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article imageRipper Street’s unlikely tribute to Doctor Who

By Mathew Wace Peck     Nov 30, 2013 in Entertainment
An unlikely tribute to the long-running sci-fi drama “Doctor Who” has emerged in “Ripper Street”, the BBC’s Victorian-era detective series.
During November, Doctor Who celebrated its 50th-anniversary, which culminated a week ago with the The Day of the Doctor, a 75-minute feature that was simulcast in a Guiness World Record-breaking 94 countries and shown in dozens of cinemas around the world.
Throughout 2013, tributes to the show – which first aired in 1963 – have appeared in all sorts of guises in many parts of the world where Doctor Who is known.
From postage stamps and legal-tender currency, to TV documentaries and celebratory publications, to parties in royal palaces and debates in parliament, the non-Who fan could be forgiven for thinking many had turned Doctor Who mad.
Doctor Who Street
Now, thanks to a letter published in the latest issue of Radio Times, it has emerged, a somewhat subtler tribute to the world’s longest-running television science-fiction series has been made: in a drama set many years before Doctor Who even began.
The letter in question is from Colin Mcneil, and is printed in the 7 to 13 December issue of the UK listings magazine.
“In episode four of Ripper Street [broadcast on BBC One on Monday, November 18], I noticed DI [Edmund] Reid [played by Matthew Macfadyen] inspecting a list of UK companies,” Mcneil writes. “Among them were Hartnell Street, Troughton Street and Cushing Road: the names of three former Doctors. A fine tribute to 50 years.”
Ripper Street cast (L–R): TARDIS  MyAnna Buring  Adam Rothenberg  Matthew Macfadyen  Jerome Flynn ...
Ripper Street cast (L–R): TARDIS, MyAnna Buring, Adam Rothenberg, Matthew Macfadyen, Jerome Flynn and Charlene McKenna
The actors — William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and Peter Cushing — whom the streets were named after, were the first three people, all in the 1960s, to have portrayed the Doctor. Hartnell played the First Doctor on TV from 1963 to 1966, Troughton was his successor, the Second Doctor, from 1966 to 1969 and Cushing played the part in two cinema-released films, in 1964 and 1965, respectively.
A spokesperson for Tiger Aspect Productions — the company responsible for producing Ripper Street for the BBC — responded to the letter, saying it was their “little tribute for eagle-eyed viewers … Happy 50th birthday, Doctor Who! To you, we doff our bowlers – from all at Ripper Street.”
Contemporary Victorian
Ripper Street, currently in its second season, is set in Whitechapel in the East End of London, in 1889, six months after the infamous “Jack the Ripper” murders. The drama is a police procedural, known for dealing with contemporary influences in the context of the late-Victorian era. Perhaps in keeping, therefore, that a modern sci-fi series gets a sideways mention!
The main characters are played by Matthew Macfadyen, Jerome Flynn, Adam Rothenberg, MyAnna Buring, Charlene McKenna and Amanda Hale. To date, guest cast members have included well-established actors such as David Dawson, Joseph Mawle, Lucy Cohu, Paul McGann and Anton Lesser, and relative newcomers such as Jassa Ahluwalia and Alfie Stewart, who gave moving performances as Vincent Featherwell and David Goodbody in last week's episode, “Threads of Silk and Gold”.
Ripper Street: Threads of Silk and Gold (l to r) Alfie Stewart (as David Goodbody) and Jassa Ahluwal...
Ripper Street: Threads of Silk and Gold (l to r) Alfie Stewart (as David Goodbody) and Jassa Ahluwalia (as Vincent Featherwell)
BBC / Tiger Aspect Productions
It’s not the first time that Doctor Who has been referenced in TV programmes that have no relationship to the sci-fi drama itself. In fact, these days, hardly a week goes by when a drama (Leverage, Grey’s Anatomy), sitcom (The Big Bang Theory, Vicious) or animated series (The Simpsons, American Dad, Futurama, South Park) somewhere does not reference it!
In a Season 1 episode of Leverage, “Mile-High Job,” a similar reference to Doctor Who was made as has just happened in Ripper Street, when Nathan Ford (Timothy Hutton) reads off a list of aliases: “Peter Davison, Sylvester McCoy, Tom Baker.”
Often the nod to Doctor Who takes the form of an appearance of an old-fashioned British blue police box, which, in the sci-fi series is actually the Doctor’s space–time machine, the TARDIS. Such references include an episode of Heroes, shortly before Christopher Eccleston (the Ninth Doctor in Doctor Who) joined the cast as Claude. More recently, a police box was spotted in an episode of Foyle’s War.
Doctor Who returns to TV screens — properly — on Christmas Day: in The Time of the Doctor. The special represents Matt Smith’s final outing as the Doctor and will introduce Peter Capaldi as his successor. The Time of the Doctor also stars Jenna Coleman as the Doctor’s companion, Clara Oswald, and sees the return of two of the show’s oldest monsters, the Daleks and the Cybermen. It will also mark the return of two of the most popular creations of 21st-century Doctor Who: the Weeping Angels and the Silence.
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