Doctor Who Launch Party Report

Breathe easy, troops. There's a fourth series of Doctor Who on its way in 2008. Who supremo Russell T Davies confirmed as much last night at the official press launch for the show's third series, a celeb-studded event held at a central London hotel.

Naturally, SFX was there, surviving on a diet of pistachios and bravely mingling with the great and the good in the true spirit of showbiz tartery. Along with the likes of Dawn French, Jo Whiley and Jonathan Ross (who was distinctly heard singing along to some Murray Gold incidental music on his way to the bar), we were witness to the exclusive unveiling of the first two episodes of series three, 'Smith and Jones' and 'The Shakespeare Code'.

What did we think? Bloody marvelous. Somehow the show seems bigger, richer and even more confident than before. Both of these episodes are pacy, witty and visually stunning, whether showing us alien troopers marching over a lunar landscape or cackling witches riding the skies above 16th Century England. Tennant's perfected his take on the Doctor - he's never less than winning, reining in some of the hyperactivity of his debut year - and new girl Freema Agyeman is terrific, letting the show slip the last of its moorings to the Eccleston/Piper era and head off with a renewed sense of fun and adventure. You'll love her. When the credits rolled on 'The Shakespeare Code' we almost pulled a gun and demanded the immediate screening of episodes three to thirteen - our geek-glands salivated instead at a montage of clips that showed flying Daleks, stone angels, the Doctor's wedding day (or so it seemed... Russell was saying nothing) and a certain Mr John Simm... We're also promised hybrid Daleks and scarecrows, apparently. Hmmm.

The screening was followed by a Q&A, chiefly notable for Russell shaming a hack from the Daily Star ("You completely made up that story about the Britney Spears clones!"), joshing that the BBC had rejected his plans for a 'Doctor Who meets Jesus' storyline ("And Jesus was gay...") and demanding that Jonathan Ross personally fund a Doctor Who film ("I'm bankrolling the Primeval movie instead," retorted Ross). The Q&A concluded with David Tennant (dapper in a white three-piece suit that somehow looked more colonial plantation owner than Saturday Night Fever) declaring "I always wanted to be Doctor Who," and suddenly seeming like a little boy. Aw.

The rest of the evening was spent performing the ancient tribal ritual of the schmooze. Somehow Russell the T ended up talking about his short-lived turn as a Play School presenter (they've lost the tape, he claims) and a distinctly gorgeous Freema was delighted to learn that SFX has immortalised her as a fridge magnet ("I want one! Send it to me!"). Oh, and we discovered that the mighty Lizo from Newsround loves the mag. You read it here first.

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