Busy busy busy

Just thought I’d check in here and say that life’s been pretty busy, and will probably stay busy until the end of September, which means posts will be few and far between. Not so busy that I can’t watch the new series, and I’m eager for tonight’s episode! But I’m not abandoning this blog in any way. See you all whenever I can.

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Take a deep breath

Finally got to see “Deep Breath”! It was again exhilirating to go in costume and watch a new episode in a theater packed with 200 other fans, though the atmosphere was nowhere near as electric as it was for the 50th anniversary. I’m not sure anything could beat that day. But it was fun, and we chatted in the theater with a lot of other people. And I got a lot of compliments on my Fifth Doctor outfit, so that was wonderful, too.

The episode… I’d love to say that I loved the episode, but I can’t really say that, unfortunately. What I’d really love is to come back to this post in a couple of months and read it, and say, “Wow, you really got that wrong! It was a great episode and you were so cynical.” But right now, I have to say what I’m thinking.

First, I want to say upfront that Mr. Capaldi was fantastic. He gave a brilliant performance, and he was fun to watch. I especially enjoyed his scene with the homeless guy. Though he was still in regeneration psychosis and therefore wasn’t his Doctor quite yet, it was superb. Of course, I’m not sure about his Doctor yet, because I didn’t feel like I really got to know much about him. He spent so much time in psychosis and then for the rest of the episode, he was either angsting it out with the robot or trying to get Clara to like him, so I really don’t have a good feel for who he is yet. He definitely seems to have a far more serious outlook – less energy and more gravitas, more like Hartnell, C. Baker, and McCoy, and less like T Baker, Eccleston, Tennant, and Smith – and that, so far, I like a lot.

Now, as far as the actual adventure part of the episode, that was a bit disappointing. The robots were suitably creepy, but they didn’t feel scary (and when I’m immersed in a theater and the monsters fill the whole screen and they don’t feel scary, there’s a problem there). The whole “they can tell you’re human thing because you’re breathing” thing was stupid enough that it destroyed my suspension of disbelief: any robot that can detect that you’re breathing should be able to also detect the many other signs that you’re human, such as involuntary eye movements and tremors because of being terrified. The plot of the adventure was very straightforward, but that’s okay, as it was a regeneration episode and the focus of the story was elsewhere (though I might point out that the adventure plot of “The Eleventh Hour” was nicely complex while not detracting from the main focus of the Doctor and Amy).

The rest of the story, though, was heavy-handed. The parallels drawn between the Doctor and the robot were laboriously drawn and repeated. Yes, they’re both long-lived; they both change faces; they both are striving for some ideal, some reward that doesn’t exist; they’re both tired of their struggle and don’t know if they want to continue on, if there’s really a good reason to keep fighting. We get it: the robot was meant to be a mirror. Same with the dinosaur: alone, far from home, the people around her don’t see her as a real individual, etc. I’ve seen it said that an author should show the reader things, rather than tell them, and I felt like this episode was trying to tell me to see the Doctor in these ways, rather than show him to me. Interestingly, the one thing that would have shown us an important point about the Doctor – whether he pushed the robot or talked the robot into jumping himself – was left ambiguous.

It bothers me quite a bit that the Doctor has lost the hope, the sense of renewed purpose, the “I’m going home” epiphany he had at the end of “The Day of the Doctor” (which should have been reinforced by actual proof that Gallifrey survived in “The Time of the Doctor”) and has returned to the “I’m so old and lost, what am I doing here? Am I doing the right thing?” theme of the Eleventh Doctor. I also know that this Doctor is supposed to be “dark,” but it didn’t sit well for me that his solution to the whole problem was to kill the robot (or get it to kill itself). The Doctor has always respected life and tried to find non-violent solutions for his enemies, even when it meant going far out of his way or even sacrificing himself. It doesn’t matter that this time it was a robot; he believes they have right to life, too (see “The Robots of Death,” for example). This time, the Doctor barely tried to figure out what the robot really wanted and switched to killing it, an odd decision especially after noting that the robot was more human than robot.

And then there’s Clara. It’s very difficult for me to look at Clara objectively, because she’s never had an actual character, changing her skills and thoughts and reactions each episode to fit whatever was needed to move the plot along: she’s an independent companion; no, she fancies the Doctor; no, the Doctor fancies her; she’s a live-in babysitter; oh, now she’s a trained and certified teacher; now she’s able to command an army; oh, wait, did you know the TARDIS doesn’t like her? This episode was focused a lot on her, as she struggled with accepting this new Doctor, and that’s great, because it wouldn’t be easy for anyone to accept such a huge change; Rose was unable to accept the new Doctor until he demonstrated that underneath it all, his base nature hadn’t changed. Clara had a worse time of it, because the surface attributes of the new Doctor are very different from his predecessor’s. She did a great job trying to deal with all of this; my only quibble with her was the early question of why he changed, which is something she should already understand (while she doesn’t remember all the things she did in the Doctor’s timestream, she does understand that he changes, and in fact remembered the Tenth Doctor when she met him, so she should get it on a basic level).

