Posts Tagged With: doctor who series 4

Have I Got Whos For You (Multi-Doctor Special)

I think this’ll be the last batch post for a while. We’ve taken a good chunk out of the meme backlog, and while there are still quite a few to go up, they can stagger in as and when, like drunk students crashing back into halls of residence after a night down the union. At least one of them might involve a traffic cone.

Today’s theme – if you hadn’t guessed – involves images involving more than one Doctor, which is something I do quite a bit when the ideas come. They do seem to come thick and fast these das, which is an indicator that I have more free time than is strictly healthy, but at least one family member appears to be following in my footsteps. This is both encouraging and slightly alarming. A bit like life, really.

We begin with a couple of Doctors celebrating the summer solstice, which should give you an idea just how long some of these have been hanging around.

Meanwhile, in a nearby playground.

Time Lord songwriter’s workshops.

Impromptu lightsaber battles.

Derby walking tours.

Family reunions.

Posted without comment.

“This mirror’s brilliant; I look years younger.”

So there’s this guy I found on Facebook who takes pet photos and one thing sort of led to another.

“Bugger off, David.”

Time Lord mid-air collisions.

Edward set this up. Edward is five. I am worried about Edward.

Finally, in the TARDIS…

“Yeah, I’d give it five minutes.”

 

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Have I Got Whos For You (Tenth Doctor Special)

You know how this works by now, folks, so let’s crack on. Today we examine the lighter, darker and more idiosyncratic sides of poll winner and sex symbol extraordinaire, David Tennant – better known as the Tenth or Tenth and Eleventh or Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors, depending on how you count. But seriously, let’s not go there this morning. I haven’t the stomach for it, particularly not after all that Photoshopping.

First and foremost: alternative Alien 3 casting.

Boring Doctor Who episodes, #53.

Star Wars revisited.

Alarming discoveries in the Antarctic.

David Tennant, reluctant trumpet player.

Seasonal observations, part one.

We did Roald Dahl the other week, but any excuse.

“What a glorious feeling, I’m happy again…”

If you’ve seen Akira, then…

There, I fixed it.

I fixed it here as well.

And talking of beach farewells.

“When I finally do what frozen things do in summer…”

David Tennant, reluctant Oxford tryout.

Presented without apology.

“Ah.”

In later years, the Meta-Doctor would experience a midlife crisis, and an exasperated Rose would eventually leave him.

“Parachute? PARACHUTE?!?”

Seasonal observations, part two.

David Tennant, reluctant sunflower.

“I don’t wanna – actually, yeah. Yeah, I do.”

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The Smallerpictures video dump (part two)

Hello again. The catch-up session showcasing the most average Doctor Who material on the internet continues in earnest this morning – with four videos, all done over the course of a single month. This is unprecedented but they’re all fairly short and I was on a roll. And if you missed part one, you can find it here.

Right, where were we?

 

5. The Badger Song

The Badger Song is older than YouTube. I will let that sink in for a moment.

It hails from the days when Flash was cheap and easy to stream (and this is the moment some smart alec shows up in the comments and tell me it was animated with a different package). There’s something lovably silly about it; this fusion of badgers and fungi and SNAAAAAKES, a novelty record that is so thoroughly pointless that its lack of purpose itself becomes the point. The song turned fifteen at the beginning of September, so for obvious reasons I married it with footage from ‘The Sontaran Experiment’, ‘The Green Death’, ‘Kinda’ and ‘Snakedance’ – but first and foremost from ‘The Monster of Peladon’. MUSHROOM! MUSHROOM!

 

6. Day of the Doctor, Bonus Edition

Oh, Steven. What a can of worms you opened with this scene. It was a delicious, genuinely crowd-pleasing moment, but it makes no sense. I can accept that Capaldi turns up because the calculations weren’t quite done yet – but if that’s the case, how come Smith remembers the whole thing? Surely the persistence of memory is a luxury reserved solely for the oldest Doctor in residence? Or does it not count because there are several TARDIS doors and a few miles of space between them? And come to think of it, why is the First Doctor – whose control of his craft was so poor he could have shot for the moon from six feet away and missed – suddenly able to expertly pilot his TARDIS to precisely the right location at the exact moment he’s needed?

