Tagged: Matt Smith

Mindy Newell: Doctor… Who?

It’s Sunday night, 7:19 P.M. on my clock, which makes the premiere of the 2016 Doctor Who Christmas Special just an hour and 41 minutes away. The long drought is almost over.

I’ve been getting my Whovian fix this week by watching as much as I can of BBCAmerica’s marathon of episodes, which has been running since last Tuesday. It was interesting to watch the progression of Doctors, as it gave me a chance to really compare Eccleston, Tennant, Smith, and Capaldi’s characterizations of the Time Lord.

To be honest, I can’t really say all that much about Christopher Eccleston’s turn – it always seemed a little flat to me, as though the actor rather quickly regretted signing on to the role, and so was doing that – merely playing a role until the contract ran out. (I remind everyone that this is all imho, not, for a change, im-not-so-ho.) However, I do love that lone season because of the supporting characters – Rose Tyler, the shop girl who dares to dream of another life; Rose’s widowed mom Jackie, who drinks and sleeps around just a little too much to forget her own unfulfilled dreams and who is very much one possible template for Rose’s future; and Mickey Smith, Rose’s working-class boyfriend who is oh-so-ordinary.

David Tennant’s Doctor was the one that really caught the world’s attention. Sexy and cocky, he nonetheless truly regained his “humanity” in this incarnation, allowing his feelings to surface, especially in his relationship in Rose (call me a romantic, but I believe that he truly loved her) and with Donna Noble’s grandfather, Wifred Mott.

And then there was Matt Smith. What I think is interesting in Matt’s interpretation is that he was while he was young and joyful and adventurous, he could also very much be dangerous, dark, and duplicitous. (“The Doctor lies,” said River.)

What about John Hurt, you may ask, as the War Doctor? His was the source of the darkness within – but, at the same time, his was also the source of the Time Lord’s humanity. It was etched on his face – the sorrow, self-loathing, but also, the love that drove him to commit the ultimate destructive act.

And what of Paul McGann, the Eighth Doctor? Im-not-so-ho, he was probably the most self-aware of the four, for in his decision to reject the very name of “the Doctor” – a word that means healer and saver of life – and to accept the guise of “the Warrior,” he allowed us to see the resignation to the fate that the Time Lord had been running from all those centuries.

It’s 35 minutes to the Christmas Special. As I told John in my reply to his column yesterday – and also on the phone to editor Mike – I’m feeling “a bit trepidatious” about what’s about to play out. I’m afraid that the suits at the BBC, dismayed at the drop in Doctor Who’s audience after the dashing Matt Smith left and Peter Capaldi took over – as my niece, a rabid Smith fan, said, “He’s old!!!” – told Moffat to write something that would bring back the youngsters, and hey, here’s an idea, let’s include a superhero, superheroes are hot right now. Not only does it seem to me to be a mercenary and crass directive, the mix of genres feels weird and just “not right.” Down on your knees begging, y’know?

Then again, as Mike Gold pointed out to me, Doctor Who has pushed the boundaries before and succeeded. (“The soufflé isn’t the soufflé, the soufflé is the recipe.”)

Oh, yeah, I forgot.

Peter Capaldi. What about him? A scared little boy. A lost soul. A revengeful son-of-a-bitch. A work in progress.

And also…

Love that hair!

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: Doctor Who, Queen Elizabeth, and Donald Trump

FFN_IMAGE_51880447|FFN_SET_60099314Before I get to the heart of my column today, I just wanted to mention that if you’re jonesing for Matt Smith, may I suggest The Crown, the new Netflix original series, about Queen Elizabeth. No, not the red-headed daughter of Anne Boleyn and Henry Tudor (a.k.a. Henry VIII) whose story has been told numerous times on both small and big screens, but Queen Elizabeth II, the current English monarch whose reign is at 62 years and counting.

