Thursday, December 31, 2009

December with the Doctor: Redemption

If you haven't seen "The End of Time: Part 1" yet, there's a spoiler ahead.
I've been watching the previous Master trilogy ("Utopia"/"The Sound of Drums"/"Last of the Time Lords") both in preparation for "The End of Time" and as research for another post I'm writing.

So, as silly as I thought the "Master race" cliffhanger was, given how the Master was defeated in "Last of the Time Lords," it's actually kind of genius. The Doctor restored himself (as silly as that was) using the focused psychic energy of the vast majority of the human race. Now, the Master has become the human race, not only eliminating them as potential allies for the Doctor, but also providing himself with some of the means to supercharge himself with the focused psychic energy of billions of people. Although there's always the chance that it wouldn't work, or that it'd be spread out over billions of Masters, but it's either a very lucky or very clever solution.

Also, while some seem to be bothered by the "Secret Books of Saxon," I can't say that I am. After all, the Master ruled the world for a whole year; he had to do more than just humiliate the Doctor, order the Toclafane to kill humans, and smack around Lucy. It's fitting, given his past and his obsessions, that he'd spend a good chunk of time seeking immortality and looking for ways to extend his lifespan and plan for his own death. After all, that's been his schtick since day one.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

December with the Doctor: Nomenclature

"Doctor Who" has followed many different conventions for naming new alien species. Sometimes it's been adding "oid" to various word parts or random syllables (Krynoid, Mechanoid), sometimes it's been putting together something that just sounds cool (Dalek, Forest of Cheem), and occasionally it's been taking potentially-appropriate words from science and adapting them (Silurians, Adipose). I've collected a small list of other science terms (mostly biological) that I think would make good names for Doctor Who aliens. Steven Moffatt, you can thank me later.

Feel free to add your own!

Friday, December 25, 2009

December with the Doctor: "The End of Time: Part 1"

Yeah, this whole thing is pretty much all spoilers. Non-spoilery: very interesting, Wilf was great, sad to see Tennant leaving (especially after this performance).

