The Doctor: “Time is a structure relative to ourselves. Time is the space made by our lives, where we stand together forever. Time and relative dimension in space. It means life… This is the gateway to everything that ever was and ever can be. Bill: …Can I use the toilet?
“The Pilot,” Doctor Who, Second Series 10, Episode 1
My daughter Alixandra has wanted to watch Doctor Who but she’s been intimidated by the idea of catching up with 50 years of the show’s history. Hey, who wouldn’t be? I told her to start with “new Who,” with Christopher Eccleston’s as the 9th Doctor, which was “only” 12 years ago (is it really over a decade already?) and that “Rose,” the first episode, would do a great job of hooking her into the basics – although she already sorta knows them, as she remembers me watching the Tom Baker years of Doctor Who when the show aired on Saturday mornings on Channel 13, the New York City PBS station.
She was very young then, not much more than a toddler, so that was a surprise to me – as well as a lesson to grown-ups: be careful what you say around the young ‘uns. Apparently, little pitchers really do have big ears.
I also sent her a list of shows from a website I found, “Desperately Unrehearsed,” which lists every episode from the aforementioned “Rose” to Matt Smith’s dénouement, “The Time of The Doctor,” with a pretty good opinion – at least one I basically agreed with – of what was essential and what was not (along with YMMV).
But I also just sent her a text: “The 10th series premiered Saturday night. It’s called “The Pilot,” and it might be a good place for you to start, as it introduces a new companion and reintroduces the basic ideas.”
She sent me back a “thumbs-up” emoji.
I texted her back a few minutes later, because I forgot to say in the first text: “Plus, Peter Capaldi.”
Fans of Outlander (me, included) are currently suffering from what is known as the “Droughtlander,” – the last episode of Season 2 aired on July 9, 2016, and the series is not returning to Showtime until September – but the wait for Series 10 of Doctor Who has been interminable. The last episode of Series 9 (“Hell Bent”) aired here in the States on December 5, 2015. We did get two Christmas specials, the first run three weeks later on December 25, 2016 (“The Husbands of River Song”) and the second (“The Return of Doctor Mysterio”) a year later.
Outlander is not even giving us that…
But was the wait worth it?
“The Pilot” was not only a singularly great show all by itself, it was also a fantastic kick-off, with past and future colliding – dialogue that was timey-winey-twisted; pictures of a lost wife and granddaughter; sonic screwdrivers from just about every regeneration collected in a jug; and a vault (reminiscent of the Pandorica box) that the Doctor is protecting.
The trailers featuring Pearl Mackie as new companion Bill Potts did not exactly excite me, nor did they do Mackie any justice. The “big” news that Bill is gay. However, and that’s a big however, I was completely charmed by Ms. Mackie and her character by the half-way mark of “The Pilot.” That is way faster than I turned on to Jenna Coleman’s Clara Oswald, Karen Gillian’s Amelia (Amy) Pond, and Arthur Darvill’s Rory Williams. The only companions that equal the speed with which I fell in love with Bill Potts were Elisabeth Sladen’s Sarah Jane Smith (of course!) and Billy Piper’s Rose Tyler.
I wasn’t all that impressed with Matt Lucas’s Nardole previously, not in “The Husbands of River Song” nor in “The Return of Doctor Mysterio.” But in “The Pilot,” Nardole came into his own; he is the bridge between the Doctor and Bill, and the bridge, I think, between the universe of Doctor Who and ours, the “Greek chorus” of the audience, of us.
Stephanie Hyman’s Heather, the girl with the star in her eye, was eerily beautiful, bewitching, chilling, and ultimately heartbreaking. And by the way, Ms. Hyman, kudos to you for playing 90% of your part soaking wet.
I also want to give a shout-out to “The Pilot’s” cinematography, editing, and special effects.
As for Peter Capaldi; well, im-not-so-ho, Mr. Capaldi will become, as he leaves the show behind and moves on with his life, one of those Doctors who will leave an indelible mark upon the character and the 50-year history of Doctor Who. If you must go, Mr. Capaldi, then you must…
There are all kinds of traditions connected to Christmas. One tradition in our house is the Doctor Who Christmas Special playing here on BBC America. If you don’t know, Doctor Who is the looooong running BBC series about an alien time traveler and his (usually) human companion(s) who all travel through time and space having adventures. The Doctor regenerates into a new body – and a new actor – when his current body is at its end. If you don’t know the series and/or don’t care, you can probably skip this column.
There was a sort of Christmas Special as far back as the first incarnation over a half-century ago, but mostly it’s only been over the last ten years. The latest one will be tonight (if you’re reading this on Sunday). The first in this series began after the show returned from a sixteen-year hiatus and featured the Doctor’s tenth incarnation, played by David Tennant, and his companion, Rose Tyler, played by Billie Piper, and Rose’s mother and her ex-boyfriend. The episode was also our introduction to this incarnation, the Doctor having just regenerated in the previous episode.
It’s a good, solid, interesting episode, establishing the new Doctor’s persona. The plot is about an alien invasion (the episode is called “The Christmas Invasion”) and written by showrunner Russell T. Davies; it’s sturdy enough and there are some nice Christmas touches like a Christmas tree that becomes a spinning instrument of death. The Doctor is recovering from his transformation and is in a coma for most of the show but when he finally snaps into action, it’s a treat.
