Sharing the experience

I do have a desk.

I do have a desk.

I didn’t have a chance to post yesterday. I usually spend my time at work composing my thoughts for a post while doing my actual job, and then write something up during lunch. However, I had some stuff to do yesterday that needed to get done ASAP, Pronto, LOL, and so other considerations got left by the wayside.

Which is a totally ingenious introduction into the thing I’m writing about today. It’s nothing particularly deep: making references to the show you love. I’m very lucky to have a husband that loves Doctor Who, almost as much as I do. We definitely know that I’m the more devoted fan, with my constant watching of episodes, my blog, my fanfics, my multiple replica sonic screwdrivers, but having him also as a fan means I have someone to talk to about it. And even if we’re not talking about it, we can make references to it during conversation. The two most common right now are from “The Day of the Doctor.” First, if one of us is, say, on the web and laughs at something, the other says, “Is something funny? Did I miss a funny thing?” The other is putting down the other person with “I don’t like it,” with the option of the second person saying, “Oh! Oh! You never do!” But there are tons more that we make, every day.  Most of our references are Doctor Who, but we don’t limit it. Last night, my husband approached a boss fight in a video game saying, “Go! Fight! Win!” Extra credit if you know what that’s from.

In a way, our conversation style reminds me of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Darmok,” in which the alien species that the humans have never been able to communicate with turn out to have a language comprised entirely of references to their stories and legends. For example, the phrase “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra” meant cooperation, because the story of Darmok had him arrive at Tanagra and learn to cooperate with Jalad. If you know the legend, then the phrase has meaning, but if you don’t, it’s incomprehensible. Fans of shows are able to communicate in a very similar way. What comes to mind if I were to say, “The Doctor and Rose at Bad Wolf Bay”? How does that differ from “the second Tenth Doctor and Rose at Bad Wolf Bay”? Both phrases communicate a complex web of images and emotions that would be otherwise impossible to describe in less than ten words, or even less than a hundred words.

Most of the time, though, we use references to entertain ourselves. It never fails to make us laugh when we make a reference appropriate to the situation. Though, it is difficult sometimes to not make references in front of people who aren’t fans, which most of our friends aren’t. It’s sort of like being in a group that speaks English and then switching to German just to talk to one person. It’s rude and not ginger. (Ha!)

Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!

Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!

We had an interesting situation yesterday, with respect to references. We were playing in a roleplaying game and were attacked by a large mass of enemies, and one of the players asked if we had any grenades, which we didn’t. My husband replied, “Boy, it sure would be nice if we had some grenades!” I laughed and everyone else stared at him blankly. Not a single person got it. So we explained, it’s from Serenity, and then one of them said, “Oh, yeah, the movie. Serenity‘s not canon. Only Firefly is canon. If Wash dies, it’s not canon.” The rest of the people in the group agreed with him. It never occurred to me to reject a perfectly good movie/TV show from official canon. I mean, sure, we can ignore the second Highlander movie or the second two seasons of Heroes, because those were terrible, but in this case, Serenity is a great movie that’s being rejected from canon simply because of a character’s death.

There’s a concept called “head canon,” which is the term for a fan or group of fans accepting an idea as canon when it’s not actually in the fandom’s canon. It’s usually used for something that’s added to the fandom, to flesh things out. For example, before we knew about the War Doctor, it was a common head canon that the Eighth Doctor was the one who fired the Moment; it was never explicitly stated, but based on what we knew about the Last Great Time War and the Doctor’s history, it was the best explanation. Creating a head canon in which Serenity never happened seems unique to me. It removes actual published content, simply to erase a character death. And it creates a schism, between those who accept the Firefly universe as created by Joss Whedon and those who choose to reject the final part of it. 

Ok, that was a stream-of-consciousness digression. This post was supposed to be about how we share our experiences in our fandom through our use of references. I think a large part of the enjoyment we get from our favorite shows, books, music, whatever, comes from the ability to share it with each other. So, I hope you have people you can share Doctor Who and all of your other passions with!

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What is a hero?

I read a blog post today about the Tenth Doctor, and while it was interesting and I agreed with some of it and disagreed with some of it, one paragraph made me think a little bit. Here it is.

“The point is that we either had an idea of character progression, of a journey, or the inclusion of romance and humanity pitched at the right level. With the tenth Doctor inThe End of Time, we hear him equate his prophesied regeneration with death, whine like a bitch about sacrificing himself for Wilf – literally screaming ‘It’s not fair!’ – and sign off with those infamous words ‘I don’t want to go.’ These were all pretty cheap attempts at stirring emotions in an enraptured audience, but they brutally undermined the character. Compared with the eleventh Doctor’s coda in The Time of the Doctor, in which he is completely accepting of change as a fundamental part of life, or the fifth and eighth Doctor’s sacrifices on behalf of just one other person, the tenth Doctor at the end of his time seems remote from any conception of a hero.”

