Tagged: River Song

Mindy Newell: Mindy’s Mishes And Moshes

This week is a mish-mash featuring my reactions and thoughts to some of my fellow ComicMix columnists and two reader’s thoughts on my column from last week.

In response to my column last week, which I wrote while watching the New York Giants/Green Bay Packers wild card playoff game, Mark Belktron wrote:

Johnny O (the O is for Ostrander) talked about the King, a.k.a. Jack Kirby, yesterday, and his first encounter with the “mild-mannered” genius of the four-color page. Hey, John, did you read the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon? If not, you really must! In fact, as I once mentioned long ago and far away (but not in another galaxy – at least, I think not), anyone who claims to be a comics fan must – im-not-so-ho, of course – read this, uh, amazing semi-fictionalized and semi-biographical novel of the birth of the comics industry in Depression-era America.

On Friday (January 14), Marc Alan Fishman did a “Tim Gun” critique of the DC film version of Justice League PR picture, which accompanied an article about the film in USA Today. I don’t read that paper, so Marc’s column was the first time I saw this pix. I think Marc has it correct, for the most part.

Batfleck does look fitting (as in, it fits the character), although I have always wondered, going all the way back to Michael Keaton’s turn as the Caped Crusader in Tim Burton’s original Batman (1989), just how weighty and cumbersome the… costume? uniform?… let’s go with “outfit”… and how the athletic and martial-arts empowered Gotham Knight is able to move so swiftly and ably wearing that thing – hmm…have any of the cinema Batmen been able to even turn their head to talk to someone or espy something without having to turn the whole body? (Yes, unwieldy sentence, but so is the suit. Isn’t it?)

Also love, love, love Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman (as I’ve mentioned numerous times before), but, unlike Marc, I don’t care that the colors of her armament are subdued. Of all the characters’, um, outfits, hers is the most realistic and closest, im-not-so-ho, to what Amazon warriors would wear to battle over 2000 years ago. The others don’t bother me one way or another. Cyborg is just another variation on a, well, cyborg. The Flash and Aquaman are pretty much what I would expect from a Zack Snyder film – and I don’t think that the orange-and-green “look” of the comic would ever translate well to the big screen, and barely to the small screen, for that matter. Anyway, it makes sense that the colors of the deep, dark sea, down so far that sunlight is an unknown (think views of the wreck of the Titanic, lit by mini-submarine) would be reflected in what the “King of the Sea” wears.

My only question about Flash continues to be – why hire a new actor (Ezra Miller) to play Barry Allen when Grant Gustin is just so damn excellent in the role? Yeah, yeah, I know…the televerse and the cineverse are alternate realities, or something. But here, once again, Marvel does it better, blending their ‘verses into one smooth reality.

“That game not only got away from the Giants, but the backlash in the media against OBJ [that’s Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. for you non-football people] the next day is killing me as a fan. Have you watched OA yet?”

Sorry, Mark, but im-not-so-ho, a player with the vaunted ability of OBJ should have caught both of Eli’s passes early in the first quarter…especially that wide-open beauty in the end zone. I don’t really care what the players do off the field – well, barring domestic violence and any other behavior which can lead to some serious injury to themselves and/or others (New York defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul blowing his hand up real good with a firecracker, for instance) – if they show up on the field. My brother thinks OBJ is overrated, and I do tend to agree with him, if only because the wide receiver is too damn inconsistent to be placed with the other great wide receivers of the game. The players of the NFL apparently get it – OBJ was named to the All-Pro second team this year.

Regarding that same column, in which I wondered if the new 24 will be “worth it,” ReneCat said:

“Mindy, you hit the nail on the head! 24 without Jack (especially) and Chloe is just 24 Lite.

Perhaps I’m just a big, bitter grump, ReneCat. (Reference Star Trek: The Original Series, Season One, Episode Eight: “Miri.”) I just watched the last three episodes of last season’s Homeland before watching the sixth season of the show on Showtime last night; Miranda Otto was so remarkable as Russian double-agent Allison Carr, and she (Miranda, not Allison) – who ended up “dead real good,” riddled with bullets in the trunk of the car that was getting her out of Germany – is playing Rebecca Ingram, the former head of the CTU who is apparently now regretting leaving the intelligence agency. It is, according to the Fox Network, one of the leading parts. So I will definitely being turning in to watch, at the very least, the premiere of 24: Legacy.

