Nearing the end

claraanddoctorOnly five more episodes and we will complete our second watch-through of the Eleventh Doctor’s run. We’re a bit relieved mostly because we have so many other things to watch – tons of classic episodes, a bit of The Sarah Jane Adventures from our Netflix queue that has been sitting and waiting for over a month now, as well as (gasp!) other shows, such as Sherlock season 3. There’s just not enough time in the day!

I had been hoping that rewatching the Series 7 episodes would help me like them more, and I guess in general it has worked. I remember really hating “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS” the first time, and this time it wasn’t so bad. “Hide” was a lot better this time, actually, though I liked it enough the last time. We didn’t bother watching “The Rings of Akhaten,” though – interestingly, that one had about the same impression on me as “Love and Monsters,” and if I were forced to watch one of them again, I think I’d actually choose L&M, mostly because the first half of L&M was spectacular, while there was nothing redeeming about TRoA at all.

There seem to be a lot of things about Series 7 that really bring it down. First, the stories seem a bit half-baked. I’ve already talked about the ending of “The Power of Three,” that the dialogue between the Doctor and the Shakri had no point and the Doctor fixed everything with a wave of the sonic screwdriver (and everyone lived through their fifteen-minute heart attacks). Similarly, at the end of “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS,” time is rewritten, yet somehow the salvage guy starts treating his cyborg brother better. I think I also mentioned this earlier, that it seemed really odd to me that in “A Town Called Mercy,” Sharaz Jek let the townsfolk distract the Gunslinger so he could escape, putting them into grave danger, and then suicides.

Second, the morals are very heavy-handed. So many of these episodes include either a “you’re special because X” moral or a speech from the Doctor to convince someone to think differently. The speech in “Cold War” is about the Ice Warrior not taking out his loneliness on the humans. In “Hide,” it isn’t the Doctor, but the scientist telling the psychic that she needs to try again out of love. JttCotT is all about the evils of greed. In “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe”, the solution to the trees’ problem is a mother, because only she’s strong enough to carry the spark of life. And then “The Snowmen” had the line, “The only force on Earth that could drown the snow. A whole family crying on Christmas Eve.” It’s not like Doctor Who hasn’t dealt with moral issues before, but it just seems to be every other episode now, and the point is thrown into your face. These episodes would have worked far better if they let the audience draw their own conclusions and learn their own lessons.

Third, some of these recent episodes have introduced contradictory concepts, either against established universe rules or against themselves. The big example of this is “The Angels Take Manhattan,” and I’m not even talking about the problems I generally have taking the Weeping Angels seriously. TATM is a great episode, sending the Ponds off with wonderful style. However, its big point is that you can’t go and change events that you already know happened, because that creates a paradox. The Doctor spends quite a bit of time explaining and repeating that because he’s read parts of the book, he can’t change those things he already knows. This concept has never been stated before – the closest thing he’s said is that he can’t change established events in his own timeline. First, there’s the question of why he’s considering the events in a storybook to be absolute truth, but beyond that, he violates this rule directly at the end of the episode. In her afterword, Amy asks him to go to little Amelia waiting in the garden and tell her about the adventures she’ll be going on. Now, remember the first episode of Series 5, “The Eleventh Hour”. In it, when the Doctor meets kissogram/policewoman Amy, she tells him that she waited in that garden and he never reappeared. So, when he goes to the garden in TATM, he’s violating the rule because he knows he never visited her there.

There’s an alternative to that, that Amy lied to him the whole time, making him believe that he never visited her there. First, he still went believing that he knew what had happened, so he’s still violating the rule. And second, the idea that Amy lied to him and actually knew from when she was a little girl about all the things that were going to happen to her completely changes their whole relationship – destroys the wonderful story as far as I’m concerned. It’s horrible. That scene was supposed to be uplifting and beautiful, and in my eyes, it fell flat on its face.

And then… in “Hide”, the scientist states to the Doctor that time travel is impossible because it creates paradoxes, and the Doctor tells him that the paradoxes resolve themselves. So, an episode establishes a rule that hasn’t existed before, and then four episodes later, the Doctor says it’s ok, it isn’t that bad. Which is it?

You’re probably saying, “Who cares? They’re stories, and in the case of TATM at the very least, it’s a good story.” But to me, part of what makes a story in an established universe good is adhering to the rules. Adding to the rules is fine, but contradicting them… It’s part of what makes the Doctor Who universe so compelling, that there are these rules, either universal or personal, that the Doctor has follow while he’s trying to do whatever it is he’s doing. I spent much of TATM wondering why the Doctor was so adamant about believing the veracity of the book and insisting he couldn’t change anything, and then the ending was spoiled by him changing something he knew had already happened.