I found it interesting because what I took away from the scene was the exact opposite: to me, the scene is demonstrates clearly what it means to be a hero. It takes a little bit of history to really look at it.

During the episodes leading up to The End of Time, the Tenth Doctor is traveling alone and avoiding the prophecy of his death, and it is taking its toll on him. In “The Waters of Mars,” it finally comes to a head: he decides that he is above the laws of time and decides to change a fixed point, and Adelaide shows him how wrong he is by committing suicide. He realizes that he has gone too far, that he’s becoming corrupt, much like the Time Lords are wont to do since they consider themselves superior to the rest of the universe, and that if he can’t control it, he’s lived too long. Then, in The End of Time, he demonstrates that he’s learned his lesson: the Time Lords decide that they should enact the Final Sanction, elevating them to beings of pure consciousness at the cost of the rest of the universe, and the Doctor stops it. He knows this is what he had done in the previous episode – putting himself above the rest of the universe – and that it was wrong, and thus he had the strength to oppose Rassilon and effectively commit genocide against his own people for the second time. The conflict ends, and he finds himself alive, contrary to the prophecy; for the first time in a long time, he has hope. Then Wilf knocks four times.

The Doctor is doomed, and he rails against his fate. Who wouldn’t? What real person, human or Time Lord, wouldn’t protest imminent death? The main thing here is that he says so out loud, rather than internalizing it. Does this make him any less of a hero? He doesn’t want to die, and he’s also upset that he cannot continue to do good; he wants to continue fighting the fight. However, he’s still fighting against his corruption, thinking that he alone can right the universe. He realizes this second point, and knows it’s time to die. He makes his choice, sacrificing himself both to save Wilf and to rid the universe of a man who is slowly becoming the thing he has always fought against.

The Third Doctor said, “Courage isn’t a matter of not being frightened, it’s being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway.” The Tenth Doctor’s rant against his fate may have been arrogant, but that’s very much in character for him. I tend to view it more as a spell of weakness, in which he expresses emotions that he usually keeps inside. However, neither of these interpretations makes him a coward; if anything, it underscores his heroism, because he shows us that even the Doctor can be afraid, but still does what he has to do.

 

 

Learning to hear

One thing that Doctor Who has helped me with is understanding British accents. There’s this guy in my office who’s from Britain and I could never really understand what he was saying. Now that I’ve been watching Doctor Who (and SherlockAll Creatures Great and SmallDownton Abbey, and Broadchurch), it’s gotten much easier. I talked with him for a while last week, and I understood him a lot better. It turns out that he actually does swallow his words a lot, so he specifically is difficult to understand, but grokking the accent was the first step. I’ve noticed the same thing happening within the shows themselves. All Creatures Great and Small, set in Yorkshire, has a lot of characters with very thick accents, and after listening to them, the Ninth Doctor is far clearer to me. Similarly, listening to David Tennant in Broadchurch has taught me to understand the Scottish accent, which used to be completely obtuse to me. His accent is far thicker than Karen Gillan’s, who I had no trouble understanding when she was playing Amy. I’m really hoping that this will all help me not be a complete dumbo American when I visit England later this year.

Manchester accent, Estuary English, and... Southern England? Not sure about that last one.

Manchester accent, Estuary English, and… Southern England? Not sure about that last one.

I’m also starting to be able to identify regional accents. For example, after listening to Jenna-Louise Coleman as Clara for a little bit, I could tell that she came from north of London, with a similar accent to Christopher Eccleston’s. I find it fascinating how much variation there is in accent, given how small the UK is compared to just the state of California. The state I live in has some regional difference in accent, but it’s due to a geographical barrier (read: big honkin’ mountain range dividing the two halves). There aren’t any major geographical divides in the UK to cause such differences.

Another interesting side effect of watching British television is that when I watch American television, I can hear how diluted the accents of British characters are. My husband and I are watching the first season Grimm (which, by the way, we’re enjoying a lot), and there have been a couple of British guest characters whose accents were so slight, they often disappeared from scene to scene. I wonder if they’re told to water down the accents they use, to make sure that the American audience can understand them? We happen to also be watching series 3 of Doctor Who, one episode a night, and we’re on “Daleks in Manhattan,” and the actors speak with perfect American accents. In fact, Frank spoke with a thick Southern accent, so it seems that the British don’t mind heavy American accents in their TV shows.

