The End of the World

Welcome back, faithful viewer! It’s the second episode of the new series, which means it’s time for Rose Tyler’s first trip in the TARDIS. This is–dare I say–fantastic!

Photo credit, www.fanpop.com

Photo credit, http://www.fanpop.com

Let’s get right to it!

Making the bold choice to visit the future rather than the past, Rose lands with the Doctor on Platform 1, a space station in a distant orbit around a dying planet Earth. The great and the good (read, the obscenely rich) are due to gather on the station to watch the Sun expand and roast the Earth to cinders at last. Before long, however the macabre proceedings are interrupted by little metal creatures, who are crawling into the ventilation system and playing havoc with the stations inner workings, putting the lives of everyone on board in jeopardy. Of course, the creatures are just robots, which means they’re being controlled by someone on the platform. It’s up to the Doctor and Rose to figure out who it is and stop them before the expanding Sun takes the lives of everyone aboard the platform along with the doomed planet Earth.

To this day, faithful viewer, I don’t know what the Doctor was playing at by taking Rose to Platform 1 of all places. When you’re a renegade Time Lord with a penchant for traveling the Universe with humans, and you take up with a new companion who has never traveled in time or space before, you don’t take them to see their own planet get blown up. The fact that that’s exactly what the Doctor did really shows what an awful headspace he was in at this point in time. I’m appalled at and sorry for him at the same time. I hardly know what to think.

Photo credit, ru.tardis.wikia.com

Photo credit, ru.tardis.wikia.com

Overall, though, I must say that this is a fantastic story. If you think about it, the whole thing only took place in about three or four rooms, but the action was ginormous. It comes across as a futuristic, Agatha Christie-esque Whodunnit–at the end of which, the Earth gets blown up. And I have to say, I’m still in love with all the pop culture gags on display here. Britney Spears and Soft Cell revered as classical music? Slays me every time.

Photo credit, forums.tvnihon.com

Photo credit, forums.tvnihon.com

Speaking of slayers, this episode introduces one of the most fabulous villains of the new series. I am speaking, of course, of the Lady Cassandra O’Brien.Δ17. Allegedly the last pure-blood human in the Universe–actually a pair of eyes and a mouth on a flap of skin–Cassandra brings true glamour to the act of villainy. If you think about it, she really is a despicably shallow criminal. I mean, murdering several zillionaires, just for the money? How uncreative can you get? Especially considering that Cassandra is herself a zillionaire. But all the same, she’s incredibly funny, and even manages to have a bit of pathos going for her. More than any other new series villain (except maybe the Weeping Angels), Cassandra has managed to catpure the hearts of Whovians everywhere.

On a less-happy note, I must report that this is the first time the Doctor goes into detail about the events of the Time War. The story is famous by now: the Daleks went to war against the Time Lords, causing untold destruction to the Universe. The Doctor managed to end the war, but only by destroying his planet and his people, along with the Daleks. Having cone through the classic series, this is even more heartbreaking to think about. The Doctor, as long as we’ve known him, has never shown any affection for his home planet, or (with the exception of Romana) for any of his fellow Time Lords. But having a lousy home is better than having no home at all, and as impatient as he tended to get with his countryfolk, he surely never wanted them destroyed.

Least of all by his own hand.

–One quick note here, while we’re on the subject. I’ve noticed that lots of people don’t seem to know what to make of these first few new-series seasons in light of the events of the 50th anniversary special. My response to those people is this: Just because Gallifrey was saved eventually doesn’t mean it’s always been saved. Time is always in flux, and the past is no more permanent than the future. If we’ve learned anything from this show, we’ve learned that.–

And with that, Our Heroes have saved the world again. And now they’re off to get chips. All is well…until their next adventure comes along.

Stay tuned ’til next time, faithful viewer, when the Doctor and Rose help Charles Dickens save a few ghosts in time for Christmas…

Advertisements

Rose

Ah, faithful viewer. I hope you’re still with me, after all this time. You’ve followed me through all eras and across innumerable planets in pursuit of that little blue box. From the first few tatty, black-and-white, sometimes-reconstructed episodes, through the seven-year reign of Tom Baker, to the inexplicable eighties, to the Yankeefied mid-nineties revival attempt, we’ve traveled with the Doctor and his companions for almost half a century’s worth of episodes. Now here we are, in the year 2004, over forty years since Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright stumbled upon a police call box in a junkyard. The show has been dormant for eight years now (since the flop of “The TV Movie”), and many fans–even the most devoted–have given up hope that their beloved show will ever make it on the telly once more. Surely after all this time, Doctor Who has finally passed on for good.

Photo credit, thepandorasociety.com

Photo credit, thepandorasociety.com

GUESS AGAIN!

We’re back, baby! People tried to put it down, but Doctor Who came back around! In 2005 the series exploded onto our screens once again with fifty times the verve and spunk and sheer brilliance than had ever been seen in the show before (with the exception of “City of Death,” which I think we can all still agree was bloody fantastic). With Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper in the TARDIS, the show is primed to begin again, better than it ever was before.

Photo credit, thedoctorwhozone.blogspot.com

Photo credit, thedoctorwhozone.blogspot.com

And here we are, on the very first episode of the New Series. Let’s get right to it!

As the episode opens, we meet Rose Tyler, a shopgirl living in London. She’s got a job in a department store, a mother named Jackie, and a boyfriend named Mickey. Life is pretty great…until plastic mannequins start coming to life and a mysterious man called the Doctor blows up her job. Rose tries to find out exactly what’s going on, but the more she learns, the more danger seems to dog her footsteps. She doesn’t quite know what she’s getting herself into, but she has the feeling that life will never be the same again.

