Adventure in Space and Time, and Day of the Doctor

After dreading The Day of the Doctor because of Steven Moffat’s highly variable writing, I have to say I was very happy with it.  It’s a solid 8 out of 10 from me, which means it’s good.  It was fun, and humourous, and not overwrought or full of false drama.

An Adventure In Space and Time is harder for me to rate.  I know the history of that period fairly well.  And I really know about how the role of the Doctor changed Hartnell, brought so much joy to him, and also how he struggled.  And all that is captured so beautifully by the writing of Mark Gatiss and the acting of David Bradley.

So it’s hard for me to rate because I had to, literally, stop the vid at least seven times as I bawled uncontrollably.  Seriously, I was a giant mess.  Most of that crying was at the sweetness and kindness shown to Hartnell, and a bit was at those heartbreaking moments when you knew an ill and insecure man was about to be hurt.

In all honesty, I have never had any film affect me as deeply as this one.  I typed the last paragraph and this one with tears in my eyes at the memory of it.

So, I think it may be a 9 or a 10 out of 10, but I’ll need to rewatch it first and I’m not sure I’m quite up to it again yet.

But I will rewatch both, because it’s become obvious I need to run through references and Easter Eggs for people.  Not sure when I’ll get them done, though I’ll try to get to them as soon as I can.

Here’s just a couple…

In The Day of the Doctor, when the character of the Doctor is getting described, there is at least one quote from the 1972 book, “The Making of Doctor Who” by Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke – “He is never cruel or cowardly.”

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Glass Daleks, everlasting matches, and a car crash on a dark night – this book has it all.

Also, the very start of An Adventure In Space and Time has Hartnell pulling up on Barnes Common on a dark and foggy night, and pausing to look at a real police box.  In the very first Doctor Who book, “Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks,” David Whitaker tells a different version of how Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright meet the Doctor and Susan. And it all happens on Barnes Common, on a dark and foggy night.

The opening location from Adventure in Space and Time is also replicated for The Day of the Doctor.  It’s not the same location (I thought it was but closer inspection showed houses in the background of the Hartnell scene), but they’ve gone for as close a match as possible.  It’s way too close to be a coincidence.

There were many other references, of course, so I’ll get on it.  But until I do, I’ll try to finish my edit of the Series Six Moffat’s Master Plan article within the next few days to hold you over.

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The People the Doctor is Building…

So two years ago I wrote this piece about the overall impact Doctor Who has had on my life.

I said most of what I had to say back then, but being a couple of years later, life moves on and there’s some new thoughts to add on the subject.  The link to Doctor Who this time may not be as immediately obvious, but it’s just as strong.

Verity Lambert - all it took was a little faith and belief, and 50 years on we're still reaping the benefits of her vision.

Thank you Verity – the show you helped create has made countless lives better and richer.

The education in equality I got through my time in Doctor Who fandom has stayed strong. My daughter has certainly been given the same opportunities as her brother, while being allowed to grow and develop as her own person.

So before she was three years old, she’d helped me change the headlights on my car, helped me saw, nail, and screw wood together, and has been up in the roof with me.  She’s no good at any of it, but she enjoys herself nevertheless.

I’ll come back to that attitude later.

She’s even more unstoppable than my son. A month or two back, while climbing along the log-pile after being warned that she could get hurt, but being allowed to do it anyway because kids should be allowed to take risks, she took a truly epic fall. It involved an accidental somersault, a falling log, and a hefty bump on the noggin.

Naturally I went to her, held her, and explained again as I have a few times in the past that sometimes doing the good stuff means risking harm. One has to accept that some things have the potential to come with a price we’d rather not pay, but it’s hard to live the life one wants, or become the person one wishes to be, without accepting the risks and inevitable damage that may sometimes occur.

After a couple of minutes, still crying a little, she disengaged my arms and climbed back up onto the woodpile at the point where she had fallen. I asked her what she was doing.

