Posts Tagged ‘Dr Who’

First Impressions of the Doctor Who Series 4 (aka Season 30) Finale

July 6, 2008

  So, “Journey’s End”, the finale of the revived Doctor Who’s fourth season aired tonight in the UK. (Or season thirty, if you include the original 26 seasons, but don’t count the Paul McGann TV movie, the 8th Doctor novels or audio adventures as seasons.) Of course, it doesn’t air in the US for a couple of weeks or in Canada for a couple of months, but I’m sure the impatient and tech saavy can find a way to see it sooner.

  Oh look, it’s on YouTube already.

There’s the link if you want to go looking for the other parts.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTR48SbJ2vQ

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 It’s a funny thing — spoilers. I avoided the message boards today and wikipedia and YouTube. I avoided all things Doctor Who until I had seen the episode. But really, I wasn’t protected from spoilers. Reading the Doctor Who Forum from what was once Outpost Gallifrey, I had already read months of posts from Dr Who fans with a passion and curiosity shared by political bloggers although not most mainstream reports already.

 Set reports from Bad Wolf Bay filming suggested there would be two 10th Doctors — one in brown and the other in blue. Either script leaks or just fine fannish guessing suggested that the Doctor’s hand was involved in the duplication. And people had reported on some filming outside the Nobles’ house where the Doctor told Wilf he could never tell Donna … It wasn’t hard (for anyone who’s seen 2nd Doctor story “The War Games” or Superman II to hazard a guess at what may have happened.)

 But still, there was a lot that I didn’t know. And certainly some of my own suspicions about where the season may have been heading were wrong.

  Hmmmm… the duplicated Doctors wasn’t as bad as I dreaded. I mean, yes it was sheer technobabble relying on scraps of old continuity. And it was fairly silly. But then, so was the magical floaty Doctor last year or well … the resolution to other stories written by Russell T. Davies. His episodes don’t have the diamond hard plotting of Steven Moffat’s gems. The plot resolutions often feel well… like they were pulled out of the story’s rear, not truly organic.

  But the double Doctors didn’t bother me, because RTD excels at big emotional moments. Not just giving Rose a shipper’s happy ending so to speak. I am thinking more about giving the half-human Doctor that terrible responsibility of wiping out the Daleks. (Of course, Rose did the exact same thing … but well, “logic is a wreath of pretty flowers that smell bad.”) And the idea that the Doctor can remain weaponless by militarizing those around him. And especially the real horror of Donna’s fate.

  No, I don’t mean that she won’t travel with the Doctor anymore. Or even that she’s lost her memories. She’s lost all the character growth. Once again, she’s back to the shouty temp of limited ambitions. Like if Rose turned back into the shop girl of the first episode, but even more so.

  It’s interesting that this doesn’t quite the same comic book crossover feel as “The Stolen Earth”. Maybe it’s just because it’s not quite the novelty to see Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures characters together. It’s still daft, mad, cameo-happy and winking at fannish continuity – such as Rose and the Doctor realizing that Gwen is from an “old Cardiff family” — just like a classic comic book crossover. And it was cool to see Davros recognize Sarah Jane Smith.

 I don’t think it’s the best story RTD’s ever done. But it’s certainly a capstone to his era. (Like acknowledging how Rose made the Doctor better.)

  I’ll probably add to this tomorrow.

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Crossovers

June 30, 2008

If you’re not up to speed with the most recent UK episodes of Doctor Who, you might want to skip this post now. Spoilers are likely to follow.

Or you could just visit YouTube:

And follow this link for the rest of “The Stolen Earth”:

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So, at this point, if you don’t know that “The Stolen Earth” features a crossover between Doctor Who and its spinoffs Torchwood and the Sarah Jane Adventures, it’s your own fault.

I’m sure on measured, considered reflection, this wasn’t the best Doctor Who episode ever. It’s not quite the well-plotted gem of a Steven Moffat episode. Nor does it have the emotional depth of some. A lot of it is just big set pieces.

And yet – the Doctor, Donna, Rose, Martha, Sarah Jane, Luke Smith, Mr. Smith, Capt. Jack, Gwen Cooper, Ianto Jones, Harriet Jones, Daleks, Davros, UNIT, the Judoon and Richard “Darwin’s Rottweiler and I’m married to a Time Lord” Dawkins …. all in one episode! How fun is that? It’s big old smiley fun to see Captain Jack hit on Sarah Jane Smith! Or Ianto’s jealousy over Jack’s encounter with a UNIT soldier? Or the big “Facebook” chat between everyone! And Davros in all his glory.

There is something just fun about diverse characters meeting up. That’s the charm of Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (the comic book, of course — crossover charm couldn’t save the movie version) and Lost Girls. And of course, there’s the big superhero comic book crossovers. The most recent being Secret Invasion (from Marvel) and Final Crisis from DC.

All the company’s great heroes in one epic battle. They should be as fun as Doctor Who’s “The Stolen Earth” was. And yet, they usually aren’t. Not anymore. Each issue of both Secret Invasion and Final Crisis has fractured little scenes that have some enjoyment, but the big “Wow — look at all the heroes!” factor isn’t making the story fun and its not masking the corporate hollowness of the stories.

That’s because familiarity does breed contempt.

Crisis on Infinite Earths was fun. So was Secret Wars. That was back in the 1980s when big company-wide crossovers were new and strange. Even guest appearances were a big event. Nowadays, it’s like every mainstream comic book is guest-starring another hero. And not some fleeting glimpse like what linked the early Marvel Comics together. I mean that folks like Batman and Wolverine are everywhere. It’s not special nor rare anymore.

Even the big “and the kitchen sink” stories aren’t rarities in superhero comics. Every year seems to bring a new universe-spanning event. We expect to see the Avengers, X-Men and Fantastic Four team-up. It’s not a treat these days.

There’s something really dangerous in thinking that “how can I top this” means “how many more characters and explosions and kisses to the past can I throw in?” It’s time for comics to think “how can I tell a story that’s emotionally relevant”. Something perhaps with character and theme. Something that’s mythic without Gotterdammerung happening every issue.

I hope Doctor Who doesn’t fall into this trap. Until “The Stolen Earth”, most crossover references or guest appearances were small, subtle and often sly. (Like Jack on Torchwood saying “the right kind of Doctor” instead of “The Doctor”.) And that’s what makes “The Stolen Earth” so special and fun.

But if they were to do this every week, it would be both boring and inaccessible. TV shows and comics can get hung up on their own mythology. It makes Smallville and late-X-Files just unwatchable to the casual viewer. Not because there’s a history. I think casual viewers can appreciate shows with a past. It’s that once a show becomes solely dependent on its mythology, there’s no emotional resonance except in reference to previous stories. It’s not that casual viewers are incapable of following the plot. They are just not given any incentive to actually care about what happens — because “big stuff happens” is assumed to be enough. That’s what I felt when I caught an episode of Lost for the first time in ages — completely apathetic.

But those ruminations aside … Daleks invade the Torchwood Hub! (Probably Davros just summoned the ones hanging out at the Doctor Who exhibition also in Cardiff Bay.) Cool!

PuckRobin