Archive for December 2017

(location), (date)   Leave a comment

The following may be considered spoilery.



Ypres, 1914: the Christmas Armistice. In the midst of battle, soldiers lay down their arms and sing carols instead.

Fraternization between opposing troops was not unheard of at the time. Unofficial ceasefires periodically allowed soldiers to recover their dead from the battlefield, or even just take a break from the noise. Though an official Christmas truce had been considered and rejected by the powers that be, peace broke out in several places across the front that winter. It was early in the war; later, the interminable fighting and the devastation of chemical warfare put an end to fellow feeling. Nothing like the Christmas Armistice has ever happened again.

What a perfect moment for the Doctor.

It didn’t matter to him who the soldier was; everyone is, after all, important to someone. It was enough that he saw a chance to save a life, and he took it. In the end perhaps it wouldn’t matter whether the Brigadier’s grandfather lived to fight another day or not; perhaps the Doctor’s friend would be who he was no matter what. But that the life he saved should be a Lethbridge-Stewart… a gift for the Brigadier, a gift for the Doctor, and mostly, a gift for the fans.

Does the First Doctor remember, or does the crossing of the timeline prevent him from retaining anything of this encounter? Does the Second Doctor recognize the name, and thereby pay special attention to the man? Or is it the man himself? Are his actions alone enough to endear him forever?


“It’s just possible.”

The Brigadier has been referenced in New Who before:

  • “It’s times like this I could do with the Brigadier.” In 2008, facing the Sontarans, the Tenth Doctor misses his friend. (“The Sontaran Stratagem”)
  • That same year, the Brigadier appears in The Sarah Jane Adventures, called out of retirement to help save the world again. (“Enemy of the Bane”)
  • Actor Nicholas Courtney died in 2011. Later that year, the Brigadier’s passing is acknowledged in “The Wedding of River Song.”
  • In 2012, the Eleventh Doctor meets Kate Stewart, the Brigadier’s daughter and UNIT heir. (“The Power of Three”)
  • In 2014, the Brigadier – reincarnated as a Cyberman by Missy’s evil scheme – turns the tide of battle in favor of humanity, and receives a long-overdue salute from the Twelfth Doctor. (“Death in Heaven”)

Obviously, a much-loved and much-missed character.

The Christmas Armistice is a symbol of the best of humanity. Doctor Who is a symbol of the best of humanity. By accidentally saving his friend’s grandfather, the Doctor is rewarded for his faith in us. He is reminded that there is always hope.

A reminder for us as well.


Holiday magic   Leave a comment

In past seasons I’ve written about nearly every episode. This season I did not, and I wondered about that. It isn’t that I didn’t love the season. It isn’t even that I had less time than I’ve had in previous years. Watching this year’s Christmas special, I think I’ve realized the reason.

It’s that so much of this season has left me speechless.



There aren’t words for how much I love seeing David Bradley’s First Doctor playing off Capaldi’s Twelve. There aren’t words for the perfection of Bill. There aren’t words for Nardole, or Clara, or Captain Archibald Hamish Lethbridge-Stewart.

(Is that an intentional Watson reference? Given the source, I can’t help but think so.)

Further, how has it taken so long for the Doctor to visit the Christmas Armistice? I felt silly for not catching it earlier – Ypres 1914 should have been a giveaway – but it’s just as well or I might have sobbed through the entire episode instead of just the last act. It’s one of those miraculous moments that happen in real life, every now and then when the wind stands fair, one that humans made for themselves, and which the Doctor merely takes advantage of. Perhaps it’s those moments that keep him coming back, that remind him, just when he’s ready to give up on us, what we’re capable of.

Good old humans.

Jodie’s first moments too are more than I could have asked for. The last few Doctors introduced themselves by their body parts – teeth and legs and kidneys, even ears if you count that belated reveal – but this new Doctor is more than parts. She is, in a word, “brilliant.”

I highly recommend following up the episode with The Fan Show Aftershow, featuring Moffat, Bradley, Gatiss, and a few cracks about Chris Chibnall. It’s the best.

Posted December 27, 2017 by Elisabeth in Christmas Specials, Season 10

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The best of Anglicon 2017   Leave a comment


Sylvester McCoy playing the spoons to live accompaniment was definitely a highlight of the event. (Is it just me or does he look a bit like Mark Hamill these days?)