The erstwhile titular star of Doctor Who plays Prince Philip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh, who married Elizabeth in 1947 after officially giving up his royal relationship to the Greek and Danish royal families and becoming a naturalized British citizen. I have never been a fan of Prince Philip – he has always seemed to me to be the epitome of the “ruling class,” cold, distant, and without empathy or sympathy for us working slobs. In fact, I’ve often wondered just what the hell Elizabeth Windsor ever saw in him. However, as played by Matt – at least so far, I’ve only seen the first two episodes (before King George’s death from cancer, though he is already terminally ill) and concentrating on the young royal couple’s carefree life – the young Philip is sexy, athletic, incredibly handsome, loving, and an all-around great guy. He even takes over the renovating of Clarence House.

And attention Matt Smith fans! He has an adorable butt, as seen in a bedroom scene… and according to the RadioTimes website, more are coming! Quoting from the article:

The British actor – who stars alongside [Claire] Foy in Peter Morgan’s lavish tale of Queen Elizabeth II’s early years – bares his backside in the occasional bedroom scene, but not for the reasons one might expect.

“’A crucial thing is that Philip sleeps naked. That’s a fact. That was something that we found out… They weren’t put in – it’s just the fact that there are bed scenes. And what do you do, put Philip in a pair of [sic] pyjamas? That’s not right for the character.’ Smith joked that the scenes were ‘actually the best bit of acting I did in the whole series. No word of a lie. It was my most truthful moment.’”

As I said, I’ve only seen the first two episodes – the only reason I stopped was that it was getting really late and my eyelids were growing heavy – but so far, so good. (By the way, an added bonus is watching John Lithgow as the once and re-elected Prime Minister Winston Churchill.) So if you needing your Matt Smith fix, or just really missing Downton Abbey – I’ve been rebinging on the Crawley family, and now that I think of it, my guess is that they would all be still alive in 1947. Well, maybe except for the Dowager Countess Violet, but I wouldn’t really be surprised if that redoubtable woman spit in the face of death – go stream The Crown.

•     •     •     •     •

doctor-doom-this-land-is-mineTomorrow is Election Day. As I posted to Mary Mitchell, John Ostrander’s talented and lovely wife <snikt>

We interrupt this column for your columnist to watch the last 1:43 seconds of the Giants-Eagles game. Score is Giants 28, Eagles 23. Both teams are 4-3. Eagles just intercepted, in easy field goal range, but the Eagles are going for it. (They are now on the Giants’ 17-yard line.) Third down and ten. Now fourth and ten. Timeout – clock reset 10 seconds, now 1:28 left. Fourth down conversions for Eagles today is 1 for 3. Eagles quarterback Wentz throw a pass into the end zone to Eagles wide receiver Matthews. No good!!!!!!!! The Giants hang on to win!!!!!! <snikt>

As I was saying…

Tomorrow is Election Day. As I posted to Mary Mitchell, John Ostrander’s talented and lovely wife – I am absolutely terrified that he will win. And I have never been scared of the “other” candidate winning. Sad? Yes. Concerned? Yes. But never terrified.

For the record, while I am a registered Democrat – I became one back in 2008 so I could vote for Obama in the primary here in New Jersey – and while I do believe that the Republican Party has, since the election of Bill Clinton, completed its morphication into the Repugnantican Party, as those who follow me and/or on Facebook know – it might interest you to know that I have voted the Republican ticket before: for Tom Kean and Christie Whitman as New Jersey governors in their respective races, and, most notably, you will all drop dead with surprise now, for George H. W. “Pappy” Bush as President in his (first) 1988 campaign. (Unlike waaaaay too many Americans, I also consider foreign policy when choosing my Presidents, and as Director of the CIA, “Pappy” had the inside track; there’s a reason we didn’t go all the way into Baghdad in the Gulf War, and George H. W. Bush knew it and got it, i.e., the balance of power sometimes makes ugly bedfellows. See Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin in WW II for reference. Or if it’s too much work for you to do a little historical research, just look what’s happened in the Middle East since Bush, Jr. took out Saddam.) Besides, Barbara Bush is pro-choice, and I have always suspected that her husband is, too, even if it has not been politically expedient for him to say so.

