Sunday, April 28, 2013

Deep Inside of You: An Overanalysis of "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS"


Did you know that this episode aired on my birthday, April 27th!?  Did you know that I apparently share a birthday with Jenna-Louise Coleman?  Did you know that she's exactly 2 years younger than me? (I thought she was a lot younger than me.  I know that her character is.)  Did you know that only two episodes of Doctor Who before this one had ever aired on April 27th (one in 1968 and one in 1974).  Did you know that April 27th is an awesome day invariably?  Because it was the day I was born, it was the day that Jenna was born, and it's the day we got this really fun episode.

Also, did you know that Clara looks hot in red?

The TARDIS itself has been a ripe source of story since the first season back in 1963 with the episode “The Edge of Destruction,” which might be the worst episode of the entire franchise.  We scathingly reviewed it over at The 900 Year Diary (you didn’t think I forgot about T9YD, do you) where it became the first episode we all hated.  Seriously, the episode makes less than no sense.

You can't really see it here, but they're actually screaming at a clock
that has just magically appeared in the TARDIS.  Not kidding.
The TARDIS has been a coveted object by millions of races who wanted to steal it and use it as a weapon.  As we learned this week, even if any of them had managed to steal the TARDIS and its key and got the Time Lord DNA needed to pilot it (long story), the TARDIS is pretty good at defending herself.  It makes the plots of a lot of past episodes look damn silly.

The inside of the TARDIS has been seen only briefly in glimpses over the years.  "The Edge of Destruction" brought us briefly into the companions' bedrooms.  The Fourth Doctor episode "The Invasion of Time" showed us the much fabled swimming pool for the first time.

Glad to see it's been remodeled since the 70's

In "Castrovalva" (that episode title just sounds dirty) we saw inside the TARDIS as the Doctor searched for the "Zero Room" (again, long story).  In the 1996 movie, we saw the room that housed the Eye of Harmony (we'll get to that later).  And, in "The Doctor's Wife," we saw a few corridors.  This isn't a complete list, but it's most of the times we've seen beyond the control room.  And in each and every one of these instances, it was a brief, fleeting glimpse.  Any random 5 minute segment from this episode contains more shots of the deep TARDIS interior than any previous episode in the series.  And, while this has probably been avoided in the series most likely because it has been assumed that showing too much would take away from the TARDIS's mystery, Steve Thompson showed us that, no matter how much of the TARDIS you show the audience, there's still a ton of mystery there to explore.

Steve Thompson is a big hit-or-miss writer.  He wrote my least favorite episode of Season 6 ("Curse of the Black Spot"), my least favorite episode of Sherlock Season 1 ("The Blind Banker"), but, by far, my favorite episode of Sherlock Season 2 ("The Reichenbach Fall").  That's right:  someone other than Steven Moffat wrote my favorite Season 2 episode of Sherlock.  It takes a lot for me to pick him over Moffat.

Thompson was a stage writer originally and then began writing for Sherlock before he wrote for Doctor Who.  Each of Sherlock's 2 seasons have only 3 episodes, which are 90 minutes a piece.  Each season has one episode written by Moffat, one written by Mark Gatiss (ugh!), and one written by Thompson.  Since the other two writers were Doctor Who writers, it was obvious that Thompson was going to be invited to write a Doctor Who at some point.  But I was never sure if he was really into Doctor Who, or just along for the ride with Gatiss and Moffat.  Now I think I can be pretty sure in saying that Thompson is a big Doctor Who fan, because only a truly obsessive fan could have written this episode.

As the TARDIS's console begins to come apart, we hear voices come out of it.  The great thing about living in the age of Wiki's is that I don't have to go back to the episode and carefully listen to the scene to figure out what episodes all of the clips were from (because I would have done it).  Instead, I can just check the Doctor Who wiki.  Call it cheating, but I'm just lazy.  This is the list of where those clips come from, with credit given to The TARDIS Data Core:

The voice of Susan Foreman says, "I made up the name 'TARDIS' from the initials: Time and Relative Dimension In Space." (TV: An Unearthly Child)
The Third Doctor saying, "The TARDIS is dimensionally transcendental" and his companion, Jo, asking "What does that mean?"
The Eleventh Doctor saying, "You sexy thing!" then Idris (the TARDIS in human form) replying, "See, you do call me that! Is it my name?" followed by the Doctor's exclamation of "You bet it's your name!" (TV: The Doctor's Wife)
The Fourth Doctor saying, "That's trans-dimensional engineering. A key Time Lord discovery." (TV: The Robots of Death)
The Ninth Doctor saying, "The assembled hordes of Genghis Khan couldn't get through that door, and believe me they've tried." (TV: Rose)
Martha Jones saying, "It's just a box with that room crammed in!". (TV:Smith and Jones)
Amy Pond saying, "We're in space!". (TV: The Beast Below)
Ian Chesterton asking, "A thing that looks like a police box, standing in a junkyard, it can move anywhere in time and space?" (TV: An Unearthly Child)
The Fifth Doctor asking, "You've changed the desktop theme, haven't you?" (TV: Time Crash)

The Eye of Harmony, as I stated last week, is from the classic series and, while first brought up in a Fourth Doctor story, wasn't really featured heavily until the awful 1996 Doctor Who TV Movie.  Like I said last week, it was said in that movie that, for no apparent reason, a human eye was needed to open the Eye.  (Maybe I spoke too soon when I called "The Edge of Destruction" the worst episode of the franchise.)  Last week, a link to it was used to power the Metebelis III crystal to enhance Emma's psychic abilities.  But, as the crystal was seen in "Planet of the Spiders" to enhance psychic abilities without a power source, it seems to me that hooking it up to the Eye is a big of an overkill.  It seems more like they're working on setting up the Eye to play a role in a major plot point soon.

