Archive for the ‘Guest stars’ 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 The episode makes fun use of the popular (if slightly out of date) theory that the 9th was annihilated by Celtic tribes in northern Britain.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

PS   Leave a comment

MISSY.

Is she genuinely remorseful? I doubt it. Can she make a lasting change? Ditto. She will give the Doctor what he wants, right up until the moment she is free. Will she make an unexpected choice, in opposition to herself for once?

Quite possibly.

Gomez is magic under any circumstances. I’m heartbroken she won’t return after this series. I can’t wait to see her chew scenery with John Simm. When this is all over I’m rewatching every Green Wing and DW scene of hers in a row.

Every little thing…

Posted June 7, 2017 by Elisabeth in Guest stars, Piffle

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The Doctor’s (Late?) Wife   Leave a comment

I’ve always wondered about Idris. Before she became the vessel through which the TARDIS speaks, who was she? How did she end up on House? Was she a collection of mismatched limbs like Aunt and Uncle? Or a whole being, transported, like Nephew? How did she alone retain her name?

Of course she was bait: the fragile frame in which to trap a timeship’s soul. But how did House come by her? What life was left behind? Who loved her, mourned her, missed her? Who searched for her? What place did she fill on that unknown world, before she was stolen from her life, and her life stolen from her?

Imagine:

EXT: MARKETPLACE

THE DOCTOR ambles among the stalls, hands in his pockets, taking in the sights and sounds and smells. Ahead of him, a slim, dark-haired woman moves quickly from merchant to merchant, her back to him as she haggles for her flowers and her fruits. He pays her little mind – until abruptly she turns, and they find themselves face to face.

THE DOCTOR: You!

IDRIS: I’m sorry. Do I know you?

THE DOCTOR is speechless

CUT TO: MAIN TITLES

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“THE DOCTOR’S GHOST”

Are you afraid?

Other fun   Leave a comment

I recently stumbled across a show from a few years ago featuring not one but two of DW’s fabulous lady guest stars: Suranne Jones (Idris, “The Doctor’s Wife”) and Lesley Sharpe (Sky Silvestry, “Midnight”). The two co-star as police detectives in ITV’s Scott and Bailey: Jones as erratic but brilliant DC Rachel Bailey, nicknamed Sherlock, and Sharpe as her steady family-woman partner and best friend, DC Janet Scott. Just watching them together is treat enough, but the show as a whole fills a role rarely seen on television: police procedural drama led entirely by women, in front of and behind the camera.

The two main characters are women. Their boss is a woman. Most of the writers and directors are women. Minor characters – cops, victims, perpetrators – may be men or women. But the major male characters are love interests, exes, and comic relief. It’s a big switch for the genre, and a welcome one. The scripts are strong, the acting flawless. This isn’t a bone thrown to women: it’s the real thing, done really well. It’s a model for what half of all television should be.

Recommended for fans of police drama, as well as fans of these two spectacular actresses.

Posted March 17, 2017 by Elisabeth in Cool Stuff, Guest stars

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3fer   Leave a comment

The latest piece of DW news is full of win.

The Return Of…

On the surface it’s all about the baddies. Capaldi has not been shy about his hopes for an encounter with the original Cybermen of Mondas. They of the spooky cloth faces introduced their race in the First Doctor’s final episode, and were never seen again. Until now…

But the buried lead is even more fun. A while ago I observed the empty space where a director’s name ought to go on the final two episodes of the season. Given how the last two seasons ended, I was hoping for another round of Rachel Talalay. And indeed, my hopes are answered.

Last but not least is the inclusion of one final name in the major cast: Michelle Gomez. Of course I’d already heard that she’d be back – but to have her for the final two-parter – very nearly the final of this Doctor’s career – is extra bonus fun.

More here, in the Who’s Day roundup.

“Fireplace” girls   1 comment

Recently I joined a gym, which, otherwise being apropos of nothing, has allowed me to start listening to Verity Podcast again. The ladies are always great fun, disagreeing with each other in the best way possible, full of nerdery and love for Doctor Who. This season, each Verity gets an episode to gush about her favorite story, and the first of these was “The Girl in the Fireplace.”

“Fireplace” is one of a finite set: written by Stephen Moffat during the Russell T. Davies era of Doctor Who, and as a result, one of the best of the modern series. It’s a beautifully made historical, with monsters and silliness and a smart, courageous woman who just happens to have been a real person. It features one of my favorite TARDIS trios: Ten, Rose, and Mickey Smith. It’s the midpoint of Mickey’s travels with the Doctor, a last hurrah before the peak of his character arc. It’s a brief stop on Rose’s slide out of the Doctor’s life.

For most fans, one of the key peaks and pitfalls of this episode is the romance. Many adore it; many others, feeling differently about how the Doctor should relate to his companions, despise it. When I first watched it, on my whirlwind pass through S2-4, I barely noticed.

