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.

Spreading the addiction

The clockwork droids were just gorgeous!

The clockwork droids were just gorgeous!

Today, one of my co-workers, Maria, informed me that she and her husband watched “Blink” recently and really loved it, and are now going to start watching more Doctor Who. Muahaha! Another mind corrupted! She’s going to be streaming episodes off Netflix, but I recommended to her, if she wanted another good, unconnected episode to watch, that she check out “The Girl in the Fireplace.” I’m very much looking forward to seeing if she really gets into it. She’s an artist and seamstress, so I’m hoping she gets very addicted, if only to see if she starts doing cosplay, because she’d be great at it.

I find it a bit difficult to convince my friends and co-workers to check out Doctor Who for a variety of reasons. First, a lot of people have this idea in their head that they can’t start watching it from the modern series because they need to watch the classic series first, and of course there’s way too much classic series to watch. I try to convince them that they don’t need to do so, citing the fact that I’ve seen less than 1/4 of the classic series myself, but they always respond, “Well, I don’t want to start in the middle.” I think it’s probably just their polite way of telling me to shut up and go away.

I haven't yet convinced a single person to watch Broadchurch! What's wrong with you people?

I haven’t yet convinced a single person to watch Broadchurch! What’s wrong with you people?

Then there are the ones who’ve heard that the show is either a kid’s show or this wacky British show that’s hard for Americans to understand. It’s pretty to disabuse them of the notion that the show is targeted at children, but the second one is harder to argue past. I don’t find British shows to be difficult to understand, but I will admit that I had some problems with Broadchurch at first, because I’d never watched a British crime show and had no idea what things like “DI,” “DS,” and “SOCO.” meant. However, all that became clear in context. British humor and drama (and really, any other culture’s humor and drama) are harder to understand, but I do feel that they aren’t too alien. How do you convince someone to give new narrative and dialogue structure a try?

I think, though, the most difficult problem with enticing new people to give Doctor Who a try stems directly from the thing that’s the strength of the show: the fact that it’s so long-lived (even considering just the modern show) and its mutability. There are seven seasons to choose from and a person coming into it for the first time will usually have heard there are three different Doctors, with very different personalities: which one to choose? Do you start from the first episode of the first season, or from the first episode of the most recognizable/popular Doctor, or from the first episode from the most recent Doctor? I find that people are often scared off simply because it has that level of complexity.

What I like to do is offer them a few sample episodes to watch that demonstrate the quality of the show without requiring background knowledge (beyond knowing that the Doctor is an alien who travels through the universe in a time machine with companions). My two go-to episodes are, as noted above, “Blink” and “The Girl in the Fireplace”; both are completely self-contained. Of course, they are both Tenth Doctor episodes, so I’ve been trying to decide what I would recommend for the Ninth and Eleventh Doctors. I’m really not sure if I would recommend a Ninth Doctor episode, partly because he’s a lot more alien than the other two and partly because his best episodes require some background knowledge. “Rose” might be the only really good episode to recommend, but the old, hammy feel of the Autons could easily turn off a new viewer.

It’s also difficult to recommend an Eleventh Doctor episode, because even when background knowledge is not required, the season’s threads (the cracks in the wall, Amy’s visions of Madame Kovarian watching her, the mentions of the Impossible Girl) tend to infect every episode and could easily confuse the new viewer. I think the only episode that I would choose to introduce a friend to the Eleventh Doctor would be “Vincent and the Doctor.” Maybe there’s something in series 7 that I’m not remembering well enough that would be good (though I kind of doubt it).

 

Difference of opinion

Two great Doctors.

Two great Doctors.

It’s a bit ironic that today on my WordPress newsfeed, I was presented with two different articles, one saying how much writer prefers the RTD and the Tenth Doctor, and the other saying how much the writer prefers Moffat and the Eleventh Doctor. The two posts didn’t really say anything that I haven’t heard before about these two Doctors, but reading them side-by-side, I see that there seems to be a clear break between preferences of the audience.

