Eeeeeeeee!

fdr-dtAccording to Geekcritique, at a con recently, Colin Baker let slip that the BBC is planning to release a 50th anniversary box DVD set (and blu-ray, hopefully), and it will include The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot! It’s just a rumor at this point, but I am BOUNCING. I adore FDR – it’s the best part of the 50th, in my opinion – and have always wanted my own copy of it, and though I already have “The Day of the Doctor” on blu-ray, I will buy it again if it comes with FDR.

I sure hope this is true!

 

Fish Doctors and spaces

 

Time to celebrate!

Time to celebrate!

Have you seen the Hugo Award nominees for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)? If you’re expecting “The Day of the Doctor” to be there, you won’t be disappointed. Here’s the list!

  • An Adventure in Space and Time written by Mark Gatiss, directed by Terry McDonough (BBC Television)
  • Doctor Who: “The Day of the Doctor” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Television)
  • Doctor Who: “The Name of the Doctor” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Saul Metzstein (BBC Television)
  • The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot written and directed by Peter Davison (BBC Television)
  • Game of Thrones: “The Rains of Castamere” written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by David Nutter (HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)
  • Orphan Black: “Variations under Domestication” written by Will Pascoe, directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions; Space/BBC America)

Did you see the fourth one listed? The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot!!! Congratulations to Mr. Davison!

I’m not really sure how this qualifies for a Hugo Award, since they are awarded for “the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements,” according to Wikipedia, and while the show refers to Doctor Who, it’s not in itself a science fiction or fantasy work. However, I am elated! Personally, I feel that FDR was the best product of the 50th anniversary. Yes, I love “The Day of the Doctor” so much that I still watch it at least once every two weeks, but FDR was just brilliant. While poking so much fun at Doctor Who‘s production, fandom, and mythos, it was also a wonderful love letter to everyone involved over the past fifty years, including the fans. It was also unapologetic: if you weren’t a hardcore fan who knows about the whole history of the show, you missed some of the jokes. But if you were, hearing Mr. Davison quietly tell the production manager, “Sorry, must dash,” made your heart leap. I know that FDR isn’t going to win this award, but I really hope it does.

As an aside, my favorite scene in FDR is when the three Doctors walk in and out of the BBC Wales studio’s back door and the music changes from classic style to modern style, and they’re just so confused.

Readerly Geek just posted pics of her #geekspace, so I thought I would do mine. Well, I have a lot more geek space in my house, but it’s not all in one place. But I thought I’d post a picture of my Doctor Who shelf. This isn’t my full collection of DW paraphernalia: my books and comics are on a different bookshelf, cosplay stuff is in a box, and there are toys and figures scattered throughout the house, but this is the display shelf. Prominent items:

  • DVD collection: Modern show is missing a couple as we’ve lent them to Carl and Sandy. Classic show still has quite a ways to go.
  • Royal Mail commemorative stamp set
  • John Smith replica pocket watch toy: Terrible quality, but I had to have it.
  • TARDIS travel journal: Includes my trip to Victoria to see Mr. Tennant.
  • Cricket ball: Still unsigned by Mr. Davison and Mr. Tennant. Some day.
  • Eleventh, Tenth, and Fourth Doctors’ sonic screwdrivers: One toy, two replica remote controls
  • Brainy specs and plastic celery (luckily has not turned purple yet)

 

geekspace

 

 

Week of the Doctors

In case you didn’t know, this week has had 3.5 Doctor birthdays. Peter Davison got the week going on Sunday, April 13, followed immediately by the other Peter, Mr. Capaldi, on April 14. Then today is David Tennant’s birthday, April 18, and the 0.5 came yesterday, April 17, from a second David, David Bradley, who played William Hartnell in An Adventure in Space and Time. That’s 1/4 of the Doctors being born in April (I checked, none of the others were born in April, though most of them were born in the first half of the year).

Happy birthday to all of these brilliant actors who have brought us such wondrous stories!

I think I just really like the Doctor with glasses.

I think I just really like the Doctor with glasses.

 

Until the new series starts, we just have to rehash old shots.

Until the new series starts, all we can do is rehash old shots. Sorry.

 

Fantastic performance in a wonderful movie.

Fantastic performance in a wonderful movie.

 

I'd never seen this promo pic before, until just now.

I’d never seen this promo pic before, until just now. Oh, and glasses.

