Gone but not forgotten

It’s been a very long time since I’ve been to this blog – over a year, judging by the date of the last posted entry. There’s a number of reasons for this, but one of them is not a loss of interest in Doctor Who. Not at all. Though there are a lot of other things I do, it still consumes my life. I don’t get to watch episodes that often (and there are still many, many classic stories I have never seen), but I’m almost constantly thinking about the show in some way. I listen to audios to and from work. I write fanfiction. I discuss the show with friends, both local and online. I went to Gallifrey One this year and met some of the most amazing people, both fellow fans and people who work on the show.

Part of my inattention to this blog stems from having a sense of not having enough time to keep it up. It takes me a long time to compose even a short, simple post, and usually my posts are neither. I do love to organize my thoughts about different aspects of the show and get them down on paper (I’ve always loved writing), but, as you know, life changes and the time you used to have to devote to an activity evaporates. I would like to start keeping this up and I’m going to try, but I can’t promise anything.

Another large part of my absence has been caused by the show itself. One of my most recent posts was about my disappointment with Series 8. It was written before Series 9 was aired and expressed hopes that the upcoming season would be much better. Well, unfortunately, it wasn’t. Series 9 made many of the same mistakes I felt it made with Series 8. It continued to deviate from the adventure format that had served it so well for the previous fifty years and instead concentrated on the relationship and friction between the Doctor and the companion. What adventure that was there seemed to be contrived to make a point, rather than a story of conflict and solution that happened to have a broader point (best demonstrated by the terrible writing and setup in the Zygon episodes to push the characters to the final scene and the Doctor’s speech about the follies of war, but also by all of the episodes involving Ashildr). “Face the Raven” was an exploration of the kind of trap that must be woven to catch the Doctor and gave Clara a beautiful and fitting ending, and of course “Heaven Sent” was a masterpiece, but both were thrown away with the travesty that was “Hell Bent”.

I could go on, but I won’t – there’s no point other than to complain. Just like with Series 8, Series 9 left me angry and upset that the show that I loved so much was just so bad. The announcement that Steven Moffat was leaving after Series 10 and Chris Chibnall was going to be the new showrunner elated me, because I could hope that he will turn the show away from its current angst-fest direction and steer it back to a more story-driven course. Mr. Chibnall’s Doctor Who episodes have the adventure feel to them, even though some have been, well, terrible (I’m looking at you, “Power of Three”). And, of course, I’m a huge Broadchurch fan, and I’ve always loved “42”.

But back to my point. I stopped writing here after Series 9 debuted because I want to keep this blog to its purpose, which is documenting my explorations into the Doctor Who universe and fandom. While that does mean criticizing the show when it deserves it – and there are tons of episodes and audios out there that are just plain bad – I want to keep the tone of this blog positive; after all, I still love Doctor Who. There is, sadly, very little positive I can say about Series 8 and Series 9, and since, at the time, Series 9 was the only thing to really talk about, I had nothing to say here. And then, of course, I forgot about this blog for a while.

Hopefully, though, I’m back, to talk about all the things I love about Doctor Who. That means the classic show, the modern show from Series 1 through “The Day of the Doctor” (well… Series 7 was really shaky…), and the Big Finish audios. I think that a lot of my posts are going to be reviews, to jot down what I liked or didn’t like about things, especially the audios (there’s just too many of them to remember). And there’ll be a bit about the fandom itself, as I attend conventions, recommend some fan artists I like, and discuss DW fanfiction. There’s just too much to love!

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Raleigh Comicon, 2015

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve written here! The main reason is that, well, I’ve become much more busy at work, moving into a new position that I’m not quite comfortable with, as well as the coincidental timing of a huge project at work: two weeks of eleven-hour days (including eight hours each day during the weekend) has not been conducive to watching/listening to much Doctor Who, much less writing in my journal. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t been thinking about it – it’s still what I think about when I’m not busy – but I just haven’t had the time to devote to it.

However, the big project is done and I’ve had some time to decompress, just in time for the 10th anniversary of the debut of modern series. On March 26, 2005, “Rose” was broadcast in Britain to a very appreciative audience, and the show hasn’t stopped since (paused a bit here and there, but not stopped). There doesn’t seem to be any official celebration coming from the BBC, as they have said they are keeping their anniversaries in line with the debut of the original show in 1963, but the fandom is certainly celebrating. I hope to do the same in the coming days here, but I haven’t decided exactly what I’m going to do. At the very least, I have a meme list to write about: you know, favorite episode, favorite moment, etc. We’ll see how the week goes.

