Posts Tagged With: the time of the doctor

Have I Got Whos For You (Seasonal Edition)

We’ve got something quite special turning up here at Brian of Morbius over the next day or two, but right now it’s half past six in the morning and I’m just taking a few minutes to do a meme catchup before these go completely out of date. In culinary terms, this is the blogging equivalent of that thing where you get all the leftovers out of the fridge and whisk them into a soup. I suppose. Sorry if that doesn’t work, I’ve not had coffee yet…

We open with a deleted scene from the recent finale to The Mandalorian, indicating that the series’ big reveal was originally planned much, much earlier.

I don’t know what it is; I tried every which way but when you paste it onto Matt Smith’s body it just doesn’t look like Luke Skywalker. Is this because it never did? And we simply bought it because the he had a lightsaber in his hand, had just jumped out of an X-Wing and the whole thing bore an uncanny resemblance to the ending of Rogue One? Or is my Photoshopping off this week? I’d say I think we should be told, but I can’t help thinking it’s not important in the grand scheme of things.

In any case, it’s not the first time I’ve done a Doctor Who / Mandalorian crossover and I suspect it won’t be the last.

<coughs>

Elsewhere, in a TARDIS somewhere in England, the rollout of the much-anticipated Covid vaccine is not going down with everyone, in a quite literal sense.

There are complaints when it’s revealed the Brexit Deal wasn’t quite as oven-ready as we were told.

And having nothing else to do, movie fans have launched into an epidemic of overreacting to unnecessary changes and miscast musical roles.

“AND THAT’S FOR RUINING THE PROM, YOU TWAT!”

We couldn’t end without doing something Christmassy. So here’s an unused still from series 12, part five.

—–

Trouble looms when Clara pops round to Matt Smith’s TARDIS to ask whether he’s got the turkey on.

—–

And trouble also looms beneath a Christmas tree in Oxfordshire when two unsuspecting action figures come up against a deadly enemy.

“Run, Bill! It’s Santa Claws!”

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Have I Got Whos For You (election omnibus edition)

As I write this, they’re still counting the ballots. Thus we open, perhaps inevitably, with a NASA update.

Waiting for this thing to wrap is like waiting for a new series of Doctor Who. Ninety per cent of it is simply reading arguments on Twitter, casually dissecting soundbites, tossing out manufactured evidence of hidden agendas and realising that whatever the end result, you’re going to have a whole bunch of people who aren’t happy with it. And inevitably James Corden is going to show up somewhere. It is tedious, this game of hourly refreshes and working out how fast the numbers are rising. And we endure it with the same morbid fascination we assign to a car crash, only this is considerably nastier. And so we endlessly swipe down on the phone, hoping that the display will refresh with something new and interesting and perhaps even definitive, and when it doesn’t we go back to the box sets.

“No, it’s just you need something to take your mind off it. Now, which one do you want to watch?”

Doctor Who has its fair share of displaced despots, of course. They usually come to a bad end. Sometimes they’re thrown from the roofs of convention centres. More often they’ll see the light at the eleventh hour, early enough for redemption, if not salvation. Usually they’re trying to forge a pact with the Cybermen, or (even more foolishly) the Daleks; these people have clearly never watched the show. But they have one thing in common: they usually die alone.

Even Fox News, who we thought would be stalwart Trump supporters to the end, have been gradually shifting their stance ever since the moment it became apparent that he might actually come in second. It began some months ago with a rare editorial that appeared to condemn his handling of certain issues, and then over the last few days there have been pockets of anomalies that have instantly trended: most notorious, the early calling of Arizona that prompted a furious phone call from Trump to Rupert Murdoch. It’s by no means done and dusted – I’ve had a friend tell me just this morning that he’s sat through half an hour of rhetoric that to all intents and purposes was an incitement to violence – but even within that there are pepperings of disapproval, the suggestion that he should accept defeat with dignity, which is a little like asking Bruno Tonioli to tone down the theatrics.