So, sadly, Series 7 hasn’t improved that much on second viewing, and while I expect I’ll return to it sometime in the future just to refresh my memory of it, I don’t think I’ll choose to watch any of these episodes for random entertainment.


You might have noticed that I haven’t mentioned my friends Carl and Sandy in a while. They’re the ones that I got into Doctor Who and who had recently finished the Tenth Doctor’s episodes and had watched the first three episodes of the Eleventh Doctor’s run. Well, Sandy got sick and recuperated. Then got sick again, and recuperated. Then got really sick, as in really sick, as in spent-three-days-lying-in-bed-staring-at-the-ceiling sick. Then she got better. Then she got sick again. I’m not kidding. After a month of bopping in and out of doctor’s offices and hospitals, during which she had no interest in watching any TV other than having Frasier on as background noise, she’s finally better. And now that she’s interested in getting back to watching Doctor Who, Carl is starting to whine that he misses the Tenth Doctor and doesn’t want to watch a new Doctor. Geez. So, they’re still stuck at “The Time of Angels.” I’ve tried to tempt Carl by reminding him that he’ll never know any more about River Song, but he hasn’t bitten yet.

You can't get much cooler than this.

You can’t get much cooler than this.

Meanwhile, my husband and I have gotten back to our task of rewatching the Eleventh Doctor’s run, and over this weekend, we watched the three episodes ending with “The Power of Three.” The first was “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship,” which has to be a wonderful episode, given its name, right? I mean, really, dinosaurs on a spaceship! What could be cooler? I remember liking this episode the first time, and the second time didn’t disappoint. It’s not a fantastic episode, but it’s a fun romp, a great filler episode, and we get to meet Brian Williams, Rory’s awesome dad. David Bradley is wonderful as the unlikable, amoral Solomon.

Next up was “A Town Called Mercy.” Now, this episode, I didn’t like it when I first saw it, and I will be the first to admit that I really don’t like Westerns and that did prejudice me against the episode. This time, it was a passable episode. In general, I find most Doctor Who episodes improve on second watching, as you know what the plot is and can pay attention to the details, and this one followed that trend. The conflicts between the characters, the hunter, the hunted, and the protector, changed over the episode and kept it very interesting.

I did have three quibbles with it, though. First, Amy tells the Doctor, when he tried to deliver Kahler Jex to the Gunslinger, that he shouldn’t travel alone. It bugged me that this was the entire point of the Tenth Doctor’s story – his last two episodes dealt directly with what happens when he does so and what he has to do to redeem himself from that failure – and the Doctor still hasn’t learned that lesson? This was just a rehash of an old point: it was handled so much better in “The Waters of Mars,” and it was something that didn’t need to be brought up again. Second, Kahler Jex allows the entire town to put itself in harm’s way and act as decoys while he escapes, only to get to his ship and suicide. It was supposed to be his redemption, but it just didn’t sit well with me. The third point, I’ll discuss below.

And then we come to “The Power of Three.” I remember this one as being one of the few Series 7 episodes that I really liked, and, well, it completely disappointed me on rewatch. The first 75% of the episode was wonderful, building up the puzzle of the cubes and showing what happens over the year that the Doctor tries to figure them out. The cubes finally activate and send 1/3 of the planet into cardiac arrest. And then the Doctor, Rory, and Amy get to Shakri ship and the episode just falls apart. The Doctor tries to talk to the Shakri, but it simply repeats itself and disappears, and the Doctor sonicks the computer to make the cubes defibrillate the ailing humans, and everybody lives. What’s wrong with this? First, it takes the Doctor at least fifteen minutes to get to the Shakri ship (remember, he was at the Tower of London when it started and one of his hearts failed, so he had to stumble all the way to Rory’s hospital) – that’s a long time for 2+ billion people to survive constant cardiac arrest. Second, the final showdown between the Doctor and the Shakri consisted of the Doctor trying to wax poetic on the beauty of humanity (and it didn’t work well; the Tenth Doctor did a better job quoting The Lion King) while the Shakri pretty much kept repeating itself. There was no dialogue. Yes, the Shakri were supposed to be unfeeling and unreasonable, but put together as a whole, the exchange just didn’t work.