  • If you care about the Doctor’s characterization and his relationship with the people around him and don’t care so much about the show’s story, you prefer RTD and the Tenth Doctor.
  • If you care about the show’s story and don’t care so much about the Doctor’s characterization and his relationship with the people around him, you prefer Moffat and the Eleventh Doctor.

Yes, it’s a lot more complicated that than, but that seems to be the gist of the arguments that I’ve seen. Tenth Doctor enthusiasts cite his relationship with Rose, his retreat into his shell during his travels with Martha, his friendship with Donna, his love/hate relationship with the Master, and his descent into darkness and the fact that he had to condemn the Time Lords yet again at the end of his life, and individual episodes in which the Doctor suffers a tragedy or personal triumph. Eleventh Doctor fans point at the puzzles of Amy and the Impossible Girl, his story arcs of the Pandorica and the Silence and the Great Intelligence, and individual episodes in which the Doctor engineers a great victory. The Ninth Doctor tends to get shafted in this discussion: I’ve seen lots of debate about whether the Ninth or Tenth Doctor is better, but people who like the Eleventh Doctor tend to not even consider the Ninth Doctor at all.

I’m sure you know which camp I’m in (Tenth Doctor all the way!), but that doesn’t really matter to me. I like the Eleventh Doctor. He’s not my favorite, certainly, but he’s fun to watch and his episodes are good (well, some of them; like every Doctor, he’s got some real stinkers). But I like all the Doctors. The great part of the whole thing is the fact that there are millions of people out there who are all enjoying the show and are so invested in this brilliant fictional universe that they’re sitting there, in their free time, thinking about what it is about the Doctor that they like or dislike. It just amazes me that this TV show captivates so many people like this. I’m sure that it’s like this in other fandoms, but this is the first time I’ve seen it happen first-hand. I’ve been a fan of other things before (Star Trek and the Marvel superheroes come to mind), but I’ve never seen this kind of in-depth discussion happen between my fan friends for those other fandoms. With Doctor Who, the discussions I’ve watched and participated in can last for hours. The only thing I’ve seen come even close is Firefly.

So, bring it on, DW fandom! More discussion. More Moffat-hate or RTD-hate or whatever. More love for the Doctor. I want to see it all!

Busy weekend

Too much to do today, no time to write. Here are some more images, just for fun. Ooo, and I found a nice brown tweed women’s blazer that fits me perfectly at the Goodwill yesterday. I guess that seals it as the Eleventh Doctor being my next costume project.

Love the hat.

Peter-Davison-1793939

 

 

The Seventh Doctor and Ace!

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Gorgeous photoshop.

threemoderndoctors

 

Production shot from my favorite episode – quite a small group for an episode. Apparently, they wanted to do a Children in Need spot, but had to be able to shoot it in a single day and use no special effects, and from those restrictions, “Time Crash” was born.

TIME-CRASH-1

Favorite scenes: Ninth Doctor

Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor

Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor

I was compiling a list of favorite scenes from the new Doctor Who, but the list started to get pretty long and after an hour of typing, I decided to break it up into three posts, one for each of the Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Doctors. I had noticed that some of my favorite scenes are often not what people point to as “the best of,” so I’ve included a little description of what I liked about the scene. Without further ado, here are my favorite scenes from the Ninth Doctor’s episodes – I’m sad there’s so few because there were so few episodes to choose from.

“Dalek” – The Doctor encounters the Dalek in the lab: The Doctor’s rage at finding a Dalek survivor of the Time War transforms him from the confident, almost happy-go-lucky hero into a homicidal maniac. He then faces the consequences of his actions in the Last Great Time War for the first time on screen. He’s got good reason for all of his reactions, but it’s still horrifying, and the Mr. Eccleston’s performance was brilliant.

“The Doctor Dances” – “Everybody lives!”: The Doctor gets that very rare complete win, where he’s able to save everyone. Again, Mr. Eccleston shows us a side of the Doctor we rarely get to see.

