Tagged: Steven Moffat

Mindy Newell: A Madman With A Box

I was going to get political again this week, but it’s too goddamn depressing. Here are some headlines just from yesterday, courtesy of that #FakeNews Enemy of the People publication, that “old Grey Lady,” the New York Times:

  • E.P.A. Chief Voids Obama-Era Rules In Blazing Start
  • Medicaid Plan Risks Changing Life For Millions
  • ‘I’m President And They’re Not’: Trump Attack Brings Crowd To Its Feet
  • Trump Administration Targets Parents In New Immigration Crackdown

And then there are the tweets. After Il Tweetci the Mad – formerly known as “Il Trumpci the Mad” – went on a rampage against Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough this past Thursday – what the fuck is with his obsession over women and blood? How the hell did Ivanka, Marla, and Melania ever get pregnant, much less get near enough to a “man” who is so phobic over natural functions to allow it to happen? It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s one of those guys who has to obsessively shower the minute the act is over – he again went after what is apparently his favorite news media target yesterday morning with this from the Washington Post, another #FakeNews Enemy of the People” publication:

 “A day after defending his use of social media as befitting a ‘modern day’

president, President Trump appeared to promote violence against CNN in a tweet.

“Trump, who is on vacation at his Bedminster golf resort, posted on Twitter an old video clip of him performing in a WWE professional wrestling match, but with a CNN logo superimposed on the head of his opponent. In the clip, Trump is shown slamming the CNN avatar to the ground and pounding him with simulated punches and elbows to the head. Trump added the hashtags #FraudNewsCNN and #FNN, for ‘fraud news network.’”

What the hell is with that “man” and CNN? Did Jane Fonda once laugh in his face, and then went on to marry CNN’s founder, Ted Turner? Is it a secret beef with Ted Turner himself, some kind of schoolboy rivalry?

And then there’s this, again from the Washington Post:

This year, top White House staff members warned that the National Enquirer was planning to publish a negative article about us unless we begged the president to have the story spiked,” Brzezinski and Scarborough wrote in The Washington Post. “We ignored their desperate pleas.”

On their MSNBC show, Brzezinski and Scarborough elaborated.

Scarborough: They said if you call the president up and you apologize for your coverage, then he will pick up the phone and basically spike the story. I had, I will just say, three people at the very top of the administration calling me. And the response was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ I don’t know what they have. Run a story. I’m not going to do it.

“The calls kept coming and kept coming, and they were like, “Call. You need to call. Please call. Come on, Joe, just pick up the phone and call him.”

Brzezinski: “And let me explain what they were threatening. They were calling my children. They were calling close friends of mine.”

Scarborough: “You’re talking about the National Enquirer, yeah.

Brzezinski: “And they were pinning the story on my ex-husband, who would absolutely never do that, so I knew immediately it was a lie and that they had nothing. And these calls persisted for some time, and then Joe had the conversations he had with the White House, where they said, “Oh, this could go away.”

Do you understand what is going on here? Do I need to spell it out for you? Okay then. E-X-T-O-R-T-I-O-N.

But I’m not going to get political this week, because it’s too goddamn depressing. So let’s talk about fun stuff.

Fun stuff like “The Doctor Falls,” the finale of the 10th series of Doctor Who, which aired on Saturday night. Continuing my spoiler-free zone from last week:

It was thrilling. It was hilarious. It was heartbreaking. There were easter eggs and callbacks galore. It was regenerating rejuvenating. (Hint! Hint!)

I’m going to change my mind and just give out two little spoilers…

The most chilling moment(s) for me: Bill looking in the mirror and seeing the face of a Cyberman; seeing her shadow, and seeing that it was the shadow of a Cyberman; and catching sight of her hand, the hand of a Cyberman.

And the second spoiler belongs to both Steven Moffat, as he heads towards the exit with a giant fuck you!!! to that “man,” and to the magnificent Peter Capaldi (he just nudged Tennant out of my “Number One Favorite Doctor” spot), who upped the ante once again…

The Doctor is preparing to make his final stand against the Cybermen, and is trying, pleading, with Missy and The Master to stand with him:

“Winning? Is that what you think it’s about? I’m not trying to win. I’m not doing this because I want to beat someone … or because I hate someone or because I want to blame someone. It’s not because it’s fun. God knows it’s not because it’s easy. It’s not even because it works because it hardly ever does. I do what I do because it’s right! Because it’s decent. And above all, it’s kind. It’s just that. Just kind. If I run away today, good people will die. If I stand and fight, some of them might live… maybe not many, maybe not for long. Hey, maybe there’s no point in any of this at all, but it’s the best I can do, and I will stand here doing it until it kills me. You’re going to die, too, someday. When will that be? Have you thought about it? What would you die for? Who I am is where I stand. Where I stand is where I fall.”