Mike Gold’s column on River Song, the remarkably capable, strong and intelligent archaeologist/con artist/warrior-protector with a great sense of humor and about 92% of all the sexuality ever expressed in the 54-year history of the program, she has been, is, and/or will be married to the Doctor” was right on the mark, for my money. Very coincidentally, I just ordered The Diary of River Song before reading Mike’s column, although since I hadn’t read Mike’s column I got the more expensive set on Amazon instead of at Big Finish. I would have cancelled the Amazon order and gone over to Big Finish, but my package has already shipped, to be delivered tomorrow. Oh, well. As Mike said:

I hope to see River return sometime this season as it is Steven Moffat’s last as writer/showrunner. I hope to see River Song return anywhere at any time, if that latter phrase has any real meaning in a world where time travel exists.

“But, hey, I’ll settle for Alex Kingston returning damn well anywhere.”

Me, too, Mike!

Well, that’s about it for this week, folks. My column, as usual, is running late – unusually so this week, as between my full-time job and my parents’ ill health I haven’t had the time or the “mood” to write. Apologies to my fellow columnists whom I haven’t mentioned, except to say that, in regards to graphic novels and comic shops, Martha Thomases and Ed Catto, I am guilty of buying the collected issues in one volume. And also, Arthur Tebbel, the only movies that I saw on your list of the Worst Movies of 2016 were Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Independence Day: Resurgence, and that I couldn’t even get past the first half-hour of the later (which I tried to watch on Netflix) and that the former was a travesty of great proportion, except for, once again, Gal Gadot’s Diana, Princess of Themyscira.

Addendum: By the time of next week’s column, we will have had one full weekend of President Donald J. Trump. Will we all still be here? Will there even be a column? Will America be…Amerika?

Mike Gold: Up The River Without a TARDIS

If you were to ask me if I had a favorite character among all the heroic fantasy teevee shows and movies over the past five years, and damnit I wish you would, I would immediately respond “River Song.”

For those who came in late, here’s the mandatory Journalism 101 background:

River Song is an ongoing but breathtakingly occasional character in Doctor Who. A remarkably capable, strong and intelligent archaeologist/con artist/warrior-protector with a great sense of humor and about 92% of all the sexuality ever expressed in the 54-year history of the program, she has been, is, and/or will be married to the Doctor – it’s time travel, Mr. Gittes – and that poses all sorts of thrilling opportunities. It also begs the issue of “until regeneration do us part.” She’s kind of a partial Time Lord, having absorbed some of the Doctor’s DNA while being conceived in the TARDIS. Yes, she’s the daughter of two of the Doctor’s former companions.


Yup. I really love time travel.

Ms. Song is played by Alex Kingston, and in addition to some crackerjack writing from Steven Moffat, Ms. Kingston is the reason why this complicated yet highly entertaining character works. She’s known in the States for her work on such teevee shows as Arrow (where she plays Dinah Lance I), Gilmore Girls, Macbeth (playing Lady Macbeth; duh), Upstairs Downstairs (the 2012 series), Law and Order SUV, and ER. My favorite of her work that I have seen came in the teevee movie The Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders, where she played the title character and shared the boards with such folks as Diana Rigg and Daniel Craig.

In other words, Alex Kingston’s career orbits the nexus of fan reality.

You might ask why I’m bringing River Song to your attention at this time, if I already hadn’t just done that. The people at Big Finish, arguably the world’s largest publisher of original full-cast audio stories, released their second box set of River Song adventures. The Diary of River Song Series 2 co-stars Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy, both playing her husband The Doctor, and together the four adventures runs about four hours and change, not counting the bonus “behind the scenes” disc full of audio extras.

The downloadable version can be secured from Big Finish for a mere twenty bucks American, Amazon is charging a bit more for the physical five CD box set.

This isn’t a review because I have yet to hear the material. If it sucks, I’ll apologetically apologize anon… once the surprise wears off. I’m a big fan of Big Finish’s work, although I’ve only heard a fraction of their couple-thousand hours of original Doctor Who material starring all of the living Doctors from Tom Baker to John Hurt aside from Matt Smith (as of this writing). More to the point, I listened to The Diary of River Song Series 1 starring Alex Kingston and Paul McGann (the eighth doctor, if you were to count them in order of first appearance) during one of my infamous cross-country drives and it was absolutely great.