Oh, faithful viewer, I can’t tell you how good it feels to be on to the New Series at last! The high production value, good special effects, and actually funny jokes are enough to make me giddy with delight. Not to mention: the scripts are so much better than they used to be. Characters actually talk like real people, rather than just recite plot points at each other in stuffy RP accents. And best of all, the new series focuses more on the companion as a character, something that the classic series rarely (if ever) did. This way is much better.

Photo credit, doctorwhogeneral.wikia.com

Photo credit, doctorwhogeneral.wikia.com

Granted, there were some clumsy bits I’d forgotten about since I last watched this episode. Poor Mickey getting replaced by an Auton lookalike was truly painful (“Puh…puh…PIZZAH!”), as was the burping wheelie bin. One surprisingly unpainful thing, however, was the striking resemblance this episode bore to “Terror of the Autons” back in the 70s. I thought, since I’ve now seen both of them, that the similarity between them would be awkward, but such is not the case. Instead, the gap between old series and new feels satisfactorily bridged. And of course, the high production value (and absence of the Master, the silly git) goes to show that Doctor Who has become a different beast than it was before. No longer clunky, fluffy, and endearingly tacky (with occasional flashes of true brilliance), this New Series is setting a higher standard.

Photo credit, www.bbc.co.uk

Photo credit, http://www.bbc.co.uk

Now, let’s talk about the new Doctor. Doctor #9, Christopher Eccleston. At this point, the Doctor has been through the Time War, and it shows. He’s got sass for miles, sure, but that ever-present darkness behind his eyes has only gotten darker since the war. It’s only lucky he found Rose when he did–it doesn’t take a genius to see that he was in one hell of a bad place.

Speaking of Rose, I have to say this. Now that I’ve seen the classic series in its entirety, I can say with a great deal more authority than before: Rose Tyler is my very favorite companion. And no, it’s not just because she was the first companion I ever saw, and it’s certainly not because I’m nostalgic for my days as a young(er) Whovian. Rose is just awesome. She is clever, and she is kind, and she doesn’t take a “no” when she suspects a better answer is available. She’s not comforted by easy comfort, and she’s so quick on her feet, she can save the Doctor’s life without breaking a sweat.

Rose Tyler is brilliant, and she is my favorite. So there.

As for our supporting cast, we had Jackie, Mickey, and Clive the conspiracy theorist. I know Mickey becomes something of an action-hero later in life, but in this episode, he was pretty much useless. Jackie is such a nutty mom, I was laughing my way through pretty much all of her scenes. And as for poor Clive…he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’d forgotten about his fate, and I really am sad for him. That’s a harsh death already in the first episode for Russell T. Davies. And I know it’s only going to get more heartbreaking from here.

Photo credit, examinedmedia.com

Photo credit, examinedmedia.com

And with that, we’ve jumped into the New Series at long last, faithful viewer. And we know it’s only going to get better from here.

Fantastic!

Stay tuned ’til next time, faithful viewer, when Rose takes her first trip in the TARDIS and gets much more than she bargained for…

The TV Movie

Welcome back, faithful viewer! Well, it’s 1996, and the BBC has entered into an unholy deal with the American TV network FOX to produce a made-for-TV Doctor Who movie, an intended reboot of the greatest TV show of all time. At this point, the hiatus has been going on for about seven years–the 30th anniversary has come and gone–is now the time to bring Doctor Who back to our screens?

In true American fashion, the movie kicks off with a bang. The Master is executed by the Daleks, after having been put on trial for his various crimes. Why the Daleks would bother putting him on trial, rather than just exterminating him, I’ll never know. His last request was for the Doctor to bring his remains back to Gallifrey, and because the Doctor can never refuse his arch-nemesis anything, he agrees.

Photo credit, wilybadger.wordpress.com

Photo credit, wilybadger.wordpress.com

Of course, even dead, the Master manages to mess things up. Sliding through the TARDIS in goo form, he mucks up the TARDIS’ inner workings, causing it to crash-land in San Francisco, 1999, on December 30th. Stumbling out of the TARDIS, the Doctor is caught in a cross-fire of a gang war, shot, and then taken to the hospital, where the surgeons (having never operated on a Time Lord before) promptly kill him.

Photo credit, article.wn.com

Photo credit, article.wn.com

And cause him to regenerate, of course. The production team may be American, but they’re not stupid.

Meanwhile, the Master possesses the body of a (frankly hunky) paramedic and recruits a young gangbanger named Chang Lee to help him open the Eye of Harmony. The Eye, located deep inside the TARDIS, will restore the Master’s long-spent regenerative energy, which would be a major bummer for the Universe (not to mention your poor recapper). As even more of a bummer, though, the Eye’s unchecked energy would destroy the Earth before the human race reached the new millennium. The Doctor, fresh from his seventh regeneration, must work together with his new companion, Dr. Grace Holloway, to stop the Master and save the world.

Photo credit, tardistopia.net

Photo credit, tardistopia.net

This, faithful viewer, is quite possibly the most contentious moment in Doctor Who history. An attempted reboot of a marvelous-but-misunderstood British TV show, featuring a mostly American cast and a distractingly handsome Doctor (forgive me, but it had to be said). There are some Whovians (many of them) who think that “The TV Movie” was an unqualified disaster, while there are others who maintain that it has its own charms and it certainly could’ve been worse (I’m thinking somewhere along the lines of the Peter Cushing movies from the 60s).

