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.

Favorite Scenes: Eleventh Doctor

Matt Smith as the Doctor

Matt Smith as the Doctor

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Farewell, Eleven!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s coming…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Movement

Back during Halloween, during my cosplay attempts, I spent a little time looking into the Fifth Doctor’s dialogue, to come up with things to  say to people that would be Fifth Doctor-y. It didn’t really work well, as I didn’t really get into character, especially when I was wearing the costume at work. I did memorize all of his dialogue from “Time Crash,” but there was very little opportunity to use it. I did say, “I’m the Doctor. Who are you?” to a girl in a Tenth Doctor costume, but either she didn’t hear me or she didn’t get the reference.

This image makes me cheer every time.

This image makes me cheer every time.

I found, though, that even more important than dialogue, mannerisms are what make the Doctor. In cosplay, most people will see you from afar and will not talk to you, so you have to try to look like the character, not just sound like him. As I write (and read) fanfics, I find this is even more important: most fanfic authors write dialogue for the Doctor, but never describe what he is doing at the moment. Perhaps it’s ok to let the reader picture for himself what’s going on, but in my opinion, if you can paint the picture, you should.

Mannerisms gives you a better insight into the personality of a character. Compare Arthur Darvill’s Rory to his Paul Coates in Broadchurch: Both are hesitant, uncertain characters, but they move differently. Mr. Darvill plays them both keeping his arms close to his body, as if he’s constantly twiddling his fingers, but Paul leans forward more, trying to be the wise, helpful reverend, while Rory stands straighter with his head back and shifts from foot to foot, like a nervous young man. These mannerisms are essential to visually communicating what the character is doing and feeling.

This is even more important for an iconic character, especially the Doctor. Since the character must distinguish himself from the other people on the screen, as an alien and a hero, as well as from his other incarnations, he dresses, speaks, and responds in unique ways, and he also moves differently. Take a look at the “all twelve doctors” scene from “The Day of the Doctor,” displayed above. You know each incarnation because of his costume, but their stances are just as important. One holds the lapels of his coat. Two leans forward a bit and steeples his fingers. Six stands straight with his hands clasped low. Three is also straight, with his hands on his hips. Ten stands a bit casually, with his hands in his trouser pockets. Even the how far apart each Doctor’s legs are communicate to you who they are.

Thinking about it this way, I found that to look more like the Fifth Doctor, I had to stand tall (well, as tall as I could – I’m 5’1″) with my head back, trying to look down my nose a bit (again, hard to do when you’re 5’1″). I kept my hands in my trouser pockets, which kept the coat swept back. If I talked with someone, I kept the left hand in the pocket while gesturing with the right hand. I also practiced the frowny face (mentioned in “Time Crash”), but that’s not a natural expression for me and I did it only a couple of times.

Wing that fez through the fissure!

Wing that fez through the fissure!

I’ve been observing the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors for the same kind of thing. Eleven’s a bit easier, because he’s all about motion. He’s a bit bowlegged and his torso sits back on hips. He also tends to hold his head forward and down, with the chin out, so he’s usually hunched forward. Then there’s the arms: with the elbows always up, he gestures with the entire arm and hand while he speaks, pointing and waving. He also taps his temples with his index and middle fingers when he’s trying to think. On top of that, he’s always moving around, spinning on his heels or dashing back and forth. I’ve heard that Matt Smith is rather clumsy, and I wonder if they had problems with him smacking the other actors accidentally.

Donna is not convinced.

This is an animated gif. Click it to see the whole thing.

Comparatively, Ten is more subdued, but he has his own set of iconic movements. A few of them are so unnoticeable that I thought maybe they were David Tennant movements rather than Ten movements, but I haven’t seen them in his other characters, so I have to assume that he invented the movements for Ten. The Tenth Doctor is very energetic and expends that energy by moving around, pacing when he has the space, sometimes even circling people he’s talking to. This movement is accentuated by his long legs and the flaring overcoat. He often has his hands jammed into his trouser pockets, which holds the waist of the overcoat down, making the hem flare even more dramatically.

And then there are the gestures and expressions. He runs his hand through his hair. When exasperated, he puts both hands on the top of the sides of his head, elbows up like antlers. He rubs his hand down his face, over his nose, mouth, and jaw. He likes to press the tip of his tongue to roof of his mouth, especially when looking at something in wonder or when thinking. And sometimes, during a slight pause in what he’s saying, very subtly, he’ll sniff, wrinkling his nose a bit. Mr. Tennant also takes advantage of his very pliant face to create outlandish expressions and some of the most brilliant smiles ever.

The writers do a great job giving the Doctors different voices, but it’s the actors who have to create the entire characters, and they do so by blending the words with their bodies, and these are the things that we, as cosplayers and fanfic writers, need to study to truly portray the characters for what they are. I think we rely too much on dialogue and the assumption that whoever is looking at us will know what we’re trying to say. I have to admit that it’s very difficult to emulate someone else’s personality, but learning to do so is part of the fun.