River Song last appeared in the 2015 Christmas special “The Husbands of River Song.” It was her first meeting with her husband Peter Capaldi, and because of where it is set in time she does not recognize The Doctor. In fact, she’s married to someone else, for a while. It’s a great jumping on episode for those who haven’t seen River Song, Peter Capaldi’s doctor, and/or Doctor Who. It’s well-written, clever as hell, sensual to excess and more fun than a barrel of monkeys. And we all know everything is better with a monkey.

Even better: this episode gave us the introduction of Nardole, played by British comedian Matt Lucas. He returned for this year’s Christmas special as the Doctor’s, umm, valet (the Doctor is companionless for the nonce) and Nardole will return for about a half-dozen episodes in the upcoming season. Americans might recognize him for his role in Community where, coincidentally, he played a fan of the ersatz teevee show Inspector Spacetime.

I hope to see River return sometime this season as it is Steven Moffat’s last as writer/showrunner. I hope to see River Song return anywhere at any time, if that latter phrase has any real meaning in a world where time travel exists.

But, hey, I’ll settle for Alex Kingston returning damn well anywhere.

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!

John Ostrander: “Sherlock” Season Three: Is The Game Off?

Several years ago, when I first heard that the BBC was doing a version of the Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories re-set in the modern day, I was skeptical. I’ve long loved the Holmes stories. I believe I finished reading the Canon for the first time by the age of ten. For me, part of the charm was the fog/smog filled Victorian streets of London, with the hansom cabs, the gaslights, et al. For me, the era and setting were as much characters in the stories as Holmes and Watson. I might have given the series a pass except that the co-creator and frequent writer for the series was going to be Steven Moffat.

I knew Moffat from some remarkable work he had done on Doctor Who. He has penned what I felt were some of the best episodes I’d ever watched on the series, full of surprises but also deep feeling, moments that truly touched me. So I gave his new series, co-created with writer/actor Mark Gatiss, a look and was generally delighted. The modern setting worked surprisingly well and, while not faithful to the letter of the stories, kept to the spirit of Conan Doyle’s canon. The series benefited as well from a very strong Holmes and Watson in the persons of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman respectively.

Each season consists of just three ninety minute episodes and each has ended on something of a cliffhanger or at least we are left with questions to be answered. We’re introduced to their version of Holmes’s arch nemesis, James Moriarty, at the end of the first season as he puts Holmes and Watson into a death trap with no seeming escape. At the end of the second season, Moffat and Gatiss do their version of the last meeting of the two. In their version, it results with Moriarty blowing his own brains out and Holmes forced to jump to his apparent death. We know Holmes is not dead by the end of the episode but we don’t know how he managed it. That would have to wait for Season Three. In theory.

Spoiler Alert. Lots of spoilers below. (more…)

John Ostrander: Wibbly-Wobbly Storytelling

Ostrander Art 140112As River Song is want to warn: Spoilers! There’s going to be a lot of talk in this column about what happened on this year’s Doctor Who Christmas Special, ”The Time of the Doctor.” There’s no way around critiquing the show without talking about what happened in it. If you haven’t seen it but intend to, you may want to avoid this column.There are plenty of other fine columns here at ComicMix so you can read them instead if you like.

The Doctor is dead; long live the Doctor. Matt Smith’s tenure as Doctor Who has given way to Peter Capaldi’s. It all happened in this year’s Christmas Special, The Time of the Doctor. I wish I could tell you it was wonderful but, in truth, I was underwhelmed.

Steven Moffat, the showrunner and the author of the episode, is a very clever writer. Sometimes he’s too clever and sometimes he’s not as clever as he thinks. For the Fiftieth Anniversary Special, The Day of the Doctor, he was wonderfully clever with deeply felt emotional moments, a thrilling climax, and a special appearance at the end which just knocked my socks off and dangled them from my ears. In this episode, Moffat was very clever and very good as he so often is. All of which made my dissatisfaction with the Christmas Special so much the greater.