By the following year, the Doctor has just parted with Rose Tyler and is feeling mopey when a woman in a wedding dress just materializes in his TARDIS. The woman is Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) and she is “The Runaway Bride.” She’s outraged, abrasive, and very rude to the Doctor who she holds responsible for her abduction. Russell T. Davies again did the scripting and this one is a hoot. I’m a big fan of Donna and was very pleased when she eventually returned as a full-time companion.
The next year brought us “Voyage of the Damned,” again written by Davies. The Doctor, temporarily without a companion, finds himself on an alien, space faring replica of the Titanic during a Christmas party. Why would aliens have a Christmas party and a replica of the Titanic? Just go with it.
There is, of course, a disaster and the Doctor must lead a group of passengers in a “Poseidon Adventure” like attempt to get to safety. One of them is a waitress, Astrid (played by pop singer Kylie Minogue) who looks as if she will be the next companion. Alas, no. Too bad; I thought she had promise. It’s fairly somber for the season and really could have been set at any other time. It’s okay but only okay.
Christmas Special #5, again scripted by Davies, is “The Next Doctor.” Our Doctor travels to Dickensian London and encounters someone who could be his own next incarnation. Interesting concept. He also encounters an old foe, the Cybermen, including a gigantic robo version. That part is sort of weird but there’s some very nice touches in the episode including David Morrisey as the “Next Doctor” who showed he could have played that part very well. The ending is kind of goofy though and I found it far fetched… which is saying something for this show.
Onward. The following year presents up with “The End of Time” and it is both David Tennant’s and Russell Davies’ respective swan songs. It’s a two-parter with the first half shown on Christmas and the second half on New Year’s Day. Put simply – this one is a mess. I won’t pretend to explain it because I’m not sure I fully understand it. David Tennant’s Doctor gets a “farewell tour” at the end when he should simply be dead. It is interesting to note that Tennant’s tenure began in one Christmas Special and ended in this one.
Stephen Moffat became showrunner the following season and Matt Smith replaced David Tennant as the Doctor. I run hot and cold on Moffat; sometimes he is simply brilliant and other times he’s too clever by half. He got into taking other Christmas stories as the inspiration for what he’s writing in his Specials. This year it was A Christmas Carol and the episode was also titled “A Christmas Carol.” It takes place on an alien planet and, among other things, features sharks that swim in the atmosphere. Over all, more than a little odd and, for me, it doesn’t really work.
On the other hand, the following year brought us the “good” Stephen Moffat. This episode. “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe” takes its cue from C. S. Lewis’s classic Narnia story “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” This one is really good; simple straight ahead plot, touches of comedy, and deeply felt emotion with a nice bit at the end that makes me tear up.
The following year’s offering, “The Snowmen,” introduces the young woman Clara (played by Jenna Coleman) who, in slightly different form, will be the Doctor’s next companion. The Doctor has suffered a devastating personal loss and has retreated to Victorian London and is in seclusion. He wants no part of the world. That, however, wouldn’t make for very interesting TV and Clara, through her spunk, draws him out. I’m not as crazy about Clara as Moffat seems to be but this episode works all right. The setting is fun ans the supporting characters are great, especially the alien butler, Strax. I love me some Strax.
Which bring us to the ninth Christmas Special, “The Time of the Doctor.” This is Matt Smith’s swan song as the Doctor and it’s too bad because the episode is wretched. There is a planet called Trenzalore that has a town called Christmas filled with humans. Why? Who knows? Moffat tries to reconcile every offhand prophecy and prediction he made along the way about how this Doctor would end and its labored and beyond incredulity.
Next Christmas is better… but not by much. It’s called “Last Christmas” and it starts with Clara, on the outs with this Doctor (now played by Peter Capaldi), encountering Santa Claus on her roof on Christmas Eve. The Doctor shows up and he and Clara go off to the North Pole, not to Santa’s workshop but a research station that’s having the crabs. Well, crab like aliens. Things happen within dreams and there are dreams within dreams. Somebody else sort it out; my brain hurts.
Last year we had “The Husbands of River Song” and this may be my favorite of the Christmas Specials. It features the inestimable River Song, played by the inestimable Alex Kingston. River is the time-tossed daughter of the Doctor’s former companions Amy and Rory and, by the way, she’s also the Doctor’s wife. She has a way of traveling through time and she and the Doctor keep meeting in a non time linear fashion so they always have to check where they are in their own time lines in the diaries they keep for this purpose. (“Spoilers!”) At this point, she has not yet met this incarnation of the Doctor and therefore doesn’t recognize him. The adventure is fun and outrageous (with River, things often get outrageous) and ends perfectly – romantic and sadly sweet.
This year is titled “The Return of Captain Mysterio” and, from the previews, it appears to have a masked and caped superhero (supervillain?) which definitely is not usual for Doctor Who.
Over all, I’d have to say that while some of the Specials were indeed Specials, some tried too hard to be “special” and as a result were not. The good ones, however, were really good. We’ll see what Santa Moffat has left under the tree for us this year. Naughty or nice?
So – while I’m here – let it be said before I fade out of sight,
I usually don’t watch horror films or TV shows, and that might surprise some people. After all, I’m known to have written some horror stories, such as DC’s Wasteland. My standard response is that I would rather give nightmares than get them. A bit flip perhaps, but largely true. I have an active imagination (from which I make my living) and the concepts and images from a horror story can stick in my head long after I’ve seen the show.