Third, the ending was too tidy. The implication was that all 2+ billion people lived. Doctor Who has never gone for the dark side of alien invasions, where masses of people die, but this was too unbelievable.  On the other hand, there were about seven people unconscious on the Shakri ship and Rory and Amy didn’t have time to wake all of them up and get them out before it blew up, but no one cares about them. Fourth, after watching her in “The Day of the Doctor,” Kate Stewart was disappointing. She’s simply there to provide a lab for the Doctor to examine the cubes with and give him an easy way to tell the world to dispose of them. Other than her initial entrance, she spends the episode doing nothing. I’m hoping that she will become a force in the Twelfth Doctor’s run.

Fifth, this goes back to the third point for “A Town Called Mercy”: the deus ex machina that is the sonic screwdriver. In ATCM, the Doctor has ten seconds to deactivate the spaceship’s auto-destruct, so he fires the sonic at it and it works. In TPoT, the Doctor has some number of seconds to reprogram the cubes to defibrillate the humans, so he fires the sonic at the control panel and it works. It reminds me the reason why the Fifth Doctor’s screwdriver was destroyed and was not replaced until the modern series: John Nathan-Turner felt that the sonic screwdriver was a crutch that made writers lazy. Instead of having the Doctor solve a problem, he could just point the screwdriver at it and win. These two scenes are classic examples of the sonic screwdriver being a crutch, and it’s a huge disappointment. In many other similar situations, the Doctor has defused devices using his vast knowledge or even simply guessed at a solution and won; while this might still be considered a deus ex machina (since there’s no real problem-solving used in the solution), it still adds tension to the show while allowing the Doctor act heroically. Simply sonicking a device adds nothing, and in the case of “The Power of Three,” dropped the plot into a dark pit.

Yes, “The Power of Three” disappointed me this much.

So, unfortunately at this point in Series 7, I have to say that this series is still at the level of average to below average. Tonight is “The Angels Take Manhattan,” and then hopefully Clara’s episodes will be better than I remember them.


Finally done with series 6



Wow, it’s been a long week. I finally got my new desk at work, so I’m no longer situated in a conference interrupted by people who need to have meetings. I’m right next to a wall, so hopefully I’ll figure out a way to put up my Ninth/Tenth/Eleventh Doctor poster on the concrete wall. I figure everyone else has their Star Wars and Avengers stuff up, so I need to inject a little class into the office.

Anyway, this weekend so far has been wonderful. Today started with sitting with my husband and talking Doctor Who for an hour. Then I watched “42,” one of my favorite episodes. Then we went out for breakfast (at 1:30 in the afternoon), and returned home to relax. We haven’t had a relaxing weekend for about a month, so this has been especially nice.

We finally finished our watch-through of Series 6 last night. What was very interesting was that while the first half of the season kept injecting the episodes with Madame Kovarian’s eyes to keep reminding you of “yes, something weird is going on,” there was nothing like that in the second half of the season, and I actually forgot that the Doctor was supposed to die until he started talking about it in “Closing Time” (the penultimate episode), even though I had seen the season before. It almost seems like the season storyline is either too much or too little.

In general, I enjoyed Series 6, though not as much as Series 5 (or, of course, Series 4, which is my favorite). On second viewing, the storyline is nowhere near as confusing as it was the first time. I think the only thing I really didn’t like was River being dead set on destroying the universe because she didn’t want to kill the Doctor. First, I think that’s a horrible attitude to have in the first place, though, of course, River is both a psychopath and very selfish. But secondly, I am surprised that that didn’t kill the Doctor’s faith in her. If the situation were reversed, while the Doctor would not want to kill River, he’d do so if the alternative meant destroying the universe (and certainly he’s made that decision before, at the end of the Time War and in The End of Time). The Doctor has also shown that he’s very willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good (though I suppose that’s more of a Tenth Doctor trait than an Eleventh Doctor trait). Mostly, though, it’s difficult for me to envision the Doctor to continue respecting a person who is willing to destroy the universe simply to avoid killing him. I guess it’s romantic (is it?), and I guess it was necessary for the narrative, to get them married, but it just rubbed me the wrong way.

I would definitely have liked to have seen more of Canton Everett Delaware III, as he was a fantastic character. And Craig Owens. Craig is probably my favorite of the guest characters during the Eleventh Doctor’s run. He knows a lot about the Doctor from the headbutt psychic transfer in “The Lodger” – he’s one of the few characters that understands regeneration – but he is still bewildered by him and reacts to him like a normal human. He’s also very loyal and very brave. I think that if they used him right, he could be the modern show’s Brigadier: a recurring character that the Doctor can rely on. I would certainly love to see him encounter the Twelfth Doctor and have to deal with the new face and personality. It would be very cool to watch his life unfold (and watch Stormageddon grow up) every couple of seasons.


