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Friday, February 19, 2010

Doctor Who - "The Christmas Invasion"


So begins the David Tennant years. This episode was intended to introduce audiences to Series 2 of Doctor Who (or Season 28 for the rest of us), introduce new and old fans to our newly regenerated Doctor, and also to gather families around the tele near Christmas for a dose of Doctor Who.

Unfortunately, about three quarters of this episode scarcely fit the bill for a slice of traditional Doctor Who. For starters, the episode opens with the TARDIS barreling down through the urban streets of London, bouncing off building walls. The TARDIS comes to rest and out comes Tennant as our beloved Doctor - still wearing the 9th Doctor jacket & jumper, observing his surroundings in relief that this was one of those rare times that he got the TARDIS destination right.

The last Jackie or Mickey saw of the TARDIS crew, Rose vanished in the TARDIS bound for the year 200,100 to save an otherwise doomed 9th Doctor. After a moment of "good to see you" hugs, the Doctor wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and then collapses. Probably the first of several dominating "downers" in this episode is the over-extensive use of the "Doctor Who?" gag. While there are appropriate times for a character to ask "Who?" or "Doctor Who?" and it not be obvious that it was intentionally inserted into the script to be a gag. It often depends on the actor voicing the dialogue, and the tone of their voice when saying it. Jackie Tyler in this episode not being one of the better ones. The conversation started out fine, with Jackie asking Rose, "Where's the Doctor?!" Rose replies with "That's him. That's the Doctor." Suddenly, the seriousness of the moment drops almost instantly, as Jackie cries out "The Doctor?! Doctor Who?!" Thank the stars it only lasted those few seconds, but it was certainly enough to suck the life right out of that scene.

A successful "Who gag" scenario would be like in the classic episode "The Android Invasion." In that story, an exact android copy of the Doctor is at large accompanied by an android Sarah Jane. The UNIT soldiers are also androids, and are on the lookout for the REAL Doctor. To evade capture, the real Doctor casually strolls in the front doors at UNIT headquarters, and when soldiers attempt to apprehend him, he successfully fools them into thinking he's the android Doctor. As he walks away, he advises them: "But keep your eyes peeled. We don't know who's who around here!" In the interests of satisfying readers that are bent on accusing me of favoring the original series (well, that's probably true) I'll also describe a new series "Who gag" scerario: In "The Girl In the Fireplace," Reinette and the Doctor exhange thoughts, and after reading the Doctor's mind and learning what name he goes by, she looks into the Doctor's eyes and with a serious tone, says "My Doctor. Doctor who?"

Enough about the Who gag. After the title sequence, the Doctor is still out cold. As Rose tucks the Doctor in, and leaves the room to bring Jackie up to date on the events of recent, we see the stage being set for the plot of this episode: a remnant of the vortex energy escapes through the Doctor's mouth and out the window. It then streaks into orbit and into an approaching Sycorax ship. After that brief "Doctor Who" related scene, we return to Earth for more domestic drama, as Rose is all in tears because, we are lead to believe that she was beginning to fall in love with the Eccleston Doctor, only to have him suddenly change his appearance and personality on her. Rose openly admits that she keeps forgetting that he's not human.

Yet another "drama-steroid" that was way overused in this episode is the constant use of news anchor scenes. It's agreeable to use occasional shots of a news broadcast to heighten the mood a bit, but in this episode, we more or less were fed the synopsis of the backplot from a tele though a tele. As if that were not enough, all of the "news team footage" is shown in over-exagerrated reality TV camera-work, meaning the camera shots are exceptionally shaky, more along the lines of the family's home movie of the local school football game that was sitting behind you.

The feel of classic Doctor Who returned with the arrival of Harriet Jones at the UNIT headquarters. From the time the episode changes to the UNIT scenes, the main focus of those scenes was slowly revealing to us the plotline. And for once, Davies pays more attention to detail in this story - the Sycorax broadcast a message, but none of the Earthlings can understand their language. Jones then scrambles a team to start translating their message. The music was also quite subtle in these scenes, which was a plus.

However, the Doctor Who flavor comes to an abrupt end with the return of domestic drama between Rose and Mickey. Mickey tries unsuccessfully to get Rose's mind of an ill and changed Doctor, and to enjoy Christmas. The casual stroll comes to an end when robots disguised as Santa Claus carolers start shooting at Rose and Mickey with their instrument-shaped flame-throwers/(grenade launchers?). Upon return, the Tyler family, the sleeping Doctor and Mickey are attacked by a spinning, singing Christmas tree. We get a Doctor/Rose love moment when Rose softly whispers into the Doctor's ear, "help me!" The Doctor suddenly jumps up in the bed and points his "all-purpose" sonic screwdriver at the tree, causing it to explode.

This episode struggles through the first half to show any classic Doctor Who appeal, with the second half show much more homage to a slice of Who than the first bit. The UNIT scenes in the first half are by far the best. The beginning of the episode seems to have been divided into two separate plots, one focusing on Harriet Jones dealing with the Sycorax and the other focusing on Rose coping with the Doctor's regeneration. For the most part, the Doctor plays a minor role in the episode, and I feel the "post regeneration" was a bit over-played. A large chunk of the episode was devoted to tears and pull-on-heart-strings moments because of the Doctor's regeneration.