I wrote a little vignette over the summer that comes to explain – via extreme headcanon – precisely how the Twelfth Doctor came to be present in the skies over Gallifrey, but why on earth would you stop there? Because even if he’s the last, there are still a bunch of other Doctors you could use. Peter Cushing, for example, now that he’s supposedly canon. Or Rowan Atkinson. Or…well, I don’t want to spoil it. Suffice to say there were other incarnations I’d like to have shoehorned, but the lack of decent quality footage made it rather difficult. Needless to say I got some flak from this, largely from people who complained that it was anti-Whittaker. It categorically isn’t. But paranoia runs deep within the Whovian fandom; we live with it.

 

7. Ceiling Drop

Ha ha. Yes, we get it. It’s a glass ceiling and she’s broken it. Or somebody did. Either way it shatters, the fragments whirling and swirling around the new Doctor in a visually impressive, Matrix-style swoop. It’s not exactly subtle, and it does smack of troll-baiting, which may not be a bad thing (and certainly not something I’m about to condemn, seeing as it’s a hobby of mine). Whittaker glances through the fourth wall and mutters “Whoops”, which apparently gave her opponents all the ammunition they needed – “LOOK AT HER! SHE’S NOT A CARING DOCTOR!”. The rest of us rolled our eyes.

Several people pointed out that the ceiling is not unlike the one that Tennant fell through at the close of ‘The End of Time’ (supposedly Tredegar House in Newport, although having never watched Doctor Who Confidential I have no idea how they did that spaceship jump). I decided to splice them into a single sequence, kept deliberately short for the sake of not milking the joke. It just about hangs together, which is more than you can say for the ceiling.

 

8. There’s No Noddy

Believe it or not there is fan fiction about this scene. It features a flashback to the Eighth Doctor hanging out with Noddy and the other Toytown inhabitants. I think they were in a cave somewhere. Sadly there aren’t enough pictures of McGann’s Doctor on the internet and in any case no one does the deer-in-headlights look quite like Tennant, with the exception of Capaldi, and that doesn’t even make sense. I have thus pushed poor old Gareth Roberts’ amusing aside to breaking point, but the Photoshops were fun to do. You may be interested to learn that this little montage was playing in my head for years before I actually got round to making it, and it was always scored to ‘Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard’. So that’s what you can hear.

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Have I Got Whos For You (July Edition)

Howdy, peeps. How are we all coping with the hot weather? Anyone fancy an ice cream?

What’s been happening? Well, there’s leaked footage doing the rounds – I’ve seen it, although you will not see a link to it in here – and it’s all very…generic, isn’t it? Whittaker still doesn’t seem to quite inhabit the part yet, at least based on what’s out there – but it is the moment she meets her companions, very much post-regeneration, so it’s all going to be a bit weird. It’s a strange clip to show, in a way, because it won’t silence the haters – although I suspect the only thing that will is gag-shaped.

Anyway, in the absence of a new Doctor Who trailer, I sort of made my own.

 

For some reason or another, news broke of Who North America, situated just outside Indianapolis, and catering to all your Doctor Who merchandising needs, large and small. (They also have a Voyager arcade game, joy of joys.)

They acquired the property back in 2016, but last week that photos began circulating in earnest round social media, so perhaps they’ve only just opened their doors. Of course, it wasn’t long before this happened.

Elsewhere: National Selfie Day came and went.

And finally, news emerges of a brand new spin-off.

Bounce!

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The New Who Top Ten: #8

doctor-who-midnight

Number Eight: ‘Midnight’ (2008)

This morning: there’s a waterfall made of sapphires, but you’ll never get to see it. There’s a marooned shuttle in the middle of nowhere, in the thick of a lethal radiated atmosphere. And then the knocking begins…

My children are ambivalent towards ‘Midnight’, largely because they like to know what the Doctor’s fighting against. An invisible entity that paralyses spacecraft, possesses at will, evolves swiftly and kills without thought? Fine, but where are the tentacles? The absence of anything tangible is, of course, the best thing about it: a creature that is unnamed, unseen and about which we still know precisely nothing – save its apparent malevolence – when the credits have rolled. When no information is provided, the mind will fill in the blanks, and all too often, what we visualise is dark and monstrous. (Myself, I’m still thinking about giant invisible chickens.)

