A deeper look

It’s been a few days since Christmas, which is when I watched “The Time of the Doctor” twice. I haven’t had a single urge to watch it again since. You know, I liked the episode well enough, but as it has sat and stewed in my brain, it really hasn’t worked all that well for me. As I said previously, it was a good farewell episode for the Eleventh Doctor, because it summarized his Doctor very well, celebrating his life and being very, well, Eleven. Unfortunately, I don’t think it did anything else really well.

Spoilers again, by the way.

To me, the plot was followable (that’s not a real word), but I’ve seen a lot of people say that it was too obtuse. Looking at the storylines over the Matt Smith years, that’s pretty typical of his plots. Steven Moffat seems to like to surprise his audience, with twists and turns and timey-wimey  stuff. (He coined that term, by the way, in “Blink,” and it’s become his trademark. Sadly, I think it’s also becoming over-used. But that’s a discussion for another day.) Perhaps he tried to stuff too much into the episode: the completely gratuitous humor at the beginning, all of Eleven’s enemies (why did they waste time with the Weeping Angels at all – their appearance was pointless), feel-good scenes of Eleven and the children. There were only three things that the episode needed to do – celebrate Eleven, explain how he gets to regenerate a thirteenth time, and do the actual regeneration – and the rest shouldn’t have gotten in the way of that.

The one part of the episode that really bugged me was how he got the new regeneration cycle. After Eleven leaves to go face down the Daleks, Clara talks to the crack in reality and tells the Time Lord that if they love him, they need to help him – and they do! This flies in the face of everything we know about the Time Lords. They call the Doctor a “renegade” for a reason: because he’s not supposed to be off-planet meddling with other civilizations. From the very beginning, he ran away from Gallifrey because he thinks and feels differently than they do, and the Time Lords have been calling him back ever since, either to bring him to trial for what they consider his crimes or to make him do some task they don’t want to do themselves. More recently in the history of Gallifrey, the Tenth Doctor flew in the face of Rassilon and almost the entire High Council, damning them back into the hell of the Time War. The General of the War Council called him a madman, his worst nightmare. Now, granted, the Doctor brings a lot of this on himself, but it’s been well-established that the Time Lords do not love the Doctor.

Now, they do know that he’s singly responsible for their escape from destruction and that he’s the only person that can get them out of their current situation. That inspires gratitude in people, not necessarily love. The way this should have been pled is, “The Doctor is your only hope for deliverance from the pocket universe. If you want to escape, please help him.” This is the way to move Time Lord hearts: tell them how the Doctor’s continued existence benefits them. The way it was done was simply schmaltzy. I think it was done this way to tug at your heartstrings, but I don’t think people who watch Doctor Who in general are looking for cheap emotional highs. 

And there it is. I’m very glad this wasn’t the 50th anniversary episode, as this would have been anticlimactic for such a momentous occasion. I’m looking forward to the new season (omg, eight months away!) and I’ve got high hopes for Peter Capaldi. And I think Mr. Smith’s Doctor was a fine Doctor. But I think I’ll go watch The End of Time or “The Parting of the Ways” instead.

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Somewhere else, the tea is getting cold

The trailer for “The Time of the Doctor” has just been released. It’s very short and doesn’t tell you anything, but whets your appetite for the upcoming Christmas special – which is exactly what trailers should do. I actually avoid most movie trailers because they tend to show you all the best parts of the movie and often show you the entire plot. What’s the point of seeing the movie if you already know what’s going to happen? On the other hand, I’ll watch the trailer for any Avengers universe movie. Yes, there are a few things other than Doctor Who which will command my attention.

I’m a little disappointed with the poem in the voiceover, done by Jenna-Louise Coleman. The words are

“And now it’s time for one last bow,

like all your other selves.

Eleven’s hour is over now.

The clock is striking twelve’s.”

The numbers in the poem are clearly meant to refer to Matt Smiths’ incarnation and Peter Capaldi’s incarnations, but with Clara doing the narration, she’s referring to them by their numbers, which is never done in the show – the Doctor doesn’t think of himself as “Eleven,” even though we in the fan base call him that because it’s the easiest way to refer to a specific incarnation. The Doctor of course knows which number incarnation he’s in, but he doesn’t think of himself as that number (I suppose much like the last member of a triplet doesn’t think of himself as “Three”). I’d prefer they keep the universe and the fanverse separate, but that’s probably the extremely pedantic me talking.

I received the 50th anniversary blu-ray in the mail on the 9th, one day before the actual release date. Gotta love Amazon pre-orders! The edition itself is unimpressive: it has the episode, “The Last Day” and “The Night of the Doctor” mini-sodes, the trailers, and a couple of behind-the-scenes special features. It does not have any of the “The Doctors Revisited” episodes that are included in the 50th anniversary package that’s available for streaming on Amazon. And the most disappointing part is that it doesn’t have “The Five(-ish) Doctors Reboot,” which, if you’ve read older posts, you know that I absolutely love and want a hard copy of. I am hoping that sometime in the future there will be a more extensive release of the 50th anniversary content, and if it’s substantial, I will buy it.