The biggest problem for me, though, (and you’ll note that it’s not a problem with Clara per se) was that the point of Clara not being willing to give the new Doctor a try was pounded home so heavily that I felt like Moffat was trying to speak to the fan base through Clara, saying, “Hey, I know this guy looks different, and he’s very different from the Eleventh Doctor, but give him a chance and stick around.” This was only reinforced by the appearance of Eleventh Doctor, calling Clara to tell her that the new Doctor is scared and need her help, so please stick with him. Show us that this new Doctor is brilliant! Don’t tell us that he is! And certainly don’t beg us to stay! It also really rubbed me the wrong way that Clara is basically staying with the Doctor out of pity. She should be staying because she genuinely connects with him or because she’s not sure but wants more time to get to know him, not because he begged her to or because he’s frightened. And it disappointed me to see the Eleventh Doctor again. This is the Twelfth Doctor’s debut episode: give him his chance to chance to shine, and don’t steal the limelight away. I love that they set up the scene in “The Time of the Doctor” by showing the hanging phone – it’s always a thrill when you get to see that they planned that much ahead – but it otherwise felt like cheap fanservice.

Then, there’s the Paternoster gang. It was nice to see more of the relationship between Vastra and Jenny, but what we did see disturbed me. There were two scenes that I think were included for comic effect: Vastra saying that Jenny pretends to be her servant in public and Jenny asking why she serves the tea in private, and Vastra having Jenny pose for no reason. It was evident in both scenes that Jenny was not amused and rather offended, and it amazed me that a strong, confident woman like her would meekly submit to such psychological abuse. I’ll allow for Vastra being a Silurian who doesn’t think like a human, but it really made me no longer like her, and it still bothered me a lot that her treating her wife in those ways is considered comedy.

Then there was the final robot showdown, in which none of the three experienced combatants, one of which was armed with a blaster gun, was able to harm any of the robots at all. Clara told them all to hold their breath (Really? A robot suddenly thinks the human in front of him is a robot because he stops breathing?), and they waited. During this time, Strax, the Sontaran who lives for battle, believes that the most glorious way to die fighting, and continued to fight when the Whispermen had their hands in his body grabbing his heart, trembled in fear. And to help Jenny survive the press of hostile robots, Vastra gave her air in the form in a slow passionate kiss (which for some reason isn’t a clue to the robots that these figures aren’t actually robots). The word for this is “contrived.” Rather than keep them in character and let them fight like the warriors they are and build the tension by having them get whittled down by overwhelming numbers, they went for the cheap emotions.

And I think that’s the real problem I had with this episode. The whole thing felt too contrived: two characters who are mostly unable to speak (the dinosaur and the robot) so that the Doctor can have long monologues to draw clumsy parallels between himself and them and implausible enemies and situations to put the companion in a place where the Doctor leaves her behind and to give the couple a chance to kiss onscreen. And it all seemed to be purposefully done this way to tell us what we should think about the new Doctor, rather than let us make up our own minds.

Lastly, there’s the closing scene with Missy. I’ve mentioned before that one of the things I really disliked in Series 5, 6, and 7 was the handling of the overplot, where some snippet of information was unveiled in the first episode (the crack, Madame Kovarian’s eyes, the “Impossible Girl”) and then in each succeeding episode, it’s thrown at the screen each time (often as an extra scene without being part of the story) without giving the audience any more information about it, until it’s suddenly explained at the end of the arc. I dislike it because it doesn’t invite the audience to participate: there’s nothing the viewer can do to try understand what’s going on through the season until everything is revealed, and going back later and seeing those things doesn’t contribute to the thrill of the story, because they meant so little.  (Compare to going back to “Smith and Jones” and discovering that Harold Saxon was the person who ordered the military to fire on the Webstar, demonstrating that the Master was already putting his plan into place.) The Missy scene had the same vibe and did nothing for me. I’d like to hope I’m wrong and that the Doctor encounters her early on so that she is an active participant in the season plot.

That’s it. I really wanted to love this episode, but when the lights turned on in the theater, I was rather glad it was over. I’m hoping that time and rewatching will improve my opinion of it (it usually does – I don’t think there’s a single episode that I haven’t liked better on rewatch, but then I’ve never rewatched “Love and Monsters” and “The Rings of Akhaten” a second time). I am still eager for the rest of the season, as the performances were wonderful and the Doctor is intriguing and compelling, so here’s to Saturday!