I'm just going to post some short, mostly random thoughts, if that's all right. There's no way I'd be able to review this until after part 2 anyway.
  • Interestingly, John Simm got second billing in the opening credits sequence, the spot usually reserved for the Companion. Bernard Cribbins came third.
  • New aliens the Vinvocci were pretty cool-looking, and I liked the (unexpected) explicit callback to Bannakaffalatta and implicit callback to the Abzorbaloff/Slitheen relationship. I can't say I'm entirely sure what purpose they're going to serve.
  • As I said, Wilf was brilliant. So was Donna, for that matter, and it's good to see her starting to remember--even if it means bad things for the Doctor-Donna. It's also interesting to see the Doctor's admiration for her, something that got lost a bit in the end of the fourth season.
  • Wilf has a nice subtle callback to his last time in the Tardis. This is especially interesting given that production shots for Season 5 appear to be bringing back that era's TARDIS exterior.
  • The Doctor wonders why he and Wilf keep running into each other. Wilf keeps seeing a woman, who tells him strange things and disappears. Wilf's also the only person on Earth who remembers his dreams of the Master. I think it's pretty safe to say that Wilf is a Time Lord in hiding, but we'll know next week.
  • As long as I'm on about Wilf, the best scene in the episode is where Wilf and the Doctor share a heartfelt conversation over coffee. It's touching, and it's the only place you can go to see the Time Lord Lacrimose!
  • Lucy Saxon shows up in the beginning, an unwilling part of the process to resurrect the Master. She gets her last revenge, though, when she screws up his revival and leaves him in the desperate state he's in throughout the episode.
  • This take on the Master requires some getting used to. He has some nice moments of lucidity (the best being when he laments that the one-time master of disguise is now trapped with the easily-recognizable face of the former Prime Minister), but spends large portions of the episode stark raving mad. He rambles so incoherently that Dalek Caan looks like Hemingway by comparison, and his deteriorating condition has him frequently eating like a cross between a pig and a savage, ravenous barbarian pig. He jumps around like Spider-Man and shoots energy from his hands, and by now you've all seen his skin go all transparenty. Initially, this seems like it diminishes the threat posed by the Master, but ultimately it's fairly similar to the situation he was in in "The Deadly Assassin," where he was effectively decomposing and engaging in a last-ditch effort to gain immortality and stop the Doctor. Except now the relentless greed and desire for power is translated into actual, physical hunger. He ends up being a disgusting figure, raw and inhuman in a way that the typically dignified Master hasn't really been before, which rather underscores the desperation of his character.
  • The Master also presents a kind of counterpoint to the Doctor (as usual), who is also fearing his imminent demise and looking to postpone it. The Doctor is more somber than usual in this outing, dreading his coming regeneration and sobered by his frightening abuse of power in the previous special. The Master fears death, and so he tries to accumulate power; the Doctor fears death, but fears power more.
  • All that aside, however, the Master's world-conquering plan ends up being more than a little silly. It's not just the sight gags either, it's the whole bizarre concept. I'm curious how this will play out in the next episode.
  • The Naismiths, who appeared in the previews to be relatively significant, really don't play much of a role here. They serve to push the plot along, and they make decent patsies, but they don't have any personality to speak of.
  • Russel T. Davies has this weird fanboyish habit of tying up loose plot threads that almost no one would otherwise notice. The mention of Bannakaffalatta is one, and connecting Torchwood's Gwen to "The Unquiet Dead"'s Gwyneth in "Journey's End" is probably the most obvious example. Here, though, it's a callback to "The Shakespeare Code," explaining why Queen Elizabeth was so angry at the Doctor--turns out he married (then left) her. He mentions that she won't have her nickname anymore, though it's left unclear if that means she's not "good" Queen Bess (the name he uses), or that she's not "the Virgin Queen" (the more commonly-used nickname in my experience).
  • There's an interesting pace to this episode, which has a kind of mini-climax in the middle (where the omniscient narration starts up again). It felt a lot like watching two episodes of a classic serial, and I'm curious if that will carry through to the 75-minute finale.
  • So, the Time Lords (and apparently Gallifrey) are back, in what looks a lot like the Senate chamber from the Star Wars prequels, and led by James Bond. Clips from Part 2 suggest that we'll finally get to see some of the Time War, which gives me (almost certainly unrequited) hope that we'll get a glimpse of Paul McGann as the Doctor again. If nothing else, it's going to be interesting to see what happens in Part 2 and in Season 5 if the Time Lords manage to reassert themselves as the arbiters of time. What this means for "the end of time" is still unclear.

So, overall, a good episode (though prior experience has me wondering if Davies will be able to maintain the quality through to the end, without resorting to deus ex machina) that has me salivating for the next one. This is significantly less bloated and meandering than "The Stolen Earth," so that's a plus, and I'd say so far that it's at least the equal of "The Waters of Mars." It's going to be a very long week.

December with the Doctor: Doctor's Orders

And now, a very special message from the Doctor.

Courtesy of WhoSprites, a fan project designed to animate some of the Doctor Who episodes that have been lost due to BBC's shortsighted purges.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

December with the Doctor: Monk-y Business

Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot, but the Monk, who lived just north of Whoville did not.I'll be honest: I kind of like a universe with only one Time Lord. It's similar to why I like a universe with only one Kryptonian1. That being said, I'd really like to see one of two things happen:
  1. More exploration of the ramifications of a universe sans Time Lords.
  2. A return of the Time Lords--one at a time, or en masse.

The former has been touched on a few times, here and there. In "Father's Day," the Doctor says/suggests that the Time Lords kept the Reapers from entering the timestream. In "Rise of the Cybermen," the Doctor suggested that the Time Lords made it easier to travel between alternate universes. In "The Waters of Mars," the most recent special, the Doctor takes charge of the laws of time, attempting to alter even a fixed point in time without a Time Lord infrastructure to stop him.

