Tagged: Sarah Jane Adventures

New Who Review: The Day of the Doctor

New Who Review: The Day of the Doctor

It’s not often you get to describe an event as being fifty years in the making. even less so do you get to mean it.  Three Doctors in three timelines converge to give them all a chance to change a terrible moment in their collective past.

The Day of the Doctor
by Steven Moffat
Directed by Nick Hurran

The Doctor is in the present, in his most recent incarnation, picking up Clara, when he gets picked up himself, by UNIT, to investigate a mystery at the National Museum.  Meanwhile (well, I say meanwhile…) in his previous incarnation, he’s investigating a mystery in Elizabethan Britain, an attack by the Zygons that could lead all the way to the Queen herself.  And in another part of the Universe entirely, The War Doctor is making a decision that will put the lives of countless innocents in his hands, a choice that will darken and color his life for centuries to come.

Considering that it is physically impossible to create an episode that has everyone and everything that every fan wants, this episode was as close to perfect as could be.  It embraced plotlines that were started in the Davies era, tied in moments and points in Moffat’s own time of running the show, and did a job of undoing a dark moment in The Doctor’s history worthy of Geoff Johns.  I screamed out loud three times, and it would have been four, if one fellow had been able to keep his mouth shut.

THE MONSTER FILES: The Zygons only got one appearance in the original series, the eponymous Terror of the Zygons, but it was enough to keep the popular in the alternative media for years.  Shapeshifting beings, they invade by taking over from within, taking the forms of important people.  They got an off-camera return in The Power of Three as they tried to invade during Amy and Rory’s second honeymoon.

BACKGROUND BITS AND BOBS:Trivia and production details

Oh my GOD is this gonna be a long one.  This episode is packed with self-references and tips of the hat, as well as calling back to points from many other episodes.  I’ll see if I can hit them all…

THE QUESTION ISN’T WHERE, IT’S WHEN: More precisely, from when.  Matt Smith’s Doctor is clearly experiencing this adventure in the “present,” as in after the events of the last season.  Considering Ten(nant) is traveling alone, and is having the adventure he refers to when talking to Ood Sigma in the beginning of The End of Time, he’s clearly from a period between The Waters of Mars and that episode.  We don’t know exactly how much time he spent gallivanting about between those episodes, clearly long enough for his memories of the details of this paradoxical adventure (while still remembering the bits about the Virgin Queen) that he still saw a need to re-imprison the Time Lords with the help of The Master.

Similarly, The War Doctor is experiencing this adventure at the end of this regeneration.  But while we saw his “birth” in the Paul McGann mini-episode, we don’t know exactly how long he has been around, fighting in (and against) the Time War.  He was in his seven hundreds at the end of the original series, and nine hundred at the beginning of the new, so there’s quite a lot of years to spread around between Seven, Eight, and The War Doctor.

So in brief, we’re seeing all three Doctors having this adventure very near the end of their respective regenerations.  So each of them have seen all they’re going to see through their eyes, and that’s about the best time.

CALL FOR THE DOCTOR QUICK, QUICK, QUICK: Kate Stewart, the head of UNIT, daughter of The Brig, has a custom ring for The Doctor on her phone.
Also, note that The Doctor’s number is once again 07700900461, as it was in The Stolen Earth. About 2500 people thought that might be a working number (at least for a tie-in recording or bit of marketing, anyway) when that adventure aired, and tried calling it.  no idea how many will try it this time.

“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be: Be one”: They hit the ground running with the self-references.  I.M. Foreman‘s scrap yard was where we first met the Doctor, Susan and the TARDIS, lo those fifty years ago.  Susan attended Coal Hill secondary school, where she aroused the curiosity of teachers Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton, who as we see here, now serves as headmaster.  Sarah Jane Smith did a bit of investigating, and tracked down Ian and Barbara (now Barbara Chesterton), and reported to her son Luke that they no longer appear to age.  Also, notice that as we see Clara erasing the quote from Marcus Aurelius on her whiteboard, the words “NO MORE” are in the center of the screen.

“Draft”: The Triumph Clara’s driving is the one The Doctor drove up the side of The Shard in The Bells of Saint John.  When last we saw Clara and The Doctor, she was not getting along with the TARDIS, now she’d shutting the doors with a click of her fingers.  Clearly quite some time has passed since the events of The Name of the Doctor – enough time for her to get a job as a teacher, and to make peace with the TARDIS.  And yet she and The Doctor still keep their “See you next Wednesday” relationship, as it’s clear she’s not traveling with him regularly, tho she has no problem with picking up and running when he pops by.

“Tell Malcolm we need new batteries” – Malcolm Taylor is the acting scientific advisor for UNIT, and was played by Lee Evans in Planet of the Dead, and when I heard his name, I let loose with my third-loudest shout of the evening.  If you folks think you were upset that Rose or Eccleston didn’t appear…
And those are presumably the “Ravens of Death” she claimed to have in The Power of Three.

“Nice Scarf” – Considering what we appear to learn at the end of the episode, that scarf MAY not be a replica.  It might have been a gift. From the original owner.
There’s a bit of debate going on as to exactly who Osgood is. Rich Johnson at Bleeding Cool seems to believe that she’s Kate’s daughter – while her first line was her calling “Mum”, I took that to mean the honorific “Ma’am”, and not “Mom”.  But we both noticed there was a UNIT tech named Tom Osgood in The Daemons, and a few of the prose stories, so that seems a more possible guess on her father, anyway.

