Archive for the ‘Christmas Specials’ Category

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.

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“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.

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Posted January 5, 2019 by Elisabeth in Christmas Specials

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(location), (date)   Leave a comment

The following may be considered spoilery.

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SPOILER ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!

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?

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“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.

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SPOILER ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!

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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I can’t help it   Leave a comment

Let’s watch that Christmas special trailer again!

Caught a definite glimpse of Polly on that last pass. What are you people doing??

Also, I haven’t watched it yet, but this looks intriguing and awesome:

The Fan Show is the best thing to happen to Doctor Who since the reboot. It is awesome and I love it. I am a Christel Dee fangirl! ❤

Posted July 28, 2017 by Elisabeth in Christmas Specials, Cool Stuff, Squee!, Video

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El regreso del Doctor   Leave a comment

Doctor Mysterio, to be precise.

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SPOILER ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!

Yes, the title is in honor of the Mexican name for Doctor Who, as we learned from Doctor Who: World Tour.

It’s been a long wait. One of the many, many sucker punches thrown by 2016 was the absence of new Doctor Who. It seemed a cruel suspension – especially since streaming too was mostly taken away this year. But now at last it’s over. And while absence may make the heart grow fonder, this episode doesn’t seem to need any help. It’s sweet, funny, charming, just a little bit scary. There’s an alien invasion (“how meta,” says the Doctor), a cute kid, a masked man, and a reporter nosing her way in right alongside the titular hero.

Sarah Jane, Lois Lane, Lucy Fletcher Lombard.

There’s also about a hundred thousand ultra nerdy comic book references. When the DVD comes out, we’re going to sit down and notate every one, a la “Deep Breath,” but in the meantime here’s just a few of the more obvious ones – not even counting Lois and Clark:

  • Opening comic book pages, a nod to Marvel?
  • Classic Batman street scene
  • Daily Planet globe atop Harmony Shoal*
  • Misses Siegel & Shuster
  • “With great power comes great responsibility”

et cetera, et cetera.

It’s the least Christmasy Christmas special, with only a single nod in the opening and not a speck of snow. Still, it’s an important nod: the expectation of Santa Claus saves the Doctor’s life and introduces him to young Grant. There’s some hangover from last Christmas and the Doctor’s 24-year “night” with River Song. (Really? They didn’t get sick of each other once in 24 years?) I could have done without it, but again, Capaldi’s class act makes it work. His grief is much more real and less melodramatic than his most recent predecessors’. More like Nine’s in fact – understated but impactful. I think I can live with that.

There’s a notable lack of ladies in this episode, an observation which I was quick to share with the BBC Insiders. (How long before they take me off their list?) One of the Misses S gets a single line – probably delivered by loop group. A TV reporter gets a few seconds of screen time. There are background women at the press conference and at the Tokyo office. But there are no women among the aliens or the UNIT soldiers. There is no female companion. There’s just Lucy, as lonely as Lois at the Daily Planet, but so many decades later it feels like a step back in time.

Much like the rest of 2016.

Still, I enjoyed the episode. And I’m as eager as hell for Bill and all of Season 10.

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2017, here we come!

*ETA A shoal is a shallow spot, a hidden ridge or sandbar, a place where ships may run aground or marine mammals beach themselves. A dangerous spot that seems so peaceful – and a clever name for an invading corporation.

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Posted December 29, 2016 by Elisabeth in Christmas Specials

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Class and other fun   Leave a comment

Last week we watched the first episode of the new DW spinoff, Class. It was, as I had begun to suspect, more Torchwood than SJA, and also quite well written. The characters are good, the conflict is good, and the Doctor is icing on the alien cake. I look forward to the rest of the series.

Last night my meetup group saw the newly released animated version of “Power of the Daleks” in the theater. I continue to be impressed with the Troughton era. In spite of a slow start, mediocre animation, and 60s cheese, the serial was quite engaging. The story is tight and well paced, never dragging like some classics tend to. The background artwork is beautiful. The Daleks are terrifying as always, but also sneaky and underhanded and occasionally hilarious: this is the first appearance of the serving-Daleks seen in “Victory of the Daleks.” The showing was followed by a brief making-of video featuring Nick Briggs and several members of the animation team, as well as a few from the original. Just as if we’d watched at home on DVD, but bigger. 🙂

We have lots more Doctor coming up this month. Next week the meetup will watch “Boom Town” and “Bad Wolf.” I wasn’t sure about splitting up the series finale, but “Parting of the Ways” will be paired up with “The Christmas Invasion” just in time for the holidays, so I think I can live with it. Then at the end of the month, our local old-school movie theater will be showing “The Invasion of Time” complete with period commercials. We saw “Genesis of the Daleks” there last year, and it was great fun. I haven’t seen “Invasion,” and we’ve seen very little of Leela so far, so we’re definitely looking forward to it.

On the topic of Christmas specials and similar fun, I have mixed feelings about the one upcoming. I was hoping to meet Pearl this holiday, but she will not appear. I was not as thrilled with Nardole as many apparently were, and I wouldn’t have chosen him as a recurring character. I don’t like how guy-heavy the story appears to be. On the other hand I love cheesy superhero stuff, and Christmas specials are always great fun. I’ll go into it with an open mind.

(On that note, I get surveys from the BBC about upcoming events, and I gave them an earful about the testosterone ratio of the holiday special. It was after that, I note, that the nameless young woman began to appear in the promotional material.)

An added bonus, for those who watched Doctor Who: The World Tour: “Doctor Mysterio” is the Spanish name for Doctor Who, and has its own mariachi filk captured on film. 🙂

Posted November 15, 2016 by Elisabeth in Christmas Specials, Classic, Commentary, Events

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Writers, and the return of the Titanic   3 comments

It’s interesting to consider what qualities an actor may bring out in a writer.

Back in 2005, Russell T. Davies was lucky to score Christopher Eccleston for the Ninth Doctor role. A serious film actor in the middle of an impressive career, Eccleston came to the show exclusively due to Davies’ reputation as a writer. Davies was forced to bring his A game – not only to give his beloved show a chance, but to meet the demands of his lead.

David Tennant, fresh off Casanova, offered his writer an entirely different set of strengths. The two share a taste for melodrama and a flair for the ridiculous, and it shows in the three seasons they worked together. Serious storytelling took second place to showmanship and fun. ‘Voyage of the Damned,’ the 2007 Christmas special, is a prime example. From Astrid’s death until the Doctor saves the day, we are treated to dramatic zooms, swelling music, and significant facial expressions, all while the story slips quietly into the background. The episode remains engaging and fun, but it loses a share of its sincerity.

Things took a marked turn for the worse with the pairing of Stephen Moffat and Matt Smith. Moffat is a fanboy from the school of thought that all fans are boys. Smith is a young man who still sees women as alien creatures, rather than fellow humans. Together they made television strictly for the most juvenile part of themselves, to the exclusion of any other type of fan. Their work still has merit, in places, but it is marred by their twelve-year-old-boy thinking.

Now, Peter Capaldi brings out the best in Stephen Moffat. Not since Series 1, when Eccleston pushed Davies to be his best, has the writing been so consistently strong, with storytelling as its focus. The nerd remains strong in them – the season is peppered with show history – but now the nerd serves the story rather than the other way round. Authenticity matters again. Human beings matter again.

We enjoyed our re-watch of the third new-Who Christmas special, but it doesn’t hold a candle to S9.