Category Archives: Doctor who

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

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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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Big Finish Reviews: The Crooked Man, The Evil One, The Last of the Colophon

Doctor Who: The Crooked Man (Big Finish Fourth Doctor Adventures 3.03)The Crooked Man

Given that The Crooked Man is from the pen of John Dorney, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I enjoyed it as much as I did. And that’s despite having an reveal in the last five or so minutes that I guessed long before the Doctor and company deduced it (or at least that they confirmed it in the course of the story).

The Doctor and Leela arrive in a sea-side town for a holiday but discover that a macabre series of murders is taking place. Investigating further, they soon discover there’s a link between these murders and a local family — the sinister and creepy Crooked Man of the title.

The idea of world of fiction having the ability to crossover into reality is nothing new for Doctor Who (see the Troughton era serial “The Mind Robber”) so it’s a huge credit to Dorney’s script that it manages to feel interesting when done here. And while there’s a twist in the last five or so minutes of the script that’s telegraphed fairly early on by the story, it’s still one that is entirely earned by the story. Continue reading

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Big Finish Thoughts: White Ghosts, The Elite & Hexagora

Doctor Who: White Ghosts (Big Finish Fourth Doctor Adventures 3.02)

White Ghosts  by Alan Barnes 

After the promising ending to “The Kings of Sontar” I’ll admit I had high expectations for the next fourth Doctor adventure.

And I’ll admit upon first blush, I was a bit disappointed by how easily it seemed certain developments from “Sontar” were swept aside. But pondering it further and taking the opportunity to listen to the story again, I feel like my first feelings of disappointment were misplaced and that maybe, must maybe I’d missed what this series of audio stories are trying to do in terms of the fourth Doctor and Leela. And if the stories can pay this off (and if that pay off can come without the Daleks being involved), I could see myself being a lot more pleased than I was after my initial assessment.

Avoiding a close run-in with a missile, the TARDIS materializes on board a planet that is kept in perpetual darkness. A scientific research team is there, studying a newly created species of plant life. But there’s a reason the team is doing so on a planet where there is little or no light — a secret that quickly comes to light (pun not intended, but it works). Before you know it, the story unfolds as a fast-paced, two-part base-under-siege story as the Doctor struggles to understand the implications of what’s going on and Leela fights to defend herself and the rapidly dwindling supporting cast from becoming what plant vampires.

Barnes’ story works well enough on the surface. Like another story I recently listened to, the ending comes a bit out of left field and feels a bit too rushed and like Barnes is trying to wrap things up too quickly or within the time constraints placed upon him. It’s a shame because had the story been given another five minutes to breath, it might have worked a lot better.

And there are some interesting implications to the philosophical disagreement that came up between the Doctor and Leela in the last story and the role the Time Lords play in sending the Doctor on this mission. If this season of stories is about exploring Leela’s reaction to how the Time Lords use the Doctor to do their dirty work, this could be a very interesting turn of events.

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Review: Doctor Who: Touched by an Angel by Jonathan Morris

Doctor Who: Touched by an Angel

Following in the footsteps of the fiftieth anniversary re-release of original, printed Doctor Who adventures comes the Monsters Editions. Each of these reprinted stories features one of the Doctor’s classic adversaries from the printed page.

Representing the Weeping Angels is Jonathan Morris’ “Touched by an Angel.”

And just like the episode “Blink” that introduced the angels to Doctor Who lore, this novel is one that I’d consider a Doctor-light story. The eleventh Doctor, Amy and Rory are present throughout much of the story, but the real star of this books is Mark Whitacker.

Mark is attacked by the Weeping Angels but sent back in time only a few years instead of across an entire lifetime. The Angels have identified Mark as having the potential to create a huge time paradox upon which they can feed and recharge. Mark is still hurting from the death of his wife a few years earlier and sees his being zapped back in time as an opportunity to save her from what he sees as her untimely death. Mark even went so far as to write himself a note detailing certain events and while he never crosses paths directly with himself, he does push his younger self along at certain points in his life (one instance involves a lost wallet in Rome).

