“Destiny of the Daleks”

I really liked the Movellan costumes. I might have to make one for myself.

I really liked the Movellan costumes. I might have to make one for myself.

It’s actually been quite a while since I’ve watched a television episode I haven’t seen before. There are a few reasons for that. First, I’ve been concentrating on audios a bit, and they’re easier to consume while doing something else (usually playing Doctor Who: Legacy). Second, my husband, who isn’t all that interested in the audios, wants to watch the episodes with me, so episodes don’t get watched when it’s only me who’s available to watch. Third, just life in general has been getting in the way. However, we finally sat down to watch “Destiny of the Daleks”, which has been throttling our Netflix queue for about three months now.

Spoilers, of course.

“Destiny of the Daleks” is the first episode of Romana II’s run (that’s Lalla Ward), and features the infamous scene where she “tries on” different bodies before settling on one that she likes. This has sparked a lot of discussion about why the Doctor doesn’t get that luxury, that he has to settle for whatever body he happens to get. I think the consensus is that Romana chose to regenerate and was in a controlled environment, while the Doctor always dies to regenerate and usually isn’t at leisure when he does so, so he doesn’t get a choice.

This is a four-part story that we watched on two different nights, two parts at a time, and we almost felt like abandoning after the first two parts because they were so boring. I’ve stated before that this is the main weakness of the multi-part format of the classic series, that they had to fill a certain amount of time and usually did so by introducing long scenes of people and monsters wandering down corridors or picking their way across quarries. I’m sure we would have finished watching the episode, but it felt like the only reason we came back was because part two ended with Davros coming back to life.

Yes, that Davros. The first two parts had to do with the Doctor meeting up with a race of beings called the Movellans who landed on the planet looking for something. It turned out they had followed the Daleks here, and together, they discover that this is Skaro and the Daleks had come here looking for Davros, who had placed himself in suspended animation so that he could heal from his last appearance. There, see? I just told you everything you needed to know about the first two parts.

Well, except for one thing: the Doctor senses that the Movellans are not being forthright with him, and he’s right to suspect them. They are a race of robots who are at war with the Daleks, and the war is currently in a stalemate, so they came here to figure out what the Daleks were doing, guessing that the Daleks were fetching something that would give them the upper hand. Davros, of course. They capture the Doctor with the intention of using him as their upper hand, and they have an ace in the hole of a device which will destroy all life on the planet if they aren’t able to convince the Doctor to work for them. They reveal that like the Daleks, if they win the war, they plan to go on to conquer the rest of the universe. With the help of released Dalek slaves, the Doctor is able to break free and deactivate the Movellans, disarm the device, and capture Davros.

The second two parts of the episode are a lot better than the first two, only in part because the Doctor spends much of his time getting capture by one side or the other, then outwitting them and escaping, and then getting captured again. But far more interesting is the underlying theme to the episode, which is what happens when two absolutely logical races go to war with each other. The Doctor explains it using rock-paper-scissors: the Movellans are unable to defeat each other at that game because their moves are absolutely predictable, and similarly, neither the Movellans nor the Daleks may defeat the other because they are evenly matched and do not have the imagination to do something the other side can’t predict.

Now, this is what Dalek episodes are always all about: the Daleks always lose because the Doctor does something they don’t expect. This time, however, the failings of pure logic are laid bare, on both sides of the conflict. What’s also interesting is that the Movellans are not carbon-copies of the Daleks. The Daleks have a hierarchy, with the top Dalek (or Davros, once he wakes up) making the decisions and giving orders, while the Movellans make suggestions and the other individuals weigh their suggestions and choose the best course of action from it – two different methods of applying logic and order to the system. And in the end, both sides are defeated by the ones who can step outside rigid thinking.

The only thing that disappointed me in this episode was the characterization of Romana: she displays as much intellect as the Doctor, though she’s restrained, as she’s a much better Time Lord than he is, but she’s a bit too screamy for my tastes. I haven’t yet seen Romana I to compare, but I am very familiar with the mature Madame President Romana from the Gallifrey audios, and she has come quite a long way.

So there you have it, a fun, action-packed episode with interesting themes, punctuated by a lot of imperious yelling from Davros, which he does so well. And now I’m looking forward to the next Netflix delivery. No idea what that will be.