As with many of Davies' stories, the majority of this episode was spent building up to the climax placed within the final 10 minutes of the episode, in this case being the swordfight between the Doctor in his "jim-jams" and the Sycorax leader. The dialogue scenes between Jones and the Sycorax wasn't too bad, either. The swordfight reminded me of classic Who fights such as "The Androids of Tara," "The Masque of Mandragora" and "The King's Demons."

All in all, the episode gets a 5, because once you hash out all of the unrelated stuff to the overall plot, you're probably left with about 25 minutes of solid Doctor Who. So, only about 50% of the episode devoted itself to being a solid installment of the Doctor Who series.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Doctor Who - "Parting of the Ways"


As with most of Davies' two parters, the conclusion to "Bad Wolf" is where this stability and thickness of this plotline started to run desperately thin.

With the cliffhanger in the previous episode, we are left with Rose being captured by a presumed-to-be-extinct Dalek task force and the Doctor vowing to rescue her via a visual communication link between Satellite 5 and the lead Dalek ship.

Unfortunately, Davies had other agendas with this 45 minute conclusion besides the Doctor, Jack, and Lynda rescuing Rose from the Dalek ship cleverly and then the Doctor devising a clever way of overcoming the Dalek threat. In fact, if you invision what I have just described (the traditional Dalek VS. Doctor) format as a deck of neatly stacked playing cards, then Davies more or less did to that stack of cards what Eccleston did to a stack of cards in "Rose" while visiting Rose's flat. In short, the episode became a mess.

The rescue of Rose was over within the first ten to fifteen minutes of the episode, which in my opinion was a bit lazy - the Doctor simply hopped in the TARDIS, accurately materialized around Rose so that she was engulfed by it and after chatting with a Dalek, returns to Satellite 5. Mind you, no better way to protect her from a barrage of Dalek fire, but it seemed a bit easy. After all, the Doctor has consistently pointed out that "short hops" within a particular time are often difficult to pull off - but in the interests of getting the rescue plotline wrapped up quickly so that the episode can focus on more domestic drama, it conveinently works this time. Thus, Davies' first plothole for this episode opens wide - on Satellite 5 are a number of 21st century looking humans, Jack, Lynda, the floor 500 staff, the Doctor, Rose, and ofcourse the TARDIS. The Daleks have already surmised that the Doctor is likely preparing to build a weapon capable of destroying the approaching Dalek fleet. However, the Daleks (with their thousands of ships filled with thousands of CGI Daleks) avoid blasting Satellite 5 out of existence, and instead send a small ground assault force to occupy the station, while the majority of them make way for Earth below.

Next, we the viewers work out relatively the same time the Doctor does that in order to stop the Dalek invasion, this will pretty much be a one-way ticket. A moment of traditional Doctor Who arrives when the Doctor confidently tricks Rose into taking refuge in his TARDIS again, where he then activates the TARDIS to take Rose home, leaving himself and Jack stranded on Satellite 5 in the year 100, 100.

From here, the episodes shifts more to Rose as it did with the first episode. We are expected to feel sorry for her, because now she's been forced back into a normal lifestyle. The Doctor leaves a touching holographic message for her in the TARDIS, and for the sake of romantics having a moment of "awwwwww," somehow the Doctor's hologram is able to turn and look Rose in the eye. We have to sit through yet another domestic drama scene was Jackie and Mickey attempt to console Rose in a cafe. The screen is filled with scenes of a pouty Rose, with her paying no mind to the constant insults she inadvertently dishes out to Mickey. The scene ends with Rose storming out of the cafe.

Moments later, Mickey catches up to her, and suddenly we realize that she is surrounded by references to "Bad Wolf." Unlike classic Who companions who often made their attempts at flying the TARDIS by flicking randomly selected switches and levers on the console, Rose prefers telepathic communication with the TARDIS itself, and opens communication channels by yanking the console open via a tow truck. Let's not include that bit when we explain to the Doctor how we flew his TARDIS, ok?

Meanwhile in the distant future, the last few standing defensive fall to the blast of a Dalek gun, including Jack. At that moment, the TARDIS materializes conveinently on floor 500, and Rose flings the TARDIS doors open with glowing eyes. The Doctor's traditional "clever, Doctor save-the-day" routine finally gets permanently ditched, and Rose quickly brings the plot to a close by simply using the energy from the time vortex she absorbed to divide the atomic structure of the Dalek fleet, as well as revive Jack, but not the other Satellite 5 crew. Indeed, odd.

The episode then becomes nothing more than a love story for Twilight fans, with Rose complaining about her head about to explode, and desperately asking for the Doctor's help with tears raining down her face. We are meant to be ultimately swept off our feet with dialogue from the Doctor such as, "I think you need a Doctor.." along with a soundtrack that had me thinking it was plucked right out "Gone With the Wind." Rose absorbed the energy through the eye, but ofcourse, for the Doctor to make the exchange, he plants a big juicy kiss on Rose.

The essence that makes an episode Doctor Who is left for dead on the ground twitching, and we get one last flicker of Wholife as Eccleston's Doctor breathes his last few breaths....the orchestral music is gone, and all we hear is the ambience of the TARDIS, and the Doctor once again starts talking in that jokingly, cheeky tone we remember from his previous incarnations....as he describes a planet, "they've got dogs with no noses!" He describes his current incarnation as "this daft old face." The regeneration scenes were great, and felt like Doctor Who.

