Tagged: Jenna Coleman

John Ostrander: Happy Christmas, Doctor Who

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,

a Merry Christmas to all…

… and to all a good night!

Mindy Newell: Run, You Clever Boy. And Remember

HEAVEN SENT (By Steven Moffat)

Clara: I don’t know where I am. It’s like I’m breaking into a million pieces and there is only one thing I remember: I have to save the Doctor. He always looks different. I always know it’s him. Sometimes I think I’m everywhere at once, running every second just to find him. Just to save him. But he never hears me. Almost never. I blew into this world on a leaf. I’m still blowing. I don’t think I’ll ever land. I’m Clara Oswald. I’m the impossible girl. I was born to save the Doctor. • The Name of the Doctor, Doctor Who, Series 7

Last week’s column (Paul Is Dead) was my bitchfest against the suits of the BBC and their relentless “wink-wink” interviews and spoiler-y “previews” of what’s to come on this season of Doctor Who. That it’s gotten so bad that “I’m expecting any moment to see an announcement… that Peter Capaldi wiped his ass after taking a shit.”

At least I’m not alone. Here’s what Simon Brew said in his review of Doctor Who’s Season 9’s penultimate episode, Heaven Sent:

Doctor Who is a globally enjoyed TV show that continues to make serious and heavy inroads around the planet. It’s also a programme that therefore has to – even though it’s a BBC show – dance to the ratings game a little. As a consequence of that, the decision has been made somewhere along the line to release what I’d class as fairly significant spoilers in the build up to this episode, a few weeks ahead.

“I think – and it’s easy for me to say this from my perspective – that’s a mistake. Worse: I think it hurt the ending of Heaven Sent for those who had read what should have been a more spoiler-light synopsis – or at least a more time sensitive one – for Hell Bent, the series finale.

“Appreciating that Steven Moffat, a year ago, already began teasing the cliffhanger of this episode, for those of us who were exposed to spoilers ahead of time – and this wasn’t Internet chitter-chatter, they were formally released in a piece of publicity by the BBC – the reveal at the end of the episode lost a good chunk of its impact. Because we knew the Doctor was going to end up on Gallifrey. A big, geeky, nerdbump-generating moment had been sacrificed for many at the altar of the publicity machine, and that’s a real pity.”

Anyway, having experienced Clara’s death last week as an anti-climatic fallen soufflé, I stayed away from the Whovian universe – okay, I did read reviews and comments about Face the Raven at my favorite sites, which include Forbes, Vulture, Den of Geek, and Entertainment Weekly – and watched Heaven Sent with very little foreknowledge.

It made a huge difference, as I was able to not only simply watch Peter Capaldi’s amazing solo act, but also figure out what was going on, instead of waiting for the fait accompli.

SPOILER ALERT. In no order at all:

Not just the castle, but also the Doctor’s life is being continuously reset; those billions of skulls at the bottom of the sea are his.

Room 12 is his room, the twelfth Doctor (purists can shut up right now about Capaldi being the 13th reincarnation), which is why Clara’s portrait hung there.

The portrait is so old that the paint is cracked and flaking away. (This was actually when I realized that the Doctor had already been in that castle for centuries, if not thousands, of years.)

The Veiled “Thing” was something born of the Doctor’s own nightmares and fears and guilt and lies, which was why telling the truth stopped it. (Here I was expecting the Doctor to admit that he was ultimately the cause of Clara’s death, since her arrogance and recklessness was patterned on the Doctor’s own behavior.)

The word “Home” written on the “impenetrable” wall – I knew what that meant: Gallifrey.

But I didn’t expect to see the TARDIS, nor did I expect to see Jenna Coleman in the flesh.

That was the best part of the episode for me, as (perhaps?) for one last time, the “Impossible Girl” who has been there at every crisis in all the Doctor’s numerous lives pointed him in the right direction and told him to “get up off your arse and win.”

Why was it the best part of the episode for me?

“Don’t it always seem to go,

“That you don’t know what you’ve got

“’Til it’s gone”

Though I loved her incarnations as a Dalek and as a Victorian barmaid/governess, I never really “got” the modern-day Clara. She never felt truly defined for me – though now that I think of it, perhaps that was the point. Clara the individual stopped existing the moment she stepped into the Time Vortex – and because of all that “time-winey stuff,” she had done it before and would do it again – so that even the Clara we saw through Matt Smith’s time as the Doctor, and even now with Peter Capaldi, is still only a shade, a shadow, a piece of shattered personality. Which is why we saw modern-day Clara as a babysitter, then a teacher, then a lover and would-be wife and mother, a “member” of UNIT, and, then, finally, as an adventurer and “Time Lord.” It was as if Clara was trying on and discarding clothes in a department store fitting room, or walking through a funhouse Hall of Mirrors looking at all her distorted reflections. She seemed to be constantly asking herself, “Which one is the real me?”