 

 

 

“The Caves of Androzani”

tcoa“The Caves of Androzani” (henceforth abbreviated TCoA) is the last episode of Peter Davison’s era of Doctor Who, and it’s considered the best episode of Doctor Who ever. That might be hard to believe for people who are primarily familiar with the modern series, that the best episode comes from the classic series (that it’s considered better than, say, “Blink”) and that it’s a Fifth Doctor episode (and not from Tom Baker, Jon Pertwee, Patrick Troughton, or William Hartnell), but it seems to be the general opinion among those who are fans of both the classic and modern eras that if “The Caves of Androzani” isn’t the #1 episode, it’s in the top three.

I watched it back in October or so with no idea that the episode rated so highly, with only the knowledge that it was the Fifth Doctor’s regeneration episode, and as such, I was mostly watching it to see the Doctor get embroiled in some situation, win the day, and sacrifice himself (I knew the circumstances of his death beforehand). As such, I was immensely disappointed and the episode didn’t make much of an impression on me at all. Since then, I’ve learned a bit more about the show and decided to give it another go.

Before I continue, here’s a link to an article that I’ll reference at least once. It’s from a blog called Classical Gallifrey, which did in-depth analysis of all Doctor Who classic episodes. Its treatment of TCoA is a little down the page, behind the “Read More” link at the bottom of the entry. The analysis is extremely long and I only skimmed it very lightly.

Classical Gallifrey

Now, onwards! Spoilers ahead.

I think my second viewing of TCoA was very well-informed by my recent viewing of “The Robots of Death.” I noticed during that episode that a major part of it had to do with the personalities and relationships of the people working on the mining vehicle. In the modern show, the episodes mostly focus on the Doctor and his companions, with the guest characters forming a backdrop against which they play, but in the classic show, it seems that often the guest characters are the meat of the story, with the Doctor and companions being almost completely incidental. This is the case with TCoA. The Doctor and Peri arrive on the planet Androzani Minor and get embroiled in a political war between multiple sides. The planet produces a substance called spectrox that prevents aging, making it “the most valuable substance in the universe,” and everyone wants to control it. The main players in the war at the start of the episode are

  • Morgus: The man who owns the spectrox mining operation and lives on Androzani Major
  • Sharaz Jek: A strange masked man who lives down in the caves and, with an army of androids, steals the spectrox and kills off the miners
  • The President: The president of the government on Androzani Major, who nominally has control but is beholden to Morgus to keep himself young and knows Morgus has bought most of the government
  • Chellak: The general of the army tasked  by Morgus with cleaning Sharaz Jek out of the caves
  • Stotz: A mercenary who supples Sharaz Jek with weapons, but is loyal to whoever pays him

This is just at the beginning of the episode, and only the most important people each faction; there are a couple of other characters that have major effects on the story as it goes along. When we first enter the caves, Sharaz Jek has established his operation in the caves and has been holding off Chellak’s forces for six months, pretty much running circles around the army. With the spectrox mining being hampered, Morgus is not making the profits he’s used to and is getting desperate to get rid of Sharaz Jek. The episode is a tale of political and military maneuvers, as different factions learn what’s going on, stage attacks and schemes, and change allegiances.

Where does the Doctor fit into all of this? He and Peri land on Androzani Minor and enter the caves to explore. They fall into a growth of raw spectrox before being found by Chellak’s men, who accuse them of being gun runners for Sharaz Jek. They spend most of the episodes bouncing back and forth between the different factions, who each believe they are spies for some other faction. Meanwhile, they discover that raw spectrox is toxic to humans (the sickness is called spectrox toxaemia) and that from their brief contact with it, they are both dying. There’s only one antidote for it, the milk of a queen bat that lives far down in the caves where there is no oxygen. None of the factions have the equipment to go down there, and are certainly willing to let the supposed spies die.

Thus, the episode is a complex web of intrigue, some of which is due to the already tense situation in the caves, and some of which is due to the introduction of the Doctor and his companion, as each faction who finds them assumes they’re enemies and adjusts their plans based on what they think the Doctor and Peri have learned and are going to do. Meanwhile, throughout the episode, the Doctor is completely powerless, at the mercies of whoever has captured him at the moment, but his only concern is to figure out how to save Peri. From the moment he finds out that Peri is sick, all he wants to do is cure her, and when he finds out the sickness is fatal, it becomes his driving force. This desire gives him the impetus to break out of his chains (while he’s in a spaceship and captured by the mercenaries) and commandeer the spacecraft to return to the planet and acquire the milk of the queen bat for the antidote.