An amazing, gracious man

An amazing, gracious man

In the meantime, I got the chance to go to the Raleigh Comicon this past weekend. It was timed at exactly the right time, as in “finish big project on Thursday, get on the plane on Friday.” If we had missed our deadline, I would have had to cancel. But, it worked out, and here is my adventure.

A little over two weeks ago, they announced that David Tennant would be at the Wizard World Comicon in Raleigh. My husband, the wonderful man that he is, immediately told me to make reservations and go, to make sure to get in before it sells out. So I did: fly in Friday night, spend Saturday playing the creepy stalker, and fly out Sunday morning.

I won’t waste any bytes here describing Raleigh or the trip itself, though I will say that I am very sad that I didn’t get the chance to see the city or NCSU much; I love exploring new cities. Saturday was the big day: photo ops at 11 a.m., autographs at 1 p.m., and panel at 3 p.m, followed by photo op and autograph sessions for the other group. I honestly don’t know when the poor man had time to eat, as he went directly from one event to the next. No wonder he’s so thin.

The photo op was mostly a blur to me. It was literally walk in, “Hi! How are you doing today?” (him), “Great, thanks!” (me), *SNAP*, and the handlers shuffling me out. The autograph session gave a little more time. First, he wasn’t behind a curtain, so you could watch other people getting their things signed. When it’s your turn, you hand your item to be signed to the handler, and the handler gives it to DT. Almost everyone wanted a picture signed, either the picture from the photo op or one of the pictures they had available (you received one for free even if you didn’t want it signed; I was disappointed they had nothing newer than Series 4 and especially no Alec Hardy, so I chose a print of the Doctor and Donna), though I did see two people, a mother and daughter, who brought in one poster and one Tenth Doctor cardboard standup. I had the item that I have always wanted him to sign: my cricket ball. When the handler handed it to him, he stared at it and said, “Um, I think this is for someone else.” I assured him that I really want the ball signed by both him and Peter Davison, and he said, “Okay. Though I don’t really know how I’m going to do this.” I got the chance to thank him for inspiring me and changing my life (because I wouldn’t be traveling and I wouldn’t be writing and I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for his performance as the Doctor), and we exchanged a couple of other sentences before the handler pushed me out (which was fine – there were other people waiting, of course).

Then there was the panel. I won’t describe it, because you can go watch the videos on YouTube (though I did film the entire thing), but I really enjoyed it, mostly because I was in the room with him and I could really get a feel for his personality. Who he is, and simply his personal energy and presence, just doesn’t translate over video, you know? He amazed me with how excited and warm he was, to this mass of probably six hundred people, after spending the last four hours in a whirlwind of over-excited fans. When a young child came up to the microphone to ask a question, he knelt down to listen to her. It was beautiful. Oh! And the way he expresses himself! He used the word “vertiginous” in casual conversation! I’ve always admired the way he weaves his words, and his extensive vocabulary, but to hear it in person…

I enjoyed every bit of my experience with Mr. Tennant. But I have to say that I was not impressed with Wizard World or the con. Now, understand that I’ve never been at a con like this before (my only other con was the very first Minecon, and that did not have celebrity appearances), so I really don’t have anything to compare to, but I felt very much like sheep. Everything was geared toward getting as many people through as possible, and the plan for the throughput was not well designed. (At one point, after waiting for 45 minutes, a few hundred people who arrived after us started moving ahead of us because the lines were poorly designed and were not guarded by the handlers; my friend and I had to cut ahead to regain our place.) I understand that they are in this to make money and therefore they’re not going to turn away anyone who’s willing to pay for the “VIP Experience” (I am sure con attendance doubled when they announced that DT would be there), but it really wasn’t a VIP experience. It was an assembly line. (Pro tip: If you’re getting a photo at the con to get signed, buy your own 8×10 hard plastic sleeve and bring it. They cost about $1, if you buy them in packs of 25, or $1.5 if you buy them individually, but Wizard World will sell them to you while you’re standing in line for $5 apiece.) Wizard World just announced that DT is going to appear with Billie Piper at their con in Philadelphia, and I weep for the people who pay to attend that. Raleigh was small; Philadelphia is going to be a madhouse.

The con itself had nothing else of interest to me, but that’s really my fault for being very specific in my interests. I had hoped that the dealer room would be interesting, but that was also disappointing. Probably because of DT’s appearance, the vendors were concentrating on Doctor Who merchandise, but at least to me, you can’t hold my interest with stuff that I can get on the web. There were a few local fan artists with interesting things (and I purchased an infinity scarf embroidered with Gallifreyan writing), but scant few. And for a “Comicon”, there was very little actual comic art. There were a few booths of artists selling their comics, but not much, and certainly no representation from Marvel or DC. And no anime.