Two years ago, at our first Anglicon, we saw Colin Baker, Katy Manning, and Sophie Aldred. As guests these three remain unsurpassed. Our delight in them is unmarred and unrestrained and may forever remain unmatched.

This year’s guests included Sylvester above, Peter Davison, and Bentley “the poor Corgi actor,” star of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency alongside Elijah Wood and that other guy. Bentley’s performance was of course flawless: he and his little sister put on a show for fans, and were joined by friends in the community for a Corgi parade in full holiday regalia, led of course by a Dalek. You can’t go wrong with Corgis.

The human guests were enjoyable, though somewhat less flawless. McCoy is delightful, hilarious, and energetic – he carried a microphone around the audience to answer questions himself, rather than let the moderator do it. He had some good stories about his acting career, including a production of King Lear with Ian McKellan and something weird with Robert Picardo in Edinburgh. He refused to answer a child’s question about his favorite companion, on the grounds that choosing one would not only be unkind but impossible. However, he was a bit more lecherous than I would prefer, making sexual jokes about both the new Doctor and Rose. Neither Baker nor Davison so much as dropped hints in that direction. For that I am grateful to them.

I did appreciate that both classic actors value Rose properly – both as a well-rounded companion and for her contribution to the success of the modern show. Apparently Davison’s sons – then 6 and 8 or so – loved her dearly. Hearing rumors that she was to die at the end of her run, Davison sent a concerned email to showrunner Russell T. Davies. Reportedly Davies replied, “You killed Adric, what do you care?”

Davison was also a source of concern. Going into the event, I considered not attending his Q&A sessions, knowing that fans would bring up both his (questionable) reaction to the new Doctor and his (TMI) personal life. Which they did – though I’m glad I went anyway, as he was very funny (mostly at Colin Baker’s expense) and had some great insights into the JNT era – particularly, the effect of JNT’s unfamiliarity with sci fi on the quality of stories at the time. I enjoyed his description of his time on All Creatures Great and Small as “up a cow.” That show – as well as the more recent Last Detective – might be worth investigating.

He did stand by his assessment of Whittaker’s casting as a loss of a role model for boys, pointing out how rare non-violent heroes are. He also expressed disappointment in the trend of politics infiltrating television. He did not seem to consider the paucity of heroic female role models, or understand that casting another white man would be as political a choice as anything else. I considered bringing up these questions, but decided I would rather just move on from them.

He also raised what I would consider a more valid concern: what does the BBC do next? If casting a woman were a purely points-scoring, checking-the-box maneuver, and the show goes right back to another 50 years of white men, then it was all meaningless. Likewise, 50 years of women in the role might serve more as book-balancing than valid casting. He is right, I think, that either of these would be a mistake. However, he is operating on the assumption that casting Jodie was an “inorganic,” forced decision. I think Chibnall put more thought into it than Davison wants to give him credit for, and that this new casting opens the door for all kinds of actors in the role: a mix of men and women of various ethnic (but invariably British*) and social backgrounds should provide lots of interesting Doctors over the next half century.

(I did observe, and one fan mentioned, that Moffat said some things recently about this topic. I did not read whatever it was; Moffat often opens his mouth when he shouldn’t, and I have no interest in his opinions on most matters.)

Regarding the personal questions, which I also didn’t want to hear, Davison is by now so used to being asked about his fan-favorite son-in-law that he actually bulldozed a question about “The Doctor’s Daughter” casting to talk about later events. On the other hand, his stories about the budding acting career of his 18-year-old son – and his humor at himself in that regard – were both amusing and perfectly appropriate.

Overall, neither actor was as funny or as sincere as Colin Baker, and of course there’s no beating Katy Manning. ❤

The other highlight of Anglicon is of course the costumes. Female Fifth Doctors outnumbered all others. There were a couple of excellent Cybermen – one a child who entered the costume contest as “Bill Potts” – and an astounding Empress of Mars. (She should have won the contest, really, but the top prize went to an unfamiliar character presumably from Red Dwarf.) The panels this year were also of higher quality than previous. We learned about reconstruction of lost episodes, played improv games, and heard about Douglas Adams from a writer who had conducted numerous personal interviews with him over the years. (Some of that material appears in DWM #313, which I will have to try and get my hands on.)