I don’t know. Maybe I’m overthinking it.

But I finally felt Clara’s death.

One more thing I believe I have figured out…

“The hybrid is me.”

Or is that….

“The hybrid is Me.”

Mindy Newell: Paul Is Dead

DR WHO ABBEY ROAD

Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman): Let me be brave. Let me be brave. • “Face the Raven” • Episode 10, Series 9 • Doctor Who

Well, that was… uh… umm…

Kinda flat.

It’s because it was all over the Internet, including an interview with Doctor Who show runner Stephen Moffat, that Jenna Coleman, a.k.a. Clara Oswald, a.k.a. The Impossible Girl, was leaving the series and that her exit would be horrible, dramatic, terrifying, and final – or words to that effect, anyway.

And it really wasn’t.

I don’t blame Peter Capaldi or Jenna Coleman for this; both of them turned in their usual brilliant performances. I don’t even blame Stephen Moffat all that much; he has to answer to the higher-up-the food-chain suits.

Those are the ones I blame – the suits who are obviously so frightened that Doctor Who will lose its “worldwide phenomenon” (as the New York Times called it around the time of the 50th anniversary) status and return to where it belongs – the little show that could, the ½ century-old cult that, like a Time Lord, regenerates itself every so often to become an obsession with a new generation of fans.

Seriously, guys, your obsession with keeping the media spotlight on Doctor Who since the 50th anniversary and The Day of The Doctor has become so relentless that I’m expecting any moment to see an announcement from you that Peter Capaldi wiped his ass after taking a shit.

Memo to the Doctor Who marketing department:

Relax!

Let it go!

Let it be, already.

 

Marc Alan Fishman: I’m Now A Who From Whoville!

Well, it took me a while to make my way through it, but I’m pleased as punch to report I watched an entire season of Doctor Who. And no need to bury the lead: I’m a fan. Peter Capaldi made me a fan. As for the rest of the Whoniverse, not so much.

For those loosely following my journey to TARDIStowne, this has been a long and bumpy road. When I’d noted my friends had started to watch (somewhere between the 9th and 10th Doctors) I gave the show a tepid try. Because I’d not been privy to any Who lore – be it actual storylines, or knowledge of the production itself – I initially found the show to be too low-budget, and too in-jokey for me to care. As the world around me anointed their arms with tally marks, whispered “Don’t Blink,” or went on and on about something called Bad Wolf, I remained ever-snarky. And then, when a weekend left me with nothing to do but catch The Day of the Doctor with my wife and son, I’d openly declared my desire to jump on the bandwagon. And thus I programmed the Capaldi Who to Season Record. Cue the theme music.

It’s not that surprising – to me, at least – that Capaldi was the hook that grabbed me. My love of Gregory House would be the telltale heart there. At their cores, Greg and Twelve (can I call him Twelve?) are problem-solvers. And they are both likely to use their tongues as the tool to save the day. Unlike House though, Capaldi’s Who was never outright rude for rudeness sake. He was curt, yes, but always when danger or a mystery seemed to be afoot. Tie this into the season’s overarching question – Is the Doctor a good man? – and you have the conflicted lead taking charge each week as the universe finds new ways to unravel.

And whether Capaldi was debating a dying Dalek, scoffing at Robin Hood, or giving dimension to flat foes, he presented it all with a nuanced performance that I believed was deep. Unlike the current James Gordon on Gotham, the gravitas of the Doctor felt lived in. And given I personally knew nothing of the decades-long history of the character? Well, that sums up Capaldi’s talent and my fandom pretty easily.

As with the original Star Trek, Firefly, or any number of other science-fiction shows I would eventually find an affinity for, the key to my kindness has always been strong characterization. Beyond Capaldi, I must give credit where it’s due. In spite of being plucky to the point of annoyance, Jenna Coleman’s Clara did eventually win me over. And her beau for the season, Danny Pink (“P.E.”!), while being a bit too much of a nondescript archetype when action was required, did eventually find his place. Funny then right as I was enjoying his grounded nature… that he (SPOILER ALERT) got smashed by a random plot device… err… car. In any event, the companions of this season were built to show us sides of the Doctor that were necessary in an introductory season. Now, a dozen or so episodes later… we know Twelve is not a leader of men, a lover of the ladies (though he creepily sorta dug kissing his arch, no?), or anything beyond an admitted “idiot with a box and a screwdriver, passing through, helping out.”

