Sunday, July 28, 2013

Let Them Eat Trailers and Scripts: An Operation Blue Harvest Update

Someday I will attend San Diego Comic Con.  But this year, when Matt Smith, Jenna Louise-Coleman, and Steven Moffat were all there, was unfortunately not the year.  I guess I'll have to wait until Matt Smith is all washed up before he'll appear at another Comic Con to talk about Doctor Who.  So I wasn't there when they showed the awesome teaser trailer at Comic Con, I had to wait for it to come out online like everybody else did.  Nobody managed to steal a quick video from it like the trailer for "The End of Time."  So when I woke up this morning and found that the trailer was released, I was glad I would have something to write about in my blog besides people's various and fruitless attempts to predict the 12th Doctor.

The trailer is amazing!  I think my favorite part is probably the awesome, ominous music.  If that's Murray Gold's doing, he might have just outdone himself.  (Well, okay, nothing beats "Abigail's Song" from "A Christmas Carol).  But it sets the stage for what looks like a very dark episode.  Of course, there's bound to be much more lighthearted humor in this episode than the trailer suggests.  That's Moffat's style:  dark, but funny.

The moment of the Doctor meeting the Doctor in this is fantastic, even though the 10th Doctor's facial expression says "Who just farted?".  That first meeting is going to be one of the highlights of the revived series.  And the trailer pretty much proves that this is the actual 10th Doctor, not Meta-Crisis 10, which is what I was afraid of.  Meta-Crisis 10 could still have been fun, but I want the 11th Doctor to meet the actual 10th Doctor, not his half-human off-shoot from a ridiculous and convoluted plot.  But with both Doctors standing directly in front of their TARDISes--one with the St. John's Ambulance badge on it, one without--it shows that this is definitely the proper 10th Doctor.  Meta-Crisis 10 doesn't have a TARDIS.

If you start the trailer at exactly 0:24 you'll see a shot of the 10th Doctor walking into a TARDIS where the 2nd Doctor, and someone else, are controlling the TARDIS panel.  But there's something I'm confused about:  I guess if I went back and watched all of "The Three Doctors" I might recognize what scene that was.  The 2nd Doctor in a color scene with that quality camera work and that TARDIS design is almost certainly a multi-Doctor episode.  And I checked "The Five Doctors" and the design doesn't match up.  It has to be "The Three Doctors."  But as the 10th Doctor's shoulder slowly starts to move out of the way, you can see the head of someone else at the TARDIS console.  It looks like the 1st Doctor.  And this is why I'm confused:  the 1st Doctor never appeared in the TARDIS during "The Three Doctors."  Hartnell was in such poor health that they had to write in a way for him to spend the entire serial sitting down, so he was in the television for the whole serial.  What is that shot from?  Again, if I were to go through all of "The Three Doctors" I might find it, and maybe I'll go through it later, but I can't for the life of me imagine where that shot might be from.  Perhaps it was an early outtake of "The Three Doctors" before they decided to keep Hartnell in the TV.  That's what they did with the 4th Doctor in "The Five Doctors":  put in footage of him that had never made it to air.

But it does tell us one very interesting thing:  the special will incorporate, at the very least, archive footage of past Doctors.  I'll be interested to see how that works in.  They certainly did a very good job of it in "The Name of the Doctor."

And what the fuck is with the knight walking towards the tent?


Now, in other news, you might have heard that Stephen Moffat recently released copies of the audition scripts he's using to try out potential 12th Doctors.  This has led to a lot of people trying to guess who the new Doctor is going to be based on the tone and word choice in the Doctor's dialogue.  These are clearly people who do not know what an audition script is.  Moffat even said that these scripts will never be in an episode of the show.  So don't try to read into it.  Moffat is trying to whet our appetites for the 12th Doctor without actually telling us anything about him at all.  So enjoy the scripts, they're deliciously clever in a very Moffat-y kind of way, but don't pretend that they're going to help you figure anything out.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Five "Potential" Twelfth Doctors Everyone Needs to Stop Talking About

Part of the reason that I'm not posting much anymore is that all that people want to talk about in Doctor Who fandom right now is who they think is going to be the next Doctor.  I think that all of that speculation is ridiculous.  None of us have any idea who the next Doctor is going to be.  But, while all of this speculation is silly, I'm going to talk about the names people are throwing around as possible 12th Doctors that are absolutely ridiculous and who will never become the Doctor.

