Damien – Will We Love Him? Hate Him? Or Love to Hate Him?

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Last year I saw reports that Lifetime had a new horror series entitled Damien, based on the classic 1976 film The Omen, starring Lee Remick and Gregory Peck (with Patrick Troughton from Doctor Who as the impaled priest, because you know, all roads lead back…). But when the series failed to materialize in early 2015, as reported, I didn’t know if I should be upset or relieved.

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An intense Patrick Troughton as Father Brennan in “The Omen” (1976).

Omen II (1978) starring William Holden, Lee Grant and Robert Foxworth, saw Damien reluctantly (though not too reluctant) accept the mantle of Antichrist, and Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981), starring a then lesser-known Sam Neill, saw Damien’s rise to power.

The new series Damien, which somehow landed on A&E, would seem to fit in the timeline between the second and third films, whilst ignoring the remake (starring Liev Schreiber and Julia Styles) entirely. From what I understand, Damien draws heavily from the original 1976 film (not sure where this leaves the 1978 film Omen II) and follows an adult Damien Thorn (as a photojournalist, not a politician) apparently unaware of his destiny, definitely setting the stage for some great drama and suspense.

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Harvey Stephens as young Damien Thorn in “The Omen” (1976).

Given the popularity of Bates Motel, it seems fitting that A&E, instead of Lifetime, has picked up the series. Created by Walking Dead producer Glen Mazzara, one hopes for something that honors the original film’s chilling tone. Certainly Mazzara is no stranger to pushing the horror envelope.

I feared Lifetime would err on the side of “camping things up”, ala The Witches of East End (which is a guilty pleasure I admit to, in the vein of Charmed, so no angry letters, please). But for Damien, I want something else. I want to see his journey – his evolution. If there’s anything human in him, I want to see how deeply conflicted he is as he is tempted toward the dark side – “Yes, Damien, he is your father.”

This will require an actor with skill, someone who can be likable and charismatic, as well as haunted and dark. Enter fan favorite Bradley James (Merlin, iZombie). An IMDB search to see what James had been up to led me to this little tidbit, and I was immediately intrigued, and dare I say it, excited.

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Bradley James as Prince Arthur Pendragon in the BBC Series “Merlin”.

With his leading man good looks, James was cast as the heroic young Arthur Pendragon in Merlin (2008-2012), and more recently, as the funny, charming and lovable musician Lowell Tracey in iZombie (he quickly endeared himself to audiences as Liv’s ill-fated zombie lover – a sentence I thought I’d never write, and will probably never write again).

To keep audiences hooked he’ll have to walk a fine line between sympathetic/tortured and downright evil, as we know what Damien is destined to become. We know Norman Bates’ fate and the fates of those around him in Bates Motel, given the source material Psycho, still we find sympathy for Norman as he battles against a severe mental illness and hallucinations that compel him to kill.

Unlike Norman, whom we meet as a teen under the thumb of his controlling (still alive), neurotic (possibly borderline personality) mother Norma, Damien (as portrayed by Bradley James) is a grown man. He may not be so easily manipulated and he will likely be aware of his actions.

The Many Faces of Norman Bates

Norman Bates as portrayed by Freddie Highmore in the A&E series “Bates Motel” and Anthony Perkins in the 1960 film “Psycho”.

As we saw briefly in Omen II, Damien initially has reservations about his future as Prince of the Underworld and overlord to humanity, but he turns too quickly for my taste, killing his cousin and best friend Mark, when Mark rejects him upon learning the truth. This is where he seems to turn towards the Dark Side, never to return. However, in Omen III the tables are turned, and it is his humanity and feelings for a woman that becomes his undoing. (Sorry for the spoilers, folks, but the films have been out for over 30 years). Again, this felt forced. I wanted to see a more remorseful, conflicted Damien. Perhaps now I’ll get my wish.

Let’s face it, we love our reformed bad boys, don’t we? Complex, brooding, bad, but with a softer side. We certainly love our tortured supernatural beings – starting with the first repentant vampire Barnabas Collins (Dark Shadows), inspiring characters like Nick Knight (Forever Knight), Angel (Angel), Methos (Highlander), and more recently, Damon Salvatore (Vampire Diaries) and Klaus Mikaelson (The Originals).

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Bradley James as Damien v. 5.0 (If you count all the films).