“I want to see if I can finish.”

And she continued her climb all the way to the end. There’s a reason I call her GodZoe. Like Godzilla, she’s more a force of nature than anything else.

My 5yo son is growing and changing. He loves learning for the sake of it, and testing himself, though he’s a lot more likely to give up on things than his sister. We’re teaching him it’s okay to ask for help, but you should be willing to have a good try too.  He’s starting to be able to read, and the other day he counted to a thousand, because he’d never done it before. I had to keep reminding him what number he was up to, but he got there.

He still likes his hair long, and he wears dresses occasionally, which naturally leads to some confusion as people mistake him for a girl. When this happens he politely tells them he’s a boy. He’s had one or two people tell him boys don’t wear dresses, or have long hair. His reply is very matter of fact.

“Are girls allowed to have short hair?”
“Yes.”
“Can girls wear pants?”
“Yes.”
“Then boys can wear dresses and have long hair.”

My post-stroke health continues to improve, mostly because I know my limitations.  What I mean by that is that I know there’s stuff I have trouble with, and shouldn’t do, and I regularly try to do those things anyway.

And I fail, a lot.

Knowing my limitations doesn’t means staying in my broken little box. It means that those times when I can’t function, or I try to push past the boundaries of the box and fail, that’s okay.  Most failure isn’t a bad thing unless you let it be, the rest of the time it’s simply another way of learning.

Knowing my limitations means I try to choose my battles carefully. I don’t mean I go for the battles I can win – where’s the fun in that?  I mean I choose the things worth fighting to achieve, no matter the odds, what value others assign to the goal, or how likely I am to fail.

It’s the trying that matters, not the success.

Accepting my failure to cope or succeed is only a problem if I let the lack of success define me and what I attempt to do.  As long as I keep trying to do the things that add to my life or the lives of others, that’s what’s important.  If I’m never be able to sing, or dance, or run, or write, or paint, or build, or do any one of a hundred other things as well as I’d like, so long as I want to do them, as long as I don’t hurt others, I should keep going.

Some folks find me confronting.   I’m not entirely safe.  I’ll get naked to dance in the outback or pose with a Dalek.  If I like people I don’t hold anything back in my love and enthusiasm for them, even if I’ve known them five minutes.  Male or female, I want to hug them, to let them see themselves through my eyes for a change so they can see how beautiful and amazing they can be.  I want to stretch them, show them the huge gulf between who they define themselves to be, and who they could be.  You don’t do that by being safe and comfortable. I want them to know their limitations so they can start kicking at them.

People are awesome.

Oh, there are always some individuals who aren’t, but the vast majority want to be better than they are.  They want to learn and grow.  Most only need someone to believe in them.  That can be me, you, or some random person they meet for two minutes at the bus stop.

We aren’t born afraid to try.  We don’t start out with a fear of failure.  As children we learn through success and failure.  And tears, and frustration, and joy, and because others encourage us.  We only learn to be afraid of what people think later, just as we learn to be afraid of how we perceive ourselves, or how others may perceive us.

Find the people who believe in you, and use that belief to fight for the things you want, for yourself and others.  Embrace the risks knowing full-well you are going to fail some of the time, but that that doesn’t matter because at least you’ll fail doing something that matters to you.

Life isn’t about reaching the destinations you’ve got your heart set on, it’s about how you live during the scary and fun-filled adventure on the way.  Embrace the fear, accept the detours, and just go with it.

We can all be somebody’s Doctor, just as we can all be somebody’s companion.  Both roles are equally important in finding out who we really are, and becoming who we have the potential to be.

Remember how to be that curious, delighted, and unafraid child once more.  Embrace it, start running, and don’t ever stop.

Cheers, my freaky darlings!

Mickey and Martha – a new angle that makes my skin crawl…

Talking with my lovely wife about some of the issues with New Who and the unlikely destinies of its companions, and Martha got brought up, along with the fact that she married Mickey.