Doing it right

With the Christmas special only twelve days away, the hype is building for the regeneration of Matt Smith into Peter Capaldi. While regeneration episodes always make me giddy, I can’t claim that I’m really excited for “The Time of the Doctor.” The greatest part of that is because of the 50th anniversary events: I was so excited for the story of the War Doctor and the appearance of both Mr. Smith and David Tennant in the same episode – and the event was as good as I’d hoped – that I’m still on the fadeaway from it.

Part of it also comes from the fact that I didn’t watch the show until very recently (has it only been 4 months since I first saw “Rose?”) and regret not having seen the handoff between Mr. Tennant and Mr. Smith. I still cry every time I watch The End of Time. Can you imagine how heartbreaking it would have been if I had seen it with the rest of the world? And I still maintain my stance on publicizing regenerationsThe End of Time would have been far more dramatic (and traumatic!) if we didn’t know that Mr. Tennant was leaving and therefore the Tenth Doctor was regenerating at the end of the episode.

I do, though, have the advantage of viewing the events in the light of hindsight, after all the dust has settled and we can see how events panned out, and something struck me recently about the Ten to Eleven handover. The last four episodes of the Tenth Doctor were shown in 2010, as specials, rather than part of a season of 13 (or 14) episodes. The reason for this was that Russell T. Davies was stepping down as executive producer, and Steven Moffat was given a year to adjust to taking over.

Think about this. The BBC let Doctor Who basically take a year’s sabbatical to let the show adjust itself to a new leader and a new cast. That’s a year without (or at least with lessened) revenue from one of its biggest hits. Is this a British thing or a BBC? Because I cannot imagine an American company allowing a hit TV show a year off. They’d be too concerned about losing momentum, advertisers, and merchandising opportunities, not to mention the logistics of storing the sets and making sure that the actors and staff will be coming back after a year. To me, though, the BBC, at least with respect to Doctor Who, is more concerned about doing it right, rather than following the bottom line.

There’s been a couple of other instances of this kind of thing. As you know, I’ve been playing the iOS/Android game Doctor Who: Legacy. Yesterday, they posted on their Facebook page,

“As you may know if you follow us on Twitter / FB — we made this game for you the fans and really care what you think. Last week, someone in the community had a really cool idea for a special Xmas level we could release—so we worked quickly with the BBC and we’re pushing to have this in by Christmas Day! This is in addition to all of the content already planned between now and then. Thanks and please keep the ideas coming.”

This might not seem momentous, but it is. Look at what they’re saying: The makers of DW:L, Tiny Rebel Games, are not part of the BBC. They are an independent company, and their request to put in a fan-suggested level, which requires licensing approval at the very least (and probably a lot more), was responded to by the BBC quickly enough that they’re able to promise the content to the fans within a week of the idea being proposed. This is absolutely amazing. I work in gaming industry, and when working with licensed properties, you’d be lucky to get a turnaround time of a month, even when the game team and the property are part of the same company. The BBC must be doing something right: either their management is very efficient, or they are taking the time to be very responsive to their partners.

One last very small instance. I had a technical problem with DW:L on my iPad yesterday, and, not finding a main website for the game (I didn’t look too hard), I sent a note off to their Facebook page asking for help, and I received a reply within ten minutes. This means that their social media team is alive and paying attention. They don’t just consider their Facebook page as a place to put up images to get people to play their game: they use it to engage with their players. Being an avid gamer (at least, before Doctor Who took over my life), I’ve been on many, many forums and support sites, and only the very best get back to you quickly and talk to you as a person. The vast majority say that they’ll get back to you within 48 hours and send you form letter responses of “have you uninstalled and reinstalled” to the most detailed error descriptions you give them. Which do you think makes me want to continue playing the game?

This is why it’s important to do it right. Maybe spending less time and money on infrastructure and support may increase your bottom line right now, but it’s worth the time if you want to build a community of consumers and fans that will endure.

More thoughts on “The Day of the Doctor”

We watched “The Day of the Doctor” again last night, to fix it better in our minds and to get the bits of dialogue we missed while the theater audience was laughing or clapping. And I have to say, I still like it a lot. The scene where Ten and Eleven place their hands on the War Doctor’s on the Moment’s switch brings a tear to my eye.

Remember, by the way, spoilers!