However, I don’t know if we’ll go next year. Seattle is becoming a more and more difficult trip, and we have some wonderful local cons bringing great Doctors right to our door. But I’m not sorry we went, and another visit is certainly not out of the question.



*Yes, I know some people feel that limiting casting to British actors is as bad as limiting it to white men, but I disagree. Doctor Who is an undeniably British show, full of British jokes and Britishisms in spite of its international following. However, the UK is 50% women and as much as 40% non-white in some areas. These people are British too, and the show does well to reflect that.

Posted December 13, 2017 by Elisabeth in Classic, Conventions, Events

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The Curse of Peladon   Leave a comment


Wang in a cape: you can’t unsee it.

My first real glimpse of “The Curse of Peladon” was this iffy alien in its (their? zir?) recent reappearance in “Empress of Mars” this past season, but I’d been hearing things about the story for ages. Jo and Sarah Jane each accompanied the Third Doctor to Peladon, where the latter uttered one of her most famous bits of dialogue:

“There’s nothing ‘only’ about being a girl, Your Majesty!”

That, however, is not the one I watched.

“Curse,” like much of its era, features a slow beginning, wobbly sets, questionable creature designs, and over-the-top acting. Also like much of its era, it still won me over in the end. The “action Doctor” gets full play here: Pertwee climbs mountains, tames monsters, and engages leather-clad gladiators in hand-to-hand combat. Jo too holds her own, wrangling politicians, climbing out of windows, and chasing away nightmares with a flaming torch, all in charming pink heels. “Dolled up,” as she says, for a date with Captain Mike Yates of UNIT, she instead plays princess of Earth and flirts with the handsome young king of Peladon.

(Jo is just ridiculously fun. I love her.)

Peladon himself is something of an interesting character: burdened by youth, torn between opposing forces, uncrowned, and perhaps in his own eyes unworthy. He wants to lead his people into the future, to be a great king as his father was. But when the mentor/regent/father figure who shares his vision is brutally and mysteriously killed, he can’t help but unthinkingly obey the other, no matter how questionable that person’s motives may be.

I don’t know if Letts and Dicks were on an anti-religion kick here, though they certainly had political intent. In today’s context, the high priest’s mindless, unchecked power is frightening. (A crime for which there is no defense and the penalty is death, for which the only evidence required is the word of an admitted enemy? Sure, it’s a device to the get the Doctor in a cage match with Conan the Barbarian, but it’s a bit too believable for comfort in this day and age.) Hepesh shouts down his opponents by force of personality alone, and the young king caves. Here I think Jo misses the questions her journalist successor would have asked: what kind of a king can do nothing in the face of injustice? What is a king for, if not to right the wrongs that threaten his people?

Of course maybe Peladon thinks he’s no king at all.

(A larger question might be why no one offered to show Peladon the tunnels which Hepesh so urgently insisted did not exist. It would be easy enough to find a way for him to decline; to have no one even mention it seems strange.)

This melancholy boy is played by then-twenty-two-year-old David Troughton, elder son of prior Doctor Patrick. David previously appeared in a handful of episodes with his father, mostly uncredited, and then much later as the more seasoned – but possibly just as ineffective – Professor Hobbes, in the Tenth Doctor story “Midnight.” (His younger brother and fellow actor Michael made his only contribution to Doctor Who in “Last Christmas,” with the Twelfth Doctor and Nick Frost.) Troughton’s blond bouffant and heavy-lidded eyes give him something of a tragic David Bowie look; one can forgive Jo for having second thoughts about leaving him behind. The effect is heightened by his costume, which features flowing sleeves, gem-studded collar, tall boots – and a slim expanse of lily-white thigh.


a little Thin White Duke, a little Prince of Elsinore

He fits right in with these two, from “The Masque of Mandragora:”


Classic Who, who knew. 🙂

Overall, in the way of Classic Who, the story has its ups and downs, but in the end it gets an up vote from me. In addition, now I can better appreciate the reappearance of the Delegate from Alpha Centauri  – still voiced by the original Ysanne Churchman, now 92 years old.

In spite of the wang in a cape.



Posted December 1, 2017 by Elisabeth in Classic

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