Now, there are a lot of questions to be raised about this episode, but here's the number 1 question:

Why the fuck did the TARDIS let Clara see the Doctor's name?

Seriously?  Like I've said, there was literally an entire religion created to make sure the Doctor's name isn't spoken out loud.  It's a secret that, the Doctor himself admits, must never be known.  So why is it sitting in a book that's open and on display in the library?  And why did the TARDIS bring Clara into the library where she could read it.  This is going to be very important going forward, I'm sure of it.

Now, more on the "Who is Clara?" front.  The TARDIS doesn't like Clara, we've seen that, and it was sort of the spark that ignited this entire episode.  I still think it's because she's a temporal anomaly.  But, it doesn't seem like she's an anomaly yet.  What do I mean by that?  Emma thought that Clara was a normal girl.  The Doctor realized this week that Clara clearly didn't know what he was talking about with the other Claras.  Clara is clearly just a girl right now.  Whatever is going to split her across time hasn't taken place yet in her timeline.

As we move towards the season finale, which will feature River Song, I realized something that I had never thought of before:

River probably knows exactly who Clara is.  But that's a spoiler for another time.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Cartmel Masterplan: A Doctor Who Book Report


So, I feel like I have to clarify some of what I'm talking about when I talk about the Cartmel Masterplan.  It's vital to what I think that Moffat is doing with the Doctor's name, and I've believed that since "Let's Kill Hitler," when I accurately predicted "the question."  I think Moffat is invoking the Cartmel Masterplan with the question.  So you have to understand the Masterplan to understand why I think the Doctor's name can never be said, and why an entire religion was formed to make sure it's never heard by anyone.  So this is a reprint of a note I posted on Facebook after "Let's Kill Hitler," which I have now updated:

Some of those who were involved with the “Masterplan” object to the name “Masterplan,” as it implies a much more thought out agenda than they really had in place  Essentially, script editor Andrew Cartmel and his writers, working on seasons 25 and 26 of the classic Doctor Who with Sylvester McCoy (the 7th Doctor), sought to bring back some of the original mystery of the 1963 Doctor whose origins were largely unknown to viewers.  By the time they got to the 25th season of the show, so much was known about the Doctor, that the writers wanted to create more of a backstory, more to discover.  The idea was for them to very gradually lay hints that the Doctor was actually the reincarnation of an ancient Time Lord known as “The Other,” who, along with Rassilon and Omega, created Time Lord society by inventing Time Travel.  By making the Doctor a reincarnation of “The Other,” it would have conferred a sort of God-like quality to the character.

So, what halted the Masterplan?  Well, long time producer Jonathan Nathan-Turner was somewhat opposed to the Masterplan, and often rejected scripts steeped too deeply in the Masterplan and would delete dialogue that referenced it.  A particular line in “Rememberance of the Daleks” was removed which suggested that the Doctor was “more than a normal Time Lord,” because Nathan-Turner thought some would be offended by the thought of the Doctor as a God.  The line turned, instead, into a fleeting inference, where the Doctor "accidentally" uses the word "we" to describe the founding fathers of the Time Lords.  When his companion asks him about it, he changes it to "they."

If you watch the Seventh Doctor episode “Ghost Light,” you’ll notice the episode makes no sense. The actors said they were confused by the script.  That’s because the episode’s first draft took place on Gallifrey and was about the Doctor’s history.  Jonathan Nathan-Turner vetoed that, and so the episode was rewritten to have nothing to do with Gallifrey or the Doctor’s background, which is why it’s one of the weirdest fucking episodes in the history of the series (watch it on drugs if you can, because it was clearly written on them).

Furthermore, the Masterplan was halted by something much more simple but much more difficult to overcome:  the show’s cancellation in 1989.  At that point, Andrew Cartmel and some of his writers turned their attention to the Virgin New Adventure novels, where they implemented some of their concepts of the Masterplan, culminating in the novel which is supposed to be the true fulfillment of the plan:  Lungbarrow (which, admittedly, I have not read).

But this picture alone makes me want to read it
Some have suggested that the modern series does show some influence of the Masterplan.  At the very least, the new series does not contradict the Masterplan.  One of the examples fans often point out to suggest that the new series is following the Masterplan is the Season 3 finale, where the Doctor is able to overcome the Master through an act of worldwide prayer directed towards the Doctor, suggesting the Doctor does have some of those God-like qualities that Nathan-Turner objected to giving him.  Some have even gone so far as to try to analyze how many syllables River Song whispers to the Doctor in “Forest of the Dead” when she tells him his real name, claiming it’s possible that she was saying “The Other” (although, I’d like to point out, that whether or not The Doctor is really The Other, I doubt that either of these terms are his real name).

