(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The SeriesDoctor Who

Where You Can Stream It: HBO Max

The Pitch: A hyperintellectual alien travels through time and space (though more often than not, to 21st century Britain) in a spaceship shaped like a 1960s British police box, going on wacky misadventures with his/her spunky human companions.

Why It’s Essential ViewingDoctor Who is often described in reverent terms as the longest-running sci-fi TV series in history. But to categorize this wonderful, baffling, silly, stupendous show as science-fiction wouldn’t do it, or the genre, justice. Sci-fi is really just an umbrella for the famous BBC series to play with genre and structure — it can be a character drama one episode, a campy comedy the next, a mythic fairy tale, a Gothic horror tale. Sure, there’s a loose continuity that runs all the way back to the beginning of the show, but none of that matters. All that matters is that there’s a quirky alien who goes around battling monsters and saving the day with his big old brain and a whole lotta heart (two of them, in fact).

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doctor who holiday special

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic put TV and movie productions around the world on hold, casting doubt on the future of dozens of ongoing TV shows. But, perhaps owing to the show’s gift with time travel, Doctor Who, won’t be one of those shows. The long-running BBC sci-fi series managed to film its upcoming holiday special, titled “Revolution of the Daleks,” right under the wire, wrapping shooting on the episode before the pandemic hit. This was confirmed by series star Mandip Gill, who plays companion Yasmin Khan to Jodie Whittaker‘s 13th Doctor.

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doctor who minisode

One of the greatest tragedies of Doctor Who season 10 — aside from being our last season with Peter Capaldi and for the alarmingly sad endings for our core characters — is that we only got one season with the TARDIS dream team that was Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, and Matt Lucas. Together, that trio was one of the most underrated ensembles of modern Who, and it’s still a shame that we only got 12 episodes with them. But in the latest special Doctor Who minisode released as part of the series’ ongoing lockdown content, former showrunner Steven Moffat is giving us a chance to see Mackie’s Bill Potts and Lucas’ Nardole back together again — sort of.

The minisode, titled “The Best of Days,” is a message exchange between Bill and Nardole after the events of the season 10 finale The Doctor Falls, as they give each other updates on their respective situations, both of which are a bit grim. Nardole is stuck in a spaceship orbiting a black hole that is slowly being overtaken by Cybermen, sure, but Bill is now back on Earth in the midst of a pandemic and a worldwide movement against police brutality. But in the sweet and heartwarming short story, which will apparently be Moffat’s last time writing for Doctor Who, the duo try to look on the bright side of things.

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doctor who time lord victorious

The 50th anniversary of Doctor Who was a blockbuster-sized event that featured two of the revived show’s most popular Doctors, played by David Tennant and Matt Smith, as well as a smattering of cameos and appearances by other beloved Doctors and longtime fan-favorites.

But there was one actor conspicuously missing from the celebration who had proven instrumental to the long-running sci-fi series’ success since it was revived in 2005: Christopher Eccleston. It’s no secret among Whovians that Eccleston didn’t part ways from Doctor Who with the best relationship with the franchise and the BBC — after his single season as the Ninth Doctor, preceding the now-iconic Tennant — Eccleston had turned down any offers to reprise the role, including what would have been a pivotal appearance in the 50th anniversary “Day of the Doctor” special, leading then-showrunner Steven Moffat to create John Hurt’s War Doctor. It’s bittersweet to think of what could have been: what if the Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Doctors had met? Well, we may never get it on the TV screen, but we may get it in audiobooks, comics, and games soon in the upcoming multi-platform Doctor Who adventure, “Time Lord Victorious.”

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doctor who rose prequel

By its nature, Doctor Who is a show filled with gaps and holes — the series was off the air for 16 years between the time it was canceled in 1989 and revived for a modern audience in 2005 by Russell T. Davies. Even when it’s on the air, our favorite time-traveling alien is having countless off-screen adventures that we’ll never be privy to.