Long before I enjoyed the show, I’d considered Doctor Who to be as much (if not more) about the universe the he inhabited versus himself. But Capaldi’s season proved to me that to be untrue. While the episodes throughout the season were chocked in references that scooted way over my head, the most potent moments were never about anyone or anything more important than the Doctor himself.

Obviously tied to the aforementioned Good Man motif, it was clear even in the more lackluster or frustrating episodes (Earth taken over by trees, I’m looking at you…) that the definition of this iteration of the Doctor was at the heart of the show. And even in the face of his newly reformed nemesis, with the entire Earth under the threat of annihilation, Capaldi’s grimaces and line delivery sucked every scene into his orbit.

If I were to be critical, it’d revolve mostly around the specific adventures themselves. I found the show to be at its best when the plots were small and specific. When the Doctor had to handle a murder mystery on the space-faring Orient Express, or dealing with an unknown flat threat targeting a small town, there was a wonderful balance between the threat and the solution. When the show went big, with Earth-swallowing fairy tale forests, or the season finale’s masterful plot, things tended to get out of hand. Heady concepts are the bread and butter of the science fiction serial… but in a season that is built around a introspection, these few-too-many universe-shattering melodramas felt like loose Star Trek plottos, not quirky BBC fare.

With a dozen adventures now under his belt, I’m excited for the future. With the prospect of a new companion to roam all of space and time with pending, as well as litany of returning alien allies and foes, I expect a second season of Capaldi to move outside of the reactionary into something more proactive. Let’s see where this Doctor really wants to travel.

That is of course, unless his new companion Bogarts the TARDIS for their own agenda. Either way, I’m on for the ride…

Eyebrows and all.

 

New Who Review – “Last Christmas”

This day has been an emotional rollercoaster.

The facts and details of the Christmas episode have been kept strictly secret, and for good reason.  Rumors flew that Jenna Coleman was leaving the series just as the new season was a-borning, and her go-to answer for the events of the special was “If you know if I’m staying with the series, it’ll ruin the ending”.  A spectacularly surprising cameo, a hilarious guest star, and a plot that keeps unfolding like a fried onion makes for a ripping yarn for the holiday.  But for most of the year, we were never sure or not if this was to be Clara’s…

LAST CHRISTMAS
By  Steven Moffat
Directed by Paul Wilmshurst

Clara and The Doctor team up again after Santa crashes on her roof. You heard me – Sweet Papa Chrimbo himself appears atop Clara’s home, and before any sense can be made of that, The Doctor reappears and snatches her away.  They arrive at a mysterious science base where the scientists are combating Dream Crabs, an alien species that lull their victims into a peaceful dream-state while they quietly eat their brains.  Clara is attacked by one, and “awakens” at home on Christmas morning, met by Danny Pink, inexplicably hale and hearty.  It’s only when she properly awakens does she, The Doctor, and the scientists realize that they may well be all still asleep.  Oh, and Santa Claus keeps appearing to help.

Moffat took full advantage of the rumors surrounding Jenna Coleman’s status on the show to deliver a series of heart-gripping false moves that left the viewer exhausted, but fully entertained.  Moffat has always been good at creating characters that you immediately feel for, and this is no exception.  Even when it’s eventually revealed that we actually knew nothing about the people, we’re happy to see them survive.

THE MONSTER FILES –  The Dream Crabs are based on a very common concept, the idea of dreams being used to cloak a slow death.  Comics fans will likely already thought of the Alan Moore story For the Man Who Has Everything, which featured Mongul using an alien plant called a Black Mercy to place Superman in a dream state where he believes he had grown up on Krypton with his loving family.  It was even adapted into an episode of Justice League Unlimited, adapted by J. M. DeMatteis.

Fans of Red Dwarf will also recall the despair squid, a being that takes the opposite tack – inducing dreams to make its victims despair, causing them to take their own lives in the dream.  The female of said species follows more the standard trope, causing a happy dream from which the victim(s) from which would be loath to awaken. The Dream Lord tried the same thing in Amy’s Choice –  Heck, you could even argue that the Master’s plan with the Nethersphere was the same scheme – a artificial reality to keep the victims placated and off-balance until they were needed.  Moffat takes a page from Inception as well, folding in the idea of multi-layered dreams, resulting in never being sure if they were truly awake.

GUEST STAR REPORT –

Nick Frost (Santa) is best know in the US for his frequent collaborations with fellow Who-lumnus Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright.  But he’s got a long list of solo projects in the UK as well.  He starred in the Sci-Fi comedy Hyperdrive, which also starred Kevin Eldon and the delightful and huge Miranda Hart. He hosted a mock “worst case scenario” style show called DANGER! 50,000 Volts! and worked with Daisy Haggard (Sophie from The Lodger and Closing Time) on the sketch show Man Stroke Woman.

