Category Archives: tardis

Thumbs Up for London, Epic Fail for NBC

I just watched most of the opening ceremonies for the 2012 London Olympics. I had to turn away. NBC, in the form of Meredith Viera and Matt Lauer, destroyed any enjoyment I may have gotten from the show.

The opening ceremonies were amazing, and fun, and a spectacle to behold. I amused myself thinking that this is what we would get if the UK ever got off its butt and actually won Eurovision for a change. Yeah, it was that kind of spectacle.

There was a battle between Voldemort and Mary Poppins, a jab at America and our lousy healthcare system, appearances by Mr. Bean, JK Rowling, Daniel Craig and The Queen, tributes to the world wide web and children’s literature, and a touching love story told through the history of British pop music. We even had a three second audio cameo of the TARDIS sound during “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Like I said, amazing.

The problem was NBC had Viera and Lauer over-explaining everything to the audience at home. This isn’t the freaking Rose Bowl Parade, and we are not dull children. We have brains, and failing that, Google, we don’t need you to explain it all. I don’t know what shocked me more – the things they did not know or what they thought we did not know. I know I will never watch any program with them involved again. Even with thousands of Twitter folks telling them to shut up live, they continued their idiotic banter.

A note to the folks at NBC who put this together… Do you ever wonder why the rest of the world hates the United States? Tonight, it’s because of you.

One Year, 26 Seasons, Seven Doctors

Now I have to say up front that there are a few other blogs and websites out there doing this, but this one is by my friend Terry Willitts, and his is the best. No, I’m not biased, it’s just that good.

Spinning out of his project for last year, a blog that covered every issue of the cult classic comic book Cerebus by Dave Sim – 2011: The Year of the Aardvark – Terry has taken on the original “Doctor Who” series with his new blog – One Year, 26 Seasons, Seven Doctors. Each day Terry examines one of the serials that make up the long history of the British Time Lord.

Check it out here.

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Doctor Who: The Lodger

“The Lodger” begins with the Doctor kicked from the TARDIS, a machine that has proven in the past to be as temperamental as an agitated lover. I have to wonder at this point in the series, with only two episodes to go, if perhaps the TARDIS is being controlled by outside forces.

Next we tumble into what seems to be a completely unrelated sedate drama about a platonic couple – the man of which cannot verbalize his feelings for the woman – and a troublesome upstairs renter. It has a certain British sitcom vibe to it, but the situation could easily be “Everybody Hates Chris,” “Three’s Company,” Duplex or Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger. But this is “Doctor Who,” so you know there’s got to be more to it.

So the Doctor finds himself stranded with the TARDIS having ejected him and finds himself drawn into the above Britcom. Much like David Tennant did in the “Human Nature” two-parter, Matt Smith tries to blend in as both a human and a renter in the house, thinking that the upstairs tenant has something to do with what went wrong with the TARDIS. So the Doctor has some human misadventures, notably being wet, naked and in a towel (!) – has anyone else noticed how often he gets wet? And he also plays football (soccer for us Yanks). It’s a lot of fun until you take into account this aired the same day as the US/UK round of the World Cup – then it seems a bit forced.

While this is going on Amy is trying to get control of the TARDIS. She’s pushing and pulling controls left and right and taking the turbulent ride of her life while the blue Police Box is out of flux. In all the confusion I couldn’t help but wonder when she would stumble across Rory’s engagement ring.

And then things get bad. It all comes out all right though, for the moment. The universe is saved again, this time with a head butt and a kiss. There is of course still a question of where this second TARDIS came from. Only a Time Lord can build a TARDIS. Could it be the Rani? Or maybe the Doctor’s other personality the Dream Lord? No time to think about it, because then things get worse.

“The Lodger” was written by Gareth Roberts who has a long peripheral history with Doctor Who, having penned many novels in the New Adventures and Lost Adventures series of books as well as several of the audio dramas featuring the Doctor. He’s also written a few episodes of the series, some with Russell T. Davies and some alone. “The Lodger” also features a couple of previous Doctor cameos, and a bizarre and quite honestly hysterical new power for the Time Lord. Fun. Roberts turns in an interesting if oddball and madcap assignment here.

So until next time, remember… “Bowties are cool.”