“Boom Town” – Dinner with the Doctor and Blon: I love this scene, first because of the way the Doctor shuts down Blon’s attempts to escape and then because of the discussion of the morality of what the Doctor is doing. The Doctor, because he’s the Doctor, gets to decide what’s right and wrong, but such things are rarely black and white.

“The Parting of the Ways” – Regeneration: The best regeneration sequence in the new series so far, it very succinctly summarizes the relationship between Rose and the Doctor as well as gives this incarnation a beautiful farewell. I feel like a traitor to the Tenth Doctor’s regeneration scene for choosing this one instead, but his whole farewell is a lot longer and made up of multiple scenes and in total, isn’t as good as this one.

How fantastic is it?

Click to see the animated gif.

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

Ninth Doctor: “Fantastic!”

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

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

Tenth Doctor: “Allons-y!”

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

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

Eleventh Doctor: “Geronimo!”

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

Analysis and Conclusion

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

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

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

Music, seasons 1-4

One of the things I truly enjoy about Doctor Who is its background music. I love orchestral music, and composer Murray Gold writes and arranges music that goes so wonderfully with the action on the screen. I’ve purchased the soundtracks for seasons 1-4 and the season 4 specials (maybe in February I’ll purchase the soundtracks for the rest of the seasons) and I selected a bunch of them for the playlist that I listen to at work – instrumental music is awesome for concentrating. I’ve selected my favorites below, listed in no particular order. The links take you to YouTube videos of the songs, and the tooltip on the link tells you what series the video comes from.

As a note, you can buy almost all of these songs on amazon.com individually, if you don’t feel like buying the entire CDs.

Doctor Who Theme

What fan doesn’t like the theme song? This is the only song on this list that wasn’t composed by Murray Gold. It was written by Ron Grainer, then realized by Delia Derbyshire using entirely electronic means, rather than conventional instruments, and because of this, was very striking – it was the first TV theme that was completely electronic. For the new series, Gold arranged it for orchestra, though the main melody remained electronic. The show has featured different arrangements over the years, and my favorite is the one used in series 2 and 3. (I’m not sure, but I think series 1 had a different arrangement. I could easily be wrong.)

I am the Doctor

If you’ve watched series 5-7, you know this song: it’s the one used for most of the action scenes in which the Doctor is, well, doing anything. In my opinion, it is very much overused, and I’m hoping that a new action theme is introduced with the Twelfth Doctor. However, I still love this piece. It was introduced in series 4, and to me, it means the Doctor is about to save the day. It’s very heroic, and also a bit alien, as the main part of it is composed in 7/4, throwing you slightly off the beat you’re expecting.

The Doctor’s Theme

The Doctor’s Theme was introduced in series 1 and was used through series 4; I’m not sure it was used at all for the Eleventh Doctor. It evokes the mystery and majesty of the Doctor, which to me doesn’t really apply to Eleven, but is definitely perfect for Nine and Ten.

The Doctor Forever

This song starts with a slow, sad, beautiful vocal section. Then, halfway through, it switches to fast and heroic. In fact, the second section was used for the Doctor’s action scenes before I am the Doctor took that over (one scene it was used in was in “Gridlock,” when the Doctor started jumping down from car to car to get to the fast lane).

The Dream of a Normal Death

One of my absolutely favorite songs on this list, this was the music that played over the scene in “The Family of Blood” when John Smith and Nurse Redfern saw the life they would have if John Smith could remain human. The music is both happy and sad at the same time.

This is Gallifrey: Our Childhood, Our Home

This was the theme for Gallifrey during Ten’s tenure, played whenever he talked about his home. It was also used during “Utopia” whenever Professor Yana was affected by his returning memories. The main theme was rearranged for The Council of the Time Lords, to add the feeling of majesty and corruption that characterized the High Council on the last day of the Time War.

Turn Left

This piece in itself evokes the despair of the world without the Doctor in “Turn Left,” and includes a sad, mournful, ghostly version of “The Doctor’s Theme” near the end.