Michael Troughton (Professor Albert) is the son of Patrick Troughton, the second Doctor.  He has quite a respectable acting career in his own right, including a regular role on Rik Mayall’s The New Statesman.  He took several years off from acting to care for his ailing wife, who passed away recently.  This episode is the second acting role he’s taken in his return to the boards.  He and his father are far from the only actors in the family. His brother David played King Peladon in the classic series Pertwee adventure The Monster of Peladon, and Professor Hobbs in Tennant’s Midnight. His nephew, Harry Melling, played Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter films.

Dan Starkey (Ian) is well known to Who-fen as Strax the Sontaran, not to mention practically every Sontaran to appear in the last few years of the show.  They chose to have him play an elf in this episode because as Moffat explains in a recent interview, “we thought it would be nice for him not to have to wear so much rubber. And I’m talking about his professional rubber not his personal life”.  

Natalie Gumede (Ashley Carter) is known in England for an extended run on Coronation Street, and is currently starring in a web comedy called Sally the Life Coach. Her biggest mass media appearance was a tie for second-place showing in Strictly Come Dancing, the original British version of what came over here as Dancing with the Stars.

BACKGROUND BITS AND BOBS

SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO – Apparently Jenna Coleman did initially plan to leave the show at the end of the season – the original ending of the special was for Clara to really be 80-odd years old, and would die in bed after a long-awaited reunion with The Doctor.  She had a change of heart (much like Clara did mid-season) and the ending was hastily amended.  It’s one of the few times where “it was all a dream” was a perfectly logical progression of the story, and not merely a desperate hat-pull.

DWNobodySET PIECES – The unnamed planet upon which The Doctor was attacked by the Dream Crabs looked remarkably similar to the planet that Clara attempted to threaten him into saving Danny in Death in Heaven.  That that version of that world was also only a dream only makes it more fitting that the same set be used again when it isn’t…IF it isn’t/

“It’s time to start living in the real world” – It’s always fun when one of the first things said in an episode turns out to be the solution all along, and you never notice. See also Clara’s line shortly after re-entering the TARDIS, “This is real, yeah?”

“Clara Oswald…mostly favors travel books” – When we first meet (this) Clara in The Bells of St. John, her room is filled with travel books, starting with the one she got from her mom.

“Don’t think about them…don’t look at them” – Once again, Moffat takes a commonplace thing and makes it scary.  The old joke “try not to think about a tap-dancing elephant” comes to mind here – it’s almost impossible NOT to think of something once it’s been brought to your attention.  Trying to keep your mind blank was also touched on in Time Heist as well as a way to stay clear of The Teller.

“They can only see you if you see them” – The idea of a being that hacks into your senses to get a look at where they are is a neat idea, but I couldn’t keep from thinking of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, “a mind-bogglingly stupid beast; it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you” from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

“Three hundred and four minus seventeen” – The Doctor would often start asking his Companion maths questions as a method of getting them to concentrate, and keep from being distracted by the wild situations they were in.  He once asked Sarah Jane Smith to recite the alphabet backwards.

“It’s Christmas Eve ; early to bed” – Santa speaks to the Sleepers like children, a trick that that worked very well for The Doctor in The Doctor Dances, written by…Steven Moffat!

“It’s a long story” is right up there with “I’ll explain later” as a standard hand-wave to get past having to provide a large amount of exposition to cover a point that really doesn’t need explaining.  Moffat simply uses the cliché as an actual plot point, confounding expectations.

“That’s a bit rude, coming from a magician” – Moffat does love his callbacks.  That’s a reference from Time Heist, where The Doctor says his new look “was trying for minimalist, but ended up with magician”.

“They’re a bit like face-huggers, aren’t they?” – Professor Albert points out the similarity to the egg-laying form of the Xenomorph from Alien, but did you notice that when Shona awakens at home, one of the things on her Christmas To Do list was to watch not only Alien, but The Thing from Another World?

“Four manuals” – In yet another example of the “dream trap” genre, Batman is trapped in an electronic dream by the Mad Hatter in Perchance to Dream.  Books play a role in his realization of his predicament – Dreams are generated in another part of the brain than the ability to read, so when Bruce opens a book, it’s filled with illegible gibberish.

DWFeels1“Time travel is always possible…in dreams” – It’s the method Madame Vastra used to have a quorum across several centuries, with one person that was already dead, albeit electronically saved, in The Name of the Doctor.

“About sixty-two years” – The Doctor has shown up late for more than a few of his friends.  He was too late to see the Madame du Pompadour in The Girl in the Fireplace and he missed The Brigadier.

“I travelled” – This may be the closest we’ll see to a clean break between The Doctor and Clara, and it’s a good look at how being a Companion changes people. After only dreaming about seeing the world as a younger girl, she up and did it in this dream-version of her time after The Doctor.

