Archive for the ‘Classic’ Category

Eaters of Light and other monsters   Leave a comment

Lady creators are on my mind of late. I’ve seen Wonder Woman twice, with a possible third pending later this week. Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot are heroes of the hour. Rachel Talalay’s third two-part season finale blasts into space next week. And now, I’ve finally spent some time with Rona Munro.

First, “Survival.” The ironically-titled final serial of classic DW is – like much of the rest of DW – a good story marred by questionable effects and costumes. Still, its heart is there. The final line – written not by Munro but by script editor Andrew Cartmel once he learned that the show was definitely not coming back – is a lovely bittersweet conclusion to 26 years of madcap adventure. The influence of Ace on Rose is glaringly apparent. Costar Anthony Ainley and showrunner John Nathan Turner would not live to see the show’s return. Lisa Bowerman, who played furry Karra in blazing heat, returned as Bernice Summerfield for 50-plus (and counting) Big Finish audio stories – a few with Ace and the Seventh Doctor, but most on her own. Rona Munro went on to a full and fruitful career writing stage plays and radio dramas. And now she’s back.

“The Eaters of Light” features a strange segment of history with which I was not previously familiar: the disappearance of the 9th Roman Legion sometime in the second century. The episode makes fun use of the popular (if slightly out of date) theory that the 9th was annihilated by Celtic tribes in northern Britain. The tribes, in this case, had the assistance of an inter-dimensional photon vampire.

(I’m not sure about the physiology of this. There was a bit of hand-waving.)

First of all, I love the bookends of this episode. The Scottish setting (actually Wales according to guest star Rebecca Benson) is brooding and ethereal. The little girl who hears music coming out of the ground sets a creepy stage – and the truth about that music is at turns inspiring and sad.

I also really enjoyed the crows. (We replayed that one bit – it DID say “Master!”) Our neighborhood is full of crows: waking up to cries of “Kar” the following morning made me smile. I’ll certainly never listen to them the same way again. I also enjoy that the Doctor was wrong about them – “They’re not brooding, they’re remembering!”

I did wonder if the non-white Roman soldiers were going to cause a flap among that more annoying segment of fandom. I know very little of history generally, but given how widespread Rome’s impact and influence was, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that their garrisons would include people from all sorts of backgrounds. And if I’m wrong about that, I still think a show that features an inter-dimensional photon vampire can get away with a couple of black Romans. I appreciated that they weren’t both killed right away; I had my doubts after the first one.

The side characters in this episode get some wonderful depth. Of course to the Doctor all humans are children: our lives too short, our experiences too limited. But these “soldiers” are children even to Bill, young people far out of their depth and with a weight of responsibility on their untested shoulders. Together Bill and the Doctor take their hands and help them grow – and in the end, when the Doctor wants to keep holding on, to save them from the burdens of adulthood, Bill and the young people themselves demand that he let them go, to make their music under the hill for eternity.

(Again the precise logistics are mystifying – the Doctor claims his lifespan, his regenerative ability, make him the better choice to guard the gate, but somehow a handful of human soldiers can do the same job? Wave-wave.)

“I can’t promise you won’t die. But I can promise you won’t die in a hole in the ground.”

Other high points are the popcorn distraction and Nardole’s instant adaptation and acceptance into the community. I enjoyed Nardole more this episode than any since the Christmas special. The coming together of enemies as friends and partners is a trope I’ll never get tired of – and the Doctor’s speech on the topic is perfectly on point.

The denouement with Missy remains a mystery. I still don’t buy that she’s going to turn good, whatever the Doctor does. I think she’s fooling him on some level. But I also think she’s maybe going through something a little unexpected. Perhaps she’s really experiencing remorse or compassion in ways she thought herself safe from. Perhaps if not a full shift, she may still make a small one.

Husband and I expect her to sacrifice herself for the Doctor or a companion in the finale. (Will we see that regeneration – a new Master? or will it be a surprise for next time?)

Or will it be John Simm! When I first heard that he would return, I thought it unlikely; when I learned it was true, I realized we’ve had many multi-Doctor stories but never a multi-Master one, and how much fun would that be? We don’t know how the Master got from Simm to Gomez, or whether there were any versions in between, Simm’s Master having been sent back to the Time War with Rassilon in “The End of Time.”

On a related note, Derek Jacobi is returning as the Master for Big Finish. And in further speculation, there is the theory that in honor of Missy’s sacrifice the Doctor will next regenerate into a woman.

doctor-who-peter-capaldi-and-hayley-atwell

Invasion of Gallifrey   Leave a comment

Two weeks ago we watched “The Invasion of Time” on the big screen with a roomful of other nerds. The story, featuring Four, Leela, and K-9, takes place almost entirely on Gallifrey.

The serial aired in February and March 1978. A year and a half earlier television-time, the Doctor abandoned Sarah Jane in Aberdeen, telling her that no humans were permitted on Gallifrey. This time he drags Leela along without a qualm. Does he no longer care? Was he tired of Sarah? Or did writers give little thought to the disposal of companions? The last seems most likely, given the departure of Leela at the end of this story: her relationship with Andred* lacks any foundation or expression on screen, but in the end she gives up everything to be with him. Susan’s romance with David Campbell (“Dalek Invasion of Earth”) has more substance to it, but still she is devastated to be left behind.

