to see lots of running, jumping and fighting in their sci-fi programs. Unfortunately, these elements generally fell in the place of plot, dialogue and believability". -- from the TVParty site.

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