The Time of the Doctor had two important issues to settle. It was to mark the regeneration, the transition, of the Doctor from Matt Smith to the new Doctor, now played by Peter Capaldi. Having now established that Matt Smith’s Doctor was the final one in the Doctor’s regeneration cycle, it had to establish how Capaldi’s Doctor was possible. Moffat decided also to bring together dangling threads from previous episodes. That makes it a very busy episode and one of its narrative problems.

One of the problems is a prophecy that occurs in an earlier episode, The Wedding of River Song, it says that on “the fields of Trenzalore, at the Fall of the Eleventh, when no creature can speak falsely or fail to answer, a question will be asked. A question that must never ever be answered: Doctor who?” Problem: Matt Smith’s Doctor is no longer the Eleventh Doctor.  “The Day of the Doctor” introduced John Hurt as the War Doctor, who was now the Ninth incarnation and that made Matt Smith the Twelfth Doctor. If he isn’t the Twelfth Doctor, then all the hoohah of this being his final incarnation is just blather. The plot hinges on it.

There are a lot of problems with this story. Early on, it has his companion, Clara, frantically asking the Doctor to come to her apartment and pretend to be her boyfriend for a Christmas dinner she’s cooking for her parents and grandmother. This makes no sense to me. Clara is gorgeous and she can’t get a local guy to do the part?

When the Doctor and Clara get to Trenzalore, there is a small farming community of humans and the town is named Christmas. I guess we’re in the future. Beaming down, they find some Weeping Angels buried in the snow. The Weeping Angels were really creepy the first time I saw them; now they’re just annoying. Their powers change to whatever Moffat wants them to be. One touch and you’re dead. Or tossed back in time for some reason. One grabs Clara’s boot so she should be dead or tossed back in time or something but she’s not. The Weeping Angels then do not figure into the rest of the story.

All of the Doctor’s foes are gathered around the planet (been there, seen that in The Pandorica Opens) and we have the Daleks who were made to forget all about the Doctor except now they don’t anymore.

There is a crack in the wall that is a crack in space and time and the Doctor supposedly closed all that off in The Big Bang but, no, there’s one conveniently left. On the other side are the Time Lords who were frozen into a single point of time in a pocket universe in order to save them in The Day of the Doctor, except they’re broadcasting a message to the Doctor to see if its safe for his home planet, Gallifrey, to come back. This would evidently re-ignite the Time War and destroy the Universe. Not to mention Trenzalore and the human colony. The last time Gallifrey appeared out of its usual spot, it was going to destroy and replace the Earth (The End of Time). What’s a little consistency among friends?

The Doctor spends 300 years on Trenzalore (Clara is sent home but comes back in what, for her, is the same day.). The Daleks want to kill him before he dies of old age. Defiant, the old boy goes out to meet them. Clara convinces the Time Lords on the other side of the time/space crack that they need to save him so the they send him a new batch of regeneration energy, enough for a whole new cycle of lives. Never mind that, the last time we saw them, the High Council of Time Lords were trying to kill the Doctor. The Doctor focuses the excess regeneration energy to wipe out the Daleks and regenerates, after a soulful monologue and a nice cameo from a much loved companion, into his new self. Yay.

I could go on at even greater length than I have but the episode was simply too busy by half. New characters and concepts are tossed in and there’s a lot of explaining away of what we previously thought and, along the way, invalidates an episode that occurred at the end of the previous season. Things are shoehorned in and continuity is changed or disregarded where it’s not convenient. That’s bad writing and that’s disappointing when it’s from someone as gifted as Moffat and who told such a wonderful story just one episode earlier. This Doctor Who Christmas Special was coal in the stocking and it’s a damn shame it came on the 800th episode and such an important moment in the history of Doctor Who.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

TUESDAY MORNING: Jen Krueger

 

New Who Review: “The Time of the Doctor”

The question’s not IF you cried, it’s when. The Doctor hangs around one place for a while, Matt Smith bids the show farewell, and Steven Moffat pulls at all the threads and brings everything into a neat little bow.  It’s the end of an era, and the exciting start of a new one, because it’s…

THE TIME  OF THE DOCTOR
by Steven Moffat
Directed by Jamie Payne (more…)

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.

 

John Ostrander: Quo Vadis the TARDIS

Ostrander Art 130609The Beeb announced this week that Matt Smith, the current actor playing the Doctor on Doctor Who, its long running (50 years!) SF series, will be leaving the show with the Christmas Special this year. For those of you living outside the Whovian time-space continuum, the Doctor is a time traveling alien who can regenerate entirely at points of mortality. Different face, different body, largely different personality, completely different actor in the role. They’ve done this eleven times so far so, in general, they have the procedure down pat.