Sacrifice

Despite my enthusiasm for Donna, I’m glad she’s not here for this one. It is a story that purposely isolates the Doctor, and the absence of a companion works in its favour. The episode is mostly a one-set affair: a small, self-contained shuttle that the cast are not allowed to leave, because the outside will kill them, which is all well and good until something finds its way in. There is a strong sense of claustrophobia that echoes Night of the Living Dead, although thematically there are nods to Alien and, in particular, a Next Generation episode called ‘Darmok’, in which a simple language barrier almost start a war. It’s the sort of story that could only would have worked with Picard; I suspect Kirk would have just blasted the crap out of them and put his shirt back on.

The whole point of the Living Dead films, of course – particularly the first and third – was that there would inevitably come a point where the terrifying horrors banging on the door would play second fiddle to the monsters inside. In other words, the occupants of the house / underground base / whatever swiftly became their own worst enemy, with infighting and betrayal a far worse prospect, in many ways, than having your flesh ripped. It’s a common scenario. Watching a crisis worsen when people start fighting among themselves holds a kind of universal appeal, and it is perhaps easier to relate to this than it is to a zombie infestation. There’s a scene near the end of Aliens where a sweating, barely alive Sigourney Weaver confronts the treacherous Burke, who has just tried to have her impregnated with a xenomorphic embryo. “I don’t know which species is worse,” she says. “You don’t see them fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage.”

Sky-Silvestry-midnight

The fact that ‘Midnight’ echoes these themes is in itself unremarkable, but that this results in such a catastrophic loss of control for the central character is the episode’s key strength. Classic Who had a certain sense of formula about it, in that stories would routinely see the Doctor and his companion(s) land somewhere just as a body turns up, become falsely accused of murder / subterfuge / industrial espionage and then imprisoned. If Davies introduced the psychic paper as a counterpoint, we had surely, by this stage, gone too far the other way, and the ability of Tennant in particular to swan into any situation and command the attention of the entire room was becoming irritating. ‘Midnight’ strips this away to its core by having a group of passengers who ask all the questions we’ve been secretly hoping would be asked all these years and refuse to accept the answers they’re given, not only mistrusting the Doctor but actively planning his assassination just a couple of minutes from the end. It’s theorised that the alien’s influence extends beyond its possession of Mrs Silvestry, and that it is somehow able to affect mood and plant suggestions. Personally, I choose to believe that’s not really the case.

Because ultimately, as a concept, ‘Midnight’ speaks to all of us – and that’s what makes its placement within a Whovian context so striking. The simple setting, strong sense of character development and dialogue-heavy script (more on that in a moment, but suffice to say that this episode may contain more talking than any other episode of Doctor Who in the show’s history) mean that it would be ideally suited for a stage adaptation: indeed, I’m told that they’ve actually done this, removing all references to the Doctor and allowing it to stand alone as a tale of intrigue, suspicion and paranoia. Nonetheless, portraying it as a Tenth Doctor story – particularly a relatively late one, when Tennant is well into his stride – is a clever stunt. The following year, the Doctor would crash-land on a desert planet with a bunch of Londoners, and spend the rest of the episode inexplicably trying to get back home to meet Lee Evans. ‘Planet of the Dead’, whatever Russell T Davies tells you about it being “the last time the Doctor gets to have any fun”, is not exactly Tennant’s finest hour. But watch it back to back with this one, if you can bear it. You’ll see what I mean.

There is a lot of chatter. But there’s more to it than that: dialogue ceases to be a way of communicating information and becomes a writer’s plaything, a tool to be exploited. It’s standard practice in literary circles, but it’s a rare joy when it happens in the likes of Who. The whole episode is about the creature learning language, and Davies does this by having characters repeat lines and then say them in absolute synchronicity, in a series of exchanges that annoyed many but which I found quite dazzling.