However, I’m not going to dwell on the bad things. I had a good time! I met a lot of people, most of which I chatted with in line about all kinds of things, and three of which I hung out with and have connected with on Facebook. I don’t have many friends who are Doctor Who fans, so it was nice to get to spend time with a crowd of people with the same interests. And I really can’t say enough about how wonderful Mr. Tennant was. Even in the few seconds I got to interact with him, he was interested and attentive and actually happy to meet me. He was absolutely brilliant.

My fifteen favorite episodes – Dec 2014

Ok, yes, it’s no longer 2014, but good enough. As I’ve done a year ago and six months ago, here is the list of my fifteen favorite episodes. Note that this is not necessarily my ranking of best episodes. It’s a ranking of ones that I like the most. It’s interesting comparing this back to my old lists (here and here), because you can see that not only have my tastes changed, but my definition of “favorite” has changed as well.

15. 42

burn-with-me-martha-oThis isn’t a popular choice, but I do love this episode. The time limit keeps the pressure on, and action keeps moving back and forth around the ship, but meanwhile, the characters get to explore their relationships and histories. And the Doctor fights a losing psychic battle against a solar entity, something that I always enjoy. The psychic part, not the losing part, though the fact that Doctor does succumb makes it even better.

14. The Eleventh Hour

A spectacular Doctor-introduction episode, it shows us all of this Doctor’s defining traits and sets up the Doctor’s and Amy’s relationship during a fun and interesting adventure.

13. Turn Left

Due to a tiny, ordinary decision, Donna never meets the Doctor and the world is thrown into chaos. It’s a fantastic exploration of a divergent timeline, showing what would happen if the Doctor wasn’t around to protect the universe.

12. The Waters of Mars

lawsoftimeThe downfall of the Tenth Doctor, when his need to help the people right in front of him overwhelms his greater responsibility to the universe and he convinces himself that he is above the rules. The situation was bad enough, with the creepy Flood, but the conclusion of the episode is chilling.

11. Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead

This episode combines a fantastic story, a very creepy monster, and the introduction of River Song, back when she was actually intriguing.

10. The Caves of Androzani

The Doctor and Peri, poisoned from the outset, find themselves bounced back and forth between political factions trying to control a lucrative mine on the planet Androzani Minor. Throughout all of the intriguing conflict, which occurs on many levels, all the Doctor tries to do the entire episode is find the antidote to save Peri. This is one of the greatest episodes of classic Doctor Who, with the Doctor at his most heroic.

9. Remembrance of the Daleks

remembrance-of-the-daleks-1When two different factions of Dalek appear on Earth to retrieve an artifact, the Doctor and Ace seem caught in the middle without any way to stop or deflect the war between them. However, it turns out that the Doctor had the upper hand all along, and this episode shows just how cunning this incarnation of the Doctor can be.

8. The Fires of Pompeii

This episode cemented Donna as the best of the modern companions, as she starts out as making a stand against the Doctor for what she believes is right, but through the episode learns that the Doctor has more to consider when making a difficult decision than just who might die. And yet, she is still willing to stand up to him and make him see when he’s wrong when she needs to. Behind all this was a great adventure as well as a story of a family who learn what’s important in life through their contact with the Doctor and the events of that befall them.

7. The Lodger

This episode is lots of fun, as a normal guy has the Doctor move in with him for a number of days.

6. School Reunion

drwhoschool3Ah, the return of Sarah Jane! Even if you’re not a classic show fan, this episode communicates just how important she is to the Doctor, and their reunion is bittersweet. The background story, of the Krillitanes and their quest to become gods, tests the Doctor’s moral firmness, and he almost loses.

5. The Doctor’s Wife

This one is all about the TARDIS made flesh and her interactions with the Doctor. The rest of the story is great, but it’s Idris and the Doctor that makes this episode brilliant.

4. Midnight

This intense episode, set entirely in a tiny bus, is absolutely chilling, with an invisible enemy that controls first one person and then the Doctor, and a panicking group of humans who latch onto the one different person in the group – the Doctor – and brand him as the enemy instead, attempting to destroy him despite evidence to the contrary. This is Doctor Who at its rawest and most real.

3. The Day of the Doctor

9191_4Despite the numerous flaws in its plot and its disappointing handling of the Time War, this episode is great fun, with lots of banter between Doctors, adventure, and thirteen Doctors descending on Gallifrey.

2. The Runaway Bride

This episode has a fun, action-y plot, but its real strength is the development of Donna, from an angry and shallow bride at the outset to a far more sober and understanding woman at the end; the Doctor brings out the best in her.