Also note that When The Doctor has to help Clara pop the cracker, it’s a mirror of Clara having to help her Grandmother pop the poem-filled cracker in The Time of the Doctor.

NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO – This is a very unique scenario, in that we actually DO know what’s up next time.  If only to drive home the fact that Clara (and through her, Ms. Coleman) was staying, they’ve actually given us the title of next season’s first episode – The Magician’s Apprentice. Whether that’s yet another reference to The Doctor’s new look is something we can only guess.

Jenna Coleman has been confirmed for the full series, and Peter Capaldi for the next two, so we’re in a position where we don’t have to worry about anyone leaving for at least a little while. But I must admit, as well as Jenna and Peter work together, I don’t know if the ending of Death in Heaven wasn’t the right “out”. A bittersweet ending that left both characters sad at their parting, but both feeling that they’d done something good for the other, to let them move on with their lives. Much as with  Amy and Rory’s first farewell at the end of The God Complex, everybody lives.  But Steven had to bring them back that last half-season and give them a more dramatic and sad finish (for The Doctor, anyway), not to mention more final departure.  Not to mention that to a degree, Clara has lost a bit of her independence – the overly emotional realization of how much she’s missed the sound of the TARDIS, and yet another overly sappy statement of what she thinks of The Doctor.

When we call back to the description of wanting to keep traveling as an “addiction” – even though she was allegedly asking it about The Doctor, it’s clearly a question that could be asked to, and about Clara.  I can but hope that come the end of next series, we aren’t debating whether Clara overstayed her welcome.

Mindy Newell: Good Night, Raggedy Man

Newell Art 140113“We’re all stories, in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?”

The Doctor, Doctor Who, Series 5, Episode 13

Perhaps I expected too much.

Yesterday my dear friend and fellow columnist John Ostrander did an excellent job in explaining “wibbly-wobbly storytelling” that marred “The Time Of The Doctor,” Matt Smith’s final bow as the Gallifreyian.

I feel the same way as John. Though I will try not to repeat what John wrote because I expect you to click here and read his thoughts, but I just want to add some of my own.

The whole episode, as John and others have said, did feel extremely rushed and cramped – it could have used at least an extra 15 minutes, though I would have preferred a two-hour special, which I believe Matt deserved as it was his Doctor, especially, that reignited the global Doctor Who frenzy.

I still feel cheated out of seeing more interaction between the Doctor and Clara’s family. So much of Clara’s story as “The Impossible Girl” has to do with her mom and dad, I was excited when I saw the rest of the family sitting around the set-for-Christmas dinner table. We had never heard mention of them before, but unfortunately, it just fell completely flat for me. In fact, I think I felt a bit of embarrassment here, just as Clara did – umm, naked? Really? Naked?? Yeah, I know that being clothed in nothing but your birthday suit is expected when attending the Church of the Papal Mainframe, and the Doctor was about to whisk Clara off to see the Wizard – sorry, I mean Mother Superior Tasha Lem, but again, it just felt rushed and uneven.

I mean, since the return of Doctor Who in 2005 the families of the companions have played important roles in the Whovian story, especially Jackie Tyler and Wilfred Mott. Wouldn’t the Doctor have been at least a little curious about Clara’s father, the man who was led by a falling leaf to meet Clara’s mother? Couldn’t we have seen at least five minutes more of interaction?

Having Clara hanging on to the outside of the TARDIS, creating a “drag” on the time machine as an explanation as to why 300 years passed before she was able to return to the Doctor was an awfully complicated twist to emphasize just how long the siege of Trenzalore was, and to allow the make-up masters behind the scenes to work their magic in aging Matt Smith – although they did do a masterful job in hinting at William Hartnell in Smith’s appearance.

Actually, about Clara – do you agree with me that, as a companion, she just sort of played more of a Watcher (to borrow a Marvel Comics character) when compared to Rose or Martha or Donna or Amy and Rory? I understand that, as the Impossible Girl, the role of Savior is her ultimate role in the Doctor’s saga, but in too many episodes she seemed to be sitting by and waiting, and although her impassioned plea to the Time Lords on the other side of the crack in the wall was beautifully written and beautifully acted by Jenna Coleman, I would have liked to have seen Clara engaging in more physical action, as she did in “Nightmare in Silver.”

And the bestowing of the “extra” regeneration energy by the Time Lords as a way to get around the 12th and final regeneration was the biggest cheat of all – though it was a clever way and use of “dues ex machina” around the myth, which of course was set up years ago because who in 1963 could imagine that 50 years later the show would itself have regenerated into a world-wide phenomenon?

