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Myth Makers   Leave a comment

“The Myth-Makers” is a British sit-com version of the Trojan War. Ineffectual Achilles kills Hector by accident and fails to get an arrow in the heel. Odysseus is a bombastic prick, Menelaus and Agamemnon are drunks, Paris is dumb as paste, and Cassandra is a screeching harpy. Cyclops is a poor dumb servant, and Helen doesn’t even appear. Meanwhile, Steven and Vicki rewrite Shakespeare and the Doctor makes Homer’s wildest invention come true.

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“My kingdom for a… oh there’s one now.”

It’s well paced and engaging, if silly, and the reconstruction is easy enough to follow. Four episodes pass quickly, and the ending – in which Vicki stays behind for love*, Steven’s war wounds threaten his life, and short-lived Katarina joins the team – fails to prepare the audience for 12 episodes of “The Daleks’ Master Plan,” coming up next.

 

*What is it with Doctor Who abandoning teenage girls with purported lovers? Am I the only one who thinks this is a terrible idea?

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Posted April 11, 2019 by Elisabeth in Classic, The Long Way Round

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Mission to the Unknown   Leave a comment

This one is an odd little creature.

Uniquely, this one-episode story features neither Doctor nor companion. According to the introduction to the Loose Cannon version, presented by guest star Edward de Souza, the story was intended as a teaser for the upcoming 13-episode epic, “The Daleks’ Master Plan.” Written by Dalek-Man Terry Nation in yet another bid to launch an independent series, it features the old pepper-pots uncharacteristically cooperating with fellow alien supervillains to launch an attack on Earth’s own galaxy, and characteristically exterminating any pesky humans who try to interfere with their plans.

Adding to the confusion of a Doctor-less story, “Mission” does not immediately precede “Master Plan.” Instead, “The Myth-Makers” intervenes.

“Mission,” also known as “Dalek Cutaway,” is the last episode of DW produced by Verity Lambert. After 87 episodes spanning nearly two years of air time – who knows how much more in preproduction – she moved on to another Sydney Newman creation, the next step in a long and varied career.

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So long and thanks for all the Daleks

Posted February 13, 2019 by Elisabeth in Classic, The Long Way Round

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The Battle   Leave a comment

Yes I’m behind. Deal with it.

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SPOILER ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!

Doctor Who has frequently touched on the topic of faith. Notable examples include “The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit,” “Gridlock,” and “The God Complex.” Neither Davies nor Moffat – nor Murray Gold, for that matter – shied from religious imagery. And now we have “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos.”

Tim Shaw returns as false god, target and instigator of revenge, distorter of faith, mass murderer. The Ux are blinded by belief, placing faith above all, but especially above reason, truth, and basic decency. Youthful Delph’s doubts are cruelly quashed; he is forced by his elder/superior/leader to bow to Belief at the expense of what he knows is right.

And then there’s Graham.

Moffat said it, back when he was first beginning to be asked about a female Doctor. He saw the Doctor as the object of the show, yes, but to him (so he said – his seasons notably fail to express it) the companion is actually the main/identifying character. He claimed that with a female Doctor, either men would be excluded from the TARDIS, or they’d be given back the more interesting role.

Obviously fans throughout history disagree.

Now, with Chibnall – a very different kind of fan and showrunner – we see what Moffat meant. The Doctor is wonderful in every way, as she always has been, but the story belongs to the companion. Specifically, Graham.

He was never a coward. In the beginning, he just wanted to stay out of trouble. When alarming things happened, his preference was to leave and get help – not to run into the face of it. But run he did, if only to stay beside those he loved.

In loss, he embraced who his partner was: what Grace would have done, who she would have been. He left old Graham behind, and stepped out into a new world. His battle became the rift between him and Ryan: healing it, crossing it, building bridges between the experiences of a comfortable older white man and an unsure young black man. He fought hard, gaining ground every episode, and finally won the coveted title of Grandad overlooking a fjord in Norway.

Then, at Ranskoor Av Kolos, he discovers a new battle: rage.

Anger is part of the experience of grief. The bereaved feels cheated, betrayed, done wrong – in Graham’s case, a bit more literally than most. But the alien didn’t kill Grace, didn’t casually murder her as he would have done all of them with his DNA bombs, or as he did all the many varied life forms aboard those five stolen planets. Grace died because of him, but also because of herself. She died fighting, courageously and joyously, when she didn’t have to, because she saw she could make a difference and did it.