1. Human Nature/The Family of Blood

I really can’t see a time when any other story will take my #1 spot. This episode builds up the story and life of John Smith, then tears it from him as he discovers the truth about himself. It explores how the Doctor’s presence can destroy the lives of the people around him, and, at the end, highlights his alien nature and reveals just how cruel he can be when he’s angered.

 

Honorable Mentions

Time Crash: If this could be called an episode, it would be #1 or #2. Beautifully written and produced.

The Night of the Doctor: This webisode was brilliant in and of itself, but also connected the Eighth Doctor to the beginning of the Doctor’s involvement in the Time War.

Dalek: The Doctor’s rage and what it does to him.

The End of Time: The Doctor, the Master, and the Time Lords. ‘Nuff said.

Father’s Day: This is a great exploration into Rose’s background.

The Ark in Space: I didn’t expect this episode, with its larvae made of actors wrapped in green bubblewrap squirming on the ground, to be any good, but halfway through, I was just riveted.

Arc of Infinity: Omega is one of my favorite characters in the Doctor Who universe. This was a fantastic episode, except for the last twenty minutes, which was just terrible.

The Christmas Invasion: The first part of this episode drags a bit, but it establishes its point very well: the human race isn’t well-equipped yet to deal with aliens. Then the Doctor wakes up and it’s an incredible ride from that point to the end, establishing every detail of his character so well, even foreshadowing his eventual downfall.

The Five Doctors: While the “getting to the tower” parts of this episode are boring, having so many Doctors and companions in one show was brilliant, and for the most part, this is one of the most fun episodes ever made.

My favorites from the expanded universe – Dec 2014

Fish Doctors

Fish Doctors

Last year, around November, I wrote a post listing my fifteen favorite episodes of Doctor Who. I then repeated the exercise in May, and it was very interesting seeing the changes in attitude and perception over the course of six months, considering that at least some of my initial enthusiasm for the show had worn off and I had seen more of the classic episodes. So I decided I would try to do the same post every six months.

This is not that post.

That’s mostly because it takes a huge amount of time to compile that post, and so I plan to do that tomorrow. In the meantime, I’d like to start another tradition here at Maius Intra Qua Extra, and that’s to list my favorites bits of the expanded universe, that is to say, from the audios, books, comic books, etc.; basically, anything that’s not the TV show. Now, I’m going to qualify this by noting that I have not seen even 5% of what’s out there, so this is a selection of favorite items from very small list of works. Hopefully, in six months, the list will have grown substantially.

These are not listed in any particular order.

 

Audio Plays

The Light at the End, by Nicholas Briggs: The Big Finish contribution to the 50th Anniversary celebration, this audio is simply brilliant. With five Doctors (and their companions!) getting trapped by a fiendish plan to destroy them, they band together and each do what they do best to unravel the plot and turn it around. The story is solid, riveting, and fun, the performances are perfect, and the entire feel is just so classic Doctor Who. I would honestly consider this the real 50th Anniversary story, not “The Day of the Doctor”, except, well, keep reading and you’ll find out why, if you don’t already know.

Of Chaos Time The (from Breaking Bubbles and Other Stories), by Mark Ravenhill: In one of four short plays featuring the Sixth Doctor and Peri, the Doctor finds himself running down a corridor with someone he doesn’t know, who apparently does know him and has been following his orders for some time. The Doctor is figuring out the puzzle right along with you, and it’s a spectacular adventure in temporal trickery.

The Chimes of Midnight, by Robert Shearman: In this chilling tale, the Eighth Doctor and Charley find themselves trapped in the servant’s area of a manor house in the 1920s on Christmas Eve, reliving the same hour over and over again. It’s surreal and creepy Doctor Who at its best. And remember, Christmas isn’t Christmas without Mrs. Baddeley’s plum pudding.

Revenge of the Swarm, by Jonathan Morris: This sequel (or is it prequel?) to “The Invisible Enemy” (a Fourth Doctor TV episode) finds the Seventh Doctor, Ace, and Hector encountering the Swarm again, this time going back in time to influence its own genesis. In addition to expertly wrangling the timelines to make the two episodes fit together, it has a lot of action and suspense, and pays homage to the original episode in multiple ways.

The Kingmaker, by Nev Fountain: The Fifth Doctor, with Peri and Erimem, travel to the past to find out what happened to the two princes that were imprisoned in the Tower of London by Richard, Duke of Gloucester, but they get separated, with the companions in one time zone and the Doctor in another, three years later. The Doctor must unravel what has happened to his companions and try to find and rescue them, while they are forced to live through the intervening years. The puzzle, plot, and characterizations in this audio are top-notch. (This is the first audio I’ve heard so far that’s managed to make a nod to the modern show.)