But, oddly enough, of all these flaws, the one that really got to me, the one that made me feel most cheated, was the regeneration of Matt Smith into Peter Capaldi. It happened in a literal “blink of an eye.” I suppose we are to understand that we didn’t see the “burning time/regeneration energy” flowing out of Matt because he spent it destroying the Daleks, but there was no punch – when Christopher Eccleston regenerated into David Tennant, and David Tennant (admittedly the most heartbreaking of all the regenerations, with his Doctor’s poignant “I don’t want to go”) into Matt Smith, you felt it.

Yes, Matt’s removal of his bow tie, letting it just fall to the floor, was wonderfully moving.

Yes, Karen Pond’s return as Amy was tear-jerking (and bravo to the BBC and Moffat and all of the Doctor Who crew to keeping it secret!).

But I think the final gut-wrenching heartbreaker would have been Matt suddenly blazing into energy as Amy said…

“Good night, Raggedy Man.”

TUESDAY MORNING: Jen Krueger

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis

WEDNESDAY: Mike Gold

 

Doctor Who “The Day of the Doctor” to be simulcast in 3-D theaters

BBC announced this week details of the theatrical showings of the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor, with US showings details released today. Fifteen theaters in eleven US cities will be presenting the anniversary episode, starring Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt as The Doctor, with Jenna Coleman and Billie Piper as their companions.

Tickets go on sale at 9AM Eastern Time, October 25th, via Fandango.com and Cinemark.com.  Considering the effect that Doctor Who fans had on the ticket website when the season premiere was to be shown in NYC (think the San Diego or healthcare.gov websites), it is presumed the demand will be heavy indeed.

The complete theater list is:

  • Los Angeles – Cinemark Rave 18 + IMAX (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Los Angeles – Century 20 Bella Terra at Huntington Beach (Huntington Beach, CA)
  • New York – AMC Loews Village 7 (New York, NY)
  • New York – Regal E-Walk Stadium 13 & RPX (New York, NY)
  • Chicago – Century 12 Evanston + XD (Evanston, IL)
  • Chicago – Cinemark @ Seven Bridges + IMAX (Woodridge, IL)
  • Philadelphia – Cinemark Rave Cinemas University City 6 (Philadelphia, PA)
  • Philadelphia – Cinemark 16 (Somerdale, NJ)
  • Dallas-Ft. Worth – Cinemark West Plano + XD (Plano, TX)
  • San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose – Century San Francisco Centre 9 and XD (San Francisco, CA)
  • Washington, DC – Cinemark Rave Cinemas Fairfax Corner 14 + XD (Fairfax, VA)
  • Houston – Cinemark Tinseltown 17 and XD (The Woodlands, TX)
  • Atlanta – Cinemark Tinseltown 17 (Fayetteville, GA)
  • Seattle-Tacoma – Cinemark Lincoln Square Cinemas (Bellevue, WA)
  • Minneapolis – AMC Southdale 16 (Edina, MN)

In addition to the day and date broadcast, Fathom Events will be hosting a rebroadcast the evening of Monday, November 25, in over 300 theaters.  Fathom Events hosts many live and special events simulcast in theaters nationally, including live performances by the RiffTrax team, formerly the cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

The Doctor Who tumblr page has posted a FAQ page about the event, including  details for viewing in other countries, and the complete list of theaters participating in the Monday evening event.

The Day of the Doctor is being simulcast globally on November 23rd, the 50th anniversary of the series, so that the fans can enjoy the episode all at once, with no chance of spoilers.  The episode will be be broadcast on BBC America – check your local carrier for channel details.

REVIEW: Doctor Who – The Complete Seventh Series

who sevenThere were certainly enough twists and turns in the latest series of Doctor Who to warrant a re-viewing, and not that The Complete Seventh Series is out on DVD and Blu-Ray, you’ve got your chance. The Fall of the Ponds, The Impossible Girl, and one hell of a cliffhanger, all packed up in one nice little package.

The box features all 13 episodes of the series, including all the prequels, as well as the five-part mini-series “Pond Life”  There’s also three new mini-sodes featuring The Doctor working on his chore to delete himself from the databanks of the world, he and River Song in one of their various unseen adventures, and Clara having a heart-to-heart with the TARDIS.

After a change in heart, it also features both Christmas episodes, Jenna Coleman‘s first (official) episode The Snowmen as well as the previous year’s The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe. Commentaries are only included for selected episodes, and while the beloved Doctor Who Confidential is no longer a thing, they’ve added in the brief making of features they posted on the BBC Website. They’ve pulled the cast interview’s from BBC America‘s The Nerdist as well. Longer making of features cover Karen and Arthur’s last day on set, a more in-depth piece on The Gunslinger, and Creating Clara.