Favorite Scenes: Eleventh Doctor

Matt Smith as the Doctor

Matt Smith as the Doctor

First, I should note that I’m less familiar with the Eleventh Doctor than I am with the Ninth and Tenth Doctor, so this list is probably not comprehensive. I’m spending some time rewatching series 5-7, and I bet this list will change at the end of that. Second, it seems that my choices are very different from other people’s choices, as I had a hard time finding videos of the scenes I like. Ah well.

“The Eleventh Hour” – The Doctor vs. the Atraxi: In the modern series, each new Doctor’s introductory episode does a great job of establishing the character of the Doctor, and this one is no exception. From this scene, we see exactly who the Doctor is: his bombastic nature, his courage, and his disdain for his enemies, and he completes his costume.


“The Big Bang” – Timey-wimey: What I mean here is how the Doctor escapes from the Pandorica, saves Amy, and then saves the universe through the creative use of time travel. The “scene” is something like twenty minutes long, so it’s probably a good thing I didn’t find a video for it. When you first watch this episode, this sequence of events (actually, it’s more like a big ball of events) breaks your brain, but when you think about it, it all works out and it’s brilliant.

“A Christmas Carol” – The Doctor goes back to young Kazran: This episode was fantastic, and there are tons of scenes that I’m sure others would point to as better, but my favorite is when the Doctor gets old Kazran Sardick to start watching the movie, then walks out of the room and appears in the window in the movie. It’s another scene that highlights the non-linear nature of the Doctor’s thinking.

“The Doctor’s Wife” – The Doctor realizes who Idris is: I prefer this scene to any of the other emotional Doctor/Idris scenes. The Doctor is still figuring out how to relate to Idris, and Idris is still figuring out how to be a living creature. Gorgeous.

“The Almost People” – The Ganger Doctor appears: I love it when the current Doctor’s actor is given the opportunity to do their own interpretation of previous Doctors. It doesn’t happen often – the Fifth Doctor just after regeneration comes to mind – but it’s always cool when it happens.

“Nightmare in Silver” – The Doctor vs. the Cybercontroller: I couldn’t find a good video for this, so I had to take what I got. Mr. Smith’s performance as the two very different characters is just amazing.

“The Night of the Doctor”: Ok, I’m sorry, this isn’t the Eleventh Doctor, but this minisode was published during his tenure, so I counted it. This minisode is fantastic. It answers so many questions about how the Doctor got involved in the Time War, and in only a few minutes, establishes for a whole generation of viewers the personality of the Eighth Doctor. It also gives the Eighth Doctor a beautiful end (sacrificing himself, yet again, for the greater good) and fills in the lacking regeneration.

“The Day of the Doctor” – Firing the Moment: While there are plenty of other scenes in this episode that I love, this is the absolute best. After the centuries of self-recrimination of their actions in the Time War and denying the existence of the War Doctor, and then after meeting him again, the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors return to the Time War and support him. They have realized that he made the hardest decision in the universe, and, by joining him at the Moment, show him that they no longer deny him, that they believe in him and are willing to make that decision again, right alongside him.

“11 Doctors, 11 Stories”

11 DoctorsAs part of the 50th anniversary celebration, the BBC released a series of eleven short stories, one for each Doctor and written by eleven different authors of note, then published it this month in a collection called Doctor Who: 11 Doctors 11 Stories. I’m only now getting into the alternate Doctor Who media and am very apprehensive about buying things, because I can never judge the quality of the material beforehand, but so far, in general, I’ve been pleased with the books, comics, and audio plays so far, and this collection is no exception. I enjoyed all but one of the eleven stories.

Here’s the list of the short stories (in Doctor order), with a brief setup of the situation in the story and maybe some opinion. No real spoilers.

“A Big Hand for the Doctor,” by Eoin Colfer: Ok, I have to admit, I didn’t finish this story. I really couldn’t stand the writing style and gave up  halfway through. My husband says it’s a good story, and I will try to finish it some other day.

“The Nameless City,” by Michael Scott: This story is hard to describe without giving things away – even summarizing the first scene will be a spoiler – so I won’t try. It’s very Second Doctor, letting him act the fool while he figures out what’s going on, and Jamie is also very Jamie.

“The Spear of Destiny,” by Marcus Sedgwick: The Third Doctor and Jo Grant investigates a (surprise!) spear in a local museum that seems to affect time in weird ways. As befits the Third Doctors, there’s more action in this story than a lot of the others, and it also takes a stab (sorry!) at showing how legends and myths are made.