Just Scarecrows to War

This is the drum-and-fife music that plays when the scarecrow army starts to move in “The Family of Blood.” It’s just so pretty.

Song for Ten

“Song for Ten,” performed by Tim Phillips, is the music that plays while the Tenth Doctor is choosing his wardrobe and the Tylers are having Christmas dinner in “The Christmas Invasion.” It’s one of my favorite songs, but my husband hates it, so I have to sing it on the sly. The version that you can buy on amazon.com is a different version than the one in the show. It is sung by Neil Hannon and includes extra verses, and in my opinion, is vastly inferior – while Mr. Hannon has a great singing voice, it doesn’t “fit” the Tenth Doctor. As far as I can tell, the Tim Phillips version has never been released commercially, but you can find copies of it on the internet. The link above is to the Tim Phillips version on YouTube.

Vale Decem

This song is not in my playlist, because it makes me tear up when I hear it. The title means “Farewell, Ten” and it’s the music that plays during the Tenth Doctor’s regeneration. It’s a gorgeous song, but I just can’t listen to it casually.

The Dark and Endless Dalek Night

I’m not quite sure when this song is played in the show, but I assume it’s during “The Stolen Earth”/”Journey’s End.”

Evolution of the Daleks

I prefer this Dalek theme, but the previous one is also good. This is from the episode of the same name, and I love the choral chanting in this piece.

The Master Vainglorious

This is a very schizophrenic piece of music, which fits the Master very well. It is also punctuated by the Master’s four-beat drumbeat, which can really make your heart skip.

All the Strange Strange Creatures

This is the music from the original trailer, but it’s used in the show sometimes.

Donna’s Theme

Donna’s Theme is very appropriate for her, being very spunky and jazzy. Love Donna!

The Runaway Bride

This is a longer piece from the episode of the same name, and includes the music that played during the taxi/TARDIS chase scene.

Slitheen

For some reason, though the Slitheen were pretty silly rubbery monsters, they got a great theme song with some awesome lower brass and timpani riffs.

A Noble Girl About Town

Another song that really captures Donna’s essence, this is the music that plays when Donna is investigating Adipose Industries in “Partners in Crime.”

A Victorian Christmas

I’ve always loved this song, the first one that plays in “The Next Doctor.” It has a very authentic Victorian feel. Unfortunately, since the episode moves directly from the Doctor delighting in the Christmas atmosphere to  running to respond to Rosita’s cries for the Doctor, the song transitions very abruptly into chase music with more of a 1930s feel, which kind of ruins the ending.

Martha Triumphant

This is a beautiful version of Martha’s theme. I’m not sure if it’s played at the end of “The Last of the Time Lords,” when Martha defeats the Master, but I know it’s played at the very end, when Martha decides to take control of her life and leaves the Doctor.

We know who you are

One of my friends is celebrating the approach of the Doctor Who Christmas special and the last episode of Matt Smith by changing his Facebook profile image to the Doctors, in order, while also posting a quote or bit of dialogue for that Doctor. Today’s Doctor is the Tenth Doctor, and the dialogue was from “The Christmas Invasion,” when the Doctor brings down Harriet Jones with six words. This reminded me of one of my absolute favorite characters in the show, Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North and later Prime Minister of Great Britain.

MP for Flydale North, with Indra Ganesh and a disguised Slitheen

MP for Flydale North, with Indra Ganesh and a disguised Slitheen

We meet Harriet Jones in “Aliens of London/World War Three,” when she’s the MP for Flydale North, describing herself as a “faithful back-bencher.” Being American, I had to look up this term: according to Wikipedia, it means that she serves her constituency without holding high office or having the power to influence policy. In other words, she’s no one important. She arrives at 10 Downing Street for an appointment with the Prime Minister, only to find that on that fateful day, aliens have crashed in the Thames and the government is running crazy trying to figure out what to do, as the PM is nowhere to be found. Her appointment with him has been cancelled, but she sticks around, hoping to get a word in with him anyway. As she’s waiting, she starts to notice weird things happening, and she discovers that the acting PM and his staff are disguised aliens. No one will listen to her, but she finally finds someone to talk to, the assistant of the “alien expert” brought in to deal with the situation – Rose and the Doctor.