Personally, I think my favorite scenes (other than the climax at the end; I always love scenes in which the situation is resolved by the appearance of multiple incarnations) are the ones in which Ten and Eleven play off of each other. The two Doctors are very different from each other, the One Who Regrets being the emo (for lack of a better word) who has been tormented both by the events of the Last Great Time War and, more recently, by the loss of Rose and Donna, and the One Who Forgets being the child who tries to forget the Time War and the loss of the Ponds. At times, they are in opposition, and at others, they are best friends. Either way, though, Mr. Tennant and Mr. Smith work together flawlessly. It saddens me to think that they’ll never be brought together like this again. (Unless the Powers That Be produce specials for them, the next multi-Doctor special will focus on future Doctors, not these. And if they only do this for major anniversaries, it will be ten years before the opportunity even comes up.)

The story was really about the War Doctor’s journey to find himself and decide what was the right thing to do. The Moment takes him to see his future incarnations to see what he becomes, and he sees what look like two children: both young and energetic, with glib tongues and an apparent inability to take anything seriously. The War Doctor is disgusted with them (a deleted scene has him lamenting that they never shut up) and wonders how they ever came to terms with the genocide of the Time Lords and the Daleks; he (and the Tenth Doctor) is further amazed that the Eleventh Doctor has willingly forgotten the horrors of the Time War, because he can’t bear to remember them.

But then the War Doctor watches them solve a situation very similar to his own: when it seems that the humans have to destroy a city to preserve the rest of their race, the Tenth and Eleventh Doctor force a solution in which the two sides of the conflict must stop the destruction and peaceably work out a solution. It’s this act that makes him realize that these two Doctors are great men doing what they must. They both deeply regretted obliterating the Time Lords and the Daleks, but doing so saved everyone else, and they continue to strive to save the universe that they once saved by activating the Moment. This epiphany gives the War Doctor what he needs to make his decision, and he returns to the Moment to do what he must.

The one thing that I didn’t like in this episode was the emphasis on the deaths of the Gallifreyan children. I felt that this plot point was played for its pathos, and ignored all of the other horrors of the war. First, as I’ve mentioned above, the Doctor commits at least two genocides when he activates the Moment. Both the Time Lords and Daleks are wiped out, but the Moment convulsed the universe, obliterating other planets and galaxies: far more than just two sentient races were destroyed. The power of the Moment to do far more damage than just destroy Gallifrey should have been at least mentioned.

Second, the show implied that the Doctor fired the Moment because the Daleks were about to destroy Gallifrey and if he didn’t destroy both, the Daleks would go on to destroy the universe. But this isn’t the real reason. In The End of Time, Rassilon reveals what the High Council was doing during the final attack on Gallifrey (mentioned in “The Day of the Doctor” when the general complains that the High Council is sequestered).

RASSILON: We will initiate the Final Sanction. The end of time will come at my hand. The rupture will continue until it rips the Time Vortex apart.
MASTER: That’s suicide.
RASSILON: We will ascend to become creatures of consciousness alone. Free of these bodies, free of time, and cause and effect, while creation itself ceases to be.
DOCTOR: You see now? That’s what they were planning in the final days of the War. I had to stop them.

The Doctor didn’t fire the Moment just to stop the Daleks, sacrificing his own people in the process. He fired the Moment to prevent the immediate destruction of the universe by the High Council of the Time Lords.

Now, perhaps Mr. Moffat took the easy route with the narrative, since focusing on the children is a lot simpler (and quicker) for the audience relate to than dredging up the complicated backstory last seen three years ago. (Though, one might argue that the children were doomed in any of the three possible outcomes: killed by Daleks, destroyed by the Moment, or erased by the Final Sanction, since the majority of Gallifreyans are not Time Lords, who are the ones who would ascend.) Sometimes you have to make sacrifices to narrative flow.

The change to the end of the Last Great Time War takes a bit of getting used to, but I think it’s great that the Doctor now has something of a quest to work towards. Eventually he will find Gallifrey and bring it out, and then the Time Lords will be back. The Time Lords are jerks. They always have been. They’ve insisted on non-interference in other planets’ affairs and enjoy taking the Doctor to task for it, and then go off and interfere themselves, to their own selfish ends, sometimes on a planetary scale (see Ravolox). When they go bad, they go really bad (see Borusa and Rassilon), and the Last Great Time War corrupted them even more (only two of them voted against the Final Sanction). I can’t imagine that Rassilon is going to be very happy to see the Doctor when Gallifrey reappears.

I’m also enjoying the mental gymnastics needed to really grok this storyline; the analysis has been fueling the conversation between me and my husband for the past two days (one outcome of which I’ll elaborate on in the next post). I find it difficult to really see how the Ninth and Tenth Doctor (and most of the Eleventh Doctor) comes out of the events here. The Moment wasn’t really fired, but up until the events in “The Day of the Doctor” in Eleven’s timeline, the Doctor thinks the Moment has been fired. Whaaa-? I know that the takeaway is “Everything in the last seven seasons of the show really did happen – just go with it,” but I’m a fan of the backstory and I must understand how it all fits together.  Yes, I know, this is Doctor Who and it doesn’t all fit together, but I try.

