Archives For Doctor Who

Since its reinvention 12 years ago, Doctor Who, to me, has a particular pattern to the way it introduces new companions for the Doctor. The first adventure between Doctor and companion tends to be a knock about race against the clock that allows the writer to establish the relationship between the two: see Rose, Smith and Jones, The Runaway Bride etc. Though in fairness to The Runaway Bride, Donna Noble did undergo a soft reboot herself before resurfacing in Partners in Crime, becoming a much less abrasive foil to Tennant’s wide-eyed cock-er-nee Doctor.

The second episode inevitably sees the Companion quickly learn a facet of the Doctor’s personality that will make them wary at first, but ultimately, they’ll realise he’s just a big lug head who needs a bit of human interaction to make him decent. Perhaps the best example of this is, to return to season 4, is The Fires of Pompeii which dealt with The Doctor’s decree of never altering history regardless of how cold that made him appear. Having kick-started the volcano that destroys Pompeii, The Doctor is convinced by Donna to save at least one family in the chaos. The suggestion is that had Donna not been there, then The Doctor would have turned his back on the city and come across as a bit of a bastard. This same episode would be used to explain why the Twelfth Doctor looks like the very man he saved in Pompeii. Making the deduction last season, The Doctor reasoned that this was a subconscious reminder that his fundamental characteristic is that he is The Doctor and he saves people. I personally like to write reminders to myself on my phone, but we all have our ways of doing things.

And so here we are with Smile, an episode that allows Bill to understand The Doctor’s self-imposed purpose in life: to save people. Landing on a planet under some form of terraforming, the duo quickly discovers that the original settlers – those sent to set up the planet for everyone else – have all been murdered by their robotic handymen, the Vardi. Resembling a cross between an emoji keyboard and the big screen interpretation of Marvin the Paranoid Android, the Vardi had been entrusted to ensure everyone was happy, but when they witness grief for the first time they set about trying to rid the commune of this ‘virus.’ This, of course, has a domino effect; human being just don’t like being killed when they’re already feeling quite sad.

Having established there’s something wrong, The Doctor does what he’s entrusted himself to do and leaps in feet first to help. What’s interesting here is that Bill, initially, isn’t that keen to do same and questions whether they should just call the police. We’ve come to accept that The Doctor’s companions are drawn to danger and fuelled by curiosity, so it makes a nice change to see one that’s willing to have a long hard think before charging in blindly. As shown in last week’s episode, Pearl Mackie as Bill is shaping up to be one of the classic companions. After Amy Pond and Clara Oswald, it just feels good to have a companion who is consumed with excitement about what they’re doing, rather than seeming indifferent to the wonders of the universe. It’s not that Bill shouldn’t be The Doctor’s equal, it’s just nice to have her be a little in awe of who she’s travelling with. It’s for reasons like this that make me further believe Moffat is going all Russell T. Davies on us; stripping the show of his convoluted timey wimey theatrics in order to prove that you don’t need the universe to be constantly in danger in order to provide spectacle.

That said, Smile may have provided an opportunity for Bill to learn some more about the Doctor and for us to learn more about her, but as storylines go it was very pedestrian. The final act seemed to run out of steam so quickly that we were left with the Doctor literally turning things on and off again to make everything better. Despite great performances by Mackie and Capaldi, something didn’t gel right here. It actually felt that behind the scenes, conversations were had in order to get around the thorny issue of the Doctor leaving one of the last groups of human in the universe with the very robots that killed their friends and family. As if, maybe, writer Frank Cottrell-Boyce had to be forced into crowbarring in an explanation. Whatever the reasoning, it just didn’t work for me.

So, whilst Smile felt like a bit of a letdown in comparison to last week’s caper, it managed to get by on the strength of its leads and, whilst further setting up the big reveal of The Vault, shows that season 10/36 is showing some promise.

Throughout his tenure as showrunner of Doctor Who, Steven Moffat has – for better or worse – been happy to experiment with the show’s format; offering episodes treated as mini-movies like season 7 or bringing in multipart stories as in season 9. Based on the evidence of season 10’s opener, Moffat appears to be at his most daring by giving us stripped back storytelling that (so far) isn’t weighed down by the events of the seasons before it. I know! Who knew?

