Trivia

Unrelated image because I didn't want to post a pic of the game box. But it's appropriate, as the Doctor looks a bit clever here.

Unrelated image because I didn’t want to post a pic of the game box. But it’s appropriate, as the Doctor looks a bit clever here.

Over the weekend, we purchased the Trivial Pursuit: Doctor Who Edition game (from Hot Topic, which had it on sale, but the link here is for Amazon). I had seen it online, but wasn’t sure I wanted to get it. You see, I love trivia games (I even played on my school’s College Bowl team in college and grad school) and it takes a certain level of quality of trivia to attract me. If the game is about a specific subject, the questions need to go deep into the subject. For Doctor Who, I would only purchase a trivia game if it covers both the classic and modern shows. Luckily, the sample card on the box (something you don’t see in the online images) showed that the game does cover the classic show, and we bought it. We played it last night, and we enjoyed it immensely.

The game itself is supposed to be played like this. On your turn, you roll the die to determine which category of question is read from the card. If you answer the question correctly, you roll the die again to be asked another question. This time, if you answer the question correctly, you keep the card. Then repeat; basically, if you keep answering correctly, you keep a card every two questions. If, at any point, you answer a question incorrectly, your turn is over and the next player goes. The player who collects six cards wins. Now, this was too complicated for us, because we just wanted to answer trivia questions, so we played it like this. The active player collects the card for each correctly answered question until he/she answers wrong, at which point the next player goes. When all the cards are collected, whoever has more wins. That was perfectly fine by us. (And yes, I won, 61 to 39.)

There are six categories on the cards, like “Time Lords” and “Companions,” but we didn’t pay much attention to them, as we simply referred to them by their colors. There also seemed to be some category mismatch (“Shouldn’t this question about Clara be under ‘Companions’ and not ‘Time Lords’?”). However, in general, the questions were well-written, and they gave multiple choice options for some of the harder ones. They were weighted towards the modern show, which was to be expected, as sales would tank if the game was more about the classic show, but there were plenty of classic questions to be had. We found that the blue category (“Time Lords”) was overall the easiest, probably because most of the questions were about the Doctor or the Master. Purple (something about “Dates”) was pretty difficult, because it often asked about real-world things that are related to in-show events. The worst category, at least for this American couple, was orange, which was named something like “Cast and Crew.” A large number of the orange questions were about Doctor Who guest actors and what other shows they appeared or starred in – very difficult for us, who have very little knowledge of British shows.

All in all, though, we had a great time, and trivia questions are great for reliving the show in your mind. Of course, it’s not a game you can play often, because if you play too much, you’ll simply memorize all of the answers, but at $20, I think it was definitely worth it. I do wish we had more fan friends to play it with (so I can dominate them all! Muahahaha!).

 

“The Face of Evil”

In case you might have noticed, I’ve changed my display name, from “chorenn” to “Shivver.” If you’re wondering why, “chorenn” is an old name I used about ten years ago when I was keeping a blog about a roleplaying campaign I was running back then, in a self-created realm called Chorenn. Since I was the gamemaster telling this story in this world, I thought the world name was the appropriate display name for the author of the blog. Well, that was a long time ago, and when I decided to use the same account to create this blog, I didn’t bother to change the display name. I’ve changed it to “Shivver” now because that’s the online name I’ve been using for my Doctor Who activities, in specific my fanfics, and I thought it was time to bring all of it together.

Over the weekend, we watched the classic episode “The Face of Evil,” and here are my thoughts on it.

Spoilers ahead!

face of evil

The Doctor and Leela are brought in front of the chief and shaman of the Sevateem.

“The Face of Evil” is the Fourth Doctor episode that introduces Leela of the Sevateem, his companion through the latter half of Season 14 and all of Season 15. In it, the Doctor arrives on a planet populated by a tribe of savages called the Sevateem, who live in a tiny area of land surrounded by a wall that keeps out the Phantoms, invisible monsters that devour anything that ventures outside. When the tribe first meet him, they call the Doctor “the Evil One,” who was prophesied to return to destroy them all, and indeed, he finds that his visage is sculpted into the side of a cliff face, to remind the tribe just what the Evil One looks like. He discovers that the tribe worships a god named Xoanon, who carefully nurtures them to fight against another people, called the Tesh, which they attack whenever the wall opens and lets them across. However, all of their attacks have always failed.

