It’s amazing how many shows you watch where you spot someone who’s been in Doctor Who. Even if there’s no one obvious on screen, behind-the-scenes personnel likely include someone who’s worked on everyone’s favourite science fiction series.
With that in mind, we’re looking at 2017, and highlighting some of the best TV that everyone should watch, and which have contributions from Who-related folk. Yesterday, we looked at such giants as The Crown, The A Word, and Peter Kay’s Car Share. In today’s instalment, we’re not only looking at 6 more in some detail – but also, taking an overview of other great shows from the Who team.
This is the series that Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist – aka. the Marvel Netflix originals – have been leading to.
Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Luke Cage (Mike Colter), and Danny Rand (Finn Jones) join forces to battle an overwhelming threat to New York City: the Hand, led by Alexandra Reid (Sigourney Weaver) and Elektra Natchios (Elodie Yung). Essentially, The Defenders is the TV equivalent of The Avengers: indeed, this is a shared universe, so while you won’t see anyone from the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, there is reference to “The Incident” which featured in the first Avengers movie.
At turns, it’s dark and funny, but it’s never less than a thoroughly enjoyable show – certainly for fans whose dreams mainly consist of superhero team-ups (guilty as charged). Plus it leads beautifully into Daredevil Season 3, which we can expect in sometime this year.
Farren Blackburn (The Rings of Akhaten) and Peter Hoar (A Good Man Goes to War) each helm an episode of this 8-part series, after their previous work on Daredevil and Iron Fist. And The Defenders really is directed stunningly.
Finn Jones (The Sarah Jane Adventures, as Jo Jones nee. Grant’s grandson) debuted as the Immortal Iron Fist in February 2017, but his titular series wasn’t particular well-received – unfairly so; I thought it was excellent, but because unnecessary controversy made headlines before (after supposed white-washing, although that’s utter nonsense), it was always going to go down akin to a lead balloon. Here, he plays an important role and grows as a person, so here’s hoping Iron Fist Season 2 will be welcomed more optimistically.
Sigourney Weaver also crops up in Doc Martin. Yes, really – she’s a big fan of the ITV comedy! She appears as a returning guest for the Series 8 finale, All My Trials, which aired in November 2017.
This is, of course, the internationally-successful series about the grumpy old Doctor Martin Ellingham, played by Snakedance star, Martin Clunes, and produced by his wife, the talented Philippa Braithwaite. It’s so popular, in fact, that people come from far and wide (literally from all over the world), to visit Port Isaac, the real-life filming location that doubles for the Cornish village of Portwenn.
(I was lucky enough to visit while they were shooting Series 7, so spent a day witnessing the incredible work of the cast and crew.)
Sadly, Series 7 was a bit rockier than previous runs, but Series 8, which began in September, saw it back at the top of its game. Martin and Louisa (Caroline Catz) have settled more into their marriage, making this a very joyful and even life-affirming show.
Also starring Ian McNeice (Victory of the Daleks), this was due to be its penultimate series, but Clunes has since hinted that, while it’s the penultimate one commissioned, it might have a longer future than we predicted. Here’s hoping!
The Boy with the Topknot
After his stint as Waris Hussein in the 50th anniversary docudrama, An Adventure in Space and Time, it’s surely only a matter of time until Sacha Dhawan appears in Doctor Who proper. Maybe as the Doctor himself. Just putting that out there.
Until then, you can enjoy him as Davos in Iron Fist or here, in this TV movie, The Boy with the Topknot. It’s based on the memoir of Sathnam Sanghera, played by Dhawan, and sees him exploring a side of his family that he previously knew nothing about.
In his attempt to align his past with his present, he must introduce his girlfriend, Laura, played by the wonderful Joanna Vanderham (The Paradise), to his Punjabi parents who may not approve of his falling in love with a white, English girl.
The narrative is oddly-paced, a little uneven perhaps, and yet it’s a masterpiece of storytelling. This is an unusual tale with great leading stars – including Anjli Mohindra (The Sarah Jane Adventures‘ Rani).
The League of Gentlemen
Hello, Benjamin; it’s nice to see you again. This is a local series for local people, with Mark Gatiss (Empress of Mars), Reece Shearsmith (Sleep No More), Steve Pemberton (Silence in the Library/ Forest of the Dead), and Jeremy Dyson (Funland).