Like Dan Harmon’s fifth season return to Community, Moffat appears to be applying a soft reboot to Doctor Who that doesn’t ignore his contribution to the show but offers potential new viewers an opportunity to see what the fuss has been for ten seasons. In some ways, this is his version of Rose, the episode that kicked off the show’s relaunch 12 years ago. Yes, really, 12 years ago! To be honest, if there had been a big reveal that this had been written by Russell T Davies in secret, I wouldn’t have been surprised. Tonally, The Pilot is so different from previous seasons.

Through the eyes of audience surrogate Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie), veteran fans are reintroduced to The Doctor as a beguiling university lecturer, who enthrals Bill with his idiosyncratic lectures ranging Fromm quantum physics to poetry. Bill, we quickly discover, isn’t a student at the university, instead working at the canteen where she gives her crushes extra portions of chips in order to get them to notice her. Like Davies, Moffat manages to paint the fullest picture of Bill in such a short time. She’s gay, she has a stepmum, she’s intuitive, she’s intelligent, she likes sci-fi. In short, she’s a person! A real breathing person that lives off screen. Let’s be honest, Clara was great and all, but any growth she had was completely dependent on what the story needed from her at the time.

Young and sassy, comparisons to Rose Tyler are to be expected but there’s also a hint of Donna Noble in Bill, as she questions the nature of who the Doctor is. Moffat gets dragged across the coals by certain corners of the internet for a supposed disregard for the show’s 50 year canon, but as The Pilot proves, that’s really not the case. The Sherlock writer has a clear love for the show, one which he uses to dismantle and examine its supposedly sacred cows. In his time we’ve established time lords can change race and gender, that they have a sexuality (you hear that Lungbarrow) and, as Bill points out, they weirdly use English to name their ships. No, there’s always been a cheekiness to Moffat’s writing but it’s never to be mean or disrespectful. Though I think he does enjoy needling some of the more hardcore fans.

This respect for the past can be seen in The Pilot’s numerous nods to the series of yore. Having set himself up as a lecturer, the Doctor’s office is littered with paraphernalia from his past. Most prominently, two large photos on his desk of his out of time wife River Song and, most intriguingly, Susan, his granddaughter. Since being left by her grandfather on earth several eons ago, Susan has been alluded to throughout the show’s later years. However, outside of tripping over constantly in The Five Doctors, we’ve not heard much from her. Whether this is just one of Moffatt’s red herrings it’s yet to be seen, but those watching this season’s opener would fail to have missed that there’s some connection being hinted at between Bill and Susan.

Returning to character growth, Peter Capaldi’s Doctor appears to have softened greatly since the lacklustre Christmas special, The Return of Doctor Mysterio. Still being fussed over by Nardole, played by the always wonderful Matt Lucas, the Doctor might be bristly, but he’s not adverse to moments of charity. To be fair, The Doctor under Moffat is a big fan of the secretive grand gesture towards others, and you’d be lying if you said your heart didn’t glow when we found out he’d gone back in time to take pictures of Bill’s deceased mother as a Christmas present. Under Russell T Davies, this the kind of thing that would have been played out with perhaps too much sugar and syrup. Here, Moffat gets the balance just right, ensuring that we never forget that this is still the Doctor that doesn’t hug. Though it is somewhat odd that Bill, who catches a glimpse of the Doctor in one of these photos, never brings this up with her grumpy lecturer.

What I haven’t mentioned here is the episode’s big bad and, to be fair, that’s for good reason. Whilst the concept of a killer puddle of oil was admittedly fun, The Pilot was never about the creature that stalked Bill and the Doctor in the guise of the former’s crush. It’s about the bond that’s forged between the duo – and Nardole – as they skip through time, country and beyond to escape it. To make it anything more than one long chase sequence would perhaps have done the episode a disservice and overshadowed the sterling work done by Mackie and Moffatt in setting up the character of Bill. We have a whole season to watch her get in over her head, so I’m happy to get to know her first. And what of the Vault that was, until the end, keeping the Doctor on Earth? Obviously, we’ll find out before Capaldi takes his bow but let’s hope it’s not as complicated as McGuffins in the past. Hello, Pandorica!

We can’t hide from the fact that this Capaldi’s last season but, based on the strength of this opening, we can hope that it will give the actor a perfect send off. That said, after you’ve had a previous regenerate after falling off an exercise bike, you can’t get much worse.

So, hello to Bill and welcome back Doctor, I look forward to seeing what awaits you.