Introducing the Doctor

Come on, now: if you’re even reading this post, you know full well that the Twelfth Doctor will grace our TV screens in full glory on Saturday, or, if you don’t have TV service like me, you’ll have to wait until Monday to see the series 8 season opener, “Deep Breath,” in the theater. It’s been a long eight months to wait for the new season of Doctor Who, but the true excitement is in meeting the new Doctor, seeing what he’s like, and finally getting to see Peter Capaldi playing the role that he obsessed about when he was a kid. This is a scary time, though, because we don’t know what to expect. Will we like this Doctor? Will he capture our hearts like <insert your favorite Doctor here>? We don’t know, and this episode might not even answer the question: I know that it took me a number of episodes to warm up to the Eleventh Doctor, and anyone who’s seen “Time of the Rani” knows that a premiere episode could be really bad (not to mention, the Doctor can really change and develop after the first episode). Historically, though, the modern show’s Doctor introduction episodes have been fantastic, concentrating on showing us just what we’re in for.

The first episode of the modern Doctor Who had a hell of a lot to accomplish in just 45 minutes. First, it was the premiere episode of the reboot of a beloved TV show, one that was deeply rooted in British culture, and it needed to captivate that audience again. It needed to establish the feel of the show so that its audience would know what to expect and feel compelled to return the next week. However, it also needed to communicate the personality of the new Doctor, so that he felt like an extension of the classic show’s Doctor but still appealed to modern audiences, as well as give him a companion that felt like she belonged with him, without establishing them as a romantic couple. And lastly, it needed to show that it was keeping the whole history of the show in mind while not confusing or alienating viewers who had never seen it before.

doctorwhoroseHow do you do all that? How do you introduce an established, beloved character to new viewers while keeping him relevant to old fans? How do you throw back to 40 years of backstory and lore without losing the audience who knows nothing about it? You do it by telling the story from the viewpoint of the ordinary girl who’s meeting the Doctor for the first time, asking the questions that the audience has about him.  You throw them into a deadly situation where the Doctor gets to show his cleverness, quirkiness, knowledge, and non-violence, but have him get into a state where the girl has to help him win, to show that he’s not infallible. You give him an adversary that he’s met before, so that the audience knows that he has a history, but one that’s simple enough to understand without prior knowledge. And, to tantalize both old and new audiences, you give that adversary a reason for invading the Earth that mentions a war that the Doctor obviously had a big part in – enough to hint at a complete backstory for the Doctor, but not enough to derail the current story. “Rose” established the modern show and Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor brilliantly.

At the end of the season, the Doctor regenerated and David Tennant burst out of the golden glow, eager to fly Rose to Barcelona, but “The Parting of the Ways” ended, leaving the introduction of the new Doctor to “The Christmas Invasion.” This episode did not need to do nearly as much as “Rose” did, as the show was already established as a hit, but it had to convince us that anyone could possibly replace the superb Mr. Eccleston. The episode took a huge risk in hiding the Doctor away in bed for two-thirds of the episode, centering the story on Rose being worried about the Doctor and UNIT trying to deal with the Sycorax invasion. Then the Doctor woke up and stole the entire show.

172Mr. Tennant was the sole focus of the last twenty minutes of the episode, and he established the Tenth Doctor completely. An incarnation with a gob, he had machine-gun dialogue, was knowledgeable about galactic events and species, and very observant, with restless energy. While he wasn’t particularly skilled at physical combat, he made up for it with bravado and incredible dexterity. He avoided killing his opponent and gave him the choice of resolution, but not a second chance. Then, with Harriet Jones, he demonstrated his belief that his judgment is superior, the fury that he often would have trouble controlling, and his capacity for cruelty, foreshadowing his eventual downfall. And, at the end of the episode, he establishes this incarnation’s particular fascination with exploration and seeing new things. This was everything you needed to know about the Tenth Doctor, in twenty minutes.

rory-in-the-eleventh-hour-rory-williams-33471022-944-531Then, a little over three years later, Matt Smith emerged as the Eleventh Doctor, and “The Eleventh Hour” had to do exactly the same thing: introduce us to the new Doctor coming off of Mr. Tennant’s enormously popular run. And it did. This time, we had a new companion to see the Doctor through, a little girl named Amelia, and even she was rather appalled at his childish antics and insistent personality. Then she grew up and encountered him again, and she was unable to relate to him because of his alien mindset, until she trapped his tie in a car door and made him pay attention. But then, under threat of world annihilation, she watched him as he took charge of the situation, analyzing the data before him with mechanical precision, and dazzling the world leaders with his charm to effect the solution. Then, in order to warn the Atraxi off, he confronted them in what would see later was his signature style: a bombastic speech at the center of attention. Again, here was the Eleventh Doctor, spectacularly defined and laid bare for us to see.

And that’s what I’m hoping for from “Deep Breath.” For all that it’s a new season of Doctor Who and we’re all excited for new adventures and companions and universe-threatening situations, what I want from that episode is to walk away from it knowing exactly who the new Doctor is.

Three, no, five more days!

Five more days until “Deep Breath”! Yes, we’re going to see it in the theater. We don’t have TV service (we just don’t watch enough TV to justify that expense), and while I am planning to download the episode from BBC iPlayer on Saturday, we’re going to watch it for the first time on Monday. The theater experience on the 50th anniversary was just electric, and while we don’t expect it to be as wonderful this time, we definitely want to experience the episode for the first time in the same way.