 

“The Inquiry”

theinquiryI’ve been busy the past couple of weeks, what with Thanksgiving and other distractions, and I’ve gotten completely hooked on Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call, so I haven’t had much impetus to write. Oh, and we just watched the third season of Grimm, which has been rather disappointing: its season-long arcs have been boring and it’s cut down on what it used to do best, which are its wesen crimes.  So, I haven’t had much chance to listen to many audios or watch episodes, and in fact, I listened to “The Inquiry” about three weeks ago, so this will be a short review, about the things I remember.

Lots of spoilers.

“The Inquiry” is the third audio play in the “Gallifrey” series. At the beginning of the audio, Romana discovers that someone has planted a data bomb in the Matrix, the Time Lords’ main computer, which holds all of the data of the history of the universe and the experiences of past Time Lords. It was rigged so that anyone looking into a specific event would set off the bomb, which would destroy a large part of the Matrix. It was already ticking, so there was only a certain amount of time to figure out who had set it and what to do about it.

Romana had been investigating the Timonic Fusion Device that had been stolen and used to blackmail her in “Weapon of Choice”. It was a device that the Time Lords had tried to build (codename Project Alpha) but abandoned because it was too dangerous, so she was trying to figure out why it existed now at all, so she went to the Matrix to find out the circumstances surrounding the project’s cancellation, and that triggered the timer on the data bomb. In his subsequent investigations, Narvin discovers that Braxiatel had set the bomb. When confronted, though, Braxiatel denies that he had done so.

With Leela’s help, the three Time Lords separately investigated the event and pieced together what had happened. The final test of Project Alpha had actually occurred and destroyed a planet and civilization, and the Time Lords covered it up, and Braxiatel planted the data bomb to prevent anyone from discovering the truth. However, these events also never happened, as someone sent in droids to steal the device before it went off, and the Time Lords covered that up by claiming that they had cancelled the project at the last minute. Since the Matrix exists outside of time, it recorded the true events and had the data bomb in it. Romana and Braxiatel then return to the event, stop the droids, and allow the real history to unfold.

I found this audio to be both interesting and dull. The acting and characters were superb as usual, but since a lot of it had to do with explaining a past event in detail, it got to be more talky than I usually like. One major thing that you learn in this is that Braxiatel has been secretly buying historical artifacts from civilizations across time and the universe, to preserve them in an extensive museum called the Braxiatel Collection (first referenced in “The City of Death”). Watching these civilizations fall, he’s been doing this to preserve some of the universe, to remember them. It’s a fascinating insight into him, as he’s showing that he’s willing to break from Time Lord laws and has some similarities to his brother.

Leela also has some of her story developed in this audio. You might remember that she’s mourning the loss of her husband Andred and upset with the Time Lords because they either won’t tell her what happened to him or won’t go find out. She starts to look into the Time Lord archives, and she finds that  Andred’s data is gone and that the last person to access it is Torvald, Narvin’s right-hand man.

I am still very much enjoying “Gallifrey” (though I’m taking a detour right now to listen to “Dark Eyes”, which I’ve been assured is brilliant), and I’m really getting to love the four main characters, but this one was not as interesting as the first two. I’m still looking forward to the rest, though.

 

 

“Square One”

squareone“Square One” is the second audio play in the first “Gallifrey” series. There’s really not much more of an introduction I can give for it here, so let’s just go to the description and discussion, shall we?

A few spoilers ahead. I’m not going to describe the whole plot.

While the Temporal Powers are responsible for overseeing time, lesser time-sensitve races want their say in the way the the universe is governed, and to work these things out, the Powers schedule a summit, where issues can be discussed and treaties can be forged. However, since the Powers, as well as the other races, really don’t trust each other all that much, they don’t want anyone, especially Gallifrey, to dominate the proceedings. So, they draw up a set of rules by which the summit must operate. The high leaders of the Powers or other races may not attend the summit, but instead must send lesser individuals to represent them. The actual proceedings are to be broadcast to the universe, but nothing outside the summit chamber may be released, so that the delegates can feel secure about meeting with other races and making treaties and alliances without the media watching. During the summit, the delegates cannot leave the planetoid, so entertainment is brought in to give them relaxation and recreation. Contact with their homeworlds would be limited. All of the security is handled by a secure network of droids, and any other computers or androids that are brought in have to be connected to the network, and any advanced circuitry disabled. The summit itself is organized by a Time Lady named Hossak.