For example, I went to see The Exorcist when it first hit the movie theaters and, oh my, it played heavily on the atavistic fears of my Roman Catholic altar boy choir boy upbringing. I slept that night with the lights on despite being of college age. Actually, I was in bed but I didn’t sleep that much. Part of me was convinced that the ol’ debbil was gonna git me.
This is an explanation of why I didn’t watch Penny Dreadful when it first showed on Showtime. Recently, however, I got a chance to get caught up with the first two seasons. I didn’t binge watch them; the most I could take was two episodes at a sitting. I found them too unsettling.
The show is set in Victorian London and deals with a number of supernatural threats. A team of sorts is drawn together including an African explorer (Sir Malcolm Murray), his mysterious African servant (Sembene), a witch (Vanessa Ives), an American gunslinger (Ethan Chandler), Dorian Gray (of The Picture of fame) and Doctor Victor Frankenstein and his Creature(s).
If that sounds reminiscent of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, well, it is… in concept. It is also extraordinarily well done. The show’s creator is John Logan and, I believe, he has also written all the episodes. You may know Mr. Logan from his work on other movies such as Skyfall and the upcoming Spectre, as well as Hugo, Rango (such an odd and interesting film!), and Gladiator among many others. A very talented writer and that talent is in full display here.
The production values are first rate – the sets, the costumes, all the details. Think Downton Abbey with vampires. The cast is also primo – and you have an odd James Bond connection with Timothy Dalton (Bond at one time) playing Sir Malcolm and Eva Green (who was Vesper Lynn in Casino Royale) joining John Logan. Harry Treadway, who plays Dr. Frankenstein, was also in the TV mini-series about Bond’s creator, Fleming.
Josh Hartnet portrays Ethan Chandler, the American gunslinger with a dark and secret past. Despite that past, the character is one of the most decent persons in the show. Sembene is portrayed by Danny Sapani who shares a Doctor Who connection with Billie Piper (Brona, Lily) who, of course, was Rose Tyler on Doctor Who. (Yes, I’m nerding out.) You see quite a bit more of Ms. Piper here. Quite a bit more.
I don’t know Reeve Carney who appears as Dorian Gray, but he’s very effective in a very unsettling role.
My favorite character, however, is Frankenstein’s Creature, played by Rory Kinnear (another Bond connection – he’s been Tanner in the last few Bond films). He is a monster, yes – he can be brutal and murderous and full of rage. He is also the most heart-breaking character in the show. He knows what he is and, by his very appearance, knows that he has no place where he fits in. He suffers most from ordinary humans (who can be the biggest monsters in the show). His longing, his despair, his rage all make him, as one character says of him late in the second series, the most human of them all.
The reason I like the show so much is the characterization. All the characters have multiple levels and all are flawed. My own theory is that you can’t really experience horror unless, on some level, you sympathize with the characters. If you don’t feel something for them, you won’t feel anything for what happens to them. You can be shocked, yes, but you don’t really feel anything. What is the point if you don’t feel? Horror is something that happens to people that we know. There can be sensation, sure, but if you don’t identify with those going through the horror, it means nothing. It’s just incident.
I should probably also mention that there is violence and sex and nudity (both male and female, although mostly female); this is pay-cable TV, after all. If any of that might bother you, give the show a wide berth. None of it ever seems gratuitous to me. I should also mention that the second season is even more unnerving than the first. A third season is projected for next year and I approach it with both anticipation and dread.
I realize that I’m late coming to the Penny Dreadful party but I think the show can be streamed and certainly it’s available on DVD and Blu-Ray so I feel justified in recommending it which I do most heartily. If I was writing horror for TV, this is the type of story I would like to tell.
I’ve had a chance recently to catch some, not all, of Showtime’s series, Penny Dreadful, and I’ve enjoyed it quite a bit. It takes the same concept of Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (combine genre characters from the Victorian Age into a single story) and uses it with mostly horror and supernatural characters and elements, again in Victorian London.
The “real” penny dreadfuls were the pulp fiction of their day, precursors to the pulp magazines and also comics. The TV series was created by John Logan (who, among other things, wrote Skyfall and will be writing the next two James Bond films as well) and is the co-executive producer along with James Bond director Sam Mendes (he also directed The Road to Perdition).
There are also other Bond connections, including Timothy Dalton as the African explorer Sir Malcolm Murray, who is the father of Mina Murray, who just happens to be a character in the novel Dracula. Eva Green, who was the “Bond Girl” Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale, plays Vanessa Ives, a medium and possibly a witch. Among interest to we pop culture geeks would also be Doctor Who’s companion Billie Piper as a prostitute with a possibly very dark future.
The show also features Victor Frankenstein and his creature(s) as well as Dorian Gray and a werewolf. To say more would spoil the story for those who have not yet experienced it. The show is well acted, well directed, well written and with first class production values. First class altogether as well as being suspenseful, creepy, and shocking.
What I like most about the show is the complexity of the characters. No one is wholly admirable nor wholly despicable. One of my favorite characters is Frankenstein’s Creature, who sometimes goes by the name Caliban; he is tragic and sympathetic and dangerous all at the same time. You learn things about all the characters and you’re not sure you should root for them – but you do.
All of which really leads up to the true topic of this week’s column – creating complex characters. It is both easy and difficult. It falls back to one of my cardinal rules – we write what we know, especially about people and life as we have experienced them.