“I’d be brilliant at having a job”: Well, he really does work for UNIT, when he’s around, and he did pretty well in the two jobs he took when he was helping Craig Owen in The Lodger and Closing Time.

“The High Council is in emergency session, they have plans of their own”: Those would be the plans set into action in The End of Time. We first heard of The Moment in that episode, as it too took place (partly, in flashback) during the end of the Time War.

“The Doctor has The Moment”: In a delightful bit of ingenious design, the initial gear-like design for of The Moment somewhat resembles the Antikythera mechanism, an Out Of Place Artifact found in Greece that (theoretically) could plot the positions of the stars to astounding accuracy.

“The interface is hot”: For those who are grousing that Billie Piper is not playing Rose, not my comment above.  If we were watching an adventure where The Doctor was traveling with Rose, we’d be watching a Doctor who had not yet met Martha, Donna Noble, the crew of Bowie Base One, a Doctor who had, in short, barely begun to live.  This was a way to have Billie a part of the show, while still giving us the best Doctor to experience the story. Also note that it’s a lovely parallel to Ten meeting Rose at the end of The End of Time, before they’ve met in that first adventure, Rose. The War Doctor meets her (or at least sees her visage) before he regenerates and meets (and saves) her in that department store.  So once again, The Bad Wolf was guiding them all to fulfill the almost predestined moment so far in the future.

“Elizabeth the First…you knew her, then?”: Based on what we see here, and what Ten implies later, we shall have to leave tactfully alone the question of what definition of “knew” is being used here… This is England 1562, 37 years before The Shakespeare Code, where we “First” meet the queen, and The Doctor is totally unaware of why she’d be so angry at him.  I expect that happens a lot.

It’s a machine that goes “ding”: It’s presumably similar to The Machine That Goes “Ding” When There’s Stuff, as seen in Blink. While that one was more tuned to temporal anomalies, this one is attuned to physical ones, like the energy expended by a shapeshifting alien.

“Is it important?” “In 1,200 years, I haven’t stepped in anything that wasn’t”” Another callback, this time to A Christmas Carol, when he said it about people.

“I need you to send me one of my father’s incident files”: She is almost certainly asking for the files on the incident we know as The Three Doctors, the tenth anniversary adventure.  As they had to do in the past, they had to come up with a way around using one Doctor, but not for the same reason. William Hartnell was not well at the time, an advancement of the illness that cause him to leave the show in the first place.  So he was not able to take an active part in the story, instead relegated to appearing via the scanner screen.  Ten years later, Tom Baker wasn’t able to appear in The Five Doctors, so they used footage from Shada in his stead.  Hartnell had already passed, so Richard Hurndall took on the role of the First Doctor.
For all the grousing many fans are making that they “left out Eccleston” from this adventure, it’s been verified via the man himself and he chose not to participate in the episode.  His departure from the series was not entirely cordial; no firm details have come to light because he’s a professional, but it’s generally understood there was no small amount of bad blood.
The reference to “Seventies or eighties, depending” is a sly nod to the fact that the Pertwee years of the show were filmed in the seventies, but were supposed to be taking place an unspecified number of years in the future, to try and explain the higher tech items that were sprinkled around.

“Reverse the polarity”: “Reverse the polarity of the Neutron Flow” was one of Jon Pertwee’s legendary catch phrases, but like “Beam me up Scotty”, usually misremembered.  That exact phrase was only used once in the series, and as a hat tip in The Five Doctors”, it was the shorter quote used here that got used in numerous episodes.

“Why are you pointing your screwdrivers like that?”: The War Doctor gives voice to many of the complaints old-guard fans have had about the new series – all the kissing, the Sonic Screwdriver acting more like a weapon (and a magic wand), and much more.  Not to mock the fans, but more to point out the fact that the creators know full well how much the show has changed. And indeed, it’s the constant change of the show that has kept it alive.

“We’ll need access to the Black Archive”: Of all the stuff in that warehouse, I spotted River Song’s Manolos, a Cyberman head, a Sontaran blaster and the chair they had Ten trussed up in in The End of Time, which at this point in time…hasn’t happened yet.  The Black Archive first got mentioned on Sarah Jane Adventures, in the episode Enemy of the Bane, guest-starring Nicholas Courtney in his last appearances as The Brigadier.

“You have a top-level security rating from your last visit”: The question is, is that just a continuance of the fact that everyone has their memories wiped as they leave, one of the many times that Clara has appeared in The Doctor’s past, or a precursor to an upcoming story?  Also on that board with the more recent Companions are Tegan Jovanka, Nyssa of Traken, Kamelion, Five’s short-lived android companion, even Ian and Barbara.  Also, photographed with Captain Erisa Magambo is Rose Tyler…but there’s a problem there.  The only time they met were in the alternate timeline of Turn Left.  So…where did that photo come from?

“We don’t have the activation code”: The numbers The Doctor scratches into the wall of their cell is 1716231163.  Or more clearly, 17:16 23/11/63, the exact date and time that episode one of An Unearthly Child was originally broadcast.