Now it’s been well documented by many folks that it was an annoying thing to happen, partially because she already had the lovely Tom Milligan as her fiancé, but mostly because the only two black members of the cast got married off to one another.

However, talking about it just now Sharon mentioned an angle I hadn’t thought of and I haven’t seen mentioned before – Martha couldn’t get to be with the Doctor because, in her mind, he was still in love with Rose.

So then Martha went off and eventually got married to Rose’s cast-off.

You got rejected by Rose, I got rejected by the Doctor – Of Course we got married!

There is no way the internet can contain the level of ick I am currently feeling.

The Moffat Master Plan – Series 5

Warning – Some spoilers for Pyramids of Mars, Image of the Fendahl, Mawdryn Undead and Father’s Day. Major spoilers for City of Death, all of series five, and bits of series six and seven.

Steven Moffat’s first season, series 5, blew me away. I still think it’s his strongest by far and it seemed a very canny and clever beginning to his run. It was enough like Russell Davies’ era Doctor Who not to alienate the fans who had come on board in the last few years, while at the same time gradually shifting the mythos.

The theory I quickly developed, as I watched that season for the first time, was that Moffat was going to slowly remove the seeming godhood that had been bestowed on the Doctor. To take him back to being a simple wanderer who wasn’t known to absolutely everybody. I suspect he’s still heading in that direction, but it’s become more distorted with time, and Moffat’s admitted fear of the audience becoming bored, so he seems to keep straying back and forth.  I may well be wrong.  I hope I’m not.

After becoming disenchanted during series six, to the point where for the first time in my entire life I didn’t care about the show by the end of the season, I went back to look through series five again to get the taste out of my mouth.

While I knew it was not a perfect run, it was solid, held together, and made sense.

Or did it? Continue reading

The Moffat Master Plan – Prelude…

Since coming back in 2005, Doctor Who has become a show based firmly on the Buffy model. An over arcing story for the season, with episodes that build the arc peppered throughout the run, usually building up to a major conflict and/or big bad.

The original series had done arc story-lines before, but generally handled them differently. The very first Hartnell season when viewed as a whole is about the first Doctor learning to be a hero from his human companions. Other seasons had ongoing stories or themes. Season sixteen was all about the Key to Time. Season eighteen had the constant theme of decay and stagnation, and also incorporated two trilogies of stories before it put the universe itself in direct peril for only the third time in the show’s history.

For instance, the arc for season 8 was about how the Master loves being a complete dick to the Doctor. I didn't say it was a complex or clever arc.

For instance, the arc for season 8 was about how the Master loves being a complete dick to the Doctor.
I didn’t say it was a complex or clever arc.

Since coming back, the enforced arcs building to big end of season showdowns have given us the potential end of the universe five times in seven years. Where the original series was contented to simply try to end the series with a solid story, admittedly not always successfully, the new series by its nature has to try to give us a massive, ‘important’ story to finish the season with.

One of the problems with this is the perceived need to build-up to that finale. Russell Davies’ way of handling this was to have a word or phrase pop up throughout the season, keeping the audience guessing until the end where we would then find out what it referred to.

It wasn’t always successful, and as story or arc building goes, it really is a bit light on. It makes a show of knowing where it’s headed, while really not doing much in the way of work toward actually layering hints or clues. Indeed, the very first year Bad Wolf wasn’t originally intended to be anything special. Before the series aired, the fans went nuts over leaked pictures trying to figure out what the graffiti on the TARDIS meant, figuring it had a deeper meaning. Davies decided to start layering it in to bait them, without any real idea where it was headed. The truth is, Bad Wolf originally had no more importance to the show than than being a one-off piece of random graffiti on the TARDIS.

I am Bad Wolf.  I reached this conclusion in a completely illogical way, but I'm allowed to do that because I'm Bad Wolf.  So Blah!

