Archive for September 2016
I put on “Love and Monsters” tonight for the express purpose of cleansing evil Rochefort from my mind with adorable Elton Pope. It worked brilliantly, of course. But I also got something out of the episode I’ve never seen before.
At the end of the story, Ursula has to live out her life as a paving stone. Previously I’ve considered it just a bit of RTD silliness, a little icky if you think about it too hard, maybe a little bit dumb. Forgettable if nothing else. But on this pass I got a whole new take.
People go through terrible things in life. People lose limbs, get paralyzed, suffer disfigurement and pain – and in the end, often find they’re still themselves. Ursula and Elton don’t get the life they hoped for. Ursula doesn’t get the body she expected. But they’re still here; they’re still themselves; they still have each other.
RTD hasn’t been great at portraying disability. His sympathy here may be entirely unintentional. But in the end we have characters whose lives will never be the same, will never, in some ways, be right – and yet those lives remain worth living.
In sickness and in health, for better or worse, as long as we both shall live.
I can’t not wrap up with my favorite quote from the episode: one of my favorites of all time, and one of the truest things ever written:
When you’re a kid, they tell you it’s all… grow up. Get a job. Get married. Get a house. Have a kid, and that’s it. But the truth is, the world is so much stranger than that. It’s so much darker. And so much madder.
And so much better.
When Peter Capaldi got the call, the one that began “Hello, Doctor,” he was in Prague, playing the nefarious Cardinal Richelieu in BBC’s The Musketeers. My uncle, a longtime fan of all things swashbuckling, was crushed. My show had stolen his best-beloved villain. Having now watched The Musketeers, I can sympathize: Capaldi is amazing, and the show is not the same without him.
“Who will be my equal?”
Capaldi as an actor is never the same twice. In spite of the similarity of their features, one would never confuse the Doctor with the Cardinal, or John Frobisher with Caecilius or Malcolm Tucker. But far more terrifying than this transformation was the one that took place in Series 2:
Marc Warren’s Rochefort outdoes his predecessor in depravity and treachery. But this vicious, villainous hypocrite was once a sweet boy named Elton Pope.
“But the truth is, the world is so much stranger than that. It’s so much darker. And so much madder. And so much better.”
The transition is jarring.
Series 2 of The Musketeers ended with Rochefort’s violent and well-earned death. Warren was amazing in the role: monstrous without being cartoonish, an entirely real if thoroughly disturbed human being. Still we were glad to see him go.
Up next: “Love and Monsters,” an often-maligned episode which I for one could watch over and over again. Elton is, after all, one of us.
It’s been several weeks since we gathered for “Father’s Day” and “Enemy of the World,” but here I am at last.
“Father’s Day” remains a favorite. Rose learns that her father is not who she thought he was; that her mother lied; that her parents are only human. That her parents are wonderful, fallible people who love her and each other. She faces the brutal consequences of a thoughtless act of love. The Doctor’s rage, while genuine, is only momentary; he is a man who makes mistakes, who thoughtlessly loves again and again in his life. He does everything he can to save Rose’s father for her – an ordinary man, the most important thing in the universe – and though he fails, his efforts bring them closer together.
Pete himself is outstanding. He is a failure, and he knows it. His marriage is on the brink. But he quickly figures out that he is the key to everything, and selflessly gives his life for the women he loves so dearly. His speech to Rose about all the extra hours he got is one of the most moving moments ever on television.
After that emotional wringer, “The Enemy of the World” is great fun. One of the two lost stories found recently in Nigeria, this six-parter features Patrick Troughton as both hero and villain. It’s silly in places – there’s a line about a disused yeti – and deadly serious in others, and though it’s among the longer serials it never lags. Troughton is a delight, well deserving of this showcase for his substantial talent. I’m reminded of Orphan Black, where one actress plays several characters who also play each other; the characters remain distinct, even when hiding in another’s skin.
Up next we’ll pass on a classic story in favor of two-parter “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances.” As Captain Jack just got his own Torchwood series on Big Finish, it’ll be great fun to see his origin again. Mostly, though, I’m looking forward to Nancy.
Last week Star Trek turned 50. The fabled Enterprise joins the club.
Star Trek and Doctor Who have more in common than just their venerable age. Both have captured the imagination of generations. Both inspire fans to achieve new heights. Both have impacted their culture far beyond their original expectations.
Doctor Who, of course, was an accident. The BBC needed to fill a half hour on Saturday evenings. The network’s first female producer and one of its first directors of color, both of them young and untried, took on the challenge and created something that turned out to be magic.
Star Trek, on the other hand, was intentional. Gene Roddenberry had a vision for his creation. He wanted to demonstrate that humanity could achieve peace and equality. Still, it’s unlikely he anticipated the reaction he got.
The art that is Star Trek – a television show made by actors and costumers and set people and lighting people, and made possible by the intervention of a certain famous comedian – inspires science. Fans grow up to be engineers, explorers, astronauts. The magic that is Doctor Who – the mad man in a box – inspires art. Writers, painters, producers, musicians, all touched with that fantastical brush. Together, they make up the right and left sides of the human brain.
The Doctor and all the various Star Fleet captains are scientists. They use their science to seek out wonder and magic across the boundless universe. We live in a world of physical laws and engineering miracles – and we do it with the magic of imagination.
Welcome to 50 years, Star Trek. May we prosper many more together.
Uhura of the Enterprise poses with some of the astronauts of color she inspired (source)
And by “watch it” I mean this latest piece from the Doctor Who Fan Orchestra:
As he does each time, creator Stephen Willis outdoes himself with creative arranging and video effects. Participants get wild with costumes and settings. The music is gorgeous: composer, arranger, and performers are all to be commended.
It’s also a ridiculous amount of fun.
The tribute at the end of the piece is to an orchestra member who passed earlier this year. No group is immune to loss; a group this large, with this age range, even less so. We are grateful to Steve’s family for letting us know – he could have just vanished, as many do – and allowing us to acknowledge him. He played French horn and always wore a tux. His contributions will be missed.
Even insiders can’t say when the Orchestra will return, but if you follow Stephen’s youtube channel, you’ll be among the first to know.