Long story short (and this is where you should stop reading if you don’t want to be spoiled), the Doctor figures out that the people, both the Sevateem and the Tesh, came from a spaceship that landed on the planet. While the spaceship had been in flight, the Doctor had visited it and his personality had been imprinted on the computer just as it became sentient, giving it a split personality and causing it to go crazy. When they landed on the planet, the survey team went out to explore while the technicians stayed in the ship, and the computer, which named itself Xoanon, separated them and developed their cultures along different lines – one strong and savage, the other weak and intelligent – then set them against each other to see which was more viable. To stop the senseless fighting, the Doctor removes his personality from the computer, and it heals and the two cultures begin to try to work together. As the Doctor leaves, Leela dashes into the TARDIS so that she can travel with him.

As the audience, you see everything from the Doctor’s point of view, which means from the Sevateem side, as that’s who he encounters first. At first, they seem like simple savages, but then you start seeing weird things: the throne the chief sits on has brushed metal surfaces, the shaman’s ceremonial gear is threaded with bright yellow plastic-sheathed wires and has a spacesuit glove as a headdress, the shaman’s prayer cloak includes a crash helmet, etc. The history of the Sevateem is revealed slowly through visual and linguistic clues: “Sevateem” comes from “survey team,” for example), and the worship gesture the tribesmen make is the gesture one would make when checking the air seals on a spacesuit.

When the Doctor arrives, Leela has just been exiled, and though she knows he’s the Evil One, she accepts his help and then helps him because she doesn’t have much of a choice: either she does or she goes beyond the wall and gets killed. However, the story follows a number of Sevateem characters who slowly learn to trust the Doctor and realize that what they’ve believed their whole lives is not true. Especially interesting is the story of the shaman, Neeva, who is the last to realize that Xoanon has lied to him his entire life, and who sacrifices himself at the end to save everyone else.

The Tesh are less interesting, mostly because you don’t get to get to know them all that well. Their society is highly structured, and they are pompous and contemptuous of the savage Sevateem. Also, their culture hasn’t changed much, since they live on the grounded spaceship, though they do still consider the computer a god, not a technological device, like the Sevateem do.

The only weak part of this episode is the same as many of the classic episodes: the slow, boring action sequences when the Sevateem are battling the phantoms and Leela is trying to hold off a squad of Tesh. I think in general, it’s important to expect that action sequences in classic Doctor Who are going to be slow, especially for the first four Doctors.

So far, I’ve liked all of the Leela episodes I’ve seen, and this one is very good. It’s gotten to the point where I want to watch all of the Leela episodes, so that’s the next project, after watching “The Key to Time.” Donna is still my favorite companion, but Leela is easily up in the top five, if not in the top three.

Story arcs

the_tenth_doctor_by_dv8r71-d4osjwxIf you read this blog, it’s really no secret that I prefer Russell T. Davies’ showrunning over Steven Moffat’s. As I’ve said before, Moffat writes fantastic single episodes, but his arcs – both single-season and the Eleventh Doctor’s full run – seem to be overly complicated and confused, with a healthy dose of “let’s tie this thread up with this point, even though it contradicts a whole bunch of other points.”  RTD’s arcs were shorter – there never seemed to be a story arc that spanned the entire Tenth Doctor’s run – and his stories developed very subtly over the season, in opposition to Moffat’s preference of introducing the main conflict in the first episode of the season, then running a number of unrelated episodes with injections of “oh, no, a crack” / “Kovarian’s eyes again” / “I really need to figure out what’s up with Clara” just to remind the viewer that yes, there’s something else going on, so that we didn’t get bored waiting for the season finale.

I was reading an article on a website yesterday about Billie Piper, at some convention, answering “yes” to a fan question that asked if she’d return to do a spinoff based on Rose and the Metacrisis Tenth Doctor (No, it’s not a thing anyone is seriously considering. It was a fan question. Thank the powers that be. Bleah.) and I saw the following in the comments.

“Personally, the progression of their [Rose and the Doctor’s] relationship intrigues me, because I see it as a tragedy, but for different reasons than most. The way I interpret it, their relationship is supposed to hurt Ten to the point of him finding security in his colder Time Lord persona so that he doesn’t have to deal with the pain that his particularly human personality is susceptible to, and it’s supposed to show how Rose’s obsession with the Doctor warps her outlook and crushes any hope for positive growth that she could have had. I’m not saying that to just blindly insult the story or anything; that’s legitimately how I see it play out, and I think it’s actually quite interesting. But the point was made in “Journey’s End”, and I have no desire to it stretched out any further.”