If I were an optimist I’d say that it reflects a more considered, editorially balanced stance, one that even leans in the direction of impartiality. But the likely truth is that Fox are the rats deserting the sinking ship. They called this months ago, and have spent the build-up to the election – and its immediate aftermath – in a gradual shift away from the apparent losers, mixed in with the same dogged approval in the vain hopes that we wouldn’t notice. And meanwhile, having lost all but his fiercest defenders, Trump remains, increasingly isolated and shouting at the advancing waves, insisting that he can win this even as every hour that passes only seems to reinforce the likelihood that he cannot.

“I STILL HAVE CONTROL OF THE CRUCIBLE!”

Did they cheat? Well, I’m really not in a position to say whether there’s been mail-in fraud: I’ve yet to see any evidence beyond viral videos of ballot burning that were later debunked, and whenever anyone from the GOP is asked to produce anything that’s actually credible the result is a spaghetti western’s worth of tumbleweed. Could it be that they’re just so determined to win at all costs they’ll say anything they like and hope that if they say it with sufficient volume and frequency, people will start believing it? Probably. It worked for Nigel Farage. It worked for the Mail. It probably works for Kim Jong-Un. And it rubs off. I’m not saying that everyone who voted for him is a deluded idiot – right or wrong, I suspect that it’s possible to come to the conclusion that he’s the right man for the job from a position of rational intelligence, as opposed to the slavish adulation that won him the vote. But the sensible people aren’t the ones who appear on TV. Certainly the image of Trump supporters, frantically bombarding the polling stations in undeclared states – demanding that all activity cease in states where he was winning and ardently continue in states where he was losing – brought one particular recollection to mind.

While all this has been going on, the UK has watched with a mixture of mirth and revulsion. The fact that America seems to be on the verge of a civil war is enough to conjure a certain sense of already seen, as the French might have said: when it comes to divisive political gambits that split the country we have form, I don’t think we’re in any position to be smug about it. Certainly the bulk of British people I’ve encountered online seem to see Trump as a joke, but he has his defendants, and they are as ardent (and frequently as ill-informed) as many of their Transatlantic counterparts. It all gets a little depressing when you’re scrolling through a Facebook feed to look for entertainment news, and everyone and their grandmother has an opinion about the election, and most of the time they can’t actually spell. But hey, at least there’s a new series of The Mandalorian.

“Yeah, they want it back now.”

Speaking of entertainment news, it was mostly about one man this week: the Hollywood legend and whisky aficionado (and, we must acknowledge, beater of women) that is Sean Connery. The first man to play James Bond on the big screen, he remains for many the definitive 007 (although the definitive Bond film is arguably The Spy Who Loved Me; certainly that’s the best of them). In later years his career was defined by memorable supporting roles in average films – The Untouchables springs to mind – along with a few absolute clangers (step forward, The Avengers) and one or two genuine classics (Finding Forrester).

But there was a point at which Connery ceased to be an actor and became an icon. It happens to many of the best: it’s happened to Michael Caine, who, as good as he is in the likes of Children of Men, is always playing Michael Caine. Similarly, at an unspecified point in cinema, right about the time he became a national treasure, Sean Connery largely stopped playing characters and started playing Sean Connery. And it didn’t matter whether he was playing Richard the Lionheart, Allan Quatermain, or Indiana Jones’ dad.

“What about the boat? We’re not going on the boat?”

Connery was, of course, one of those people we thought would never leave us, who lived out his twilight years quietly on the other side of the ocean, except when the press wanted a soundbite about Scottish independence. It is difficult to imagine Trump going gently into that good night: he’s more the David Tennant type, thrashing and screaming and eking out every last available second of his allocated time, arguably overstaying his welcome, before standing alone, even as he can hear the knocks on the door, murmuring “I don’t wanna go…”

If nothing else, it’s taken our minds off Covid, inasmuch as anything really can. We’ve supposedly entered Lockdown 2.0, although I’m really not sure how that works because we never really had a 1.1 or 1.4 or any sort of beta, unless you count the regional isolation programmes that hit the north of England in September and October. Indeed, the government is keen to avoid the word ‘lockdown’, precisely because of the negative connotations it brings to mind, and prefers to call it an advanced containment programme or something else I can’t be bothered to Google.