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With the tenth series of Doctor Who presently in production, if you’re like me you’ll be waiting for the inevitable ‘EXCLUSIVES’ to appear in the tabloids. Their often on point and are certainly not cobbled together from fan sites and forums. Nope.

To tide you over for next five minutes till the next ‘EXCLUSIVE’ comes out, please accept this free cut-out-and-keep instant Doctor Who press release. Simply choose a word from each of the numbered lists, insert them in the relevant part of the paragraph below and VOILA your own piece of tabloid hearsay.

Enjoy!

The TARDIS is in for a bumpy ride during Peter Capaldi’s latest season as the Doctor Who, and not just because of newcomer Pearl Mackie as latest companion, Bill. TV’s favourite (List 1) will be going up against the Veep star as fan favourite (List 2). Sources close to the BBC quoted the producers as saying ‘(List 1) is one of tv’s most (List 3) stars so Series 10 is sure to start with a (List 4)’.

List 1

  • Fern Cotten
  • Anthony Cotton
  • Theresa May
  • Five Star
  • Simon Callow
  • A toaster
  • Davina McCall
  • Jude Law
  • Lady Gaga
  • Ricky Gervais

List 2

  • The Master
  • Anne Droid
  • The Rani
  • The Yeti
  • Nestene Consciousness
  • Morbius
  • A Toaster
  • Jude Law
  • The Kandy Man

List 3

  • Exciting
  • Iconic
  • Sexy
  • Troubling
  • Drug free
  • Tiresome
  • Jude Law-y
  • Happy
  • Melancholy
  • Gassy

List 4

  • Bang
  • Fart
  • Damp squib
  • Sense of foreboding
  • Brexit
  • Jude Law

This memorial day weekend, Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn was compelled to defend himself after receiving several abusive messages on his Facebook page – ranging from being called a Nazi to threats to his cat. What were the reasons for this outpouring of anger?

In the cold embrace of the night, had Mr Gunn entered everybody’s home to leave something unsanitary in front of their fireplaces like a perverted Santa?

Perhaps the outpouring of such vitriol was decided as the best course of action because James Gunn, the director of Super, was in actuality a war criminal who slept upon the corpses of his enemies and used child slave labour.

Perhaps, on a lesser level, upon being asked for the time, Mr Gunn instinctively gave the wrong time ensuring hundreds, if not thousands of people were late for meetings, parties or trysts.

No, it was none these options. What happened, dear reader, was James Gunn had something to say about this whole Captain America business, wherein Marvel recently announced the 75-year-old superhero had been working for the bad guys all along.

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There are numerous opinion pieces out there about this, you don’t need me to hold your hand to find them. A lot of people are angry. That’s fine. Everyone is allowed to be angry about something. I myself feel the whole thing is a bit of a cheap gimmick. However, Gunn was suggesting that perhaps the histrionics were unnecessary.

‘If you’re a forty-year-old dude claiming a comics company ruined your childhood because of a plot twist,’ the director wrote. ‘You might consider that your childhood really wasn’t that great to begin with.’

And lo his call was heard across the globe and people decided they weren’t happy about being told to calm down. They cried, they hollered, they threatened to chop up his cat.

Meanwhile, Melissa McCarthy commented that those people who feel the new Ghostbusters was ruining their childhood were blowing things out of proportion. She was immediately put in her place by people one can only assume were keeping one eye on their GB Blu-ray lest it should burst into flames.

These are not isolated incidents and if you’re feeling brave enough, you could Google the response belched out into the world when Michael Bay announced the first Transformers film. The cries of ‘Michael Bay Raped My Childhood’ were both alarming and odious.

Now, let’s get some perspective here. Imagine the internet as a large lake. The fan vitriol regarding any franchise is the equivalent of a fish’s fart bubbling to the surface when stacked up against truly important matters. But for those people who dare to suggest that it’s anything other than that are being met with the intensity usually reserved for countries that commit genocide. Hell, people will use Change.org to create petitions to twist their childhood passion into something they alone want. See the one created earlier this year to get George Lucas back in the director’s chair because apparently the critically acclaimed Force Awakens wasn’t that good. Yeah, Force Awakens needs George ‘Revenge of the Sith’ Lucas to bring back some glory.

