Wednesday, 17 October 2012

United States of Who

Or, Doctor Who in America. Of the five episodes shown in 2012, two were set entirely in the USA, and another had an American aspect - in that the Cubes affected mankind globally. Last year, a double parter was set in the States, and partially filmed there. You would almost think the production team were trying to get the programme noticed over there, wouldn't you? They wouldn't be the first, of course. One of the reasons JNT made Peri American was to raise the show's profile in the US. There now follows a potted history of the Doctor's travels in America.

The first time we see the USA on screen is courtesy of some stock footage of Manhattan and the Empire State Building, circa 1966. The TARDIS crew land on a viewing platform and meet a young man by the name of Morton Dill, who hails from Alabama. The Daleks turn up soon after the TARDIS crew depart. This glimpse of Manhattan and the iconic building may plant an idea or two in their heads (if they had any) for later use... (The Chase).

The TARDIS returned to the States a few months later - although the decade was now the 1920's. Yet again being pursued by Daleks, the Doctor and his companions found themselves in a Hollywood film studio of the silent era. There was some Keystone Kop action, a Victorian-style melodrama complete with moustachioed villain, cowboys, and a version of The Sheikh going on. A young Bing Crosby even turns up. This stopover was only a brief one. (The Daleks' Master Plan)

The first full story set in the USA was, of course, The Gunfighters. This involved the historical events surrounding the famous Gunfight at the OK Corral. There was to have been one further early story involving America. John Lucarotti put forward an idea about Viking explorer Lief Ericson discovering the Americas (500 years before Columbus). As Vikings had already featured in The Time Meddler, the idea wasn't developed further.

Suddenly, the Doctor loses interest in America for quite a while. Had JNT had his way, The Two Doctors would have been set - and filmed - in New Orleans. We don't see the Doctor back in the US until 1996's Doctor Who - The Movie. The TARDIS lands in San Francisco on the eve of the new Millennium, and the Doctor is promptly gunned down in a hail of bullets. A regeneration, and a rather divisive story, then ensue.
The story was actually filmed entirely in Canada.

The new series of the programme begins its love affair with America - in particular New York - with a visit to a future and alien version of it (New Earth). Martha and the Doctor visit the real thing in The Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks. The cast got nowhere near NYC. Only plate shots are used in the programme - so that a Cardiff park can look like Central Park etc.

One of the Dalek plate shots is reused the following year, to show The Poisoned Sky over New York being burned up at the conclusion of the story. It should be noted that RTD era adventures often have an American aspect thanks to the inclusion of the newsreader character Trinity Wells. She reports on all the big invasion stories, including the USA's inability to help the stricken Britain after the cataclysms of Turn Left.

Our next glimpse of America proper is once again New York. Martha is there at a UNIT field office when the Earth is transported to the Medusa Cascade, then invaded by Daleks. (The Stolen Earth). What is it with Daleks and New York?

For The End of Time parts 1 & 2, NYC gets some respite as the action moves to Washington DC. President Obama is about to solve the economic crisis when he gets turned into the Master - as is everyone else (so NYC is actually hit again). Everyone becoming the Master would certainly have put paid to that recession.

It's back to Washington in 2011 for The Impossible Planet / Day of the Moon. Utah also gets a look-in - the only actual US filming for the story. Events at Lake Silencio are glimpsed throughout the 6th series. Just prior to these episodes, the Doctor, Kazran and Abigail visit the States for several Christmas Eves - such as Frank Sinatra's party where the Doctor gets engaged to Marilyn Monroe (A Christmas Carol).

Bringing us up to date, this year saw the TARDIS crew visit A Town Called Mercy. The filming took place in Spain, of course - but at a location used by many classic Western films of a spaghetti flavour.

And finally, The Angels Take Manhattan. Filmed extensively in New York - and not a Dalek in sight. Interestingly, the Angels sent Amy and Rory back to roughly the time of The Daleks in Manhattan. They might have even caught one of Tallullah's shows at the Laurenzi Theatre. They may have taken a tour of the Empire State Building in 1966 and heard a young man babble about just having seen Daleks and Police Boxes...
New York is now out of bounds to the TARDIS, but the USA is a very big place. I'm sure it won't be long before we see it again.

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