So why am I so terrified of a President Trump? Let me put into comic book terms:

I would rather have Lex Luthor as President than Donald Trump. Why? Because Lex Luthor, archenemy of Superman, is smart. Trump is not.

I would vote for Wilson Fisk before I could ever vote for Donald Trump. Why? Because Wilson Fisk, archenemy of Daredevil, loves his woman beyond himself. Trump is a man whose women are only reflections of his own narcissism.

I would vote for Doctor Doom before I could ever vote for Donald Trump. Why? Because Doctor Doom, archenemy of the Fantastic Four, loves his country, Latveria. Trump does not love the United States; he loves Amerika.

Amerika.

Do you want a taste of Trump’s Amerika?

Here is the transcript of what President Obama said to the crowds attending his rally for Hillary Clinton on Friday night in Fayetteville, North Carolina as he was interrupted by a Trump supporter; the crowd was loudly booing and getting riled up:

Hey! Listen up! I told you to be focused, and you’re not focused right now. Listen to what I’m saying. Hold up. Hold up! Hold up! Hold up! Everybody sit down, and be quiet for a second… First of all, we live in a country that respects free speech. Second of all, it looks like maybe he might’ve served in our military and we got to respect that. Third of all, he was elderly and we got to respect our elders. And fourth of all, don’t boo, vote.”

And here is what Trump told his supporters about the incident at his campaign rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania:

There was a protester and a protester that likes us. And what happened is they wouldn’t put the cameras on him. They kept the cameras on Obama… He was talking to a protester, screaming at him, really screaming at him. By the way, if I spoke the way Obama spoke to that protester, they would say he became unhinged.”

‘Nuff said.

Did the UK Mirror just post the most ridiculous Doctor Who rumor ever?

Let me tell you about how you generate clickbait. You start off by making the story about either a celebrity, TV show, or popular topic that will attract people’s attention. Then you string together enough facts and quotes vaguely connected to the idea that you can make the article more than three paragraphs long. THEN, (and this one is key) you make the headline a question.  So you’re not saying “This is a fact”, or even the increasingly popular “Sources report this as a fact”, but merely “Could this possibly be a fact?” Because then in the story, you can say that it’s probably just flummery.

To summarize: if a news report, especially one on the electric type Internet, has a question as the headline, the answer to said question is almost certainly…

OfCourseNot

I’m going to get a lot of use of this graphic, I can tell you. (Thanks to Frinkiac)

So when I tell you that the Mirror Online posted an article titled “ Can Matt Smith be the first Doctor Who to regenerate as himself?“, can you guess where I stand on the question?

In the article, they reference several quotes from Matt Smith where he says he’s sometimes sorry he left the show, and hopes to come back to it some day, and one from Moffat where he says he misses his collaborator.

Add in the rumor that Capaldi is touted to leave at the end of the next season (ANOTHER story with no basis in fact, mind) and somehow, that means Matt is coming back.

This is another example of nobody being willing to say “No” to a story, because that ends the buzz.  As soon as someone denies something categorically, that’s the end of them being on everyone’s lips.  So when Joe Thespian gets rumored for a role in a Marvel film, he doesn’t say “that’s not true, there’s been to talks at all”, he says “Well, I can’t say anything more definitive about it, but it’d certainly be nice.”

OK, yes, they dropped the idea in the 50th anniversary episode, with the appearance of “The Curator” that the Doctor might someday “re-visit” his past incarnations in the future.

Yes, we’ve seen past Doctors return to the show, but as “themselves”, not somehow returning to their past forms in the current timeline. And yes, the idea of a regeneration into a past form is a tantalizing idea for a story.

But there is one, VERY important thing to remember.

If there is one thing that is nearly universally named as the show’s perfect idea, it is the idea that Regeneration is the most innovative concept ever. It allows the show to renew itself every few years, more than simply a change in producers or show-runners ever could.  By putting a new lead actor (yes, or actress, let’s not get distracted here) in the title role (look at me, I’m so incensed I’ve even passed up a chance to use the word “titular”) it give the show a chance to become something utterly new. Don’t care for the current guy? No worries, there’ll be another one along in a few years, come back and check him out.