 

The clothes make the man

Peter Capaldi as the Doctor

Peter Capaldi as the Doctor

The BBC revealed the Twelfth Doctor’s outfit! I like it! Well, I suppose I’m not the best judge of this kind of thing, as I also like the Sixth Doctor’s outfit – it’s garish to be sure, but it’s just him. I’m sure that this has been said before, but the costume of the Doctor definitely reflects his personality, consistently throughout the series, even during the John Nathan-Turner era, when the clothes were more costume-y than usual. Last week, my British co-worker made fun of me for referring to the Doctors by numbers, saying that in Britain, they refer to them by actor names, so we’ll do that this time.

  • Hartnell: The grandfather, caring with a bit of arrogance
  • Troughton: The clownish hobo, especially with that big fur coat
  • Pertwee: The man of style and action
  • T. Baker: The Bohemian, always a bit ahead of everyone else and not caring what they think
  • Davison: The young gentleman sportsman
  • C. Baker: Arrogant and bombastic; who cares what anyone thinks?
  • McCoy: At first, a bit of a clown, his costume changed as his personality developed
  • McGann: Caring and compassionate, and quite the romantic
  • Eccleston: Angry and regretful, and back to being the man of action
  • Tennant: Geek chic, modern yet out-of-place
  • Smith: At first, young and eccentric, until he loses the Ponds, at which point he throws back to a dark version of McGann

If Mr. Capaldi follows the trend, it looks like his Doctor may be similar to Mr. Pertwee’s, which is almost exactly what I was hoping: I want him to be Mr. Pertwee’s man of action and style mixed with some (or even a lot) of Mr. C. Baker’s arrogance, almost to the point of being not easily liked. We’ll find out in time. Meanwhile, releases like this only just make me wish that August would get here sooner.

 

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The Tenth Doctor, Time Lord

While researching the costumes of the Time Lords last night, I came across this image and I had to share it. It’s genuine and not Photoshopped. Apparently, at some point during his tenure on Doctor Who, Mr. Tennant, the ultimate fanboy, expressed some desire to try on the garb of the Time Lords, and so the production team got one of the classic costumes for him, and this picture was the result. You can see his normal costume under the Time Lord collar thing. This is possibly the most awesome Doctor Who image of Mr. Tennant that I’ve ever seen.

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In the company of a mad man

Doctor Who: Legacy released the character Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All today. You can get him by playing the level “Infestation,” which is in the Fan Area. He’ll be available for 30 days. Yes, you can’t get into the Fan Area without buying some Time Crystals for real money, but it’s really good deal: for a few dollars (not sure how much, but I think it’s $5), you get Time Crystals plus extra content, including a number of characters that you can’t get otherwise. If you’re enjoying the game and want to see it continue to put out top-quality content, I recommend supporting them by buying some Time Crystals.

The Legacy team holds contests every time they release a new character, awarding a few players early or instant access to the new content. Stormageddon’s contest asked players to name a character that they thought would be a great companion. My usual answer to that specific question would be Jackson Lake, because he got along so well with the Doctor and because he was courageous and resourceful. I think, like the Tenth/Eleventh Doctor relationship in “The Day of the Doctor,” Jackson Lake would be a great brother to the Doctor. However, in thinking about it more, I think the more interesting question is what kind of dynamic would you like to see in the TARDIS crew.

Sarah Jane and Jenny really aren't what I'm talking about here, but gorgeous pic.

Sarah Jane and Jenny really aren’t what I’m talking about here, but gorgeous pic.

Over the Ninth and Tenth Doctor’s seasons, we saw a Doctor/companion romance, a companion in love with the Doctor without reciprocation, and a Doctor with a best friend. During the Eleventh Doctor’s tenure, he had a best friend with a husband and then another best friend. In all cases, though, the companion was female and for most of the time, there was only one companion (yes, Rory is a companion, but he was for most of the time the tin dog). There were times when the Doctor had male companions and more than one companion, but that was few and far between. During times of multiple companions, they all pretty much got along well.

I’d like to see more variety here, because there are a lot of other types of relationships that can be explored. First, I’d like to see a male primary companion, which, I suppose is something that hasn’t been done since the 60s. I’d like to also see the “entourage” that the Doctor likes to travel with, that Sarah Jane mentions in “School Reunion.” We haven’t seen a full TARDIS since the Fifth Doctor traveled with Nyssa, Tegan, and Turlough, and once Peri arrived, more than one companion was rare. If three companions are too many for the modern show to work with comfortably, then two companions who are equal in status and aren’t joined at the hip would be nice. It’d be great to see a bit more of the Tegan/Turlough dynamic, where each companion has a distinct (and not necessarily pleasant) personality and sometimes clash with each other.

I suppose I’d also like a bit more change-up in companions. It’s probably too much to ask to have companions change in the middle of story arcs instead of always at the end of them (what with actor contracts and all that), but maybe introducing companions that stick around for a few episodes and leave would be nice. It probably isn’t very feasible, from a production point of view. Or a writing point of view, either, having to write in new characters and develop them, then yank them away a few episodes later.