The nice thing about this is that it's given us some idea about what the Time Lords actually did, besides generally practicing a doctrine of noninterference--except when it came to the Doctor, where they were mostly bureaucratic obstructions. I'd like to see more of this kind of thing, if the status quo is to remain as it is, with only one2 remaining Time Lord.

However, one of the biggest sources of rumor-fuel has been new showrunner Steven Moffat's "THEY'RE BACK" comment, which could be referring to any number of things--his Weeping Angels, River Song and Jenny, the Daleks (possibly in older-series style), the original Cybermen, (highlight for potential spoiler) if pictures of shooting are accurate, the Silurians, and the Time Lords. If the latter is the case, I think I'd rather see a slow trickle of Time Lord revivals than a full-fledged restoration of Gallifrey and such.

And if we're going to have a slow trickle of Time Lords, the first one I want to see is the Monk, from the First Doctor serial "The Time Meddler." I've been reluctant to watch some of the older Doctors' serials, knowing that they tended to be padded out, and knowing that the low-budget cheese factor would be at a maximum. But I thought it'd be interesting to see our first glimpse of another Time Lord (Susan excluded), and I wasn't disappointed. I'm not going to review the episode--it's entertaining, showcasing the Doctor's cleverness and recklessness in a way that would stick with the series for the duration. It also worked in some history about William the Conqueror's invasion in 1066, as a reminder that the show started out as an educational series.

And this is where the Monk becomes really interesting; his reason for being at the Battle of Hastings is to supply future technology and knowhow to the Saxons in order to defeat the invading Vikings and win the inevitable battle--all for his own personal gain, apparently. The Monk is one of those rare Doctor Who characters whose alterations to the timeline have apparently been necessary for time to go ahead as expected3--he helped build Stonehenge with antigravity devices, he met with Leonardo da Vinci (doesn't everyone?) regarding powered flight, and he's taken advantage of compound interest like a certain Philip J. Fry.

And this is what I find so compelling about the Monk: he's out for himself, but he's not particularly destructive like the Master (though the impact his actions have on the Web of Time might be deleterious). Like the Doctor, he bucks the Time Lords' non-interventionist stance, but he does so for (apparently) purely selfish ends. Ultimately, this makes him surprisingly human for a Time Lord, with easy-to-understand ambitions. Add onto that his cavalier attitude, the fa├žade of geniality he presents, and the way he functions as mild comic relief (while still seeming like a threat), and you have a relatable, interesting, entertaining Time Lord running about.

Plus, the guy got defeated when the Doctor made it so his TARDIS wasn't bigger on the inside anymore, and that's just awesome.

The Monk could be a great foil for the Doctor and a great way to explore various aspects of the Web of Time that haven't been touched yet--at least in this series. If any Time Lord is going to return, I'd like it to be the Monk.

1. With one caveat: Superman's uniqueness is artificial, while the Doctor really is the only person in the series who can do the things he can do. Being the last Time Lord actually does confer uniqueness on the Doctor; being the last Kryptonian only confers in-name-only uniqueness to Superman.

2. Ignoring the Master, who appears to be returning, and Jenny, who will likely be returning.

3. For instance, Scaroth was necessary for the start of life on Earth, Adric caused the extinction of the dinosaurs, the Racnoss ship catalyzed Earth's formation, the Doctor caused the eruption of Vesuvius, etc.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

December with the Doctor: "Dreamland"

Starring David Bowie as the Doctor.A few days ago, I watched the new Doctor Who animated adventure, "Dreamland." And I must say, it was a pretty good audio drama.

The video, on the other hand...

Spoilers ahead!

It's a shame, because there's a lot to like about "Dreamland." The story is set around Roswell in 1958, which means the whole thing centers around the typical American Roswell/alien mythology. There's something particularly interesting about seeing such a thoroughly British show tackle such a thoroughly US-centric myth, and I think the "Doctor Who" sensibilities bring a different flair to this otherwise well-worn territory.

