I am a long-time Doctor Who fan. My first memory of seeing Doctor Who comes from 1976. My parents and I were visiting some aunts, and one of them asked if we could turn on the television to TV Ontario as there was a show she was watching, and the last part was on tonight. The show turned out to be part six of Genesis of the Daleks, and the scene I recall is when Davros addressed the Kaled scientists and turned to a big red button, offering said scientists the chance to blow up most of the bunker and end the Dalek production before it even began.
My reaction at the time was to leave the room and to go play with some other toys.
But my parents tuned into Doctor Who in the weeks and months to come, and I gradually got into the show. I think it was The Robots of Death that confirmed me as a fan. My interest intensified even as my parents’ interest settled down. I collected the books, came to learn of the full mythos and, when I was twelve, I joined the Doctor Who Information Network fan club.
Fandom, for me, has been an almost universally positive experience. I fell in love with fan fiction, and I wrote fan articles on various Doctor Who subjects, both acts which built up my skills as a writer. I met many good people, including best friends and the woman who became my wife. But if there’s one thing I’ve noticed about fandom is that some elements are notoriously pessimistic.
It’s one thing to criticize elements of the program, including plots that don’t make sense and directorial choices that don’t quite come together, but sometimes fandom goes beyond that. Fans like myself care deeply about the things we love, to the point that I fear a few of us lose our objectivity. Episodes are ripped to shreds for their flaws, characters and the actors that play them are derided for perceived mistakes, or simply not being as good as companions or Doctors in the past. And the problems are amplified to predictions of doom in some cases.
This reality exists even today. A handful of fans have elevated legitimate criticisms of the direction Steven Moffat has taken the program since taking over from Russell T. Davies to extreme concern. They fret over ratings, pointing to every small decline as a sign that the show is about to come to an end, and it’s all (insert name here)’s fault. Never mind that Doctor Who has survived fifty years with a single continuity. Never mind that the show remains in a position (within the top 20) eight years in its revival that it only infrequently achieved in the 26 years of the original series.
To these few fans who are so upset over where things stand, I have to wonder why they continue to invest so much time and energy attacking the show that they used to love. But, at the same time, I can understand. This is a show that, at some point, touched us deeply and became an important part of our lives. It hurts us deeply when something like that disappears or, worse, changes into something that we either don’t recognize or don’t agree with. Just because I’ve strived to stay objective doesn’t mean that I’m special. More likely, I’ve just been lucky.
Which is one reason why I loved The Name of the Doctor. Much as I still love the revival and everything in it, I note that when we watched Doctor Who on Saturday, once the end credits ended, we immediately went back to the beginning of the episode and watched it again. We haven’t done that in years.
How does one review an episode like, The Name of the Doctor? It’s breathtaking in its ambition. It promises much. It answers a lot of questions and raises many more. It faces the challenge of high expectations inherent in just the title. The secret behind Clara is revealed, and a deeper secret in the Doctor is hinted at. In short, you have to respect that it tried very hard, and it had every potential for blowing up in writer Steven Moffat’s face.
But what The Name of the Doctor did, was that it reminded me of what it is like to be a fan of Doctor Who — and I’m talking about the whole series. I came away from this episode remembering the sense of wonder that I had when I first saw the Doctor vanish off into his TARDIS.
You could ask for nothing better for the lead-in to the 50th anniversary of the program. Ultimately, Steven Moffat gets it. He knows what it’s like to be a fan because he’s a fan himself. In The Name of the Doctor, using just six major characters and a handful of studio sets, he captures the indescribable essence that unites fifty years of episodes in a program that has seen more than eleven actors take the lead role; a show that has switched styles and genres multiple times, and which keeps on bringing the fans back for more.
A full spoilery review can be found after the break.
And I have one question:
What the hell, Australia?
Seriously? What the hell? What. The. Hell?