The last TV series of The League of Gentlemen aired in 2002, although there was a film in 2005. These three specials, screened on consecutive days in mid-December, are a celebration of the original radio drama’s 20th anniversary.
If you’ve never seen The League of Gentlemen before, don’t start here – start with Series 1. The 2017 episodes are a fine enough introduction, but they catch up with regular characters nearly 15 years on from when we last saw them, so reward older fans. This is exactly as it should be, and prove a great continuation for the off-beat, eccentric cast.
And if you’re hungry for more, it’s touring the UK in August and September 2018.
Poldark: Series 3
More than 18 months passed between Series 1 and 2 of Poldark, but its popularity meant that, just 7 months after the Series 2 finale on 6th November 2016, Series 3 debuted.
This time, however, it felt more assured, somehow. Not that it had started off as a demure little show – but the crew had got through the hassle of Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) being cast as a villain. Some had accused him of being a rapist; others were just shocked he cheated on Demelza (The Sarah Jane Adventures‘ Eleanor Tomlinson). Still, the audience weren’t put off, with around 7 million tuning in for this third series.
With this new assurance came two directors new to Poldark: Joss Agnew (also SJA) and Stephen Woolfenden (Nightmare in Silver), both demonstrating exactly why they were hunted down for the high-profile job. True, it’s difficult to make Cornwall (at least on a sunny day) look anything less than gorgeous, but they nonetheless prove what great directors they are. Plus, it remains in keeping with the work of previous directors like Ed Bazalgette (The Return of Doctor Mysterio), Charles Palmer (Smith and Jones), and Richard Senior (Let’s Kill Hitler).
This series is incredibly sad, telling the doomed love story of Drake Carne (Harry Richardson) and Morwenna Whitworth (Ellise Chappell). On the positive side, Sean Gilder (The Christmas Invasion) is introduced as Tholly Tregirls. But good luck understanding anything he says.
Since 2014, the BBC has taken the mick out of itself with the satire show, W1A. But in 2017, it came to an end.
What began as an Olympics parody soon morphed into a sort of tongue-in-cheek love letter to the British institution, led by a wonderful cast; notably, Hugh Bonneville (The Curse of the Black Spot), Jessica Hynes (Human Nature/ The Family of Blood), Nina Sosanya (Fear Her), Jason Watkins (Nightmare in Silver), Jonathan Bailey (Time Heist), and Sarah Parish (The Runaway Bride). Oh, and David Tennant (the Tenth Doctor) as its narrator!
Unbelievably, there are only three series of this BAFTA-winning show, but for anyone who works in a big corporation where management speak rules, for anyone who revels in awkwardness, and for anyone who just likes a good laugh, it’s an essential watch.
This concluding run of episodes saw the team launching the online platform, BBC Me, which stinks of the real Beeb’s attempt to diversify with things like BBC Three’s move to the web, and the doomed BBC Store. And you might just see a TARDIS in there too…
Ah, W1A: we shall miss you.
Yup, we’ve missed some out. Of course we have! Here are just a few more 2017 series you need to watch:
Broadchurch (written by Chris Chibnall and starring plenty of Who cast members, including David Tennant, Olivia Colman, and Jodie Whittaker) concluded with its third series on ITV, but some messy gender politics stops it reaching the heights of Series 1; Jeremy Webb (The Wedding of River Song) directed The Unveiling, an episode of successful spin-off, Fear the Walking Dead; Webb also directed an episode of Netflix’s Marvel series, The Punisher, as has Andy Goddard (The Next Doctor); and staying with the theme of comic book adaptations, Preacher Series 2 featured Pip Torrens (Human Nature/ The Family of Blood) with two episodes helmed by Wayne Yip (Class; Empress of Mars).