This episode only scored the 4.5 because of the great Dalek voices (the Supreme Dalek sounded wicked!) and because the Doctor doesn't do anything hasty for the sake of modern-day drama when asked by the Dalek, "Coward or killer?" The Doctor, in traditional tone, replies, "Coward. Anyday. What will happen to me now?" The regeneration sequence was good, but other than that, the majority of the "Doctor Who" plot elements were minimized so that Davies could maximize on the Rose/Doctor relationship and domestic drama sequences.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Doctor Who - "Bad Wolf"


Davies chose to bring us back to Satellite 5 in this episode, set 100 years after the events of "The Long Game."
From the opening of this episode, Davies' attempts to link the iGen viewers with the type of entertainment Doctor Who is was extremely evident. The story is set sometime in the neighborhood of 100,100 A.D., and despite this plot set in Earth's far-flung future, reality TV shows such as "Big Brother House" and "What Not To Wear" still seem to be all the buzz.
Jack remains on board the TARDIS from "Boom Town," but as shown in a flashback sequence, the crew are suddenly separated when the TARDIS is pulled off course and the crew are yanked away by a blinding light. The Doctor awakens just as he is seated in front of a camera and is forewarned that he's about to go live, and to not swear. Probably the most fitting bit of dialogue is here, when the Doctor realizes what's going on, and looks viewers in the eye with the firm statement, "You have GOT to be kidding!" Something about that bit reminded me of his past incaranations, especially Tom Baker.

Meanwhile, Jack becomes the subject of a robot equivalent of "What Not To Wear," while Rose finds herself a contestant on a very serious take on "The Weakest Link." Davies is ofcourse the KING when it comes to irrelevant, senseless drama; and "Bad Wolf" is no exception. We have to sit through numerous scenes of panicky, frantic, teary-eyed contestants as they face their apparent demise for losing the latest round of "The Weakest Link." The situation with Jack practically goes 100% modern-day television - in fact, if not for the robotic hosts, you could probably find something quite similar on E! or MTV. Jack is shown several times stark naked, due to a conveinently placed "defabricator," and when things start to turn into a rehash of "Saw" and less of "What Not To Wear," Jack subdues his unfriendly host by plucking a concealed firearm out of his bare.......well.....let's just say the expression "pull something out of your ass" can be applied literally in this instance.
The episode's Doctor Who roots start to surface about 1/4 of the way in, when the Doctor - in traditional, non-violent, logical approaches - realizes that no ordinary game show can penetrate the interior of his TARDIS, and so he surmises that his being brought there is no accident, nor is it no coincidence. According to his Housemates, being evicted means willingly walking into a chamber underneath a distinegrator gun, and then getting blasted into atoms. The Doctor cleverly deduces that whoever brought him there must need him alive, and so like his previous incarnations often did, he puts his theory to the test - he deliberately causes damage to the house so that he can get evicted - setting up for another "TruWho" moment - when it is announced that the Doctor has been evicted, the Doctor jumps up from the sofa waving his fists in celebration. The Doctor steps into the distinegration chamber, and shouts encouragement to whomever is watching him.
When the distintegration fails, the Doctor escapes the house along with a female housemate - Lynda. As the Doctor and Lynda step out into the promenade of S5, the Doctor utters a line he has often said before, "I've been here before." From there, the episode's investigative juices get flowing, and we once again see the words "Bad Wolf" decorating the station. Jack meets up with the Doctor and Lynda shortly, and the Doctor then sets about discovering which level Rose is located on.
As the trio arrive on TWL level, Rose gets zapped by the host robot, which in turn meets its demise at the hands of Jack. At this point, all is assumed that Rose is dead, and the Doctor still hasn't the foggiest notion of what's going on, other than his actions 100 years ago at the end of "The Long Game" are to blame for the shape the human race is in now. The Doctor and his companions are arrested (presumably for breaking out of their own games and breaking into another). The Doctor, Jack, and Lynda hatch an escape plan, and then make way to floor 500 where the Doctor hopes to discover an answer to the situation, and find the one responsible for Rose's presumed death.
Jack discovers the TARDIS safe and sound, and moments later we are relieved to see that Rose is very much alive, but as she regains conciousness, a familiar ambient sound is heard in the background - the sound of a Dalek installation.

The episode ends with a cliffhanger, with the Doctor promising her rescue.
Overall, the idea was sound - that of the Doctor being thrown into a game station and after breaking out realizing that he is in fact on S5, but I think the use of modern-day reality TV shows was a bit overboard. Obviously it there so the casual viewers would have something to relate to, but as I often say, Doctor Who isn't intended for the casual viewers, its intended for the sci-fi fans.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Doctor Who - "Boom Town"


In typical Davies style, this episode opens with the return of the TARDIS to modern-day Cardiff. Margaret, the cunning Slitheen has apparently survived the Doctor's last encounter with her, and is now far into a plan to make a nuclear power plant go critical and explode, allowing her to "surf" the shockwave out of the Solar System.

Mickey gets word of the Doctor's and Rose's return, and arranges to meet them in Cardiff.

I originally had mostly misgivings about this episode, but after watching it again recently, and realized that there were hints here and there of the original series, and believe it or not, this was actually some of Davies' better attempts at paralleling the Who formula established during 1963 - 1989.