 

Audio Books

Dead Air, by James Goss: This audiobook takes advantage of its medium, weaving a story about a sound-based enemy that revels in silence and darkness. Read by David Tennant and written in first-person for the Doctor, this story is intensely personal and dark, and Mr. Tennant does a fantastic job doing the voices of all four characters, of different accents, ages, and genders. If there’s any Doctor Who audiobook to get, this is it.

Shockwave (from The Destiny of the Doctor), by James Swallow: The Destiny of the Doctor is an 11-book set, one story for each Doctor. The final story, for the Eleventh Doctor, is based on all the previous stories, so if you want to read that one, you must read all the rest. However, the rest are all standalone stories. Most of the stories in the series are good, but this one stood out for me. Read by Sophie Aldred, the Seventh Doctor and Ace are trapped on a planet that’s about to be destroyed by a solar wave and must flee with the other humans. This book took great care to describe the surroundings and the action, heightening the tension and adding so much to the already riveting story.

 

Books

The Krillitane Storm, by Christopher Cooper: I didn’t expect this book to be anything but a nice adventure, and I was pleasantly surprised. The action is fast-paced and the alien incursion that the Tenth Doctor is investigating turns out to be anything but simple. In addition, this story explores the culture of the Krillitane, showing them to be a complex society and shedding light on the motivations of the Krillitane we saw in “School Reunion”.

11 Doctors, 11 Stories: This is a compilation of novella adventures by various authors, one for each Doctor. It’s now available as 12 Doctors, 12 Stories with the inclusion of the Twelfth Doctor story, but I haven’t read it, so it gets its former title here. Some of the stories are better than others, but in general, this is one great collection. My favorite of the bunch is the Eleventh Doctor’s “Nothing O’Clock” by Neil Gaiman.

 

Comic Books

The Forgotten, by Tony Lee: The Tenth Doctor finds himself trapped with Martha in a museum that contains only items relating to his long history. A mysterious figure steals his memories, which starts to kill him (“A man is the sum of his memories; a Time Lord even more so.”), and he remembers stories from his previous incarnations to get them back. This comic not only presents new short stories for each incarnation, but also has a great overall arc and a wonderful resolution.

 

Other

The Five(-ish) Doctors Reboot, by Peter Davison: This is what I think deserves the label of the best 50th Anniversary work. The story of Mr. Davison, Mr. Baker, Mr. McCoy, and Mr. McGann (at least for a little bit) trying to get into “The Day of the Doctor”, it’s superbly written and acted, and pokes fun at every trope and every person associated with Doctor Who. It shines with love for the show, its history, and its fans, and it’s simply delightful.

 

My 2014 with the Doctor

“Lance was right. We’re just tiny.”
“No, but that’s what you do. The human race makes sense out of chaos. Marking it out with weddings and Christmas and calendars. This whole process is beautiful, but only if it’s being observed.”

– Donna and the Doctor, “The Runaway Bride”

 

newyear1It’s that arbitrary time again when we say that this year is last year and the next year is now this year. But that’s how we make sense of it all, by marking a particular day as the first day of the year and looking back at the 365 days before it to see where we’ve been and how far we’ve come. So, here I am, thinking about my past year with the Doctor and his wonderful, crazy universe.

At this time last year, I was rather disappointed with the Christmas special/regeneration episode “The Time of the Doctor”. While the Eleventh Doctor was never my favorite, it was sad to see him go (and I did miss him), and even sadder to see that his farewell episode was such a mess. But, we got to see a glimpse of the new Doctor, and anticipation was high for a new, older, different Doctor.

Of course, in order to see him, we had to survive eight months of no new Doctor Who. What does a fan do when the content faucet is turned off? Find others! For a newcomer to the show like me, there’s 27 years of classic episodes to watch, as well as the hundreds of Big Finish audios, plus novels, audiobooks, and comic books. I’ve been building up my collections of these things and watching and listening to them when I can, though it’s slow going. There’s just so much! However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how good the classic show and the alternate media have been. Yes, the classic show has a very different feel and horrendous special effects, but the stories are solid, and in many instances, they’re better than the modern show. Same for the audios. Great stories, and in many instances, because they don’t have visual effects to worry about, they can be far more ambitious than the TV show. What are you waiting for? Go check them out!

Then, in August, Series 8 debuted, with Peter Capaldi as the Doctor. I’m not going to rehash old discussions; if you read this blog regularly, you already know that while I love the new Doctor, I didn’t like the season or the companions Clara and Danny. I spent some time immersing myself in the audios, but eventually, my disappointment in Series 8 cooled my enthusiasm for the show, and it showed: I haven’t listened to a new audio in a while, and I barely posted here in October and November (and September, too, but that was for a different reason, mentioned below). I’ve recovered the enthusiasm quite a bit now, mostly by concentrating on Series 1-5, and my love for the show has remained steady.