“Same software…different face”: We’re not talking about the screwdriver any more, are we, blondie?  Because later on in the episode, we find out that in a very similar way, The Doctor has been mulling a problem over for the same 400 years, one that he gets to solve himself, not by someone just opening the right door at the last minute.
Moffat is so so good at playing with time as a plot point.  Sending the activation code into the future by writing it on the wall, and the idea of the scan taking the long way round and finishing up just as it’s needed.

“Oh, you’ve redecorated…I don’t like it”: A twice-joked joke, back for a third time.  Patrick Troughton said it about Jon Pertwee’s TARDIS in The Three Doctors, and Eleven said it about Craig’s home in Closing Time.

“At worst, we failed at doing the right thing, as opposed to succeeding in doing the wrong”: What this episode does is essentially undoes an act that The Doctor has regretted for centuries.  But as is always true of situations like this, it has to be undone in a way so nobody KNOWS it was undone, otherwise any events springing from it will not happen as they did, and you get paradoxes springing up like dandelions. So that, more than any other, is why all the Doctors from the time The Moment was supposedly used had to believe they DID use it.  Only until after the present Doctor lives through his portion of the history can he be allowed to remember.  It’s a temporal version of eating your cake and having it too.

“Wearing a bit thin”: Which is exactly how Hartnell described himself shortly before the first regeneration in The Tenth Planet, ushering in the miracle that would keep the show going for five decades.

“I don’t want to go”: Technically, this is the first time he says that – he’ll say it again in The End of Time.  They even worked it into the script of An Adventure in Space and Time.

“I could be a curator”: He is the Curator.  The letter from Elizabeth I appoints The Doctor as official Curator of the Undergallery, “to be summoned in the event of any crises concerning it.”  Now, how he gets all the way back around to the time, place and form we see here, well, that’s all the fun is finding out, isn’t it?

BIG BAD REPORT / CLEVER THEORY DEPARTMENT: For once, the arc of the upcoming season might be a positive.  Gallifrey Falls No More, and clearly The Doctor wants to find it.  But there’s a problem.  They may not have been destroyed, but this is clearly still the Time Lords who saw no problem with breaking out of their temporal prison by destroying the Earth, with the goal of controlling all of time and space.  Now one could argue that it was more the mad plans of the Lord President (played by Timothy Dalton in The End of Time) nd the rest of the Time Lords (save two) fell into line.  But that’s an argument we heard around the middle of last century, and it didn’t fly too well or too often.  If I have the timeline right, The Time Lords will be banished back into the Time Lock after EoT, and find almost immediately that their plan was unneeded, as The Doctor saves the planet and shunts it off somewhere.  So in the time that has passed, have they come to their senses and spent their time rebuilding, or have the grown even more enraged as they pounded at the walls of their temporal prison?  It’s the same question Wilf asked in EoT – will the Time Lords’ return be a good thing?  A lot of possibilities.

“No , sir…all thirteen”: In two seconds, Peter Capaldi premiered as The Doctor, and his eyebrows have already garnered their own fandom.  It also verifies what has been assumed to be true since new news of the New Doctor came out: The next Doctor is the last of his current cycle of regenerations.  Moffat has stated clearly that the 12-regeneration limit is still in place, whimsical comment in Sarah Jane Adventures notwithstanding. So in addition to the search for Gallifrey, we’ll certainly hear more than a bit about him reaching the seeming end of his lives.  One has to wonder if the resolution of one plotline will resolve the other.

NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO

In the more short-term, Silence Will Fall.

See you back here at Christmas.

SyFy Broadcasts “K-9” marathon on Christmas Day

SyFy (formerly known as the SciFi Channel) has acquired the US broadcast rights to the K-9 solo series, produced in Australia in 2010.  They will run the entire 26-episode series in a 13-hour marathon on Christmas Day.

Featuring an updated K-9 design and a new group of characters, the series has been shown in many countries since its initial premiere.  The US is one of the last regions to see the series on TV.  The series is live-action, featuring a streamlined CGI K-9, voiced by John Leeson, the original voice of the “tin dog”.

K-9 is one of the most popular companions from the classic series of Doctor Who, with two different “models” traveling with The Doctor from 1977 – 1980, and making quite a few appearances afterwards..  Making his first appearance in the Bob Baker / Dave Martin adventure The Invisible Enemy, K-9 was the creation of Professor Marius, who built him as a replacement for his own dog back on Earth.  After the adventure, Marius asked The Doctor to care for K-9, as he was returning to Earth and would not be able to take him on the ship.  The original K-9 traveled with The Doctor and Leela for some time, and chose to remain with her on Gallifrey after the events of The Invasion of Time.  The Doctor built a new model almost immediately, and he was a companion of The Doctor and fellow Time Lady Romana for another three years, until they chose to remain in E-Space with Romana at the end of Warrior’s Gate.

A third K-9 unit was sent to Sarah Jane Smith as a gift from The Doctor, and became her adventuring confidant for many years, up until she met The Doctor again in School Reunion.  K-9 Mark III sacrificed himself in that adventure, but The Doctor was able to salvage enough to build a mark IV, which he left behind for Sarah Jane.  The spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures was green-lit almost immediately after this adventure, but Bob Baker had already made the deal for this new series, which is why K-9 appeared only in limited cameos for the first two series of SJA.