Gallifrey itself is an interesting place. The privileged population lives entirely indoors, encased in rules and intrigue. Outside is a place of banishment, where survival is improbable – except by a band of savages with whom Leela quickly identifies. The Doctor has come to claim his Presidency, while secretly working to thwart an invasion. Various bureaucrats battle him, and one another, for leadership and control. Pandemonium, of course, ensues.

After a slow start the story is well-paced and engaging. In spite of its length and the lateness of the hour we were never bored. Necessarily limited and repetitive locations are exploited for their humorous potential. Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor and John Arnatt’s Borusa delight with their mutual discourtesy and unlikely alliance. Overall, it’s good classic DW fun.

* In spite of ignominious beginnings, Leela’s relationship with Andred sparked a whole world of ideas exploited by Big Finish for their licensed audio stories. (See Life on Gallifrey.)

Posted December 15, 2016 by Elisabeth in Classic, Companions, Events, Guest stars

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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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Never too late   Leave a comment

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.

doctor-who-the-empty-child-nancy

Everybody lives!

Timey wimey   Leave a comment

It seems I neglected to write up our most recent meetup.

Nearly two months ago we gathered for “The Long Game” followed by “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy.” Husband and I skipped last month’s viewing of Doctor Who: The Movie; we have it on DVD, and neither the film nor the venue are favorites of mine. (The venue switched temporarily from my beloved nerdy, British-beer-serving fish and chip shop, probably due to severe crowding and service issues at the prior gathering.)

The venue’s issues failed to detract from my enjoyment of Rose’s first visit to Satellite 5. The episode of course features excellent guest stars: Simon Pegg is flawless and Christine Adams’ Cathica is a longtime favorite. (I squee’d when Adams appeared on Agents of SHIELD.) I love Rose’s character development in this ep, and the progression of her relationship with the Doctor. I love that Adam’s greed and self-centeredness actually cost him. More recent companions get away with all manner of misbehavior, but here Adam – and soon Rose, in the upcoming “Father’s Day” – suffer brutal consequences for their mistakes.

I’m not sure what led the organizer to choose “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy” as a companion piece. It was time for a Seventh Doctor outing; it’s possible he’s thrown connection out the window and just picked an ep he liked. This one is extremely strange. There were jokes about what happens when you “drop acid and make a TV show.” I’m sure it was all very characteristic of the 80’s. The first half is rambling and hard to follow. However, the resolution is classic Sylvester McCoy: he looks small and harmless, but you really don’t want to find yourself on his bad side.

Overall, in spite of the service issues and pseudo-drug flashbacks, the evening was a fun one.

Next week we’ll see “Father’s Day” and “The Enemy Within.” The first is an old favorite, written by the spectacular Paul Cornell.* The second is one of the lost serials recently found in Nigeria of all places; I haven’t seen it yet but have been looking forward to it for some time. Patrick Troughton plays the Doctor as well as the enemy, a performance I can’t wait to see. (Precursor to Matt Smith’s Cyberplanner perhaps?) The original venue has been restored, now that it’s (more than) warm enough to use the large rear patio and the service issues have hopefully been addressed.

DW, Boddington’s on tap, classic fish & chips. What could be better?

 

*Paul Cornell is also responsible for “Human Nature/Family of Blood” – both the Seventh Doctor novel and the S3 two-parter featuring Ten and Martha – the excellent Four Doctors comic series, the Shadow Police series of novels – some of the best urban fantasy of all time – and one of my favorite episodes of Elementary, as well as a plethora of Doctor Who novels, comics, and other things I haven’t read yet.

Posted August 18, 2016 by Elisabeth in Classic, Events, Season 1

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Bits of fun   Leave a comment

A couple of entertaining and informative articles:

The Third Doctor

The Sixth Doctor

Enjoy! 🙂

Posted April 3, 2016 by Elisabeth in Classic, Cool Stuff, Piffle

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The Dead and the Demons   Leave a comment

Our latest meetup featured “The Unquiet Dead” and “The King’s Demons.”

“Dead” is one of my favorites, particularly among Gatiss’s eps, and the reason is Christopher Eccleston’s face. The way he lights up at the sound of screams; gushes with delight over meeting Charles Dickens; beams with pride as Rose takes down the feckless Mr. Sneed. The tenderness in his smile when he tells her he’s glad he met her. Much as I adore Capaldi’s Doctor, Nine is still the Doctor of my heart.

Rose, Gwyneth, and Mr. Dickens are pretty spectacular too.

“Demons” was chosen as one of the Fifth Doctor’s few historicals. (Not only – “The Visitation” takes place not too many centuries later in nearly the same setting.) It features the Master and introduces Kamelion. The story is less than engaging, particularly compared with “Masque of Mandragora.” Ainley chews all the scenery in sight, Tegan is cheerless and Turlough inoffensive. The fake John is king of over-actors everywhere. I wonder if Five’s swordfighting scene influenced Ten’s two decades later: the similarities were striking.

We capped off the night with a short documentary about the utter failure that was Kamelion. Peter Davison and Eric Saward are hilarious in their disrespect. Nicola Bryant is sweet, but some things can’t be sugar coated. The robot was exactly what one would expect of low-budget 80’s sci fi: a disaster in every way. Still, they tried. And finally someone made K9 look good.

Overall, it was a fun night. Next time we’ll see the Slitheen two-parter, possibly accompanied by some short feature or other, and after that, a Dalek doubleheader. I look forward to Six’s encounter.

Posted March 3, 2016 by Elisabeth in Classic, Events

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