There have been, however, two other major ways in which the show has impacted my life. The first is traveling. Before this year, I had never traveled anywhere that wasn’t either to go to school, to visit family or friends, or because of work, and I had never been out of the U.S. I’ve always wanted to travel, but either never had the money or the time or the resolve. Of course, Doctor Who made me want to visit Britain, but it was much more than that. The Doctor is an explorer and traveler, and he inspires wanderlust in me. I can’t travel the universe, but I can explore this world, and he inspired me to finally get off my butt and go. My first trip was to Victoria, B.C., to try to find the filming of Gracepoint and be a David Tennant fangirl; it was just a silly idea in my head, but my husband told me, “You love Doctor Who, you love David Tennant, and you want to travel, so go. Do it.” And I was on a train headed there three days later. That’s the Doctor to me: he teaches you to jump in head-first and experience and explore everything.

“The thing is, Adam, time travel’s like visiting Paris. You can’t just read the guide book, you’ve got to throw yourself in. Eat the food, use the wrong verbs, get charged double and end up kissing complete strangers. Or is that just me? Stop asking questions. Go and do it.”

– The Doctor, “The Long Game”

My second trip was to England and Scotland, with my best friend, who I’ve been referring to as Sandy in this blog: we left our husbands behind and wandered for nearly three weeks from Bath, to York, to Edinburgh (and the Highlands), to Cambridge, to London. This was in September, which is why this blog was silent then. The journey was incredible! We ate all kinds of new food (except I didn’t get the chance to try haggis, so next time!), tried not to get killed in the traffic horrors of Bath, took a balloon ride, toured on riverboats and lake boats, chatted with people, toured all the cathedrals we could find (Southwark Cathedral was my favorite; well, maybe after St. Paul’s), deliberately got lost wandering in London, heard the LSO in concert at the Barbican, watched a Shakespeare play at the Globe, got hit on by a drunk guy coming out of a pub in London (who, after noticing we were American, proudly proclaimed, “I’m from England!”), found the resting place of Isaac Newton… Oh, and we got to watch new Doctor Who episodes on BBC1. I want to go back, and I desperately want to travel more.

The second thing that has changed in my life is that for the first time ever, I’ve gotten invested in a real creative endeavor: I write. Last October, after watching “The Girl in the Fireplace” for the first time, I was lying in bed and thinking about the episode, and an idea for a story came to me. I thought about it so much that I couldn’t sleep, and finally, around two in the morning, I sat up, pulled out my iPad, and started typing. Two hours later, I had the first draft of the first piece of fiction I had ever written. Now, I’m not saying that I write well or anything like that, but the act of thinking of the idea and actually putting it down on paper was cathartic. I created something new. It was a fanfiction exploring Reinette’s thoughts when the Doctor returned to her when she had grown up. I showed the story to a couple of friends, and thought nothing more of it: it was just a one-off thing for me.

“It seems to me there’s so much more to the world than the average eye is allowed to see. I believe, if you look hard, there are more wonders in this universe than you could ever have dreamt of.”

– Vincent Van Gogh, “Vincent and the Doctor”

Then, a month later, we saw the 50th anniversary special, “The Day of the Doctor” in the theater, and again, the episode sparked an idea, and I wrote that story, too. And that was the real beginning of it. In the year since, I’ve written two novellas and forty short stories, all but one of which are Doctor Who fanfictions (the other is a Harry Potter fanfiction). I’ve thought about why I write – especially why I write fanfiction, rather than creating my own worlds and characters – and it comes down to this: I love exploring the Doctor Who universe, its settings and characters. Yes, there’s tons of episodes, audios, books, etc., but I can also explore it myself by creating these stories set within the universe. And I love it! Doctor Who encourages me to explore and create by inviting me in, and its main character directly advocates reaching into yourself to see what brilliance lies inside. Other people do it in their own ways: drawing fan art, making fan videos, composing/performing music, discussing episodes and themes with friends, cosplaying, or even watching the show and simply just enjoying it for what it is. My way is to write.

newyear2And that’s my year with the Doctor. I think a lot of my friends look at me and think that I’ve become pretty obsessed by this silly sci-fi show, and probably because I’m a David Tennant fangirl, but it’s really so much more than that. It’s not just a TV show, and it doesn’t matter that the characters are fictional. I embrace the ideals that the Doctor embodies, and I believe I’ve grown quite a bit personally because of this silly sci-fi show. Here’s to 2015, to further adventures with the Doctor and explorations of my world and self!

Happy 51st birthday, Doctor!