K-9 has had quite a few appearances in the prose and Big Finish audio adventures as well.  In the Gallifrey series of adventures, Romana returned to her home planet with her canine companion, and came to meet Leela, and HER canine Companion.  K-9s Mark I and II, humorously, did not get along, and often argued with each other.

While Doctor Who cannot be explicitly be named, the K-9 of the new series is clearly the same K-9 from the original. Specifically he’s K-9 Mark I, who survives and escapes the Time War, and winds up on late 21st century Earth.  After a brief fight where he is seemingly destroyed, he “regenerates” (a new system apparently installed for him by the Time Lords” into a new streamlined design.  There’s a second series of the show in the planning stages, in which the producers have promised another redesign, responding to feedback from the fans.

Creators Bob Baker and Dave Martin collaborated on all the Doctor Who TV scripts, as well as numerous other projects in British television.  Dave wrote four K-9 solo adventure novels in the early 80’s, and passed away in 2007. Bob Baker has had some small success away from Doctor Who as well – he co-wrote three of the Wallace and Gromit shorts, as well as the feature film The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

With K-9’s appearance, we’ve seen every Doctor Who-related series in the US, save for the aforementioned Sarah Jane Adventures, starring the glorious Elisabeth Sladen.  While there’s no news of that show being picked up, needless to say it’d find a welcome audience.

The K-9 marathon runs Christmas Day from 10 AM – 11PM. The show is not yet scheduled for a regular time slot after the marathon. More info about the series can be found on its website, k9official.com.

A Doctor A Day – “School Reunion”

Using the new Doctor Who Limited Edition Gift Set, your noble author will make his way through as much of the modern series as he can before the Christmas episode,The Snowmen.

Dear Sweet Sarah Jane.  She was the queen of the companions, and when she showed up on screen again, decades vanished.  The Doctor and Sarah are up for a…

SCHOOL REUNION
by Toby Whithouse
Directed by James Hawes

“Oh my God…I’m the tin dog.”

Mickey has called The Doctor and Rose back to earth after learning about strange goings on at Deffry Vale High School. The Doctor is posing as a teacher, and Rose is posing as a lunch lady.  The Doctor has met students who possess knowledge that outstrips Earth Technology, let alone an eighth grade textbook, and Rose watches a fellow lunch lady taken into a back room after getting what looks like toxic waste poured on her.  So there certainly seems to be something going on.  But things take a nostalgic twist when journalist Sarah Jane Smith comes to the school to investigate the school as well. The Doctor doesn’t tell her who he is right away, but when she finds the TARDIS while snooping around the school at night, it’s not hard for her to connect the dots.  After a very emotional meeting, and a scream, they’re off and running.  Rose and Sarah start off quite catty, each making fun of the other’s age, what Mickey calls “Every man’s worst nightmare — The Missus and the Ex”.

The school has been taken over by batlike aliens called the Krillitanes.  The team makes their way out of the school, but The Doctor think he needs to head back in to analyze the mysterious oil the aliens have been sneaking into the food.  Sarah Jane has another alternative – in her car is K-9, albeit in need of repair.  While The Doctor repairs K-9, he and Sarah Jane have a heart to heart talk about what it’s like to travel the universe one day, and be back on Earth the next.  The Doctor looks guilty, but says nothing.

The Krillitanes’ plan is to use the mentally advanced schoolchildren like a massive shared-processing biocomputer, all of them running code on their PCs, attempting to crack the Skaksas Paradigm, AKA the unified field theory.  If they can do so, they will have the cheat codes to the universe.  And their leader comes to The Doctor, and offers him a chance to join them, letting his wisdom guide their new power.  He refuses of course, which starts the running up again  Chased to the kitchens, The Doctor realizes the oil they’ve been using on the kids is a perfect weapon against the aliens – their form has changed so many time, the product of their own planet is now poisonous to them.  K-9 volunteers to remain behind and set off the vats, an act that will likely result in his destruction.

There’s a lot of emotion in this episode. When Rose and Sarah Jane are introduced, the emotions are priceless.  They start off snipping at each other, and as soon as they get a chance to bond, they turn their commentary about The Doctor.  They’re perfectly written as if they’re the new and old girlfriend, each jealous of the other.  The explosive laughter when The Doctor bursts into the room after they start dishing was legitimate – David Tennant had a moustache painted on, which was hidden since his back was to the camera.

Mickey also goes through some changes as well — as he says himself, he’s not the tin dog, and he does do a good job of helping out.  But look at the look on Rose as Mickey asks to come along.  She’s not happy about it.  She’s just gotten used to the idea that she wasn’t the only person The Doctor traveled with, and she doesn’t care for the idea of Mickey sharing it with her.  It’s another sign of the rather new and unique vibe that she and The Doctor have.  But the part to realize is that no matter what he says about how he’d never leave her and all that, he does, and he’ll do it again, and come Christmas, we’ll see him find a new friend, and it’ll be off for another ride.