It will be interesting to see Damien’s development over time, and if like Klaus in The Originals, if he will walk that tightrope between villain and sympathetic anti-hero; someone who loves deeply, and is fiercely protective and loyal, only to doom those closest to him, due to his nature and the beast within (in Klaus’ case, his vampiric/hybrid nature, in Damien’s, his demonic birthright). Is Damien damned? Does he have a choice? Or was his fate sealed before he was even born?

I’m intrigued, not to mention, more than mildly interested in seeing more of the devilishly handsome (see what I did there?) Bradley James (hopefully in various states of undress… but I digress, as I often do…) and definitely looking forward to seeing him as Damien Thorn.

Damien airs Monday, March 7th, 2016 at 10pm EST on A&E after the season premiere of Bates Motel.

For more, check out this trailer for Damien.

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More Than Just the Tin Dog! K-9 Lands Solo Film!

Modern Day K-9

Modern Day K-9 from the DisneyXD series.

K-9 Returns…
You can’t keep a good dog down, and it seems, even after almost 40 years, our beloved robotic canine (get it?) appears to have more lives than a cat. K-9 is set to return again, this time in a standalone film of his own. The inner-seven-year-old inside me couldn’t help but get excited when I read earlier this week that K-9 would be back. He was part of my childhood. I first fell in love with Doctor Who during the Tom Baker era, and for me, K-9 was part of the family.

It was announced earlier this week that K-9 Creator and writer Bob Baker, along with Nick Park from the Wallace and Gromit series, is producing the film K9: TimeQuake, which is due out in theaters in 2017 and will feature our robotic hero facing off against a classic Doctor Who villain from the 3rd Doctor and 5th Doctor eras – Omega.

Omega, 2nd Doctor and 3rd Doctor

Omega staring down at the The Second and Third Doctors (Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee) in “The Three Doctors” (1973).

Omega, a legendary Time Lord himself and an intergalactic engineer, had been credited with founding early Time Lord society, along with the great and mighty Rassilon, and with harnessing the power from a supernova to give the Gallifreyans mastery over space and time. Unfortunately, Omega was trapped in an anti-matter universe and had gone mad as a result. He has come close to destroying the galaxy more than once, only to be stopped on each occasion by The Doctor. Omega has appeared in several Doctor Who stories including – The Three Doctors 10th Anniversary Special (with Stephen Thorne as Omega) (1973) , The Arc of Infinity (with Ian Collier and Peter Davison as Omega) (1983) and the Big Finish 5th Doctor audio Omega (2003), with Ian Collier reprising the role.

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K-9 Mark I (as voiced by John Leeson) and The 4th Doctor (Tom Baker) in the TARDIS.

A Girl’s Best Friend…
K-9 first appeared in the 4th Doctor adventure The Invisible Enemy (1977). He was the creation of Professor Marius, in the year 5000. K-9 joined The Doctor and then-companion Leela (played by Louise Jameson) on various adventures. With his computerized brain and laser snout, K-9 soon proved to be a valuable member of the crew.

Even after The 4th Doctor left Leela on Gallifrey with K-9 Mark I and Romana in E-Space with K-9 Mark II, we knew we hadn’t seen the last of our beloved tin dog. K-9 seemed to have as many lives as The Doctor, returning for not just one, or two, but three TV spinoffs, several specials and Big Finish Audios over the years.

K-9 Mark III was left as a gift for former companion Sarah Jane Smith from The 4th Doctor in the TV pilot K9 and Company (1981) – the first attempt at a Sarah Jane spinoff (starring Lis Sladen). K-9 resurfaced again in the The Five Doctors 20th Anniversary Special (1983), with Sarah Jane, and yet again for the David Tennant story School Reunion (2006), reuniting Sarah Jane, K-9 and The 10th Doctor.

Lightning struck twice for K-9 and Sarah and the result was the hit BBC Kids series The Sarah Jane Adventures (2007-2011). Sadly, K-9 Mark IV was trapped in a void for most of series, as he was promised to DisneyXD (featuring modifications and design changes – I favored his original design) for a K-9 Series (2009-2010) for Australia. Each time he was voiced by the original actor John Leeson (actor David Brierly voiced him briefly in 1978).

Sarah Jane Smith (Lis Sladen) and K-9 Mark IV in the Doctor Who episode “School Reunion” (2006).

Initial Reaction to “TimeQuake”…
To be honest, I’m having trouble seeing this work on the big screen and don’t understand why they haven’t just done a theatrical release based on The Doctor (yes, they made two movies with Peter Cushing, but that was a long time ago).

