Category Archives: Doctor who

Doctor Who: Listen

lisenIf there’s a linking theme to series eight, it appears to be a deconstruction of the Doctor as a hero.

After renewing its title character in “Deep Breath,” the last three episodes have all been about examining aspects of the Doctor as a hero.  “Into the Dalek” was about how he’s defined by his mortal enemies and his hatred of them.  “Robots of Sherwood” looked at the Doctor in  comparison to the mythological hero of Robin Hood.   And now we’ve got “Listen,” a story that asks the question of what is the Doctor afraid of and where did that fear come from?

As an hour of television (or 45 or so minutes anyway), “Listen” is dark, creepy, off-putting and, for the most part, effective.  The pervading sense of discomfort and of everything not being quite right worked very well and the idea of examining the Doctor’s fear as a young boy is an interesting one.    I’m sure that fandom will be fairly polarized on the final ten or so minutes of the story, but I found that it tied in fairly well with the mythology we’ve seen established in the modern series (and the hints the Doctor has dropped about what happened when he looked into the vortex).   Of course, the assumption that the young boy in the bed was the Doctor is probably the one Steven Moffat wants us to jump to and there may be a twist or revelation set to come later this season that undoes those assumptions.

From the opening shot of the Doctor sitting on top of the TARDIS (which I figured was only created for the promotion leading up to the season and wouldn’t necessarily be used in an episode) to the final frame, the story was replete with visual style.   It also played with the mechanics of time travel when it came to Clara and Danny’s first date.  I will admit I found it interesting that Danny is objects to Clara’s kn0wledge she can’t or shouldn’t have but is later willing to set this aside when she shows up at his apartment at the end of the episode.   As the story progressed, I found myself wondering if Danny isn’t meant to be some kind of mirror for the Doctor and that could be part of the reason that Clara feels such a strong attraction to him — one that’s strong enough for her to go back twice to Danny after having some time to think about and ponder her actions.   So far, it appears Danny isn’t in on the secret that Clara travels through time (unless I missed something in the final conversation between the two) and it should be interesting to see if and how long this particular secret can or will be kept.

I know I’m a bit behind on my viewing but I’ve tried to stay away from heavy fan-based discussion of the episode so I can avoid SPOILERS.   However, watching “Listen” I can’t help but hear the vocal group who is dissatisfied with the season so far (I’m not one of them) being even more dissatisfied with this installment and how it all ties into the War Doctor.   I’ll admit that I really liked the tie in to the War Doctor and the fiftieth anniversary story and that I have faith in Moffat to execute whatever long term story he’s trying to tell here.

The thought of the Doctor being scared of something under the bed and driven by the fear to confront monsters across the universe and through space and time works for me.   Once again, Peter Capaldi nails his performance as the Doctor and he’s becoming more assured with each installment.   Again, I may not be the right fan to ask about this since I’m also a huge fan of another actor who played the Doctor with a Scottish accent.  (In fact, Sylvester McCoy is my favorite Doctor).

And yet as strong as the first thirty-five or so minutes were, there was something about the last ten or so minutes that felt a bit off.  I can’t quite put my finger on it,  but hopefully repeated viewings will help it become clearer.

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Big Finish Thoughts: The Fourth Doctor Adventures

Doctor Who: Destroy the Infinite (Big Finish Fourth Doctor Adventures 3.06)Doctor Who: Destroy the Infinite by Nicholas Briggs

While I don’t begrudge Big Finish creating their own little pocket of continuity within the Doctor Who universe, I still find it a bit frustrating when the script assumed you’ve listened to not only every release from one particular range, but also every release from the entire range of stories. Or that you’ve got an encyclopedic knowledge of that range of stories that you can easily call upon in order to understand the current story.

I’m doing well enough to keep my encyclopedia knowledge of televised stories up to date, much less that based on audio and literary adventures.

And so it is that I probably didn’t enjoy Destroy the Infinite as much as others who are more familiar with the range probably did. I came to find out from the extras on the disc that this story is a prequel to a previously released sixth Doctor story, Spaceport Fear. It seems that the alien race known as the Eminence made their first appearance there and that events in this story help set up that one. On the one hand, I’ll give Nicholas Briggs and Big Finish props for using the nature of time travel in a similar way to what the television series has tried to do. But on other hand, when I got to the end of this story, I was expecting it to be touched upon in the next several fourth Doctor stories and it never was.

It all led to my being more frustrated than entertained by this story — and curious to see out Spaceport Fear and see what happens there.

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Review: Doctor Who: The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller by Joanne Harris

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller

Following his final confrontation with the Queen in “Planet of the Spiders,” the third Doctor is slowly dying of radiation poisoning. Determined to get back to his friends at UNIT to say farewell, the TARDIS brings him on a side detour to what appears to be an English village. But beneath the happy surface, there is something sinister going on — including that no one is allowed to utter the “D-word” or else face the consequences.