Elisabeth Sladen was glorious.  Coming back to Doctor Who connected the new series to the old better than any villain or baddie or witty reference ever could  Her spinoff series, The Sarah Jane Adventures, was glorious.  It’s amazing to realize that for a couple years there, we were no more than a couple months between new Doctor Who material.  she was taken from us too, too early.  But we had her for a time, and then a second time, and that’s more than we can say about a lot of people we like.

New Who Review – “The Power of Three”

The Doctor is very good at saving the world, but very poor at sitting still.  So when he’s stuck waiting a full year for an invasion to start, it gives a new meaning to cabin fever.  The Year of the Slow Invasion, the year The Doctor got involved in Amy and Rory’s life and not the other way around.  A very personal episode (featuring the entire world), rife with spoilers, so sit back, and keep your eye on the box.

(more…)

New Who Review: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

The Doctor attempts to help the Indian Space Agency about a runaway spaceship of Canadian size headed for Earth.  Promising to stop it before it needs to be blown up, he picks up a few friends – Rory and Amy (and Rory’s dad, accidentally) big game hunter John Riddell, and already in his company, Queen Nefertiti of Egypt.  They find the ship is a derelict space ark, originally from Earth, created by the Silurians.  But where are they, and how did a mysterious and heartless trader named Solomon get control of the ship?

Arthur Darvill had it exactly right when he discusses the latest episode of Doctor Who in a promotional video – “It does what it says on the tin”.  The Doctor’s got a gang, Amy has her own companions, Rory’s got his dad, Rory’s dad’s got balls in his pants, the ship’s got a surprising builder, you’ve got your spoiler warnings, and did I mention there are…

DINOSAURS ON A SPACESHIP
by Chris Chibnall
directed by Saul Metzstein

Doctor Who is no stranger to funny episodes, but in the new series, they usually occupy a different spot in the series.  They’ve most often come near the end of the series, almost as a buffer to the rollicking action and drama of the series’ finale.  But this one is the second of the series, and is certainly one of the more barking mad ones to come along.  It may be a perfect episode for that friend you’ve been trying to get into the series – lost of humor, great adventure, and a good look at what can happen in a DW story; namely, anything.

GUEST STAR REPORT

Rupert Graves (John Riddell) Has been on British screens for over thirty years, but he’s best known to Who-fen as Inspector Lestrade on Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’ adaptation of Sherlock. He appeared in V for Vendetta and a wide array of TV series, from modern to historic.

Mark Williams (Brian Williams) has a lot of quality work in both comedy and genre work under his belt.  He played the patriarch of the Weasley clan in the Harry Potter films, appeared in the recent Gormenghast, and played Cadet Flynn in Rob Grant’s Red Dwarf followup, the why-haven’t-you-seen-it-yet series The Strangerers. In Britain, he’s certainly best known for being a castmember of long-running sketch program The Fast Show.  Up next, he’ll be portraying G. K. Chesterton’s detective Father Brown in a new adaptation for British TV.

David Bradley (Solomon) is another alumnus of the Harry Potter films, in the role of Mr. Filch he’s enjoyed over forty years of acting, mostly on British television, in series of all shape and size.  He voiced one of the Shansheeth in the Sarah Jane Adventures episode The Death of the Doctor. He’s next appearing in a TV adaptation of the Ken Follett novel World Without End.

David Mitchell and Robert Webb (robot voices) Can best be described as being World Famous In Britain.  Stars of the sketch comedy series That Mitchell and Webb Look, they’re also popular on the chat and game show circuit, always able to come up with wit on the fly. As an example of their brand of humor, here’s a classic about a pair of introspective Nazis.
The team are the latest in the trend of big stars making voiceover cameos on Doctor Who.  Last year Michael Sheen voiced House in The Doctor’s Wife, and Imelda Staunton was the voice of the Apulapuchian Kindness Facility in The Girl Who Waited.

Richard Hope (Bleytal) is now one of a growing group of “go-to” actors who have played multiple members of the same alien race for the series.  He’s played two alternate-timeline versions of the Silurian doctor Malokeh (in The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood, and The Wedding of River Song), and now plays the scientist of the same race, keeping track of their ark.  He joins Neve McIntosh, who played two Silurians in the aforementioned two-parter, as well as the Victorian adventurer Madam Vastra (who is rumored to be returning Quite Soon Now) and Dan Starkey, who’s played several Sontarans on DW, as well as voiced them in a few audio adventures and the videogame The Gunpowder Plot.

Riann Steele (Nefertiti) got her first screen credit in David Tennant’s version of Hamlet, and has been making appearances in TV shows and films ever since.

Chris Chibnall (writer) made his first appearance connected to Doctor Who back in the original series.  He appeared with a number of other fans on a BBC talk show reviewing the 1986 series (Trial of a Time Lord) and was…not entirely satisfied with it. In the years between, like so many of the current writers, he became a screenwriter, and was brought on board by Russell T. Davies, not at first for Who, but its anagrammatic spinoff, Torchwood.  He was listed as co-producer, but was effectively the head writer of the series.  After a year or two writing for Law and Order U.K. (starring Freema Agyeman) he was brought back on Who, where he wrote 42 and the Silurian two-parter from last series. In addition to this episode, he also scripted the prequel series Pond Life, furthering the backstory of the Ponds’ life when The Doctor isn’t around.