There are a couple of other things worth mentioning about this episode. I will note that both of these I got both of these ideas from the Classical Gallifrey link I posted above. First, the direction. This was the first episode Graeme Harper directed for Doctor Who. If you don’t recognize his name, he directed ten episodes during David Tennant’s run as the Doctor, including “Army of Ghosts”/”Doomsday”, “Time Crash”, “Turn Left”, “The Stolen Earth”/”Journey’s End”, and “The Waters of Mars”.

sharazperi2Now, I will tell you plainly that I don’t know a single thing about directing in a show. I can’t tell you if a specific director is good or bad. I can only tell you what I see when I watch something, and to me, it looks like in TCoA, Mr. Harper took Doctor Who in a completely different directorial direction. One of the things that I sometimes have a problem with while watching the classic episodes is the feeling of unreality: the cheap sets, the brightly-lit interiors, the stodgy characters standing in a row delivering their lines to each other, the long shots of slow monsters plodding across a desolate landscape, that kind of thing. Quarries looked like quarries, and caves looked like, well, cheap sets made of papier mache. Mr. Harper turned that on end for TCoA. He used the lighting to darken everything except the most important things in the scene. He positioned the actors in natural poses and arrangements. For some shots, especially the incredibly creepy scenes of Sharaz Jek with Peri, he positioned the camera low and intimate, to draw you closer to the characters. Sure, the sets were still cheap, but he focused you on the characters and the action, and thus you don’t notice the rest. He concentrated on depicting the story, rather than shooting the script, to considerable effect.

The second thing I wanted to mention was a very short bit (probably only two seconds) that has wider implications on the story and the lore of the show. I wouldn’t have noticed this if Classical Gallifrey hadn’t pointed it out. When the Doctor has commandeered the spaceship and is returning to Androzani Minor, he’s already well into the late phases of spectrox toxaemia and, like Peri, is going to die soon. He’s sitting in the pilot’s chair staring at the viewscreen and hallucinates for a moment, seeing vertical lines covering the viewscreen screen. He concentrates and they go away. As it only lasts for a second or two, it just looks like something that was thrown in to emphasize that he’s really sick.

What Classical Gallifrey points out is that the vertical lines weren’t on the screen – they were over his entire field of vision, and if you pay attention to them and to the end of the episode, you’ll see that they’re exactly the same lines that appear in his vision when he starts to regenerate. The point of the scene was not that he was sick, but that he was dying at that moment and willed himself to delay his regeneration until he could save Peri. Up until this point, I had thought that the concept that the Doctor could delay regeneration was invented for the Tenth Doctor’s story in The End of Time, but no, the Fifth Doctor did it first. Also, his stopping his regeneration in order to continue trying to save Peri only underscores his tenacity and his devotion to this companion who he barely knows. (Read Classical Gallifrey’s discussion of this point: it’s far better than anything I could ever write about it.)

I have to admit, on second viewing, I’m still not sure about everything that happened in those caves. There were so many tricks and turnarounds that I’m not sure who ended up on top. But I was completely engaged in the story – all of the characters were intricately designed and interesting to watch, even the ones you end up hating – and I do think that this was a fantastic episode. #1? Not sure. I’d have to watch it a few more times to really grok it. But top 20, at least. I’d put this episode up against the best that the modern show has to offer, and it’ll beat out a lot of them.

“The Light at the End”

the light at the endMy current project at work is something purely visual, requiring no verbal or critical thought, which is unusual for me, because my previous projects all involved writing, usually documentation. While I’m working, I’m usually listening to music because it’s something that isn’t intrusive; I can continue to work and write with music in the background. However, I realized yesterday that while I’m working on something purely visual, I could be listening to something with actual narrative. I had purchased some Big Finish Doctor Who audio plays a week or so ago, so I downloaded one (luckily, work has a high-speed connection) and played The Light at the End while I worked, as an experiment to see if I could be productive while listening. (The result, by the way, is that I think I was more productive than before, because while my visual mind was working, my narrative mind, which is usually wandering far away and often distracting me with thoughts of “you should go look that up on the Internet!” was absorbed in listening to the story. I finished more work than I normally do in an afternoon.)

I had never listened to any audio plays of any type before this. Well, ok, when I was a kid, the morning radio program my mother used to play every day had two short humorous bits called Chicken Man and The Story Lady, which were about five minutes apiece and were short skits. But as far as I know, the U.S. doesn’t have a tradition of radio plays that lasted into the era of television, while the UK does. If you look on the BBC iPlayer website, there are radio dramas playing every day. Is there radio drama at all in the U.S.? I don’t really know, and I wouldn’t even know where to look.

So, I went into The Light at the End without any clue as to what to expect. I knew that it wasn’t an audiobook (another thing I’ve never experienced, but that will change soon), and that the original actors for Doctors Four through Eight were in it, as well as some companions, but beyond that, it was a fresh new experience for me. And it was a great one!