By the time we see it, it will have been exactly eight months since the last new Doctor Who episode, and it’s been a long and agonizing wait. I am very excited to meet the new Doctor and see what he’s like and where he takes us. We’ve been promised more mature and dark, and if it’s fair to look back on old Doctors to pick out traits I’m hoping for, I’d like him to have the Third Doctor’s style and abrasiveness (and physical strength), the Sixth Doctor’s arrogance, and the Ninth Doctor’s disdain. However, I’ll be happy with the new Doctor, as long as he’s the Doctor.

I am, however, a bit apprehensive about this new season. Series 7 was a big disappointment for me, and I’m going into Series 8 with an open mind and as few spoilers as possible, but it was impossible to be completely deaf to all of the hype and there are a couple of things that I’ve heard that have bothered me. The first is the repeated assurance that this Doctor is going to be “dark.” Now, I like that idea, because it always seemed to me that the Eleventh Doctor was pretty much just goofy, with splashes of bombastic thrown in. He was a lot of fun to watch, but he was never a good Doctor in my mind. It will be nice to bring seriousness and severity back. However, the word “dark” has been repeated so much, I’m starting to wonder whether it’s the right direction. The implication is that this Doctor is supposed to throw back to personalities of the older incarnations, but actually, the Doctor has rarely been “dark”: I’d say the only incarnations that have been dark are the Seventh Doctor, the Ninth Doctor, and the Tenth Doctor (in Series 4 and the specials). Since the dark Doctors have been recent, the reaction of making the Twelfth Doctor “dark” is only a contrast against the Eleventh Doctor, and if they consider this such an important point that they need to repeat it in every statement about the series, they’re making me afraid they’re going to take it too far. I don’t want them to change the base nature of the Doctor, the reason why we watch the show, in the pursuit of adding darkness to the character.

The other thing that bothers me is the (again oft-repeated) announcement that this series is going to show that “there are consequences to choosing to live like this,” referring to the companions choosing to travel with the Doctor. The implication is that companions will find that they get hurt (physically or emotionally) and lose things in the course of their adventures. They announced this like it’s some huge revelation that the audience has never seen before, and yet this was the point of Series 1 through 4: all of these series were about the companions and their families getting tortured and torn apart by the storms that accompany the Doctor. It’s the classic show and Series 5-7 that have companions who barely have any lives, families, friends, concerns outside of the Doctor. Again, if they feel that this point, which was made so well and so subtly with the Tylers, Joneses, and Nobles, is so important that it’s part of their marketing, I’m afraid that they’re going to overdo it. One of the weaknesses of the recent storytelling is that they’ve felt the need to announce the moral of the story with big flashing lights to make sure the audience gets it, rather than demonstrating it as part of the story and letting the audience draw its own conclusions, and I’m apprehensive that this is the direction this new “consequences” emphasis is going to go.

So, I’ve resolved to go into “Deep Breath” with an open mind; it doesn’t help anyone to dwell on what might happen. What I’m hoping for is a fantastic Doctor-introduction episode which, like “The Christmas Invasion” and “The Eleventh Hour,” shows us all of this incarnation’s salient personality traits, with a bunch of action and humor on the side. And for future episodes, as long as they have good stories, I’m good with it. Despite my reservations, I’m looking forward to the next season of my favorite show and the new Doctor that’s on his way.

“Human Nature” (no, not that one)

Yes, that's the Doctor feeding bullets into a machine gun fired by a schoolboy. No, I have no idea why they're looking in different directions.

Yes, that’s the Doctor feeding bullets into a machine gun fired by a schoolboy. No, I have no idea why they’re looking in different directions.

Quite a while ago, probably about three or four months even, I bought the Virgin New Adventures Doctor Who novel Human Nature, written by Paul Cornell. As you probably know, it shares its title with one of the best episodes of the modern show, “Human Nature” and its second part, “The Family of Blood.” That’s because the episode, also written by Paul Cornell, was an adaptation of the novel, which involved the Seventh Doctor and his companion Bernice Summerfield, for television with the Tenth Doctor and Martha Jones. I was put off by it at first because of its style (understandable as it was published in 1995, before even the  Eight Doctor’s movie came out) and because I had never before seen anything with Bernice (Benny) as the companion, but by the end, I have to admit, I liked it a lot. However, I will warn you right now that there’s no way to discuss this novel without spoilers.

I’m going to say up front that it’s not fair to evaluate this novel against its namesake modern show episode. Just like any piece of media, it needs to be considered on its own, but even then, comparing it to one of the absolute best Doctor Who episodes ever created isn’t fair at all. The novel and the episode share some basic ideas – the setting, the idea of the Doctor making himself human,  a family of aliens hunting him to steal his Time Lord essence – but they really are very different.