Circling back to a past actor, in any permanent fashion, would be the ultimate admission that the show has run out of ideas. People get upset when the Daleks or Cybermen come back again, imagine the reaction if they rolled the clock back to an old Doctor.

It’s why the Big Finish audio plays are such a hit.  Want more Peter Davison as the Doctor? Here’s dozens of them.  We’ve seen Paul McGann, David Tennant, and even Tom Baker return.  Matt will almost certain do some. There’s your “more Matt” stories.

But on the TV show? In any permanent way? No.

Right?

Please tell me I’m right.

Dammit, you you’ve got me thinking about it…

(Writer’s note – the headline of this article was originally submitted as “UK Mirror floats Doctor Who rumor so stupid I’m not even putting it in the headline, clicks-through or no”)

Box Office Democracy: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

I wanted more out of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Or less, much much less would have been fine too. The amount I got was entirely insufficient.

It’s a cute idea mashing up this drama about early 19th century romance, class, and all that comes with it with a zombie movie, but in an hour and 45 minutes it doesn’t get enough time to do either thing proper amounts of justice and so none of it seems to matter. Either this is a serious thing and it needed more time, space, and gravity; or this is a silly joke and it needed to be a 20-minute sketch on the Internet. As released, it seems insubstantial and empty.

I have no compelling reason to think what I really want is more of the manners drama. I don’t watch Downton Abbey, I haven’t read the book Pride and Prejudice, I don’t even really like watching BBC America for more than a couple hours at a time. The surface-level telling of this side of the story is about what I want. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies makes me think I could deliver a sixth grade book report on the original novel and be laughed out of any serious discussion. For example, I looked up the Wikipedia article on George Wickham to see how radically the character was changed for the zombified version of the story and practically couldn’t understand any of what it was talking about. It’s like getting the Cliff’s Notes version of the story and it’s hard not to feel a little bit cheated by that.

The zombie story also feels underdeveloped. The film starts with a good action beat and hits a few horror beats early on but then they mostly fade away. After this early burst of action the whole thing fades to the background. There’s an action beat in a cellar in the second act that I couldn’t make heads or tails of because there was no light, it never seemed like scaring me with zombies was even a remote priority until the third act.

There are gestures towards a larger plot, like when a zombie comes and talks to Elizabeth and tries to warn her of something before being blown away, and numerous allusions to the Four Horsemen of the Zombie Apocalypse, but nothing ever comes from either of these things. The Horsemen are glimpsed on screen twice but never interact with anyone. I suppose they serve to kind of underline the markings for a third act twist but this is such a dramatic device to have no direct payoff. I got the distinct sense that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was telling only the third best zombie story going on in this universe in this time period.

This is going to sound insincere after three paragraphs of being so intensely critical but Pride and Prejudice and Zombies isn’t completely unsatisfying. It might be formed from two underdeveloped halves but there are compelling things about the whole. Seeing a zombie outbreak in a pre-modern society is a refreshing take on a done-to-death genre and simply seeing cannons and muskets being used to fight undead swarms has a certain charm to it after seeing a thousand shotguns. The juxtaposition of the prim and proper pre-Victorian England with the ruthlessness of a never-ending swarm of undead is quite funny (the first few times) and the some of the characters follow this path to the absurd conclusion to remarkable affect (Matt Smith and Lena Headey are particularly notable examples). I’m just not sure this is a punch line worthy of an entire movie. When I saw the book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies on the shelf of my local bookstore I thought nothing about reading it would be as amusing as looking at the image on the cover, and they adapted it in to a movie that by the end is struggling to be as compelling as the poster.

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: The Essential Doctor

the_waters_of_mars_by_mitashade

Don’t blink. Blink and you’re dead. They are fast. Faster than you can believe. Don’t turn your back. Don’t look away. And don’t blink. Good Luck. • The Doctor • “Blink,” written by Steven Moffat

Adelaide: But you said we die. For the future. For the human race!