I had been afraid that I wouldn’t be able to follow what was going on without any visual cues. Who was talking? What were they doing? Can you really see what people are doing? I found that the writers and actors paint a very complete picture of what’s going on. First, the Doctors are all very distinct. Tom Baker and Colin Baker have very unique voices. Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor has a different accent from everyone else and rolls his Rs magnificently. Peter Davison and Paul McGann sometimes sound a bit similar, but you can usually tell from the words that are put in their mouth which is which; the Doctors all have different personalities and this extends to the way they speak and the words they choose. The companions were harder to distinguish simply by voice (except Leela; no one sounds like Leela), but again, their dialogue was very in-character. Second, the audio plays have sound effects that explain what’s going on, from explosions, to footsteps moving around in stereo, to fogged dialogue to denote dream sequences or characters being spirited away. Third, if something’s not clear, it was made clear in the dialogue, e.g. “Oh, look, here comes Ace.” Thus, I can definitely see that the script was written with its medium in mind, and I found that it was just as enjoyable as a TV episode.

I also very much enjoyed the story itself. (No real spoilers here, other than what you can glean from the episode’s summary and list of actors.) Something’s going wrong in an English town on November 23, 1963, something that will end in catastrophe, and the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Doctors, along with their companions, are trying to figure it out and fix it. Of course, part of the charm of this story is that you have five classic Doctors interacting with each other, but the story is robust and a lot of fun, compelling you to stick around to see just how it all comes out. All of the actors do a great job of bringing their characters to life, and you can really picture them swaggering around (for the Doctors, at least). Ace’s and Peri’s youthful enthusiasm were especially delightful, and, for me anyway, it was nice to meet Charley Pollard for the first time. I would also like to note that the play also provides some very sweet surprises for fans.

Since I was working at the time, I didn’t really get to pay too much attention to the technobabble details of the plot, so I plan to relisten to this sometime, and I’m really looking forward to it. I think this is a great audio play and was a terrific choice for a first-time listener. And, as the classic Doctors’ complement to “The Day of the Doctor” 50th anniversary special for the modern show, it was a great tribute to the old show.

“Arc of Infinity”

We finally viewed the end of the Omega arc in “Arc of Infinity.” I was actually a bit surprised at how much I enjoyed this episode, since the first one, “The Three Doctors,” was rather weak – it involved way too many crazy dictator enemy rants, minor characters complaints, and wandering corridors/wilderness fillers to be involving. Even the bickering between the Second and Third Doctors couldn’t save that episode.

Peter Davison as Omega.

Peter Davison as Omega.

“Arc of Infinity” had a lot of incomprehensible technobabble, since it involved another Omega plot to return to Gallifrey from the antimatter universe, and that was a bit difficult to follow. It’s main strength was the part of the plot set on Gallifrey. The High Council detected that something from the antimatter universe was trying to enter N-space and that it was using the Doctor’s biodata to do so. In order to break the link, they ordered the termination of the Doctor, even though the Doctor pointed out to them that the only way the entity could get the biodata was if someone on the High Council was helping it. Thus, a lot of the plot had to do with political maneuvering among the council members and the Castellan’s investigations into the matter.

Omega’s plans involved coming through to N-space on Earth, so part of the story involved two hitchhikers who inadvertantly get involved. This drew in Tegan, who had returned to her normal life and was visiting her cousin, one of the two hitchhikers. Thus, when Omega finally did make it through, he appeared in Amsterdam, in the form of the Fifth Doctor. (Two Peter Davisons! Twice the awesome in one episode!) Up until this point, Omega had been portrayed as he had been in “The Three Doctors”: insane, megalomanical, and desperate. As he starts to roam in Amsterdam, he observed the day-to-day lives  of the people, and smiled, the implication being that his joy in being home actually was overcoming his insanity from thousands of years of isolation. This was a very interesting character development, which unfortunately truncated because his Fifth Doctor body began to decay and needed to be destroyed before he turned back into antimatter and exploded. This was the only bad part of the episode: once Omega realized that he was reverting to antimatter, he began running from the Doctor (who was trying to destroy him before he exploded and destroyed the earth). Apart from the question of why he would run, since he was doomed and there wasn’t anywhere to run to, the running sequence took about fifteen minutes – way too much filler. If instead they had used the time to explore Omega’s return to sanity and had him face the fact that he had to be destroyed or returned to the antimatter universe (and/or have the Doctor realize that he had to destroy a now-sane individual), this would have been a superb episode.

All in all, though, it was a fun episode, and the Doctor got to have some great interactions with the Time Lords, which is always a treat. Nyssa got the chance to shoot a few people, and Tegan rejoined the crew of the TARDIS. The one thing that would make Omega’s arc great: a new episode in which Omega returns, played by Mr. Davison. It’s been established in the audio plays that Omega survived this episode in the Fifth Doctor’s form, so it is possible. Come on, Steven Moffat, do it!