The initial plotline I described above is not a bad idea, but I think the bulk of what would have made this chiefly an episode of classic Who was over-stepped so that the most of the 45-minutes could be used on character development. That's basically what this episode became. I said it in my YouTube video review, and I'll say it again - when I discuss "Boom Town" with fellow fans, I often describe it as a radio show, because that's pretty much what it was - people sitting around talking to each other for relatively 45 minutes.

Again, the things most relevant to the PLOT were omitted, like how Margaret was even able to gain a political backing after that little spat in "Aliens of London." Additionally, we saw very little of Margaret's cunning plan unfold - instead, we jump in as it enters its final stages, and while last time she was able to evade the Doctor for two 45 minute episodes, this time she is quickly captured in the street with the Doctor doing nothing more than flicking a switch on his now-all-purpose sonic screwdriver.

While Margaret softens up the Doctor and Jack in the TARDIS, we catch up on Rose and Mickey's social life - which to this day I still cannot see how the Rose/Mickey bickering scenes was in the least relevant to what made this episode "Doctor Who." As I stated earlier, what WOULD have made this episode a decent Doctor Who story was more or less overstepped so that the episode could focus on characters interacting with one another.

We then get sit through a casual dinner for two. If not for Margaret's attempts to subdue the Doctor, these dinner scenes with pauses, dramatic, subtle conversation, eye contact and exhanges of glances across the table would have looked like something plucked out of a modern-day blockbuster flick.

After a few spats between Rose and Mickey, and the Doctor and Margaret have run out of things to chat about, things finally start looking up - an earthquake shakes the ground violently, and Margaret insists on sticking with the Doctor, fearing for her own safety. The Doctor races back to his TARDIS.

Upon re-entry, Margaret's motives become clear - that she was truthfully "buttering up" the Doctor so that she could get close enough to the TARDIS console to reinstate her original plan of surfing out of the Solar System.

Of all solutions, the TARDIS itself solves this one for us, by opening up one of its console panels and showing Margaret the time vortex, she gets reduced to an unhatched egg - of which the Doctor promptly decides to return to Raxicoricofallapatorius.

The few things this episode had in its favor were the slowed pace of the episode, which was more along the speed of classic Who; and the incidental music. Ofcourse, the slowed pace in this case not being a result of production, but being a result of lack of story. The subtle "Boom Town Suite" - or the parts complimenting Margaret's scenes anyway - was also reminiscent of the classic era.

Doctor Who - "The Doctor Dances"


As with most of Moffat's stories, this two-parter didn't leave a single minute uncontributive to the initial plotline. In fact, we as the viewers were eager to get to the bottom of the gas mask plague, and Moffat in turn kept the focus of the episode on that objective.

Once again I can find little to complain about when you stack this one up beside the standards set by the original Doctor Who. Moffat seemed to ignore the requisites of modern-day science fiction, and more or less "do his own thing" with this one. While Davies seemed to tell stories directing viewers' attentions to the characters, the way Moffat went about telling and unfolding this story (perhaps because it was spread thickly over two 45 minute episodes) seemed almost parallel to that of the original series. The Doctor continued to be the Time Lord we remember from the original series - picking up clues here and there and then "putting the pieces together" in his head. Like the Doctor often did, in this story, the Doctor had more or less worked out for himself what was going on, but chose not to share it with anyone until he had gathered enough substantial evidence to support his theory.

Once the Doctor's theory is confirmed is generally when the backdrop of the story is revealed to the audience - in this case being in the old abandoned railway station when we discover that Nancy is in fact the young child's mother. Moffat also demonstrates that he leaves no "loose ends" untied with the closure of his plots. Throughout "The Empty Child," Moffat raised a number of questions that viewers were intended to be asking themselves, but always takes time (so that answers aren't rushed) to answer them all - even the insignificant ones - gradually over the latter half of this second part.

The problem is solved logically, scientifically, and requires no gaping holes in the fabric of space/time or the waving of a magic wand. Instead, the nanogenes read Nancy's DNA as the "parent DNA," and thus all affected humans fall into the "inconsistent" category again, so the nanos go about repairing the damage they were responsible for in the beginning.

The TARDIS crew is saved by Jack only moments before the bomb intended to land on the crash site explodes. The Doctor materializes the TARDIS inside Jack's ship so that Jack can be saved, and thus the last fire Moffat started with "The Empty Child" is put out, and the Doctor and Rose - along with a new TARDIS member - are off to more adventure.

Once again, the incidental music of this episode was subtle and not overwhelmingly orchestrated, giving a sense of the original series.

I admit I'm partial to Moffat's flavor of Doctor Who writing - because it's so close to that of Robert Holmes and Terry Nation - but if I had to voice a complaint with this Moffat masterpiece, it would be the title of the episode. I'm not particularly fond of titling episodes in regards to a minor element of the overall episode. Personally, I still wait for the day when the new Doctor Who will return to the serialized "Part One, Part Two" format of the old. I think this episode could have done just as well as "The Empty Child, Part Two." Other than that, a well-written, well-produced episode. Without a doubt this two-parter is the closest any of the Eccleston episodes got to the traditional flavor of the original series.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Doctor Who - "The Empty Child"


As with most of the episodes penned by Steven Moffat, this one was nothing short of superb when it comes to great Doctor Who.

Moffat sets the Doctor and Rose during the height of the London blitz. Moffat has often demonstrated that he leaves no detail left unexplained or no stone unturned with his episodes, and this one was certainly no exception.

