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.

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David Tennant’s Special Recognition Award at the 2015 NTAs

Honestly, I couldn’t be happier for him. The National Television Awards presented David Tennant with their Special Recognition award, for his vast body of excellent work in British television. The presentation, which included a montage of his works and statements by various people about him (including one from his father), is something to watch.

From this journal, it’s no secret that I adore Mr. Tennant. His Doctor is certainly my favorite of the fourteen Doctors so far, but that’s a character personality / story arc assessment. I like him for so much more than that, and in fact, his Doctor is not my favorite character of his: if I had to choose, I’d have to name Alec Hardy from Broadchurch, or possibly Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing.  It’s really just his talent, his ability to interpret and portray a vast array of characters that mesmerizes me. It’s hard to explain. I watch one of his shows and I forget that it’s David Tennant playing a character, because he is that character. Want a great example? Listen to the Doctor Who audiobook, Dead Air. He narrates as the Doctor, but does the voices for the other three characters, and while he is simply switching between them as he reads, he sounds like four different people playing the characters. He’s unbelievable.

He also has a fantastic sense for selecting good projects to get involved in and great characters to interpret. Broadchurch is the shining example, of course, as with his reputation, he probably has the pick of any project he might want to do. The show captured Britain’s attention and Hardy is simply a fantastic character. I think the only program that I’ve seen of his so far that was truly bad was The Decoy Bride; even the silly, campy things that he’s done, like St. Trinian’s 2 and Nativity 2 were entertaining and fun. Of course, he doesn’t only do television, movies, and theater. He does audio plays, audio books, and narration (Wings 3D was stunning, and I just love his bedtime stories for CBeebies). And outside of his performance work, he works tirelessly for the charities that he’s dedicated himself to.

I think, though, one of his most stunning attributes is his humility. Watch that video: it’s very apparent that he was not only completely surprised by the recognition, but embarrassed by it. And this is constant across all of his interviews and media appearances. Though of course the focus is on him, he seems honestly stunned that anyone wants to see and listen to him. He seems surprised that people think he’s any good, and I think he’s actually rather shy, when it comes down to being himself. It’s refreshing to see in a celebrity, especially one so talented, and rather endearing.

Congratulations, Mr. Tennant! You have the love and respect of your audience and deserve every bit of that award.

“Sympathy for the Devil”

Sympathy for the Devil CD CoverPoking around on the Big Finish site, I looked through the ranges of available audios and found one that really piqued my interest. No, it’s not the “Gallifrey” range: I’ve already ordered those and I’m bouncing up and down waiting for the CDs to arrive. It’s the “Unbound” range. This series of audios is analogous to Marvel Comic’s “What If?” series, telling stories of what would have happened if… We’ve seen one episode in the modern Doctor Who that did the same thing: “Turn Left” showed what happened if Donna had turned right instead of left, leading to her never having met the Doctor. The “Unbound” range is similar, dealing with things like “What if the Doctor had never left Gallifrey?” or “What if the Doctor’s core philosophy had been different?” The plays feature different actors playing the Doctor, supporting the assumption that the Doctor’s regenerations are influenced by his experiences and situation.

While purchasing a different subscription, I was offered a free audio and took the opportunity to get an “Unbound” audio, selecting “Sympathy for the Devil” because of its basic premise: what if the Doctor, condemned by the Time Lords and exiled to Earth, had arrived in 1997 instead of 1968? This Doctor was played by David Warner, and of course, arrives with no companion in Hong Kong on the eve of the handover of the territory from Britain to China.

I should note that “Sympathy for the Devil” was released in 2003, before the premiere of the modern show, so it only refers to the classic show timeline.

Spoilers ahead. Lots of them.

Upon his arrival, the Doctor encounters Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. The last time he saw the Brigadier, he was Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart at the London Underground. This Brigadier, however, is no longer with UNIT, and is running a pub in Hong Kong. Without the Doctor’s help, the Brigadier had been able to establish UNIT and had battled alien menaces, but history took a very different turn, as he had to come up with different solutions to all of the many problems. For example, the middle of London is dominated by a large lake, because to battle the Silurians, he had to send Mike Yates on a suicide mission into the past to drop a nuclear bomb. Other examples are given, but the gist of it is that though the Brigadier had varying degrees of success fighting off threats, his claims of the extra-terrestrial origins of these threats got him branded as s nutcase, and he eventually left UNIT in disgrace. He’d been heading for New Zealand, but ended up staying in Hong Kong.