Harriet is established in this episode as a woman of great inner strength who was content with making the best of her little corner of the world but stepped up when disaster struck. She began to panic when first confronted with green aliens who killed people and wore their skins as a disguise, but once she was able to deal with it by revealing what she saw to Rose, she took control of the situation: she sorted out the emergency protocols, helped the Doctor figure out what was going on and how Jackie and Mickey could kill the Slitheen that was attacking them, and fully understood the consequences of the Slitheen plot and the options they had for combating it. She was also completely willing to sacrifice herself for others: she offered herself for Rose when the Slitheen was about to kill her, and later, she made the call to fire the missile at 10 Downing Street in order to save the world from nuclear war. At the end of the episode, with the lack of effective leadership in the wake of the destruction of 10 Downing Street, Harriet steps

The Prime Minister and her right-hand man, Alex

The Prime Minister and her right-hand man, Alex

We meet Harriet again in “The Christmas Invasion,” in which the alien Sycorax intercepted a British space probe while on the way to invade the Earth; thus, they speak to the British government to ask for the humans’ surrender. Harriet was PM – she had ushered in Britain’s Golden Age and worked tirelessly for her country (“Never off-duty.”) – and took control of the UNIT operation speaking to the Sycorax. Teleported to the alien ship (without fear, I might add), she was placed in the unenviable position of choosing between killing 1/3 of the Earth’s population or selling 1/2 of them into slavery. The Doctor arrived to save the day, but after the alien spaceship left, she decided to have it blown up by Torchwood. Her reasoning was that she didn’t want the aliens to go out and tell the universe about the Earth, inviting more species to come and invade, because the Earth has to defend itself; it can’t rely on the Doctor who isn’t always available. The Doctor disagreed, of course, and had her removed as PM.

Manager of the Subwave Network

Former PM and builder of the Subwave Network

The thing is, she wasn’t wrong, and she stood by her decision. While she was sorry for murdering the ship full of Sycorax, she never wavered in her conviction that the Earth had to stop relying on the Doctor and learn to defend itself, and this brings us to her third appearance, in “The Stolen Earth”/”Journey’s End.” It was three years since she was deposed as PM, and she hadn’t been idle. With funding from the Mr. Copper Foundation (nice tie-in there), she built a communications network designed to stay hidden but allow the Children of Time to communicate with each other in the case of global catastrophe. When that catastrophe arrived, she contacted all of the major players, meaning that she’s been watching the Doctor’s movements and figuring out who the Earth can rely upon. If she had not done all of this, there would have been no way to call the Doctor back to Earth, and the Daleks would have won. All because of her strength and conviction. And in the end, when the Daleks were trying to shut the network down, she made sure that they found her and not the others, sacrificing her life to make sure the others would survive to fight on.

My favorite of her scenes has to be the showdown between her and the Doctor directly following the destruction of the Sycorax, because of its complexity. She and the Doctor were both right. The Doctor knew that there are protocols that the denizens of the universe follow, that the Sycorax acknowledged their defeat and were leaving in peace. He also knew that the humans killing the Sycorax would send the wrong message to the stars, that the humans were not civilized. He then deposed her because she disagreed with him, aborting “Britain’s Golden Age” that he had mentioned before, during “World War Three”.*   She knew that the Earth had to defend itself, that it couldn’t rely on a single man to always be there, no matter how powerful he might be. She knows killing the Sycorax while they were fleeing wasn’t right (the tears she choked back after she gave the order demonstrated that), but it conveyed the message she wanted to send, that the Earth does have the ability to defend itself. She and the Doctor throw into light that what’s right and wrong are not always cut and dried, that it’s possible to draw two conclusions from the same situation and have them both be right.