Joanne Harris’ The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller captures the essence and character of the third Doctor in this fascinating, light novella set at the end of Jon Pertwee’s tenure. Reading the story, I could hear Pertwee delivering the dialogue that Harris creates for his Doctor and this one feels like a nice little side-step into a familiar era of the show.

It’s interesting that I picked this up right after listening to the Big Finish version of “Love and War.” That story also references the end of the third Doctor era and his dying of radiation poisoning. This story slips nicely into Paul Cornell’s take on the end of that era with the Doctor spending a decade in the TARDIS alone, dying of radiation poisoning.

I’ve read several of the digital shorts in the Time Trips series and this is one of the more enjoyable.    The story has a good mystery and it doesn’t overstay its welcome or suffer from excessive padding.   If you’re a fan of the third Doctor, this is definitely one to pick up.

I received a digital ARC of this story from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Doctor Who: The Crawling Terror by Mike Tucker

Doctor Who: The Crawling Terror (New Series Adventures, #55)

Being a Doctor Who fan these days is interesting. What was once a more solitary fandom has now become more social. Where it was once just me enjoying my VHS copies of the stories and haunting my local bookstores for the latest novel, it seems like these days you can’t turn around twice without seeing Doctor Who merchandise for sale everywhere.

It’s become so pervasive that there were copies of “Deep Breath” for sale in Wal-Mart the other day. Wal-Mart! It appears we’re in a golden age for tie-in merchandise to my favorite series.

And with a new Doctor arriving on the scene, it seems that the BBC is doing all it can to capitalize on fan enthusiasm, starting with the release of three new Peter Capaldi Doctor stories this week. Thanks to the kind people at NetGalley, I was able to secure ARC copies of the books a week or so before Capaldi made his debut on our screens. But being the obsessive fan that I am, I couldn’t bring myself to crack the digital covers of the books until I’d at least seen his debut story. I didn’t want to unintentionally spoil myself on details of the first story or to create any more notions of what I wanted from the Capaldi Doctor.

First up in the reading list was Mike Tucker’s The Crawling Terror. The Doctor and Clara arrive in a small town that is literally crawling with giant, potentially deadly insects. Investigating further, the Doctor uncovers unnatural experiments taking place that could have a tie to British and German experiments from the second World War and a potential alien invasion just waiting to happen.

While the concept of an alien invasion of our planet through the U.K. isn’t necessarily the most original Doctor Who plot, Tucker throws in just enough references to the classic and new series and gives it just enough of a twist that I didn’t necessarily mind that much. I’m also impressed with how well Tucker had translated Capladi’s take on the Doctor to the printed page. There are many instances where I could hear Capaldi delivering the dialogue that Tucker gives the Doctor. Clara is also well served by the story and feels authentic as well.

It makes me curious how much background material Tucker and his fellow authors were given to the early episodes. Did they read scripts or see test footage?Was it BBC sanctioned or did they have to get the scripts and footage via alternate means (since the first five scripts and working prints of a couple of episodes leaked to the Internet).

Whatever the case, Tucker does a solid job with The Crawling Terror. The story is effective and creepy.

As I said before, I received a digital ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Doctor Who: “Into the Dalek”

intothedalek“Fantastic idea for a movie. Terrible idea for a proctologist.”

“Dalek” was an early classic for the new Doctor Who, ranking among my favorite stories of all-time.  So a story that features callbacks to that classic Christopher Eccleston era story was already going to be right in my wheelhouse.  Add in another superb performance by Peter Capaldi and some interesting bits about just who this new Doctor is and you’ve got another winner for this new era.

I know I’m probably in the minority on fully embracing and loving this one, but then again, I was quick to embrace and love “Victory of the Daleks” at the start of the Matt Smith era.  And while that episode hasn’t held up as well as my initial reaction, I still think it’s a lot better than most fans give it credit for.

“Into the Dalek” finds the Doctor brought in to heal a malfunctioning Dalek — one that has become “good” instead of wanting to exterminate everything it encounters.   Conflicted about what he should do, the Doctor brings Clara onto the scene because she’s a “carer” and does his caring for him.    Not sure if there really can be a “good” Dalek, the Doctor and Clara agree to be miniaturized and head inside the Dalek to fix what’s gone wrong and hopefully find some redemption for the Daleks as well as the Doctor.