“The Roots of Evil,” by Phillip Reeve: The Fourth Doctor and Leela land on an enormous tree floating in space that houses an entire colony of people. The concept behind this story and its setting is very cool, though I was a little disappointed with the motivation of the villain. The trip, though, is worth it.

“Tip of the Tongue,” by Patrick Ness: During World War II, the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa land in an English town in which the children are playing with a new toy that hooks to your tongue and speaks the absolute truth about yourself and what you are thinking. This is one of my favorite stories in the book, because it explores the effect the toys have on the people’s lives; this kind of introspection is one of the things that Doctor Who can do so well. The Doctor is almost completely incidental to the theme.

“Something Borrowed,” Richelle Mead: The Sixth Doctor and Peri Brown attend the wedding of the son of a friend, a species that performs a physical transformation similar to regeneration except only when they get married. This story is a simple adventure, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a fun read.

“The Ripple Effect,” by Malorie Blackman: The Seventh Doctor and Ace are stuck in a space-time bubble and have to blow up a star to push themselves out of it, but this has unforeseen consequences. The concept of this story is fantastic, and the Doctor and Ace get into a fascinating philosophical argument, but I didn’t like the resolution. It was a good enough story, but it really could have been a lot better.

“Spore,” by Alex Scarrow: The Eighth Doctor lands in an American town and discovers that what seems like a space virus has killed all the inhabitants. I really liked the atmosphere of this story and the final resolution was interesting.

“The Beast of Babylon,” by Charlie Higson: The Ninth Doctor makes friends with a girl on a planet that is attacked by cosmic creatures. As he would say, this story is fantastic. It develops the character of the girl and the nature of the threat gradually, keeping you reading to find out how it all fits together. There’s also a very cool tie-in to the Ninth Doctor’s first television story, “Rose.”

“The Mystery of the Haunted Cottage,” by Derek Landy: The Tenth Doctor and Martha Jones land in the story from a book that Martha read when she was a child. You might think this is a revisit to the Land of Fiction, but it’s not. This is one of the weaker stories in the set, because the first couple of parts are uninteresting (it tried and failed to set up a creepy, surreal atmosphere) and the very final part of the resolution is unsatisfying (the previous parts of the resolution were cool).

“Nothing O’Clock,” by Neil Gaiman: The Eleventh Doctor and Amy Pond arrive on Earth in 2010 only to find that the entire planet is uninhabited. Remember at the top that I said that the stories were released individually and then as a collection? Now, if you don’t want to buy the collection, I will urge you to buy this one story. It is completely worth it. This is absolutely a wonderful story. I won’t tell you any more about it, because you have to read it.

How fantastic is it?

Click to see the animated gif.

Yesterday, my husband and I were having a discussion about catchphrases (specifically, is it necessary when writing fanfiction to include a catchphrase to appease the reader?), and we wondered, just how often do the modern Doctors say their catchphrases? We picture them saying them all the time, but do they really? So, like a good obsessive, data-driven fan, I went through the transcripts of all the modern episodes (including webcasts) to see, and here are the results.

Ninth Doctor: “Fantastic!”

This was a little difficult to work out, because sometimes the Doctor uses the word “fantastic” as part of a sentence, rather than standalone, but I decided to include those instances because he tends to emphasize the word even in the middle of a sentence.

  • Total episodes:  13
  • “Fantastic”: 15 times in 10 episodes
  • Episodes in which he doesn’t say it: “World War Three,” “The Empty Child,” “Boom Town”
  • One instance is a repeat, in “Rose, before I go, I just want to tell you, you were fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. And do you know what? So was I.”

Tenth Doctor: “Allons-y!”

This only counts the times that the Doctor used this standalone. It doesn’t count the time in “The Fires of Pompeii” when he describes a chase scene as a “Nice little bit of allons-y.”

  • Total episodes: 49
  • “Allons-y!”: 11 times in 9 episodes
  • Once in series 2, in “Army of Ghosts.” Technically, he says it six times here, as he’s rambling on about liking the phrase and wanting to adopt it as his catchphrase.
  • Twice in series 3, in “Evolution of the Daleks” and “42.”
  • Four times in series 4, in “The Voyage of the Damned”  and “Midnight” (two uses apiece).
  • Three times in the four specials (not “The Waters of Mars”).
  • Once in “The Day of the Doctor.”

Eleventh Doctor: “Geronimo!”

