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Doctor Who References on The Middleman

Date posted: August 26, 2008

classic Doctor Who monster the ZygonsI’ve been enjoying a show on ABC Family called The Middleman. I forget how I found out about it, since it’s on a channel I’d normally not watch, but I’ve been enjoying it a lot.

It’s very silly, but clever… almost an updated Avengers (definitely making nods to it anyway — the first episode had an extended sequence that was a spoof recreation of the opening theme to the Emma Peel Avengers — a shortened form of this serves as the opening titles for each episode of The Middleman). It’s also *kind* of like Torchwood but less angsty, “dark” and self-consciously “adult” the way Torchwood tends to be (to it’s detriment IMO).

Every episode is packed with references to science fiction of various genres, music, cult TV and film, etc., all layered into this really fun fast-paced dialogue that reminds me of an old ’30s or ’40s film (and also reminds me in a different way of the deliberately stilted dialogue in Pushing Daisies, which you *really* need to watch if you haven’t. Best new series in the last couple of years).

There’s a recurring character who is an android that’s supposed to blend in with a kind of “chameleon circuit” if you will (they don’t use that term) but which got stuck on the “cranky librarian” setting. I’d been suspecting it *might* be a very sly Who reference, but now I know it is.

Last night’s episode featured no less than 6 references to classic Doctor Who (plus a line about a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster). In almost every episode the two main characters will bluff their way into different situations using fake IDs, and in this one they pretend to be from NASA, and the Middleman identifies himself as Commander Benton (a reference to Sgt. Benton from UNIT) and refers to his assistant Wendy Watson as “Specialist Harriot” (a reference to the 2nd Doctor companion Zoe Harriot, played by Wendy Padbury)

classic Doctor Who companion Brigadier Lethbridge-StewartHe then grabs the ID of the person who he’s bluffing (someone who actually *is* from NASA) and reads the last name off the tag: Lethbridge-Stewart (as in Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart who heads UNIT in the classic series).

Two minutes later the Middleman wheels out a “Zygon-rated” containment unit (see above for image of a Zygon), and later in the episode someone mentions the name “Peri Perpugilliam” (referencing the 5th & 6th Doctor companion Peripugilliam “Peri” Brown), and finally a “McCrimmon University” is mentioned (like 2nd Doctor companion Jamie McCrimmon).

I admit I’m a sucker for Doctor Who references in TV and movies, but it’s especially satisfying to hear them on American TV — and not even a full week after the repeating “Doctor Who? I love that show!” reference in last week’s time loop episode of Eureka.

Update: The Middleman series was canceled (why is it the best shows are the first ones to get canceled on American TV??) and has been released on DVD and via iTunes. I am currently rewatching and enjoying the stories again. For anyone looking for the specific episode I mention above, I believe it’s episode 11, “The Clotharian Contamination Protocol”, available using the links below:

Download The Middleman complete series from iTunes

Get the Middleman complete series from Amazon.com

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