Myself, I prefer to call a spade a spade (is that racist now? Please tell me if it is; I can’t find a reliable source). Apart from bubbles and schools, it’s more or less as it was. The pubs are closed, and we’re not allowed to go out, except to exercise and acquire essentials. I guess it’s back to the Series 10 rewatch.

“You’ve been panic buying, haven’t you?”

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Have I Got Whos For You (beachcombing edition)

“Right. This is gonna be fun.”

I’m at a loss. The hottest day of the year, and you go to the beach? Not only the beach, but one of the busiest, most popular beaches in the country? What, did you think that no one else was going to have the same idea? Or did you think it was like those voting cartoons where everyone assumes that they’re the only ones who feel this way and so nothing gets done?

I mean, it’s Bournemouth. We don’t go to Bournemouth, even though it’s the nearest place with any sand, at least as far from here. We’ll drive up the road to Southborne. Or Boscombe, which is quite pleasant since they did it up and which has its own police box. (Yes, it’s still there, at least it was last August.) If we’re feeling particularly adventurous we may – emphasis on the may – walk along to Bournemouth city centre (God knows you can’t park there), if it’s the middle of autumn, or a weekday. But in the middle of furlough, in thirty degree heat? Yes, I could have driven my family there, or I could have taken them on a hike through the Danakil Desert instead, which would have been mildly more sensible.

Anyway: it’s Canada Day, so here, for no reason at all, is a picture of Peter Capaldi accompanied by a moose.

My parents went to Canada years ago. They didn’t see any moose, although there was a bear or two. At the beginning of the year, before all this, Emily and I had a spa day at a local hotel – one of those Groupon things – and while we were swimming casual lengths the two of us considered blowing some of my mother’s inheritance on an all-out trip to New York and Canada in the summer. Then there were bats and jokes about coughing and then it all stopped being funny, so we’re glad we’d already postponed it until next year.

Meanwhile, the Eleventh Doctor’s been in lockdown so long, he’s beside himself.

There are many ways to cope. For example, I’ve been going back through Grand Theft Auto 5, doing all the bits I never got round to doing on my first playthrough, a few years back. You can cycle up mount Chilead, learn to fly a plane, get in a few rounds at the golf club – oh, and do yoga. I was perusing Google images on International Yoga Day, just the other week, when I noticed that one of the classes depicted in stock photos seemed to have picked up a stowaway.

 

Art news now, and in Spain, hidden cameras reveal the culprit in the botched restoration of Murillo’s The Immaculate Conception.

And as the entertainment world mourns the loss of venerated actor Sir Ian Holm, the Doctor introduces Clara to the new version of Handles.

We return briefly to politics, as Matt Hancock, having failed to correctly name Marcus Rashford on Good Morning Britain, drops another clanger outside Downing Street.

Deleted scenes from ‘Daleks In Manhattan’ clearly show the influence on Boris Johnson’s post-lockdown strategy.

And during a crisis at the local hospital, the Doctor inadvertently places the world in jeopardy when he elects to demonstrate his fitness levels to Amy and Rory.

“No, really. I’m fit as a butcher’s dog. I can do loads of press-ups. Hang on, I’ll show you…”

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Have I Got Whos For You (seasonal cheer edition)

I’m on a bit of a clock today, so this is going to be light on the text front. We’ll just get on with the pictures, shall we?

This week in world news: while posing for that Time Magazine cover, Greta Thunberg inadvertently blunders into a scene from series 7.