At the start of the novel, the Doctor is Dr. John Smith, a teacher at Hulton College, a school for boys outside of the town of Farringham. He’s used a piece of alien technology to hide his Time Lord self in a small red sphere (at one point, it is mistaken for a cricket ball). Benny pretends to be his niece, an artist living in the town, and she hides the sphere in a tree in an abandoned orchard. Dr. Smith is a bit strange, somewhat forgetful, a pacifist among former soldiers with a blatant disregard for rules and tradition, and the schoolboys as well as Headmaster Rocastle consider him unreliable. He strikes up a friendship with the science teacher, Joan Redfern, which blossoms into love. Meanwhile, a family of aliens called Aubertides (shapeshifters – they could take the form of any being they came in contact with) come to find the sphere: they want to take the Time Lord essence for themselves, and while they can’t just steal it from a Time Lord, they can steal it while it’s stored in the sphere. Before they can find it, though, it’s found by a schoolboy, Tim Dean, who becomes influenced by the sphere, gaining some telepathy and future sight. As the Aubertides start killing people in the town to find the sphere, Benny convinces Dr. Smith that he’s really the Doctor, but he decides to simply let the Aubertides have it, as he doesn’t like the man he’s supposed to become and he’s content with his life with Joan. Eventually, the sphere itself shows him the future, that the Aubertides, with the power of Time Lords added to their own, conquer the Time Lords themselves, and he sees Flavia and Romana die horribly rather than give up the last Time Lord secrets, in their last attempt to save the universe from them, and that (along with some other events) change his mind. He becomes the Doctor again and defeats them.

One of the main things I liked about this book was the depiction of the Aubertides. The Family of Blood always seemed a little two-dimensional, as all they seemed to want was immortality; there was always the question of why they didn’t continue to reproduce. The Aubertides were born from a queen, who buds every so often. Each bud is only able to reproduce six times, and once those six individuals died, that bud was dead. Thus, these aliens were desperate to get the sphere to not only live longer, but also give themselves the ability to reproduce more: each bud would create six bud, each of which could produce six buds, etc. Then, once they acquired the TARDIS, they would be able to create their own army and invade anywhere in space and time. Each of the Aubertides had distinct personalities: one jumped in with the most violent solution to any problem, while another was strategic in nature and spent much of his time holding the first one back. That second one often had to make plans around the first one, knowing how he would react in situations and trying to use it to his advantage (or mitigate the problems he could cause before they could happen).

Probably the hardest thing to get used to in this novel was Dr. Smith himself. Unlike John Smith in the TV episode, who was thoroughly human with no Doctor traits, Dr. Smith was obviously influenced by the Doctor’s personality. Thus, he wasn’t quite human and said and did some strange things, which throws a number of people off, but also didn’t quite sit right with me, if only because if the point was to hide his Time Lord self away in the sphere, why was he still so like the Doctor? Also, his romance with Joan was not particularly emotional, almost cold, and once he realized who he was and had to make his decision about what to do, though he decided to give up the sphere to stay with Joan, his discussion of it was rational and logical. When he changes his mind, again, there’s no fear or sense of loss, and it just didn’t ring true. I suppose this reaction might stem from knowing the TV episode, but I can’t shake the feeling that it should have been more emotional.

The novel did shock me, however, with its violence and gore. This is something that I think that we forget when watching the TV show, either classic or modern: there’s a lot of death in Doctor Who, and it’s extremely sanitized on screen. In the classic show, people get shot by laser guns and simply collapse. If they’re eaten by a monster, it’s a full-body chomp with no blood. In the new show, it isn’t much different. In “The Name of the Doctor,” the Whisperman reach into the bodies of the Doctor’s companions to rip out organs and it’s barely shown. Instead of agonized screams, we’re treated to funny lines from Strax. In the books and audios, while they can’t show you what’s happening, they don’t pull punches with their words and sound effects. In Human Nature, the schoolboys are excitedly defending their school when the Aubertides attack with a tiny projectile that attaches itself to the boy next to Dr. Smith. The boy turns to him and apologizes, and his head explodes. Dr. Smith is drenched in blood, and all of the schoolboys are sprayed in a fine red mist. The next few paragraphs describe them as they deal with the horror, Dr. Smith hugging the headless body as blood continues to spurt from its neck. While I certainly wouldn’t want to see this in the TV show, I do think that it glosses over the violence, inuring us to it, since there are rarely any consequences for the Doctor and his companions, even though the Doctor is supposed to care deeply about every single death that occurs – NPCs die all the time and not much more than a sad glance is spared to them. It was refreshing to see how much the violence in this story affected the characters.

All in all, this was a good novel, though the style of writing hasn’t aged well over the last 19 years. I’m not sure whether or not I want to read more of the Virgin New Adventures, as they do depart a little from the canon established by the modern series and don’t mesh well with it on some points, but on the other hand, so far all three Paul Cornell stories I’ve been exposed (Human Nature, “Father’s Day”, and “Human Nature” / “The Family of Blood”) to have been excellent and I am eager to read more of his work.

 

Doctor Who and my life

So, I haven’t posted here in a week and a half. I hadn’t really noticed, having been really busy this past week, both at work and at home. It’s summer, which has meant a lot of parades and concerts for the bands that I’m a member of, and that just took over my life for a little bit. So, even when I wasn’t at work, my time has been dedicated elsewhere.