  • Total episodes: 49
  • “Geronimo!”: 12 times in 11 episodes
  • Once in series 4, in “The End of Time.”
  • Twice in series 5, in “The Eleventh Hour” and “The Beast Below.”
  • Three times in series 6, in “A Christmas Carol,” “The Almost People,” and “The Wedding of River Song.”
  • Six times in series 7, in “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship,” “The Power of Three,” “Hide,” “Journey to the Centre of the Tardis,” and “The Day of the Doctor.”
  • In addition, three companions say it: Craig (“The Lodger”), River (“The Pandorica Opens”), and Amy (“Asylum of the Daleks”).

Analysis and Conclusion

The Ninth Doctor’s catchphrase is by far the most useful, as it can be used in casual conversation and in any situation in which the Doctor is pleased. This is in contrast to the other two catchphrases, which are only useful in circumstances in which the Doctor is going somewhere or starting to enact a plan. Thus, the Ninth Doctor said it very often, in fact more often than the number of episodes that he was in. However, I think that the phrase is iconic not because of the frequency of its use, but because of the inflection and facial expression of the Ninth Doctor when he used it. It wouldn’t feel special to the Ninth Doctor if the phrase had uttered in an ordinary tone of voice.

Between the Tenth and Eleventh Doctor, the Eleventh Doctor’s catchphrase is less recognized in general in the fan community, perhaps because “Allons-y!” is unusual for English speakers; “Geronimo!” while not a common phrase, is something that has been used before in English media, and outside the fan base is recognized as a battle cry. (It’s of American origin, so maybe a British person will find it more unusual than the American ears of this blog writer.) In fan art that I’ve seen, “Allons-y!” is represented very often, while “Geronimo!” is actually very rare.  Comparing the two in the data, “Allons-y!” is used less often than “Geronimo!” but only by a very small amount. Another interesting trend is that it was actually used very sparingly throughout the Tenth Doctor’s tenure, and then suddenly appeared four times in his last five episodes (counting “The Day of the Doctor”).

In conclusion, the catchphrases were actually used a lot less than you’d think they were. The reason why they stick with us is because they capture the personality of the Doctor who uses them, and not because of frequency in which they were used. Another important conclusion to draw from this analysis is that this was an incredibly silly topic to write about, and I am such a geek. And proud of it.

“Prisoners of Time”

A comic cover from the series

A comic cover from the series

I received my hardback copy of the graphic novel Prisoners of Time yesterday, and spent a good part of the early evening reading it. It’s a good comic, and I would definitely recommend this graphic novel to any Doctor Who fan (though not as much as I would recommend The Forgotten).

Spoilers ahead! (Maybe – I don’t really think I’m spoiling anything.)

First, if you’re put off by the $34 price on Amazon, you should know that it’s a compilation of twelve comic books and it comes in a very well-bound hardcover printing. Each of the first ten issues is an adventure of the first ten Doctors. Then, at the end of each adventure, a mysterious figure appears and kidnaps the Doctor’s companion, and that’s the overarching plot: who is this person, and why is he doing it? The eleventh issue brings the Eleventh Doctor into the story, and it and the twelfth issue are the resolution to the series.

In my opinion, the strength of the series is the set of Doctors’ adventures. Each one fills the entire issue, so you basically have a nice long story to see each Doctor. Each story is crafted carefully to match the feel and character of its Doctor. For example, the First Doctor’s story is an historical tale, the Third Doctor’s story has a lot of action, the Fifth Doctor’s story is a moral tale, and the Tenth Doctor’s story has quite a lot of running and dodging. In general, the art was excellent (here’s a link to the line drawings of my favorite page), except for the Eighth Doctor’s story, which had absolutely terrible art. It actually bugged me quite a lot, since the Eighth Doctor really didn’t get a fair shake on television, and here he got the short end of the stick again (though his story was just fine).

Oh, and the first three pages of the Tenth Doctor’s story brought a tear to my eye.

The overarching story, unfortunately, wasn’t the best. The villain really wasn’t very believable and required a number of pages of exposition to explain why he was doing what he was doing. (Perhaps, if they had shown a little bit of the exposition at each of the kidnappings, it would have been better, as the reader would have had the chance to try to figure out who he was.) The resolution of the story was a lot of fun, so that made up for the unsatisfying villain. The other unfortunate part of the series is that with the eleventh issue being part of the resolution, the Eleventh Doctor didn’t get his own adventure. In addition, because his entire purpose was to confront the villain, he wasn’t given his usual sparkling, schizophrenic dialogue, and the art did not convey the energetic, manic movements that define his character. He was the only Doctor that wasn’t written well.