As for me? Well, despite the fact that I know the movie’s not very good, I can’t help but like it. The real problem is that I can’t imagine why anyone else would like it at all. It was too full of series in-jokes for a non-fan to feel included in the action, and it was too awkwardly different from the classic series to appeal to a proper fan. And while the script really was well-written and quite funny, there was an overwhelming…American-ness to the whole thing that really grated.

Photo credit, www.bbc.co.uk

Photo credit, http://www.bbc.co.uk

Well, that just figures. The first time American culture is portrayed accurately and non-cheesily on Doctor Who, and I don’t like it.

And of course, even though I enjoyed myself while watching it, there were some moments that blatantly ignored established canon. Which I, in my pedantic ways, cannot forgive. The fact that the Master was able to come back to life makes no earthly (or Gallifreyan) sense, and since when can the TARDIS bring people back to life? And most egregious of all, the Doctor (and pretty much everyone else in the movie) claims that he is half-human. Why the producers felt the need to make up that little tidbit, I’ll never know. But it has rankled on Doctor Who fans for the past nineteen years, and now it’s going to rankle on me. Super.

Photo credit, whatculture.com

Photo credit, whatculture.com

As for the supporting cast, we had our one-off American companion, Grace. All things considered, she was a pretty good one, too. Skeptical enough to be believable, but smart enough to trust the evidence of her own eyes. She was compassionate, honest, and managed to redeem the entire country of America after the embarrassment that was Peri Brown. Frankly, I don’t blame the Doctor one bit for kissing her–she was fantastic.

Photo credit, doctorwhococktails.wordpress.com

Photo credit, doctorwhococktails.wordpress.com

Next, we had the Master and Chang Lee. Lee, a Chinese-American gangbanger, spent most of the story getting bossed around and lied to by the Master. You got the sense that he was a good kid, but you spent most of the movie just feeling sorry for him. Not much in the way of character development, unfortunately; but then, why would they waste time on the Master’s companion? They only exist to get betrayed.

Photo credit, tardis.wikia.com

Photo credit, tardis.wikia.com

As for the Master…oh, yes. In his thirty-and-some years on the show, “The TV Movie” is his finest hour so far. With a gravelly American accent and the combined physique and demeanor of Christian Grey, I finally felt afraid of the man for the very first time. Fifty thousand points to Eric Roberts for finally doing justice to the Doctor’s benighted arch-nemesis.

Photo credit, timeywimeydetector.blogspot.com

Photo credit, timeywimeydetector.blogspot.com

And lastly, of course, we have the Eighth Doctor. I was sad to see Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor go quietly into the night, of course, but Paul McGann really did a smashing job in his turn. A bright, energetic take on the character, McGann foreshadowed the arrival of action-hero Doctors like Eccleston, Tennant, Smith, and Capaldi, and his performance was quite a joy to watch.

Photo credit, tvtropes.org

Photo credit, tvtropes.org

And with that, faithful viewer, we’re done with every last bit of 20th-century Doctor Who. You know what that means…

Stay tuned ’til next time, faithful viewer, when we begin the New Series at last…

Survival

Oh, holy mackerel, faithful viewer. This is it. We’ve made it through 26 years of classic Doctor Who, and now we’ve arrived at the very last story. After the last episode in this serial was broadcast, the infamous sixteen-year hiatus commenced, making this story, rather ironically called “Survival,” the very last classic story in existence. After three and 3/4 years of running this blog, I never thought I’d make it this far. But…here I am, here you are, and here it is. Let’s get started!

Photo credit, blogs.independent.co.uk

Photo credit, blogs.independent.co.uk

The Doctor and Ace land in Perivale in 1989, just a few years after Ace got swept up in the Time Storm that brought her to Iceworld and the Doctor. After the emotional trauma she suffered last week, Ace wants to check in with some of the old gang. Upon arriving, however, they discover that nearly all of Ace’s friends have disappeared under mysterious circumstances. The Doctor is convinced that a rather mangy-looking neighborhood cat is somehow involved, and he’s not wrong. After a little poking around, he and Ace manage to get themselves transported (by a cheetah on horseback) to the planet of the Cheetah People, where the mastermind behind the kidnapping of Perivale youth is revealed to be…the Master.

Photo credit, shillpages.com

Photo credit, shillpages.com

Ugh.

It seems that the Master has gotten himself stranded with the Cheetah People (which is still, miraculously, not the daftest thing he’s ever done to himself), and due to infighting between the Cheetah People, their planet is slowly disintegrating. In the continuing theme of the Master’s existence, he needs the Doctor’s help to escape.

Again. Ugh.

Of course, the Master can’t ever see the Doctor without wanting to wreak some major havoc, and that’s exactly what he does. The atmosphere of the Cheetah Planet has a curious effect on humans who visit; their baser instincts are unlocked and they begin to resemble the predators that are native to the planet. The Master plans to harness the power of these converts for his own gain, and as usual, the Doctor has to stop him…for the last time.

Photo credit, film.thedigitalfix.com

Photo credit, film.thedigitalfix.com

As season (or series) finales go, this one was very much a mixed bag. Parts of it were great; I loved the idea of a planet whose atmosphere effects the minds of its inhabitants and which disintegrates due to war among the population. (If our planet did that, the human race probably wouldn’t have made it to the birth of Christ, to be perfectly honest). On the other hand, there were some truly awful parts as well. Most inexcusable, I think, was the fact that the Cheetah People hunted on horseback. It’s cheesy and ridiculous-looking. The whole point of the Cheetah People is that they’re animalistic; why would they use other animals to help them hunt? They might as well have just eaten their horses…or been fully human.