5.  Benedict Cumberbatch

Much like with David Tennant, it's very hard to pick out the sexiest picture
of Benedict Cumberbatch on the Internet.
People have been talking about Cumberbatch as the Doctor since his first episode of Sherlock.  First of all, it's bad enough that we have the show runner splitting his attention between Doctor Who and Sherlock without the star doing the same thing.  Having two big hit shows on the BBC with the same head writer and star would be, at the very least...a bit weird.

But here's the biggest problem with Cumberbatch:  Have you ever seen him play a lighthearted, good, happy character?  His version of Sherlock Holmes makes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's look like a happy little wood nymph.  There's a certain way in which the original Holmes was a bit of a dark loner and a pompous ass, but Cumberbatch's portrayal takes it to a truly darker level.  It's all summed up in some of his final lines from the last episode, "The Reichenbach Fall":  "Oh, I may be on the side of the angels, but don't think for one second that I am one of them"

The only time I saw Cumberbatch as a potential Doctor was from this past week's episode of Top Gear when Cumberbatch was their Star in the Reasonably Priced Car.  Cumberbatch, in his interview, was laid back, friendly, and personable.  But I've yet to see him put that forward in any of his characters.  They're always dark, cold, and distant.  Those are things the Doctor absolutely cannot be.

The main point, though, is that he can't be Sherlock and the Doctor at the same time.  And playing the Doctor, Sherlock Holmes, and Khan Noonien Singh might be too much awesome for any one person's career.  But most importantly...he'd make a much better Master!

4.  Dame Helen Mirren

Sexiest woman over 60 in the world!
I've given my opinions on the idea of a female Doctor in a previous blog.  And I agree with people who say that Mirren might very well be the only actress who could pull off the Doctor's first gender transition.  But there are two things standing in the way:  the fans don't want a woman, and she doesn't want to do it.  Those are fairly big hurdles to overcome before she could become the Doctor.

The simple fact is that a lot of people don't want to see a female Doctor.  Moffat ran a poll at a conference and everyone said they'd stop watching.  No, I don't think all of the people who say they don't want a female Doctor are sexist.  Some of them are, but some of them just don't think that Time Lords should be able to change genders between regenerations.  There's not a clear example of it happening in canon.

Helen Mirren stated pretty unequivocally that she doesn't want to do it.  She did say, however, that she wanted a "gay, black, woman Doctor."  I understand the desire to see either a black or female Doctor, but can the show, at this point, really said to be lacking in LGBT advocacy?  So yes, I think it would be absolutely fascinating to see Helen Mirren in the role, but you will never, ever see it.

3.  Russell Tovey

Oh come on, if you were searching Google Images for a picture of
Russell Tovey and this came up, you'd choose this one too.
Are you kidding me?!  If Cumberbatch has been typecast as cold and dark, Tovey only plays shy and awkward.  His performance in Being Human is brilliant because the whole idea is: "what if the most socially awkward and kind person in the world became a werewolf and had to deal with all of the emotional baggage that comes with being a supernatural killer?"  His role as Midshipman Alonzo Frame in "Voyage of the Damned" (and briefly again in "The End of Time (Part 2)") was endearing because he was so meek, but put aside that meekness to show his bravery when it was absolutely necessary.  Even his character in the Sherlock episode, "The Hounds of Baskerville," was shy and skiddish.

I know every actor has to have range, but I haven't seen it yet from Russell Tovey, and I've probably seen more of his work than I've seen of the work of anyone else I've put on this list.  He's kind of like a British version of Michael Cerra:  they both play the same "adorably" shy character in every role they're cast in.  I can't imagine Russell Tovey bouncing around the TARDIS with a big smile on his face, or threatening the Daleks with a steely stare.  Maybe he could surprise me, but he hasn't shown me enough to believe that he could be the Doctor.