I am Bad Wolf. I reached this conclusion in a completely illogical way, but I’m allowed to do that because I’m Bad Wolf. So Blah!

The problem with constructing an arc is, you have to be on your game. If you’re really going to build up an over-arcing mystery to a satisfying conclusion, one that will hold up to basic scrutiny, you need to think about where you’re headed and plan carefully for that future destination.

Instead of being a show about the adventures and the people the Doctor and his friends meet, it has become a series about the Doctor and his companions. Hence the continual need to have companions who idolise, fancy, or romantically love the Doctor, and the end of season stories often involving things that directly affect members of the TARDIS crew on a personal level, usually leading to unlikely destinies for those characters.

The destinies of the companions these days make some of the surprise sudden departures due to unforeseen romances and the like from the old series look brilliantly restrained.

K9 and Leela elope together leaving the Doctor alone once more.

K9 and Leela elope together leaving the Doctor alone once more.

Doctor Who as a series now isn’t about the stories, it’s about the season’s clues. Fans obsess over any little detail that might have something to do with that season’s arc. All too often stories are treated by fans a means to get the hints to the finale, rather than having a point in and of themselves. The fact that the story may be an excellent stand-alone is considered less important than the arc. Indeed, some stories are badly hurt by having aspects of the arc poorly grafted in.

Once Steven Moffat took over, he made a show of having a better idea of how to layer in hints and clues that would pay off. Certainly his first season had some very clever story-telling scattered and hinted at throughout. But for every bit that pays off and works, there are several other bits that don’t hold together.

Now, in fairness, virtually no series can hold up to close inspection. There will always be bits where things are a bit hand-wavey, or simply don’t add up or hold together. However, in turning Doctor Who into a show where the clues scattered throughout are meant to be of crucial importance, in actively inviting the audience to pay close attention and to treat all manner of things and moments as potentially being vital story elements, it also invites us to be more critical of when these things don’t add up.

Moffat’s storylines are full of glaring inconsistencies. While it’s painted as an incredible layered puzzle, in fact it’s even less well constructed than Davies’ run.

I’m usually the guy who is surprised by all the plot holes and such I haven’t spotted that my friends have. Minutes after watching something, when others are saying, “But what about the such-and-such?” I’m sitting there amazed that I missed the errors that seemed so obvious to others. In fact, it’s become one of my judging criteria – if I don’t spot an issue until after the film or episode is over, I figure they’ve done a good job. But if I spot it while watching it for the first time, if it’s something so glaring that it spoils my suspension of disbelief, then they must have been pretty bloody slack for someone as clueless as me to spot the issue.

I’ve spotted a lot of issues with Moffat’s seasons on a first viewing.

And in going through them to research for this little run of posts, I’ve found even more inconsistencies. So over the next few articles I’m going to run through the season arcs in detail, since the new series wants us paying such close attention.

I’ve suffered for my obsession, and now it’s your turn.

Here are a few of questions that have yet to be answered.

  • When will we see the fall of the Eleventh on the Fields of Trenzalore? Because surely the events in The Name of the Doctor don’t count as the fall…
  • The Silence wanted to stop the Doctor from answering “the question that must never be asked.” His name. But he didn’t answer that question at Trenzalore when asked it, so is that arc now over?
  • Why does the “Most Important Leaf in the Universe” change to a radically differently shaped leaf? (Actually I know the answer to this one, and it’s both really annoying and quite telling)
  • So who was it wanted to blow up the TARDIS in the first place in Pandorica Opens?
  • Who was saying, “Silence will fall,” in the TARDIS?

Except for the leaf, I can actually see a couple of ways to tie these questions together and give some satisfactory answers. And I really hope Moffat does just that. I’d love to have all those elements that have annoyed me be explained or retconned in a way that works.

It’d be nice to have faith in the writing again.

Classic Who – Enemy of the World & Web of Fear!