Now, I doubt that anyone would ever be so obvious as to say on screen “The Doctor is the Other.”  But if a big part of what we’re about to get into involves the Doctor’s true identity, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some very vague, very subtle references back to the Masterplan.  So you might ask, why can't the Doctor's name be said?  Like I pointed out in the introduction, an entire religion (The Silence) was created to ensure that the Doctor's name is never said.  "Silence will fall," was their slogan.  As Dorion pointed out, "Silence must fall" would be a better translation.  When the Doctor reaches the fields of Trenzalore where nobody can fail to answer or answer falsely, the Doctor will be asked the question that must never be asked:  "Doctor who?"  Why can't this question be asked?

In Judaism, names of the divine are very sacred.  Rabbinical Judaism believes that the four letter name for God, YHWH, should never be uttered except the High Priest in the Holy Temple on Yom Kippur.  Jews are encouraged to substitute "G-d" for "God" and "L-d" for "Lord," as the name is considered to be extremely sacred.  Ancient Jews believed that there is a true name of God that can never be known to man, because the name has a power over God.  As God is all powerful, it is impossible (or, some believe, wrong) for God's true name to be said and for any man to gain power over God.*  A certain movie that I will not name because it could spoil it suggests that to know the true 216 name of God would destroy the human mind.  The other Abrahamic religions don't seem to share this belief, but have other rules about how God's name must be used.  A God's true name is considered to be dangerous.

If the name of a God cannot or should not be known, the Doctor uttering his true name could be extremely dangerous.  If it gives someone power over the Doctor, it's important that only someone who loves him can know his true name, such as River, who we know will eventually know his name.  One way or another, I believe that the reason that The Silence was formed was to commit deicide because the protection of the God's name is more important than the God itself.  The Doctor created the fake names "The Doctor" and "The Other" not only to protect himself, but to protect us.

River is the only one who can be trusted with it.


Silence Never Falls: An Operation Blue Harvest Update and Clarification


So, I need to make some clarifications about the season finale and the 50th Anniversary special.

For a lot of this blog, I've been talking about the season finale and the 50th Anniversary special as if they were the same thing.  I had a feeling they might not be, but I couldn't be sure.  So I asked around on the Doctor Who message board, Gallifrey Base, and they confirmed for me that the season finale and the 50th Anniversary special are two different things.  So now I believe them when they say they're just shooting it now, because the 50th Anniversary special, it seems, will be held on the exact 50th Anniversary, November 23rd, 2013.

Now, as far as the season finale itself goes, the BBC has finally announced the title of the season finale that they hadn't been announcing.  It turns out that the reason was that the title of the season finale is, in and of itself, a huge spoiler:

There's so much to analyze here just from this poster.  First of all, River's coming back.  Second of all, "his secret is revealed" is a huge clue.  Moffat said the same thing in an interview, that the Doctor's greatest secret would be revealed.  Sometimes Moffat gives us false clues to throw us off the trail.  Sometimes he's straightforward and reading too much into it is unnecessary.  He admitted at the end of Season 6 that he knew people would suspect River Song of being the one who kills the Doctor, and that he didn't care that people guessed it.

So we know what "The Name of the Doctor" is going to be about.  The BBC South Africa website's description said that someone's kidnapping the Doctor's friends to force him to come to the fields of Trenzalore, where he'll be forced to reveal his name.  Obviously, those friends will at least include Clara and River.  My guess is that, if Moffat's going to have some of the Doctor's friends kidnapped, he's going to throw Vastra, Jenny, and Strax in there too.

Now, somebody on Gallifrey Base suggested a possible scenario for this episode that's so perfect...I think it absolutely has to be what's going to happen, and it kind of ruins the ending.  I...I can't imagine it's going to play out in any other way other than this.  So, reading this might kind of ruin the fun of the episode.  So I'm going to make this super extra spoiler protected so you have to highlight it to read it.  I wish I hadn't even read it.

The Great Intelligence (probably, although it could be someone else) will lead the Doctor to the fields of Trenzalore.  There, the Doctor will be asked his name.  He will be forced to answer, but just as he does so, River will materialize the TARDIS around him, so that he blurts out his real name to the person in the universe it will be the most safe with:  River Song.  That's why she'll know his name in "Silence in the Library."

There's no doubt in my mind that the Doctor's real name is "The Other."  It's more or less been confirmed in expanded universe material.  I think it's about time I posted my explanation of the Cartmel Masterplan on this blog to explain what that means.  Regardless, even if that is the Doctor's real name (it is) and even if Moffat is following the Cartmel Masterplan (he is), I doubt the name is going to be said on the show.  Something will happen to allow him to say it without us, the audience, hearing it.  The Doctor IS the Other.  But they can't blatantly say that on the show.  It would ruin too much of the show's mystery.

Now, as for the 50th Anniversary Special itself.

In which we see the return of the cuddliest race in the history of the franchise
I still don't know why the fuck the Zygons are going to be the villain.  They've been in 1 episode!  This is another "Meat Puppets" move from Moffat.  (I'm creating too many inside terms on my own blog here.)