I’ve seen some interesting speculations as to who will be the next Doctor. While usually the actor cast as the Doctor is not so well known, a names of a lot of well known actors are being currently tossed around by that mysterious series of tubes running underground known as the Internet. Hugh Laurie, best known as Doctor House here in America was one name mentioned and I think he would be very highly entertaining. I’ve seen Mr. Laurie in any number of different roles and he was marvelous in all of them. I don’t think the Beeb can afford his salary but it’s still interesting to think what might happen.

I read an interview where Helen Mirren had voiced a desire to the play the Doctor. Could the Doctor change into a woman? In the first episode that Neil Gaiman wrote for Doctor Who, “The Doctor’s Wife”, the Doctor mentions in passing a fellow time-lord who did regenerate into a woman so we have to take it as a possibility. Dame Helen Mirren has done a switched character before when she played Prospera, a female version of the character Prospero, in Julie Taymor’s movie adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. If she could do that, I have a feeling she could do the Doctor with no problem.

At one point before Matt Smith was cast as the current Doctor, Idris Elba’s name was bounced around as a candidate for the role. Elba is a fine actor who happens to be black; some Americans will know him as the title character on the BBC series Luther while others might know him as the character Heimdall in 2011’s Thor, a fact that cheesed off some Aryan neo-Nazi types who whined that Heimdall was supposed to be white. Mr. Elba has tremendous strengths as an actor and incredible charisma; I would love to see what he would do rattling around in the TARDIS.

Especially interesting to me is that the last two candidates are very non-traditional approaches to the character of the Doctor. I think that would invigorate the show. For example, I would love to see Helen Mirren’s Doctor meeting River Song or, for that matter, Captain Jack Harkness. You could argue that  a show that’s hit 50 can use some fresh air and a dusting away of the cobwebs.

One person who will not be playing the Doctor, I can predict with some certainty, is – me. Not for want of trying. Years ago, during my acting days, the part I most wanted to play was the Doctor. I realized back then that the odds of an unknown American actor living in Chicago would ever be cast in the part were in the infinity range.

However, I was part of a vibrant Chicago theater scene – I was not only an actor but I had been a writer, a director, and a producer. What about the odds of my putting on an all-new Doctor Who play in Chicago? I could cast myself in the part and I knew the mythos well enough, I felt, to write a convincing new adventure.

Long and short, I did try and I very nearly succeeded – although I couldn’t get the part of the Doctor which explains part of the reason why I left acting far behind. I mean, if I couldn’t even get the part I wanted in a play that I has written and was producing, that was the epitome of futility, wasn’t it?

The play never got produced although we got close but all that will have to be a column for another day. One lasting thing did happen as a result of all that – I met and got to know Kimberly Ann Yale, my late wife.

And the Doctor was partially to thank for that. Thanks, Doc.

MONDAY MORNING: Mindy Newell

TUESDAY MORNING: Emily S. Whitten

 

Mindy Newell: The Soufflé Is The Recipe

Newell Art 130522The strength of the Doctor Who reboot has been in its emphasis on relationships.

The name of this season’s finale was The Name of the Doctor, but everything we’ve ever really needed to know about him has been expressed through all those relationships.

The relationship between the Doctor and all of the millions and billions of lives that he has saved through all his 11 incarnations.

The relationship between the Doctor and his companions.

The relationship between the Doctor and River Song.

And the relationship between the Doctor and the girl who lived and died and lived again and died again.

The Impossible Girl.

The girl born to save the Doctor.

Clara Oswald.

We first met Clara in this year’s season premiere, Asylum of the Daleks, only her name was Oswin Oswald. Oswin is the only surviving member of the crew of the starship Alaska, which crashed onto the prison planet of the Daleks. When the Doctor attempts to rescue her, he discovers that she has become a Dalek; in order to survive, Oswin created a fantasy life—which includes trying to make the perfect soufflé. She saved the Doctor (and Amy and Rory) by erasing the memory of the Doctor from the memory banks of the Daleks, telling him to “Run, you clever boy. And remember,” but sacrifices her own life to do so.