The Doctor: Yes, because there are laws. There are laws of time. Once upon a time there were people in charge of those laws but they died. They all died. Do you know who that leaves? Me! It’s taken me all these years to realize that the laws of time are mine and they will obey me! • The Waters of Mars, written by Russell T. Davies

Like you, John, I’ve been in the midst of the summer doldrums eagerly awaiting the return of new episodes of Marvel’s Agents Of Shield, Downtown Abbey, The Flash and, of course, a certain alien from Gallifrey.

Saturday night I tuned into BBC America to watch the first two episodes of The Doctor’s Finest, the network’s lead-up to the premiere of Peter Capaldi’s second year as the Time Lord, otherwise known as Series 9 of the modern era Doctor Who, or the 52nd year of wibbly wobbly timey wimey…stuff. (A bit more on those five little words a few paragraphs down.)

Hosted by Hannah Hart of My Drunk Kitchen on YouTube, and with “special guests” and “behind-the-scenes” interviews, the next four Saturday nights will feature two “essential” episodes of the Doctor’s story – “essential” in this case meaning that in some very important “essential” way these stories have contributed to the still-evolving mythos of the Whovian universe.

First up was Blink. Here’s a brief synopsis:

2007. In an abandoned house on the outskirts of London, photographer Sally Sparrow – the absolutely terrific Carey Mulligan – finds statures of weeping angels, and an even creepier message hidden under the wallpaper: ‘Sally Sparrow. Beware the Weeping Angel. Love from The Doctor (1969).’ The next day, Sally returns with her friend Kathy Nightingale – who suddenly vanishes. As Sally looks for her in the house, a man delivers a letter addressed to Sally from his grandmother, who has recently died. The grandmother’s name? Kathy Nightingale. And she has a message for Sally.

Meanwhile Kathy’s brother, Larry, who owns a DVD shop, has been tracking down “easter eggs” found in 17 unrelated DVDs, featuring a man with glasses who seems to be having a conversation with the viewer. The man is the Doctor – David Tennant – trapped in 1969 without his TARDIS. And the “easter eggs” are for Sally.

Blink, written by Steven Moffat and based on his short story “‘What I Did on My Christmas Holidays’ By Sally Sparrow” in the 2006 Doctor Who Annual, is essential because it introduces the Weeping Angels, im-not-so-ho the creepiest and scariest of all of the foes and “monsters” ever seen on Doctor Who. They also appeared during Matt Smith’s run as the Doctor in the two-part “The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone” and, most notably, as the adversaries responsible for the “deaths” of Amelia Pond and Rory Williams in “The Angels Take Manhattan.”

The episode is also the first time we hear five essential words as the Doctor attempts to explain the concept of time to Sally: “People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint – it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly…time-y wimey…stuff.”

Blink won the 2007 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. Steven Moffat won two BAFTA awards for Best Writer. Carey Mulligan won the Constellation Award for Beset Female Performance in a 2007 Science Fiction Television Award. In 2009, readers of Doctor Who Magazine voted it the second best Doctor Who story ever.

My Saturday night Whovian feast continued with the 2010 special The Waters of Mars, which won the 2010 Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, and was Russell T. Davies’s last episode as writer/showrunner.

November 21, 2059. The first human colony on Mars, Bowie Base One. The Doctor – David Tennant – is there on this pivotal day in history, when the colony is destroyed in a nuclear blast. But it is precisely this disaster that inspires the granddaughter of the mission’s leader, Captain Adelaide Brooke (Lindsay Duncan), as well as the rest of humanity, to continue their journey into deep space exploration and colonization.

The fixed point in time is an “essential” concept in the Whovian universe – and it is in The Waters of Mars that the Doctor is brutally taught that not even he, the “Victorious Time Lord,” as he refers to himself towards the climatic moment, is capable of changing it.