The Doctor is forced to allow Mark to do this since what he’s done is already history and to go against it would create the paradox the Angels so desperately want to feed on. But Mark is hiding his ultimate agenda from the Doctor and his companions, who follow his exploits through time in the TARDIS, dropping in at pivotal occasions to hold Mark to his word and to keep history on course.

In some ways, “Touched by An Angel” feels like a Doctor Who take on The Time Traveller’s Wife. Morris makes Mark and Rebecca work well on the page and allows us to see inside Mark’s reasoning and desire to save Rebecca’s life, even if we agree with the Doctor that it can’t and shouldn’t be done. The creepiness of the Angels that worked so well in “Blink” is captured here on the printed page. In many ways, this feels like it could easily be adapted into a story for the new series, assuming they had the time and budget to do it.

I’ve read a lot of Doctor Who tie-in fiction in my life and I’ve got to admit that some of it is better than others. I’d put this one squarely in the category of the better stories told in the printed range.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles — Council of War

Doctor Who: Council of War

For the first fifty or so minutes, Council of War is an entertaining, compelling story. Then suddenly, the entire story hinges on what can only be called a deus ex Doctor and the entire thing collapses under its own weight.

Benton is sent by the Doctor and the Brigadier to a town of Kettering to investigate ghost sightings and disappearances by members of the town council. Posing as just-appointed councilmember, Benton attends the council Christmas party, meeting Margery Philips, self-proclaimed feminist and recently elected fellow councilmember.

An alien ship appears above the town and before you know it, Benton and Margery are swept up to an alien world, where Margery is on trial for (as of yet) unexplained crimes. It appears that Margery’s career in politics was a successful one, leading to her writing a book heralding the value of peace and non-violence. The alien race in question stumbled across said book, adopted it as the cornerstone of their society and had a decade or so of peaceful existence. And then an alien race with weapons showed up and demanded their subservience. The original aliens blame Margery for this and have put her on trial for the alleged crimes against their species.

Margery and Benton (each takes turn narrating the story and, for the most part, it works) argue that whether or not she’s to blame is irrelevant and that the alien race needs to stand up for themselves. However, the only weapons they have are show pieces in a museum and Benton’s walther-PPK. Benton hatches a plan to use the museum pieces to distract the aliens while he uses a device the Doctor whipped up to stow away on board the alien craft and create some havoc.

To this point, the story is going well though I will admit I started to become concerned the longer the story continued as to whether or not there would be enough time to properly wrap up the story in an interesting, believable way. And, unfortunately, these fears are realized when the story takes the easiest way possible out of the situation and left me feeling a bit empty and like I’d just wasted an hour or so listening to the story.

At several points in the story, allusions are made to the Bond stories and movies (there’s even a reference to Benton looking a bit like George Lazanby). It seems like the authors may have been trying to go for a Bond-like feel to this entry in the Companion Chronicles range. I’m guessing that makes the Brig M and the Doctor Q on some level…but I digress. Like I said before, the story works well until the last five or so minutes where instead of sticking the landing, it feels like the authors realized that had five minutes left to wrap this all up and went for the most convenient, easy, get-out-of-alien-invasion-free card they could find.

I know that several single disc releases have run three episodes and perhaps Council of War might have benefited from a bit longer running time.

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Thoughts on A Couple of Big Finish Doctor Who Releases

Doctor Who: The Final Phase (Big Finish Fourth Doctor Adventures, #2.7)Doctor Who: The Final Phase by Nicholas Briggs

Why must every run of Big Finish stories end with the Daleks?

When the range first brought the Doctor’s greatest nemesis back in audio form all those years ago, I was excited, intrigued and couldn’t wait to hear them. Now I find myself rolling my eyes and thinking, “The Daleks again?!?”