What defines a given character is what they want and what they are willing to do to get what they want. By want, I mean really want – not just sorta kinda want. What do they need, what do they desire, what do they lust for, what must they have? Something primal. The more intense the want (the motivation), the better it will drive the story. The reader must not only know what the character wants, they have to feel it. They must feel the desire behind it.
What prevents the character from getting what they want (at least initially) is what makes the story. That’s the conflict. How the character copes with that conflict reveals what their true character is. Same as in life. If the need were easy to satisfy, the story would be quickly over.
Sometimes the conflict is with a person (the antagonist), sometimes an object (a mountain), sometimes a situation (a hurricane, for example). Think of your own life. What is most likely to keep you from getting what you want? As often as not, the answer is you yourself. You have doubts or fears but what is most likely to get in your way is a competing need. You want A but you want B as well and they are mutually exclusive. However, your inner child wants both. That conflict has to be resolved for the story to reach its climax. What we choose, what the character chooses, tell us and tells the reader who the character truly is.
Character exists within opposites. Never try to explain them away. Make the reader feel both desires and identify with both. State them, dramatize them, play with them before you resolve them.
Keep in mind that there may be more than two conflicting wants; in life, we may have dozens. Not all of them have to be resolved; only the main ones. Also keep in mind that it is not only your protagonist that has these conflicting needs; all your characters should. It should be true in your stories because it is true in life; it’s never simple, it’s never easy, it’s never neat and that is what makes it fascinating. Conflict is not just external; it’s internal. Apply what you know to the characters you write.
Magician, comedian, actor Michael Carbonaro is taking his act to the world of reality television on THE CARBONARO EFFECT. He explains the fun in showing people real magic in their lives – plus more TV casualties and DOCTOR WHO on the big screen? Well, sort of……
It was Saturday morning and I was at the Union Square Green Market buying dried black beans for soup. It was a beautiful clear cold day, the kind that makes me even more chatty with the people selling the goodies (and, yes, I consider black beans to be goodies. Sue me.). The lovely young woman who took my money commented about being outside all day.
“But there’s Doctor Who!” I said.
She looked at me with scorn.
“I have to watch,” I said defensively. “I need to be able to talk to my son.”
“You’re a good person,” she said. I interpreted this to mean that I was subjecting myself to something tiresome in order to be a good parent.
I came late to Doctor Who. I mean, I had heard of it but never felt any great need to see it. I thought it might be like Thomas, the Tank Engine, a perfectly fine BBC show for children that I also didn’t want to watch. A character with a colorful scarf did not seem compelling enough to me.
So when he said I’d like Doctor Who, I listened. But first, I whined. “It’s been on forever,” I said. “I don’t have time to watch decades worth of a series.
“You only need the new stuff,” he said. “It’s all on Netflix. It’s easy.”
So I started. The first episode I saw didn’t thrill me. I mean, it was fine, but didn’t seem to be the kind of thing to inspire a cult. My son said, “Give it time. Lots of people don’t like Christopher Eccleston.”
But he wasn’t the problem. I thought he looked a bit like Jason Statham, and I amused myself by imagining what the program would be like if Jason were The Doctor. Fucking awesome is what it would be.
So I was enjoying Eccleston, but it was David Tennant who won my heart. That is a cute guy. And, as I was relaxing into the show more, it grew on me. I liked his relationships with the various companions, women who were his friends, nothing more and, more important, nothing less. I liked that they were not, for the most part, conventionally beautiful. Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler was dressed to look like she still had some baby fat, Freema Agyeman’s Martha Jones is (you should pardon the expression) black, and Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble was definitely pudgy and had rather coarse features (please note I think these some are beautiful, but my point is simply that they don’t meet Hollywood standards). They were, like most of us at first glance, ordinary. And, as we watched them interact with The Doctor, they revealed themselves to be, like most of us, extraordinary.
Matt Smith is no David Tennant, but he grew on me. I felt the writing for his character got dicey at times, with some of the gags forced, and his resemblance to Stan Laurel was, at times, distracting. But I loved the Ponds. Through them, I grew to like Smith.
I enjoyed “The Day of the Doctor.” It was fun. I suspect I missed a few Easter eggs, since my knowledge of the older versions of the show is limited to the newer episodes, which I know makes me much less cool. However, I have loved John Hurt since he was Caligula, so that was pretty much great.
Before I left with my black beans, I said to the woman, “The thing about Doctor Who is that, no matter how dangerous the situation, no matter how dire the circumstances, the characters are always happy to see each other. They always find something joyful.”
Initially reported by UK tabloid The Sun and quickly verified by the BBC, the 50th anniversary special episode of Doctor Who will be broadcast simultaneously across the world, touted as the largest simulcast of a drama ever.
The special has been sold to approximately 200 countries, so the amount of timing and cooperation required will be quite high. Sources say the move was done to eliminate any chance of spoilers for people in countries who traditionally receive the episodes after the initial broadcast in the UK.
This would put the broadcast spread across four hours of the early afternoon (depending on time zone) in the United States, and in the early hours of the 24th of November on the far side of the world like Australia and New Zealand.
The special will be broadcast in both 2D and 3D. Complete details have not been released on which version will be broadcast in which markets. The special features the return of David Tennant and Billie Piper as The Doctor and Rose Tyler, as well as classic villains The Daleks and Zygons. At San Diego Comic-Con, showrunner Steven Moffat claims he’s been “lying through his teeth” about what and who is in the episode, resulting in the resurgence of rumors of other unreported cameos, including Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor, making only one on-screen appearance, in the Fox-produced TV movie.