The Doctor and Rose are forced to land during this particular time due to an unsuccessful chase of a alien capsule. Like most of the Doctor's "retriveval" visits, he intended to this to be a fast pick up. The Doctor opts to ask a few locals if something has fallen recently from the sky - before realizing that screaming fireballs falling out of the sky and exploding on impact is something quite commonplace. Naturally, this complicates his search. The plot thickens when the Doctor returns to the TARDIS to discover Rose has wandered off, and suddenly the disconnected phone on the TARDIS starts ringing. The Doctor explains how impossible this is, since the phone isn't wired up to anything.

Meanwhile, Rose's search for a rooftop child has resulted in her dangling over London via a rope tethered to a blimp. She is moments later rescued by galactic con man Jack Harkness.

As with any great Doctor Who story, the plot unfolds slowly but steadily, keeping us on the edge of our seats for every minute. Once again, Moffat steers clear of scenes diliberately intended to be character development scenes - instead, Moffat develops the characters with the progress of the initial plot. The Doctor discovers a mystery afoot; one of a child no one can touch, a child that can tap any instrument with a speaker, and can operate typewriters from afar.

The Doctor pays a visit to Dr. Constantine at Albion Hospital at the request of Nancy. Constantine fills us in on the "plague" that is gripping the town, and then succumbs to the fate of his patients in front of the Doctor.

Rose and Jack meet the Doctor at the hospital, and we are left with a classic-who flavored cliffhanger accompanied with the "sting" of the theme music as the gas mask zombies close in on the Doctor, Rose and Jack.

Moffat wrote some great scenes with the Doctor in this story that reminded me of his past incarnations, particularly when he's talking to his TARDIS as the phone rings.

I cannot rave enough about this episode, as everything about this episode felt like a classic Who story. The way the plot unfolded, the passive characters giving the Doctor bits of information here and there, the con job-gone-awry with Jack, and the incidental music for this episode was very much like that of the original series. There was no thundering orchestral pieces in this to drown out my focus on the plot and dialogue, because Moffat doesn't need handicaps with his plots - Davies often said that Moffat's scripts were the only ones he never had to rewrite. Fantastic episode, and my all time favorite of the Eccleston year.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Doctor Who - "The Long Game"


My rating of this episode may surprise many of you, but I have to say this episode was not bad for a number of reasons.

At the end of "Dalek," Adam joins the TARDIS crew and follows The Doctor and Rose off to Satellite 5.

I was very pleased with how this episode unfolded; it took on the traditional "Who" format of not always telling the story from the TARDIS crew's point of view. We saw scenes of some of the S5 employees before they had even met the Doctor.

I could find no plotholes in this episode. In fact, my only complaint was the inhabitants of S5 were still wearing 21st century clothing.

Simon Pegg does a fabulous job of portraying The Editor, with some downright sinister dialogue, like when the girl is revealed to be an undercover agent and pulls a gun on him, ranting something like "You can't get away with this." The Editor chuckles and replies, "I love it! Say it again!"

The plot was well-conceived, the episode well-produced, well-scored, and probably the closest we've got to original Doctor Who since "The Unquiet Dead."

The Doctor shows no mercy for companions betraying his trust and abusing their TARDIS priveledge - as the episode ends with Adam getting the boot for attempting to send messages from the future back to his home in the 21st century.

Doctor Who - "Father's Day"


In my opinion probably one of the worst examples of a Doctor Who episode. While the backdrop of the plot was sound - that of Rose saving someone's life who should be dead and causing a paradox - the episode seemed primarily focused on Rose. So much so that the Doctor even temporarily was killed of in the latter bit of the episode, leaving Pete Tyler to save the day. I'm no upset with the solution - as it makes perfect sense - the only way things could be set right would be if history continued to read that Pete Tyler died that day.

Up until now, we had not been revealed any information regarding Rose's past, particularly regarding her family. However, this episode opens with a flashback from Rose's childhood, and then brings us to the present inside the TARDIS as Rose finishes explaining her story to the Doctor.

I still can't believe that Adam was booted off the TARDIS without ever actually damaging the timelines, but Rose willingly broke the 1st Law of Time in this episode, utterly ignoring the Doctor's warnings about what would happen. In my opinion, selfish - with no regards to the rest of creation. Ace was 3 years younger than Rose and never flirted with disaster like this.

Staying focused, my biggest complaint with this episode was that the Doctor had a very small part in it, and the people getting trapped in the church seemed like only a plot device to allow Pete and Rose time to chat about the past/future. The episode was oozing with domestic violence between Jackie and Pete, and as I said before, focused mainly on Rose getting to know her father. The initial plot - the Reapers destroying everything due to the wound in the timeline - seemed to take a backseat in this episode.

I'm still not sure I understand some of the solutions either. For example, the Doctor discovered relatively midway through the episode that because of Rose's folly, the TARDIS was now nothing but a empty Police Box. I never understood what made the TARDIS key glow, nor is it explained what causes the TARDIS to materialize around the key suspended in midair. Naturally, its likely that these plotholes were overlooked because the main focus of this episode was not to tell an entertaining piece of science fiction, but rather devote 45 minutes to Rose getting to know her family. Don't get me wrong - my father is into geneaology (tracing family trees), and I have no objection to meeting one's ancestors and getting to know them. But breaking the 1st Law of time for your own selfish reasons by changing established points in time (AFTER you've been warned) is taking it a bit overboard.