There are disturbing developments at a pub in Suffolk.

And in a deleted scene from Game of Thrones, Bryn Terfel is coming.

Also coming soon: the Eleventh Doctor stars in The Collect Call of Cthulhu.

And Tom Hanks, fresh from promoting Mr Rogers or whatever he’s doing now, begins work on the upcoming Forrest of the Dead.

Speaking of the Eleventh Doctor, news emerges of an abandoned exchange from his regeneration story in which Clara voices what we’ve all been thinking for years.

And Chris Chibnall capitalises on Boris Johnson’s Love Actually parody to bring us this.

Last but not least: filming for the new Ghostbusters trailer is interrupted by an unexpected visitor.

“Seriously, Amy? Again?”

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Review: ‘The Time of the Doctor’

Time of the Doctor (6)

“He’s too old!”

The words rang out loud and clear from the armchair. It was the first thing my mother had said for the duration of the episode, and it came as the closing credits rolled.

I turned to her, aghast. “What did you say?”

“That new chap. He’s too old to play the Doctor.”
“The Doctor’s about sixteen hundred years old at this point! He’s an old man!”
“But they always cast a younger man.”
“They have in recent years. They didn’t used to. The first Doctor was fifty-five.”
“Well, yes,” she said, “but they should have someone who’s nice to look at. You know, for the TV magazine spreads.”
“Really,” I said, hoping that Peter Capaldi’s wife doesn’t read this blog (somehow I doubt it). “A pin-up star, you mean? Like Hartnell, or Troughton? Or John Pertwee? Or Colin Baker? Or Sylvester McCoy?”

She shrugged. “I just think he’s too old, that’s all.”
“What do you care? You don’t even watch the show!

I’m guessing that when Steven Moffat sat down to write ‘The Time of the Doctor’, he was desperate to have Matt Smith do some Actual Acting during his Whovian swansong. He did this by having him face off against all the principal villains he’s encountered, in a wintry landscape where the snow stands in for the emotional resonance usually caused by falling rain (it’s a standard directorial trick that if you want to make people cry in a scene that isn’t working, bring on the rain) and at the expense of any actual plot. What’s more, he has Smith play three roles, all of whom are basically the same, but which require additional levels of prosthetics under which we can actually believe that a thirty-two-year-old man was walking with a cane, visiting the British Legion and collecting his pension once a fortnight.

Time of the Doctor (10)

The image of an elderly Doctor is nothing new to anyone who’s ever seen ‘The Leisure Hive’, of course, but Moffat gets away with it here by having the Doctor stay in the town of Christmas for hundreds of years, during which time it does not appear to evolve or progress one iota. When we first encounter its inhabitants they’re living inside a Truth Field, which prevents anyone from telling a lie. Moffat utilises this gimmick by having the Doctor and Clara get briefly confessional, but it felt like something a missed opportunity, because they could have used it to answer some of the show’s most oft-asked questions, such as “How old are you, honestly?” and “Why did Christopher Eccleston actually leave?” and “Timelash? Really?”.

The entire episode reads like a roll call of the casual Whovians’ most wanted. Daleks? Check. Sontarans? Two of them, and once more they’re reduced to casual comic relief (and both played, of course, by Dan Starkey) in a cameo that screamed “This didn’t belong here, but I promised my niece”. There’s a wooden Cyberman, which the Doctor manages to destroy with an indirect lie, causing it to shoot itself. The Silents / Silence are wearing dog collars. Oh, and out in the forest, the weeping angels have been having a snowball fight.

Time of the Doctor (1) Time of the Doctor (2) Time of the Doctor (4) Time of the Doctor (3)

The reason for this massing of villainy? They’re all gathering around a planet called Trenzelore, which – as anyone who’s been watching the show regularly should know – is where the Doctor is buried, bearing out the prophecy of Dorium Maldovar. Meanwhile, the Papal Church is gathering above in a gigantic structure that resembles a Borg cube that’s been opened up so that you can change the batteries. Oh, and there’s that crack again.