A series of specials round out the set, including The Science of Doctor Who as seen on BBC America, as well specials on The Companions, Doctor Who at Comic-Con and more on The Doctor’s adventures in America, both on screen and behind it.

Another winner of a set, equal in quality to the sets for the previous series. This’ll easily keep you busy till the anniversary special come November 23rd.

And in case you don’t already have the past sets, they’ve updated the complete box set to include the seventh series, and included the Sonic Screwdriver universal remote control of which you may have heard.  So, good opportunity to buy the love of your favorite Whovian for the rest of their regenerations life.

 

The New Who Review “The Rings of Akhaten”

“Something Awesome”.  Seems an easy thing to ask for from a fellow who can go to any moment in time and space, and allows for lots of interpretation.  So Clara asks for that, The Doctor is happy to provide, whisking her off to…

THE RINGS OF AKHATEN
By Neil Cross
Directed by Farren Blackburn

The Doctor takes Clara to Akhaten, a group of worlds inside a series of asteroid belts orbiting a huge star.  It’s the time of a ceremony that will supposedly keep the god which created their worlds asleep.  Young Merry is elected to sing the history of their civilization, and is naturally skittish about getting it right.  It’s made plain as time passes that this is more of a sacrifice than a simply ceremony, forcing The Doctor and Clara to take a hand in saving young Merry, and to keep the very real god from eating the system.

The episode serves two purposes; to serve as a BIG info dump for Clara’s backstory, and to really let The Doctor show off to her. As to that second half, it’s very much a parallel to The End of the World, Rose’s first foray into space.  Both feature a bevy of new aliens, including the Face of Boe, and both feature am enlarging sun threatening to engulf them.

The story is solid, and Jenna-Louise Coleman does wonderfully in the common spot of the companion’s first exposure to the rest of the universe, but I thought the direction on Matt was a bit lacking.  In comparison to the magnificent bombastic speech he gave in The Pandorica Opens, his monologue to the sentient sun was somewhat lacking.  It may have been a decision to make him seem sadder, or tired, weighed down, but it came off weak for me.  I’d have much rather seen him almost daring the sun to take it all, as opposed to the more resigned tone he had here.

Also, we’re once again seeing a story where the companion saves the day when The Doctor’s plans come up lacking.  That’s been happening a LOT more with Moffat’s run on the show, and while I enjoy seeing a strong character, as I’ve said before, I wouldn’t mind seeing The Doctor save everybody on occasion.

THE MONSTER FILES – The sentient sun of Akhaten reminds one of the antagonist in 42, a living sun fighting back after the mining ship accidentally stole her children.  This one is clearly more belligerent in its attitude.

The production team went to great lengths to create a wide range of brand new creatures in this episode.  We’ve had a couple of big collections of aliens in the new series, like the aforementioned party on Platform One, Dorium’s place in A Good Man Goes to War, and even the bar where Captain Jack met Alonzo.  Save for the last one, they’ve gone out of their way to create new aliens, as opposed to grabbing stuff off the rack.  One race breathed though some sort of filtration device, somewhat reminiscent of the Hath, the fish-creatures from The Doctor’s Daughter.

GUEST STAR REPORT Neil Cross (writer) Created the series Luther, for which we are all rightly thankful.  He also wrote the script for Mama, Guillermo Del Toro’s recent presentation

Farren Blackburn (Director) last worked on Doctor Who when he directed The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe, last year’s Christmas Special.  He’s had a long career in directing TV, including an episode of Luther and two of the remake of Terry Nation’s Survivors.

BACKGROUND BITS AND BOBS – Trivia and production details

A TALE THAT GROWS IN THE TELLING – There’s been a number of stories in the series that center around a grand festival that serves as a way for an old threat to return.  The most memorable are the twin tales Kinda and its sequel Snakedance.  The actions of the villain in those stories were more deliberate; here it’s more a case of time being up for the dormancy of the sun.

“I came here a long time a go with my granddaughter” – This is, in fact, the first mention of Susan in the new series.  Clara’s double take on the fact that a man this young-looking can have a granddaughter is not followed up upon, but will almost certainly be referred to again.

Also, did anyone else find it odd that they refer to their god as “Grandfather”?

“What’s happening, why is it angry?” – The TARDIS translates foreign and alien languages automatically for those traveling within it.  But there’s almost always a scene where a companion is faced with an alien it can’t understand.  Now, there’s any number of explanations that could explain such a thing, like they haven’t been on the ship long enough for all languages to process, or some languages are more differnt from English (or too simplistic, such as more animal -like speech like Doreen’s) to be immediately legible.  But it all comes down to the fact that a scene where a Companion misunderstands a situation due to not knowing the language, resulting in a comedic moment, is just plain too comedic a moment NOT to do.  And any attempt to inject import into it is just plain Looking Too Hard.