While the Doctor and the Brigadier are catching up (and they’re not friends; they barely know each other), an airplane crashes in the hills outside Hong Kong, and they go to investigate. Meanwhile, UNIT also arrives, because the plane was carrying a British defector to China, a very dangerous scientist. The UNIT forces are led by Colonel Brimmicombe-Woods, who is disdainful of the Brigadier and suspicious of the Doctor. Now, this part is the major part of the episode, so I’m going to distill it down into a few sentences, with very major spoilers, so stop reading here if you don’t want to know.

Okay, I’m moving on.

After investigation and action and plot twists, they discover that the occupant of the plane is the Master, who had been trapped on Earth without a TARDIS by the Time Lords, and he’d been hatching plots for thirty years, trying to get the Doctor’s attention. He’s lived through all of the years of invasions and attacks, not to mention the regular human things going on on Earth, wondering how the Doctor could allow all of these horrible things to happen. Of course, some of it were his schemes, as he’s not averse to causing chaos in order to get his ticket off this planet. His current plot is to create an army of mind-controlled soldiers, but he had been fleeing China (where he had defected) when his plane crashed.

Nicholas Courtney, David Warner, David Tennant

Nicholas Courtney, David Warner, David Tennant

That’s about as much of the plot as I’m going to reveal here. I found this episode to be very enjoyable, because it contains a lot of Doctor/Master banter, double-crossing, and plot twists – in short, it felt very much like a Third Doctor/Master episode, and it was really nice to revisit that era and that type of episode, something that the show hasn’t done for a very long time (the Doctor/Master dynamic in the modern show is very different). In addition, the three main characters of the audio, the Doctor, the Brigadier, and Colonel Brimmicombe-Woods (man, that’s a handful to type), were designed and portrayed very well, starting at odds with each other (the Brigadier doesn’t trust the Doctor, as he was at the first instance in which the Brigadier encountered alien threats but then never appeared again for thirty years; the Colonel thinks the Brigadier is a nutcase; the Doctor is freshly exiled and thinks he should be able to trust the Brigadier but obviously the Brigadier has other ideas) but coming to a working truce and trusting each other. It only helped that the four main characters were played by some of the best actors in Britain: David Warner as the Doctor, Nicholas Courtney (who else?) as the Brigadier, Mark Gatiss as the Master, and David Tennant as the Colonel. (No, I didn’t know Mr. Tennant was in this when I selected it. I knew he played Colonel Brimmicombe-Woods, but that character wasn’t listed in the synopsis of the play. This was complete coincidence on my part, and quite a nice surprise.)

The bottom line is that “Sympathy for the Devil” was a great play, taking advantage of the greater freedom that working in an alternate timeline gives you but still providing the great dialogue, twisty plots, and wonderful characterizations we watch/listen to Doctor Who for. And it was nice having a different Doctor for once. Based on this one, I’ll be picking up more of the “Unbound” series as I work through the audios.

Introducing the Doctor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doctor Who and my life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Dead Air”

deadairI’ve been spending more time than usual listening to audios because I hurt my thumb last week (not even sure how), so I’ve been avoiding doing anything that might  jar it. I’ve found that playing on my iPad while listening to audios is a fantastic way to rest a thumb. The most recent thing I’ve listened to is the audiobook Dead Air, written by James Goss and narrated by David Tennant, and it was absolutely fantastic.

I’m going to try to talk about it without spoilers, because honestly, it’s that good and you want to go into it without knowing what to expect.

Dead Air is an audiobook, not an audio play, which means, like The Destiny of the Doctor, the reader is reading the book and doing the voices of the characters. Unlike most audiobooks, which are usually written novels or novellas being read out loud, Dead Air was written for the audiobook format (probably even with the knowledge that Mr. Tennant was going to be the reader), and Mr. Goss took full advantage of it. The story is told in first person by the Doctor, and so it’s intensely personal. The Doctor describes landing on a boat off the east coast of London in the early 1960s; the boat is pirate free radio, broadcasting the “subversive” rock’n’roll that was not allowed on approved radio stations.  He’s there chasing down a rogue weapon called the Hush that was designed to kill using sound: as its victim makes more sound (for example, by screaming), the more it tears the victim apart. The boat’s transmitter is broken and the Doctor knows that if it gets fixed, the weapon will be able to broadcast itself across the world and destroy it, so he must find and neutralize the weapon before the transmitter is fixed.