John Barrowman is sending extremely mixed messages.  Here's the timeline of what Barrowman has done:

1.  Announced he was in talks with the producers about returning.
2.  Announced that he was not returning.
3.  Announced that his absence from the special is not due to lack of interest, but because the producers never asked him.

One of these statements has to be bullshit.  I don't know which one.

A post recently on the David Tenant Facebook Fan Page said that Paul McGann's appearance in the special hasn't been ruled out.  Now, for most fans, the fact that a Doctor who appeared on screen for about 60 minutes is not that exciting, but those of us who have listened to the brilliant Eighth Doctor audio adventures know how great Paul McGann can really be.

My friend Gary asked me, what if they aren't lying?  What if it really is just going to be Matt and Dave against the Zygons?  First of all, not lying at all would be completely out of character for Moffat.  But, even if it isn't a trick, and all we're getting is Smith and Tennant...won't that still be awesome!?  Who doesn't want to see 11 meet 10.

It could be the best dialogue in the history of the series.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Creatures of Love: An Overanalysis of "Hide"


This looks like a very self-contained episode.  A "monster-of-the-week" episode.  But there were actually some really big classic series references in this episode.  Not to mention a few more big clues about the mystery of Clara.  So let's dig in.

It might have seemed like technobabble when the Doctor said that he could open the "well" using an aspect of the Eye of Harmony and a blue crystal from Metebelis III.  Well, it was technobabble, but it wasn't made up by the writer of this episode.  The Eye of Harmony was first introduced in the redundantly named 4th Doctor episode "The Deadly Assassin."  I can't quite tell you what it was used for then, because I don't care enough to remember.  The more memorable use of it was in the horrible made-for-TV movie, where it was said that the TARDIS had its own Eye of Harmony in a back room that powered it:

In a completely impossible twist, the Eye of Harmony could only be opened
by the retina of a human, a species that the Time Lords had little contact with.
Honestly, this movie made less sense than an M.C. Escher painting.

Okay, so the Eye of Harmony is kind of a bizarre and random thing that doesn't mean much of anything other than it's a power source.  But the cyrstal from Metebelis III is fully legit.  The Doctor first picked up the crystal in "The Green Death," but it didn't become a problem until the Third Doctor's final episode, "Planet of the Spiders."  The crystals have the ability, as the Doctor pointed out, to enhance certain abilities within a creature.  Metebelis III became the "Planet of the Spiders" because some spiders who were left behind by human explorers, and the crystals caused the spiders to become larger and hyper-intelligent.

The Third Doctor regenerates into the Fourth Doctor
out of fear after finding this thing in his shower.

The crystal turned a mentally disabled man into a genius.  It also helped a psychic to enhance his abilities.  So I was very happy about this episode using pre-established technology rather than some random bullshit that the writer made up.  It may have looked that way to the casual viewer, but I promise you that it was cleverer than that.

I was wondering what the Doctor was doing at this completely random house.  Someone on Gallifrey Base (the Doctor Who forum) suggested that maybe the Doctor was going back to the house that he met the 19th Century Clara.  It doesn't seem that it was the same house, but it's perfectly possible that it was and I missed it because I have no spatial awareness whatsoever.

What he did seem to come there for was an empathic psychic to tell him what the fuck is going on with the Claras.  She seems to think that Clara's perfectly normal, which is probably a clue, but she also thought that the Doctor had a "sliver of ice in his heart," so maybe she's just the worst psychic in the world.

Probably not.

But the fact that the empath thinks that Clara is a perfectly normal girl has to be a huge clue.  What could it mean that Clara isn't unusual?  My guess is that if Emma met either of the other two Claras, she wouldn't have had said that.  I think that whatever is going to splinter Clara across time, it hasn't happened to the 21st century Clara yet, putting versions of her in both the future and the past.

The problem is that Emma sees nothing wrong with Clara, but the TARDIS clearly does.  The running thread of the past few weeks, that the TARDIS doesn't like Clara, seems to be for an obvious reason:  The TARDIS can't handle temporal paradoxes, like Captain Jack in "Utopia," the alternate Amy in "The Girl Who Waited," and Clara Oswald, the impossible girl.  It even seemed to insult her because it said that the person she would most esteem would be...herself.  To which Clara called the TARDIS a "grumpy old cow."

You'd think the one that the TARDIS really hated would be the Doctor's real wife, River Song.

Then there's the whole weird creatures that are in love.  Aw, love can outlast time.  I don't think that matters in the long run.  Unless it's Clara's parents, and their great love story, that was splintered across time.

Next week, we go deep into the TARDIS to places the show has never been.  Moffat said he thought the classic series didn't show enough when it went inside the TARDIS.  There's a little bit in the 4th Doctor episode "The Invasion of Time," and a little more in the 5th Doctor's introductory episode, "Castrovalva," but nothing like what I think we're about to see.