I am not a romance fan. I don’t read bodice-rippers. I don’t watch rom-coms. Generally I feel there is too much emphasis in our society on romantic love and marriage as an end goal, as if happily-ever-after were really a thing. I dislike romantic tropes, such as people who hate each other and treat each other poorly discovering they’re really in love. I’m not interested in other people’s sex lives. As a result, I didn’t even notice the romantic arc of Rose’s story until it was over – and then I was so invested, so engaged – and it was handled so well – that I loved it anyway.

With Reinette, I see much that could be interpreted as romantic that doesn’t actually have to be. I accept that she’s probably in love with him – or, in love with the idea of him, as she doesn’t really know him at all. And of course the Doctor loves the kind of person she is: courageous, adventurous, intelligent, pushing at the boundaries of her world. But what breaks his heart in the end is not losing her, but failing yet another fragile being who counted on him. This Doctor takes every failure personally to heart. In addition, the reason he failed her was that he couldn’t wait to get back to Rose. He couldn’t wait for Reinette to pack a bag and go with him; he had to see that Rose was okay, even though he had to know that leaving Reinette’s world for a moment risked leaving it forever. He took a gamble for Rose, and Reinette lost. Of course he feels shattered and guilty.

But not because he was in love with her.

Another question raised in the Verities’ podcast is the recurring Moffat-ism of the Doctor meeting companions in childhood. One of the ladies asked if those who have a problem with River Song’s lifelong entanglement with the Doctor have the same problem with Reinette. However, I see Reinette’s situation as more similar to Amy’s than River’s: each has an impactful experience with the Doctor at a very young age, and builds him up in her mind as a heroic figure he can never live up to it real life. Each develops something of an obsession with him. I don’t feel that the Doctor’s meeting with young River is impactful in the same way: the little girl stuck in a spacesuit already has too much going on to be impressed by the Doctor. My problem with River isn’t as much that she met the Doctor young, as that her entire life was bent and designed around him. Reinette and Amy developed common pre-adolescent feelings for him, some of which were later shattered. River’s problem is on another level entirely.

In addition, Moffat is not alone in having the Doctor cross paths with someone at multiple points in their lives. On Davies’ watch, Nine meets Rose and Mickey as children, though his impact on them at that time is minimal. Ten meets young Elton Pope, whose resulting lifelong obsession gets him in trouble in the end. I’ve said before on this blog that Davies is obsessed with romance: Rose, Martha, Astrid, and it’s rumored he had romance planned for S4 before Catherine Tate agreed to come back. (Which is sort of a two way problem: does he limit romance to a certain age and body type, or did he change direction because of the character Tate established in “The Runaway Bride?”) Moffat appears to be obsessed with sex: vampy Amy, River, Marilyn Monroe, and Queen Elizabeth mostly happen on his watch.

Still, we can’t blame Moffat (entirely) for that.

I have probably written plenty on this topic by now, but in case I missed anything I meant to say, here’s the comment I left for the Verities:

I despise romance as a genre, and I still love this episode. Partly it’s just so well done: I got caught up in the adventure story, and didn’t really notice the love story until later. Also, I don’t see it as necessarily a love story in the romantic sense. I think the Doctor saw in Reinette what he sees in any of his companions, and he was heartbroken in the end because he failed her. Just as he has (in his view anyway) failed so many of them.

I’m not sure I saw it on the first pass but over time I definitely see this as a story about faith. The Doctor always jumps in feet first when there’s someone to save, and to hell with the consequences – and somehow it always turns out. He knows when he plunges through the mirror that there’s no way back, and yet he does it believing that he will make it back anyway. (This gets spelled out even bigger in “The Satan Pit,” where the Doctor destroys the safety net only to come up against the TARDIS in the shadows.) Rose too has faith – and her own desire to save the day. If he had asked her whether he should save Reinette or stay behind with her, I feel quite confident she would have told him to get on that horse – and come back in the end too. Which of course he does, because he’s the Doctor. I think this episode showcases Rose’s compassion and faith as well as the Doctor’s, as well as the strength of their friendship. And I don’t think he abandoned her, in any case: the TARDIS took Rose home once, and I’m sure she’d have done it again if called on. As if Rose would ever have left the Doctor behind. (again, see “The Satan Pit.”)

Madame de Pompadour was quite an interesting person historically. She was married, and was mistress to the King, and was the first of that King’s mistresses to befriend the Queen. (The Doctor’s comment about this being France was dead on.) She was interested in science and art and politics and brought the most intelligent and well educated people together in her house to talk about things. I think the Doctor would definitely have admired her. I really enjoy the way she’s portrayed in the story: smart, fearless, fiery, and also feminine. As in the show, she died of tuberculosis slowly and quite young, leaving behind a grieving King. She’s an excellent choice of character for an episode of Doctor Who. I’d love to see more fascinating women from history on the show.

I could probably go on – the Verities present a whole polyamory angle I would never have thought of before – but for now I think enough is enough.

 

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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