The greatest mystery

“The Day of the Doctor,” whether you liked it or not, was a pivotal episode in Doctor Who because changed the whole direction of the show, transforming the Doctor from the man mourning the deaths of billions of people to the man searching for his lost people. The story was very timey-wimey, and there have been countless discussions on the Internet about how it all fits together and whether or not the show maintains its already tenuous consistency. I’ve spent a few posts on this going over all of the details, because that’s the kind of thing I love. I’ve come up with my own theory on how a lot of it works, and I’m happy with it, even though I don’t think anyone else subscribes to it: my husband thinks it’s stupid.  However, I haven’t addressed the biggest mystery in the episode: In the Undergallery scene, were the statues under the shrouds played by Peter Davison, Colin Baker, and Sylvester McCoy?

The Undergallery from The Five(-ish) Doctors Reboot.

The Undergallery from The Five(-ish) Doctors Reboot.

I truly believe that yes, they were. You see the scene from two different angles: from behind the statues in The Five(-ish) Doctors Reboot (shown in the image here) and from the corridor in “The Day of the Doctor” (I couldn’t find a pic of it). The Doctor’s lines are different between the two scenes, but for efficiency’s sake, both scenes should have been shot in the same filming session. Though I know nothing about filmmaking, I would think that it would be more cost effective to do all scenes filmed in the same spot for the same purpose. And it doesn’t make sense to go through the effort of bringing in Matt Smith, Jenna-Louise Coleman, and Jemma Redgrave and setting up the complex set, with all of the sand on the floor, for a completely separate filming.

The one true clue to this mystery are the statues. In both scenes, the statues have approximately the same positions. They’re both about the same height, which would indicate they are Mr. Davison and Mr. Baker. Interestingly, the statue to the right of the one in the back, which can’t be seen in this image but can be in “The Day of the Doctor,” is substantially shorter than these two, and that hints that it’s Mr. McCoy. In the later Undergallery scene, when the Zygons reveal themselves, all of the statues are taller (since the Zygons are huge) and the same height, so the figures under the shrouds in the first scene are not Zygons. (Not to mention, they’re not shaped like Zygons.)

Of course, none of this evidence is conclusive: there could easily be three other people under those shrouds, or they could be simple props. However, in this interview with Colin Baker (and it’s a great interview, by the way), he says this:

GGC: “I think I know the answer to this one, but Mary Jo would like to ask, were you really under the shrouds in the 50th anniversary special?”

CB: “We were.”

GGC: “Really?”

CB: “Well, we were!”

GGC: “OK, OK. I want to believe it so badly-“

CB: “Then you should believe it.”

So there. I believe that Mr. Baker is telling the truth, and Doctors 5 through 7 actually did appear in “The Day of the Doctor.” You have no idea how happy this makes me, to see that all of the classic Doctors had a part in the 50th anniversary (“The Night of the Doctor” is officially a part of the show). I love all of the Doctors, and their actors. Brilliant!

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

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

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

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

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

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

The clever girl.

The clever girl.

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

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

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

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

The Doctor surrounded by Cybermen.

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

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

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

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!

Fifth Doctor Cosplay

Today, I will discuss putting together my Fifth Doctor costume. This post took a couple of days to write, because creating the costume was a very long and involved process. Almost every item required special work to make it right.

First, here’s a repeat of the online sites I used to help me with the costume.

  • Doctor Who Cosplay and Costuming: This page goes over every part of the Fifth Doctor’s costume and provides a lot of detailed information about Peter Davison’s wardrobe in each of his seasons. However, many of the links no longer work.
  • Making My Fifth Doctor Costume: This blog has links to the same person’s blog for each Doctor. He makes high-quality (and usually expensive) costumes, so it may not be useful if you want a cheap or quick costume. Also, his blog is full of posts about other tangentially-related things, so it’s hard to find the real information.
  • How to Dress Like the Fourth Doctor / Fifth Doctor: Anglophenia’s breakdowns are very superficial, giving you some suggestions on what might work without giving any real details (and is sometimes wrong). This is more useful for the Fourth Doctor than the Fifth Doctor.

And now, allons-y!

The Fifth Doctor

Unlike previous Doctors, who wore clothes that would generally fit into the times that they (the clothes) came from, Mr. Davison sported a very specific look: an Edwardian coat over a cricket get-up, with very specific colors and decorations, and a distinctive hat. Almost none of his costume is buyable off the rack, and so it required a lot of searching for the right base and then alteration to make it look even remotely like what it should be. Thus, each item has to be addressed separately.