In 2013, The Guardian published an article, Rise of the New Geeks, that highlighted how things like comic books, superheroes and fantasy were now mainstream. Film companies were now interested in getting ‘geeks’ on their side as it meant more bums on seats. Shops from both ends of the financial spectrum offer goods emblazoned with Batman, Gandalf and Spider-man. Three years later and it’s hard to not think that ‘geeks’ rule the roost.

I remember the days before all that happened. When I was in high school, Doctor Who was still on permanent hiatus, I was laughed at for enjoying The Goon Show and the pinnacle of being cool was wearing Naf Naf jackets and watching Byker Grove. I love the fact that some of my favourite things are popular in the mainstream now, but the level of entitlement that has come with it is bordering on sickening.

Full disclosure, I hated the idea of Batman Vs Superman and the Evil Dead remake. However, I at least went out of my way to see both films and although I’ve changed my mind about one, I still think the other is a terrible idea. However, whilst I’m prone to a drunken argument with increasingly disinterested friends about the lack of virtues in that film, I would never dream of sending death threats to those who made it, or worst still those who loved it. The film didn’t work for me, but good on you for liking it.

However, a number of those who did like a certain film about an angry mummy’s boy fighting another mummy’s boy who could fly felt that they were entitled to lynch those who hated it. Namely: the critics. In what could only have a been a monumental act mental gymnastics, some felt that the film’s lukewarm reception was down to Disney paying for good reviews. Once that seed was planted, it spread across the internet and right now, you can go on social media and find numerous unsubstantiated ‘facts’ that Disney is bribing people to not like a film. Because, sure, that’s how big business works. My review of Batman Vs Superman can be found here. If you ask nicely, I’ll show you pictures of my house in Malibu bought with my ill-gotten gains.

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And it doesn’t stop there. Look at the reviews for the new Ghostbusters toys on Amazon. One man is deliberately buying them so that he can give them one star reviews and cement his legacy as an utter self-opinionated idiot. When a nine-year-old child’s review for Age of Ultron ended up online, grown men tore him down, saying the film wasn’t made for him. That’s right, a film about adults in spandex punching robots wasn’t made with children in mind.

We have become so obsessed with our own childhoods, we are denying the right for anyone else to have their own unless it aligns with our expectations. Maybe in a sense, people are afraid of growing up, so cling desperately to their youthful obsessions because the world is a big and scary place. And in a way, that’s fine. I write as a 35-year-old man wearing Captain America pyjama pants. However, what I see happening time and time again, is this idea that childhood things should grow up with us. When the Doctor Who episode Let’s Kill Hitler was announced many moons ago, I stumbled across numerous requests from fans saying that Doctor Who was too childish and what was needed was an episode where The Doctor visits a concentration camp. Just let that settle in. How adult. How grown up. How paradoxically childish.

Our childhood is gone; it’s never coming back.It’s something we have to deal with. However, the spoilt entitlement we had as children appears to still be the main driving force behind the thinking of others. So what if Ghostbusters turns out to be a dud? So what if there’s four women in the lead? You know the worst thing that’s going to happen? A little girl is going to want to see a film that has characters she can relate to. They may even come out of the film that ‘ruined your childhood’ and want a proton pack, or – whisper it – may even want to watch YOUR Ghostbusters. Imagine that!

Your childhood isn’t being ruined. You’re doing fine. You will get through this. Now, get out of the  playhouse and let the other kids have a turn.

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‘I’ve known him since he was a little girl,’ is one of three facts about The Doctor The Master doles out to Clara in the season premiere of Doctor Who this week. With a wry smile, she asks Clara to identify which one is a dirty big fib. Hopefully, The Doctor’s ambiguous gender is not the one.

I don’t say this as someone wanting to troll those hard-core fans who angrily wept into their tea when the Doctor was given a new set of regenerations two Christmases ago. I don’t want to hurt the feelings of those people who cried out that their precious canon had been crushed under foot, and then tore their souls out over the prospect that a throwaway line from 40 odd years previously had been ignored. Though I will say, I enjoy it a little.

No, for me the line is significant in that it suggests that Moffat, for all his supposed misdemeanours, is leading to something big. That whooshing sound you just heard was the inhalation of a million people getting ready to tell me in no uncertain words that Moffatt is the anti-Christ. To them I say, hear me out.