And that’s Harriet Jones: strong, courageous, caring, devoted, driven, not afraid to make the difficult decision, not afraid stand up for herself and her people. It’s very sad that she only got three episodes, but those were three fantastic episodes for a wonderful character.

* You might argue that he deposed her because she had committed murder, but his line was “Don’t challenge me, Harriet Jones, because I’m a completely new man. I could bring down your Government with a single word.” His anger and her defiant response goaded him into proving that he could bring her down, and in doing so, destroyed Britain’s prosperous times. In a way, this is really a low point for the Doctor, where he lost control. On the other hand, “The Christmas Invasion” was designed to show you who exactly the new Doctor was – a cheeky gob, a valiant champion, the man who gives his enemy a choice, no second chances, willing to spend Christmas with his family – and I would argue that this bit shows you another key characteristic of the Tenth Doctor: that he is going to have trouble controlling his dark side, and that he will eventually fail.

Mickey the Idiot

Watching “The Stolen Earth”/”Journey’s End” last night, I got to thinking about one of my favorite characters in the reboot series, Mickey Smith (played by Noel Clarke). He wasn’t always my favorite character – in fact, I really disliked him early on – but he developed, perhaps more than any other character in the show.

Mickey Smith

Mickey Smith

Mickey started out as Rose’s clingy boyfriend. He had a “thick” air about him, which is something that never appeals to me, but he really wasn’t stupid – he was at least of average intelligence, if not higher than average (he was a bit of a computer whiz, as well as a gamer). The thing about him was that he was just an average, non-adventurous guy that happened to meet the Doctor: he couldn’t handle the thought of the alien Doctor and the TARDIS at first, and he didn’t have any interest in the kind of life the Doctor seemed to live: he refused the offer when it was made. Rose wanting to travel with the Doctor was incomprehensible to him. His dislike of the Doctor was compounded by the fact that the Doctor had no respect for him: the Ninth Doctor routinely dismissed what he had to say, refused to say his name correctly, calling him “Ricky,” and nicknamed him “Mickey the Idiot.”

Of course, the biggest insult was that Rose left Mickey in the dust, running off with the Doctor without a second thought about their long-term relationship. He loved her deeply, enduring her absence of a year (during which he was suspected of killing her), and waiting for her through four seasons of the show, even during the time that they were both trapped in Pete’s World and she ignored him, pining for the Doctor and trying to find a way to blast through the dimensional barrier to return to him.

The thing is, Mickey could have remained a one-dimensional character, following Rose around with puppy-dog eyes every time she deigned to return to the Powell Estate, but instead, he grew. The first time Rose returns, in “Aliens of London”/”World War Three,” Mickey shows his resourceful and resolve. With help from the Doctor, he gains control of a missile and makes the decision to fire it into London and possibly kill a lot of people, in order to prevent a greater disaster. He stands up to Jackie when she begs him not to fire. The Ninth Doctor gains respect for him here, and the nickname “Mickey the Idiot” starts to become a term of camaraderie. Later in the season, in “Boom Town,” Rose summons Mickey to Cardiff, flirts with him and leads him on, but runs off to the Doctor as soon as trouble arises, and Mickey decides that it’s time to give it up, to move on. At the end of the season, Rose resolves to return to the Ninth Doctor, who is facing certain death against the Daleks, and, knowing that if Rose can’t return, they can live out their lives normally, Mickey instead sacrifices his wishes and helps her.

During the second series, Mickey begins to find his own life. He begins to try to do something important with his life and uses his computer skills to investigate possible alien activity on his own. He discovers a school getting record results not long after multiple UFO sightings in the area (this was shown in a Tardisode), and he  calls Rose and the Doctor to investigate, but makes it clear that it was the only reason he called, not some ploy to bring Rose home. Rose, being the heartless tease that she is, leads him on again. In this episode, Mickey realizes that he’s the “tin dog,” the one left behind and not cared about, and he asks to join the Doctor, so that he can see what’s out there. Part of his motivation was certainly wanting to be with Rose, but she, in typical Rose fashion, gets angry with him for responding in kind.