For the Time Lords’ part, Lady President Romana sends Narvin as the Gallifreyan delegate, but she suspects that there is more going on, and she sends Leela to the planetoid with K-9, posing as an exotic dancer (Leela, not the tin dog). Arriving at the planet and settling into her role, Leela doesn’t find anything untoward, except for a very lecherous Nekkistani delegate named Flinkstab who tries to appropriate her for himself, until she finds another dancer, Lexi, dead. Though she realizes that the only person who could have done it is Flinkstab, she’s discovered with the body by the security droids and is immediately accused of the murder. And then she arrives at the planet and settles in to her new role, and when she meets Lexi, she realizes that she saw her dead. Later that night, as she’s dancing, Narvin is having a discussion with Pule, a delegate of the Unvoss, when Pule’s drink explodes and kills him, and the Time Lord is accused of the murder. And then Leela arrives as the planet and before settling into her new role, she knows that she’s living through the same day over and over, and contacts Romana to come figure out what’s happening.

The episode is an enjoyable story, with plenty of machinations and schemes to unravel. So far in this series, I am really loving how well-drawn the characters are. Narvin, who, as a more traditional Time Lord than Romana or Braxiatel, is always convinced of his superiority and is insulted to find that Romana used him to her ends. He rants and sputters at her about it, and she calmly shows him how she’s made him look better, not worse, for the role he played. Romana and Leela two strong women, completely opposites of each other but equally capable. Leela is not clever, but she sees clearly where others do not and is steadfastly moral and always brave. Romana is savvy and not blinded by the grandeur of being a Time Lady, and though she knows that her people don’t agree with her on a lot of things, she’s strong enough to stand against them when she needs to. And, having had more contact with other civilizations than most of the Time Lords have had, she’s more able to understand and predict the other Temporal Powers’ attitudes and actions.

I think one of the things that really appeals to me about these “Gallifrey” audios is that the audience is not being persuaded to think that the Time Lords are right or good. Since the story is being told from the Time Lords’ view, we have a predilection for thinking so, but as things progress, we start to see how petty and manipulative they are, and some of their goals are not necessarily good for anyone but themselves. This allows for a deeper exploration into the Temporal Powers, and makes for far more satisfying political storylines.

I’m very happy so far: I was eager to start listening to this series, and after two episodes, I’m still excited to hear more. I will say that audios take a lot of energy and concentration to listen to, because there aren’t any visual effects to distract you, so there are no pauses and the 1.5 hours of a play is thick with important dialogue, so I can’t really listen to more than one every couple of days, but I’m definitely loving them when I can.

“Weapon of Choice”

Gallifrey_Weapon_Of_Choice“Weapon of Choice” is the first in the Gallifrey range of Big Finish audios. I don’t know if it’s significant or not, but the Gallifrey range does not bear the name Doctor Who, possibly because the Doctor isn’t a main character in this line (perhaps he appears sometimes, but I’m not going to comment on that now). The series, as far as I know, is set mainly on Gallifrey (surprise!) and is centered around Lord President Romana and the politics of the High Council. I’ve been looking forward to listening to his range for a good two to three months now, and I finally received the CDs for the first three series in the mail (they weren’t available for download), and well, here we go!

Spoilers, of course, though more about the general series itself than the episode.

There’s a bit of backstory that comes out in the episode that you need to know. In order to oversee time, the Time Lords form a coalition called the Temporal Powers between them and three other time-sensitive races, whose names I can’t remember except for the Monans. As you can probably expect, there’s a lot of political maneuvering between the races, as each has its own goals and schemes, but the big point is that the Time Lords aren’t the only ones watching over the universe anymore. One of the things that the coalition did was establish a planet where lesser races were sent if they attempted unauthorized time travel. (Not the whole race, just the individuals who were involved.) The planet’s name is Gryben, and when the coalition investigates the offending people’s case, if the people do not agree to abandon their pursuit of time travel, they are confined to Gryben for the rest of their lives. Thus, Gryben is a rather lawless place, full of multiple species just trying to survive. Among those people, a group of dissidents called Free Time have arisen, trying to rebel against the Time Lords and their allies to obtain the right to use time as they want.