There is strong support from the likes of Colin Morgan, as the sulky but intelligent Jethro (his look of despair as the Doctor is about to be thrown out is quite wonderful), as well as David Troughton as Professor Hobbes and Lindsey Coulson as the thoroughly unlikeable Val. Special mention also goes to Lesley Sharp, who is frankly a revelation – fragile and damaged for reasons unknown, and then utterly consumed by evil, with the facial tics and head movements perhaps the only thing even more breathtaking than her capacity for dialogue. But it’s Tennant’s story – and the exhausted, quite ‘different’ Doctor who emerges at the end of the episode, greeting Donna with a silent embrace, is unexpectedly moving. The humility doesn’t last, of course. But while it does, it’s wonderful.

4x10-Midnight-doctor-who-1881186-946-528

Cameron’s Episode: ‘Human Nature

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The New Who Top Ten: #10

9-early

It seems funny to think that it’s been ten years since I was a young upstart working in academic publishing, making the most of the office broadband connection in order to read BBC articles about the upcoming revival of Doctor Who. It was early spring 2005, and everyone was fairly excited. We’d seen trailers showing animated shop dummies, ghosts and a spaceship crashing into Big Ben (well, the clock tower that contains it, although I’m sure they hit the bell on their way down). Farting aliens, irritating love stories and the arm-folding shouts of ‘Fantastic’ that would define at least the first series of Russell T. Davies’ reign were still a world away, and in the meantime the imminent ‘series one’ was little more than an intoxicating world of wonders waiting to be discovered.

A decade later, with four more children than I had the first time Eccleston put on the leather jacket, I’ll admit that I’m very jaded about this revived Doctor Who. Those of you who read this regularly will know that I spend a lot of time whinging about story arcs, companion-centric universes and ontological inanity – to the extent that the list that begins today will feature, you will note, absolutely nothing from the last series. It’s nothing personal. I’m a big fan of this new Doctor. Capaldi’s fiery and glacial and wonderful, embodying Hartnell and Pertwee and even bits of Colin Baker. He just doesn’t have the stories he deserves, although I live in hope that this will change.

But enough of that for now. It would be nice to spend a couple of weeks accentuating the positive. Over at Metro, where I write occasionally, the very talented Cameron McEwan is doing a top ten countdown of New Who episodes, one story a day – so it makes perfect sense to do our own here, in parallel. Well, sort of parallel. He’s writing “episodes you have to see”, which is a little different to the somewhat more subjective “best episodes”. But it may be interesting to see how our lists compare, so I will link to Cameron’s posts as we go (not that he needs the traffic). And we start with…

Vesuvius_Erupts

Number 10: ‘Fires of Pompeii’ (2008)

Let’s get one thing straight: I bloody love Donna Noble. If New Who were a recruitment consultancy staffed by giggly hormonal teenage girls (and many recruitment consultancies are), she would be the branch manager, older and wiser and more grounded. She crash-lands in the TARDIS as the most irritating sidekick since Mel – with hair to match – and then is completely transformed. She is that rare breed: a New Who companion who undergoes a character arc that doesn’t leave me fired up with loathing and irritation.

Oh, for sure it all goes to pot in those final episodes. The Doctor-Donna thing is mind-numbingly tedious, and the Dalek-crushing, super-intelligent Donna in ‘Journey’s End’ is borderline offensive (what, she couldn’t save the universe on her own; she needed the Doctor’s brains?). But her transformation prior to that convergence is wonderful, and most refreshingly of all it’s done with comparative restraint, at least for this period in the show’s history: it’s nice to have a companion in the TARDIS who genuinely doesn’t want to shag the Doctor, and while the “No, we’re not a couple” gags quickly become tiresome, just for a change, the lady doth not protest too much.

"WOTAN!"

“WOTAN!”