Still. Given how angry many fans remain over Grace’s death, it only makes sense that Graham should feel it too.

He’s honest with the Doctor. He wants nothing more than to crush Tim Shaw under his boot like a bug. But in spite of that – in spite of his intention to do exactly that – he knows he’s a better man. He knows violence isn’t strength. He knows the value of being someone his friends and family can count on. He wants to vent his rage and pain on the deserving creature – but he knows it won’t help. More like the enemy, as the Doctor said: he’d become someone she could no longer travel with, someone he could no longer respect.

As Moffat preached but didn’t practice, Chibnall wrote the Doctor as a secondary character. Instead of the Doctor’s angst and trials, we get a love story between (surrogate) father and son brought together by their travels with the Doctor.

(I can’t hate it; emotional story arcs between men aren’t often told so well. But I also want more women’s stories. C’mon Yaz!)

As always, the Doctor is a catalyst in the lives of his/her companions. The Doctor makes the impossible happen. The Doctor makes heroes, from the Bad Wolf that destroys an army of Daleks, to a lonely young man who finally accepts that family doesn’t have to be blood. She believes in them: the good in them, the strength. They in turn, inspired, believe in her. The Doctor, as she tells us, always answers a call for help – but it’s the people around her who end up saving the day.

Posted February 13, 2019 by Elisabeth in Companions, Season 11, Writers and Writing

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Galaxy 4   Leave a comment

  • In which one race assumes that because another is ugly, it must be evil
  • In which, as a hammer with a nail, a soldier assumes that everyone else is an enemy
  • In which robots are adorable
get

Meet Chumbley

The serial is almost entirely missing. Loose Cannon had very little to work with in their reconstruction: a few rare telesnaps or promotional images, six minutes of surviving footage used in a documentary, and a soundtrack rendered almost incomprehensible by time and decay. Episode 3 was found in 2011 and is available on YouTube.

The Rills are horrifying to look at, but they offer sanctuary to a stranded enemy. The Drahvin are beautiful, but they struggle to understand the human habit of helping each other. The Doctor and his friends are not fooled by outward appearances.

In the introduction to the Loose Cannon recon, Peter Purves shares some misgivings about the serial – mainly, that his dialog was written for Barbara, and that the script required that he be physically overpowered by a woman. Reading between the lines I sense a twinge of fragile masculinity. However, I don’t think Steven has anything to be ashamed of. He escapes his captivity by cleverness, and chooses death in an airlock over yielding to the Drahvin, once he understands their evil.

The story is a good one if a bit long-winded, and hard to follow on recon. The one recovered episode is an excellent sample however: Maarga smiles an evil smile, Steven’s hair is charmingly tousled, and Vicki wrestles a weapon from a soldier.

Posted February 8, 2019 by Elisabeth in Classic, The Long Way Round

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The Time Meddler   Leave a comment

This story features the first appearance of faces in the credits!

It’s not the opening credits, though, and not immediately the Doctor. Instead, Steven, Vicki, and finally the Doctor are featured over the closing sequence of the final episode, “Checkmate.” The 3/4 profile shots are much less creepy than the head-on view we get a bit later.

The Meddling Monk – the first of the Doctor’s people, still unnamed, that we meet – is a jolly old fellow. He’s got a weird idea that he can make things “better” by screwing around in history. The Doctor, for the moment anyway, disagrees, foils the plan, and leaves the Monk stranded in Northumbria in 1066. Unlike his later incarnations, he doesn’t offer the Monk a second chance, abandoning him instead to a likely death in the imminent Viking invasion.

(Of course he can always hide in his TARDIS until things blow over. He just can’t leave.)

Overall the story is engaging and moves at a good clip. Its major flaw is Token Woman Syndrome: like many stories of its time, and even some much more recent ones (ie “The Girl Who Died”), it features a human community made up almost entirely of men. How hard is it to cast half and half? To add a few extras (maybe even some children!) to give your world life – in a fairly literal sense? Edith is great, but why is she so alone?

I ask too much. Still, I enjoyed the serial overall and would recommend it to fellow fans.

Up next: the almost entirely nonexistent “Galaxy 4.”

Posted February 8, 2019 by Elisabeth in Classic, The Long Way Round

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Who for the Holidays   Leave a comment

Last year I did not watch a single past DW holiday special. My husband spent the two weeks before Christmas catching up a friend on the prior two seasons so she could watch the new special when it came out. I have nothing against bingeing a couple of Capaldi series, but still I felt a bit cheated in the end.