What's worse about this episode was the title. The story was not even set on "Father's Day," so again the title and 85% of the episode was pure character development.

Doctor Who - "Dalek"


From the title of this episode, it was obvious where this one was headed. This story was written by Rob Shearman, and was a great reintroduction to the Doctor's nemesis, the Daleks.

"Dalek" begins with the Doctor and Rose arriving in a large underground bunker that has been made into a personal museum of alien artifacts. We see one of the biggest nods to the original series in this episode, with the "Revenge of the Cybermen" style Cyberman head on display.

The episode unfolds really well in the beginning, with typical classic Doctor Who spice -

The Doctor and Rose are soon taken into custody by the bunker's guards, on the charge of trespassing. Henry van Statten, the owner of the bunker, reveals to the Doctor his prized possession - what he refers to as a "metaltron."

Eccleston portrayed the Doctor really well in this episode. Before the Doctor realizes what he has been locked in with, he apologizes to the "metaltron" for Van Statten's torture, and offers to help. The shock on the Doctor's face when the Dalek revealed itself was magnificent.

I think the design of the Dalek was a bit overboard though. The base of the Dalek was too big, and it was a little too metal-looking.

Another scene that was rare for the new series but occasionally happened in the classic was the Doctor under torture by Van Statten.

My biggest complaints with this episode were the short scene when Adam and Rose first meet, and there is a short "flirtation" between them. That's when Rose became less my favorite, because of what she was doing to Mickey. Another complaint is the tear-jerker scene near the end where the Dalek merely wanted to feel sunlight. Kind of an anti-climax. Lastly, the episode ignores the 40-year design of a Dalek, and provides the Dalek the means to destroy itself via its sensor orbs.

Overall a decent episode, not as good as The Unquiet Dead, but certainly a breath of fresh air after tangling with Davies' Slitheen in London.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Doctor Who - "World War Three"


Following up as the second part of "Aliens of London" was "World War Three," also penned by Russell T Davies.

Davies often dumbed down his scripts for the sake of understanding by average viewers, and as a result, his two-parters often struggled to keep a plotline afloat for two full length episodes. I felt that had Davies committed a bit more screen time to explaining and filling relevant plotholes, instead of "sweeping them under the rug" with domestic drama, family affairs, emotional scenes, and a heightened orchestral soundtrack, then his episodes probably would have appealed more to the Whovian society and they would have had more admiration for his contributions to Doctor Who.

Water under the bridge, as they say. The pacing of this episode was relatively the same as Aliens of London, but it sufferred more due to the bulk of the plot being touched on in the first part. As result, the episode frequently contained scenes of irrelevance to the plot solution. The Slitheen proved to be a menancing threat, only to be stopped by a vat of vinegar.

Some of the better scenes were when the Doctor took charge of the briefing at the close of Part 1 and quickly surmised the situation logically with intelligence, as the scientific advisor once did in classic Who. Another memorable scene is when the Doctor barricades himself, Rose, and Jones inside the conference room, Jones asked, "How do we get out?!" and the Doctor smiles, looks at Rose and then back at Jones and replies, "Ah."

The ending was a bit overdid, I thought - the last scenes where Rose packs her things and says farewell to Mickey and Jackie again I felt was there solely for the sake of adding a spot of extra drama to the episode - drama that appeals to One Tree Hill fans.

Doctor Who - "Aliens of London"


The fourth episode of Eccleston's year returned us to modern day Earth, but not before a quick montage of clips from the previous Earth episode, "Rose." Personally, I'm not sure what the purpose of that was - it was likely any viewer tuning into this episode had likely seen the previous three.

As with most Whovians, my biggest shock was the farting aliens. Don't get me wrong; the Slitheen themselves were actually well-designed in appearance I thought, but their frequent farting sounds and fart jokes made it extremely difficult to take this story seriously. Classic Who was always about a serious tone on whatever the plot might be, proposterous though it may be. An example would Terror of the Zygons, in which the Loch Ness Monster was used as a tool by the Zygons to aid their takeover of Scotland. As silly as the notion was, it was taken seriously, and we were taught to "make no bones about it."

However in the case of the Slitheen, RTD treated the threat of alien takeover lightly, taking full advantage of the modern day setting, inserting as much modern-day smeg as he could into the 45 minutes.

The episode's few saving graces were that because it was spread over 2 episodes, it allowed the plot to unfold slowly and naturally as with classic Who serials. Unfortunately, rather than put the additional time to good use by making relevant contributions to the overall plot, Davies instead filled in the "holes" with irrelevant scenes with Rose, Jackie, a detective, Mickey, Harriet Jones, etc. While Jones had a crucial role in the story, many of her first scenes contributed nothing to the plot. Neither did the scene of Rose, Jackie, The Doctor and a detective at Rose's home. The other saving grace being the re-introduction of the cliffhanger ending accompanied by the "sting" of the Doctor Who theme music.
While the Doctor is frequently known for missing a particular time/location by a few years/miles, the fact that the Doctor and Rose arrived exactly one year after her departure seemed to be more of a drama device than anything else. As with most of RTD's plots, the episode was usually first about Rose, then about the Doctor, then about the Doctor AND Rose, and then about the initial plot. Resolving irrelevant domestic issues became primary, and the resolution of the overall plot often became secondary.
An OK episode, but not one of RTD's better attempts. The plot of a hostile alien takeover in Doctor Who usually works best FOR THE EPISODE if it's set in a rural village of sorts, but RTD often set his alien takeovers in the heart of London so that scenes of nameless, frantic, panicky people could be shown running and screaming - all of the sake of making it more dramatic.
While the incidental music was more in this episode than the last three, it still was subtle enough I thought to fit the mold of a classic Who score.