‘Pompeii’ is early Donna. It’s her baptism of fire, in an almost literal sense. She is a willing traveller and the Doctor the most reluctant of hosts (the look on Tennant’s face at the end of ‘Partners in Crime’ as Tate loads her suitcases into the TARDIS is absolutely priceless). She reacts to the site of ancient Rome (or what she and the Doctor believe to be Rome) by addressing one of the street vendors in Latin, just to see what will happen. She takes the sight of fiery volcanic monsters in her stride, crying “You fought her off with a water pistol; I bloody love you!”. And she implores the Doctor to intervene in a raging, tear-stained exchange as Pompeii burns – although her high point arguably comes a few scenes earlier, when she clasps a hand over the Doctor’s inside the escape pod, as the two of them silently make history together. (It’s a scene Moffat would visit – however unconsciously – years later, at a pivotal moment in ‘Day of the Doctor’.)

But good as she is, Tate isn’t even the best thing about this episode. That honour goes to Phil Davis, in a performance described as “scowling” by Digital Spy: Lucius is a wrathful soothsayer who starts out intense and builds to fire and brimstone of Biblical proportions. It’s possibly the most angry performance in New Who and Davis hams it up like the villains of old. Not for him the balanced, morally ambiguous Machiavellian of ‘Timelash’ or the complex morality of ‘Genesis of the Daleks’. This is Omega territory. We could be back in 1973. In a way, we very nearly are. The entire episode has an almost overblown feel to it, as if James Moran wanted to write a contemporary story in the style of the Doctor Who he knew years ago.

4x02-The-Fires-of-Pompeii-doctor-who-1899528-960-528

‘Fires of Pompeii’ is infamous, of course, for featuring an early appearance from a red-swathed Karen Gillan as well as a supporting role from a future Doctor. It gave Moffat the excuse for yet another over-arching mystery in a tedious scene in ‘Deep Breath’ (one to which I’m sure we’ll return at some point) but the episode really deserves a stronger legacy than this. ‘Fires of Pompeii’ is gratuitously ham-fisted, and is as invested in silliness as it is in the moral debate that forms the narrative thrust of the third act. But there’s a satisfying consistency that runs right through to the ending, and the Doctor’s decision to save Caecilius and his family – however inconsequential in the grand scheme of things – feels as much in character as does his initial decision to abandon them. When Tennant opens the door of his TARDIS, bathed in light, peeking through the fourth wall and beckoning both the helpless Romans and the entire audience to “come with me”, you can’t help but cheer. And that’s my general reaction to the entire episode. It’s crowd-pleasing, but sometimes that’s not a bad thing. Even with Doctor Who.

dw08comewithmeyp3

 

Cameron’s Episode: ‘Turn Left’

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Four have fun on a Sunday

Walking the Ridgeway with Joshua.”So Daddy, why can’t the Doctor just go back in time and stop that Dalek from shooting him?”
“Because he can’t travel back over his own timeline. Just not done. Ever.”
“I see.”
“Besides, if he hadn’t been shot, he wouldn’t have had the near-regeneration that eventually created the second Doctor. Donna would then have died in the fire when the TARDIS fell into the core. And they wouldn’t have saved the Earth.”
“That’s right!”
“So that’s why – ”
“And then there would have just been a blank screen and a lot of  screaming and wailing as everyone in the whole universe got killed.”
“…Yes.”

 
 

“WOTAN!”

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“It’s midnight in the library”

The Doctor was standing on top of a balcony, overlooking a vast metropolis of futuristic-looking buildings that sat beneath a vanilla sky. It could have been anywhere in the universe, but he had Donna Noble with him, which would make it 2008 in real time (2009 in the Whoniverse, but we won’t get into that now). It was eerily quiet.

“You know what?” said the Doctor, after a moment. “This is the biggest library in the universe. So where is everyone? It’s silent.”

Thomas, sitting next to me on the sofa, said “Maybe it’s closed…”

For Thomas, this is a pretty sharp observation. It’s also astute political commentary, not only given the problems we’re having in this country but also coming the same day that a friend of mine informed me of a stunt to save a library in Michigan by staging a book-burning. (Make sure you watch the whole thing. The techniques used therein are somewhat underhand, but it worked, and it is nice to see the Tea Party get a kick up the backside occasionally.)