Also: why did the Master have to be in this one? He’s useless! And he will continue to be useless until Derek Jacoby shows up (unless Eric Roberts manages to pull off something spectacular in “The TV Movie”). Well…I guess we had to get some kind of classic villain in for the finale, and it was either going to be the Master or the Daleks, and we just had the Daleks, so…

Personally, I would’ve rather seen the Cybermen, but they don’t have quite the same cachet, I suppose.

As far as guest stars are concerned, we did have some interesting ones. First, and most famously, there was a quick (and quite funny) cameo by the comedy duo Hale and Pace, which was fun. Second, there was Paterson, a he-man self-defense instructor who preaches a doctrine of “survival of the fittest,” and yet doesn’t have the good sense not to run from a cheetah. I hated him from the first moment he came on-screen, and for the whole story I found myself half-wishing that a Cheetah Person would go ahead and crush his skull for him.

Photo credit, tardis.wikia.com

Photo credit, tardis.wikia.com

Not that it would’ve made much of a meal for the Cheetah; all bone, no brains.

On the other side of the coin, there was Karra, the Cheetah Woman. After Ace’s mind becomes altered by the planet’s atmosphere, Karra becomes a sort of mentor to the Doctor’s companion. A gentle, nurturing soul–in a rather bloodthirsty kind of way–Karra was really great, and I wish she would’ve gotten more screen-time.

Photo credit, en.wikipedia.org

Photo credit, en.wikipedia.org

I’ll be perfectly honest, faithful viewer, I was expecting something bigger than this story to end the classic series of Doctor Who. This was a nice story and all, but it was far too much of a whimper for the greatest TV show ever invented. I suppose it’s worth noting that the series was never officially cancelled–it was just put on a hiatus, of the indefinite variety. And I think this photo of Sylvester McCoy pretty much sums up Whovian attitudes toward that decision.

Photo credit, them0vieblog.com

Photo credit, them0vieblog.com

And with that, we say farewell to the classic series. Faithful viewer, I can’t thank you enough for coming along on this journey with me. It’s been slow going sometimes–heck, there were moments when I wanted to give the whole thing up–but we made it through them all together at last.

Photo credit, tardis.wikia.com

Photo credit, tardis.wikia.com

Thank you, faithful viewer. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Stay tuned ’til next time, faithful viewer, for the almost-all-American TV movie, in an attempt to reboot our beloved show…

The Curse of Fenric

Welcome back for another fantabulous Doctor Who adventure, faithful viewer! We’re getting closer and closer to the end of the classic series, and the further we go, the more we see evidence of a new theme starting to emerge. This show seems to be getting into the habit of putting Ace through the emotional wringer, and this serial sets a new standard in turmoil for our companion.

Photo credit, classicalgallifrey.blogspot.com

Photo credit, classicalgallifrey.blogspot.com

Let’s get into it, shall we?

The Doctor and Ace land in Northumbria during WWII, at a British military base. Inside the base, Commander Wellington is stockpiling nerve gas and translating coded German messages via supercomputer. Meanwhile, Dr. Judson is also using the computer to decipher ancient Norse runes, which he believes hold the key to a supernatural source of power. Outside the base, there is a squad of Soviet commandos hoping to capture the base and the computer. The Doctor and Ace try to strike a balance between the two groups, mainly facilitated by Ace, who makes friends with the women who run the computers for the British military and begins to develop a romance with a Russian soldier named Sorin. Suddenly, the translated runes do their stuff and summon Fenric, the power that Judson was searching for. An ancient evil being (who the Doctor has defeated once before), Fenric was the key to Judson’s plan to defeat the Nazis once and for all. Unfortunately, Fenric has no interest in helping the Allies win the war; instead, he plans to let his army of Haemovores loose upon the world until no living thing remains. As ever, it’s up to the Doctor and Ace to stop them all. If they have faith in each other, they should prevail…right?

Photo credit, popculture-y.com

Photo credit, popculture-y.com

I don’t know why, but I was fully expecting this serial to be awful. To my delight, it turned out instead to be absolutely marvelous instead. To be fair, there were still some weirdish bits that put me off. For example, I failed to understand why the Russians were trying to capture a British military base, seeing as how the two countries were allies at the time. I also couldn’t see why the British military allowed its personnel to ostensibly waste time and energy with archaeology rather than focus on killing Nazis. And finally, I was extremely miffed that Alan Turning wasn’t so much as mentioned throughout the entire story. I mean, seeing as how it was thanks to him that the war ended as quickly as it did and all. According to my notes, Judson was meant to be a stand-in for Turing, and his physical handicap was meant to be a fig leaf (so to speak) for Turing’s infamous homosexuality. To this, I blow a big fat raspberry. Turing should’ve been in this one, that’s all I’ve got to say.

Photo credit, 2013doctorwhomarathon.blogspot.com

Photo credit, 2013doctorwhomarathon.blogspot.com

Overall, though, this serial really was a cut above the rest. The plot was great, the script was lean and brilliant, and the direction was so good that even a gloomy British rainstorm didn’t eclipse the action. Not to mention the Haemovores, our alien menace du jour. Apparently, they’re not related to the vampires of Venice or the Plasmavore in “Smith and Jones,” (though Anne Reid does make an appearance in this serial as Judson’s nurse), but they’re still 100% creepy. They do have an obvious weak point, however. Similar to Hollywood vampires, they can be defeated by a show of faith. Unlike Hollywood vampires, they don’t just flinch away from the sign of the cross; they can be defeated by any show of true faith. They were beaten in this serial by religion, by Communism, and (in the heartbreaking case of the Doctor) by a litany of his beloved companions.