Too lazy to go find new pics, so here's an old one.

Too lazy to go find new pics, so here’s an old one.

Of course, we are also coming into the home stretch of the long dry season of no Doctor Who. The last new episode was broadcast over seven months ago, and the long-awaited Series 8, with Peter Capaldi as the new Doctor, arrives in eleven days (thirteen days if you’re like me and are going to wait to see it in the theater). For quite a while, there has been a dearth of Doctor Who-related media, official or fan, on the Internet, because, if there’s nothing new to see, there’s nothing new to talk about. You can see this in the drivel that doctorwhotv.co.uk posts – their articles are usually pretty inane, but they’ve devolved to simply babble, such as “Is it time to introduce a new theme song?” (Really? Someone actually took the time to write this article?)

I have to admit that I haven’t really been taking part in the lead-in to Series 8. First, I am avoiding all spoilers, even general hints of “is this Doctor going to be darker” and all that stuff. But second, there really isn’t anything happening nearby. The World Tour isn’t coming within 1000 miles of my home, and I’m honestly not interested in the actors themselves. Couple that with my fear of spoilers and there’s nothing new for me to see. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t exciting.

What is both exciting and meaningful to me, though, is that this month is the first anniversary of my introduction to Doctor Who. One year ago this month (sometime in the middle of it), my husband sat down and popped in “Rose,” and in five minutes, I was sitting beside him, absolutely hooked on this TV show. I’ve talked before about why this show captivated me so much: the Doctor is exactly the hero that appeals to me, solving problems with his mind instead of his fists, dedicated to what he feels is right, and ready to sacrifice himself for others. He’s alien while still remaining someone we can relate to. Some Doctors embody this hero for me better than others, but they are all the Doctor, no matter which one I’m watching. And there’s just this incredible draw to the idea that there’s man out there who’s looking out for us, trying to defend the universe, all by himself or with a couple of friends.

More importantly, though, Doctor Who has changed my life in quite a number of ways, I’d like to think for the better though I can imagine many people would think for the worse. At the very beginning, I became completely obsessed with the show, watching the episodes as soon as I could get my hands on them and poring over Tardis Data Core for backstory and information at all other times. I’ll admit here that I spent quite a bit of time at work sneaking peeks at the wiki, but only because no one at work reads this blog. I had a blast putting together my Fifth Doctor costume and my husband’s Fourth Doctor costume for Halloween, which taught me a lot about how to look at outfits and duplicate or approximate them. And of course, I started this blog, which, at least back then, I was writing in almost every day.

As the months wore on, there was less obsession, though I still think about the show every day. But there have been some major changes in my life because of it. First, before I got into this fandom, most of my life was devoted to playing computer and video games. Now, I don’t have a problem with that at all: I believe that games are as valid a source of entertainment as anything else, maybe even more so as they teach critical thinking, logic, tactics, strategy, and (depending on the game) manual dexterity. But since Doctor Who, I’ve barely played any games at all. I do miss them, but I find that my activities centered around Doctor Who have been far more fulfilling.

Reinette was almost as fascinating a woman as the real Madame de Pompadour.

Reinette was almost as fascinating a woman as the real Madame de Pompadour.

And what are those activities? Well, for one, after watching “The Girl in the Fireplace” for the first time, an idea popped into my head of a story that wasn’t told during that episode, and I sat down and wrote it. And then it happened again after “The Day of the Doctor,” and since then, I’ve written about 25 short stories, one novella, and one novel (ok, so it’s just shy of 40,000 words, but I’m going to call it a novel), all of them Doctor Who fanfics. This amazes me, because I’ve never written any fiction before this (not counting those things you have to write in English class). Not a single one. But the Doctor Who universe, with its plethora of wonderful characters, brilliant storylines, and infinite possibilities, invites me to explore it by exercising my own imagination and creating my own stories. That’s how I view it: I’m visiting the Doctor and his companions and exploring the universe with them by writing. I’m actually creating, something I’ve never done before – not through writing, or music, or art. I’m not claiming that my writing is any good (and it really isn’t), but I’m actually doing it, and all because of this TV show.

Another such activity is music. I’ve played music for a while – I was in band in high school, and about three years ago, I picked up my instrument again and joined a community concert band – but I’m not much of a musician. (It really all comes down to my lack of aesthetic sense. I can read music and can become technically competent, but I don’t feel the music as a real musician needs to. Same with my writing, and what little art and crafting I’ve done. And my fashion sense. I’m worse than the Doctor, the way I dress.)  I enjoy playing music, but it’s never gone beyond that. Enter Doctor Who and the music of Murray Gold. I find myself listening to the background music, trying to learn how it fits with what’s going on on-screen, how it’s put together to evoke emotions. I’ve tried my hand at arranging a couple of Doctor Who pieces for concert band, not for performance (because it’s illegal to perform copyrighted material without permission), but just to learn and to explore the music. And doing this spurred me to learn more about music theory and arrange simpler pieces for practice.