We met Clara again in Victorian London in The Snowmen, 2012’s Christmas Special, but now she is a governess and barmaid. Clara dies after again saving the Doctor, and when he sees her tombstone, he is mystified and stunned – for it reads Clara Oswin Oswald. The Doctor realizes that this Clara and the Oswin from the Dalek Asylum are one and the same person. He becomes determined to find her again, sure that she is alive somewhere in time. And in the epilogue, we see a contemporary version of the same woman walking through a cemetery, and past the Victorian Clara’s grave. Her name is Clara Oswald.

For Clara Oswald is the “impossible girl.” Last night, the opening sequence showed Clara interacting with William Hartnell as he was about to steal a Tardis, telling him that he was taking the wrong one, that. We saw her calling after Jon Pertwee, chasing Tom Baker, yelling after Sylvester McCoy, trying to help Peter Davison and Colin Baker (shades of Zelig, Forest Gump, and Tibbles and Tribulations!) She tells us that she was born to save the Doctor, saying, “He always looks different, but I always know it’s him.”

The Doctor told Clara there is one place a time traveler must never go—to his grave. For the Doctor that is the planet Tenzalore. But it is on Tenzalore where Clara realizes her destiny—to become the “impossible girl,” and save the Doctor, and by saving the Doctor, saving millions. The regenerative energy will break her into a million pieces, confetti strips made of Clara, echoes of the original, but, she says, “it’s like my mother always said, the soufflé isn’t the soufflé, the soufflé is the recipe.”

She jumps in, and she is lost in time.

She calls out for the Doctor.

Again and again.

And then she hears the Doctor’s voice.

He sends her something to hold on to, something which will lead her to him.

It is the leaf that blew into her father’s face…

…which led him to Clara’s mother…

…which led to Clara’s birth…

…which led her to the Doctor…

…all of them…

…until the eleventh Doctor found Clara…

…again…

…and again…

…and again…

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

 

New Who Review: “The Name of the Doctor”

Crossing one’s own timeline is a cardinal sin for a time traveler.  Walking over one’s grave even worse.  So when The Doctor is forced to do that…

THE NAME OF THE DOCTOR
by Steven Moffat
Directed by Saul Metzstein

Re-appearing after its defeat a year previous, The Great Intelligence forces The Doctor to the location of his grave, wherein is hidden the physical manifestation of his timeline, a map of his life, which in the hands of the wrong people could be used to re-write his life.  The Intelligence chooses to do so, at the cost of its own existence.  The only way to save The Doctor, and all the good works he did, is with another sacrifice.

Emotionally, the episode worked exceedingly well. We got a solid River Song story, one where we finally see The Doctor admit his feeling for her.  But narratively, we’re very close to seeing the same story three years in a row.  An attack on The Doctor results in all of time and space being thrown out of whack, and only through a well-placed sacrifice can everything be undone. We saw it even before the Moffat years in Turn Left, where Donna Noble is manipulated so as to have never met The Doctor, resulting in his death fighting the Racnoss queen, and all of the events afterwards changing.  The big twist here is it’s The Doctor who makes the final save of his companion, and not them saving him.

Having The Crimson Horror so closely preceding this episode somewhat diluted the fun of seeing The Paternoster Gang back – it might have been better to be a week ot two back, spread them out just a tad more. As much as people are clamoring for a spinoff series, the characters would need more fleshing out to stand up weekly viewing.

It all got a little needs-more-explainy at the end, but as is traditional, the emotional impact trumps any questions about how things could have happened as they did. And just in case they didn’t, that last scene is enough to forgive all sins, real or imagined.

GUEST STAR REPORT John Hurt (The Doctor (?)) has a staggering list of work in sci-fi and fantasy.  Perhaps best known for being the incubator for the eponymous creature in Alien, (not to mention a brilliant parody of that moment in Spaceballs), he was also in 1984, V for Vendetta, the Harry Potter films, really too many things to list.

THE MONSTER FILES – The Great Intelligence returns this episode, taking the visage of Dr. Simeon, last seen in The Snowmen. Considering the Intelligence seems to have been destroyed, the likelihood that they’re using the other media’s claim that it is indeed the Old One Yog-Sothoth (from the H.P. Lovecraft stories) is exceedingly slim.