The disc also came with a pack of 50th anniversary trading cards, which I haven’t opened because the pack is so pretty. I’m a sucker for collecting trading cards. I used to collect cards for shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation way back when, and I refuse to look at trading cards in stores because I know I will want to start collecting again. I really would love to collect these cards, but I can’t find them online; I think they haven’t been released yet. Dodged that bullet, at least for now.

Anyway, so I watched “The Day of the Doctor” again last night. We spent a lot of it searching for clues as to when the Eleventh Doctor forgets about what happened to the War Doctor. The sees the time fissure appear in the museum and says, “I remember this. Almost remember,” and that’s what we tried to figure out: at what point in the narrative did he no longer remember. He remembers the fissure and seems to remember the fez, but does not remember meeting the Eleventh Doctor when he was the Tenth Doctor. (Oh, I love how confusing discussing the Doctor’s self-meetings can become.) We came to the conclusion that it isn’t possible to sort it all out, and it’s better just to enjoy the show.

After all these viewings, tears still came to my eyes when the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors put their hands on the War Doctor’s to help him with firing the Moment. And the convergence of the thirteen Doctors on Gallifrey still makes my heart soar. And my husband still thinks my alternate timestream theory is bollocks. Life is good.

And now for something completely different. My friend and I are planning a trip to Great Britain next year. Neither of us has ever traveled abroad, and we chose the UK because we are both anglophiles. We’re planning to spend most of the time in London and a bit up in Scotland, but I’ve decided to insist on a trip to Wales to see, among other things, the Doctor Who Experience: after seeing what’s in that museum in “The Five(-ish) Doctors Reboot,” especially the TARDIS console displays, I have to see it. I’ve also started to try drinking tea, so that I can really get the whole British experience while traveling. It’s something I’ve hated ever since I was a child, but, I had a cup of plain Earl Grey tea this morning, and it was pretty good. I think maybe my tastes have matured a little.

Nine more hours, clever boys and girls, and the Fish Doctor!

I’ve held out. “The Day of the Doctor” came and went two days ago, and even though I have been able to download the episode (on BBC iPlayer using a VPN spoofing my IP address as one from the UK), I have stoically refused to watch it. I will be watching it for the first time tonight, at the local theater, in my Fifth Doctor costume. I’ve stayed off the internet, not even visiting my own Facebook page, to avoid spoilers. I’ve rewatched the original trailer (but not the second one) and The Night of the Doctor but otherwise stayed away from the teaser clips and other material. I just have to survive for nine more hours.

It’s actually been pretty easy. We re-watched “Nightmare in Silver” and “The Name of the Doctor” to get back into the right timestream (ha, see what I did there?). But otherwise, it’s pretty much been a stress-free weekend. I’ve spent my time reading a music theory textbook (it’s actually really good, if you’re into that kind of stuff on a beginner level), fixed up bits of my Fifth Doctor costume, including coming up with a way of getting my fake decorative vegetable to lie flat instead of flopping around on my lapel, and worked a little on a fanfic that I’m trying to write and will probably scrap because it’s not coming together.

I also rewatched “Silence in the Library”/”Forest of the Dead” for the first time since finishing all of the Eleventh Doctor’s episodes, and it was very cool to see how well they seeded River Song’s story in that episode. Beyond the obvious line of the Doctor and River meeting each other in backwards order to each other, River mentions the crash of the Byzantium. They also make sure that you know that Ten sees her one more time before he regenerates, which explains why she recognizes him.

There was one other very interesting parallel to this episode, one that I am absolutely amazed was planned out this far in advance (this episode was aired in 2008, and its parallel did not appear until 2013). We all know that Clara Oswald is “the Impossible Girl,” and that her tagline is, “Run, you clever boy, and remember.” At the end of “Forest of the Dead,” when River arrives in CAL’s world, the following exchange takes place.

CAL: It’s okay, you’re safe. You’ll always be safe here. The Doctor fixed the data core. This is a good place now. But I was worried you might be lonely, so I brought you some friends. Aren’t I a clever girl?
EVANGELISTA: Aren’t we all?
RIVER: Oh, for heaven’s sake. He just can’t do it, can he? That man. That impossible man. He just can’t give in.

The clever girl.

The clever girl.

The roles are switched. The Doctor is “impossible” and CAL, the computer who has saved River to her memory banks, is the “clever girl” who must continue running and continue to remember. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but look at the dialogue. The mention of the clever girl and the impossible man don’t need to be there, and the first really doesn’t fit with what we know of CAL’s personality – she was never self-referential. I choose to believe that Mr. Moffat put this in intentionally, a seed that germinated into the storyline of the Doctor and Clara.