In comparison, let’s look at The Forgotten. In that graphic novel, which, to be honest, is a lot shorter, each Doctor got an adventure, but they were each only a few pages long, with the story between the adventures about the Tenth Doctor trying to figure out what’s going on. The adventures were all well-crafted and suited to their Doctors, and then the overarching story was engaging. The villain himself was a bit contrived, but fit very well with the setting of the story (surprisingly, considering the difficulties the author had in rewriting the story, as the Tenth Doctor’s story in the TV show changed over the course of the comic series’ publication and he had to reconstruct the story to match). The actual confrontation with the villain and resolution were actually somewhat similar to Prisoners of Time, but less chaotic and more personal.

In general, The Forgotten did much the same thing as Prisoners of Time, but better; however, I think that if you read Prisoners of Time for the adventure stories and don’t worry about the entire plot, you’ll enjoy it a lot. Thus, I definitely recommend this graphic novel.

“The Forgotten,” redux

I mentioned a few days ago that I had written a post about the Doctor Who graphic novel The Forgotten but it (the post) was pretty terrible, so here’s a second go at it. This time, it’ll be more of a review, but without spoilers until you get to the section marked “Spoilers.”

The Forgotten is a Tenth Doctor story, in which he and Martha wake up in a museum without the TARDIS. They have no idea where they are or how they got there, but as they look around, they find that the museum is devoid of people but full of artifacts from the Doctor’s long history – including things as old as a Voord helmet – and even a room displaying all of the outfits and iconic tools/accessories (such a bag of jelly babies and a cricket ball) the Doctor wore throughout life. Soon after discovering this room, a mysterious figure wipes the Doctor’s memories of all but his current life. Like the Fifth Doctor once said, “A man is the sum of his memories. A Time Lord even more so,” and this memory wipe causes the Doctor to start to die. To combat this, Martha gives him an object from each of his incarnations and he uses it to remember them.

The story’s framework is about exploring the museum and figuring what it’s for, and eventually discovering the mysterious figure running it, but the fun part are the memories. The graphic novel presents one short story for each incarnation, and while it restores to the Doctor the memory of that incarnation, it also helps him solve the problems at hand. All of the stories are entertaining, and the characterizations capture each of the Doctors very well. The wrap-up of the overarching story is also very good, and there are some great surprises there. Probably the only thing I didn’t like about this was that they had to switch artists for one issue, and I wasn’t fond of his style. In particular, his Tenth Doctor has rather curly hair and doesn’t look like the Tenth Doctor at all. His style worked well for the Fifth Doctor story, but not for the Fourth Doctor’s.

If you like graphic novels (and if you think that comic books are lowbrow, think again – some graphic novels are great literature; I refer in specific to The Sandman by Neil Gaiman), I definitely recommend The Forgotten

And now some spoilers.

One of the absolute coolest things about The Forgotten is the story of how it developed, which is written in the back of the book. The comic was started when Martha was the companion, but due to the episodic nature of comics, the entire story lasted so long that the last issue would come out after Donna had already left the Doctor. Thus, the author, Tony Lee, had to rewrite the latter half of the story so that it matched the current TV show while already having published the first half. You can see this happening as you read the the graphic novel. There are small details that are inconsistent with the show (such as Martha claiming that there are two doctors traveling in the TARDIS) that make sense at the end, when you find out what happened. I’m sure that having to revamp the story was not a fun task, but I’m guessing that it made it more complex, and essentially more Doctor Who, in the end.

Farewell, Eleven!

Christmas Day has gone, and with it, the Eleventh Doctor. Peter Capaldi has officially taken over the reins of Doctor Who from Matt Smith, and we have to wait about eight months to find out what this new Doctor is like. Depressing, isn’t it? *wink* “The Time of the Doctor” was definitely an entertaining episode and a great farewell to Matt Smith.

Spoilers ahead! Turn back now if you don’t want to know.

The episode encapsulated the personality of the Eleventh Doctor perfectly. It had slapstick comedy, uncomfortable flirting, charming of children, displays of bravura, and the schizophrenic dialogue that’s just so Eleven, as well as the general Doctorness of standing alone against armies to protect the innocent. It tied up some plotlines that were in danger of being completely forgotten (the origins of the Silence, for example). And the Doctor got one last chance to do a Pandorica-style speech. This episode did exactly what all regeneration episodes should do: it summed up the outgoing Doctor and celebrated his life.