This year we made up for it.

I made it clear that, although even I wasn’t sure I could watch all past specials in one season, I wanted to watch as many as I could. We made plans with friends on Christmas Eve to do just that. After considering various ways of choosing which, from everyone pick a favorite to broadcast order, I came up with the idea of choosing titles out of a hat. My husband conveniently owns a fez, which we felt was appropriate. We excluded Eleven’s finale, because it’s crap, and also Ten’s, because we didn’t want to throw a two-parter into the mix, but even that left us plenty of possibilities.

Still, best case for an evening of television with friends was 3-4 episodes, which I felt wasn’t enough. Also, I didn’t want all my DW piled up on one night with the rest of the season bereft. So a couple of days before, my husband drew a title out of the fez. He came up with “The Christmas Invasion” – the first ever, and one I might have chosen anyway.

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“Did you miss me?”

On the holiday night, each guest drew a title, resulting in “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe,” “Voyage of the Damned,” and “The Next Doctor.” The first is one of my favorites: a wonderful story about love and family and trees, with lots of humorous moments and one of my very favorite one-off companions.

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“I’m looking for my children!”

“Voyage” is a mixed bag. Up until the Doctor goes off to have a word with management, it’s a fun riff on the disaster tradition of “The Poseidon Adventure.” Afterwards, it’s a melodramatic mess. Several guests were teary-eyed at the end, but I just couldn’t take it that seriously.

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srsly Russell, wtaf???

“The Next Doctor,” while almost unbearably silly, is another old favorite; David Morrissey is just too charming not to love. In the end, everyone was happy with the selections and the evening was a nerdy success.

A couple of nights later, left to my own devices, I put on “Last Christmas.” I almost left it out of the fez, as one of our Christmas Eve guests has a severe aversion to facehuggers, and if it had been chosen I might have felt obliged to withdraw it. But it wasn’t, and I wanted to watch some Capaldi before the season was out. It’s the one of his we’ve seen least recently, and the one I thought my husband least likely to choose if we watched one more together. Nick Frost and the whole Santa-dream storyline are wonderful, and even though I never liked the Danny Pink subplot, it’s wrapped up nicely here.

Tangerines

“Nobody likes the tangerines.”

The season is not yet quite over; tomorrow is Twelfth Night, and our tree is still up. We might still get a chance at “The Husbands of River Song,” or “Twice Upon a Time.”

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“We’ll always remember when the Doctor was us.”

May the holidays always be filled with such Whovian delight.

Posted January 5, 2019 by Elisabeth in Christmas Specials

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Run Away   Leave a comment

“The Chase” features a weirdly jazzy score, adorable miniatures, some very 60’s vortex effects, terrible American accents, and a big ‘splodey robot fight. It also visits a new location almost every episode, as our heroes are chased through time by some very irritated and persistent Daleks. For a show on a budget, new sets and costumes every week seems extravagant – and that doesn’t even count the moments of history viewed through the Time-Space Visualizer. (For some reason, watching the past on television is EVEN COOLER than visiting it – though to be fair, it’s also a lot safer and more reliable.)

The key feature of the story is the departure of Ian and Barbara after 19 months. For a modern companion, less than two years is not that long a journey; however, modern companions don’t make nearly 80 episodes in that time. For Ian and Barbara, it’s been a long and glorious run; even though they’ve grown to love the Doctor and their adventures with him, they’ve never stopped longing for home. A Dalek time machine, left behind after its owners and the Mechanoids destroy each other in spectacular fashion, delivers them within two years of their departure, while the rattly old TARDIS hardly ever managed the same century. They celebrate their homecoming with a joyous tour around London, witnessed via Time-Space Visualizer by the Doctor and Vicki.

Future companion Steven Taylor, in the meantime, goes back into danger to save a toy panda known as “the mascot.” Assuming him to have been killed, the Doctor and Vicki appear to leave him behind – though we the audience from the future know better.

Other thoughts:

  • I missed the bit with the Beatles which I’ve read appears through the time-space visualizer. Seriously, how did I manage that??
  • I was not familiar with the story of the Mary Celeste, but once that woman jumped off the ship with her baby I knew this was not an invented scenario.
  • I found the haunted house hilarious, and was a bit surprised that Ian and Barbara never figured it out.
  • I really enjoy cranky Daleks.

Up next is “The Time Meddler,” followed by a third season almost entirely missing. Loose Cannon here we come!

Posted January 1, 2019 by Elisabeth in Classic, The Long Way Round

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