It’s not enough that you have the most poisonous snakes of any continent in the world. It’s not enough that you have deadly spiders sneaking into swimming pools. It’s not enough that you have a mammal with a duck bill that lays eggs and possesses a venomous stinger that can cause debilitating pain.
It’s not enough that you have Jack Jumper Ants that will swarm out of their nests and jump all over some unsuspecting soul six feet away who happens to walk past, delivering painful bites and stings — ants which entomologists apparently believe were made extinct elsewhere in the world possibly because the other ants ganged up and killed these ants because they were too dangerous to live. Now you give us this.
Can you imagine somebody driving along a lonely road in the outback, miles away from anything, worried about making it to the next habitation before the sun sets and/or the gas runs out, cresting a hill and seeing this thing on the horizon. Can you imagine what they would do?
I could easily see them doing a U-turn and hi-tailing it back where they came from. “Sorry, kids! We’re going back to Sydney. We only have to worry about sharks, there. And spiders. And ants.”
So, our gym is having a fitness challenge, pictured above. I’m not sure if we have to work up to doing 100 “burpees)” in 100 days, or if we have to do just 100 burpees in 100 days (1 burpee a day? I can do that. Fetch me some soda!), but I post this sign here because the campaign does not appear to be taking off.
Problem one may well be this sign, which unlike the motivational posters usually found at our gym, doesn’t really… motivate.
Problem two is that some dullard named these exercises “burpees”. Seriously, just exercising is hard enough. How is somebody supposed to tout that accomplishment? “I did 100 burpees today!” / “You poor dear! Have you tried going to a Gastroenterologist?”
One of the strange things of writing criticism is that it’s easier and possibly more fun to review an episode with flaws than one without. Emphasis on “more fun”. So I hope that Mark Gatiss will take this as the compliment that it has taken me a week to comment on his Doctor Who episode, The Crimson Horror, and I hope that Neil Gaiman won’t be too insulted to hear me rubbing my hands and cracking my knuckles.
Earlier, I speculated whether Mark Gatiss’ main problem with writing for Doctor Who is that he really, really needed an extra episode to flesh out all of his good ideas. Notice how much he has been able to do using Sherlock’s longer running time. Victory of the Daleks would have been much better if more time had been spent drawing out the mystery and suspense of the Daleks’ actions, culminating in a cliffhanger that cues (all together now) Spitfires! In! Spaaaace!. Similarly Cold War proves that it’s difficult to do Das Boot in 42 minutes.
The Crimson Horror, however, is just about perfect, possibly because Gatiss has been inspired to write a story which features Diana Rigg and her daughter working together for the first time professionally. He delivers a tight script that hits all the right notes quickly and in character. The two actresses clearly have fun, Mark Gatiss has fun, and so do the audience. And the line of dialogue he gives the Doctor (“Yes, I’m the Doctor, you’re nuts, and I’m gonna stop you.”) is as accurate a summation of most of the show’s canon as anybody could possibly write within 140 characters.
As for Neil Gaiman, it’s fair to say that anticipation over his contribution, Nightmare in Silver, was possibly the most anticipated episode of this part of the season, what with the out-of-the-park home run he scored with The Doctor’s Wife. Unfortunately, this one didn’t go as well. And here’s where it gets fun for me. As the armchair quarterback ready to replay the game on Monday morning, I can say that some of the elements in this story could have been reworked to improve things. True, it’s easy to write in hindsight, but what would a critic’s lot be if this wasn’t open to us?
A more spoilery review appears after the break.
Nothing to say, here. Just watch:
- You've Got to Play by the Rules
- The Best Thing. Ever. Full Stop.
- Bumper Stickers that Do Not Comfort the Person Behind You
- Okay, what the heck was that?!
Doctor Who's Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS Reviewed.
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- The Hunt For Red Planet October
Doctor Who's Cold War Reviewed
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- A Poem
- Going in for Seconds
Doctor Who's The Rings of Akhaten Reviewed