The post-credit opening of The Magician’s Apprentice started with planes frozen in the sky. Hanging like so much metal and pulpy flesh in the atmos, it was clear that there was only one person who could help… And he was nowhere to be found. Yes, like Sterling Archer, The Doctor had decided to go AWOL when things weren’t going his way. A trait he appears to have kept from his Time Lord Victorious days. So, who was left?

Well, to begin with there was Clara; Nanny turned English Teacher, now, let’ be honest, the Doctor’s equal. It was she who first noticed the planes, it was she who instigated a hashtag frenzy with her students to call certain people’s attention to the event. And upon rocking up at UNIT headquarters, it was she who taken into Kate Lethbridge–Stewart’s confidence. Yes, Clara has become a force to be reckoned with.

And of course Kate, following in her father’s footsteps, is bolshie, but willing to listen. With no Doctor around, the two women set about trying to work out what’s going on and how they’re going to find the elusive Timelord. To aid them, they bounce ideas off UNIT’s new Scientific Advisor Jac, who, like all those who have come after The Doctor, doesn’t quite meet the requirements, but is still someone with valuable input.

And then came the gate crasher. She’s so fine, she blows my mind. Hey Missy. The Master had her own reasons for finding the Doctor and, despite a momentary lapse in which she needlessly killed people, she was begrudgingly willing to side with the goodies to get the job done. If you’re not catching on, dear reader, here were four strong women solving problems and dealing with catastrophic events – albeit a catastrophic event manufactured by one of them. Four women getting shit done. In Doctor Who. Without the Doctor. Yes, with reasoning, the scene doesn’t exactly pass the holy Bechdel Test, but they weren’t hopeless without him. They rolled up their sleeves and got on with it.

Later on, they find the Doctor who is licking his fractured ego after leaving a young Davros to die. Which to be fair, is a horrible thing to discover. You know that haggard, corrupted megalomaniac you’ve fought eons? Well, his twisted view of humanity was probably down to a chance encounter where YOU left him to die. Pop that in your pipe and smoke it. But lets’ digress. When Davros’ slithering associate came to take him away, Clara and The Master decided they would go with him, even before he had chance to wag a finger at them. The Doctor would not define their actions through his. No, they would be the ones to do that.

Twenty minutes into Doctor Who and the Doctor has become a side character in his own story. The women were up front and tenacious, and whilst inevitably the Doctor was their destination, THEY were the ones who set the course. Not him.

It’s the kind of thing Moffat isn’t supposed to write in accordance with the internet. But for all his detractors, Moffat is trying, he is learning and he is growing. In the same way that no one is born racist, no one is born with a full set of values that encompass every one of the beautiful people that populate this planet. Well, yes, we’re a lot less judgmental as babies, but we also soil ourselves regularly and can’t form shapes with our eyes. Have you ever tried to discuss the patriarchy with a baby? Utterly pointless. I myself try to be a good ally, but will struggle with concepts and vocab. thinking I was being all benign and majestically during a conversation with a transgender woman, I referenced that she was born a girl in the wrong body. No, she said. She was born a boy and as she got older she realized who she was. There will be some reading that last part who may think that that SHE was wrong, but such is the world. It is a great big ball of learning and evolving.

So yes, Moffat has said some ridiculous things via twitter and interviews. But haven’t we all been pulled up on something and realised that we had to rewire our thinking. Equally we can take all the stuff we’ve thought was right, and break it down enough to find offence. I cringed a few times watching the Ninth Doctor only yesterday. Remember that time Russell T Davis had Rose call the Doctor ‘gay’ for wearing a leather jacket, or spent two seasons having the Doctor calling the only main character in the show who was black ‘thick’? And what’s with all the mother’s being matriarchal harpies who the Doctor re-educates?

I’m being flippant – well, only a little bit anyway – but the point I want to get back to is that this new season of Doctor Who has made great leaps and bounds from the days when Amy forced herself on an unwilling Doctor (Yeah, that’s right. I have a list of all the stuff that bugs me) It might not seem like it, but there’s a revolution coming. The seeds were planted long ago when the Corsair and their gender swapping ways were first mentioned. They grew when The Master took her new body for a test-drive and when Clara, sonic screwdriver in hand, solved a mystery for the Doctor. They blossomed when an admittedly cheeky season finale saw Clara’s face replace the Doctor’s in the opening credits. I am confident we’re going to have a female Doctor. It may not becoming as soon as people want, but if we accept what The Master said about her childhood with the Doctor as truth, then it’s going to happen. The door has been propped open.