See you next week!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Spectre of a Female Doctor

My girlfriend and I had a long conversation about the ever taboo question in Doctor Who:  Can the Doctor regenerate into a woman.  Now, she was arguing that the damsel in distress trope is used too often, and that can be solved by making the Doctor a woman.  While I personally think that most of the modern companions are the heroines as much as they're the damsels in distress (and Rory was one very constant damsel in distress), I admit that a strong male character always having to help out a female companion can create a slight, overall sense of gender inequality.  My argument has always been that there's no precedent in the series for the Doctor to be capable of regenerating between genders.  For the most part, my girlfriend just agreed with me because I knew more about Doctor Who than she did.  But a friend of hers reminded her of the holes in my theory, which I always knew about, but didn't bring up.

The first indication that the Doctor could regenerate into a woman came at the very end of "The End of Time" when the 10th Doctor has just regenerated into the 11th Doctor, and the 11th Doctor becomes worried that he's regenerated into a girl:

"I'm a girl!"
Thankfully, it's a family show, so he checked his Adam's apple to make sure he was a man.

The second indication in canon was in "The Doctor's Wife" when the Doctor talked about his old friend, a Time Lord called The Corsair

"The mark of the Corsair. Fantastic bloke. He had that snake as a tattoo in every regeneration. Didn't feel like himself without the tattoo. Or herself, a couple of times. Ooh, she was a bad girl!"
Okay, so his friend the Corsair became a woman during certain regenerations.  However, I always chose to believe that the Corsair was trans in certain regenerations.  Hey, it's a very LGBT friendly show, after all.

There are two big examples of female Doctors outside of canon.  Now, a lot of times I talk on this blog about "questionable canon," expanded Universe stories that fit in with the overall canon, but nobody has officially declared it "canon."  The examples I'm about to give are absolutely not canon.  They're in alternate universes that exist outside of--and directly contradict--canon.  Still, it shows some interest in a female Doctor.

In 1999, Steven Moffat, before he had any official connection to Doctor Who, was commissioned to write an officially BBC licensed Doctor Who parody called "Curse of the Fatal Death" for a charity telethon called Red Nose Day.  The sketch started with Rowan Atkinson as the 9th Doctor, and, in the end, the Doctor regenerated four consecutive times, finally regenerating into a woman.

With her new genitalia, the female Doctor suddenly finds the fact that the sonic screwdriver can vibrate to be a wonderful feature.
No really, not kidding, that happened.
The other non-canon example comes from Doctor Who Unbound, a series of audio adventures which depicted a universe in which the events in the Doctor's life went extremely differently.  In one, he was defeated by the Valeyard in the end of "The Trial of a Timelord."  In another, he was not a pacifist, and was a vengeful killer when he felt it was in the name of justice.  In one, called "Exile," he regenerated into a woman.

Apparently a sex change turns the Doctor into a pathetic alcoholic.  Again, not kidding.
In that story, it was established that the only way a Time Lord could change genders during regeneration by committing suicide.  Interesting idea, but I don't know how exactly the Time Lord's body knows that it's being killed by its own hand.

So no, it's not out of the realm of possibility.  It would be a continental shift in the nature of the show.  And a lot of people would protest.  The question is, is it sexist to resist a female Doctor?

I think that, part of the reason I want the Doctor to stay male, is that part of the reason I look up to him so much is because he's a strong, confident male whose superpower is his vast intelligence.  It's an empowering thing for a very shy and meek man to look up to.

But should we deny female fans that opportunity?  Perhaps that's unfair.  And people might suggest that the majority of the Doctor Who fan base is male, but I've found that there are a lot of female Whovians out there.  I think the more hardcore, devoted, nerdy fans are male, but that's just because, again, the Doctor is a male figure to emulate.  I think that a female Doctor might not alienate the male fans as much as it would attract more female fans.  Women aren't opposed to sci-fi/fantasy fandom, as evidenced by the wide and devoted female fanbase that exists for Buffy.  And there's no shortage of male fans for Buffy.

The problem is that, while there are suggestions of Time Lords being able to regenerate between genders, we've never seen it happen.  That either means it doesn't happen, or it's extremely rare.  The latter is the more likely possibility, considering the dialogue about the Corsair.  And certainly, we haven't seen the Doctor regenerate between skin-colors either, but that's been confirmed to be possible twice ("Let's Kill Hitler" and the SJA episode "Death of the Doctor (Part 2)").  It might also be a rare occurrence.  I really want to see a black Doctor, and, as it says on the "About" page, this blog strongly supports Richard Ayoade for 12th Doctor.  If he can regenerate into any appearance, 11 white guys seems a little silly.

Maybe it's time for a (sex) change.

In Mourning

I have a few things I want to blog about, and I will get back to them, but it's a little hard right now as a New Englander after one of my homes (the great city of Boston) has been viciously attacked.  In honor of Boston, I wanted to find something Doctor Who related that has to do with Boston.  Sadly, the Doctor seems to have spent no time in Boston, at least not on screen.  The Ninth Doctor claimed to have participated in the Boston Tea Party (protesting his favorite country, England?), but there's never been a Doctor Who episode, novel, audio story, or comic set in Boston.

I asked the official Doctor Who Facebook page to get a picture of Matt in a minuteman hat.  I think he'd wear it well.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Mars Attacks!: An Overanalysis of "Cold War"


"Stalked in the forest too close to hide
I'll be upon you by the moonlight side
High blood drumming on your skin it's so tight
You feel my heat I'm just a moment behind"

- "Hungry Like the Wolf" by Duran Duran

Apparently nobody in this episode knew the real lyrics or melody to this song.  Unless they had to cover up the fact that they didn't have the rights to it.  Still, it was an interesting song to use, thematically.