Tweet that.

 

Mindy Newell: Disappointment and Delight

This season of Doctor Who just isn’t working for me.

This is imho, of course, and YMMV, but after a great opening episode (The Pilot) I’ve been very disappointed. The stories haven’t excited me, and, more important, the relationship between Pearl Mackie’s Bill Potts and Peter Capaldi’s Doctor doesn’t seem to have moved all that much forward; there isn’t any there there, as Trumpists like to say these days. (Of course I had to get a Trump reference in here. You know me.) It started off great, with hints of something even more brewing.

Why does the Doctor take an interest in the non-matriculated kitchen worker who was attending his lectures? Why did he go out of his way to use the TARDIS to go back in the past to take pictures of Bill’s dead mom – of whom she had no memory – and leave them for her as a present? Does it have something to do with the framed pictures of his granddaughter Susan and his wife River Song on his office desk? For that matter, why did the Doctor install himself as a professor (for the last 50 years?) at a specific Bristol university? Was he secretly keeping a grandfatherly eye on Susan, who had chosen to remain on Earth? Has he been waiting for Bill, knowing that she would be there? (“All of time and space, everything that ever happened or ever will…”)

There are only two more episodes left in Series 10 – three, if you count the Christmas special – and by this time in previous seasons, the Doctor’s relationship with his previous companions – Rose, Donna, Martha, Amy & Rory, Clara – had all reached a level of intimacy beyond their familiarity with the TARDIS and the sonic screwdriver. Bill, it seems to me, has developed a closer friendship with Nardole (Matt Lucas) than she has with the Doctor – in fact, everything she has learned about the Galifreyan has come from Nardole.

Each episode had also moved each companion’s story forward. So far, there hasn’t been much we’ve learned about Bill that we didn’t learn in her first appearance: she hasn’t had much formal education, though she’s smart as a whip and eager to learn more; she’s a science fiction geek; she’s gay and, like a lot of us, she hasn’t had much success with love. She wishes she knew more about her mom and her family; and – well, that’s about it.

As I said, there’s only three episodes left this season, and there just seems to me to be an awful lot to be discovered yet.

I don’t want to think that Moffat is coasting his way to the end of his association with Doctor Who; he hasn’t yet disappointed me. I loved the denouement of last season, so I’m still crossing my fingers – but…

Anyway, this is a rather short column today. But I do want to give a shout out to my niece Isabel, who has made her debut performance this week in the Newtown (Pennsylvania) Arts Company production of The Philadelphia Story as Dinah Lord.

You may be familiar with the 1940 movie which starred Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and James Stewart, and was responsible for relaunching Hepburn’s career as a major Hollywood player – did you know that she was considered “box office poison” and couldn’t get a walk-on part at this point in her career? The play was specifically written for Hepburn by playwright Phillip Barry, whose wife, Helen Hope Montgomery Scott, was a Philadelphia socialite and a friend of Hepburn’s. Hepburn not only starred in the play, but also financially backed it, exchanging a salary for a percentage of profits. The Philadelphia Story was a smash hit on Broadway, and Hepburn enjoyed a great triumph as well as a flip of the bird to those who had tried to destroy her film career, especially when her friend Howard Hughes gave the film rights to her as a gift. Hepburn was able to convince Louis B. Mayer, head honcho of MGM, to give her veto rights over producer, director, screenwriter, and cast by selling Philadelphia to MGM for only $250,000, an amazingly cheap price. A pretty goddamn impressive move by Hepburn, and one that paid off in spades for her.

Here’s the plot, from Wikipedia, because I’m being lazy. Hey, I drove close to 200 miles today, so deal with it!

Tracy Lord (Hepburn) is the elder daughter of a wealthy Philadelphia Main Line socialite family. She was married to C.K. Dexter Haven (Grant), a yacht designer and member of her social set, but divorced him two years ago, because he did not measure up to the exacting standards she sets for all her friends and family: he drank too much for her taste, and as she became critical of him, he drank more. Now she is about to marry nouveau riche “man of the people” George Kittredge.

Spy magazine publisher Sidney Kidd is eager to cover the wedding, and assigns reporter Macaulay “Mike” Connor (Stewart) and photographer Liz Imbrie. He can get them into the affair with the assistance of Dexter Haven, who has been working for Spy in South America. Dexter will introduce them as friends of Tracy’s brother Junius (a U.S. diplomat in Argentina). Tracy is not fooled, but Dexter threatens her with an innuendo-laden article about her father Seth’s affair with a dancer. Tracy deeply resents her father’s infidelity, which has caused her parents to live separately. To protect her family’s reputation, she agrees to let Mike and Liz stay.