It’s November 23, 2014, fifty-one years after the first broadcast of ‘The Unearthly Child”. The day before, President John F. Kennedy had been killed in Dallas, and so no one was paying attention to a new children’s science fiction show, and the BBC had to re-broadcast that episode the next week, to give this odd little programme a fair chance.  Fifty-one years later, that show is still going (admittedly, it was off the air for sixteen years), with seven million viewers tuning into each new episode. The eighth series of the modern show, featuring the twelfth actor to portray the Doctor for at least a full season, concluded a couple of weeks ago, and in a month, there will be a Christmas special. Beyond the telly, there’s a multitude of books, comic books, and audio plays – hundreds of stories from across the universe and all eras.

It’s almost impossible to describe what Doctor Who is; I think David Tennant said once that it’s impossible to describe the show without sounding like a raving lunatic. It’s generally classified as science fiction, and most of its stories involve aliens or at least some kind of technological gadgetry, but there’s so much more to it. Some stories are action-adventure, others are Gothic horror. There are political dramas, historical fantasies, and, to the anger of some purists, even romances. One week, they’re battling an army on war-torn planet, the next week they’re solving a murder mystery, and the next, they’re shrunk down to microscopic size and climbing through the brain of some creature. You never know what you’re going to get when you tune into an episode, in any of its media. And that’s one of the core attributes of the show. Its main character changes every few years, with a new personality and a new way of putting together an eye-bending outfit that somehow makes sense. If you’re not fond of a particular Doctor (episode) then come back in a year (week) and there’ll be something new for you to like.

But something about the heart(s) of the show stays the same, to keep its audience close in its constantly shifting world. The show has changed a lot over its fifty-one years, starting as a simple children’s show meant to teach science and history, evolving into episodic adventures of a man on the run from his own people and getting embroiled in the machinations of evil aliens and monsters, then, as the audiences tastes changed, developing longer story arcs and delving deeper into the companions’ lives and relationships. But there are three things that I think that make Doctor Who stand out. The first is the construction of its hero, the Doctor, who fights for what he believes is right, no matter what, standing against all the evil he encounters and even against his own race when he must. No matter what face and personality he wears, that’s always him. The second is the quality of the stories. There will always be stinker episodes, and some seasons will be not as good as others, but in general, the stories told are fantastic. The show takes full advantage of all of time and space to tell some of the most wonderful stories ever. The third is its complex history and exploration of deeper themes. The Doctor stands at the intersection of humanity’s everyday world and the rest of the universe. He deals with people on an individual basis, but also comprehends the bigger picture, how all the races of the universe fit together with each other. And he’s been doing this for hundreds of years. Thus, his stories draw on themes, problems, dilemmas from all levels of life, from the struggles of a single person to the grand schemes of the Time Lords, and the audience gets to explore it all with him.

As Mr. Tennant said, describe the show, and you sound like a raving lunatic. There’s really no other fictional universe that can do what Doctor Who does, none that has the reach or, honestly, the courage to try. And that’s what draws us back to it, to watch the explorer in his wooden police box, as he travels the universe with his loyal friends. We get to travel with him, see all of time and space and all the nasty, horrible wonderful things out there. Thank you, Doctor Who, and happy birthday!

Shifting gears

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Too lazy to find a more appropriate image. What is Clara doing?

It’s taken me a bit of time to adjust back to real life after the 17-day holiday in Britain. I have to admit that after a week of work, I’m still not quite sure where the project is at or what my role in it is, but I’m sure that’ll get ironed out really soon. Meanwhile, at home,  a large fraction of the items I brought home with me are still in a pile, waiting to be put away. And there’s a huge pile of laundry that’s just screaming to be done. All in good time.

One of the highlights of the trip for me was having the opportunity to watch the new episodes of Doctor Who on BBC One, right when they were broadcast for the first time; I was in Britain for “Listen” and “Time Heist.” I had been afraid that wanting to catch the show at 7:30 p.m. on Saturdays would cut into our holiday time, but it turned out that we were usually back in the hotel room by then, so it didn’t affect anything at all. The only two times we were out at night (attending the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican Theatre and “A Comedy of Errors” at the Globe) had been carefully scheduled to not be on Saturday nights. I have to say that it was rather exciting to experience my favorite show along with everyone else.