In a story that calls to mind not only “Dalek,” but also “The Invisible Enemy,” the Doctor and Clara’s journey inside of a Dalek proves to be a fascinating one, not only because we have to contend with Dalek antibodies but we also get a look around inside the internal portions of the blobs of hate in bonded poly-caribide armor.  Much of the episode centers on just how alien and distant this new Doctor is, including his disdain for soldiers (setting up something when the Doctor and Clara’s new love interest Danny Pink cross paths, I’m sure) and the fact that he doesn’t believe there can be anything good in a Dalek.  In the end, the Doctor and Clara reconnect the memories that made the Dalek “good” and send it back among the Daleks as a changed Dalek — one that exterminates the fleet invading the ship and then convinces the Dalek fleet that all the humans have been exterminated.

The Dalek gets a look inside the Doctor’s mind and proclaims that he would not longer make a good Dalek as we heard during Eccleston’s era but that he is a good Dalek.  His hatred of the Daleks is so all-consuming that he’s become not much better than his mortal foes — the Doctor even references that it was his original visit to Skaro that defines who he is and when he became more than just a name he chose for himself.

It all adds up to some great speeches for Capaldi.  Of course, the episode also includes a lot of scenes that we’ve seen referenced in the trailers including the aforementioned “carer” and the “Am I good man?” question.   It seems as if the question may be one that the entire series is going to have to address and look into.  It may also come into question when and if we find out who Missy is and why she’s choosing certain victims of the Doctor’s influence to bring back.  Interestingly, she’s chosen two people so far that the Doctor doesn’t hold in high regard — the clockwork robot and a solider.  Is she collecting people the Doctor has dismissed to teach him a lesson or to create some kind of force to go up against him later in the season?

After a solid debut in “Deep Breath,” “Into the Dalek” is a nicely crafted hour that works well on just about every level.  I love the new storytelling pace that allows the show time to breath and to allow things to sink in a bit.  I also love the work Capaldi is doing  and the solid scripts he’s getting.   We’re two for two in this new era and this is one Doctor Who fan who is wholly satisfied.

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Doctor Who: Deep Breath

doctor_who_deep_breath“Clara, I’m not your boyfriend.”

Looking back on the year leading up to the fiftieth anniversary, I can’t help but wonder if Steven Moffat and BBC America were doing something even more subversive with the Doctor’s Revisited than just introducing new series fans to the classic Doctors.  Could it have been that Moffat knew that he was going to take the series back to its classic roots with the next Doctor and was getting fans ready for it by showing us four-part classic Doctor Who stories that had a moment or two to breath and were paced a bit more leisurely than much of what we’ve seen for the past ten years?

It certainly seems like it could be the case based on “Deep Breath.”

If this is how the rest of series eight is going to be, consider me fully on board for this one.

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A New Era Begins

01466118

Fifteen years ago, if you’d told me that not only would Doctor Who return to our screens but that it would become a world-wide pop culture phenomenon, I wouldn’t have believed it.

I’d never have believed the series would get not one but TWO cover stories from Entertainment Weekly or that the arrival of a new Doctor would get coverage from USA Today, The New York Times and other media outlets.   Or if you’d told me that you could find a wide assortment of merchandise (a TARDIS spatula?!?) related to the show, I’d probably have thought you were crazy.  And don’t get me started on my complete skepticism that there would be anything to celebrate fifty years of the show but a couple of repackaged classic serials on DVD.

You’ll have to pardon me if I don’t channel my inner third Doctor and bit and become a bit grumpy and cantankerous with new fans who have bemoaned that we’ve “waited so long” for new episodes this time or that they’re only doing twelve installments series instead of 13.

I want to shake them and go — we got to see the fiftieth anniversary in theaters!  After it got a world-wide virtually simultaneous broadcast on the anniversary date!    Monday night, if you want to you can see the feature-length season premiere in theaters, surrounded by fellow fans who may have different preferences from you, but who all enjoy Doctor Who.  Don’t even get me started on the whole announcement of the new Doctor special last year that generated huge audiences and was also simulcast worldwide! 

And while I may disdain the segment of fandom who have decided there is only Doctor and he is David Tennant (mirroring the segment of classic series fandom who only sees merit in the Tom Baker era), I still have to take a step back and take the time to enjoy the moment.   I will admit I’m looking forward to this new era with Peter Capaldi in the title role and seeing what he brings to things.  I’m hoping for an older, crankier Doctor maybe along the lines of Jon Pertwee, William Hartnell and (at times) Tom Baker (watch his first couple of seasons and you see a bit of a crankiness to the fourth Doctor).  

All I can say is — if you’re new to the party, welcome on board.  Please at least consider giving the classic series a chance.  Yes, it’s a bit different from the modern show, but I hope you might see some of what made many of us fall in love with the show.  

This evening, the new era begins.    I’m intrigued, excited and a bit nervous to see how the new Doctor will be.

Pretty much the same way I felt years ago when my PBS station aired the feature-format version of “Time and the Rani” for the first time…..

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