“Dexter is welcomed back with open arms by Tracy’s mother Margaret and teenage sister Dinah (this is the part Isabel played (much to her annoyance. When George sees Mike carrying an intoxicated Tracy into the house afterward, he thinks the worst. The next day, he tells her that he was shocked and feels entitled to an explanation before going ahead with the wedding. She takes exception to his lack of faith in her and breaks off the engagement. Then she realizes that all the guests have arrived and are waiting for the ceremony to begin. Mike volunteers to marry her (much to Liz’s distress), but she graciously declines. She also realizes, for the first time, that she isn’t perfect and shouldn’t constantly condemn others for their weaknesses. At this point, Dexter offers to marry her again, and she accepts.”

The Philadelphia Story was nominated for six Oscars, including Katherine Hepburn for Best Actress and James Stewart for Best Actor. Stewart won his only golden statue – hard to believe, isn’t it? And Hepburn went on to a total of 12 nominations – surpassed only by Meryl Streep – and won four Academy Award, the record for any performer. And Cary Grant? He was nominated so many times, but the only Oscar he was ever given was “Honorary,” in 1970, for “his unique mastery of the art of screen acting with the respect and affection of his colleagues.” Unbelievable, right?

As for Isabel? Here’s her “Who’s Who In The Cast”:

 “Like Dinah Lord, she is an avid equestrienne, can play piano and sing at the same time, and will pursue Conservatory training in Musical Theatre. Iz has played Annie in “Annie,” Belle in “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” and Amelia Earhart. She has soloed on cello with Symphony in C Orchestra, and toured Asia with Maestro Eschenbach of the Philadelphia Orchestra. (C’est vrai! Absolument!)”

Acting is a precarious profession, as we all know, but I won’t be surprised at all if and when the day comes when Isabel Newell will be up on a stage, accepting her own award.

And thanks to you all for putting up with an indulgent, and very proud, Aunt Mindy.

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.

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

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

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

OfCourseNot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But there is one, VERY important thing to remember.

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

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

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

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

Right?

Please tell me I’m right.

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

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

Moffat leaving Doctor Who after series 10, at end of 2017…wait, what?

tumblr_mqgokqpiCp1qka8b1o1_1280And there was much rejoicing.

In an emotional rollercoaster of announcements, the BBC revealed that showrunner Steven Moffat would be leaving Doctor Who after series 10, which they then announced would not begin until Spring 2017.  The only new episode for 2016 will be the Christmas special.

Steven’s shoes will be filled by Chris Chibnall, far from a stranger to the series. In addition to numerous episodes of the series including the “mini-sode series” Pond Life, he’s written many episodes of Torchwood, and most recently was the creator and showrunner of the mystery series Broadchurch, starring David Tennant and many other Who-lumni.

Chibnall said, “Doctor Who is the ultimate BBC program: bold, unique, vastly entertaining, and adored all around the world. So it’s a privilege and a joy to be the next curator of this funny, scary and emotional family drama. I’ve loved Doctor Who since I was four years old, and I’m relishing the thought of working with the exceptional team at BBC Wales to create new characters, creatures and worlds for the Doctor to explore. Steven’s achieved the impossible by continually expanding Doctor Who’s creative ambition, while growing its global popularity. He’s been a dazzling and daring showrunner, and hearing his plans and stories for 2017, it’s clear he’ll be going out with a bang. Just to make my life difficult.”

Moffat is not without comment either – “Feels odd to be talking about leaving when I’m just starting work on the scripts for season 10, but the fact is my timey-wimey is running out. While Chris is doing his last run of Broadchurch, I’ll be finishing up on the best job in the universe and keeping the TARDIS warm for him. It took a lot of gin and tonic to talk him into this, but I am beyond delighted that one of the true stars of British Television drama will be taking the Time Lord even further into the future. At the start of season 11, Chris Chibnall will become the new showrunner of Doctor Who. And I will be thrown in a skip.”

While a year without Doctor Who seems an interminable punishment, one must remember that 2016 will bring us the spin-off series Class.  Written by noted young adult author Patrick Ness, very little is known about the series yet, save for it’s set at Coal Hill School, where the series got it its start, and made quite the return to with Clara Oswald and the late lamented Danny Pink as a teacher. BBC America has announced that they’ll be carrying the series, which begins filming this spring.

Steven Moffat’s run on Doctor Who has been met with…shall we say “mixed” reviews, with wildly varied opinions on his handling of the character and the universe.  While there will likely be cheering from certain circles, one must remember that it was his contributions, both as writer and showrunner, that made the show a truly global phenomenon.

Mindy Newell: Run, You Clever Boy. And Remember

HEAVEN SENT (By Steven Moffat)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SPOILER ALERT. In no order at all:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Don’t it always seem to go,

“That you don’t know what you’ve got

“’Til it’s gone”

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

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

But I finally felt Clara’s death.

One more thing I believe I have figured out…

“The hybrid is me.”