When the 20th anniversary episode The Five Doctors was produced in 1983, it did not receive a similarly-coordinated release. Indeed, American fans got to see the special BEFORE the UK. The network of public television stations who were broadcasting the series got permission to show the special on November 23 exactly, which was a Wednesday. The BBC didn’t show it in the UK till that Saturday, the traditional day of broadcast for the series in England. By a wonderful coincidence, November 23rd falls on Saturday this year, allowing the anniversary to take place on the day it originally aired with no schedule-juggling.
This plan is not only a huge PR coup for the BBC, it’s also a wonderful example of life imitating art. In Last of the Time Lords, Martha Jones walked the Earth for nearly a year, spreading the tale of The Doctor, in preparation for everyone on the planet to think about him and chant his name at a precise day and moment, the resulting wave of psychic energy intended to give the Time Lord the power to undo the actions of The Master and save the day. With the BBC setting up to do the very same thing, one can only wonder what the real-world wave of power might do.
Personally, I’m hoping it’ll provide the power to jump-start the working TARDIS that the BBC Radiophonics Workshop has secretly been working on for years.
Crossing one’s own timeline is a cardinal sin for a time traveler. Walking over one’s grave even worse. So when The Doctor is forced to do that…
THE NAME OF THE DOCTOR
by Steven Moffat
Directed by Saul Metzstein
Re-appearing after its defeat a year previous, The Great Intelligence forces The Doctor to the location of his grave, wherein is hidden the physical manifestation of his timeline, a map of his life, which in the hands of the wrong people could be used to re-write his life. The Intelligence chooses to do so, at the cost of its own existence. The only way to save The Doctor, and all the good works he did, is with another sacrifice.
Emotionally, the episode worked exceedingly well. We got a solid River Song story, one where we finally see The Doctor admit his feeling for her. But narratively, we’re very close to seeing the same story three years in a row. An attack on The Doctor results in all of time and space being thrown out of whack, and only through a well-placed sacrifice can everything be undone. We saw it even before the Moffat years in Turn Left, where Donna Noble is manipulated so as to have never met The Doctor, resulting in his death fighting the Racnoss queen, and all of the events afterwards changing. The big twist here is it’s The Doctor who makes the final save of his companion, and not them saving him.
Having The Crimson Horror so closely preceding this episode somewhat diluted the fun of seeing The Paternoster Gang back – it might have been better to be a week ot two back, spread them out just a tad more. As much as people are clamoring for a spinoff series, the characters would need more fleshing out to stand up weekly viewing.
It all got a little needs-more-explainy at the end, but as is traditional, the emotional impact trumps any questions about how things could have happened as they did. And just in case they didn’t, that last scene is enough to forgive all sins, real or imagined.
GUEST STAR REPORTJohn Hurt (The Doctor (?)) has a staggering list of work in sci-fi and fantasy. Perhaps best known for being the incubator for the eponymous creature in Alien, (not to mention a brilliant parody of that moment in Spaceballs), he was also in 1984, V for Vendetta, the Harry Potter films, really too many things to list.
THE MONSTER FILES – The Great Intelligence returns this episode, taking the visage of Dr. Simeon, last seen in The Snowmen. Considering the Intelligence seems to have been destroyed, the likelihood that they’re using the other media’s claim that it is indeed the Old One Yog-Sothoth (from the H.P. Lovecraft stories) is exceedingly slim.
The Whispermen didn’t get a whole lot of chance to do much save for showing off an ability to phase their hands into people’s chests and stop their hearts, and speak in verse. Like The Shakri from The Power of Three, they certainly are interesting enough to warrant a future return, but it’d likely require a bit more explanation. It’s unclear if they’re created by the Intelligence as temporary forms for its energy, or something else. They bear a great resemblance to The Trickster from The Sarah Jane Adventures, leading many fans to believe that’s who was coming back.
BACKGROUND BITS AND BOBS – Trivia and production details
I CAN NEVER GET IT IN THE RIGHT ORDER – Once again we’re seeing River Song out of sync with past appearances. She’s calling herself Professor again, which means we’re seeing her from near the events of Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead. Indeed, since she has knowledge of her own death, she pretty much needs to be coming from AFTER that adventure, from when she was saved in CAL, the database in The Library. The whole point of the episode is about how you can’t cross your own timeline – she wasn’t aware The Library was where she was going to die when she got there, so somehow she was able to join them in their sleep-meeting from within CAL.
Which is why I can’t grasp why people seem to think this will be the last time we’ll not be seeing her again. What we saw was The Doctor coming to grips with the fact that River has at some point died. The image that faded was the mental link image Clara was connected to – River simply closed the link. We know for a fact that there are two adventures that have not yet occurred for The Doctor – he has not yet told her his name, and he has not giver her that adapted sonic screwdriver she had in that first/last story. She will be back, and that’s that. What we ARE seeing is their timelines starting to fill in. In the two hundred or so years The Doctor was away before The Impossible Astronaut (remember, he goes from nine to eleven hundred years old) a lot of the stories in their diaries match up (Jim the Fish!), but not ALL. Plenty more to come.