I hadn’t honestly thought of it this way. I’ve always considered series 2 to be the weakest of the Ninth and Tenth Doctor’s run, as the relationship between Rose and the Doctor was poorly handled, portrayed as the two traipsing through the universe, happy-go-lucky. There was no development, just random depictions of something deeper that might exist between them whenever the writer needed an emotional moment or an excuse for the Doctor to get really angry (by having the villain threaten or hurt Rose), and then suddenly, when Rose was sucked into Pete’s World, we’re shown that yes, he was in love with her.

If, instead, you look at it like the commenter does, it all makes a lot more sense. It’s a story of how the companion, if the Doctor isn’t very careful, becomes weaker and less independent. This story is repeated in series 3: Martha, because of her unrequited love for the Doctor and the Doctor’s inability to recognize it, also devolves, though she has the personal strength to recognize it, overcome it in the series finale, and leave at the end. Donna goes in the opposite direction because this time the Doctor is paying attention; of course, she loses it all due to circumstances beyond her and the Doctor’s control, but the Doctor blames himself for it. Looking at it this way, Davros’ words, about the Doctor taking his companions and transforming them into worse people, has even more weight.

The Doctor, on the other hand, has this “particularly human personality” and each companion hits him right where it hurts. Rose’s departure is particularly painful because of his love for her. Then Martha demonstrates that he’s hurting her even when he doesn’t mean to, simply because he’s still hurting from Rose, and also because while he has a tender human side, he’s still a Time Lord and can’t relate to her like she wants him to. And then there’s Donna, the shining example, to him, of a person whose life he’s ruined. His experience with all three companions drive him towards that “colder Time Lord persona,” into believing that he should be alone: he can’t afford to fall in love, he’s hurting his companions even when he thinks everything is okay, and he ruins the lives of those he touches. In other words, it was all pushing him towards “The Waters of Mars,” towards the Time Lord Victorious, and then his redemption in The End of Time.

Now, I really don’t know if RTD designed the Tenth Doctor’s run to have this epic storyline, but it certainly looks like he at least knew where he wanted the Doctor to start and to end up. And that’s really why I prefer RTD. His stories were about the characters, not the circumstances or the complex time mechanics. Maybe I prefer more of the classic show feel, in which you got to watch the Doctor grow and change through his close friendship with Jamie or Sarah Jane or Ace, his attempts to educate Leela, and the conflict with and death of Adric. And that’s why I like Paul Cornell so much as an episode writer. I’m not saying Moffat is bad in any way. I just prefer RTD.

Circular Time

Circular_TimeIt’s been a while since I listened to the Big Finish audio Circular Time and I’ve been meaning to write a review about it, so today’s the day. I listened to it on the way back from Victoria, and I enjoyed it quite a lot.

Spoilers ahead. You can’t really write a review without at least a few spoilers.

Circular Time is a Fifth Doctor audio with Nyssa as his sole companion, which places it between “Time-Flight” (the Doctor finally gets Tegan to Heathrow, leaving ) and “Arc of Infinity” (Tegan accidentally encounters the Doctor in Amsterdam and rejoins the TARDIS crew). It’s a collection of four stories titled after the seasons of the year and has a general theme of the time and life, of death and renewal, and cyclic change. It was written by Paul Cornell, the author of “Human Nature”/”Family of Blood,” and it supports my realization earlier this month that he’s my favorite Doctor Who writer.

“Spring” has the Doctor heading to a planet of an avian species at the behest of the High Council because a Time Lord has left Gallifrey and integrated himself into their society, apparently attempting to make them evolve faster. This is probably the most straightforward of the four stories, but it is very interesting because it deals with what happens when a different Time Lord, not the Doctor, decides to break the non-interference policy. In this case, it’s not clear until the end what the Time Lord is trying to accomplish, and you accompany the Doctor on his journey of discovery, because he doesn’t really know what’s going on either.

In “Summer,” the Doctor meets Isaac Newton. While the plot of the story itself eludes me (I really need to listen to it again), the characterization of Newton is striking, almost disturbing. His mind doesn’t work like anyone else’s, and it’s scary to watch what happens to him as he deals with encountering the Doctor, a strange man that he knows is something from beyond his experience.