Or is that….

“The hybrid is Me.”

Mindy Newell: Peace Killing

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The Doctor: “How are you going to protect your glorious revolution from the next one?” • The Zygon Inversion • Doctor Who, Season 9, Episode 8 • Written by Peter Harkness and Steven Moffat

What the fuck is with all these fucking commercials!

I mean, seriously, I get that BBCAmerica wants its money’s worth out of Doctor Who, but c’mon, are you fucking kidding me? Ever since the passing of the TARDIS to Peter Capaldi, the commercial breaks have gotten absolutely fucking ridiculous – what is it down to now, every five minutes? And the breaks seem to be longer than the actual story in between the damn commercials!!!! How the hell can anyone actually enjoy the show?

Because of the stupid commercials, I missed so much of the nuances of both The Zygon Invasion (which first aired last week on October 31) and Saturday’s The Zygon Inversion that I watched them at one sitting today, Sunday, November 8, on Amazon Prime. Yeah, I paid $2.99 for each, because Season 9 is (not yet) part of my Amazon Prime membership, but it was worth every penny.

I loved it.

No, more than that…

I adored it.

In fact, im-absolu-fuckin-lutely-not-so-ho, this two-hour story will be the one that definitely defines Peter Capaldi’s ownership of the Doctor. His delivery on the futility of war was brilliant, combining pathos, hope, desperation, and even bits of humor. I was riveted, I couldn’t take my eyes off of him – and, in fact, I “rewound” those ten climatic minutes three times just so I could watch and listen to him again. Now, I do have to say that I was a bit “quibbled” last week when the show hit us all on the head with a very, very heavy hammer:

The Doctor: “This is a splinter group. The rest of the Zygons  –  the vast majority  –  they want to live in peace. You start bombing them, you’ll radicalize the lot. That’s exactly what the splinter group wants.”

Yes, yes, Steven Moffat and Peter Harness, we got the analogy – and if you didn’t get the analogy then I’m not talking to you – and perhaps you didn’t have to swing Mjolnir again when the “normalized” Zygon pleaded that he just wanted to live in peace before he killed himself. The best part of any science fiction, whether it be in book or television or movie form, imho, is when it addresses and/or attacks our real concerns, assumptions, and prejudices and, hopefully, makes us actually think about them.

The Doctor: “Listen, I just want you to think. Do you know what thinking is? It’s just a fancy word for changing your mind.”

But this is the real world, and it will take more than Peter Capaldi’s breathtaking performance and a great, great episode of Doctor Who to change the minds of radical “splinter groups” bent on war to realize that the box – both of them – is empty.

Even the Doctor has been through this 14 times before.

Alex Kingston Returns to Doctor Who

The BBC is giving us all a grand Christmas present – Alex Kingston will return to Doctor Who for the Christmas special as The Doctor’s Paramour and assassin, River Song.

Day one of filming the eleventh Doctor Who Christmas special starts this week and is written by lead writer and executive producer, Steven Moffat, produced by Nikki Wilson and directed by Douglas Mackinnon (Doctor Who, Sherlock).

Award-winning Alex Kingston comments on her reappearance:

“To be honest, I did not know whether River would ever return to the show, but here she is, back with the Doctor for the Christmas special. Steven Moffat is on glittering form, giving us an episode filled with humor and surprise guest castings. I met Peter for the first time at Monday’s read-through, we had a laugh, and I am now excited and ready to start filming with him and the Doctor Who team. Christmas in September?, why not!”

Steven Moffat, lead writer and executive producer adds:

“Another Christmas, another special for Doctor Who – and what could be more special than the return of Alex Kingston as Professor River Song. The last time the Doctor saw her she was a ghost. The first time he met her, she died. So how can he be seeing her again? As ever, with the most complicated relationship in the universe, it’s a matter of time …”

gZ7G8River Song’s timeline with The Doctor has always been a topic of great discussion among fans.  From her point of view, her first appearance in Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead was the last time she saw The Doctor, having died and all.  Up until the recent episode The Name of the Doctor, all of River’s appearances have been from earlier in her life / timeline – only in the latest one have we seen her from after the events of that first (well, I say “first”…) meeting.  So there’s no knowing from whence we’ll be seeing her appear this time.

As fans of their relationship know, there’s one very important moment we’ve yet to see – The Doctor has not yet presented her with the souped-up version of the sonic Screwdriver she used with such style in the Library. And considering Christmas is traditionally when presents are exchanged, who’s to say this isn’t when it’ll happen?

Curse you, Moffat, we haven’t even gotten to the premiere of the new season (September 19, as if you didn’t know) and you’ve already got us looking ahead to Christmas.

 

Mindy Newell: The Essential Doctor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t want to go.”

But he must.

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

Not even for a Time Lord.

And that is the essential lesson.