I wrote the previous time some episodes were found about my feelings on the discovery of any episode, no matter how good or bad.  I also included in that piece advice for those wishing to experience the complete series even though so much is still missing.

This time I want say a brief word about the stories, and simply enthuse about things I’m looking forward to seeing.

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Enemy of the World – Troughton gets to show off his acting chops in this story, as he plays the Doctor and the villainous Salamander. It’s a 60’s spy thriller Doctor Who story, with a strange sf twist towards the end. It also handles things differently, by having most of the cliffhangers be about moments of surprise and emotion, rather than actual danger.

Looking forward to – I think if I were to pick only one, I’d most want to see the part six Salamander/Doctor face-off in the TARDIS. From the telesnaps it looks like they used rear projection to have Troughton facing himself, and I sort of want to see that in action.

Other than that, episodes one and five have a fair bit of action going on, so that’d be nice to actually see.  But the real strength of this story is as a character piece, and I’m so looking forward to seeing the actors in action, rather than just hearing them.

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Web of Fear – It’s the weaker of the two Great Intelligence stories, but that doesn’t make it bad. This is one that I think is likely to be majorly helped by getting returned, given its real strength seemed to lay in its visuals and atmosphere.

Looking forward to – Oh if only part 3 were moving footage so we could have Colonel Lethbridge Stewart’s first appearance, but can’t complain. Well I can, but given I never expected to see any more of this story, that seems churlish.  Besides will hopefully be able to see that next year.

On audio the last 10-15 minutes of part 4 is utterly brutal, and while it may be that the realisation on screen will be less intense than it was on audio, the surviving clips from that episode are pretty scary and left me literally open-mouthed in shock.  I’m really looking forward to seeing how it is shot.

And needless to say, while I’ve waited my whole Doctor Who fan-life to see these, I’m only going to watch them one episode a night – the way they’re meant to be seen 🙂

Classic Who – The Valeyard and Regenerations

There are two things you need to know before we can talk about the Valeyard as being or idea. The first is that the concept for the character builds on, and is inspired by, the handling of regeneration from as far back as the second Doctor.  The second and more important, is that the character came up at a time when the script editor and producer were at odds with one another – drastically affecting the quality of the whole season in which the Valeyard was featured, and the way he was eventually handled.

I’m going to try to minimise spoilers, so if I’m oddly vague about something that you think is common knowledge, be aware I’m trying to let people less well versed in the show’s history still have some of these surprises.  Personally, if I know I’m going to read a specific book, or watch a specific film, I will usually avoid reading anything about it just so I can experience it as freshly as possible.  That said, some spoilers are going to be unavoidable, especially when I talk about the Trial of a Time Lord season, and the Valeyard.  There will almost certainly be spoilers in any comments.

One of the genius ideas with regards to Doctor Who was the whole concept of the lead character being able to change appearance, allowing the show a longevity far beyond what most actors would be able to achieve. Continue reading

Classic Who – The Martian Legacy

(A delayed post – I started writing this last year, then suddenly it’s the day before a new Ice Warrior story.  So here it is with a quick final edit, for those of you who want a taster for what went before.)

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Given they only ever had four televised stories (until tomorrow), it says a lot about the Ice Warriors that 38 years after their last televised adventure, they are still a popular alien race. They’ve been given a lot of life beyond those original TV tales with numerous appearances in comics, novels, and audio plays.  Here I’ll just concentrate, in as non-spoilery a way as possible, on their televised appearances.

I think the key to the Ice Warriors’ popularity is that they are a rare race within the Doctor Who universe in that their plans and motivations are different in each of the stories in which they featured.  While Daleks and Cybermen have more appearances, their stories are substantially less varied – those creations stopped being a race of aliens and became monsters – whereas the Ice Warriors changed organically over the course of their stories. Continue reading

The Rings of Akhaten, and the importance of clarification in writing…

Major Spoilers below the cut for The Rings of Akhaten, as I complain about how people miss the stuff that is spelled out clearly, and talk about the importance of clarity with regards to a story’s finale, and how modern Doctor Who seems unconcerned with such things. No major spoilers for Citizen Kane, though there are a couple of minor thematic ones.