So, all the usual pieces are present: the Roswell crash, flying saucers, the Men in Black, Area 51, gray aliens, a military cover-up of alien visitations and alliances, a distrustful and belligerent Army leader, the Cold War, even Native Americans and a '50s diner. There are some interesting twists: the MIB are alien robots, the Army is allied with one faction of aliens against another in a plot to wipe out the Soviets, the belligerent Army leader is in league with the evil alien bugs in order to wipe out the Soviet threat, etc. The Doctor brings a lot more running and talking to a story that would traditionally be focused on technobabble, explosions, and violence, so that's a nice change of pace.

And the pacing works well, too. The story was broken up into six-minute chunks for a total runtime about the same as a typical episode of the new series. That format kept the story moving along at a good clip, with plenty of compression.

The best thing about it, though, is the central conflict/Macguffin. The gray aliens were at war with the insectoid Viperox, and had developed a biological weapon to wipe out all of their enemies. The Viperox, naturally, are after that weapon, which was lost in the Roswell crash. The Americans assist the Viperox, because the bugs have promised to alter the weapon so it kills off all the Russians. And finally, the Viperox are reproducing underground to invade the planet. All this--plus a little romance plot--comes together quite well. Not only that, but all the American accents are convincing (though Georgia Moffett's meanders occasionally). Take that, Peri.

Seriously, the Viperox Queen is pretty impressive.Really, the only thing to dislike about "Dreamland" is the animation. The stylization isn't bad, but the stiffness is. It's fine for the aliens--who look incredible--but as soon as humanoids start talking or emoting or running, the stiffness and awkwardness really sticks out. "Beast Wars" had better animation a decade ago; there's really no excuse for this.

Overall, "Dreamland" is worth a listen, and it's nice to have this kind of story that would be difficult to do on a BBC budget--big, inhuman aliens, non-British settings, etc. Just don't look at it too closely.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

December with the Doctor: A little light reading

Apologies for sparse posting. It's been a busy couple of weeks. Better-than-regular posting will resume shortly. In the meantime, here's a really cool article about David Tennant. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Oh no, you won't get me that easily.

Art courtesy of the '90s.Superboy is returning to Teen Titans. Now, my love for Kon-El is no secret, and I've been greatly enjoying Kon-El's return to the land of the living.

That being said, it's going to take an awful lot more than Superboy to get me to read "Teen Titans" again. That book was broken well before Johns left, and never quite recovered its...what, third foray into an evil counterpart team. It's similar to how Mon-El on the Justice League isn't enough to get me to resubscribe to that chronically broken book (especially with increasingly inconsistent James Robinson at the helm and the Cry For Justice status quo in place).

Look, DC, you're heart's in the right place. Can we just get your writers and editors to that place too?

Monday, December 14, 2009

It's been done before, but...

All the nuclear weapons, you say?I'd really like to see a return of the Metropolis Mailbag--you know, the old tradition where Superman would take Christmas Eve to answer all the letters sent to him over the course of the year and do his best to fulfill those wishes? I can't remember the last time it happened, though it's entirely possible that it was during the "World Without a Superman" arc, where various heroes filled in for the Man of Steel's annual duties while he was temporarily deceased.

Granted, since Superman's absent this time too, it might feel like a re-hash. But I think it would be a good opportunity to explore some of the current status quo in a more laid-back setting. Mon-El's portion of the story would naturally be about him trying to fit in and understand Earth culture better, Nightwing and Flamebird's story would be about trying to fight against anti-Kryptonian sentiments, and it'd be nice to cap it all off with a big, solemn Christmas dinner at Ma Kent's house, with Conner, Kara, Lana, and Lois, all remembering everyone they've lost in the last year.

I'm enjoying the whole World of New Krypton arc, and I look forward to "War of the Supermen" in spite of the hideous cover and the dodgy concept of making it a Free Comic Book Day book, but it'd be nice if the Superman books would remember that the low-key character-building issues are a major component to making a memorable and high-quality crossover event. It's not much use having a new status quo if you're not going to use it.