“Fall” is by far my favorite of the four, and is the one in which Nyssa takes as much of a primary role as the Doctor, if not more so. In this story, the Doctor explains the difference between circular time, the cyclic nature of seasons, days, and regeneration, and linear time, the journey from one point to another, from birth to death. The pair spend a few weeks on earth in autumn, so that the Doctor can play cricket in a village league, something that he likes because it is circular: cricket seasons always returns, and linear creatures like humans return to write themselves into history via stats and stories. Meanwhile, Nyssa takes the time to try to deal with the loss of Traken by writing a novel about her people, but she can’t write the linear story because she doesn’t want it to end. While both characters have a storyline here, they go in completely different directions than they want them to, and Nyssa’s is especially beautiful.

“Winter” is also a wonderful story, but I can’t really describe it at all without giving it entirely away. I will say it’s the only one of the stories that isn’t set between “Time-Flight” and “Arc of Infinity.”

As you can probably tell, Circular Time is not a typical Doctor Who adventure. There’s no running from monsters or evil plots to destroy worlds. These are introspective stories and very suited to the Fifth Doctor. I highly recommend them, especially “Autumn” and “Winter.”

Spreading the addiction

The clockwork droids were just gorgeous!

The clockwork droids were just gorgeous!

Today, one of my co-workers, Maria, informed me that she and her husband watched “Blink” recently and really loved it, and are now going to start watching more Doctor Who. Muahaha! Another mind corrupted! She’s going to be streaming episodes off Netflix, but I recommended to her, if she wanted another good, unconnected episode to watch, that she check out “The Girl in the Fireplace.” I’m very much looking forward to seeing if she really gets into it. She’s an artist and seamstress, so I’m hoping she gets very addicted, if only to see if she starts doing cosplay, because she’d be great at it.

I find it a bit difficult to convince my friends and co-workers to check out Doctor Who for a variety of reasons. First, a lot of people have this idea in their head that they can’t start watching it from the modern series because they need to watch the classic series first, and of course there’s way too much classic series to watch. I try to convince them that they don’t need to do so, citing the fact that I’ve seen less than 1/4 of the classic series myself, but they always respond, “Well, I don’t want to start in the middle.” I think it’s probably just their polite way of telling me to shut up and go away.

I haven't yet convinced a single person to watch Broadchurch! What's wrong with you people?

I haven’t yet convinced a single person to watch Broadchurch! What’s wrong with you people?

Then there are the ones who’ve heard that the show is either a kid’s show or this wacky British show that’s hard for Americans to understand. It’s pretty to disabuse them of the notion that the show is targeted at children, but the second one is harder to argue past. I don’t find British shows to be difficult to understand, but I will admit that I had some problems with Broadchurch at first, because I’d never watched a British crime show and had no idea what things like “DI,” “DS,” and “SOCO.” meant. However, all that became clear in context. British humor and drama (and really, any other culture’s humor and drama) are harder to understand, but I do feel that they aren’t too alien. How do you convince someone to give new narrative and dialogue structure a try?

I think, though, the most difficult problem with enticing new people to give Doctor Who a try stems directly from the thing that’s the strength of the show: the fact that it’s so long-lived (even considering just the modern show) and its mutability. There are seven seasons to choose from and a person coming into it for the first time will usually have heard there are three different Doctors, with very different personalities: which one to choose? Do you start from the first episode of the first season, or from the first episode of the most recognizable/popular Doctor, or from the first episode from the most recent Doctor? I find that people are often scared off simply because it has that level of complexity.

What I like to do is offer them a few sample episodes to watch that demonstrate the quality of the show without requiring background knowledge (beyond knowing that the Doctor is an alien who travels through the universe in a time machine with companions). My two go-to episodes are, as noted above, “Blink” and “The Girl in the Fireplace”; both are completely self-contained. Of course, they are both Tenth Doctor episodes, so I’ve been trying to decide what I would recommend for the Ninth and Eleventh Doctors. I’m really not sure if I would recommend a Ninth Doctor episode, partly because he’s a lot more alien than the other two and partly because his best episodes require some background knowledge. “Rose” might be the only really good episode to recommend, but the old, hammy feel of the Autons could easily turn off a new viewer.