The other major change in my life due to this TV show takes a bit of exposition. Doctor Who introduced me to the wonderful David Tennant, who previously I had only seen in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (and that movie completely wasted his appearance, gutting the character he played down to a caricature). His performance as the Tenth Doctor led me to seeking out his other works, many of them absolutely brilliant (Broadchurch, Casanova, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing), and he’s become my favorite performer. Ok, yes, I admit it, I’m a fangirl. I could go on about DI Alec Hardy for hours (yes, he’s my favorite of Mr. Tennant’s characters, above the Doctor, if you can believe it).

This promo pic is outside the building in Sydney, BC that was converted into the police station set.

This promo pic is outside the building in Sydney, BC that was converted into the police station set.

So last March, I found myself with a bit of time off from work (read: laid off, but that’s no longer the case, if you’re wondering) and I joked to my husband that I should hop a train up to Victoria, B.C. to see if I can watch the filming of Gracepoint, the American remake of Broadchurch, in which Mr. Tennant is playing the Alec Hardy equivalent, Emmett Carver. With a very serious expression, he said, “Yes. Do it. Go.” I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was a completely silly suggestion, to run off by myself to a foreign country (yes, it’s just Canada, but still…) just to see if I could catch a glimpse of Mr. Tennant. But my husband insisted. He told me, “You love Broadchurch. You love David Tennant. You want to travel. Go.” So I did. Two days later, I hopped a train up to Seattle, took the ferry to Victoria, and spent four days exploring the city (it’s one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been in – it would be wonderful to retire there). I did get to see a little bit of the Gracepoint filming, and while I didn’t get to meet Mr. Tennant, I did see him multiple times: he passed in front of me four times, only ten feet away, and I got to hear his glorious Scottish burr in person as he discussed things with the director.

But the main point here is this: I would have never ventured to Canada, traveled alone, explored a new city, if it hadn’t been for Doctor Who. That trip taught me a lot: how to look after myself, how to approach people and ask for help, and just how wonderful new experiences and places are. If you think about it, that’s what the show is about, isn’t it? I want to travel and explore more, and plan to, when I can get more time off of work. I never would have done this without Doctor Who: it took the combination of Mr. Tennant, my husband encouraging me to go, and the ideal of exploration and new experiences that the show itself promotes to start me on this new path, and I thank all three of them for this.

So, if anyone ever tells you that it’s a bad thing to be obsessed about something you love, tell them that it’s all about how you channel that love, how you use it to grow and develop. I’m using my fandom to explore new paths in my life, new creative outlets, and it’s introduced me to new friends (VTEC, I’m looking at you! As well as a number of other people I’ve met on my Victoria trip and through the fanfiction sites). As with anything in this life, it’s not what it is that determines its value, it’s what you do with it.

Doctor Who: Legacy – Rank 5

It’s August, and that means that Doctor Who: Legacy is submitted their newest update to Apple, Google Play, and Facebook for approval, and hopefully within a week or two, it’ll be live! The new content, which is an extension of Season 5, is called “The Search for Greyhound One,” which indicates we’ll be looking for the Brigadier. There will be new levels, as well as new companions, including Ace, Idris, and Rose. Luckily, there was a contest for Ace which I was able to get in on, and I received her today. At the moment, she’s level 32, and I should have her at level 50 tomorrow.

I’ve been meaning to write a guide to rank 5 for a while, but have been putting it off. So, even though it’s pretty late, here you go!

(Check out my other guides.)

Ranking Up

Up until the previous update, the highest rank and level a Doctor or companion to achieve was rank 4 and level 40. Now, level 40 characters can be ranked up to rank 5, allowing them to level up to level 50. In order rank up to rank 5, you must spend regular Time Fragments plus special new Time Fragments. I don’t know what they’re officially called, so this is what I’m calling them:

  • Rassilon: the Time Fragment that’s aqua in color and is shaped like the Symbol of Rassilon
  • Diamond: the Time Fragment that’s light gold in color and is diamond-shaped
  • Rainbow: the Time Fragment that’s rainbow-colored

The new Time Fragments drop from enemies in the top levels of Season 5, the top levels of the Fan Area, and the Expert levels. The level selection page shows which fragments drop in each level (though it can only display two and in most multi-stage levels, all three types of new fragments drop; more on this in the “Farming the New Fragments” section).

Here are the number of Time Fragments you need to level a character to rank 5. (remember that “vulnerable color” is the color that character does double damage to, so for example, a Green character’s vulnerable color is Blue):

Doctor:

  • 25 Time Fragments of the main color
  • 25 Time Fragments of the vulnerable color
  • 5 Rainbow Time Fragments

Companion:

  • 20 Time Fragments of the main color
  • 20 Time Fragments of the vulnerable color
  • If the companion is Red, Blue, or Green, 3 Diamond Time Fragments
  • If the companion is Black or Gold, 3 Rassilon Time Fragments

When you rank a character (Doctor or companion) up to rank 5, he gets a secondary color (more on that later) and his power(s) change. If he’s a Doctor, his attributes increase. If he’s a companion, his attributes stay the same, but he changes to level 41 and can level up to 50.