Friday, December 11, 2009

December with the Doctor: Getting Psyched

The Doctor *Hula* Dances!I've really enjoyed David Tennant's turn as the Doctor. The first episodes I saw of the new series were a few of Tennant's, and I enjoyed his take so much that I was reluctant to even give Eccleston's episodes a shot, being sure that they wouldn't stand up (they did). I've been dreading the end of Tennant's run as the Doctor. It took me months to finally sit down and watch "The Next Doctor," because it was as if that brought me one hour closer to the end of Ten.

But all that has changed recently. I was counting the hours until I could watch "The Waters of Mars," and "The End of Time" can't come soon enough for me. Why the change of attitude? Season Five, that's why.

Admittedly, I like this look better than the tweed-and-tie.I was reluctant to accept Matt Smith at first (after all, the first promo shots, with that ridiculous pompadour weren't exactly awe-inspiring) but everything I see from the upcoming series, every semi-spoiler that leaks out, from the return of River Song to the redesigned TARDIS and sonic screwdriver, has me amped up and ready to see what crazy-awesome stuff Steven Moffatt is going to throw at us. I'm sure I'll love "The End of Time"--even if it does end with another patented Russell T. Davies Deus Ex Machina--but at this point I want to get it out of the way so we can move onward and upward.

And hopefully they'll announce a nice, nearby premiere date for Matt Smith's first go-round that's a little more specific than "Spring 2010."

Monday, December 07, 2009

December with the Doctor: Great Quotations II

Lucie Miller: Well, you know, there's nothing wrong with the TARDIS...
The Doctor: No.
Lucie Miller: Apart from all the things that are wrong with the TARDIS.
The Doctor: Admittedly.
Lucie Miller: Just, it's not so much a spaceship as...a shed.
The Doctor: A shed.


Lucie Miller: What did you say it stood for again? Time And Relative Dimensions...
The Doctor: Yes.
Lucie Miller: Time And Relative Dimensions...In Shed.
The Doctor: That is not what it stands for.
Lucie Miller: Yes it does. It's a shed.
--Lucie Miller and the Doctor, Max Warp

Sunday, December 06, 2009

December with the Doctor: Great Quotations I

"Ah. Well, you're a beautiful woman, probably."
--The Doctor, City of Death

Saturday, December 05, 2009

December with the Doctor: The (Stair)Master

Okay, I'm as excited about "The End of Time" as anyone. I'm really looking forward to David Tennant's last go-round as the Doctor, some more quality time with the Nobles (and hopefully a less depressing end for Donna), and even the return of the Master. I really enjoyed John Simm's take on the character, and I wonder if they'll be regenerating a new version for Matt Smith.

But while some of the latest promo shots have been intriguing and impressive, and while the trailer has me counting down the days, I can't help but be a little underwhelmed by this image:
I'll destroy the universe, but first I'm going on a quick nip down to K-Mart.

This doesn't feel like the Master, the menacing villain who traveled from the end of time to conquer Earth with an army of decapitated humans. This doesn't feel like the Master, the megalomaniacal sociopath who once destroyed a sizable portion of the universe. This feels like the Master, a guy who just got done with his Saturday morning jog and is now contemplating breakfast at a coffee shop. This is the Master who has had a bit of a stomach bug the last few days, and so he's using another sick day and just kind of lounging around in sweats. In "The Waters of Mars," we saw the Doctor as the Time Lord Triumphant, it looks as though "The End of Time" will be giving us The Master Unemployed.

I'm still excited about the next episodes, and all, but really...a hoodie?

Edit: Forgot to mention: photo courtesy of Blogtor Who.