The Hat

The hat is an Optimo panama hat, which, when I looked for it, cost about $80. That was far more than I wanted to spend on the hat, so I found a similar hat for $40 atPanamaHatMall.com. This was still more than I wanted to spend on it, but I sucked it up. The hat was a women’s hat and its brim is a bit wider than Five’s, but it was good enough.

Wear slightly cocked.

Wear slightly cocked.

Warning: PanamaHatMall.com is located in Ecuador, I think. They sent out the package very quickly, but it landed in a post office or customs office in New Jersey and sat there for two weeks before it was shipped to me. If you need your hat quickly, make sure to buy from somewhere within the U.S.

Most panama hats come with a black hat band, so I had to get red material to make Five’s hatband. If you can find a cheap red material with small paisleys squarely arranged on it, wonderful, but I couldn’t. Spoonflower offers special printed cloth and has the Fifth Doctor’s exact pattern on their site, so I ordered that, but I warn you that the cloth they sent was printed lightly, not a true red.

I created the hatband by ironing the band ribbon into the shape I wanted, then hiding the ends in the vertical part (see a picture of Mr. Davison’s hat to see what I mean), then gluing that part closed with fabric glue, making sure that it was sized correctly so that it was snug with the hat. I made it slightly conical so that it hugged the hat’s contour, and I found that I could slip it over the original black hatband and hide it, so now I can take the Doctor’s hatband off and wear the hat with the black hatband whenever I want to.

The Coat

The front is easy. The back shows the correct vent.

The front is easy to find images of. The back shows the correct vent.

This was the most difficult part of the outfit. The style of the coat is Edwardian, and not only is it difficult to get an Edwardian coat, they are usually not tan. Unless you’re a talented tailor, making a coat would be difficult, since you won’t easily find a pattern for it and would have to design it yourself.

Luckily, the page at the first link above had a good suggestion: use a lab coat dyed tan (well, they suggested taupe Rit dye). It required a lot of alteration, and the lapel is not really like the Edwardian coat (it’s too high), but it’s an affordable and easy alternative. This is what you need to do to turn a lab coat into the Fifth Doctor’s coat.

  • Try to find a lab coat that has lower pockets but no breast pocket. I used this one. The princess seams helped give it a bit of a tailored look.
  • Get some white cotton material to make into the flaps for the pockets.
  • Dye the lab coat and the flaps before attaching the flaps, so you can try to get them to match. I dyed them after they were attached and it turns out the flaps dyed darker than the rest of the coat. Once the piping was put on, though, it wasn’t really noticeable.
  • For the edge piping, I used 1.5-in. orange-red ribbon, cut to 1-in. width (for some reason, ribbon doesn’t come in 1-in. width). I “glued” it on using 3/8-in. fusible tape. Note that the piping on the coat is orange-red, while the red on the hat and shirt are a true red.
  • For the piping on the sleeve, I used 3/8-in. orange-red ribbon.
  • I removed the white buttons from the lab coat, then sewed on two brown buttons for the front, leaving the other buttonholes without partners.
  • I cut the back vent up to about the small of my back. The vent is not centered (you can see this if you watch the beginning of “The Caves of Androzani” when the Doctor is walking around looking at rocks), but instead about an inch right of center, with the horizontal piping at the top of the vent about 2 inches long. I added piping to the left edge of the vent (slightly extended from the edge so that it would cover the right edge) but not the right. Unfortunately, the vent didn’t close properly while wearing the coat, so I used fabric glue to glue the top 1/3 or so shut.
  • I sewed two brown buttons on the cuffs of each sleeve and one brown button to either side of the horizontal piping at the top of the vent.
  • I starched the coat well so that the fabric would have some stiffness. While doing this, I ironed the lapel so that it was longer and wider.

The Shirt

Buying the base shirt was easy. Well, relatively easy. I’ve found previously that white collared shirts appear in and disappear from women’s clothing stores depending on the season. Luckily, I was in the right season and I found a perfect, plain Liz Claiborne shirt right away.

The Fifth Doctor’s shirt has red (or green, in Season 21) lining under the collar, down the front behind the buttons, and under the cuffs. To create that, I bought red cotton material, cut and folded it so that it matched the area it was going to be under, ironed it so that it lay correctly, and glued it in place with fabric glue.

The collar lining and the patched-up question mark.

The collar lining and the patched-up question mark.

The last thing to do was to add the question marks to the collars. Here’s where I made a mistake: I glued the red cotton under the collars first. If I hadn’t, I would have been able to embroider the question marks with satin stitch, then glued the red cotton over the ugly backside. Unfortunately, I had to make do with fabric paint.