Photo credit, doctorher.com

Photo credit, doctorher.com

Oh, sob.

Even more heartbreaking than that, however, was the series of trials that Ace faced in this serial. Two of her new friends, evacuees named Jean and Phyllis, ended up turning into Haemovores. Her new boyfriend Sorin ended up getting possessed by Fenric, who is revealed to be the person who caused the time storm that blew her to Iceworld and the Doctor in the first place. And harshest of all, she ended up inadvertently saving the lives of her mother and grandmother (both of whom she grew up hating), and in the end, was brutally antagonized by the Doctor. He didn’t mean any of what he said, and it was all for the greater good, but still. It’s not fair, and it’s not nice.

Photo credit, www.avclub.com

Photo credit, http://www.avclub.com

Never before has this show focused so much on the life of a companion, or gone so deep into a companion’s character development. Not for nothing is Ace considered to be the first modern companion, and not for nothing do I happen to think she’s marvelous. Too marvelous, in fact, for the likes of the Doctor. I understand why he did what he did, but I still don’t like it at all.

On a more fannish note, I find myself regretting more and more the fact that the classic series was canceled when it was. Just as it was getting good again.

Stay tuned ’til next time, faithful viewer, for the very last serial in the classic series…

The Girl Who Died/The Woman Who Lived

Welcome welcome, faithful viewer! If you’ve been anywhere near the internet for the past several weeks, you know full well that our show was due to be graced with the presence with one Maisie Williams, also known as Arya Stark off Game of Thrones. Her arrival on the show has been hotly anticipated, and heavily theorized. Will she be the Doctor’s new companion? A new villain? As Tom Baker once said to Matt Smith, who knows?

At the start of this story, the Doctor and Clara land on the outskirts of a Viking village and are promptly captured by its finest warriors. The Doctor attempts to convince them that he is the Norse god Odin, via some ultra-fancy yo-yo work, but the villagers are unconvinced. The Doctor’s ruse is further undermined by the appearance of Odin’s face in the sky above the village. Odin proclaims that he intends to reward the village’s warriors by welcoming them into Valhalla…and then a dozen iron robots materialize in the village and vaporize all of the warriors.

Photo credit, www.forbes.com

Photo credit, http://www.forbes.com

Of course, that sort of trick would not be beneath Odin (if myths and Marvel comics are anything to go by), but the face in the sky is of course not the real Odin. In truth, it’s the commander of a vast alien militia known as the Mire. They harvest hormones from lesser species, squeezing the poor creatures like juiceboxes, and use their adrenaline and testosterone to improve their own performance in battle. Threatened by the Mire, a young Viking maiden named Ashildr declares war on them, enraged by their attack on her people. Despite remarkable odds, the Doctor manages to help the village defeat the Mire, through means of trickery, woodwork, electric eels, and the Benny Hill theme tune. Unfortunately, Ashildr is killed in the battle, which the Doctor find completely unacceptable, considering how instrumental she was in the victory. By means of some bio-technical jiggery-pokery, he manages to bring her back to life, but the unfortunate side-effect of that is that Ashildr became immortal.

Photo credit, screenrant.com

Photo credit, screenrant.com

Fast-forward to 1651, Ashildr has undergone a startling change. Now known simply as Me, she is the lady of a vast estate in the English countryside who moonlights as a highwayman known as the Knightmare. She has lost three children, at least two lovers, and nearly all empathy for the human race in her 600-odd years of life, and the Doctor is guilt-stricken when he sees what her life has become. Not only that, but she has formed an alliance with a leonine alien called Leandro, who crash-landed in her grounds and who seeks the Eye of Hades. A powerful alien artifact, the Eye of Hades uses the life-force of a dying person to open a portal between Universes. Me has grown frustrated with being trapped on Earth and plans to travel with Leandro instead. However, there’s more to this scene than meets the eye, and the Doctor must work quickly to repair the damage he inadvertently caused to Ashildr.

Photo credit, gallifreyanramblings.wordpress.com

Photo credit, gallifreyanramblings.wordpress.com

The focus of this story is, of course, Ashildr (or Lady Me, depending on the episode). Played by the famous Maisie Williams, the character is completely brilliant in every way–even some ways that might be a bit uncomfortable for mortals to contemplate. Although Whovians have gotten some idea of what it means to be immortal, through our observations of the Doctor’s ongoing adventures and improbably longevity. But this is the first time we’ve seen what can happen to a human who becomes immortal, and frankly, it’s not pretty. She doesn’t become any more remarkable of a person for her immortality; special skills aside, she’s just another person, arguably a person that the Ninth Doctor would call a stupid ape for her lack of empathy. My favorite aspect of her characterization, however, is definitely her patchy memory, which makes absolutely perfect sense. The vast majority of human beings don’t have flawless recall of eighty-year life spans–why should Me be able to remember a 600-year-long life?

The interesting thing about this story is that the first episode doesn’t end with a cliff-hanger as we’ve come to recognize them. The two episodes can be treated as independent stories. Perhaps as a result of this, Part 1 is significantly weaker than Part 2, which is when all the really interesting stuff starts happening. A farmer’s revolution in a Viking village is all very well, but imagining how much immortality can mess up a person’s life is much more intriguing to think about.

Photo credit, tvnewsroom.org

Photo credit, tvnewsroom.org

Our other two major players in this story are Leandro, and Sam Swift the bandit. I’m not sure, but judging from his appearance and his ability to travel between dimensions, I think Leandro might be a Tharil. I haven’t heard anything to the contrary, but I’m hoping he’s not a Tharil–I always considered them to be a decent sort, and I’d hate to think Romana could fail to have a good influence on the race as a whole. As for Sam Swift, I haven’t seen a character so determined to get crap past the censors since Jack Harkness. That being said, I’m not sure Sam would be able to function as well as Jack if he became immortal–perhaps with Lady Me’s help?