Friday, December 04, 2009

December with the Doctor: Spin-Offs

A couple of brief thoughts:
  • "The Sarah Jane Adventures" is a far better show than "Torchwood." Maybe it's because "Torchwood" rarely feels like it fits comfortably in the Whoniverse, maybe it's because the tone of "SJA" is closer to the tone of the parent series, all I know is that it's just a shame that a great character like Captain Jack has to headline the inferior show. Not that Sarah Jane should be headlining an inferior show; I'd just like "Torchwood" to be better.
  • And I don't have much hope that the forthcoming 13-episode series of "Torchwood" (is it the third or fourth season? Does "Children of Earth" count as a season?) will be much of an improvement. I mean, the actual Torchwood Three team is down to two members, one of whom is in the family way. Either the season is going to have to have a recruitment drive--which might be interesting, since Gwen started out as the POV character for the uninitiated audience and would now be playing the veteran--or it's going to have a very small pool of people left to kill off in the finale.

    Perhaps I'm just a little bitter, but Tosh and Ianto were my favorite non-Jack characters on the show, and I'd really like them not to be dead.
  • Which is not to say that I can't think of any way for the series to improve. Maybe they could begin the show with finding (and absorbing the members of) the lost Torchwood Four, maybe Martha and Mickey could join up, maybe the larger Torchwood body could demote Jack (for frequently going AWOL and getting the vast majority of his team killed, not to mention allowing a civilian to participate in classified activities) and bring in someone to take charge and create drama (in my dreams, it'd be UNIT transfer from the old series--Mike Yates, Liz Shaw, Jo Grant, or Sgt. Benton). Maybe we could get a sense that there is a larger Torchwood organization, because that really hasn't been present in the series so far.
  • Seriously, if "SJA" ends without someone--anyone!--making reference to the fact that a main character's name is Rani, I'm going to go nuts. I don't necessarily think that she should turn out to be the Rani, but I definitely think that the name shouldn't go unnoticed. It'd be like naming a character "Cy Lurian" or "Mac Ra." Letting it hang is just frustrating.
  • I have no desire to watch the new "K-9" series, although I hope it doesn't mean the absence/rumored death of K-9 from the next season of "SJA."

What are your thoughts?

December with the Doctor: A Capital Idea

So, is it "the Doctor" or "The Doctor"? Same question for "T/the Master."

Thursday, December 03, 2009

December with the Doctor: Vwhat?

So, in my recent flurry of watching, listening to, and otherwise absorbing all things Whovian, I've purchased a couple of Doctor Who Magazines and I've finally gone back and read the first two IDW miniseries. The quality of the comics therein has been pretty mediocre1 (though I also got the collection of Grant Morrison stories, so that ought to raise my impressions a bit), but something has really stuck out to me: the TARDIS materialization sound. The onomatopoeia is typically rendered as "Vworp vworp" or "vwaarp vwaarp." Now, I'm all for distinctive sound effects--"snikt," "thwip," "bamf," etc.--but I'm also a little peeved when such sound effects are discarded (see: almost any time any of those has been rendered in film. I mean, is it really that hard to have Wolverine's claws make a metal-sliding-against-metal sound like "snikt"?).

So it's interesting to see the dissonance go in the opposite direction, from film to text. See, here's the TARDIS dematerialization sound:

I don't know about anyone else, but I certainly don't here anything in there that sounds like "vworp." It's certainly a difficult sound to render into text, but listening to it several times, I can't imagine translating it without some e's and probably a ch. "Vreeench" doesn't quite do it...maybe "vreeunnnnch."

But "vworp"?

1. This is, of course, excluding The Ten Doctors, which rocks my socks. I'm enjoying The Stalker of Norfolk too.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Doctor is In!

Who, me?Seeing as I am a glutton for punishment and self-disappointment, I've decided to do one more theme month before the year is out. The decision came naturally out of my currently-waxing Whovianism, which cut just a little into my Bat-Month posting. I'll admit, there were times when I was paying too little attention to Gotham City and too much attention to "City of Death." On the plus side, this means I have a bunch of things to post about already. And just to be fair, I'll see about working a couple of Batman leftovers in here and'll be like time travel!

So get ready to spend December with the Doctor!