The classic series monsters don't really look very scary anymore, at least not without some upgrading. The Daleks have never been redesigned because the fans would mutiny if that ever happened.  Moffat did a good job of making them a little scarier with those Dalek eye stalks that grew out of peoples' foreheads, but the basic design of the Daleks can never be changed.  The Cybermen were redesigned for the new series, but that's mainly because they were redesigned with every single new appearance they made on the classic series.  (Also they were "alternate universe" Cybermen in the new series.)  The Silurians needed to be redesigned so they didn't look utterly ridiculous, but I never got the idea that they were never meant to be scary.  The Ice Warriors, however, got the greatest redesign of any alien in the history of Doctor Who.  That Ice Warrior was 10 time scarier than any of the classic Ice Warriors.  That's how you make a big monster scary.

He didn't hiss as much as the old Ice Warriors, though.  I missed that.

Not to mention, fucking gruesome!  While we weren't able to see the entire bodies that Skaldak dismembered, we saw one arm sticking out.  I wouldn't be surprised if the BBC got some letters about that.  While the violence was off-screen, we knew what it was, and we knew it was fucking brutal!  It's just how Doctor Who should be:  family oriented, but juuuuust disturbing enough to scare the hell out of children.  And maybe to disturb the adults a little bit.

It's true that the Ice Warriors have never appeared outside of their armor on television, but they've appeared without it in expanded universe a few times.  They don't look exactly like Skaldak looked like without his helmet, but they were close enough to call it consistent.

Some people on message boards have been complaining about the removal of Skaldak's helmet, saying that they preferred to simply imagine what the Ice Warriors looked like under their helmets.  I get that (what I'd call the "Greek Tragedy" argument, in that everything should take place off screen because they imagination is scarier than anything that can be shown), but I thought, in this case, Skaldak's face was significantly scarier looking than anything I've ever imagined when I saw the real Ice Warriors.

I do love when war-like races from other planets begin to find something about human military tactics that they respect.  Like "mutually assured destruction."  Sure, it's a pacifist show, I'm not supposed to admire the war like elements of the show, but I love when Sontarans or Daleks or Cybermen begin to understand our war tactics and respect them.  They realize we're not necessarily a force to be taken lightly.  Still, I admire the fact that the show is about trying to find peaceful solutions.

Now, as for clues...I didn't see any.  Unless the Ice Warriors are going to come back in some other capacity.  As my friend Spak pointed out, Moffat tends to bring back enemies he's introduced (or reintroduced) in a completely different capacity.  "Let's take a Silurian and a Sontaran and make them the Doctors' sidekicks."  I would not be surprised to see an Ice Warrior become a good guy in a future episode.  It's happened before, back in the 3rd Doctor era.  As this episode reconfirmed, even though the Martian civilization has long since crumbled to dust, that doesn't mean that the Ice Warriors themselves aren't out there in full force.  They're just wandering the universe without a home.

Mars will rise again, I promise you?  That's what the Doctor said.  Does he really know about a time in the future when the Ice Warriors retake their home planet?  If so, isn't that going to be a little dangerous having a war-like race right next to Earth?  I'd be a little scared.

Clara is still as badass as ever.  She not only volunteered to talk to Skaldak on her own, but she moved  closer to him when the Doctor told her not to because she knew that she was somehow safe, despite all evidence to the contrary.  She didn't scream when Skaldak grabbed her.  And she was good at negotiating with Skaldak and appealing to his kinder heart that she knew was in there.  Clara is fearless and is an excellent contrast to the weak-willed scream queens the Doctor has travelled with in the past like Jo Grant and Peri.

I know that I've been badmouthing Mark Gatiss a lot lately, and I don't take back my assertions that he's a very mediocre writer, but he turned out a pretty good one here.  Granted, I chalk most of that up to the direction.  It wasn't Gatiss's writing that turned Skaldak into a brilliantly terrifying set of glowing red eyes with abnormally long claws.  That was all the direction.  But at least the internal logic of this episode made sense, which is more than I can say for "Victory of the Daleks."  The ending wasn't as satisfying as a good Moffat ending.  Gatiss isn't good at twists or bringing the internal logic of the episode back around to defeat the villain, the way that Moffat can.  Gatiss's episodes are usually resolved by an emotional appeal, which can work very well sometimes, but isn't satisfying if every episode works that way.  Overall, I'd say that this is still one of Gatiss's better episodes, but it's not enough for me to be comfortable with the fact that he might be taking over the show next. #anyonebutgatiss

I wish I could make this more than a review.  My intention in these write-ups is to tie things back to the classic series to give it context, but also to make predictions about what's to come.  I can't do that with this episode, because it didn't give us a lot of clues.  The HADS system is a throwback, but nobody really gives a shit (Can we get a ride to the opposite pole?  Really?).  Overall, this was a pretty self-contained episode.

And where the hell has the Great Intelligence disappeared to?

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Ice Warriors: A Doctor Who Book Report


This week, the long awaited return of the Ice Warriors!