Time of the Doctor (5)

Moffat then weaves everything together in a sort of haphazard maelstrom. It’s clear he’s been building to this, and it’s clear that he’s known where it’s been heading, in much the same way that J.K. Rowling allegedly knew how the Harry Potter books would end before she even started writing them. But like most men, he’s incapable of actually reading the map properly, and the route to the destination is hopelessly fudged. Moffat doesn’t just revisit old ideas, he revisits old plots. The image of hordes of aliens gathering over a planet’s surface, all afraid to attack first, was one he used in ‘The Pandorica Opens’. Coincidentally, this episode also featured a righteously angry Matt Smith shouting up at the sky.

Pandorica

‘The Pandorica Opens’ isn’t the only episode to be referenced in this glorious display of self-borrowing. So, too, Clara’s last-minute pleading echoes ‘Cold War’ and ‘The Rings of Akhaten’, which coincidentally featured a huge cast of different alien species, and a righteously angry Matt Smith shouting up at the sky.

rings-of-akhaten-next-time-trailer

I mean, I’m OK with the idea of the Time Lords granting the Doctor an extra regeneration cycle. We know they can do that, because they did it with the Master, and Rassilon, and who knows who else. I’m even OK – just about – with Clara’s impassioned pleading, even though the fact that it’s the Time Lords asking the question actually makes no sense, because they should damn well know who he is, given that they have access to the Matrix. But seriously. When the new cycle is granted, it’s done in the form of golden sparkly magic dust that comes down from the sky. I will repeat that, in case you’re skim-reading out of general boredom: Golden sparkly magic dust that comes down from the sky.

Time of the Doctor (7)

The image of regenerative energy as a tangible object, that the Doctor can move and redirect, is bad enough – although that’s one thing I can’t blame on Moffat. But this smacks of creating an appealing visual at the expense of anything that actually makes any sense. What’s worse, he then uses this golden sparkly stuff to destroy a Dalek warship in a scene of apparent mass murder that feels most unfitting given that this material is, quite literally, the stuff of life. It’s no sillier than having Timothy Dalton chuck a diamond into a holographic model of the Earth in ‘The End of Time’, but that doesn’t excuse its inclusion. The whole scene also reminded me inescapably of Santa Claus: The Movie, in which Dudley Moore mass-produces magic lollipops for John Lithgow that contain a secret ingredient.

santa_claus_02

And then, you know, there’s Tree-Fu Tom.

Tree_Fu_Tom_3_magic_thanks

“Right! Copy me. Into your spell pose. Take one finger, and put it into your mouth, as if you’re retching. Now the other finger. Now, take your hand and stick it as far up your arse as you can. Now the other hand. Now clap, and say ‘super-regenerate’ to send the magic to me. SUPER…REGENERATE!”

If I’m being flippant here, Moffat started it. The episode is awash with bad dialogue and general silliness, and not in the quirky, ironic way that made ‘The Day of the Doctor’ such a winner. Instead, we’re told that the Doctor is “the man who stayed for Christmas”, which should be sweet and inspiring at the same time, but which instead echoes the dreadful pun at the end of The World Is Not Enough, in which Bond, about to have his wicked way with the unfortunately named Christmas Jones, declares “I thought Christmas only came once a year”. Amusing, too, is the image of the Doctor and the Silence standing ‘back to back’ as they go into battle – whereupon the Doctor presumably forgets they’re there at all and goes off to check on the turkey. Guest stars are wasted, and the story is so convoluted and nonsensical I really can’t be bothered writing about it in any detail. There are no hugely obvious holes, but that’s because Moffat’s woven the tightest of abstract tapestries – opaque, but ultimately indecipherable.