Perhaps the classic series knew what it was doing when it operated under the less is more theory of Dalek stories. Having a bit of space in between stories featuring the Daleks (or even the perception that there is some space between them) helps make the Dalek stories seem a little more special.

I get that Nicholas Briggs loves the Daleks and I get that he’s really good at doing their voices. I just find myself wishing that every Big Finish arc I listened to didn’t all end up with the Daleks somehow behind the plot.

And so it is that we end the latest round of Tom Baker audio dramas with a whimper and not a bang. I can see what the stories are trying to do by trying together a lot of threads from the course of the seven installments that make up the Tom Baker/Mary Tamm season together. But honestly, looking back over the stories the ones I enjoyed the most were the stand-alone titles and not the ones that attempted to give the season an overall theme or arc. Baker quickly settles back into his role as the Doctor with a flourish and Mary Tamm does a fine job as the first Romana. This comes as little surprise me to me since I’ve listened to the two bounce off each other on the DVD commentaries for season 16 and they’ve still got chemistry in spades).

“The Final Phase” tries hard to wrap things up but I can’t help but feel like it would have been better served if this story and the preceding “The Dalek Contract” had been done as either an extended run two-part story or possibly three episodes. The events that take place here feel padded at four episodes and like there’s a lot of verbal running up and down corridors taking place to fill time. Or maybe it’s just that I don’t necessarily find the a verbal sparring match with the Daleks all that interesting. (Terry Nation was on to something when he realizes that long exchanges of dialogue by Daleks can become inherently uninteresting after a certain point. Hence why he have Davros and the superlative “Genesis of the Daleks.”)

Tying in threads from the earlier two-disc release, this two part story doesn’t have anything revelatory or new to say. The Daleks are going to betray Cuthbert and their alliance? Check and saw that coming. The Daleks want to lure the Doctor into a trap and will hold various people prisoner to do so? Check and again, saw it coming. In the end, this wrap up to the season feels more like “been there, done that” that in really bringing any closure or wrapping up the season.

It’s a shame that this is the final time Tamm will reprise her role as the original Romana. As I said before, Tamm is great. It’s just the material that lets her down.

Doctor Who: The King Of Sontar (Big Finish Fourth Doctor Adventures 3.01)Doctor Who: The King Of Sontar by John Dorney

While I was disappointed by how the previous season of fourth Doctor adventures ended, I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised and intrigued the start of a new run of fourth Doctor and Leela stories. I guess since John Dorney is behind the script for the first installment, “The Kings of Sontar,” that shouldn’t come as too big a surprise. Dorney is one of the most consistent writers for the Big Finish range and this latest story continues his streak.

The fourth Doctor and Leela are sent by the Time Lords to Dowcra base, where an elite group of Sontarans led by augmented Sontaran Strang has aspirations of ending the war with the Rutans and setting about conquering the universe. There’s a threat to the universe as we know it with the Doctor squarely caught in the middle, trying to figure out if and how he can and should stop it.

The story itself unfolds in a fairly expected fashion for the first fifty or so minutes. And then characters make a few decisions that lead up to a electric scene in the TARDIS and some intriguing conflict between the Doctor and Leela. Dorney builds on some of the established conflicts between these two from their television days and gives this run of stories the potential to be something interesting and special. Whether or not the range can pay-off what’s put in place here remains to be seen but it certainly has this listener intrigued and interested in a way I haven’t been since the initial excitement of Tom Baker coming to the range wore off.

Baker and Louise Jameson slip easily back into the familiar roles of the Doctor and Leela and it’s nice to hear David Collins back in Doctor Who.

I can only hope that Dorney will be on board to help wrap up this run of Big Finish stories. Or that maybe, just maybe we can have a run of stories that don’t feature the Daleks as the pivotal enemy behind things. AT this point, I’m scared to look ahead at the upcoming installments and art work for fear of having things given away — or being disappointed to see a season-ending Briggs story.

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