Archive for the ‘Season 1’ Category
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.
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.
“You should have promoted me years back!”
1. Cathica learns something.
In the beginning, Cathica is ordinary. She is a journalist who doesn’t ask questions. She has a good job, she obeys the rules, she vies for promotion just like everyone else. She lives her life, keeps her head down, and doesn’t question how – or if – the system works.
By the end, Cathica is beginning to ask questions. She is digging for the truth. She is standing up for what she thinks is right.
2. Cathica saves the day.
Cathica’s interference distracts the Editor, allowing Rose and the Doctor to escape. She kills the monster and liberates her people. She does it using her skills as a journalist – discovering and applying information – and her new-found courage.
3. Cathica lives to fight the next battle.
So often, those ordinary souls who step up to help the Doctor give their lives in the process: Jabe, Gwyneth, De Maggio, Pete Tyler, Lynda Moss, even Captain Jack. Cathica comes through unscathed, and like Harriet Jones, takes the Doctor’s place as hero in the aftermath.
A while back I considered whether S9 might be my new favorite. The writing, particularly of the first two and last two stories, seemed to reach new levels of depth and richness. The season is not without its flaws, but its best bits stand out brightly.
As my meetup group progresses through S1, for many years uncontested in its top spot, I find little to criticize. While its peaks may not reach the heights S9 achieves, nor does it suffer its slips.
Most recently we watched the first New Who two-parter, “Aliens of London/World War Three.” Best remembered for its farting aliens, the episode did not endure in my mind as anything great. On the rewatch, however, it turns out to be the showcase of some excellent material:
- The development of Rose’s relationship with Jackie and Mickey, and the grounding of her character
- The introduction of Harriet Jones, “MP Flydale North”
- The first New Who appearance of UNIT
- “Mickey the idiot” saving the world from his home PC
- The beginning of trust between Mickey and the Doctor
- The foundation of a friendship between Mickey and Jackie, which endures throughout the RTD era.
- The Doctor’s confession of the truth behind his adventuring:
“This is my life, Jackie – it’s not fun, it’s not smart, it’s just standing up and making a decision because nobody else will.”
- Rose’s courage and quick thinking in the face of death
Even the farting aliens, something I imagine RTD dreamed up to satisfy his internal (and eternal) nine-year-old, have a scientific reason for their ridiculousness: the gas exchange that allows their enormous bodies to fit inside a suit of human skin. Not only that, but the fact of the farting helps the Doctor determine the nature of the enemy in time to save Mickey and Jackie – or in time to help them save themselves. This balance of horror, silliness, and heart is one of Doctor Who‘s strongest features. I can’t find fault with Russell’s choice.
We haven’t rewatched S9 yet, and we’re only a little way into S1. Time will tell if Nine, Rose, and Russell will retain their throne or if Twelve will manage to unseat them.
Imagine my delight when my husband announced that he’d like to watch ALL the Christmas specials this year.
“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.’
Is Doctor Who a victim of its own success?
Series 1 is far and away the best of New Who. This article explores some possible reasons why.
During yesterday’s Midnight Monday tumblr event, a fellow user commented on the similarity between the Midnight entity and the Gelth of S1. They commented that in treating the Midnight entity as a benevolent, or at least harmless, new life form, the Doctor hadn’t learned his lesson from the Gelth. (I can’t find the original post now, or I would link it.)
I disagree. It’s not about not learning his lesson. It’s about refusing to let a bad experience make him cynical. No matter what happens, no matter what he’s been through – and it’s a lot! – the Doctor always chooses to see the best in everything. The Fourth Doctor made some comment along those lines; again, I can’t find the quote, but he has some exchange about always expecting the best, and always being proved wrong. And still, he approaches each new situation with optimism.
This is one of the traits I admire in the Doctor. He may have met a thousand aliens that looked good but turned out to be bad. An ordinary being would begin to expect every alien to be bad. A human certainly would. The Doctor would not. He will always see each new thing as a new thing to be discovered for itself, with no preconceived notions. He comes to every new encounter full of wonder, not fear. He doesn’t hold one creature’s acts against another. He doesn’t hold the past against the future.
I suspect humanity could learn a thing or two from that.