Secondary Colors

For Doctors (but not advanced Doctors from the Expert levels), the secondary color is always the color of the previous Doctor. So, for example, the Sixth Doctor’s secondary color is Green, because the Fifth Doctor’s color is Green. For companions and advanced Doctors, there doesn’t seem to be a pattern for the secondary color choice.

What does a secondary color do? Well, on the surface, it allows the character a second attack with that color. For example, if a character is Blue/Red, it will attack when you match either Blue or Red gems. If you match both Blue and Red in one turn, the character will attack with both. However, that also means that character counts as both colors, so if an enemy does a Stun Red, it will stun any character that has Red as its primary or secondary color.

  • If the secondary color is different from the primary color, its attack attribute is 30% of its main attack attribute. That is, a Blue/Red character with an attack of 1000 will have 1000 when it attacks with Blue and 300 when it attacks with Red.
  • If the secondary color is the same as the primary color, its attack attribute is 10% of its main attack attribute. That is, a Blue/Blue character with an attack of 1000 will have 1100 when it attacks with Blue.

Secondary colors add more strategy to the game, as you might decide to choose one character over another because its secondary color is more useful. For example, in a level with Black and Green enemies, you might choose to use Jimmy Wicks Ganger (Gold/Green) over Madame Vastra (Gold/Blue) because Vastra’s secondary color is weak against Green.

Power Changes

When a character is ranked up to 5, the power is changed in a significant way, rather than simply becoming a slightly more powerful version like it did in previous rank-ups. Here are some of the ways the powers change:

  • Number of turns to power up is decreased
  • Absolute damage becomes percentage damage (e.g. “Deals 5000 damage to an enemy” becomes “Deals 25% damage to an enemy”)
  • Absolute healing becomes percentage healing (e.g. “Heals 5000 HP” becomes “Heals 25% HP”)
  • A power that turns one color of gem to another color now turns two colors of gem to that other color

Most of these power changes have been good. In specific, the change from absolute damage to percentage damage was sorely needed. Powers that did 10000 damage to all enemies were powerful in Season 7 and Season 6, but in Season 5, where many enemies had 200,000 HP or more, those powers were useless. Now they do percentage damage, which means the damage is scaled to the enemy’s current HP, making it very useful against high-HP enemies.

The one power that suffered is healing. Because your team tends to have 10,000 HP, or maybe 20,000 HP at the most, powers that do 5000 or 10000 HP in healing are very useful; 25% healing won’t do much for you. Because of this, you might want to not rank up your healers to rank 5. It completely depends on your play style and team composition, of course.

Farming the New Fragments

So, now that there are new Time Fragments, where do you get them, and what’s the most efficient way to farm for them? As I listed above, the Time Fragments are currently available in three places:

  • The top levels of Season Five
  • The top levels of the Fan Area
  • The Expert levels

Note that there are no levels that drop both regular Time Fragments and new Time Fragments. You must farm them separately.

First things first: you don’t want to farm them from the Expert levels. They’re difficult, and take fifteen minutes or more to defeat, so they’re not time-efficient.

So, where’s the most efficient place to get the new Time Fragments? Well, this is based on somewhat anecdotal evidence, though I did do some data-gathering that tends to support this, but if you have the Fan Area open, you should be farming there. We know that the Time Fragment drop rates are higher there, but also, the levels in the Fan Area are easier, letting you breeze through them, rather than fight hard for every enemy you face. I spent quite a bit of time playing through the multi-stage levels in Season 5 and got very few drops while spending a lot of time beating each stage. Then I did the same thing playing the level “Jenny” in the Fan Area, which can drop all three types of new fragments, and I was usually getting one fragment a game, with very little effort and time invested. So this is my advice:

  • If you have the Fan Area unlocked, play the level “Jenny.” All three monsters in the level drop the Rainbow, the outer two drop the Diamond, and the middle one drops the Rassilon. (If you only need the Rassilon symbol, play “[Easy] Daleks at the Rift” instead, because it’s far faster to kill one easy monster.)
  • If you don’t have the Fan Area unlocked, play “The Impossible Planet,” with a Green team with Black support. It drops all symbols, and the fact that it’s mostly Blue with a little Gold and Black makes it easy to tailor your team to beat it. (The other long levels that drop the new fragments have enemies of all colors.)
  • Caveat: If the game is running an “extra experience and extra fragment drop” promotion for an area, farm there. The extra drop chance is very high and completely worth it.
  • Don’t concentrate on farming Rainbow symbols for your Doctors, because you’ll get them while you’re farming the others. With 16 Doctors at the moment, you only need 80 Rainbows total, while you’ll need nearly 250 total of the other two fragments, so they’re the ones you need to focus on.