I can't say that I've done as much research on the Ice Warriors as I did on the Great Intelligence.  One reason is that I remember a little more about the Ice Warriors than I do about the GI.  The other reason is that they have a few more episodes.  Also, there's a ton about them in expanded universe, so many of the things we know about them are outside of actual canon.  But they're a very interesting villain.  They debuted in "The Ice Warriors," a 2nd Doctor episode.  While we have not seen the Ice Warriors since the 3rd Doctor era, interestingly enough, we haven't actually seen them as a villain since the 2nd Doctor era.  In both of their appearances in the 3rd Doctor era ("The Curse of Peladon" and "The Monster of Peladon"), they were a neutral force.  Seeing them come back this season is going to be interesting because, it seems, they're finally back as a villain.

So, who are the Ice Warriors?  Well, they're the ancient inhabitants of Mars.  How exactly did the barren planet of Mars ever produce life?  Good question!  In the Doctor Who universe, there was a huge, wonderful, thriving society on Mars.  The society existed millions of years before any life of any kind formed on Earth.  So by the time the Human Race developed the ability to even look into space, any sign of the ancient Martian civilization had long since been ground to rubble.  It's interesting that, in the 1960's, they came up with this plot, as decades later it would be proven that there are traces of there once having been water on Mars, and that there are signs of at least bacterial life having existed on Mars.  The show, strangely, predicted this correctly...sort of.

The early episodes depicted Ice Warriors who had managed to survive the destruction of their planet and wanted to restart their society on another planet.  In "The Ice Warriors," the Earth had undergone a massive temperature shift and was beginning to become an ice planet, making it a perfect planet for the Ice Warriors to try to conquer.  In the two "Peladon" episodes in the Third Doctor era, they had become a part of the Galactic Federation, meaning that somehow some of them survived and decided to become upstanding members of intergalactic society.

In deleted dialogue from "The Waters of Mars," it was explained that the virus that got into the water was something left behind by the Ice Warriors, possibly as a trap for anyone who would choose to disturb the remains of their civilization.  Regardless of that dialogue not being in the episode, there's no denying that the Ice Warriors are the unspoken ghost presiding over the episode.  Those infected by the virus had the ability to understand ancient north Martian, a language that, undoubtedly, was the language of some era of the Ice Warriors' culture.  They may not have appeared in the episode, but they were a major part of it.

They're a great classic villain, and they're properly creepy.  There are some similarities between them and the Silurians, in that both are cold blooded, reptilian, war like, and both want to take over Earth, not out of some sort of vain desire to rule a planet, but simply for the survival of their planet.  It's possible that the reason that we haven't seen the Ice Warriors in a while is because they are too much like the Silurians.  But, personally, I find the Ice Warriors really creepy, in a way that the Silurians could never hope to be.  And the way they speak is awesome!  There have been unfulfilled promises to bring the Ice Warriors back for several decades.  If there had been a season in 1990, there would have been an Ice Warriors episode that took place on a college campus in the 1960s.  Thankfully, they're finally back!

If only the episode was written by someone other than Mark Gatiss.  #anyonebutgatiss

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Great Intelligence: A Doctor Who Book Report


In the midst of two conference papers, trying to move, being sick and needing a lot of rest, and attending a conference in town on media reform, it’s been hard to find time to rewatch all of the Great Intelligence’s past episodes.  It doesn’t help that, while there are only two GI stories in official canon (one in questionable canon), the two stories are in the 2nd Doctor era where they were perfectly fine with saying “Yes, we’ll split this into six half-hour episodes.”  The two stores were each 3 hours long.  And both of them have been mostly lost to the BBC purge, with cruddy looking recons taking their place.  Plus, while it’s technically two 6-part stories, the two stories are intertwined, making it an unofficial 12-part episode.  If you throw in the one questionable canon film (Downtime), it’s practically a trilogy. So it’s been tough to go back and do the research.  But I got it done.  So now, a little bit about the Great Intelligence:

This is how the 2nd Doctor explained the Great Intelligence to (then Colonel) Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart:

"Well, I wish I could give you a precise answer. Perhaps the best way to describe it is a sort of formless, shapeless thing floating about in space like a cloud of mist, only with a mind and will."

The 2nd Doctor first met the Great Intelligence in Tibet in the 1930s.  He landed at a monastery where he hoped to meet an old friend, the head monk there.  Also hanging out at the monastery was a man named Professor Travers, who had gone to Tibet to find the elusive Yeti, a.k.a. “The Abominable Snowmen.”  They found a good share of Yeti, but it turned out that they were actually robot Yeti.  The Yeti were being controlled by a few of the monks, but the monks were being controlled by the GI.

The Great Intelligence showed an ability to take over the minds of humans, much like Kizlet and her minions in “The Bells of Saint John.”  Although it seemed to be a different type of mind control in “The Bells of Saint John.”  Most people who were controlled by the Great Intelligence in the 2nd Doctor era were a literal mouthpiece for the Great Intelligence.  He (or it, not sure how you refer to it) seems to have found some subtler form of mind control.  Although Dr. Simeon, while subject to some subtle mind control for most of his life, after he had been attacked by the memory word was turned into a GI mouthpiece.