At the beginning of the episode, a Free Time dissident steals an experimental weapon called a Timonic Fusion Device and takes it to Gryben. This was a device that the Time Lords had once tried to build but found that it was too dangerous and unstable and had abandoned it, and they had thought that all knowledge of it had been eradicated, but obviously not. The other Temporal Powers don’t trust the Time Lords, that their intentions were noble (after all, the only way anyone could have built one now would be if the Time Lords were behind it, right?), and Romana has to get the weapon back. She sends a CIA agent named Torvald, Leela, and K9 to the surface of Gryben to infiltrate the Free Time movement, and there they find an even more sinister plot hatching.

The story itself was interesting and compelling, but what really made the episode was that it set up Gallifrey and its politics. Personally, I don’t know much about the Time Lords other than what I’ve seen in the TV show, but there’s a huge history and storyline going on there, and it is fascinating learning about it. So here’s a bit of the characters and setup.

The thing about the Time Lords as we’ve seen in the TV show and audios is that they’re imperious, conservative, and so absolutely sure they’re doing the right thing. They do have a reason to be this way, of course, since it was revealed in “Zagreus” that Rassilon decided what the future until the end of the universe should be, and so their defense and maintenance of the Web of Time boils down to making sure that what Rassilon chose is what happens. They’re used to being the overlords of the universe and expect that everyone will accede to them. With this coalition of Temporal Powers, though, they’ve ceded some of their power to other races, and now they have to work together with them.

Romana is at the center of this. She’s a strong, clever Time Lady, but it’s very obvious that she’s learned from the Doctor to see things from other angles and to consider other viewpoints, to care about things other than the rules that Rassilon laid down and the glory and power of the Time Lords. As Lord President, she walks a fine line of setting Time Lord policy while also trying to change Time Lord attitudes towards what she feels is a better path. She’s a fascinating character, because she doesn’t wholeheartedly embrace the Doctor’s ideals (and that’s a good thing, by the way: the Doctor is as insane as the Master, by Time Lord standards [and to be honest, by human standards as well], and his beliefs and motivations are not what Time Lord policy should be based on), but she definitely incorporates some of his viewpoint into hers while maintaining her own steely personality and values.

Then there’s Coordinator Narvin. He’s the head of the CIA (Celestial Intervention Agency), which is a secretive organization dedicated to preserving the Web of Time at pretty much any cost. They do the things that the Time Lords can’t be seen to do, due to their non-intervention policy. Narvin advises Romana, but he is a straightforward action type, often unable to grasp the political maneuvering that surrounds the Lord President and the Temporal Powers.

Cardinal Braxiatel rounds out Romana’s inner circle. From the audio itself, you can tell that he’s a wise Time Lord, someone who knows what’s going on throughout Time Lord society, and has extensive knowledge of history. An interesting tidbit that is not mentioned in the audio (but you would know if you were familiar with other audios, particularly the Bernice Summerfield line) is that Braxiatel is the Doctor’s older brother, and has always been fascinated with exploring the universe and investigating history, though he approached the idea very differently from his younger brother. Romana relies on him for advice, as she knows that he’s got his fingers everywhere (like Petyr Baelish in A Song of Fire and Ice, though not greedy or amoral).

Lastly, we have Leela, the Sevateem human and former companion of the Doctor who left him and remained on Gallifrey to marry the Time Lord Andred. In this episode, Leela is trying to find her path after Andred vanished without a trace. She interpreted the Time Lords’ claim that they didn’t know what happened to him as a lie and began to distrust them. Romana convinces her to go on this mission for them, and afterward, became Romana’s bodyguard. She provides a straightforward, honest, and blunt foil to the maneuverings of the Time Lords.

With these four characters driving Gallifreyan politics and relations with the other Temporal Powers, the Gallifrey range holds quite a bit of promise of drama and adventure that’s far different from the regular Doctor Who fare, and I’m very much looking forward to all of this storyline.

Lull

Even in Lego, this scene makes me sniffle.

Even in Lego, this scene makes me sniffle.

