Archive for the ‘Christmas Specials’ Category

El regreso del Doctor   Leave a comment

Doctor Mysterio, to be precise.

Daleks-May-Return-Doctor-Who-Season-8

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.

sshhh2bbanner

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,Ā 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. šŸ™‚

We have lots more Doctor coming up this month. Next week the meetup will watch “Boom Town” and “Bad Wolf.” I wasn’t sureĀ 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 womanĀ 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. šŸ™‚

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.

 

Runaway   3 comments

Tonight we re-watched ‘The Runaway Bride.’

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“You are kidding me.”

This scene remains one of the highlights of the series. It’s hilarious and tense, the music is great, and the crosscut of cheering kids in the car ahead is one of my all-time favorite Russell moments.

Overall, the episode is at the high end of the fun scale – Segways, anyone? – but also has a heavy measure of sincerity. Known for her comedy,Ā Catherine Tate portrays heartbreak with touching authenticity. Her sadness and her wonder ring true, alongside all the humor and shouting. From day one Donna was an authentic human being, and a perfect contradiction for the Doctor.

We – and he – were incredibly fortunate to get her back.

The episode includes a number of references, both to past and future events. Of course there’s lots of talk of Rose, whose last goodbye has left the Doctor shaken. Her former employer, Henrik’s, appears prominently advertised in the background of Donna’s race across London. Torchwood, the arc of the prior season and the spinoff still to come, owns Donna’s employer, H. C. Clements. The order to fire on the Racnoss ship comes from a Mr. Saxon, the upcoming arc for Series 3.

Beyond that: The pop song playing at Donna’s reception also played in the garage where Mickey worked in ‘The Christmas Invasion.’ The Doctor mentions secret bases under major London landmarks, most recently experienced with the Nestene in ‘Rose,’ but also true of the Black Archive and Torchwood itself – though in that case the landmark is in Cardiff. He questions Donna’s failure to remember the events of either ‘The Christmas Invasion’ or ‘Army of Ghosts/Doomsday.’ And here we get our first hint of the danger of the Time Lord Victorious. The Doctor said a year ago, in ‘The Christmas Invasion:’

“No second chances. I’m that kind of man.”

Now, in Rose’s absence, a vindictive streak begins to show in him – a streak that will culminate in his destruction.

A good, fun episode with lots of nerdery, a cool and shiny monster, and really excellent performances from our leads.

Next up: ‘Voyage of the Damned.’

Christmas Cheer   3 comments

Obviously, spoilers follow.

tardiswreath

DO NOT OPEN UNTIL XMAS SPECIAL

 

"Grr, spoilers!"

“Grr, spoilers!”

A year ago I would have said it was impossible. Even after S9, amazing as it was, I had my doubts. He’d followed up the 50th anniversary special with the disastrous ‘Time of the Doctor.’ He’d set up ‘Silence in the Library’ with ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ and ‘The Angels Take Manhattan.’ Moffat’s been good before, but it’s never stopped him also being terrible.

But S9 held on to the end. ‘The Husbands of River Song,’ in spite of its title, gives the character the arc she has awaited and deserved since 2008.

Well done, Mr. Moffat.

Way back when the Twelfth Doctor was first cast, it occured to me that this was the man to take River to Darillium. This man had the depth of character, the emotional courage, the grace to see her off properly. But given everything that happened in Matt Smith’s era, I figured that was off the table.

I have never been happier to be wrong.

This episode is everything I could want from a Christmas special. It’s ridiculous and spectacular, sweet and funny and sad. Twelve’s joy is contagious, the best treat we could ask for. River, when she’s over being campy, is courageous and sincere and – for nearly the first time since the Library – entirely real. This is the River I’ve been missing all these years.

It’s strange to think that River could ever have loved or been loved by the Eleventh Doctor. Her chemistry with Ten was undeniable – which of course could be said of just about anyone – but her scenes with his successor lacked any hint of a spark. Now, in a single look Capaldi’s Doctor conveys what Smith’s had failed at for four seasons. This Doctor knows River, loves River. That Doctor was just pretending. One possible explanation is that Matt Smith is just a vastly inferior actor. However, while Capaldi is undeniably a master, Smith is not lacking in skill. I’m not sure it’s entirely his fault that the love story failed to launch. It’s more like both actor and writer had some growing up to do. Working with Capaldi has somehow forced Moffat to move past the twelve-year-old boy and start writing for grownups again.