Saul Metzstein (Director) is new to the series, but is coming on with a bang – he’s also doing the next episode, two on the back end of the season, and also directed Pond Life. He’s done a number of documentaries, including The Name of This Film is Dogme95, about the popular “back to basics” style of filmmaking spearheaded by Lars Von Trier and his contemporaries.  In accordance with the rules of the movement, he was not credited for his work on the film.

There were some dinosaurs down in the Silurians‘ cave in their first appearance Doctor Who and the Silurians. The race of Homo Reptilia ruled the earth millions of years ago, but a massive asteroid heading for Earth convinced them they needed to hide underground in hibernation (and, as we now know, built at least one ark) to avoid what would certainly be a world-killing event.  Their numbers were off by just a hair – the asteroid missed, was grabbed by Earth’s gravitational field, and became our moon.  They’ve slept beneath the Earth for millennia, only awaking when accidentally disturbed by humans, who evolved to the dominant lifeform of the planet in their stead.  Along with their close relations the Sea Devils, they’ve fought The Doctor on several occasions on screen, and quite a few more times in the other media.THE MONSTER FILES – For a show about time travel, you’d think The Doctor would have come across dinosaurs every other week, but in fact they’ve barely bee seen at all.  Jon Pertwee fought The Dinosaur Invasion when Operation Golden Age sent time all funky and brought dinosaurs to modern London. The Rani tried twice to use dinosaurs in her plots, in Time and the Rani and The Mark of the Rani.  And there were pterodactyls (that should not be fed) in the parks of London in The Wedding of River Song.

BACKGROUND BITS AND BOBS – Trivia and production details

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION – Everyone’s heart leapt when there were rumors that Doctor Who was returning to film at Southerndown Beach, which was used as Bad Wolf Bay for Rose’s departure.  But it stood in for the engine room in this episode.  It was also the surface of Alfava Metraxis in Time of the Angels / Flesh and Stone.

WHEN WE LAST LEFT OUR FRIENDS… – In an earlier draft of his Doctor Who episode, Neil Gaiman had a sequence that would show the middle  of a previous adventure, effectively interrupted to lead in to the new one, almost interrupting it.  He discusses the scene here. It’s effectively the structure used here with Nefertiti, tho this seems to be much more the end of the other adventure.  But both get across the point that The Doctor has many adventures, large and small, that we don’t get to see. As was touched on in last season’s A Good Man Goes To War, The Doctor has met many people, some who owe him a debt, and some (Winston Churchill, for example) who just call him friend. Both Nefertiti and John Riddell are examples of the latter.

Nefertiti is not the first member of Egyptian royalty to travel in the TARDIS.  Princess Erimemushinteperem (Erimem for short) traveled with the Fifth Doctor in several audio adventures from Big Finish Productions.  After meeting one of the Osirans (seen on screen in The Pyramids of Mars), she accepted the proposal of the newly-crowned king of Peladon and left The Doctor’s company.

SO THAT’S HOW JEFF BROKE HIS LEG – Slow down the playback as the dinosaurs as they tromp towards the screen just before the credits – a crack appears at the last instant, presumably as the glass of the “camera” shatters under the foot of a rampaging ankyosaur.

THE PUNCHLINE IS, “AND THEY WORK FOR SCALE” – As mentioned last week, the Doctor Who logo will be changing each week, covered with  a new “skin” connected to the episode.  This week it’s covered in dinosaur hide.  It’s a cute idea, trying to give the opening a little Simpsons-esque little update each week, but I’m not sure the

show logo is the thing to be changing.  Also, I think it’s a bit too small on the screen – perhaps making it a bit larger might help.

WELCOME…TO JURA—SORRY? – The dinosaur effects in this episode are a seamless mix of physical effects and CGI.  In the case of the triceratops The Doctor and the Williams Boys ride, it’s a mix on the one moveable beast.  The head and torso are a physical prop, moved along by stagehands, while the back feet and tail are CGI.  Solomon’s robots are funny physical effects as well – those nearly ten foot tall suits were worn by members of the show’s team of monster players.

HI HO TRICEY! – There’s been a bit of discussion in the archeological community over whether or not the triceratops actually exists.  There’s a very similar breed, the torosaurus, and there’s a theory that indeed they are the same species; what we know as the triceratops is a young torosaurus, which underwent a bit or a metamorphosis as it grew.  The theory was tabled a couple years ago, but recent studies have come to the agreement that it’s in error. Just as well – I still haven’t gotten over Pluto and the Brontosaurus – I don’t think I could take losing the Triceratops.

“I’ve got it set to temporal news view” Apparently The Doctor’s psychic paper has another function.  It was introduced in the new series as a device able to appear as any form of documentation he needs to get out of any situation, from a ticket to view the end of the Planet Earth, to ID backing up his claim that he represents Q

ueen and Country.  Some people are able to contact him via the paper, wither by being a close friend (AKA River Song) or by having emotions so strong and powerful the reach across space and time (Young George in Night Terrors). Apparently it also has the ability to pick up news of events he may be able to help with, like a four-dimensional police scanner.