Life’s been a little low on the Doctor Who quotient the past few days. After watching “The Day of the Doctor”, I completely forgot about “The Time of the Doctor” (because I’m not very fond of it) and my husband, while he likes it, didn’t feel like subjecting me to it, apparently. I’ve been wanting to watch some Third Doctor episodes, to finally get a good feel for him and to watch the Roger Delgado Master for the first time, but we’ve been busy with a number of other things. Now that we have a bit more time, we started watching the Harry Potter movies again, so that’s kind of gotten me off track again.

We have watched “City of Death” and “The Happiness Patrol,” and I’ve listened to the Fifth Doctor audio “Loups-Garoux,” but I haven’t felt like sitting down and writing a review on them. I’m not sure I’ll get there, so here are some short statements on them.

  • “City of Death” (Fourth Doctor/Romana II) was fantastic. The story is great – one of the best ever – but what really floored me in this episode was the dialogue: snappy, brilliant, and eccentric.
  • “The Happiness Patrol” (Seventh Doctor/Ace) was surreal, as in, “What was the writer on and where can I get me some of that?” But I enjoyed it quite a bit, possibly because it was so out there. I think the point of it (the main character forcing everyone into her vision of “happiness”) has been rehashed a lot in other works since this one and has become a bit banal, but it still works even viewing it now.
  • “Loups-Garoux” (Fifth Doctor/Turlough) was a good enough audio, though I’m really not fond of spiritual/animalistic themes in Doctor Who, which I view as a science-based sci-fi. (The science is incredibly dodgy, but a lot of the point of the universe is that it’s based on science, even when the science looks like magic). I very much enjoyed getting to see more of Turlough, and was pleased to see him exhibiting his usual self-preservation, but putting his life on the line when someone he cared about was endangered.

Next up in the audio queue are some Charley Pollard audios – her introduction, as well as the two audios about the fallout from her being saved from death by the Doctor.

I leave you now with a fantastic video by bookshelfproductions on YouTube: a recreation of “The Day of the Doctor” in Legos. Watch it: you won’t be disappointed.

Playing with time

I was looking for a pic for this post, and just had to use this one.

I was looking for a pic for this post, and just had to use this one.

I spent a bit of time last night doing some research on the Last Great Time War, because I’ve got this idea for a fanfic set during the war and needed to iron out some details. I found it absolutely fascinating that I spend far more time researching Doctor Who history, both the lore as well as what we see in the episodes, than I ever did for papers and projects during school.  The same activity can be considered work or play, depending on the context.

I wanted to get a good feel for the history of the Time War, how events progressed, and it was completely fascinating – there’s so much that’s been established that’s not in the TV show (and I haven’t gotten to yet in all the audios). Here is a little bit of the history.

  1. The first event is the Daleks creating a virus that would corrupt Time Lord DNA to wipe them out.
  2. The Daleks then hack into the Matrix so that they can use it to invade Gallifrey. Romana traps them in the Matrix and shuts it down, to trap the Daleks in a time loop.
  3. Narvin (from the CIA), unaware that Romana’s fixed the situation, gets the Fourth Doctor to attempt to stop the Daleks from being created or delay their development.
  4. In retaliation, the Daleks try to create a clone of the Fifth Doctor to send him to assassinate the High Council.
  5. The Daleks then attempt to get the Hand of Omega, to gain mastery over time. They are stopped by the Seventh Doctor.
  6. At this point, the Daleks start the Last Great Time War.

In case you haven’t noticed, point 3 is “Genesis of the Daleks,” point 4 is “Resurrection of the Daleks,” and point 5 is “Remembrance of the Daleks.” Basically, while creating the history of the Time War, the showrunners went backwards and worked classic episodes into the timeline of the war. They’re no longer just random encounters the Doctor had with Daleks; there are now reasons for what happened, all part of the Time War’s history. The way they did this is just so cool, fitting this all in. It’s also wonderful to see the pre-Eighth Doctors having some hand in the Time War (it’s always bothered me a little that the Time War lasted for hundreds, probably thousands of years, but the classic Doctors were not involved in it at all [not that they could be, mind you, from a beyond-the-fourth-wall point of view]). I suppose this is one of the advantages of a show with a long history that deals with time travel: you can manipulate the history into loops, creating an even richer backstory than you originally intended.