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!