It’s also difficult to recommend an Eleventh Doctor episode, because even when background knowledge is not required, the season’s threads (the cracks in the wall, Amy’s visions of Madame Kovarian watching her, the mentions of the Impossible Girl) tend to infect every episode and could easily confuse the new viewer. I think the only episode that I would choose to introduce a friend to the Eleventh Doctor would be “Vincent and the Doctor.” Maybe there’s something in series 7 that I’m not remembering well enough that would be good (though I kind of doubt it).

 

Fish Doctors and spaces

 

Time to celebrate!

Time to celebrate!

Have you seen the Hugo Award nominees for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)? If you’re expecting “The Day of the Doctor” to be there, you won’t be disappointed. Here’s the list!

  • An Adventure in Space and Time written by Mark Gatiss, directed by Terry McDonough (BBC Television)
  • Doctor Who: “The Day of the Doctor” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Television)
  • Doctor Who: “The Name of the Doctor” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Saul Metzstein (BBC Television)
  • The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot written and directed by Peter Davison (BBC Television)
  • Game of Thrones: “The Rains of Castamere” written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by David Nutter (HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)
  • Orphan Black: “Variations under Domestication” written by Will Pascoe, directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions; Space/BBC America)

Did you see the fourth one listed? The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot!!! Congratulations to Mr. Davison!

I’m not really sure how this qualifies for a Hugo Award, since they are awarded for “the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements,” according to Wikipedia, and while the show refers to Doctor Who, it’s not in itself a science fiction or fantasy work. However, I am elated! Personally, I feel that FDR was the best product of the 50th anniversary. Yes, I love “The Day of the Doctor” so much that I still watch it at least once every two weeks, but FDR was just brilliant. While poking so much fun at Doctor Who‘s production, fandom, and mythos, it was also a wonderful love letter to everyone involved over the past fifty years, including the fans. It was also unapologetic: if you weren’t a hardcore fan who knows about the whole history of the show, you missed some of the jokes. But if you were, hearing Mr. Davison quietly tell the production manager, “Sorry, must dash,” made your heart leap. I know that FDR isn’t going to win this award, but I really hope it does.

As an aside, my favorite scene in FDR is when the three Doctors walk in and out of the BBC Wales studio’s back door and the music changes from classic style to modern style, and they’re just so confused.

Readerly Geek just posted pics of her #geekspace, so I thought I would do mine. Well, I have a lot more geek space in my house, but it’s not all in one place. But I thought I’d post a picture of my Doctor Who shelf. This isn’t my full collection of DW paraphernalia: my books and comics are on a different bookshelf, cosplay stuff is in a box, and there are toys and figures scattered throughout the house, but this is the display shelf. Prominent items:

  • DVD collection: Modern show is missing a couple as we’ve lent them to Carl and Sandy. Classic show still has quite a ways to go.
  • Royal Mail commemorative stamp set
  • John Smith replica pocket watch toy: Terrible quality, but I had to have it.
  • TARDIS travel journal: Includes my trip to Victoria to see Mr. Tennant.
  • Cricket ball: Still unsigned by Mr. Davison and Mr. Tennant. Some day.
  • Eleventh, Tenth, and Fourth Doctors’ sonic screwdrivers: One toy, two replica remote controls
  • Brainy specs and plastic celery (luckily has not turned purple yet)

 

geekspace

 

 

Week of the Doctors

In case you didn’t know, this week has had 3.5 Doctor birthdays. Peter Davison got the week going on Sunday, April 13, followed immediately by the other Peter, Mr. Capaldi, on April 14. Then today is David Tennant’s birthday, April 18, and the 0.5 came yesterday, April 17, from a second David, David Bradley, who played William Hartnell in An Adventure in Space and Time. That’s 1/4 of the Doctors being born in April (I checked, none of the others were born in April, though most of them were born in the first half of the year).

Happy birthday to all of these brilliant actors who have brought us such wondrous stories!

I think I just really like the Doctor with glasses.

I think I just really like the Doctor with glasses.

 

Until the new series starts, we just have to rehash old shots.

Until the new series starts, all we can do is rehash old shots. Sorry.

 

Fantastic performance in a wonderful movie.

Fantastic performance in a wonderful movie.

 

I'd never seen this promo pic before, until just now.

I’d never seen this promo pic before, until just now. Oh, and glasses.