It seems, from all the clues that we’ve been getting so far, that the dynamic in the TARDIS is going to be very different this coming season, at least for the first few episodes, as the Twelfth Doctor comes into his own. It’s been hinted that he’s not going to be a friendly Doctor, and it sounds like Clara is going to have a bit of difficulty with him.  I think a bit of friction in the TARDIS will be a good thing, and we’ll see where it goes from there.

 

Thoughts on series 2

10 and RoseAt this time in our rewatch of the entire new Doctor Who, we are at the end of series 2. This is a season that we’ve only seen twice now: by the time we had watched all of the seasons, we had lent series 2 to a friend and he held on to it for a couple of months, and only got it back at about two weeks ago. Thus, we’ve seen the shows from series 1, 3, and 4 more often. I’ve seen a couple of the episodes more than just twice, but not all of them.

Now, I’ve found that with every episode I’ve watched a second time, I’ve liked it more than I did the first time, probably because the second viewing allows me to pick up on things I missed the first time. I certainly felt that way upon rewatching some of the episodes that I didn’t like the first time, such as “Fear Her” and “The Idiot’s Lantern.” Interestingly, though, my opinion of the series in general went down. I used to always say that the writing in series 1 was not very good, as the show was finding its voice, but after watching both series, I think series 1 is better than series 2 (though neither is as good as series 3 or series 4).

Series 1 was all about the Doctor, his struggles with the Time War, and Rose’s efforts to heal him. Almost every episode in that season either establishes the Ninth Doctor’s history or character, or develops Rose’s effects on him, even in episodes that are basically just adventures. The second series loses that edge. After a brilliant regeneration episode which establishes every aspect of the Doctor’s character, including the lack of mercy that will be addressed in later seasons, he’s mostly reduced to one half of a happy-go-lucky couple gallivanting around the universe. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing: Doctor Who at its heart is an adventure show about the Doctor traveling around and getting mired in adventures, and this in itself is fun and the show can thrive on just that. But this season tries to have an overarching theme of “look how much in love these two characters are.” It’s brought up, subtly or overtly, in almost every episode, but since it’s rarely actually developed, it’s boring. “School Reunion” uses Sarah Jane Smith to demonstrate to Rose what the consequences of loving the Doctor are, and it’s a great episode. “The Impossible Planet”/”The Satan Pit” basically has the Doctor admit he loves Rose by declaring his faith in her, but that’s not character development, and this admission more or less fails to be compelling. He doesn’t learn anything from it – certainly he doesn’t tell her, and still can’t do so at the end of “Doomsday,” or even in “Journey’s End” (though I have a separate theory about why he refused to say so in that episode).

Meanwhile, Rose’s character is oddly inconsistent during series 2. In series 1, she’s established to be utterly devoted to the Doctor while also being selfish (such as in her treatment of Mickey) and overly emotional, with a lack of self-control (such as when she saves her father’s life after promising the Doctor she wouldn’t interfere). In series 2, her character changes with the episode. After pretty much telling Mickey she loves the Doctor and is going to leave with him, she leads Mickey on again in “School Reunion” and then gets angry when he joins the TARDIS crew . In the next episode, a few minutes after she was angry with him in the previous episode, she’s fine with him again. By the end of the series, she’s been traveling with the Doctor for years and shows impressive skills in leadership and dealing with an alien threat in “The Impossible Planet”/”The Satan Pit,” and then in “Army of Ghosts,” she’s incapable of confidently infiltrating Torchwood, despite being in disguise and wielding psychic paper which she was confident would work. Jackie was pretending to be Rose and conducted herself better in a very unfamiliar situation than her experienced daughter did.

Thus, upon watching the season again, I found that from episode to episode, I had no idea what to expect from either the Doctor or Rose, characters that I should understand (especially later in the season) and that I want to see grow. I know the series was meant to make me love the Tenth Doctor and Rose, and then tear my heart apart at the end, but the more I watch it, the more I feel like the romance was forced. It felt like a jumbled mess, and, to its detriment, it was made up of episodes I’d consider more or less average when taken alone; the only two episodes that I would consider standouts are “School Reunion” and “The Girl in the Fireplace,” and there are a number that I rank as substantially below average.  An average set of episodes with a forced romance on top of it just really put me off.

I actually liked series 2 the first time I saw it, and I was really hoping I’d like it more the second time. Maybe it’s because I’m so familiar with series 3 and 4, with their darker and more serious Doctor, excellent writing, and strong companions, but going back to series 2 brought it far down in my estimation. Perhaps it’s significant that the two episodes that I really like are about people other than Rose. I think I’ll let the series sit for a while and revisit it eventually, and maybe I’ll warm up to it then.