And then they land in Pete’s World. He meets his parallel Ricky and watches him die, and fights the rise of the Cybermen. The trapped Doctor uses the code words “any idiot” to signal to him what to do, and Mickey rescues them all as the Cyberman factory is destroyed. He chooses to stay in Pete’s World to fight the Cybermen, where he knows he can make a difference: he finds his strength as he cuts himself off from the poisonous Rose. He still loves her, but he knows that she doesn’t want him, though she’s immature enough to want to keep him as a plaything.  But he’s still human: when she gets trapped in Pete’s World with no hope of returning to the Doctor, he waits for her to return to him. She, of course, never does, and when the Meta-Crisis Tenth Doctor joins her, he is strong enough to admit that it’s done, and he returns to the main universe.

In a nutshell, Mickey started as a simple, average guy, then, enduring years of emotional trauma at the hands of the woman he loved, became a tough, courageous man who found his own purpose in life. He didn’t start with a strong character – unlike all of the main companions: Rose, Martha, Donna, Amy, Clara – but instead developed completely during his brief appearances on the show. A lot of the story in Doctor Who revolves around the story of the companion, but there are a lot of other wonderful personal stories to follow, and Mickey’s is one of the best.

Expectations, part 2

We started watching “Revelation of the Daleks” last night, but didn’t get to see more than the first part of it. So far, the plot is extremely complicated and we haven’t really been able to figure what’s going on yet. The weirdest thing though is that every so often, this DJ comes on and talks. He’s watching the events of the episode on video screens and commenting on them cryptically using an American accent, usually in some stereotyped style (one of his costumes is Elvis). He’s extremely annoying and his appearances completely ruin the atmosphere of the story. I hope he turns out to be something important, because otherwise he’s terrible.

I was browsing back to old posts and I saw my list of expectations for “The Day of the Doctor,” and I thought it might be fun to see how well I predicted what we might see. So, here we go.

I want to find out the War Doctor’s history.

Check!

I would have liked to see at least one scene in which the War Doctor was actually a warrior, fighting the Daleks, as in carrying a gun like a soldier and shooting them, something no other Doctor would do. No, crashing the TARDIS through the platoon of Daleks doesn’t count.

I want to see the War Doctor fire the Moment.

Check!

Ok, so technically he didn’t fire the Moment, but that was the whole point of the story. The Moment was there and he was going to fire it if they didn’t change their mind. Close enough.

I don’t want to see the Nightmare Child, the Skaro Degradations, the Would-Be King and his army of Mean-whiles and Never-weres, and other previously-mentioned denizens of the Time War.

Check!

On the other hand, I felt the depiction of the Time War was pretty weak: just a bunch of Daleks shooting at civilians. Where was the “war turned into hell?”  I suppose that Doctor Who has never been a truly violent show, but I would have expected Moffat to have come up with some scenes of terror, not just pathos.

I want the Tenth Doctor to have one really good, energetic, Tenth Doctor moment.

Bzzt!

The Tenth Doctor  had three focused moments – accusing Elizabeth I of being a Zygon, threatening the rabbit, and questioning who he thought was the Zygon commander – and he failed in all three of them; they were all simply comedy. In fact, most of the Tenth Doctor’s appearance in the show was only for comic relief. Disappointing.

I want the Eleventh Doctor to remain the focus of the show.

Check!

Perfect and well-done.

I want to see the War Doctor regenerate into the Ninth Doctor.

Bzzt!

Yes, he started to regenerate, and yes, his features started to change, but this is how it really should have been.

Actually, I had been hoping that they wouldn’t show the regeneration and then released a video like “The Name of the Doctor” which showed the full regeneration. I had hoped that while Mr. Eccleston had declined participating in “The Day of the Doctor,” he would have done a small video, like Mr. McGann had done. Oh well.

So there you have it, I got 4 out of 6. Not bad!