What was interesting was that, in the Great Intelligence’s first episode, “The Abominable Snowmen,” the GI’s plan was not really revealed.  He was trying to create a small army of robot Yeti, but we didn’t know what it was about.  We just heard, from one of the possessed monks, that the GI was doing this simply as an experiment.  A pilot project, preparing for something bigger.  While not a satisfying ending, there was a reason for that:  they already had its second story prepared.  In a strange move for the history of Doctor Who, three stories later, in the exact same season, the episode “The Web of Fear” picked up the story 30 years later, after Professor Travers has brought back a Yeti robot for a museum, and his attempt to figure out how to reactivate one without the GI’s control attracted the Great Intelligence to come back.  That’s when we saw what its real plan was.

The Great Intelligence had been following the Doctor through time and space, observing how brilliant the Doctor was.  So he had created a machine specifically to drain the Doctor’s mind out of his body, leaving the Doctor with the mind of a child.  The Doctor crossed the wires on the machine so that, when the switch was thrown, the Doctor would absorb the Great Intelligence’s mind instead of the other way around.  This would have killed off the Great Intelligence, but the Doctor failed to inform his companions of his plan (he still needs to work on that), so they rescued him from the machine before the Doctor’s plan was carried out.  So the Great Intelligence was left alive.

Downtime is hilariously dumb.  My first impression was that this had to have been directed by someone who was moonlighting from his day job where he directed instructional videos for driver’s ed classes.  But, I looked it up, and it turns out that the director was actually a very long time director who had directed episodes from all the way back in the 1st Doctor era through to the 4th Doctor era.  The episode was very silly because the Great Intelligence’s plan was much stupider:  he just wanted to take over the world.  He had started a college that was a very thin front for a cult that worshiped him.  He managed to control their minds not unlike the way he controlled Kizlet and her minions.  The episode was interesting in that it brought back the Yeti and Professor Travers, as well as the Brigadier, who had been introduced in “The Web of Fear” before becoming one of the most iconic characters in the history of the show, and Victoria, the Doctor’s companion both times  he met the Great Intelligence.  It also had Sarah Jane Smith just because people love Sarah Jane.

Downtime may be silly, but what I do know for sure is that Moffat has seen it.  Two reasons why:  The first is that he brought Kate Lethbridge-Stewart back (well, he didn’t write the episode, but he was showrunner when she was introduced).  Kate appears in Downtime, played by a different actress, but it’s believable that they could be the same person.  Strangely in Downtime she was a single mother living in a trailer and not doing well.  How she went from that to heading U.N.I.T. is beyond me.  But her character was introduced in Downtime, and came back in another questionable canon film (Dæmos Rising), then appeared in two novels.  “The Power of Three” was her first officially canon appearance, and it appears that that means that Downtime is now official canon.  The other reason it’s clear that Moffat has seen Downtime is because in “The Bells of Saint John,” the Great Intelligence knew what U.N.I.T. was.  U.N.I.T. was originally formed in response to the Great Intelligence’s attack on London in “The Web of Fear,” but that happened after the episode so he couldn’t have known what it was unless he met them in Downtime.

I’ve noticed a few strictly aesthetic similarities between the 11th Doctor’s Great Intelligence episodes and the 2nd Doctor’s.  The first is that, where the 2nd Doctor met the Great Intelligence as it was controlling “Abominable Snowmen,” the 11th Doctor met it when it was controlling regular snowmen.  The name of the episodes were surprisingly similar:  “The Abominable Snowmen” and “The Snowmen.”  Funnily enough, “The Snowmen” is the first time the Great Intelligence didn’t have the Yeti as his army (at least in visual media, but I refuse to read the novels just for research).  The beginning of “The Bells of Saint John” featured the Doctor in a monastery, which is where the 2nd Doctor first met the Great Intelligence.  And, finally, “The Bells of Saint John” seems a lot like another pilot project.  Like the Great Intelligence was just experimenting for something much, much bigger.

How much the Great Intelligence remembers of the 2nd Doctor now is somewhat unclear.  It didn’t seem to recognize the Doctor in “The Snowmen,” but it certainly knew who he was in “The Bells of Saint John.”  It almost seems as if we’re looking at a different creature called “The Great Intelligence.”  (But, of course, that isn’t the case.)  The Doctor seems to have trouble remembering what the Great Intelligence is because, at the end of “The Snowmen,” he simply says that the name sounds familiar.  But don’t for get that it’s possible that as much as a millennium has passed in the Doctor’s timeline between the 2nd and 11th Doctors.  I can’t remember all of my friends in high school.  I don’t know how I’d remember anything from a millennium ago if I could live that long.

The blog Life, Doctor Who, and Combom, recently brought to my attention the fact that BBC South Africa recently released the one-line descriptions of all the plots of the episodes this season.  The last episode of the season, the title of which has yet to be released, is described as such:

“Someone is kidnapping the Doctor's friends, leading him towards the one place in all of time and space that he should never go.”

I think it’s pretty obvious that this means someone is trying to bring the Doctor to the fields of Trenzalore where he’ll be forced to say his name when it’s asked.  I have no doubt that that’s what this description means.  But is it the Great Intelligence who’s going to be leading him there?  If so…why?