But I don’t do politics, at least not on this blog. Instead we watched an hour and a half of the Vashta Nerada (which, I’ve just Googled, can be rearranged to form ‘H: Data Save Ran’, which kind of fits with the episode. It has Alex Kingston before she became smug and irritating. It has Miss Evangelista, who gets processed and winds up looking like this:

Which freaked out Joshua no end. It has the usual Moffat preoccupation with interesting-scenes-delivered-through-technology, partly when Cal is speaking with the Doctor through the TV screen, and used to its greatest extent here:
——

MISS EVANGELISTA: Hello? Are you there?

Donna shakes her head in horror.

DOCTOR (whispering): Help her.

DONNA: She’s dead.

DOCTOR: Yeah. Help her.

MISS EVANGELISTA: Hello? Is that the nice woman?

DONNA: Yeah. Hello. Yeah, I’m, I’m… I’m here. You OK?

MISS EVANGELISTA: What I said before, about being stupid. Don’t tell the others, they’ll only laugh.

DONNA: Course I won’t. Course I won’t tell them.

MISS EVANGELISTA: Don’t tell the others, they’ll only laugh…

DONNA: I won’t tell them. I said I won’t.

MISS EVANGELISTA: Don’t tell the others, they’ll only laugh.

DONNA: I’m not going to tell them.

The lights of the neural relay are now blinking.

MISS EVANGELISTA: Don’t tell the others, they’ll only laugh.

RIVER: She’s looping now. The pattern’s degrading.

MISS EVANGELISTA: I can’t think, I…don’t know, I… I… I… Ice cream. Ice cream. Ice cream. Ice cream.

She keeps repeating those words.

RIVER: Does anybody mind if I…?

She steps to the skeleton and turns off the relay.

DONNA: That was… that was horrible. That was the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen.
——

I maintain – even four years later – that this is the best scene Moffat’s written for the show, and the Doctor’s hardly in it at all.

So we watched the Doctor snap open the TARDIS doors, and River making kinky jokes about handcuffs (sadly marking, even at this early stage, the beginning of her decline into a sex-obsessed harpy) and another of Moffat’s Villains That Talk Without Moving Their Mouths:

In fairness, the Empty Child was probably speaking behind the mask. And in fairness, Moffat didn’t come up with the Ood, or the Host, or the Cybermen, for that matter, but you can see what I mean. I do love them, because they’re frightfully easy to dub, but they have become a bit of a Thing.

Anyway, the ‘next time’ trailer was for this:

As I recall this episode polarised people, but I confess I’ve always liked it. I always felt it would work well on stage: it has that kind of claustrophobic, dialogue driven compressed violence that is so common in theatre. The characterisation is reasonably strong for a forty-minute science fiction drama, and it’s nice to see the Doctor apparently facing genuine jeopardy for a change without having a companion on hand to save him.

The point of the teaser is just that – to tease – to the extent that the reveal only happens at the very end, if it happens at all. And of course, in ‘Midnight’, there’s nothing to reveal. Inevitably, this disappointed Joshua.

“Oh, but we didn’t see the monster.”
“No, we didn’t.”
“But what is it?”
“Spoilers, sweetie.”
“Please tell me.”
“You’ll have to wait.”
“But please.”
“Oh, all right,” I said, squatting on the floor and pressing the DVD back into its case. “I’ll tell you: I don’t know.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean I don’t know. We never really find out.”
“So we don’t see it at all?”
“…Not really, no.”
“Why not?”
“Because the writers thought it would be more fun that way.”
“Oh,” he said, confused.
“Come on. Time to sleep,” I said, leading them both down the corridor.
“Daddy, wait. Just stop. Turn around.”
“Why?”
“Just do it. Oh, phew. Only one shadow.”
“See, I was right there with that. It was going to be my next joke, and you got there first. Now: into bed,” I said, entering the darkened room. Before adding “Hey! Who turned out the lights!”
“Daddy, stop it.”

He didn’t go to sleep until gone ten. I am bowed down by guilt.

Categories: New Who | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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