“On the fields of Trenzalore, at the fall of the eleventh” – Dorium first names the place and the prediction at the end of The Wedding of River Song. “Silence will fall when The Question is asked”, and indeed that’s what happened – When Simeon asked for The Doctor’s name, it gave him the opportunity to undo all of his deeds, including keeping Davros from destroying the universe. So indeed, it’s possible The Silence was fighting the wrong enemy, and they should have been trying to stop The Great Intelligence and The Whispermen.
“I was born to save The Doctor” – It’s funny that one of the rumors about the upcoming 50th anniversary story was they’d be inserting Matt Smith into past Doctor footage – it turns out it was done here. In addition to using Hartnell footage to present the first moment of The Doctor’s adventures, we see her appear in footage from The Invasion of Time, Arc of Infinity, and Dragonfire. Most impressively is we see her standing behind Ten and Donna as they survey The Library in River Song’s first adventure. We see Troughton and Pertwee from footage in The Five Doctors, and stand-in versions of the remaining Doctors.
“But not in the name of The Doctor” – As with the first episode of the semi-series, the title did not mean what it seemed it would. This new Doctor appears to have done things that the rest of his incarnations, the rest of himself, can’t bear to deal with. It’s fair to guess this includes causing the end of the Time War, but that’s not yet guaranteed.
BIG BAD REPORT /CLEVER THEORY DEPARTMENT – Pretty much we’re just looking backwards now. We can see what the common threads were during Clara’s appearances, and for the second half of the season.
“I don’t know where I am” Oswin says it in Asylum of the Daleks, Clara says it in Bells of St. John, and says it again here.
“They’re my echoes” – We heard references to ghosts and echoes throughout the series as well. The mysterious creatures in Hide (not to mention Clara’s statement that “we must all be ghosts to you”), the memories and experiences in Rings of Akhaten, the Ice Warrior out of time in Cold War, all creatures out of their proper place in time.
NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO – Well, we know a little bit. After that setup, there’s going to be a GREAT deal of rumormongering and Clever Theorizing over the next half year. But even what we know is pretty damn cool.
David Tennant and Billie Piper are returning for the 50th anniversary episode, and so far, none of the other original Doctors are. We don’t know from what point of Ten’s timeline we’ll bee seeing him. Since it appears he and Rose are still traveling together, it’s likely from before Doomsday.
Jemma Redgrave will return as Kate Stewart, new head of UNIT.
The Zygons will return to the series, and appearances by Cybermen and Daleks are also rumored.
In a absence of fact, rumor and Clever Theories rush in to fill the vacuum. And considering the security surrounding The 50th anniversary Doctor Who adventure, and the ravenous hunger of the public for details, there’s no doubt the media is falling over itself to deliver any snippet it can, real or imagined.
So far the actual facts are few and far between.
It will be broadcast in 3-D Whether or not there will be any cinematic presentations in that format is unkown, but wouldn’t be a bad idea.
We know of only one other Doctor who will appear – namely David Tennant, with Billie Piper returning as Rose Tyler. No news on from what point of his history this even will take place, however, though based on their costuming, it’s a fair bet Tennant is playing the proper Doctor and not “Doctor Two”, the one from Pete’s world.
The Zygons are back – publicity photos confirm this. However, Robert Banks Stewart, writer of Terror of the Zygons (not to mention The Seeds of Doom), confirmed he gave permission to use the baddies, and claims in this interview that the Daleks and Cybermen will appear as well. His data source is suspect, and none of either baddie have been sighted on location.
Jemma Redgrave will be back as Kate Stewart, the new head of UNIT. Other guest stars include John Hurt and Joanna Page, “Stacey” from Gavin and Stacey, in which James Corden was Gavin.
Christopher Eccleston will not appear – He’s stated, and the BBC has confirmed that while he talked to Moffat about a return to the series, he has chosen against it. Now there’s every possibility that’s a clever lie, intended to keep a surprise a secret. But one must know when to fish, and when to cut bait, so considering Eccleston’s reticence to stay with Who any longer than he did, it’s fairly safe to presume this is the truth.
None of the earlier Doctors will be back either – Colin Baker, Paul McGann and Sylvester McCoy all confirmed at a convention in New Zealand that none of them had been approached. McGann still help out hope for a last-minute call, commenting he was used to being called on Wednesday for a part that began on Thursday. But one thinkg they all agree on is that Lord of the Rings auteur Peter Jackson would make a stellar Who director. Jackson whimsically commented in earlier interviews that he’d love to do an episode, even refusing payment, saying he’d accept a Dalek in lieu of a check. While I’m sure the BBC would love to have this happen, but there’s certainly nothing in the cards
Those are the facts at hand. Everything from this point on is merely the reportage of various rumors, dreams and outright cockeyed flumdummery from the media.
The roles Hurt and Page are playing are unknown, but theories abound. Based on her costume at the various location shootings, some believe Page may be playing Queen Elizabeth the first, a character who has been alluded to in past episodes, most notoriously when The Doctor implied that her sobriquet of The Virgin Queen was not (any longer) the case.