Photo credit, io9.com

Photo credit, io9.com

Overall, a lovely couple of episodes. I just have one last question: Where the hell was Clara? I’m getting really tired with her being neglected on this show. I mean, she’s only the companion, after all–why shouldn’t she get a decent part? For goodness’ sake.

Photo credit, zap2it.com

Photo credit, zap2it.com

Stay tuned ’til next time, faithful viewer, for a tense battle with an army of shape-shifting enemies…

Ghost Light

Hold on to your hat, faithful viewer, and get ready to duck behind the sofa, because we’ve got a proper scary story today. Something there is about the Victorian aesthetic that loves a ghost story–and this one’s got aliens in it, too! Frankly, I can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon, so let’s get right to it.

The Doctor and Ace land in a Victorian manor called Gabriel Chase (for reasons that are never adequately explained), where many strange things are happening. Stuffed animals pervade the place, and they all seem ready and willing to come to life once more. A Chief Inspector from Scotland Yard is found in suspended animation, stuffed inside a dresser drawer. Insect-like husks terrorize the basement, and Josiah S. Smith (the master of the house) holds a peculiar sway over the rest of the inhabitants (including his ward Gwendoline, who does away with interlopers with chilling glee). There’s a fen-witch, an angel, a plot to assassinate Queen Victoria, and a silver tureen full of primordial soup. And 100 years in the future, a young Ace will burn the place to the ground in an effort to exorcise the evil energy that remains. What’s the Doctor playing at by bringing her back there? What indeed…

Photo credit, christopherbahn.com

Photo credit, christopherbahn.com

Faithful viewer, I’m saying this because it must be said: This story doesn’t make anything even slightly resembling sense. It just doesn’t. I have tried to make sense of it, but in that endeavor I have failed. But all that being true, I still love this story to pieces. The atmosphere is brilliantly creepy, the script is both blisteringly clever and blindingly funny, and even though the plot was so dense that it was practically congealed, I still found myself sitting with bated breath, wondering what was going to happen next.

Photo credit, orangeanubis.com

Photo credit, orangeanubis.com

Not to mention all the fabulous guest characters we had as well. Josiah Smith, the Svengali of Gabriel Chase, has the essence of a total rock star, parading around in ruffled shirts and tiny sunglasses (he’s almost got a David Bowie vibe to him, in actual fact).

Photo credit, orangeanubis.com

Photo credit, orangeanubis.com

Then there’s Light, an alien surveyor who was worshipped as a god by the early humans and is contemptuous of evolution. He looks like Peter Capaldi, talks like Patti LaBelle, and is the most terrifying “good guy” I’ve ever seen in literature.

And lastly, there’s Control; a savage, abused creature who goes through an Eliza Doolittle transformation in an effort to become “a ladylike.”

Photo credit, tardis.wikia.com

Photo credit, tardis.wikia.com

The poor thing just needed a hug, bless her.

And of course, I must mention Ace before I sign off for today. Not since she had to battle the robot clowns in “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy” have we seen her so rattled. The spooky old house did a proper number on her when she was younger, and she’s not best pleased about having to deal with it again. Despite that, however, she was able to keep her wits about her and save the day once more.

Photo credit, unaffiliatedcritic.com

Photo credit, unaffiliatedcritic.com

And I suppose the Doctor helped her too. Wicked.

Stay tuned ’til next time, faithful viewer, when the Doctor and Ace travel back to World War Two and go up against sinister marine aliens who plan to destroy the rest of the planet along with the Nazis…

Battlefield

Afternoon, faithful viewer! Well, this isn’t Thursday, but it’s time for a throwback to the early 70s. You remember those times, I’m sure. The Doctor had just been exiled to Earth by the Time Lords and had his TARDIS disabled for him. But of course, since he can never leave well enough alone, he ended up throwing in his lot with UNIT and making several new human friends: Liz Shaw, Jo Grant, Mike Yates (oh dear), Sergeant Benton, and especially Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. As much as enjoy (and honestly prefer) the show as it is now–full of intergalactic adventures and battles with strange creatures–I can’t help but feel nostalgic for the old days of campy, M*A*S*H-y silliness.

Photo credit, edwardianadventurer.wordpress.com

Photo credit, edwardianadventurer.wordpress.com

Fortunately, that’s exactly what we’re going to get today. Flying through space in the TARDIS, the Doctor and Ace receive what seems to be a distress signal from Earth. As they rush to investigate, they meet up with a UNIT squad–under the command of a new Brigadier, Winifred Bambera–and discover an apparent relic of the 8th century: a scabbard for a sword, which is actually much older and stranger than it appears.

Photo credit, tardis.wikia.com

Photo credit, tardis.wikia.com

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, our old Brig (now retired and married to a lady named Doris) gets the news that the Doctor is back on-world and wisely decides to come out of retirement, for all our sakes. With his old friend and new companion by his side, the Doctor discovers that the distress signal the TARDIS received came from…well, from Excalibur. The sword itself is actually a piece of alien tech, left here by King Arthur, who was actually an interdimensional being who happened to set up show in Britain during the early stages of the Common Era. Now, Morgaine and Mordred have come back to claim Excalibur and lay waste to the planet Earth. It’s up to the Doctor to play the role of Merlin and stop them.