I printed out appropriately-sized question marks from the first link above, cut them out using an Xact-o knife, traced the template onto the collars using a fabric pen, then painted them in. The biggest problem I had with this was finding the right color fabric paint. Apparently, their “red” is more of an orange-red, and they didn’t have a good red other than the paint that was intended to be fluffy or glittery. There wasn’t anything I could do about it, so I had to just use the orange-red. It didn’t look that bad, but I’m kind of a perfectionist and everything else was looking so good, it was disappointing to not have a really good deep red paint.

Two tips: First, fabric paint takes hours to dry! Don’t try to work with a piece too early, or you’ll smear the paint all over the nice white fabric. I had to buy some white fabric paint to cover up the smears; luckily, you couldn’t tell from a reasonable distance. Second, the fabric pen does come out easily with water. Don’t be shy – just rinse the collar in water, but make sure the fabric paint is dry first!

The Cricket Jumper

A cricket jumper is a knitted sweater with a v-neck, usually with stripes around the neck and waist, worn by people playing cricket. Women, at least, can sometimes get sweaters similar to cricket jumpers in department stores, usually in a single color with no stripes, and I have one, in fact. However, it was very thin and flimsy and I didn’t like its look. I searched on eBay and found that there were tons of white or cream cricket jumpers for sale from the UK, but they all had stripes of the wrong colors on them.

I eventually found a place that sold white sleeveless men’s cricket jumpers, and I bought the smallest one they had. This turned out to be a great purchase. The material was very substantial, and having no sleeves meant that I didn’t get too hot wearing the entire costume. If you look at pictures of the Fifth Doctor that shows him wearing the coat, you mostly see the white shirt sleeves with the red lining peeking out at his wrists, not the jumper sleeves, so that worked as well. Also, the only time that the Fifth Doctor spent an extended amount of time without the coat was in “Planet of Fire,” and he went without the cricket jumper as well.

But what about the stripes? There are two main versions of the cricket jumper. Season 19’s jumper had three stripes at the neck: a thin dark green stripe separated by a bit of space from a thick red stripe and a thin black stripe. Season 21’s jumper had five stripes at the neck and the same motif at the waist: black, red, black, red, black. I chose to imitate the Season 19 jumper, since most of my costume was based off that season, and I didn’t care to do the waist. I created the stripes by painting them on with fabric paint. The dark green stripe required a mix of green and black paint, but the other two stripes were straight out of the bottle.

Apparently, the actual jumper was knitted with green and black yarn, with red piping sewn on afterwards. I at first tried simulating the stripes with glued-on ribbon, and while it looked fine, it made the neck un-elastic and I couldn’t get the sweater over my head. So, I had to tear it all off and paint it.

The Pants

I expected this to be the most difficult part of costume to acquire, but due to the fact that I’m female and an extreme stroke of good luck, it was the easiest. You see, the Season 19 pants are cream colored with vertical tan and red lines. While a man would normally never wear such a thing nowadays, it’s not unheard of for a woman to do so. And, in one of the thrift shops, I found just the pants. The stripes were not thick and varied like they were on the Doctor’s pants, but they were the right colors and worked perfectly. I wish you the best of luck with them.

As a side note, you can simulate later seasons’ pants with fabric paint pretty easily. Refer to the first link above for ideas.

The Suspenders

I fell in love with these. I should wear braces more often.

I fell in love with these. I should wear braces more often.

In “Planet of Fire,” the Doctor went without coat and cricket jumper, revealing that he wears suspenders (or, as the British apparently call them, braces) – cream with red question marks. His pants were actually high-waisted and designed to use Y-suspenders rather than a belt, but my pants had belt loops (and they couldn’t be easily removed), so I bought a pair of X-suspenders (ok, “braces” is easier to type) at a thrift shop. They were men’s braces that were tan with a blue pattern on them, but I found that if you turned them over, they were cream – just perfect.

I had to remove the findings to turn them over and then shorten them so that they would fit me. I then printed out correctly-sized question marks from the first page link above, used an Xact-o knife to cut them out, and drew the templates on using a fabric pen. And then, fabric paint. The first page link above also has a link to a great guide on how to position the question marks. The real suspenders also have brown vertical lines outside of question marks, but I chose not to reproduce those.

The Shoes

The Fifth Doctor wore white high-top leather cricket shoes, which apparently haven’t been made since the 70s and were difficult to get even when he was currently on the show. I substituted white high-top canvas sneakers.

Note that the Fifth Doctor also wore bright red socks, probably knee-high. I was amazed that I couldn’t find simple red socks in any clothing store in my area, and I had to order a pair of soccer (sorry, football!) socks from an online sporting goods store. Now I’m getting sporting goods catalogs in the mail every two weeks. Bleah.

The Celery

And look at me, I sculpted a vegetable!

And look at me, I sculpted a vegetable!

