For the last few years, BBC America and Fathom Events have come together to bring special theater screenings of beloved British shows to audiences. Most recently, the season 10 premiere of Doctor Who was available in theaters for two nights only, April 17 and 19. Audiences also got to see the full premiere episode of Doctor Who spin-off, Class, and a never-before-seen behind the scenes feature, Becoming the Companion, with exclusive interviews from the Doctor Who cast and crew. How did each measure up in the theater?
(Spoilers ahead! Read the Doctor Who Season 10 recap here)
Doctor Who Season 10 Premiere
Is there anything more glorious than seeing Peter Capaldi on the big screen? I mean, honestly. It’s a shame Capaldi will be leaving the role after this year because he’s looking more and more at home in the Doctor’s clothes and the TARDIS with each passing season. The benefit of the larger screen is you can pick up on the subtleties in Capaldi’s acting, the little looks and changes in expression, the way he drops his tone or brings it up just a tad. He’s so good at spinning the Doctor Who dialogue as if it were his own words, that it’s easy to miss certain lines at home. Not so in the theater.
When Bill takes her first ride in the TARDIS and fails to utter the standard companion line about the blue box, the Doctor quickly quips to Nardole, “Is it my imagination or is this taking longer than normal?” A few minutes later he quiets down his overly chatty companions saying, “Can we shut up please? Busy busy.” It’s almost off the cuff and yet got one of the biggest laughs from the audience.
One drawback for me was anything that was slightly scary on my TV was amplified in the theater. The scene where Bill confronts a stranger in her bathroom only to see it’s Heather’s watery-self in the drain, made every single person noticeably jump in their seats. Every bit of sinister Heather had on my TV was increased tenfold, which made it harder to reverse those feelings when her true intentions were revealed.
Other emotional moments resonated more deeply too. At home, I had to listen closely to pick up on “Clara’s Theme” being played when the Doctor almost gives Bill a memory wipe. It’s only because I’m so attached to that theme (and maybe I have Capaldi’s version on my phone…) that I heard it at all. In the movie theater? It was so obvious I felt foolish for doubting myself even a second. The Doctor’s reaction in that moment coupled with the music made my breath stutter an instant as tears came to my eyes. I may have cried a little. It was worth it.
Class Series Premiere
Though the show’s full season has already aired in the UK, American viewers are just now being introduced to Class. The good news is, it’s not hard to love. Think Torchwood but with less gore and much less sex.
Class takes place at Coal High Academy where five students are thrust into fighting otherworldly beings when creatures called the Shadow Kin attack. Except, one of those students, Charlie, is from another world. So is their math teacher, Miss Quill. She and Charlie are the only survivors of a planet-wide massacre and they are now bound together. To defeat the Shadow Kin, they’ll need a last-minute assist from the Doctor himself.
One aspect that makes Class so appealing is its awareness of sci-fi. When the Doctor suggests Coal Hill is a beacon for alien activity, the five students immediately rattle off similar fictional places, like the Hellmouth in Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. Throughout the premiere episode, the audience laughed at all the right moments and sat glued to the screen during the climactic fight. Again, the theater viewing had its benefits. As clearly as “Clara’s Theme” was in Doctor Who’s premiere, so was the “Bad Wolf Theme” in Class. It plays briefly as the Doctor arrives for a rescue, something I hadn’t noticed on previous viewings.
There’s no doubt Miss Quill is the audience favorite. With her acerbic verbal jabs and zero tolerance for nonsense, she’s hilarious in that mean way we always love in a character. There are hidden complexities to Charlie as well. For all his apparent innocence, he’s harboring his own secrets and his own simmering rage. The interesting bit will be when it boils over. Class is definitely on my watch list.
Becoming the Companion
As much fun as Doctor Who seems to be, it’s probably equally as terrifying. When Pearl Mackie was announced as the new companion, most of the world at large hadn’t heard of her before. Now every Whovian knows her name. It’s a daunting kind of exposure but Mackie is handling it with liveliness and excitement.
“Jenna said to just have as much fun as possible,” Mackie said, referring to previous companion Jenna Coleman, who played Clara Oswald. “She also said Peter Capaldi is one of the most amazing people you’ll ever meet.”
There are comparisons to be made between Bill and Rose Tyler, of course. A young woman not quite meeting her potential, looking for somewhere better and something bigger to belong to, eager to prove herself and brave without hesitation. But Bill is wholly her own person. Steven Moffat remarked the Doctor has a very different relationship with Bill than with Clara and it’s that change that makes the character fascinating to watch.
Mackie effortlessly makes the role her own. Moffat contributes that to her freshness and modernity. But Mackie admitted that a lot of the time, she doesn’t know what’s going on, which turns out just fine because neither does Bill. Either way, it’s working. Bill is a lovely addition to the show and Mackie’s obvious delight in the role shines through.
If any show is meant for a theater viewing, it’s Doctor Who. If you have an opportunity to treat yourself to an episode on the big screen, do it. There’s a special energy and flow to the series that takes on new life in that setting. Plus, you get to kick back with popcorn and your snacks of choice and watch with your fellow Whovians.
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