Doctor Who - "The Unquiet Dead"


The third episode of the revived Doctor Who, this was without a doubt one of the best of Eccleston's run. Set in Victorian Cardiff, the episode paid enormous homage to the Tom Baker episode "The Talons of Weng-Chiang." Some of the scenes in this episode were practically parallel to scenes from Talons. Such scenes as the shots of the onlooking audience listening to Mr. Dickens on stage. Another large reminder was the design and setting of the theater in which Dickens was performing. It looked very similar to Henry Gordon Jago's theater in Talons.

Another wonderful scene is the conversation between the Doctor and Dickens as they rock from side to side riding in the carriage.

Eccleston once again portrays the Doctor very well, with some very memorable dialogue, such as the Doctor urging Rose to change clothes before she steps out of the TARDIS, noting that her 21st century attire would "start a riot." Another great moment is when the Doctor runs onstage with Dickens moments after the ghost appears, and he introduces himself...

The Doctor: "I'm the Doctor by the way!"

Dickens: Doctor?! You look more like a navvy!"

The Doctor: "What is wrong with this jumper?!" as he tugs his v-neck undershirt.

Yet another well-written scene is when a now teamed up Dickens/Doctor duo visit the funeral home at a late hour and are told "we're closed," Dickens abruptly replies, "Nonsense! Since when did funeral homes keep hours?! The dead don't die on schedule!"

As with any great Who episode, and frequently the case with classic Who, the story tried at best to spread the characters' activity evenly over the entire episode, so that the episode wasn't solely about Dickens' point of view, nor was it from the Doctor and Rose's point of view. The story was told as it really was, and the viewer was positioned "outside the box," seeing the plot unfold from both sides evenly. Namely the scene of Dickens brooding in his dressing room prior to his curtain time, before the Doctor and Rose had even discovered that something was wrong or even arrived at the theater.

I had few complaints with this one. In fact, my only issues were the scene with Rose and Gwyneth talked one on one (which I suppose was necessary to introduce the first hint of the "Bad Wolf" story arc element), and the CGI ghosts. Once again, the incidental music was subtle, contributing to a sense of realism and historical accuracy. Particulary during Dickens' performance - we listened in a silent theater as if we were actually there.

Overall, well written and well produced, and by far the best we had seen yet from the revived series.

Doctor Who - "The End of the World"

WHOSCALE: 7.5 out of 10

This was the second episode of the revived Doctor Who, and was also penned by Russel T Davies. This episode plunged us into the distant future, at the time of the sun's expansion and the natural destruction of our planet. This episode was overall well written and well produced, from a classic Who standpoint. The Steward alien was well-conceived and well-designed, reminding me of a classic Who character from the Colin Baker title, "Timelash."

The tree species were also neat, which being new to Rose, worked well for a later scene, when Rose was alone on the observation deck, and she attempts a conversation with a small plant, then tells herself, "I'm talking to a plant." There was little orchestral music used, and the music usually only complimented scenes without dialogue - another mark of the original series. Music-less dialogue scenes allowed us to listen, focus, and absorb what was being said, without being distracted by the scores. Additionally, the moods were not forced, so viewers were free to feel whatever they wanted to feel from the dialogue. Later episodes frequently used touching scores to accomodate "tear jerker" scenes, forcing viewers into a corner of emotional upheaveal.

I often said, however, that my biggest complaint with this episode was the obvious attempts by Davies to "dumb down" the stories so that channel surfers wouldn't be disgruntled by entertainment they couldn't understand. Some of the more obvious "dummy marks" were elements to help non-science fiction fans relate to the episode, such as a planet Earth below looking the same as it did when Rose lived on it, and the explanation being a gigantic company opted to move continents back to the way they were in the 21st century, merely for the sake of the planet being destroyed. Choosing 21st century Earth as "classic Earth" seemed a bit too conveinent. Other elements were the relics from Earth - all of them being from iGen's past. The 50's jukebox, referred to as an IPod, the songs heard - Softcell's "Tainted Love" and Britney Spears' "Toxic."

While Cassandra certainly made for a cunning villain, it was obvious what Davies intended her to be - a futuristic diva, with all of the traits of a 21st century diva.

I was pleased with the final scene in the episode, where the Doctor offers Rose one last chance to hop off - stressing that, "You've seen how dangerous it is..." The scene played out well in that the question of whether or not Rose wanted to continue based on her experience thusfar was quickly forgotten with the smell of chips filling the air, and we are left with the Doctor and Rose grabbing a quick bite to eat, and then off to the TARDIS for more adventure.

The End of the World remains one of my favorites of the new series, and still some of Davies' better attempts at a genuine Doctor Who plot.