One thing ‘The Time of the Doctor’ does, however poor the execution, is put a cap on the regeneration thing. It’s been a point of hot debate for years now, as the clock ticks on (I was about to describe it as the elephant in the room, but an elephant is something you don’t talk about, and it’s often difficult to get the fanboys to talk about anything else). Moffat’s taken the bull by the horns and accelerated the Doctor’s life, inserting a whole new ‘hidden’ Doctor along the way, and then having our hero reach botox-inflated middle age after three hundred years of Christmas dinners and ringing the clock tower bell. The fact that he manages two hundred years of hedonistic philandering without ageing a day in ‘The Wedding of River Song’ is conveniently overlooked, and I’m happy to let this go because Time Lords have a different physiology and regeneration is regeneration, which means that you can do it how you like.

The regeneration itself is, at least, relatively quick, even if the build-up isn’t. Gareth suggests it could have worked on the clock tower, when Smith is in full King Lear mode, but New Who regenerations only seem to happen in the control room, presumably because of the technical and logistical specifics involved. So we get a newly youthful Eleventh Twelfth Thirteenth Doctor talking about “never forgetting when the Doctor was me”, and then there’s a quick cut to Clara, and then bang! it’s Peter Capaldi, who has in his post-regenerative confusion apparently forgotten how to fly the TARDIS. Well, it never stopped Patrick Troughton.

Time of the Doctor (8)

My mother was confused. “You see, before,” she said, hearkening back to ‘Logopolis’ and ‘The Caves of Androzani’, the only two she’s seen, “they used to lie down, didn’t they? And then they’d get up and be somebody else.”

“Yes,” I said. “Traditionally, the Doctor is mortally wounded, and collapses, and then regenerates while he’s on the floor. But since 2005, he’s been doing it standing up.”
“Really?”
“Oh, yes. Times move on. Look, it’s like birth positions. They used to have you sitting on your bed for the whole of labour. These days they encourage you to get up and walk around.”

Capaldi has less than ten seconds to make his mark and assess his internal organs, and it would be pointless to speculate on his voice, choice of dialogue or anything else, or even describe him as ‘Hapless’ (as the Independent did, rather unfairly). He gets to make his mark next year. The episode is really all about Smith, and the surprise appearance of Karen Gillan. Certainly Smith’s youthful appearance in his final scene, although justified (just about) by the plot as part of the regenerative process, has deeper significance. “Look,” Moffat is saying to us. “Here’s Matt Smith. He looks young, but he can play old. And isn’t that great? And besides, isn’t this the way you’d like to remember him, rather than covered in makeup?”

Time of the Doctor (9)

But it’s not the way I’d choose to remember him. Smith did his best work as the Doctor in his first series, when the idea of a very young man playing a heroic figure who was simultaneously sprightly and ancient was something of a novelty. Before the River Song romance. Before the world-weary ‘old eyes’ thing. Before the grumpiness with Strax. Before that dreadful cowboy episode and his uselessness in ‘The Angels Take Manhattan’. Before all the dancing round the TARDIS, and the looks to camera, and the self-conscious displays of buffoonery.

Oh, he’s a talented actor. And I could have had more. I was tired of Tennant by the time he left, and that’s one thing I couldn’t say for Smith. And you can’t blame him for the lacklustre quality of his recent episodes – just the musings of writers who didn’t know what else to do with him. Nonetheless, my overriding memory of Smith won’t be that of an old man hobbling across a balcony to shout down a Dalek warship. Instead, I’d rather remember him as the one who shouted “I WAS NOT EXPECTING THIS!” at James Corden. Or the one who told Amy that he was definitely a mad man with a box. Or the one who cradled a giant invisible turkey and lamented “Sometimes, winning is no fun at all”. Or, perhaps more fitting than any of these, the man who stepped through a holographic projection device of his previous selves, broke the fourth wall, and said “Hello. I’m the Doctor. Basically…run.” That was a nice way to come in. It would have been a nice way to go out.

basically...run

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