2.  Rupert Grint

This is not remotely a metaphor for impotence.
I'm not even going to dignify this one with a response.

...okay, it seems like you're going to make me.  Ron Weasley cannot be the Doctor.  Period.  I'd love to see Rupert Grint branch out into other roles that are really different from what he did in Harry Potter, but there's no way he's going to be allowed to do it as the Doctor.  He's too recognizable in one role right now.  He needs to become established in more diverse roles before he'd even be considered for another big, iconic role.  Furthermore, Doctor Who is not really new territory for Rupert Grint.  He'd just be moving from a fantasy franchise to a science-fiction franchise which, if it didn't have its very, very thin scientific rationales, would pretty much be a fantasy franchise.  It would be a bad decision for both Doctor Who and for Grint's career.

1.  David Tennant

I'm going to stab the next fangirl who asks me to come back.
One month ago I read a report that said that Skybet had placed 50/1 odds on David Tennant coming back.  I can't find any such bets on Skybet at the moment.  Hopefully, someone realized that it was a ridiculous thing to bet on because every single person would lose as nobody has any idea who is going to be the next Doctor.

But I would bet everything I own (which, admittedly, isn't much) that David Tennant will never, ever return to the role full time.  Doctors don't come back.  No actor ever has, ever will, or ever should become the Doctor.  Nobody is going to Grover Cleveland this thing.  Doctor Who is a show about time travel.  Much like time travel, it's a show that has to move both forwards and backwards at the same time.  It can bring back past enemies and past monsters, but it absolutely cannot move back to a previous regeneration of the Doctor.  It would be a cheap ploy that any true fan would reject, leaving nothing but a fan base of 13 year old girls.

It simply will never happen.  Get over it.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Doctor's Dozen: A Doctor Who Book Report on the Thirteen Doctors Problem

Why is there a monkey dressed as a German soldier in WWI?

"When they came [to America] to launch The Eleventh Hour, I went along to this screening in LA and journalists put their hands up, and one of the first questions was, 'WHat will happen when he reaches the thirteenth regeneration?' There's a fascinating academic study to be made out of how some facts stick and some don't--how Jon Pertwee's Doctor could say he was thousands of years old, and no-one listens to that, and yet someone once says he's only got thirteen lives, and it becomes lore.  It's really interesting, I think.  That's why I'm quite serious that that 507 thing won't stick, because the 13 is too deeply ingrained in the public consciousness.  But how?  How did that get there?"

-Russell T. Davies

I've said sometimes that Moffat bases his version of Doctor Who on a mis-remembering of what the classic series really was.  This quote makes it clear that Davies is mis-remembering the classic series as well.  The Doctor's age has fluctuated so much over the years that, no, nobody remembers him saying that he was thousands of years old. The First Doctor claimed to be about 100, the Fourth Doctor claimed to be about 700, and then pretty much every Doctor between 6 and 11 claimed to be 900.  How could any of these numbers stick in anybody's head?  We've all just assumed he's lying.  Rule 1, after all.

It was first established in the Fifth Doctor episode "Mawdryn Undead" that Time Lords can only regenerate 12 times.  For those who failed elementary school math, you'll realize that that doesn't mean that there can only be 12 Doctors, but that there can only be 13.  Davies, as shown above, seems to mis-remember the number of times the 13 Doctor's issue was brought up.  He thinks it was just once.  He is very wrong.  It was not a minor plot point in "Mawdryn Undead," as the episode was about someone trying to steal the Doctor's remaining 8 regenerations.  The Valeyard was said, by the Master, to be created between the Doctor's 12th and final incarnations.  It was established in the Fourth Doctor episode "The Deadly Assassin" that the Master had already used up all of his regenerations, which is why he was clinging to life and needed to steal a body.  The Eighth Doctor said in the narration to the Doctor Who that the Master had used up all of his thirteen lives.  There were a few other casual references, but it was used as main plot points in a number of episodes.  That's why 13 stuck in the public consciousness, Russell.