For it is not precisely the destruction of the colony that is the crucial event, but (SPOILER ALERT) Captain Adelaide Brooke’s death that is the necessary, critical, fundamental and central point – a fixed point in time – on which the future of humanity rests. If she does not die, her granddaughter, Susie Fontana Brooke, will not pilot the first faster-than-light spaceship to Proxima Centauri, nor will her other descendants, nor humanity, follow her into space. And so Adelaide accepts her fate, and confronting the self-congratulatory Doctor who has saved her – “I don’t care who you are…the Time Lord Victorious is ‘wrong’.” – walks into her home and kills herself with her laser gun.

“Your song is ending…he will knock four times.” The Doctor has been running from a prophecy of his death (“Planet of the Dead,”Planet of the Ood”) as a fixed point in time. This episode (though not “officially” part of the final arc – “The End of Time” – leading up to the regeneration of Tennant into the 11th – I mean the 12th – Doctor, Matt Smith) is essential in its portrayal of Tennant’s Doctor’s dark side.

He is the last of the Time Lords, and in his arrogance he no longer believes that he has to obey the rules. Two rules especially – the first being that he cannot change a fixed point in history, and more important, and more personal, that he must die and regenerate. Just as he refuses to accept the death of Adelaide Brooke and her mission mates, he refuses the prophecy, even going so far as to deliberately electrocute one of the mutated members of the Mars mission to stop him from “knock[ing] four times” on a bulkhead door.

“I don’t want to go.”

But he must.

Time is not just a wibbly wobbley time-y whimey ball of stuff.

Not even for a Time Lord.

And that is the essential lesson.

 

John Ostrander: Doctor McCrankypants

SPOILER ALERT: This week’s topic is Doctor Who. If you don’t watch the show, you probably won’t like the column. Also, if you’re saving this season to binge watch and haven’t seen any of the episodes yet, there may be some spoilers. Fair warning.

We’re several weeks now into the new season of Doctor Who featuring the latest incarnation of the Doctor as played by Peter Capaldi. While our own Vinnie Bartilucci has been doing splendid recaps/reviews here on ComicMix, I’d like to look at Capaldi’s Doctor overall and weigh in.

He’s not like the past several incarnations. Capaldi said he wanted his Doctor to be more of an alien and he’s succeeded. This Doctor also has something of an empathy problem and his social skills are rather lacking. David Tennant, the Tenth Doctor, was famous for telling people, “I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry.” Especially when something terrible was going to happen or did happen to them that he couldn’t prevent. I can’t imagine those words even occurring to Capaldi’s incarnation.

However, what distinguishes this Doctor most to me is – he’s cranky. He’s Doctor McCrankypants.

Start with the eyes. Our first glimpse of him showed an almost angry glare and fierce, fierce eyebrows. He scowls more than he smiles. Suffer fools gladly? This Doctor doesn’t suffer them at all. He doesn’t like being hugged and, when his companion insisted, did it very awkwardly. He almost looked as if he was in pain.

He is ruthlessly pragmatic. On “Mummy on the Orient Express,” the mummy appears only to those it is about to kill. They have 66 seconds to live. The Doctor insistently pumps one of the victims before their death for a description and any other information in an effort to learn what they are dealing with. He knows there is no chance of saving the terrified man and doesn’t try.

In the first of the new episodes, the Doctor and his companion, Clara, are fleeing automatons. A door comes down between them with only a porthole in it. “No sense in both of us getting caught,” says the Doctor and runs off, leaving Clara to survive as best she can. You can see her sense of betrayal. The Doctor does return with help and does later rescue Clara but his actions are very atypical of the Doctor.

There can also be amusing side-effects to the Doctor’s crankiness. He offers to take Clara anywhere she wants to meet anyone she wants and she asks to meet Robin Hood whom the Doctor insists never existed. They go anyway and, of course, the first person the Doctor sees is Robin Hood. Refusing to admit he’s wrong, the Doctor insists this is an imposter or a robot or a hologram or something but definitely not Robin Hood. Caught and thrown into a dungeon, the Doctor and Robin have a hysterical bickering session.

In a later episode, the Doctor goes “undercover” as a caretaker at the school where Clara teaches when she is not off traipsing through all of time and space. He pretends to be human and thinks he can get away with it. He is so tone deaf to his social ineptness that it really is very funny.