 

Just some fun stuff

I finally added pics to my Fifth Doctor Cosplay post!

I’ve been watching some of the extras on the blu-rays I got this week, and I highly enjoyed “Music and Monsters” on the Series 3 set, which showed the making of the Children in Need concert in Cardiff, back in 2006. It made me sick to think that if I had gotten into Doctor Who back when it rebooted, I might have been able to attend this concert, or any of the Doctor Who Proms. I love orchestral and concert band music, and the concert looked wonderful. Oh, the missed opportunities.

One of the things I really love, when going through bloopers and behind-the-scenes material, is finding out little bits that were altered on the fly from the way it was written in the script and that turned out really well. Here are a couple I’ve learned about recently.

  • In “Smith and Jones,” when Martha enters the TARDIS for the first time, she’s talking about how the room is just crammed into the police box as she passes the Doctor, then says, “It’s bigger on the inside.” David Tennant asked if he could mouth the phrase at the same time she says it, since the Doctor has heard it so many times and expects it. That addition, followed immediately by the sarcastic, “Is it?” made the scene so much funnier.
  • In “The Poison Sky,” when everyone was wearing the gas masks, Mr. Tennant forgot his line and filled it in with the first thing he could think of, which was “Are you my mummy?”  This ad-lib was a great reference to a memorable Ninth Doctor episode and made me laugh out loud. Luckily, the actor who was supposed to speak next kept his wits and asked the Doctor to focus, and the scene continued.

And just because I’m doing stream-of-consciousness here, I also love when real life affects the show.  Such as…

  • The Tenth Doctor’s love of the Fifth Doctor reflects Mr. Tennant’s own love of the Fifth Doctor. I don’t know if the trainers and brainy specs were chosen by him to mimic the Fifth Doctor, but if they were, that’s wonderful.
  • Matt Smith was planning to be a footballer when an injury made him switch over to acting. I love to watch the football scenes in “The Lodger” because you can see that he really is a good athlete.
  • Mr. Tennant requested the long coat, saying he wanted a coat that “goes down to here,” indicating his ankles.
  • Mr. Smith chose the suspenders and bow tie look, so that he would look like a “boffin” (go look it up, Americans; I had to). The brown tweed sport jacket is his own.
  • Mr. Tennant is a huge fan of the show from back in the classic days. During the Ninth Doctor’s run, Christopher Eccleston was credited as “Doctor Who,” but when Mr. Tennant became the Tenth Doctor, he insisted that the credits be changed to “The Doctor,” as they should be.
  • Peter Davison was also a fan of the show, and when he became the Fifth Doctor, he also insisted that the credits be changed to “The Doctor.”

Ok, done for now. Hope you’re having a great Sunday!

Two news items

There are a couple of interesting Doctor Who news articles today. The first one nearly made me cry. The important part is this: Steven Moffat, the executive producer of Doctor Who, said that while filming the 50th anniversary special,

“By the end of it, Matt told me that he’d worked out this plan that they’d both continue in Doctor Who: do five individual episodes each and three together – would that be ok? It was a nice plan. I think if I’d said yes they’d have gone for it.”

Can you imagine that? The return of the Tenth Doctor for five episodes, five more episodes of the Eleventh Doctor, and then three episodes of both? A full season of the two fan favorites? AND HE CHOSE NOT TO DO IT?

I think my world is falling apart.

Ok, back to reality. The rest of the article is so endearing.  It’s nice to hear that Mr. Tennant and Mr. Smith got along so well, and that they were nervous about each other at first. I imagine that meeting each other is like meeting the guy who’s leaving the job you’re taking, who everyone loved and was brilliant at it, and you feel like there’s no way you could possibly live up to that.

The other article I came across is the Radio Times’ poll for Best Companion. I voted for Jackson Lake even though there are other companions I like more than him (though I think he’s fantastic) because I wanted him to have at least a few votes. I don’t know who might actually win this poll, but at the moment, the leader is Adric at 33% to Rose Tyler’s next highest spot at 16%.  In other words, Adric is beating Rose by double.

I am absolutely surprised by this. First, you have to realize that my husband has watched Doctor Who since Jon Pertwee was the Doctor, and he has always said that the #1 most hated companion was Adric. He likens Adric to Wesley Crusher: young know-it-all. I’ve only seen a few of Adric’s episodes (“Logopolis,” “Castrovalva”), and he was frankly rather irritating. I know that Adric does have the distinction of his death shaping the personality of the Fifth Doctor, but that’s hardly a trait you’d use to vote someone “Best Companion.”

So the question is, why Adric? The problem with polls is that you can’t answer that question. I guess I really need to step up my Fourth and Fifth Doctor viewing to figure this out.