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Doctor Who: Vincent and the Doctor

“Vincent and the Doctor” is one of those history episodes of “Doctor Who.” They used to do these all the time way way back in the old days of the show. We’ve had a few in the new series. The recent Dalek adventure in World War II springs to mind, as does the older “Daleks in Manhattan” two-parter, and then there were the episodes with Agatha Christie, Queen Victoria and Shakespeare. This one falls more in line with the historical personage than just standard period piece. The personage in this case is Vincent van Gogh.

Geek that I am, my first exposure to van Gogh was in the Peanuts comic strip – Snoopy had one of his paintings in his doghouse. Later, I learned what a genius the man truly was, even if he was a mad genius. As one of the greatest post-impressionist painters of all time, his work still resonates and affects the art world even today. And yeah, he’s a perfect choice for a character in a Doctor Who episode. Of course his presence in this episode begs one question, is his name pronounced ‘van goff’ or ‘van goh’?

Notable this time out is that “Vincent and the Doctor” is written by Richard Curtis, more famous for Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and one of my favorite films Love Actually. He even brought along one of his favorite actors, Bill Nighy, for a pleasant cameo as a present day van Gogh expert. Good stuff.

Despite the ending of the last episode “Cold Blood,” Amy Pond seems pretty upbeat in this one, but of course she doesn’t remember she lost, or even had, a fiancée. It is a good upbeat though, and there is good chemistry between Amy and the Doctor this time. She is big and flamboyant. I like Amy here. Did Rory really make that much of a difference in her life? There’s a great moment when the panicked Doctor calls Vincent “Rory.” He’s taking Rory’s death harder than the clueless Amy.

The episode is highlighted by many beautiful visual references as well as several bad puns to van Gogh, his life and his work. Amy taunting the artist with sunflowers comes off just as well as Rose trying to get Queen Victoria to say “I am not amused” back in “Tooth and Claw.” The performance of Tony Curran as van Gogh plus the music of Murray Gold produce a perfect shattered portrait of the tortured genius. The music has been notably stunning this season.

The story has the artist, along with our TARDIS crew fighting off a stranded monster, the Krafayis, a miracle of the non-special effects of the invisible – almost a homage to Forbidden Planet at times. Look for inky cameos of the first and second Doctors, along with some frightening moments, and a powerful powerful ending that I won’t spoil.

So until next time, remember… “Sonic never fails.”

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Doctor Who: Cold Blood

“Cold Blood” is the second episode of this season’s two-part Silurians story, scripted by Chris Chibnall, who wrote for “Torchwood” and “Life on Mars” and season three’s “42.” This episode however is bad. Not bad quality-wise, but bad for the characters. Be prepared for spoilers.

Regarding the monsters, I am still struck the new visualization of the Sirulians, with their previous more fearsome visages being written off as masks. The ‘masks’ are much more frightening than their ‘real’ faces. I would have much rather had the stiff scary masks over the make-up with more human expressionistic faces.

Amy is a lot more active and a participatory companion here. She’s independent as opposed to being attached to the Doctor at the hip. And for that matter, Rory is as well. It remains one of the reasons I like him so much. The crew here – Amy, Rory and Nasreen to an extent remind me of the early Peter Davison days when the TARDIS actually did have a crew.

Most of the episode is about negotiation. The Doctor is excited about the dream of a better world and has brought both the humans and the Silurians to the bargaining table to make a new peace of co-existence. We know of course that some people –no matter the species- will always screw it up. Now normally I don’t mind a bit of a morality lesson with my “Doctor Who,” but this one was a bit heavy-handed. Oh yeah, there’s a shedload of preachiness in this one.

Now the bad news. There are more clues in this episode about the overarcing story this season – the crack in time and space. Yeah, the crack actually takes Rory, and erases him from time. When “Cold Blood” ends, Amy has no memory of Rory, although the Doctor does, and there is of course the engagement ring still in the TARDIS. This is just another example of the Doctor making promises that he can’t deliver on. I have to wonder if he will tell Amy what happened.

Rory will be missed, especially by me. I liked the character and Arthur Darvill, the actor who played him. I hope he’s not really gone. His return would certainly shatter the relationship between Amy and the Doctor. Time will tell, pun unintended.

So until next time… “Be extraordinary.”

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Doctor Who: The Hungry Earth

Like the Daleks, the Cybermen, the Master, the Sontarans, and maybe to a much subtler extent, the Ice Warriors, it’s now time for the Silurians to get their makeover in the 21st century version of “Doctor Who.” Also known as Homo Reptilia or the Eocenes, and cousin to the amphibian Sea Devils, these creatures were here on Earth long before mankind and went into hibernation, and have encountered the Doctor in the past.