My husband points out that you could look at it as River’s growth and development over the course of her timeline. In the Library, she was as mature as she was going to get; in ‘Let’s Kill Hitler,’ the most puerile. She grew up out of order, from our point of view. We’ve been tolerating her childishness for a long time; now at last she’s the adult we’ve been missing.

Whatever it is, I’ll take more. Onward to Series 10!

Re-Invasion   Leave a comment

Imagine my delight when my husband announced that he’d like to watch ALL the Christmas specials this year.

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“Oh I should think so.”

And so it began, with ‘The Christmas Invasion.’

Two things stood out for me this episode, things characteristic of the RTD era which I find I miss now that he’s gone. One of them is the newscasts. Trinity Wells and her ilk covered no fewer than eight alien incursions on Doctor Who, The Sarah Jane Adventures, and Torchwood over five years of Russell’s reign, lending verisimilitude and a familiar humanity to the events. Of course we’d all watch the Slitheen or the Sycorax on television, as we watched everything from the moon landing to the Challenger disaster to the September 11 attack on New York.

Since then of course most of us have moved away from twenty-four-hour CNN; everything happens on the Internet now, as in ‘The Bells of St. John.’

The other thing I noticed was the inclusion of small, anonymous moments of humanity. When the Sycorax engage their blood control, one third of the population enters a trance and leaves home to climb the tallest buildings they can reach – many of them families. Early Christmas morning, Rose’s baffled neighbor follows her partner out of the flat and up onto the roof. Nearby, a terrified mother urges her husband and children to respond to her. The tears in her voice break my heart. Many of Moffat’s stories focus closely on our heroes; Russell makes sure we see everyone.

We had a great time re-watching this episode. Rose, Mickey, and Jackie are my television family. Harriet Jones is wonderful and terrible. The special effects have aged no better than their forebears on the classic show. Revisiting the Tenth Doctor’s first outing is a delight.

I look forward to Donna in ‘The Runaway Bride.’

Posted December 16, 2015 by Elisabeth in Christmas Specials, Season 1

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The End and The Beginning   Leave a comment

‘Last Christmas’

The 2014 Christmas special holds up beautifully. Lots of fun, lots of twists and turns, plot holes actually serve a purpose. Side characters are wonderful as usual, with Nick Frost of course being an inspired choice. This one is right up there with ‘The Next Doctor’ and ‘The Runaway Bride’ for sheer holiday delight.

“Nobody likes the tangerines.”

‘The Magician’s Apprentice’

The following contains massive spoilers. Proceed with caution.

SPOILER ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!

SPOILER ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!

In his interview with Wil Wheaton following the ‘Dark/Death’ screening, Capaldi advised fans to brush up on their Dalek history.

He was not kidding. The pre-title sting knocked us out of our chairs.

Post-titles, we bring back the Shadow Proclamation, Ohila of Karn, Kate Stewart, and of course Missy. Michelle Gomez continues spectacular. The story is tight, compelling, crazy fun to watch, and wrenching.

I’m a little surprised at how much history Moffat is bringing to this story. So much is meaningless if you never saw ‘The Daleks,’ ‘Genesis of the Daleks,’ ‘Journey’s End,’ ‘Night of the Doctor,’ or even just the prologue*. For lunatics like me, it’s fantastic, but I wonder how it is for newer fans. You don’t get that punch to the chest if you don’t know who Davros is. You don’t get your heart torn out if you weren’t there for the Fourth Doctor’s dilemma. (Yes, the scene is included, but it doesn’t have quite the impact without its context.) But either way, no one can believe the Doctor did what he did, and no one can believe he will do what it appears.

If part 2 is half as good as this one, we’re in for a treat. Moffat is at his best with the impossible. I look forward to the Doctor’s brilliant solution.

*ETA I’m referring to the prologue shown in theaters, featuring Bors. It’s not yet up on youtube as far as I can tell. I didn’t know about the other one, which is.

Posted September 20, 2015 by Elisabeth in Christmas Specials, Season 8, Season 9, The Great Re-Watch

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