The Doctor of course meets the occupants of the boat, two DJs and another girl who works on the boat taking care of them, and he must protect them against the Hush. The story itself is a great Doctor Who story, but where this audiobook excels is how it uses its format. Much of the boat is dark and quiet, so since you as the listener can’t see what’s going on anyway (this is an audio!), you’re drawn into the dark and feel like you’re right there. As the Doctor is describing the situation, you’re listening hard for the Hush, and, well, all there is behind the Doctor is silence, which is terrifying. And the ending is spectacular. It’s inventive, and it pulls you into the Doctor Who universe like few other stories have. I might liken it to “Blink,” in which part of its brilliance comes from the way it invites you, through brilliant camerawork, to stare at the Angels to keep them from moving. When watching that episode, you feel like you’re in the show. Dead Air does the same thing.

The other part of this audiobook’s brilliance is Mr. Tennant’s performance. The narration is done by the Tenth Doctor, and you know what he sounds like, but there are three other characters, each with a different pitch, quality, and accent, and he switches between them effortlessly (yes, that’s four different voices and accents). And he manages to keep them all separate while portraying a huge range of  human and Time Lord emotions.

In short, this is a brilliant audiobook and I definitely recommend it to anyone. I got it on Audible.com (that’s part of Amazon), in some promotion where I received it free – I believe that if you have an Amazon account, you can get one free audiobook from Audible.com, so that you can try out its service. What are you waiting for? Go get Dead Air!

 

An empty TARDIS

Midnight-(Doctor-Who)-picIn contrast to the full TARDIS that seems to be coming up in series 8, I would love to see a bit more empty TARDIS scenarios. It’s not a common thing for the Doctor to not have companions: it only happened once during the classic series (in “The Deadly Assassin”), and once during the modern series (in “Midnight”). I’m not counting any episodes in which the Doctor didn’t have a regular companion but picked up another character that he bonded with closely enough to count as a one-off companion (such as most of the Christmas specials and “Planet of the Dead,” “The Waters of Mars,” The End of Time, “The Lodger,” and “Closing Time.”). 

If the Doctor doesn’t have a companion, the episode must focus directly on him or on the situation at hand. In “The Deadly Assassin,” this allowed us to view Time Lord society from the point of view of the Doctor, rather than any alien (to Gallifrey) companion (Sarah Jane, in this case). The script was more streamlined than usual, because the Doctor did not have to explain everything to Sarah Jane, and in the process, the audience got to experience everything, rather than being told what they were seeing. It also allowed the Doctor to get trapped for nearly two episodes in the Matrix without requiring them to keep cutting back to reality to show what Sarah Jane was doing or getting her trapped somewhere so that they could ignore her. The Master also could concentrate on the Doctor, instead of getting distracted by having to deal with her.

The lack of a companion was even more effective in “Midnight.” A story about what happens when humans are afraid of the unknown, “Midnight” would have played out very differently if Donna had been there to try to calm them down and convince them that the Doctor wasn’t the threat. Even if the humans didn’t listen to her (which they probably wouldn’t), the tension of the tight story would have been broken by Donna’s pleas; part of the strength of the final moments of Sky’s possession came from the various characters starting to doubt that the Doctor was the threat and trying to decide if they should intercede.

Both of these episodes came into being under unusual circumstances. For “The Deadly Assassin,” when Elisabeth Sladen left the show, Tom Baker asked for an episode in which the Doctor didn’t have a companion. “Midnight” was series 4’s “companion-light” episode. Back in series 2, in order to expand the series to fourteen episodes instead of thirteen, they created a “Doctor-light” episode, “Love and Monsters,” in which the Doctor and companion appeared only sparingly so that they could be filming another episode at the same time. In series 3, the “Doctor-light” episode was “Blink.” For series 4, they expanded this idea by filming a “companion-light” episode, “Midnight,” with Mr. Tennant appearing in almost every scene, while Ms. Tate was simultaneously filming a “Doctor-light” episode, “Turn Left.” Take a look at this list of episodes: they were all fantastic, with the exception of “Love and Monsters,” which was a fantastic episode until the Abzorbaloff appeared. (Think about how good that episode could have been if a reasonable monster had been the antagonist.) Doctor Who is a great show, but it excels when it steps outside of its usual boundaries.

In my opinion, empty TARDIS or companion-light episodes should be explored more often, to tighten the storytelling a bit, occasionally give the Doctor more spotlight, and take the show in different directions. It’s not difficult to set up – the companion has to go home for some reason, for example – which makes me wonder if it’s a contract thing, saying that the companion must appear in X episodes per series. It isn’t something that should happen often, though – probably not even once a series – but certainly more than twice in fifty years. Perhaps there aren’t many data points, but it seems to be a successful formula for the show, given that the actors who have played the Doctor have all been dynamic performers who could easily carry an episode on their own.