“Not money….something valuable” – The big theme of the story is that of experiences and memories having an intrinsic value.  For the people of the system, they’re used as currency, a system which I have to admit sounds cooler than it would be in actual use.  I can imagine any number of problems with having to part with one’s cherished belongings in order to buy the groceries.  In the case of the god at the center of the system, those memories and experiences are its literal bread and butter.  Clearly it merely reads those memories as opposed to draining them, as The Doctor isn’t reduced to an empty shell.  In the case of Clara’s leaf, it’s absorbed entirely as it doesn’t have any memories itself, but represents potential existence, a life un-led.  Need I mention that this is also the chosen food of the Weeping Angels?

“Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax, and Cabbages and Kings” – The Doctor quotes Lewis Carroll, specifically The Walrus and The Carpenter.  While his work has never been mentioned in the TV show, it’s been referenced in the other media a few times.  The Doctor met the author in an prose adventure called The Shadows of Avalon, and in a fan-made video adventure called Downtime (which features the Great Intelligence, but that’s likely just a coincedence), it’s revealed that he photographed a young Victoria Waterfield. (Those who know a bit about the kind of photography Mr. Dodgson liked to take of young girls may find a moment of thought there)

BIG BAD WOLF REPORT

CARLOTTA VALDEZ I WILL MAKE YOU HER – It wasn’t until The Doctor said out loud that the reason he was so keen on spending time with Clara is because she “remind[s] me of someone who died” that I realized that The Doctor is in a similar situation to Scottie in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.  Like in the film, Scottie loses Madeline after she falls from a high place.  The Doctor doesn’t fall into a depression over it (that was from the last one) but does become very excited about meeting her again, or at least another close approximation.  Clara’s bold statement that she won’t be a “replacement” for the other Clarae shows an independence that Judy never had in the film.  And just to keep the pot stirring, Scottie was the target of a con job, and Judy was only pretending not to know him, when in fact (SPOILERS) she had been posing as Madeline to use him as a patsy in her “death”, (END SPOILERS)

“She’s not possible” – But it’s clear that The Doctor is fascinated by Clara, not in the way Scottie was of Judy, but more as trying to figure out how she can appear at three moments of history.  It’s more than spatial genetic multiplicity, which is how Gwen Cooper looks so much like Gwyneth from The Unquiet Dead – here it seems much more like it’s the SAME person, with so many “Clarallels”.  He follows her through her whole life, from the moment her parents met to the time of her mother’s passing, which serves to reveal the secrets behind both Clara’s book, and the leaf which she called “page one”.  The two years she skipped in the progressive numbers on the book were 16 and 23 – 23 was the year the Maitland’s mom died, and she was simply too bust thinking about them to write in the book, and 16 was the year her own mom died.  This also serves to explain how she couldn’t bear to leave her friends on their own when their mom died.

NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO – What’s big and hard and full of…OK, it’s a submarine, and there’s a bunch of very nervous Russians trying to stay alive against one The Doctor’s oldest enemies. A return to the Cold War, seven days hence.

New Who Companion To Be Selected “Idol”-Style

AA_womenofdoctorwho_01_web-1-480x270

Riding the wave of major West End productions being cast by popular vote on television, the BBC announced today that the next co-star for the popular science-fiction program Doctor Who will be selected on a new reality show talent competition.

The show, “No Xenon Impact” (An anagram of “Next Companion”) will be executive produced by Caro Skinner and Andrew Lloyd Webber, based on the format of his reality show “How do you solve a problem like Maria?“, which cast the lead of the Sound of Music revival. The show will be co-hosted by John “Captain Jack” Barrowman and long-time Doctor Who fan and guest-star David Walliams.

DW Showrunner Steven Moffat admitted he was first “hesitant” at the idea, but admitted “It gives the show a mad new challenge – The Doctor never knows who his new friends will be, and now neither will we.”

The show will premiere on May 25th, a week after the second half of the current series of Doctor Who ends, and will run for six weeks.  Contestants (eight female, four male) will be drilled weekly on their acting and improv skill, their knowledge of the program, and what Walliams describes as “A whole lot of running.” Contestants will be voted on weekly by the viewing audience, and a different “guest alien” who “Exterminate” one or two hopefuls live on the program. Matt Smith and current companion (already confirmed to be returning for the eighth series) Jenna-Louise Coleman have agreed to appear for the series finale, where Matt will present a key to the TARDIS to the lucky winner.

Filming for the new eighth series of Doctor Who has yet to be scheduled; it is believed by many that this competition has been in the planning for some time, and the eighth series production has been scheduled to accommodate it.