Let me start by stating one thing very, very clearly – I really liked The Rings of Akhaten.

People talk about Doctor Who having a sense of wonder, but seldom is that evoked as clearly and beautifully as it is in this story.  Forget the visuals, there are some conceptual ideas within this tale that are wonderful and lovely, and the main story does justice to them. I think this is another Dinosaurs on a Spaceship[1], where people get so caught up in one or two details, they cheat themselves out of appreciating just how beautiful the core of the story is.

Continue reading

BBC Project – The Naming of Names

Okay, it’s been several months since my last post, but life got seriously in the way.

However, I’ve managed to mostly piece together the names of my co-conspirators on the BBC Project.  I may have missed one or two, but maybe by putting up the names I do have, we can worry about filling in any blanks later.

So, first and foremost, Cliff Bowman. Seriously, someone give this guy a guest spot or at least a free membership and panel space to talk about the project.  Or an interview in Doctor Who Magazine – c’mon, it’s the 50th Anniversary of the show, what better time to tell people about this?

Now, I’ve found two names from the BBC itself. Phil Balaam I have mentioned before as our contact in the BBC Wales Research and Development Department, but I also found that Nigel Partridge was involved. I believe Nigel was actually music, judging from the incomplete emails I’ve gone through.

Now the Who3D people that were involved as far as I’m aware were –

Paul Heslin
Rob Semenoff
Nathan Skreslet
Noel Wallace
Maybe Chris Sutor… not sure on that one.
And me, back when my name was still Danny Heap.

I also spoke to a chunk of local Australian talent. Hey, if you’ve got contacts, you use them. And I had access to award winning writers, artists, and people who had worked on major Hollywood motion pictures.

Apart from Nick, Richard, and Mondy, most of these were generally only one or two conversations to let them know the BBC Project existed, and gauging their willingness to help out. It was pointless to ask them for more given the project could fold at any point. But it gave us access to names that could help the cause and show we had access to a greater pool of talent than just the folks in Who3D.

Richard Freeland – Doctor Who fan extraordinaire, he has a solid knowledge of the show, and an excellence sense of story.  He made some great story suggestions, and helped come up with the idea of Phoebe as a companion.

Ian Mond – Long time friend, he’s the one who first helped me to get a place writing for the Big Finish Short Trips collections. I’m quite fond of Mondy’s writing, but he was also my regular confidante, giving me someone I could talk to about everything that was happening, as we’d get together almost every week.

Nick Stathopoulos – Hugo nominated artist. Has also worked on films, TV, computer games. He also did some preliminary design work for us.  You can find it in some previous posts.

Sean Williams – Multi award winning writer and New York Times bestseller. And big Doctor Who fan, and old mate.

Kate Orman & Jonathan Blum – Both of whom have written for the Doctor Who range, and are old mates.

Lewis Morley & Marilyn Pride – Yet more old mates (Australian science fiction fandom has been very good to me, in terms of friends and potential contacts), Lewis and Marilyn have worked on a range of very high profile films including Superman Returns, Mission Impossible 3, the Matrix series, and the Star Wars prequels.

Some of these folks may remember me talking to them, some may not – it was one or two conversations held a decade ago, remember.

I also had, through these and other friends, the ability to contact a range of other high profile talent. But naturally I wasn’t going to even think about pursuing those folks unless things actually got to the point where the series would be made.  Basically if we had gotten to the pilot stage, I was going to be able to at least offer to contact some major genre names from the US and UK as potential writers for the series to make the idea of going ahead a much more attractive prospect – people like names.

And so that’s it for the moment.  If anyone out there is in contact with Phil or Nigel, or any of the Who3D crew who were involved, please send them this way 🙂