All of this makes him different from his immediate predecessors. He lacks the puppy dog verbosity of Matt Smith or the emo boyishness of David Tennant or the mannish, blunt charms of Christopher Eccleston. In fact, the only Doctor I can think of who has been as cranky was the first Doctor, William Hartnell. Maybe not even him.

I wonder how the fans who have only joined the show since Eccleston and Tennant will react to Capaldi’s Doctor? He’s older and, well, crankier. Myself – I like him. A lot. In many ways, I relate to him more. As I get older, I get – well – crankier. “Hey, you kids – get away from my TARDIS!”

So – here’s to Doctor McCrankypants. Long may he travel through space and time, alienating friends and enemies alike. Go get em, Doctor.

 

John Ostrander: Who Are You?

Let’s have our own little adventure in time and space. At the time I’m writing this, the new season of Doctor Who, starring the new guy, Peter Capaldi, has not yet played. By the time you read this, it will have already been on. A bit of the old timey-wimey thing.

If you’re not a viewer of the time traveling import from the BBC (and we Whovians pity your poor benighted souls), Doctor Who is a fifty-year old TV show featuring a madman in a blue box. The madman is also known as The Doctor and the blue box is his TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimensions In Space). The Doctor is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey and while he looks human, some bits of him aren’t. Such as the ability to regenerate when his physical body is in close danger of dying. It’s not just a reboot; his entire body changes… and so does his personality. It is this ability to change actors every so often that has helped keep the show on the air for fifty years (give or take a hiatus or two).

That’s one of the exciting mysteries about the new season. We’ve only seen bits and pieces of Peter Capaldi as the Doctor but we already know he’ll be very different from his predecessor. Matt Smith was sort of the Robin Williams of Doctors; anything that came into his head came out his mouth. Capaldi is also older than the three prior Doctors, harking back to the first versions of the Doctor. He also appears to be more serious to the point of being grim. I’m very much looking forward to finding out who and what the new Doctor is.

The challenge for each actor playing the Doctor is to find a way to put their own stamp on the character while, at the same time, finding the core of the character, the part that doesn’t change. It’s a challenge not only for the actor but also the writers of the show and it illustrates an important aspect of writing characters in general.

We are, all of us, like a diamond. Turn the stone and the different facets can reveal different aspects. We have many different sides to us and they come out according to the situation or who we are with. You may be different with your friends than with your parents. Guys are one way with their guy friends but if you introduce a female to the mix, they change. The body posture, the voice, the way a guy expresses himself may be way different with a female (especially a new attractive unknown one) than his buddies. I don’t know but I suspect the same is true for women.

What we find to be true in life should be true in our writing. If you are creating a complex character, you have to find their contradictions. A person can be very brave in some aspects and yet very scared in others. They can go from one thing to the other in a heartbeat. Maybe you’ve noticed that some people are really nice until they get behind the wheel of a car where they can turn into flaming assholes. Maybe you’ve been that person. We have heroes within us; we also have villains. That’s why writing a villain can be a lot of fun; you get to let loose that side of you without any real ill effects.

One of the purposes of a supporting character in a story is to bring out this aspect or that aspect of the protagonist. Have you ever noticed how some people bring out the best of you and others bring out the worst? Back in my college days, there was one person I really didn’t like being around. I finally figured out why; he demonstrated aspects of myself that I didn’t like and seeing those traits made me uncomfortable. As a writer, however, that’s all useful.

The thing to remember is that all those aspects are you just as all the past incarnations of the Doctor are the Doctor. As in life, so in our writing. All our characters are an aspect of us. That’s part of the fun of it.

As for me, I can’t wait to see what the newest incarnation of the Doctor is like. Maybe by figuring out Who the Doctor is this time, I may also learn a bit more about Who I am.

 

The Point Radio: Michael Carbonaro – Now You See Him

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……

THE POINT covers it 24/7! Take us ANYWHERE on ANY mobile device (Apple or Android). Just  get the free app, iNet Radio in The  iTunes App store – and it’s FREE!  The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE  – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.