I held out hope that K-9 would return to the current series of Doctor Who alongside Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor. Let’s face it, Capaldi would have a blast, and K-9 would quickly endear himself to the irascible old Time Lord, as well the rest of us, as he always does.

I also held out hope that Time Lady Romana and K-9 Mark II might have survived the Time War and resurfaced during the 9th Series along with the resurrected Time Lords, or Team Sarah Jane: The Next Generation featuring her kids (now grown), might end up working for U.N.I.T. with K-9 Mark IV at their side. A gal can dream, right?

Instead, the Time Lord’s best friend will be fighting the big bad alone, facing off against one of The Doctor’s oldest enemies. Not sure how that will play out, but happy to hear K-9 is still out there, fighting the good fight.

Affirmative, Mistress…

Here’s a classic moment with K9 Mark I and Leela (Louise Jameson). 

And another, a rare clip featuring an inebriated (not sure how) K-9 Mark II with Romana Mark I (Mary Tamm) and The Doctor Mark IV. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Frazer Hines Returns To The Scottish Highlands In Outlander

Ok, now I feel vindicated when I say “all roads lead back to Doctor Who“. For those who haven’t guessed by now, the longest-running British science fiction series Doctor Who, happens to be my all-time favorite TV series. Further evidence supporting my “all roads” claim came today in the form of the latest casting news for the time travel drama Outlander.

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A FAN FAVORITE RETURNS

I was excited to hear that Frazer Hines, best known for his enduring portrayal as Jamie McCrimmon on Doctor Who, was cast on the new Starz series Outlander, as Sir Gordon Fletcher, the English warden of Wentworth Prison in Scotland.

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YOU CAN’T KEEP A GOOD SCOT DOWN

James Robert McCrimmon (Jamie to his friends) joined The Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) on board the TARDIS after the Battle of Culloden in 1746.  Jamie valiantly fought Daleks, Cybermen, Yeti and Ice Warriors alongside the Time Lord – when he and co-stars Deborah Watling (Victoria Waterfield) and later, Wendy Padbury (Zoe Herriot), weren’t running for their lives that is.

One of the few male companions to grace the TARDIS, Jamie endeared himself to fans as the brave, kilt-wearing young Highlander. Inquisitive, fiercely loyal and devoted to The Doctor, to this day, Jamie is considered one of Doctor Who’s most popular companions.

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Frazer left the series in 1969 in the ten part story The War Games, which introduced the Time Lords, on The Doctor’s home planet of Gallifrey. It also saw the departures of Wendy Padbury and Patrick Troughton. The Doctor, placed on trial by the High Council of the Time Lords, was forced to regenerate (into Third  Doctor Jon Pertwee) and exiled to Earth in the 1970’s – his sentence for contravening the First Law of Time. Sadly, Jamie and Zoe were returned to their respective timelines and their memories were wiped. They would no longer remember the adventures they had shared with The Doctor (almost, but not quite as heart-breaking as Donna Noble’s memory wipe, but I digress…).

Jamie was so beloved that Frazer returned to Doctor Who nearly two decades later. He had an all-too-brief cameo in The Five Doctors 20th Anniversary Special (1983), during the Peter Davison (The Fifth Doctor) era, and he was reunited with Patrick Troughton in The Two Doctors (1986), during the Colin Baker (The Sixth Doctor) era.  The 10th Doctor (David Tennant) even uses Jamie’s name in Tooth and Claw (2006).

ALL ROADS LEAD BACK

Author Diana Gabaldon revealed her Outlander books were inspired by Frazer’s portrayal on Doctor Who, and that makes this casting news even sweeter.

As a long-time fan of Doctor Who (and a fan of Jamie’s), I keep hoping for an on-screen reunion between Jamie and the current Doctor. We know how The Doctor hates goodbyes and Jamie isn’t supposed to remember him, but come on, there has to a be remedy for the Gallifreyan Memory Wipe surely?

Jamie does make a welcome return in the BBC sanctioned Doctor Who Big Finish Audios, but, like Sarah Jane Smith (played by the late Elisabeth Sladen), he’s one of those companions we keep hoping will crop back up again in the current series.

In the meantime, I look forward to seeing Frazer Hines in future episodes of Outlander.

RECOMMENDED LINKS

For more on the Outlander series of books, visit Diana Gabaldon’s site.

For more on the Big Finish line of audios, please visit their site.

Outlander airs Saturdays at 9pm on Starz.

Doctor Who returns to our screens on August 23rd.