The shows themselves, though, were disappointing. “Listen” tried so hard to be spooky but fell flat, possibly because so much of the recent creepiness – the Weeping Angels, the Silence, the robots in “Deep Breath”, to name a few – have relied so much on the victims standing still and long periods of nervous, paralyzed fear that it’s just the same old thing now. Then we went through the tired trope of “person A teaches person B something, then B goes back in time and teaches person A that thing.” I do have to say that it was exciting to go back to the Doctor as a child (and as soon as Clara stepped out of the TARDIS, I literally leapt out of my seat screaming, “That’s the shack the Doctor fired the Moment in!”), but then it ended with Clara pretty much being the reason for the Doctor’s genesis. Way to deflate the legend! Then there was “Time Heist”, which should have been an action-packed Mission: Impossible-type thriller, but decided instead to slow everything down with long scenes of the monster creeping through hallways and freezing its victims in place (oh, wait, I already addressed that earlier this paragraph; funny that). All that extra time could have been used to give Saibra and Psi more to do, rather than have them do their one designated thing and get “killed” immediately. (Not to mention, once again, characters get good deaths, both for them and for drawing the audience further into the story, and then they’re not dead. Doesn’t Moffat ever kill anyone for real?) And then the ending, a repeat they did only eleven episodes before in “Hide.” Couldn’t they have found any other reason for what the Teller was doing? I did watch both episodes again when I returned home, and, like I’ve found with Doctor Who in general, they improve on re-watch, but they’re still pretty average.

And then there was “The Caretaker.” This episode was all about Clara and Danny’s relationship, and since I can’t stand either character or their relationship, there’s no way I could come out of this with a positive opinion. We’ve got Clara the sexual predator on the one hand (no, really: she asks Danny out the moment they meet, re-asks multiple times after he says no, follows him and peeps while he has a personal moment then immediately barges in and demands he go out with her, returns after the date goes pear-shaped and blurts out his personal secrets [why he doesn’t consider her a stalker at this point, I don’t know], then returns once more to his apartment and kisses him – if the genders were reversed, this show would be pushed past the watershed) and Danny the “sensitive” ex-soldier who’s really an insult to all real soldiers suffering PTSD. Granted, the Doctor really didn’t treat him very well in “The Caretaker”, but Clara’s inability to take Danny and the alien situation seriously and talk to him about it like an adult, telling him what he needs to know about her, just destroys any illusion that these characters are realistic.

Now, the more I watch, the more I like the Twelfth Doctor, but the Doctor alone doesn’t make the show. I have “Kill the Moon” downloaded and ready to play, and yet I’ve spent the evening messing around playing puzzle games: I don’t feel like watching Doctor Who. Similarly, while I was gone, my husband didn’t even bother watching “Listen” and “Time Heist,” having no interest in them at all. Carl and Sandy made it through Series 7.1 about two weeks before we left for vacation, but have felt no impulse to continue watching; they want to watch Series 7.2 so that they can see “The Day of the Doctor” (which I’ve told them is fantastic), but I expect it will take them months to watch those eight episodes.

What happened? We are four people who started with “Rose” and couldn’t get enough, blasting our way through Series 1-5. We all love all of the Doctors, Nine through Twelve (Nine through Eleven for Carl and Sandy), but the love of the Doctors isn’t enough to make us love the current show. The plots are weak, overly complicated, and uninspiring, the characters are poorly developed, and the episodes seem to be going for spectacle and heavy emotional payout, but they’re missing the mark and are instead coming out maudlin. And through it all, they seem to be missing the basic idea that Doctor Who has been running on for fifty years, that it’s an adventure show that’s meant to simply be entertaining, to tell a fun story by taking us to new places and introducing us to interesting people. I made a quip the other day that Doctor Who has basically become Sherlock in Space. Not to diss on Sherlock, though; it’s a great show. The thing is, Doctor Who is a very different beastie from Sherlock, but it feels the same, and honestly, the change in show dynamic is not working for Doctor Who.

Weapon_of_Choice_cover

Finally ordered this. So excited!

So, the new season has been very disappointing for me, and yet, the show is still my life. Why is that? Normally, when a show doesn’t interest me, I just drop it and move on. That happened with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: when the first four episodes failed to be interesting and the characters grated on my nerves, I stopped watching. (I’ve heard it’s much better now, and I might give it a chance again sometime.) But Doctor Who is still my obsession, and after I thought about it over the past week, I realized why: there is so much more to the show than just the current season. I still have at least 75% of the classic show to watch, seven Doctors and dozens of companions to get to know. There are over two hundred audios to listen to, and that’s just in the main range; my current goal is to get the Gallifrey series and finally meet Narvin and Braxiatel. The novels and comic books, I’m less interested in, but I’m still working on those, too. And, of course, I can always return to Series 1 through 5.

You see, there’s a lot more to Doctor Who than just the episodes being shown on BBC One. The universe is huge, and if one part of it isn’t interesting, I’ll just go play in another part. I’ll keep watching the new episodes, of course – you couldn’t keep me away from them. But I’m content with being a classic/audio/RTD fan.