The mystery of Doctor Who has allowed fans to fill those gaps with their own imaginations, or with the hundreds of audio book stories released by Big Finish. But imagination can only take us so far, especially when that’s the only thing we’re stuck with in quarantine. So former showrunner Russell T. Davies and current showrunner Chris Chibnall are stepping in to fill in those gaps with never-before-seen prequels to their respective runs on Doctor Who.

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doctor who coronavirus message

Jodie Whittaker has an important message for fans who are social distancing amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic: Be kind, and listen to science. She should know, after all, she’s the Doctor.

Doctor Who star Whittaker sent an “emergency transmission” to fans through the Doctor Who Twitter account, self-isolating herself to help curb the spread of coronavirus, or as she calls it, “hiding from an army of Sontarans.” It’s a sweet and funny video message that will be sure to brighten your day — as any episode of Doctor Who will do.

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doctor who 15th anniversary

15 years ago, Doctor Who returned to our screens after a 16-year hiatus. And it was like the time-traveling alien had never left. With its highly anticipated premiere episode “Rose,” Doctor Who reinvented itself for a new generation of sci-fi lovers and kick-started a whole new era that is still going strong today.

In celebration of the 15th anniversary of the premiere of “Rose,” former showrunner Russell T. Davies will share new Doctor Who material in a live-watch event held on Twitter.
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doctor who companions leaving

Team TARDIS might be going down two members this holiday season. According to a new report, Doctor Who stars Bradley Walsh and Tosin Cole — who have played Graham and Ryan, the traveling companions to Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor, for the past two seasons — are set to leave the series in this year’s upcoming holiday special. But while Walsh and Cole will leave Mandip Gill‘s Yaz to stay on as the main companion, their exit won’t be permanent, with the doors open for possible guest appearances in future episodes.

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doctor who the timeless children review

“Everything is about to change.” Doctor Who‘s season 12 finale certainly lived up to the Master’s sinister promise, dropping a doozy on us about the identity of the Timeless Child that manages to be mind-blowing and deflating all at once. Because what does this mean? How will this change things? For a show like Doctor Who, which has always felt more comfortable as a casual sci-fi series on which you can drop in no questions asked, perhaps not at all.

The thing is, the big reveal in “The Timeless Children” will mostly be huge for longtime fans obsessed with the minutiae of the series — something that will inevitably happen when you have a lifelong Doctor Who fan like Chris Chibnall running the series. For fans who have been around since the Classic Who series, of course it matters that we’ve finally fixed a 44-year-old plot hole. Sure, it opens the doors for all kinds of possibilities and plots, but it also is a reveal that mostly deals with the past — something that the forward-looking Doctor Who has frequently brushed past. But it comes down to whether you care about that kind of pedantry or if you’re just here to see an immortal alien having adventures in time and space. If the latter, “The Timeless Children” was a mostly okay season finale of Doctor Who that answered some mysteries and loaded us up with even more — but at least we got some phenomenal performances from Jodie Whittaker and Sacha Dhawan.

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doctor who ascension of the cybermen review

In a series that so frequently contradicts and corrects itself like Doctor Who, can there be any such thing as canon? Even the question of character development is up in the air, as a time-traveling protagonist who has been on and off the air for upwards of 50 years can only change so much before the story becomes untenable. All of this is leading up to me saying I’m intrigued by whatever showrunner Chris Chibnall is building up to in the penultimate episode of Doctor Who season 12. Because, despite the amorphous, ever-shifting nature of Doctor Who, it feels game-changing.

“Ascension of the Cybermen” picks up right after the events of last week’s excellent “The Haunting of Villa Diodati,” showing the Doctor and Team TARDIS landing in a far-future where the remnants of humanity are barely holding on after a universe-devastating Cybermen war. And without the Doctor’s help, humanity could be extinguished altogether. But as the Doctor and Team TARDIS jump to action in what is the most blockbuster sci-fi episode of the Jodie Whittaker era, Doctor Who is not against introducing several more baffling, head-scratching mysteries. Next week’s season finale has a lot to answer to.

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