Round and Round We Go, OR Why The New Season of Doctor Who Has Me a Little Bit Worried.

“Well, Peri, what do you think? Hm?”

“It’s terrible.”

“Oh, never mind about the clothes; they’re easily changed. What about me?”

“I meant you!”

“Sorry, afraid I don’t understand.”

“Well, neither do I. I mean, people don’t change like that. I mean, physically, just in a flash.”

“I’m not ‘people,’ Peri, I happen to be me.”

“But why?”

“Natural metamorphosis. A form of rebirth. I call it a renewal. And this time, a positive triumph. I can sense it in every fiber of my being.”

a7857309129c241ca3ef82b757addbb4-i-am-the-doctor-whether-you-like-it-or-not-30-year-anniversary-of-colin-baker-s-debut

Tomorrow sees the beginning of the eighth season of the 21st century incarnation of Doctor Who and the debut of the latest actor to portray the time-traveling Doctor, Peter Capaldi. That’s not him in the picture above, of course; instead, you’re looking at the sixth actor to take on the title role, Colin Baker, who flew the TARDIS from March 1984 through December 1986, and the dialog up top is a back-and-forth between his Doctor and his young companion Peri from his proper debut story, the much maligned “The Twin Dilemma.”

We’re looking at dear old Colin because of something that struck me last Christmas, as we entered the final moments of Matt Smith‘s final bow in the TARDIS. Smith’s Doctor’s current companion, Clara, has been through an anniversary special, so unlike Peri she knows the drill; when the Doctor is mortally wounded (or is about to succumb to the effects of old age; that’s happened three times now), the regeneration process kicks in and transforms him into a new man. And yet, that almost seems to make things worse — as she watches him stumble around the console and make his last speech she knows that the dear man she’s come to know, come to have a bit of a crush on even, will be replaced with a complete stranger. When that moment hits like a blow, when in the blink of an eye Smith’s face is replaced with Capaldi’s, Clara is in complete shock and remains in a wide-eyed, slightly terrified state through the end of the episode. The best point of comparison really is the end of “Caves of Androzani,” Colin Baker’s prececessor Peter Davison‘s last tale, through the opening of “The Twin Dilemma”; the TARDIS is in flight, the Doctor has regenerated before his pretty young companion’s eyes, and because of ill effects of that process it seems the poor companion’s life is in immediate danger.

Continue reading

Gateway to Obsession: Run That Back For Me, Will Ya?

If you’re a Doctor Who fan who’s at least reasonably familiar with the original “classic” series, you probably recognize this serial.

caves_of_androzani

It’s “The Caves of Androzani,” the best Doctor Who story ever according to the results of the 2009 Doctor Who Magazine poll where they asked readers to rank every Doctor Who story that had aired up to that point. It’s also the first Doctor Who story I remember seeing, way back in late 1984, or maybe early 1985.

Continue reading

Doctor Who, Eleven For Eleven: The Best (And Worst) of the 11th Doctor

“It all just disappears, doesn’t it? Everything you are, gone in a moment, like breath on a mirror. Any minute now, he’s a-comin’.”

“Who’s coming?”

“The Doctor.”

“You–you ARE the Doctor.”

“Yup. And I always will be. But times change, and so must I.”

The Doctor discards his favorite fashion accessory. The next man won't be needing this ...

On Christmas Day, two ongoing sci-fi stories I, perhaps foolishly, genuinely care about — two sets of characters and events and interesting things that exist only in our imaginations — were radically altered. Well, at least for the foreseeable future. One, which I’ve already talked about, is being shifted and changed around for a spell, a bit, an intriguing moment before, I hope, correcting its course and soaring for a new and interesting and transformative future. Not that I believe that’s really going to happen, but as I’ve often said, Hope Springs Eternal.

The other, however, which I’m going to talk about today, is forever changed once again. An era has ended, a hero has left the stage, and it seems unfortunately bow ties are no longer cool.

Continue reading

Doctor Who, Eleven For Eleven: Closing Time

“What the hell are you doing here?”

“Oh, I’m the Doctor, I work in a shop now, here to help. Look, they gave me a badge with my name on it in case I forget who I am. Very thoughtful, as that does happen.”

There are times to get all bent out of shape over problems with plot, and logic, and diminishing returns, and other niggling concerns, and then there are times where it makes a lot more sense to focus on the positives of a story, the things that do work, the things that make the story enjoyable despite all those nagging flaws. The time to get all bent out of shape over the problems is when those are the chief elements on display, such as in a story like “Let’s Kill Hitler,” one of the big continuity episodes. “Closing Time,” Gareth Roberts’s sequel of sorts to last year’s “The Lodger,” is no such beast; the plot is a secondary concern to watching Matt Smith’s extra-alien Doctor once again invading the life of James Corden’s Craig Owens, this time during an all-important weekend where Craig is supposed to prove to his family and friends that he can take care of his baby Alfie on his own. Unfortunately, this also coincides with a Cyberman invasion from beneath a department store — not their finest hour, but it’s pretty much just an excuse to keep the Doctor around and give him something to do when he’s not tormenting Craig with his ability to speak baby, quiet less developed life forms with a mere “shush,” and the fact that everyone still seems to really, really like him. Again, you’ve probably already seen it, but if you haven’t, spoilers do follow. Continue reading

Doctor Who, Eleven For Eleven: The God Complex

“The rooms have … THINGS in them.”

“Things? Hello! What kind of things? Interesting things? I like things. Ask anyone.”

“Bad dreams.”

“Well, that killed the mood.”

If modern DOCTOR WHO episodes were judged solely on the basis of how much they felt like classic DOCTOR WHO episodes, “The God Complex” would the king of the Eleventh Doctor stories. Certainly there are thoroughly modern elements to the story, most of all the deconstructionist climax and the heartstring-tugging ending, but the mystery, the setting, the use of a mythological story as a backbone, and the endless corridors are all very much in keeping with the formula of classic WHO. However, what puts it in the running for best of the season, to my mind, is the way the classic elements of the formula are executed, not just in a more modern way, but with such panache. And yes, while I’m coming to this a few weeks late, I will warn you on the off chance that you missed it, spoilers do follow. Continue reading