Photo credit, www.bbc.co.uk

Photo credit, http://www.bbc.co.uk

Oh dear, faithful viewer. It breaks my heart, because this story could’ve been so good. The idea of it was phenomenal; King Arthur and Morgan le Fay as space aliens? To my knowledge, it’s never been done before. Take that, alien conspiracy theorists–get your heads out of Stonehenge for once! And the usage of Clark’s Law–that advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic–was brilliant and fun. And plus, we got to see UNIT again. By rights, this should’ve been a cracking good serial.

But it wasn’t. Despite the wonderful plot, the lovely guest stars, and the dashing good looks of Marcus Gilbert (who played an exceptionally dishy knight by the name of Ancelyn), it came off as cheesy and childish in the extreme. The gags were too broad, none of the really good characters got enough screen time, and the plot didn’t go deep enough where it should have. Not to mention all the dopey catchphrases all over the place. As Brigadier Bambera would say, “Ah, shame.”

Photo credit, dwssg.averyniceplace.de

Photo credit, dwssg.averyniceplace.de

I will say that it was awfully nice to see Jean Marsh again, especially considering the fact that we haven’t seen her since the bloody 1960s. She’s been on the show twice before–as Princess Joanna in “The Crusade” and as the Doctor’s ill-fated companion Sara Kingdom–and now she’s playing Morgaine and starring opposite Nicholas Courtney for the first time since “The Daleks’ Master Plan.” Her Morgaine was beautifully enigmatic, as the character always has been: cruel, honorable, vulnerable, and Machiavellian by turns. A better villain than we’ve seen in a very long time, for sure.

Photo credit, tansyrr.com

Photo credit, tansyrr.com

Also cool to see was our new Brigadier Bambera, played with grit and guts by Angela Bruce. Being the dedicated Whovian that I am, I recognized her at once from the miniseries Takin’ Over the Asylum, which aired on BBC Scotland in the early 90s and also starred a young David Tennant. (Tennant being the enthusiastic fanboy he was/is, I can only imagine how many questions he must’ve bombarded her with about what it was like to work on Doctor Who). Bambera was a tough-as-nails customer for sure–maybe too tough?–but from a professional standpoint, I think UNIT’s in good hands with her behind the wheel. Wonder if we’ll get to see her again before the hiatus…

Photo credit, olddoctorwho.com

Photo credit, olddoctorwho.com

Speaking of Brigadiers, it was of course wonderful to see Sir Alistair again. And one of the things this story did manage to get right was the palpable tension between him and Ace. It didn’t quite reach the Sex and the City levels of bitchiness that Rose and Sarah Jane demonstrated in “School Reunion,” but only not quite. It was all kicked off by the Brig, who made the sizable mistake of referring to Ace as “the latest one” and then going all benevolent-misogynist on her (a side of his that I had forgotten until now). As for Ace, she’s set herself up as the Doctor’s protector now (much like Leela before her) and doesn’t quite trust anyone else to get the job done–much less a gung-ho soldier boy like the Brig. Fortunately, the two of them managed to put aside their differences long enough to fight off the threat of Morgaine and Mordred.

Photo credit, radiofreeskaro.blogspot.com

Photo credit, radiofreeskaro.blogspot.com

Well, all I can say is, what a shame. This could’ve been so good, were it not for the cheesy gags and the lack of screen time for the dreamy Mr. Gilbert.

Photo credit, fifthdoctorcostume.blogspot.com

Photo credit, fifthdoctorcostume.blogspot.com

Oh well–next week will be better, eh?

Stay tuned ’til next time, faithful viewer, when we try to unravel the sinister mystery of an old Victorian manor…

The Greatest Show in the Galaxy

I know what you’re thinking, faithful viewer: I might as well not even read this post, because the title is long enough. Not to mention the fact that there’s not a whole lot of mystery in the title itself. After all, we know we’re watching the greatest show in the galaxy. We’re Whovians, aren’t we? We wouldn’t have made it this far if we didn’t know that for a fact. But please stay with me today, because this serial, much like the show itself, is not quite what you might expect it to be from the outside.

Photo credit, wifeinspace.com

Photo credit, wifeinspace.com

After receiving a particularly obnoxious bit of junk mail (this kind talks back to you), the Doctor and Ace get conned into attending the Psychic Circus–the purportedly GREATEST SHOW IN THE GALAXY–and it’s rather fortunate that they decide to go, because there’s a very sinister something lurking inside the circus itself. The performers are forbidden from leaving the show on pain of death, and members of the audience get recruited into the show and killed if they don’t perform up to scratch. As with most circuses, many secrets creep behind the clowns and candyfloss, and if the Doctor can’t discover them, he might very well die in the ring.

Photo credit, tvtropes.org

Photo credit, tvtropes.org

I’ll be perfectly honest, faithful viewer. I was more than prepared to hate this one. Not only am I quite gun-shy after last week’s story, but the whole premise of this story seemed unbearably cheesy–not to mention the lame-ass name. And when the show started off with a rapping ringmaster…I’ll tell you, in my very-nearly-four years of running this blog, that’s as close as I’ve ever come to switching off and giving up. Only through sheer force of will (that I developed by sitting through every last Hartnell and Troughton recon) did I manage to get on with the show.