Doctor Who - "Rose"

WHOSCALE: 6 out of 10

This marked the beginning of the new era of Doctor Who. It was the first episode of the revived series, as well as the first penned by Russell T Davies. An OK episode, but my biggest complaint was that Davies went a bit overboard in his efforts to casually reintroduce the series. Rather than introduce it to the sci-fi community, he started off extemely light on sci-fi so that channel surfers would buy in, too. The show was titled "Doctor Who," but instead of writing an episode introducing the lead character, The Doctor, and the chief antagonists of that story - the Autons - RTD decided to write about a girl named Rose, whose daily life takes a turn for the unusual when she bumps into a stranger calling himself The Doctor. Davies even went so far as to title the episode after what he wrote to be the main character - Rose. Lending further evidence that the episode was mainly about Rose, interspersed with scenes of the Doctor, with Autons sprinkled on top. In contrast, Autons make for great "Earth-based" DW stories, but including them in an episode mainly focusing on the characters seemed a bit obvious - that the Autons were only there so that the script could pass for an episode of Doctor Who.

Eccleston portrayed the Doctor very well, with some great scenes hinting at his past personalities - namely when he flutters a deck of playing cards in Rose's flat, when he gazes at himself in a mirror and comments on his regeneration, and when he used a deactivated, disembodied mannequin arm to wave "goodbye" to Rose. There are other memorable moments that I still recite at appropriate times, like when someone suggest pizza for supper, I recite Mickey's Auton equivalent...."Pee-Zah! Puh - Puh- Pee-Zah!"
While the episode mostly focused on Rose, overall it was good. It was too early to tell what direction the series was going in, so I patiently waited to see where the Doctor would be taking us next.
Hello, my name is Ethan. I am without a doubt one of the most diehard sci-fi fans you will meet. I have enjoyed anything that has been solid sci-fi, and didn't need a love story or gorgeous actors to prop up the plots.

My experience includes Blake's 7, Star Trek (TOS, TNG, DS9, Voyager, Hidden Frontier, Odyssey, & Helena Chronicles/ all of the films with the exception of the 2009 film by Abrams.) Red Dwarf, StarGate (the film), Babylon 5, Battlestar Galactica (the original), Star Wars (both trilogies), Indiana Jones, Space: 1999, Buck Rodgers, and ofcourse, Doctor Who.

When I was the age of 7 (in 1989), I often heard my older brother and Dad talk about a show that wasn't on PBS anymore, called Doctor Who. All I knew was that it was science fiction, but I knew if my brother and Dad liked it, it must have been good.

In the early 90s, when satellite TV was becoming all the buzz, we got news of a new channel solely devoted to science fiction - the Sci-Fi Channel. That's not a mispelling by the way, I know its now referred to as SyFy, but in the old days it was OK and a normal part of society be uncool and geeky, and it was "science fiction," not "SyFy" to be cool. When Sci-fi came on the air, their programming was a gift from Heaven - the early morning hours were filled with Gerry Anderson's Stingray, and other sci-fi cartoons like Transformers. Mid day offered Space:1999, Lost In Space, Buck Rodgers, The Prisoner, Amazing Stories, Tales from the Darkside, and others. Commercial breaks were also a minimum. During the weekdays at 1 PM, the Sci-Fi channel hosted "The Doctor Who Hour." I finally got a taste of this priceless nugget of science fiction. At 1 - 1:30 was an episode of Doctor Who, and from 1:30 to 2 PM was a classic cliffhanger, such classics like "Zombies of the Stratosphere," "Flying Disc Man from Mars," and "The Purple Monster Strikes." The Sci-fi channel could only get their hands on a string of Tom Baker episodes, starting with "Robot," and ending with "The Androids of Tara." Nevertheless, it was more than enough for me to get addicted.
Ever since then, I have been following Doctor Who religiously - inspite of NuWho's many shortcomings brought on by Mr. Davies. I refer to them as "shortcomings" because from a pure bred sci-fi fan's perspective, thats what they were, but to the iGens, soccer moms, teenage girlies, Twilight fans, and channel surfers, they were blessings, because for them, DW without those shortcomings would otherwise be a "boring, geeky show only for nerds." Incidentally, that's more or less what the original series was. It's creator, Sidney Newman, even said, "it's a show for smart kids."
Now that you have my background on golden television, let me explain the purpose of this blog. I have loyally followed the new series of Doctor Who, even though there are many things I disliked about it (it was difficult to find dislikes in old Who). Nevertheless, I always try to view episodes from a classic Whovian's perspective, since that is the only way to tell how much an episode is staying true to what the show was intended to be. Mind you, intended by Newman, not Davies. In this blog, I will rank each episode's closeness to that of the original Who, on a scale of 1 - 10. 1 meaning that the episode was a horrible example of Doctor Who, and not in the least bit paralleled the original series. 10 meaning the episode was bloody brilliant, and that it often unfolded, sounded, and felt like something plucked out of the original series. In the event of a just utter dislike for an episode, "0" may be used, in which case, no review would be necessary - there was nothing appealing about that episode at all. That's unlikely, though. RTD has wrote some stinkers, but I don't think any of them were that bad. Just as I do on my YouTube channel, (sixstanger00) I welcome comments, discussions, and thoughts as long as they are contructive and civilized. So that means no ranting "You suck!!! David Tennant is hot!!! Rose was the best!!!" and ending all of your sentences with seven or eight exclamation marks or question marks.

One final thing, I pride myself on appeciating great television, sci-fi or not, so if you would like to know what some of my other favorites are besides sci-fi, just let me know.