The plot of the episode was fun: nothing particularly inventive, though through it all, you’re wondering how in the world is the Doctor going to solve the standoff. In my opinion, the most amazing thing about this particular regeneration is that Eleven died of old age, something that only the First Doctor was able to do (and you could argue that he died not of old age, but of the stress of an adventure combined with older age). Granted, Eleven didn’t die of old age the way Ten wanted to – having a normal life and a family. He aged while defending the town Christmas from hordes of aliens. However, he still got to live out his entire incarnation’s span, something that we know won’t happen often.

And of course, the whole “how many regenerations does the Doctor have left” debate was explained fully by Eleven, saying that Granddad counted for one and Sandshoes counted for two, bringing his total number of spent regenerations to twelve, which is the canonical limit. Then, when he’s granted more regenerations, he clearly states that he has a whole new cycle, paving the way to the 100th anniversary (wish I could be around to see that one!).

The Doctor seems to be gaining more control over his regenerations as he gets older: being able to use it as a weapon and holding it until he’s said his goodbyes again. His beautiful vision of Amy harks back to the Fourth and Fifth Doctors seeing visions of their companions before they died. He was granted a gorgeous ending sequence, with Clara, as is appropriate, there for him but not getting in the way of his final moment. I think the only disappointing thing about the scene was the quick switch to Mr. Capaldi; Eleven did not glow and morph into his new face like all of the other Doctors did before him (except Two’s forced change).

All in all, it was a great episode and a fitting tribute to the Eleventh Doctor. Thank you, Mr. Smith, for your wonderful performance, and all the best to you!

It’s coming…

It’s only five more days until “The Time of the Doctor” airs on Christmas day. Everyone knows that this is the end of the Eleventh Doctor, that the whole Trenzalore storyline is coming to a close, and that’s all anyone can talk about. How’s he going to die? How are they going to explain the Doctor breaking the 12-regeneration limit? One question that won’t be answered for another eight months or so is what is the new Doctor going to be like?

At least for me, the excitement for this episode isn’t anywhere near as high as it was for “The Day of the Doctor.” In fact, I didn’t even realize we were within a week of the broadcast day. The thing that’s keeping me thinking about the episode is all of the postings on Facebook: hardly an hour goes by without something about the upcoming special being posted to my feed. I believe my lack of enthusiasm stems from my general apathy towards the Eleventh Doctor. While I always love regeneration episodes, because it’s the end of an era and the beginning of a new one, the loss of the Eleventh Doctor is not affecting me the way it did for the Ninth or Tenth Doctor.

However, I have been thinking about it, and I have to admit, I do really like the Eleventh Doctor.

If you’ve been reading my blog from the beginning (and I know you haven’t; no one reads my blog), you know that after loving the Tenth Doctor so much, the Eleventh Doctor was a major disappointment to me. He seemed so random in his actions and reactions, difficult to follow and not possessed of the air of command that other Doctors had in times of stress. I wasn’t fond of the series 5 through 7, though I started warming up to the Doctor by the end. It took me quite a while to figure out who the Doctor really was – a child who’s also a twelve-hundred-year-old wise alien – and once I figured that out, I started to enjoy him.

Re-evaluating now, I actually like the Eleventh Doctor. I wouldn’t put him in my top three Doctors, but he’s great. He’s different from what I like in my Doctors, but “different” isn’t necessarily “bad.” Eleven is almost slapstick funny, but still the Doctor: clever, compassionate, ready to fight for what is right. Matt Smith plays him with incredible precision: though the Doctor develops and grows over his three seasons and changes radically after Amy and Rory leave, his core personality traits – his mercurial moods, his gangling movements, his quick mind jumping from detail to detail – stay constant. The Eleventh Doctor is the Eleventh Doctor whether he’s in his tweed jacket, his purple frock, or even a monk’s garb.

I think part of what kept me from liking Eleven was the fact that I prefer the series 1-4 writing over the series 5-7 writing. In Eleven’s time, the stories were very convoluted, choosing to shoot for complex plots developed during the first and last few episodes in a season with (often terrible) filler episodes in between. I prefer to have a lighter story overall that’s brought to the fore only during the last few episodes of the season, and I think in general, the writing for individual episodes of the series 2-4 was a lot better. (Note: While Christopher Eccleston was fantastic as the Ninth Doctor, in general, the writing in his episodes was terrible overall. Only a couple of his episodes were really good.) In the good episodes of series 5-7, Eleven is a delight to watch.

While I am looking forward to meeting Peter Capaldi’s Doctor and am dreading the continuation of overly-complicated stories, I am going to miss the Eleventh Doctor. Thanks, Mr. Smith, for a splendid run!