John Hurt’s role is unknown as well, but the fans are ready with a clever theory. There are those who suggest that he is a new incarnation of The Doctor, having taken place between McGann’s and Eccleton’s. This is possibly sprouting from this picture of John Hurt from the filmnig, wearing an outfit somewhat reminiscent of both actors’ costumes. Whatever he’s playing, he’s dedicated to the part – he left early from a party in his honor over the weekend to ensure he made first call in Cardiff the next day
The past Doctors may appear virtually – The latest rumor bouncing about is that Doctor Who may take a page from Star trek, specifically Deep Space Nine’s adventure Trials and Tribbleations. The UK’s Daily Star (not exactly a paper of record, but still) reports that the BBC may be planning to digitally insert matt Smith into episodes from past Doctors’ eras in the same way they inserted the DS9 cast onto Space Station K-7 in The Trouble With Tribbles. This wouldn’t be the first time they did something similar – Matt appeared dancing with Laurel and Hardy on Amy and Rory’s TV in The Impossible Astronaut, which may well be where the rumor got its start.
The BBC are keeping as tight a lid on the details of the episode as possible for obvious reasons. Matt Smith has reported it’s a wonderful story, but shared no details. On Jonathan Ross, David Tennant suggested “paintings” may be involved in the story in some way.
As a rule, one must use the first rule of the internet when analyzing the various “news” you will hear over the next few months – “Pictures, or it didn’t happen.”
How many times have you been told not to use wifi you don’t recognize? This week’s episode takes the threat of identity theft to an all new degree. And the only reason The Doctor found out about it at all is cause he got a call from a lady who said she couldn’t find the Internet. Spoiler shields up, watch for falling planes, and listen for…
THE BELLS OF SAINT JOHN
By Steven Moffat
Directed by Colm McCarthy
The Doctor is in the early 13th century, meditating over the living (well, living somewhere) mystery that is Clara Oswin Oswald. So when he’s told “The Bells of St. John are ringing”, he races back to his hidden TARDIS, (with its “St. John’s Ambulance” label) where the phone in the door is ringing. He’s getting an impossible call from modern day, from the impossible Clara Oswald, who thinks she’s calling tech support. In London, people are mysteriously dropping dead shortly after using a rogue wifi feed. Clara is having trouble with her wifi, and even after The Doctor comes to help, the troubles only get worse.
A great start to the series, with another trademark move of Moffat; take something common place, and make it terrifying. He’s done it with shadows and statues, and now he’s made wifi something to be feared. Jenna-Louise Coleman makes her (official) debut as the new companion Clara
THE MONSTER FILES – The Spoonheads are another example of a new monster that don’t actually get to do much. Like the antibodies of Let’s Kill Hitler, they’re a physical effect that doesn’t even get to move. The CGI head-spin thing is wonderfully unnerving, and it’s a great visual cue that something creepy is about to happen. We’ve had any number of robots masquerading as humans, including the Teselecta from the aforementioned episode, the titular creations from The Android Invasion, not to mention The Androids of Tara.
The episode has clear similarities and parallels to Mark Gatiss’ episode The Idiot’s Lantern – an unseen force stealing people’s minds via new technology, faces trapped on TV screens, even The Doctor and his companion tooling about on a motorbike. Many (myself included) expected to see a return of The Wire, the energy-based being from that episode, only to be happily swerved by the actual baddie.
GUEST STAR REPORT
Celia Imrie (Miss Kizlet) worked with Jenna on the recent Ttianic mini-series, appeared as the matron in both recent St. Trinian’s movies (films which have reached Kevin Bacon levels for Doctor Who connections), and was Lady Gertrude in the Gormenghast adaptation. She brings a quiet menace to her role, and the final twist was quite tragic.
Geff Francis (George Maitland) actually does spell it like that. He was a regular in the Life on Mars spinoff Ashes to Ashes, as well as on the The Singing Detective. Doctor Who is not afraid to get very good actors for even the smallest parts, but I’m rather hoping that the Maitland family appears again before the end of Clara’s story. There’s a lot of story going on here, and each of the three actors had clear emotions built into their portrayals. Eve De Leon Allen (Angie), star of Nuzzle and Scratch, did particularly well at playing a young girl who has lost her mum, even in the brief moments she had on screen. Eve is the actor whose copy of the Neil Gaiman script was lost in a cab, which suggests that she, and hopefully the rest of the family will indeed be back, at least in that episode.
BACKGROUND BITS AND BOBS – Trivia and production details
CREDITS WHERE CREDITS ARE DUE – The credit sequence is largely unchanged from the Christmas episode, but the theme has undergone another slight tweak. the strings are pushed to the background, possibly gone altogether, and the four-beat theme has been pulled more to the front. The song is a lot deeper, more in the bass range. Some of the sound effects have been edited – the electric twinkly bits have been softened as the Doctor Who logo disintegrates. It’s been shortened slightly – a couple of the motifs are missing as the sequence races to the episode title and the opening of the TARDIS doors, which I must say I love.
SET PIECES – We get a longer look at the new TARDIS in this episode, including the space under the main control floor, which has a wooden storage chest that resembles the design of the short-lived wooden TARDIS set first seen in The Masque of Mandragora. We’re supposed to see a great deal more of the ship’s interior in an episode later in this series.
“He’s definitely not a monk” – The Meddling Monk was the first Time Lord other than The Doctor seen in the series, way back in the Hartnell days, even before the term “Time Lord” had been coined. The Doctor also disguised himself as a monk, a headless one, during the Battle of Demon’s Run in A Good Man Goes To War, and briefly at the end of The Wedding of River Song.
“Eleven’s the best – you’ll cry your eyes out” – The book Summer Falls is written by Amelia Williams, AKA Amy Pond. This is a further clue into her life in New York after the events of The Angels Take Manhattan – she clearly got into both writing, and later publishing, as she was also responsible for publishing the Melody Malone adventures.