“You don’t normally get spiders in space” – Oh, I don’t know about that.  Aside from the dominant life of Metebelis III, AKA Planet of the Spiders, there’s the Racnoss from The Runaway Bride, the Alzarian Spiders from Full Circle, and lots of other examples from the other media.

“Hydro-generators!” We’ve seen a number of “hybrid” power systems in the new series, like the treeborgs on the Byzantium in Flesh and Stone, which converted photosynthesis to electricity, and provided oxygen to boot.

“I will not have flirting companions” Effectively, Amy has take the role of being in charge here, and is the one figuring things out. Rory is helping his father cope with what he’s seeing, and later, fixing him up when he’s hurt.  He also lies. It’s another sign of how far the Ponds have come in their time with The Doctor, and possibly, why they need to move on.

“I don’t respond well to violence” Of all the events of the episode, it’s The Doctor’s decision of what to do with Solomon that has sparked the most debate.  It’s far from the first time he’s killed – he’s ever talked about the blood on my hands.  Indeed, one could argue that he’s killed more by his inaction.  He chose not to destroy the Daleks at their start in Genesis of the Daleks, as he realized that in some cases, races who were at war would unite to fight them, ending wars that could cause more deaths.  But by doing so, he effectively sentenced all who would die at the Daleks to those deaths.  In The Vampires of Venice, he doomed an entire race to extinction, the amphibious Saturnyne, all because their queen didn’t know the name of one of the girls they killed.  His choices seem based mainly on how cruel the being are acting towards others, and how much potential the have of being rehabilitated.  He chose to help Kazran Sardick and not just push him out of the way (with authority) all because he chose not to strike a child.  But even then, he gives Solomon a chance – he warns him that the ship is under attack, and tells him to leave.  Solomon’s fate is based entirely on his own choices.  He is clearly and irretrievably evil, and none of The Doctor’s companions seem distraught with the choice.

“A monkey could do it…oh look, they’re going to” The Silurians referred to the humans as “apes”, as when they were on the surface, that’s all humans were.

“Try not to bump into the Moon, otherwise the races that live there will be livid” at the time of this episode (2367 AD) there are human colonies on the moon, and presuming the Selenites are not part of the show’s continuity (Considering Mark Gatiss recently produced and starred in a remake of First Men In The Moon, I’d make no such assumptions) there have been no indigenous races reported on the moon.  So he may just have been being funny, but surely the humans on the moon would be annoyed by a fender-bender.

“Daisy, Daisy…” rather an obvious one here – Hal 9000’s last words, a repeat of his first, at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Also makes the earlier reference to Arthur C. Clarke by Brian a nice callback. But not everybody knows the etymology of that choice of song.  A programming team taught an IBM 7094 to sing back in 1961, and this was the song it sang.

“Can I ask a favor? There’s something I want to see” As The Doctor has said many times, traveling with him changes people; usually for the better, if they survive.  In The Sarah Jane Adventures, she explains that she did a bit of research and found a bunch of people who traveled with The Doctor, all of whom have dedicated their lives to helping others in big ways and small, including, of course, herself.  Brian’s transformation from someone who “hates to travel” is a more personal type of transformation, but one no less dramatic.  Considering all the places he’s been in those postcards, it’s assumed that once again, quite some time will have passed until the next time The Doctor visits the Ponds.

“Siluria!” According to the events of The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood, in 1,000 years’ time, the Silurians will emerge from their cryo-chambers and negotiate a peace with the humans of earth. That’s still several centuries away from the events of this adventure.  One wonders how much the flora and fauna of the Silurian Ark will be able to thrive in that time, and whether or not it will make a good world for homo reptilia upon their return?

BIG BAD WOLF REPORT

“Are they the new us?” In School Reunion Rose faced the idea that The Doctor’s Companions come and go, that he has had friends before she came along, and will have some when she leaves.  Amy has known The Doctor literally as long as he’s been in this incarnation, and with Rory, have been traveling with him for most of that time.  The idea that he might stop seeing them and start traveling with other people is clearly something that has crossed their minds.  This carries throughout the episode, and is a theme through much of this semi-season.  His relationship with the Ponds is quite different than other companions – he’s keeping in touch, and even though he’s set them home safe more than once, he’s drawn back to them.  One reason for that is he’s family. He’s married (or will be, or will someday more officially be) to their daughter River Song, and that really needs much more explanation, but wait a couple weeks and I’ll be able to get into get in detail.

“How’s the Job?” It’s a bit of a throwaway line, but Amy has been unable to keep a job, for fear of missing The Doctor.  This whole scene is choked with portent, and is very revealing of the very unique these three have.  It’s been said that Amy and Rory have almost adopted The Doctor;Amy is speaking like a mother who’s afraid to have a life, lest her child need her. She ever expecting a call, asking that she pick him up.

Since we already know that the Ponds will be leaving The Doctor’s company at the end of episode five (tho we of course know in what way, or position), it’s tempting and worrying to hear anything being said about them parting.

“That’s me…worthless” Once again, parts of the universe has forgotten about The Doctor, which was, of course, his plan.  Some are suggesting the capable hands of Oswin Oswald are at it again, but let’s not forget that in the first episode of the new series, The Doctor produced a program that would erase all records of him off the Internet.  No mean feat, to say the least.  He could have easily done the same for this value indexing system…or could do so retroactively at his next opportunity.

NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO – A western, filmed in Spain, with an alien.  THAT’S multiculturalism. A Town Called Mercy, just a week away

Doctor Who’s Russell T Davies Quits Hollywood

Russell T. Davies, the man responsible for the highly successful resurrection of Doctor Who and its spin-offs Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, last left his Hollywood career to return to Manchester, England to take care of his ailing partner.

This summer, Andrew Smith was diagnosed with brain cancer. As matters progressed, Smith and Davies decided they wanted to be closer to their friends and family. As of this writing, Smith’s prognosis has remained private.

Davies, whose many credits also include creating and writing Queer As Folk, Casanova (starring David Tenant) and The Second Coming (starring Chris Eccleston), is expected to resume his entertainment industry career at some point in the future.

Elisabeth Sladen, 1948-2011

Elizabeth SladenThe BBC reports that Doctor Who actress Elisabeth Sladen, who joined the television series in 1973 as Doctor Who’s assistant Sarah Jane Smith and starred in the spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures, has died from cancer at the age of 63.

Elisabeth Sladen was born on February 1, 1948 in Liverpool, England. She attended drama school for two years before joining the local repertory theatre in Liverpool. She met actor Brian Miller during her first production there, they married in 1968. Early television work included appearances on “Coronation Street”, “Doomwatch”, “Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em”, “Public Eye”, and “Z Cars”. Between 1974 and 1976, she had a regular role on Doctor Who as Sarah Jane Smith opposite Jon Pertwee and later Tom Baker, a part she reprised in K-9 and Company: A Girl’s Best Friend in 1981, “Doctor Who: The Five Doctors” in 1983, the radio serials The Paradise of Death & Doctor Who and the Ghosts of N-Space; the Children In Need skit Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time in 1993; the spin-off video drama Downtime in 1995, the new “Doctor Who” series, and most recently The Sarah Jane Adventures in 2007, which lasted for four series.

She is survived by her husband Brian and her daughter Sadie. Our deepest condolences to them.

Doctor Who’s Nicholas Courtney: 1929-2011

Nicholas CourtneyYou may have heard that actor and author Nicholas Courtney died this past Monday. I’d like to add a personal note.

First, some background. Nicholas Courtney was best known for playing the part of Brigadier General Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart on the Doctor Who teevee series, as well as many of the original full-cast audio adventures and, in 2008, on the spin-off show Sarah Jane Adventures. He performed with at least eight of the eleven doctors, and had worked on stage and on such famous British shows as The Saint, The Avengers, Yes Prime Minister and The Champions.

I first met Nick at a Doctor Who convention in Chicago nearly 30 years ago. I was one of the organizers, and while we were waiting for our panel on the first day I asked him if he had ever done any radio drama. Given his rich, authoritative voice, I thought he was a natural and I knew radio drama was still alive and well in Great Britain. Nick lit up like a Christmas tree and said he did it, and does it, as often as he could. He absolutely loved the medium.

We became friends and stayed in touch for about fifteen years. When he returned to the role of the Brigadier in the original audio shows, he was very excited and very happy to share. Nick said I was one of the few who would understand his enthusiasm, and that really meant a lot to me.

Overall, Nicholas Courtney played the role for 40 years with only a comparatively brief time off in the middle. That’s really something. During his tenure, ten different actors played the lead along with countless companions and villains, and he outlasted them all. That’s what makes a legend.

I’m really going to miss the unflappable Brigadier General Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart, and I’m going to miss the sweet, affable storyteller named Nicholas Courtney even more.

Doctor Who’s Triple Crossover

Doctor Who’s Triple Crossover

It’s old-timers week on the next season of The Sarah Jane Adventures, due to begin airing this fall. The intrepid former companion will be reunited with the Doctor – for the first time. And her predecessor will be around to join in the action.

Matt Smith will be crossing over into Sarah Jane, marking his first time he’s taking the character to a different venue. Of course, the Doctor’s appeared with Sarah Jane Smith a great many times in a great many incarnations; in fact, she’s met and worked with most of the Doctors to date.

What’s surprising is that her immediate predecessor, Jo Grant, will also be involved in this two-parter. She left the side of the third Doctor to accompany her beau on a trip to the Amazon and was replaced in the Tardis by Sarah Jane. Katy Manning will be reprising the role.

Moreover, former Doctor Who producer Russell T. Davies, who remains producer of The Sarah Jane Adventures, has written this episode.

No word on the status of K-9 in this episode, although the little bugger will be appearing during the season. The Daleks will not be appearing, and it is therefore expected Katy will be keeping her clothes on.

The Point Radio: It Ain’t Easy Being Green Arrow

The Point Radio: It Ain’t Easy Being Green Arrow

Imagine being asked to portray a character who has been a comics legend for twice as many years as you’ve been around. A pretty big challenge was handed to Justin Hartley who took up the quiver as Green Arrow on SMALLVILLE a few seasons back. Now with a few years in green, Justin shares his feelings on being Oliver Queen and where he is headed in the series. Plus Sarah Jane gets two more seasons while COMMUNITY, 30 ROCK and THE OFFICE all get one more. 


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