When Davies mentions the number 507 here, he is referring to the fact that, the one time he got to write for the Eleventh Doctor, in his guest appearance in the Sarah Jane Adventures episode "Death of the Doctor," the Doctor was asked how many times he could regenerate, and he answered "507."  The number was Davies's little "fuck you" to the fans, as the digits in that number add up to--you guessed it--thirteen!  507 has not only failed to stick in the public consciousness, fans are rejecting it because we flat out find it insulting that he thinks you can just throw away a piece of the mythology like that.  It's easier to throw away the Doctor's claim of 507 under Rule 1.

Now we find ourselves in an interesting situation.  The number thirteen was obviously chosen during the Fifth Doctor era because nobody thought they had to worry about the show going through another 8 regenerations.  Now we're here decades later and Moffat has decided to speed up the process.  By adding "True 9," or the "John Hurt Doctor," every Doctor number since 9 has to be bumped up by one.  Eccleston was truly the 10th Doctor, Tennant the 11th, Smith the 12th, and the new Doctor who will take over for Smith in December...will technically be the 13th, and final, Doctor!  That means that Steven Moffat will most likely be the person to decide how the 13th Doctor problem is to be resolved.  Moffat is going to decide how to pull off the impossible regeneration.

So why do I call this the Thirteen Doctors Problem?  The first reason is that it's a narrative problem.  We have no doubt that this show is going to keep going, so it's a narrative hurdle we know that they have to overcome before the show moves forward.  But my biggest concern is whether or not they're even going to bother addressing it.  To use Davies's solution--to take Route 507, if you will--would be insulting to the fan base.

We know the lore better than you do.  Don't try to change it without really thinking about it and researching it and coming up with a solution that doesn't insult our intelligence.  So my fear that Moffat is going to listen to Davies and just ignore the issue is the main "problem" to which I refer.

Someone at Comic Con mentioned to me his theory:  that, in "Let's Kill Hitler," when River saved the Doctor with her regeneration energy, it was said she used up the rest of her regenerations to save him, so maybe she gave him her remaining regenerations.  We only know for sure that she had regenerated at least 2 times before that.  It's unlikely that she regenerated any more than two times (but it's not impossible).  Thus, she would give him probably 9 more regenerations, and keep us from having to deal with this problem again for another few decades.  Interesting idea.

Do Gallifreyan sex-ed teachers teach you that sex can lead to things like babies, STDs, or losing 9 of your lives?
Personally, I think the Cartmel Masterplan gets us easily out of the problem.  The Doctor is a god, so how can he die?  I do believe in the Cartmel Masterplan, as you know if you've been reading me for a while.  But I don't think anybody will--or necessarily should--state explicitly on the show that the Cartmel Masterplan is canon.

I'm going to do something I don't do often and tell you what I would do if I was the head writer of Doctor Who (and, damn, do I wish I was):  The Doctor is injured one last time.  As he starts to become weaker, he starts to say his goodbyes to those around him, thinking the true end has finally come.  Suddenly, he regenerates, and the 13th Doctor appears and says "That's not possible!"  Then I'd wait for a while to explain it, if I bothered to explain it at all.  Nobody explained what regeneration even was until the 3rd time it happened.  Maybe I'd just let the mystery of why the Doctor can still regenerate hang around for a while for someone far down the line from me to solve.  I think that adding some of that mystery back to the show would be a lot of fun.

Also, as we get closer to the "final" regeneration, it's important to ask:  Will the Doctor start to become more afraid of his death since he thinks the last one is coming soon?  Being in your final regeneration must be pretty terrifying for a Time Lord.  Will he start to become more cautious?  Or will he become even more reckless, hoping to squeeze as much as he can out of the last of his lives?  If I know Moffat's writing, I think the latter is more likely.

I'm really glad that Davies is not in the driver's seat right now, but it's not entirely clear where Steven Moffat stands on this issue.  So let this be my plea to Moffat:  When the time comes for the "12th" Doctor to regenerate, address the Thirteen Doctors Problem.  I don't give a single shit how you do it, as long as it's something that does not insult our intelligence (like Route 507).  Just address it.  Somehow.

Oh, and also, make Richard Ayoade the 12th Doctor!