Summer Falls will be made available as an e-book tie-in as the Melody Malone adventure was, via BBC E-books on April 2nd.
“That is NOT supposed to happen!” – The Doctor does get calls in his TARDIS, but usually on the phone on the console. The phone on the outside door is not supposed to ring. The last time it did was in The Empty Child, when the mysterious young boy was able to communicate through it. I hasten to add that the young Melody Pond had the same ability to communicate through any phone, as seen in The Impossible Astronaut. I also love the fact that the handset’s cord is comically long.
“You know, I never realized how much I enjoy hering that said out loud” – The Question, “Doctor Who?” has been a recurring theme since the very beginning of the series. It’s become an important plot point since the end of The Wedding of River Song, when it was connected to The Question, asked on the Fields of Trenzilore, at an event know eerily as The Fall of the Eleventh. There have already been teaser ads suggesting that in the anniversary episode, we would learn The Doctor’s true name. Fan rage has risen to high levels over that, and we shall have to wait till November to see how that works out.
“Fine, let’s do it together” Fans of Douglas Adams will recognize that gag from The Hitchhiker’s Guid to the Galaxy as Zaphod and Ford attempt to pilot the Disaster Area sun-dive ship (Or if you’re a REAL fan, the Captain of the Haghunemnon fleet).
“I never take the TARDIS into battle” – The Doctor is driving a Triumph motorcycle, a brand as beloved to the UK as Rolls Royce. The “Trusty Triumph” was the model of choice for soldiers in World War II. Plus, now we know the TARDIS has a garage as well as a swimming pool.
Old friends…very old friends” – UNIT was founded after the second televised appearance of The great Inteligence, thought its leader, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart was instrumental in its defeat in the Underground in The Web of Fear. Presumably it kept tabs on The Doctor and his friends in any way it could.
“You don’t run out on the people you care about…wish I was like that” – I’m starting to get actively annoyed with this idea that The Doctor is such a horror to be with. It’s become a recurring idea since The Stolen Planet, and it flies in the face of the experiences of very nearly all of his friends. Yes, the ends have been tragic for a small few, and the rest leave his company as far better people, who go on with their lives doing all they can to make the world a better place. The level of guilt he feels is out of place. He feekls bad about losing Amy and Rory to the Angels, but he knows for a fact they ended up fine.
BIG BAD WOLF REPORT – This may be the fastest reveal of the Big Bad in the new series’ history. The Great Intelligence, generally suspected to be making a quick return after the Christmas episode The Snowmen, were revealed as the mysterious “Client”. It had been announces that Richard E. Grant would be appearing in the series again, tho the BBC was quite mum as to exactly who he would be playing. We can see why.
“The Girl Twice Dead” – Clara’s story is clearly and obviously going to be the biggest puzzle of the series. The three iterations of her we’ve seen so far have delightful parallels, and surely more will be found as the episodes roll on.
We already have more than a few Clara-parallels…Clarallels, if you will:
She was a governess in The Snowmen, with a penchant for helping others. She’s helping a family cope with the loss of their mother in present day, and while her title was “Junior Entertainment Manager” on the Starship Alaska, that could be read not as an assistant to the manager, but the person in charge of entertaining the “juniors” as in, watching the children on the ship.
“RYCBAR123” – Aside from the fact that Whovians everywhere are updating their wifi network names and passwords, this was modern Clara’s inspiration to repeat the phrase across time “Run you clever boy and remember”, uttered by both past and future Clara at their passing, and get him interested in her.
“I call him Nina” – The pet name Oswin gave Rory, after a past paramour (“I was going through a phase”) pop’s up again, as the name of one of Angie’s friends. Yes, it’s a common name, but this is Doctor Who – there are no coincedences.
Just Clara Oswald, what was that middle one?” – Clara comes up with the name “Oswin” as a username when she starts hacking Miss Kislet’s network, but it’s the same name the other two versions of her has.
“The girl at the shop gave it to me, said it was the best help line in the universe” – With the announcement that David Tennant and Billie Piper are returning to the series for the anniversary, Clever Theories are running amuck that Rose was the aforementioned girl in the shop. It might be, and it might not be, but the point is, SOMEONE gave her the number to the TARDIS, and helped her get found.
“101 Places to see…” Even thought the book is designed to resemble The Daring Book for Girls (a sequel to The Dangerous Book for Boys), the traditional end of that title is “…before you die”. Also, if you look about her room, ALL her books have to do with traveling and foreign lands. Many brain cells have been spent on the significance of both the 16 and 23 being skipped in the years in the book. It could be waved off as simply a brief lack of interest in the book those years; last year would have been the time her friend died, and she may have been distracted, for example. But the 23 is a significant number – it’s popped up as Victorian Claras’s birthday (specifically, Novenmer 23rd, the date of the show’s first broadcast) and she mistypes “123” earlier in the episode. And of course, since by delightful coincidence November 23rd is a Saturday this year, the anniversary episode will screen on the exact right day.
Page One may contain a leaf (Maple, I believe – are there many maples trees in England?), but page two contains a letter appearing to be from something or someone named “Delsa”. No ideas who that is yet, but again, they don’t put things in by mistake.
NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO – The Doctor is SICK of…well, no, he seems quite excited by the idea of Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. Lestrade finds his division, Ron Weasley’s did is also Rory’s dad (so…related?) and also Queen Nefertiti. Seven days away…you busy?