One thing about the 50th anniversary that I did find, watch, and highly enjoy was The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. Apparently for about two weeks before “The Day of the Doctor,” Peter Davison was tweeting hints about this mini-episode from the account dayoftheFishDr, and it was released on Saturday. I’ve watched it three times in the last day, and I hope that “The Day of the Doctor” is anywhere near as good. I also hope that it will be included on “The Day of the Doctor” blu-ray release (but I highly doubt it).

The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, hereafter referred to as FDR (which is what the Fish Doctor calls it) was written and directed by Peter Davison (and produced by Georgia Moffett under her married name, Georgia Tennant), and is a tale of Mr. Davison, Colin Baker, and Sylvester McCoy trying to become part of the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special. The title refers back to the 20th anniversary episode, “The Five Doctors” (which I wrote about here), in which the First Doctor (played by Richard Hurndall), the Second Doctor, and the Third Doctor join the Fifth Doctor in an adventure. This episode is “Five(ish)” because Tom Baker got stuck in a time eddy again and Paul McGann wanted to go with the other three to get onto the show, but he had too many scripts to read and shows to shoot.

(There’s an awesome symmetry between “The Five Doctors” and FDR, in that the first has the Doctors up through Mr. Davison, and the second has (almost) all the actors from Mr. Davison forward. Still sadly no appearance from Mr. Eccleston.)

The Doctor surrounded by Cybermen.

FDR spoofs Doctor Who while also underlining the difficulties actors have in getting parts they want. It’s filled with Doctors and companions, behind-the-scenes people (including both Steven Moffat and Russell T. Davies), actors we know and love and their families, and references, both overt and subtle, to this wonderful show. Sylvester McCoy carries with him a umbrella at all times. Mr. Moffat has a dream very much like the Fifth Doctor’s regeneration hallucination (and it ends with a hilarious line from Matthew Waterhouse). Also, when he erases all of the voicemail from Five, Six, and Seven, his phone says, in a Cyberman voice, “The Doctors have been deleted.” My favorite is a quiet reference to “The Five Doctors”: Mr. Davison, just before running away from someone, says, “Sorry, must dash.”

Perhaps one of the coolest touches in the script was from the two classic Doctors who don’t chase after the 50th anniversary special: Mr. McGann, who wants to join the chase but can’t because he’s got a show to shoot, and Tom Baker, who only appears in footage from “Shada.” And now we know why they didn’t: The Eighth Doctor was shooting his own mini-episode, and Mr. Baker didn’t have to search for a part in the special. (Yes, I got slightly spoiled on that. Oh well.)

I’m not much of a film buff and couldn’t tell you if Mr. Davison’s directing was any good, but the script was marvelous. It’s a treat for fans and I laughed aloud a number of times. I have a very soft spot in my heart for Mr. Davison – Five is my second favorite Doctor, “Time Crash” is one of the best episodes ever, and I am currently highly enjoying All Creatures Great and Small – and FDR is just raising him in my estimation. Thanks for the wonderful tribute to Doctor Who, Mr. Davison!

The impossible girl

The Doctor Who 50th anniversary blu-ray gift set hasn’t disappointed! First, the quality of the display and sound is fantastic, so much better than watching the shows on Amazon Prime. Second, I watched “Last of the Time Lords” last night and noticed a few new scenes that weren’t in the version that I watched before. I suppose I need to watch the entire series, all seven seasons, to find all the new scenes now. Oh, woe is me! I’m also pleased with all of the extras on the discs, especially the Doctor Who Confidential episodes. Perhaps these were on the original blu-rays, but I’m glad to have them.

We started watching the episodes in season 7 part 2, and have been rather disappointed. The first one, “The Bells of St. John,” was a good episode, but the next two, “The Rings of Akhaten” and “Cold War,” left us wondering if we missed something. The stories were uninspired, though I get the feeling that they both were trying too hard to make some big morality point and failed miserably. Many Doctor Who episodes with poor plots are elevated to “light and fun” status by having at least one interesting trait – sparkling dialogue, an interesting sub-plot, a lot of action – but these two failed to have even one of those. To add to that, both episodes featured the Doctor enacting the solution to a problem and having it fail, then Clara offering a solution that’s a slight improvement on the Doctor’s solution and having it succeed. While I don’t mind the companion succeeding, it seemed odd that such a new companion would already be able to upstage the Doctor, and do it twice in a row. (And if you think about it, it’s three times in a row – in “The Bells of St. John,” Clara locates the source of the problem in a few minutes after the Doctor gave up in frustration.)

I really do like Clara and I am hoping that Clara’s incredible proficiency is explained this season (I know part of her secret, so it’s very possible it will be), but for now, it’s stealing the stage from the Doctor. It kind of reminds me of Men in Black 2, which, after the first movie established  J’s top-notch skills, made him a bumbling idiot so that he had to call K back to service. It’s not nearly that bad, but the show feels like it’s not about the Doctor.