Paul McGann, aka the Eighth Doctor, debuted in Holby City, which we covered in quite some detail; Helen McCrory (The Vampires of Venice) took centre stage for the fourth series of Peaky Blinders and the first series of Fearless; Nicola Walker (Big Finish’s Liv Chenka), Sanjeev Bhaskar (Death in Heaven), Tony Gardner (The Pyramid at the End of the World), Richard Hope (The Hungry Earth/ Cold Blood), and Bill Paterson (Victory of the Daleks) appeared in Unforgotten; Let’s Kill Hitler‘s Davood Ghadami took part in the latest series of Strictly Come Dancing, partnered with Nadiya Bychkova, but the pair were eliminated in the quarter-finals; Ghadami continued to appear in EastEnders throughout 2017, with Bonnie Langford (companion, Mel Bush) as his on-screen mum, and, over Christmas, Jo Joyner (Bad Wolf/ The Parting of the Ways) briefly returning.
The TV Giant, Game of Thrones continued with its seventh season, starring a number of Doctor Who alumni, including Maisie Williams (The Girl Who Died), Liam Cunningham (Cold War), Mark Gatiss, Iain Glen (The Time of Angels/ Flesh and Stone), Diana Rigg (The Crimson Horror), Tim McInnerny (Planet of the Ood), Paul Kaye (Under the Lake/ Before the Flood), Rupert Vansittart (Aliens of London/ World War Three), and Torchwood‘s Indira Varma. Rigg also appeared in The Detectorists with her daughter, Rachael Stirling (The Crimson Horror) and Toby Jones; and McInnerny appeared in Strike: The Silkworm, an adaptation of Robert Galbraith’s (i.e. J.K. Rowling’s) Cormoran Strike novels (the first part being The Cuckoo’s Calling, with Career of Evil following in 2018).
Meanwhile, Taboo took us back to the early 1800s, and featured Jonathan Pryce (The Curse of Fatal Death), Jason Watkins, Albert Welling (Let’s Kill Hitler), and Mark Gatiss. The latter also popped up in Gunpowder; and Watkins played Tim Ifield in the ever-shocking (and consistently exceptional) Line of Duty, which also included flashbacks of Keeley Hawes (Time Heist) and Daniel Mays (Night Terrors).
Sarah Parish joined Faye Marsay (Last Christmas) for ITV’s Bancroft; Rebecca Front (The Zygon Invasion) appeared in Love, Lies and Records; Imelda Staunton (The Girl Who Waited) narrated the documentary, Harry Potter: A History of Magic; Anna Maxwell Martin (The Long Game) headed comedy, Motherland; Mark Williams continued to play the titular part in Father Brown; MyAnna Buring (The Impossible Planet) took the lead for Mark Billingham’s In the Dark; Don Gilet (The Runaway Bride) and John Sessions (Mummy on the Orient Express) were in The Loch; and Steve Pemberton’s and Reece Shearsmith’s Inside No. 9 returned with guests including Peter Kay (Love & Monsters), Jason Watkins, Felicity Kendal (The Unicorn and the Wasp), Keeley Hawes, and Tamzin Outhwaite (Nightmare in Silver).
Neil Gaiman’s (The Doctor’s Wife) 2001 novel, American Gods has finally been adapted for TV, by Starz (producers of Torchwood: Miracle Day), with the writer as an executive producer; the hugely successful Doctor Foster (by Knock Knock scribe, Mike Bartlett) returned for a second series, with Suranne Jones (The Doctor’s Wife) and Bertie Carvel (The Lazarus Experiment) once more taking on the lead roles; Caroline Skinner, executive producer for Doctor Who Series 7, took on the same role on Our Girl; Jonny Campbell (Vincent and the Doctor) directed Jessica Raine (Hide) in The Last Post; and Hettie Macdonald (Blink) directed the full series of Howard’s End.
ITV broadcast two feature-length episodes of Maigret, with Rowan Atkinson (The Curse of Fatal Death) as Georges Simenon’s detective, with Shaun Dingwall (Pete Tyler) as Inspector Janvier: Night at the Crossroads featured Chook Sibtain (The Waters of Mars) and Kevin McNally (The Twin Dilemma), while Adrian Scarborough (A Town Called Mercy) was in Maigret in Montmartre.
And we can’t forget Jenna Coleman’s stunning turn as Queen Victoria, a second series plus Christmas special airing from August. Victoria also starred Tommy Knight (The Sarah Jane Adventures), Diana Rigg, Tom Price (Torchwood), and Adrian Schiller (The Doctor’s Wife) – two episodes were directed by Daniel O’Hara (Under the Lake/ Before the Flood).
Which other shows have you enjoyed in 2017…?