The decorative vegetable is essential to the Fifth Doctor’s costume. You don’t want to use real celery, because it will wilt and it might stain your coat. I found a knitting pattern for the celery on Ravelry, but my copy did not look good at all, not to mention that the local yarn stores didn’t have a good celery-colored yarn and I didn’t want to buy a whole ball of yarn for four inches of finished product.

So, I created my celery out of Fimo. I took green Fimo, and added white and yellow to it until I got sick of kneading plastic and the color was close enough. I then rolled out a thick strip of the plastic, curved it around a thick pen, gently pulled it off, and used a plastic clay knife to cut off the bottom end and draw vertical lines down the outer surface. I added two branches at the top and baked the piece, then glued some dull green leaves from a fake leafy thing I bought from a craft store, using epoxy. And then I glued on a pin backing. It worked out well: I had three or four people come up and make remarks that told me they thought the celery was real, and they were amazed when I told them it was plastic.

The Hair

I haven’t mentioned this before on this blog, but I’m Asian. Thus, I’m not the best choice for cosplaying the Fifth Doctor, but what the hey, it’s all for fun anyway. Getting a reasonable blond wig was easy enough. Non-real-hair wigs cost about $40. The length wasn’t too important, either, as long as it didn’t go past my shoulders: apparently, Mr. Davison would get a haircut at the beginning of a season and never cut his hair through the season, so the Fifth Doctor’s hair length varied wildly from episode to episode (since they weren’t necessarily broadcast in filming order).

The big problem was hiding my own hair, which is visible at the edges of the wig cap. The lady at the wig store suggested using cover-up makeup to brush into my eyebrows to make them look blond-ish, and spray-on blond for the edges of my hair. The cover-up makeup worked well, but the spray-on blond didn’t: it didn’t get in deep enough, and it came off very easily. Since I was at work for the first time I wore the costume, my black keyboard kept getting covered with gold powder. And, as the photos that were taken prove, you could easily see my black hair.

So, the second time I wore the costume, I brushed cover-up make up into my hair, at my temples and under my ears. This worked marvelously, as the hair looked almost blond. However, a lot of the stuff got onto the collar of the shirt, so I had to hand-wash it out (I don’t recommend using a washing machine for the shirt, as the red cotton lining might bleed all over the white). Also, the stuff doesn’t come out with shampoo, so you’ll have to wash your hair with regular soap.

The Props

Props make the costume!

  • Sonic screwdriver: The Fifth Doctor lost his sonic screwdriver early on, in “The Visitation,” when the alien-of-the-week destroyed it, and it was never replaced. Thus, a true Fifth Doctor cosplayer shouldn’t carry one, but if you decide you want to, you’ll want the Fourth Doctor’s screwdriver.
  • Cricket ball: This is the Fifth Doctor’s iconic prop. It fits easily in a pocket, and the Doctor is shown holding it occasionally. Also, other Doctors have had a cricket ball, too. The Fourth Doctor pulled one out of his pocket in “The Ark in Space,” and the Tenth Doctor used one to knock over some scaffolding in “Human Nature.” Well, ok, technically he stole that one.
  • Cricket bat: The Fifth Doctor has been shown playing cricket and carrying the cricket bat, but I wouldn’t include it in the costume, only because it’s big and heavy to carry around.
  • Half-moon specs: The original “brainy specs,” the Fifth Doctor wore them when he needed to inspect something closely, much like the Tenth Doctor did with his horn-rims in similar situations. You’d think that with Albus Dumbledore wearing half-moon specs, they’d be easy to get, but I only found one online shop, in Australia, that sold them.  At least they were very inexpensive.

In Conclusion

As a quick estimate, I think I spent a total of about $300 dollars on this outfit, including the trim, crafting, and sewing supplies. It took me about two months to do everything, though I would estimate about 5-10 hours a week during that time – I started two months early because I wanted to make sure I could finish everything while working at a leisurely pace.

The main thing is, though, I had an absolute blast doing this. I learned a lot about what kinds of things can be done to achieve a certain look, how to view a piece and figure out what shortcuts can be taken and what might work (especially with the tip on converting a lab coat into the Edwardian coat), and where to find supplies that you might not think of. I am very much looking forward to the next project, which may be a Tenth Doctor costume sewn from scratch, or I might do Firefly outfits for next year. 

Who knows? I think the main thing is to have fun with it. Molto bene!

Edit: Ok, I’ve been convinced to post a pic. Here I am as the Fifth Doctor, my husband as the Forth Doctor, Tara as the Weeping Angel, and her partner Nate as the TARDIS. That Weeping Angel costume was just amazing. It also took her 30 minutes to scrub off the gray stuff, and left the bathtub covered in it.