The Whispermen didn’t get a whole lot of chance to do much save for showing off an ability to phase their hands into people’s chests and stop their hearts, and speak in verse.  Like The Shakri from The Power of Three, they certainly are interesting enough to warrant a future return, but it’d likely require a bit more explanation.  It’s unclear if they’re created by the Intelligence as temporary forms for its energy, or something else.  They bear a great resemblance to The Trickster from The Sarah Jane Adventures, leading many fans to believe that’s who was coming back.

BACKGROUND BITS AND BOBS – Trivia and production details

I CAN NEVER GET IT IN THE RIGHT ORDER – Once again we’re seeing River Song out of sync with past appearances.  She’s calling herself Professor again, which means we’re seeing her from near the events of Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead.  Indeed, since she has knowledge of her own death, she pretty much needs to be coming from AFTER that adventure, from when she was saved in CAL, the database in The Library.  The whole point of the episode is about how you can’t cross your own timeline – she wasn’t aware The Library was where she was going to die when she got there, so somehow she was able to join them in their sleep-meeting from within CAL.

Which is why I can’t grasp why people seem to think this will be the last time we’ll not be seeing her again.  What we saw was The Doctor coming to grips with the fact that River has at some point died.  The image that faded was the mental link image Clara was connected to – River simply closed the link.  We know for a fact that there are two adventures that have not yet occurred for The Doctor – he has not yet told her his name, and he has not giver her that adapted sonic screwdriver she had in that first/last story.  She will be back, and that’s that.  What we ARE seeing is their timelines starting to fill in.  In the two hundred or so years The Doctor was away before The Impossible Astronaut (remember, he goes from nine to eleven hundred years old) a lot of the stories in their diaries match up (Jim the Fish!), but not ALL. Plenty more to come.

“On the fields of Trenzalore, at the fall of the eleventh” – Dorium first names the place and the prediction at the end of The Wedding of River Song. “Silence will fall when The Question is asked”, and indeed that’s what happened – When Simeon asked for The Doctor’s name, it gave him the opportunity to undo all of his deeds, including keeping Davros from destroying the universe. So indeed, it’s possible The Silence was fighting the wrong enemy, and they should have been trying to stop The Great Intelligence and The Whispermen.

“I was born to save The Doctor” – It’s funny that one of the rumors about the upcoming 50th anniversary story was they’d be inserting Matt Smith into past Doctor footage – it turns out it was done here.  In addition to using Hartnell footage to present the first moment of The Doctor’s adventures, we see her appear in footage from The Invasion of Time, Arc of Infinity, and Dragonfire. Most impressively is we see her standing behind Ten and Donna as they survey The Library in River Song’s first adventure.  We see Troughton and Pertwee from footage in The Five Doctors, and stand-in versions of the remaining Doctors.

“But not in the name of The Doctor” – As with the first episode of the semi-series, the title did not mean what it seemed it would.  This new Doctor appears to have done things that the rest of his incarnations, the rest of himself, can’t bear to deal with.  It’s fair to guess this includes causing the end of the Time War, but that’s not yet guaranteed.

BIG BAD REPORT / CLEVER THEORY DEPARTMENT – Pretty much we’re just looking backwards now.  We can see what the common threads were during Clara’s appearances, and for the second half of the season.

“I don’t know where I am” Oswin says it in Asylum of the Daleks, Clara says it in Bells of St. John, and says it again here.

“They’re my echoes” – We heard references to ghosts and echoes throughout the series as well.  The mysterious creatures in Hide (not to mention Clara’s statement that “we must all be ghosts to you”), the memories and experiences in Rings of Akhaten, the Ice Warrior out of time in Cold War, all creatures out of their proper place in time.

NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO – Well, we know a little bit.  After that setup, there’s going to be a GREAT deal of rumormongering and Clever Theorizing over the next half year.  But even what we know is pretty damn cool.

  • David Tennant and Billie Piper are returning for the 50th anniversary episode, and so far, none of the other original Doctors are.  We don’t know from what point of Ten’s timeline we’ll bee seeing him.  Since it appears he and Rose are still traveling together, it’s likely from before Doomsday.
  • Jemma Redgrave will return as Kate Stewart, new head of UNIT.
  • The Zygons will return to the series, and appearances by Cybermen and Daleks are also rumored.

Other than that?  Who the hell knows?