Photo credit, drewrowsome.blogspot.com

Photo credit, drewrowsome.blogspot.com

And I’ll tell you something else as well: I am very glad I did. To my surprise and delight, this serial ended up being…sort of strangely wonderful. Not perfect, mind you, but definitely top-notch telly. The direction really made it what it was: moody and mature, while maintaining the otherworldly whimsy that makes all good circuses great. The characters were lovely as well–a panoply of sinister clowns and sorrowful carnies that brought to mind another of my favorite shows: The Devil’s Carnival. (If you haven’t seen it, faithful viewer, I implore you to check it out). There were no fluffy lines at all, and awkward moments were few and far between–our show still hasn’t managed a good killer robot, unfortunately. And best of all, we got to see Sylvester McCoy do a short magic routine for us. Watch it here:

Besides the direction, the thing that makes this serial really special is the delicious post-modernist soup in which its plot swims. The whole thing is one big metatextual joke, and I love it. Think about it: the Psychic Circus started under Sixties ideals of freedom, individuality, and creativity. Eventually, however, those ideals were lost amid a wave of Eighties-esque practicality and paranoia. When the story starts, the increasingly unwilling performers are plying their trade before an increasingly unimpressed audience. Even Whizz-Kid, the show’s self-proclaimed biggest fan, is mocked and then killed by his own beloved show.

Is any of this sounding familiar, faithful viewer?

Boy, it’s rare that Doctor Who gets this self-reflective, but when it does, it’s brutal and brilliant.

Along a similar vein, I completely fell in love with the idea of the Gods of Ragnarok, the aforementioned audience that commandeered the Psychic Circus. Named after the Norse prophecy of the Apocalypse, the Gods of Ragnarok are obsessed with being adequately entertained. Naturally, the Gods of Ragnarok are not really gods, but really, that’s just how Gods of the Apocalypse would be. Obsessed with entertainment, biding their time, waiting to serve their purpose by destroying the Universe.

And even more deliciously perfect: the Doctor proclaims that he has been fighting Ragnarok his whole life, which of course he has. Not only by battling injustice whenever he finds it on the show, but by reminding us, the true audience, what’s worth fighting for.

Photo credit, loveandliberty.blogspot.co.uk

Photo credit, loveandliberty.blogspot.co.uk

Truly a brilliant season finale. And after the embarrassment that was “Silver Nemesis,” it’s reassuring to know that, even in its final days, Doctor Who can be brilliant.

Stay tuned ’til next time, faithful viewer, when we travel back to Earth to battle legendary villains from Britain’s shadowy past…

Under the Lake/Before the Flood

One of the benefits (and also one of the drawbacks) of being a Whovian in the 21st century is that the internet exists, and that fans of Doctor Who will sometimes discuss the show on it. In one of the internet’s better instances of humorous ingenuity, the following comic was created:

It tells the truth, really. Much like Scooby-Doo, Doctor Who dedicates itself to proving that ghosts and demons don’t really exist; unlike Scooby-Doo, where the monsters usually turn out to be creepy old men, Doctor Who villains usually turn out to be aliens. I say “usually,” because there are occasionally some instances the supernatural really does seem to stare the characters in the face, and this story is one of them. This is one time when the Doctor really does seem to be confronted by true, real ghosts…

Underneath 22nd century Scotland, a submerged research base called the Drum has discovered what appears to be an alien vessel. The technology is unlike anything ever seen on Earth, and it is somehow causing the deaths of the researchers, one at a time. Not only that, but ghostly figures resembling the dead researchers have begun appearing. They only come out at night, they can walk through walls, and they seem bent on killing the living members of the crew. The Doctor has to figure out what’s going on, so he decides to go back in time to before the area flooded and perhaps discover the origin of the alien vessel. The matter is complicated slightly by the sudden appearance of his own ghost, which would mean that the Doctor would have to change established events and reorder time itself to save not only his life, but the lives of the researchers and Clara.

Faithful viewer, I’d just like to state for the record: I think Toby Whithouse is a total rock star. He has written some of the finest Doctor Who stories of the new series: “School Reunion,” “Vampires of Venice,” and “A Town Called Mercy” to name a few. This story is a brilliant addition to his portfolio in progress. It is deliciously creepy in the way that only modern sci-fi can be, to the point that you do actually think twice before turning the lights out at night.

We also had a couple of stellar supporting characters on the research team: O’Donnell and Cass. Cass makes history as the first deaf character in Doctor Who history, and is a brilliantly passionate character who will do anything to ensure the safety of her crew. O’Donnell, in a surprising turn of events, is a huge fan of the Doctor (too bad she was born too late to be aware of LINDA) and really knows her stuff. In fact, she appears to know more about alien goings-on than the Doctor; she mentions something called the Minister of War, which frankly sounds like something that would be right up the Doctor’s street, but he’d never heard of it before. Could this be a bit of foreshadowing to the season finale? That has been known to happen…

We had a great villain this time around as well; the Fisher King. A horrifying-looking customer (who was voiced by Peter bloody Serafinowicz, of all people!), he delivered a great monologue about how stupid the Time Lords were, which is something I always enjoy hearing. In fact, I wish we could’ve seen more of the Fisher King; I don’t think he got nearly enough screentime. We also got to see Prentis, a Tivolian undertaker. You remember the Tivolians, faithful viewer? The little mousy fellows who were always getting conquered by every other alien race in the galaxy. Pathetic, and not exactly trustworthy, eh? And lastly, I loved the inclusion of the Bootstrap Paradox. I won’t explain it here (simply because Peter Capaldi did a much better job of it during the story itself), but it’s confusing little bits of timey-whimey thought experiments that remind me why I love this show.

Although, I have to say I find myself disappointed once again at how this story treated Clara. Again, she barely had anything to do in the midst of all these adventures. Come on, Powers That Be. If Clara is leaving us sometime soon, let’s give her one last really brilliant story, eh?

Stay tuned ’til next time, faithful viewer…