This new incarnation of the Silurians is more humanoid, and they have had their previous monstrous visages written off as masks. Nice touch, that, even though the new masks are still very scary. The new make-up gives the actors more opportunity to emote. They are very Sleestakian in appearance (in a good way) with long whiplash tongues. As I’ve mentioned before, Steven Moffet wants to keep us behind the sofa.

On to “The Hungry Earth,” in this Chris Chibnall written episode, the year is 2020 and a drilling operation is going deeper than ever before, and people are disappearing. This is where the TARDIS lands, and almost immediately Rory splits off from the Doctor and Amy. He can handle himself, not always well, but he can. This is one of the things I like about Rory. He’s starting to remind me a bit of Harry Sullivan or Jamie McCrimmon.

The Doctor makes a frightening discovery – “While you’ve been drilling down, they’ve been drilling up.” When Amy disappears, yanked into the ground by whatever lurks below, the tension of the anti-relationship between Rory and the Doctor intensifies. The Doctor thinks he’s lost her, and it’s an anguishing moment for actor Matt Smith. He just keeps getting better and better.

This also begins to establish a pattern we’ve been seeing since the start of the Matt’s turn at the character – if the Doctor says you’ll be safe, if he says everything will be all right… you should run. Unlike David Tennant and Christopher Eccleston, Matt doesn’t seem to be able to keep his word. He fails a lot, so if he promises you something, run. Or to quote the Doctor himself, “Under the circumstances, I’d suggest… run!”

Obviously it’s the Silurians who are down under causing trouble, and planning to make war on the ‘apes’ above. And with Amy a prisoner down there, the good guys take a prisoner of their own – a Silurian woman with a thick Scottish accent, which tends to stretch the suspension of disbelief for me a bit. Meera Syal plays Nasreen Chaudry, a doctor at the drill site helping the Doctor. She’s a fun character, more fun than Amy in my opinion, who I wouldn’t mind see joining the TARDIS crew.

And for all those snobs who had problems with the early season five previews that showed the Matt Smith Doctor with a gun (which was not at all what it seemed to be, as shown at the end of “Time of the Angels”), the Doctor has a great line in this episode where he says, “No weapons. It’s not the way I do things.”

A sidenote, there was also some terrific incidental music by Murray Gold in this episode. I can’t wait until the next soundtrack comes out. The composer has been outdoing himself this season.

Until next time… “Hey, don’t dis the sonic!”

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Doctor Who: The Beast Below

Okay, the preliminaries are over, we have a fascinating new Doctor, we have a spunky new companion, it’s time to get this ball rolling. “The Beast Below,” also a Steven Moffet script (that’s a good thing) has the Doctor and Amy dropping in on 29th century UK, a floating metal island in space, where the populations of Earth have fled in entire artificial nations to escape solar flares. If nothing else, the visuals are extraordinary.

The Doctor and Amy’s relationship seems at first to be going down the Rose road, as he happily shows her the wonders of time and space, along with the rules, and she jumps right in, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. While Matt Smith seems to be quickly evolving past the two former Doctors and into his own, Karen Gillan still feels like a happy mix of Rose and Martha with a healthy dose of Donna as well. I would have liked a new companion, but the ‘imaginary friend’ twist does help. Above all else though, I like these two, a lot.

UK3K is a rather old school steampunk world that the Doctor almost immediately points out must be a police state. Another thing I like is that Smith’s Doctor explains a bit more to his companion than previous ones, yet still, not enough. And as with any place the TARDIS lands, nothing is as it seems. Our heroes are quickly caught up in the mayhem of their new surroundings, keeping with “Doctor Who” specifications from waaay back.

By the way, did anyone else catch the reference from “The Idiot Lantern” episode? Gotta love Who continuity. As good as this episode was, and I won’t give any more of the details away, the next promises to be even better. I can’t wait.

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Kid Who’s Debut

Last night the fifth new season of “Doctor Who” began on the BBC. As anyone who knows about the mysterious time traveler will tell you, The Doctor is a unique character as he can regenerate when he dies. This trick allows new actors to take on the role when the previous has grown tired of it. It also allows for sometimes a virtually new kind of character to emerge. Thus is the case of Matt Smith, the youngest actor to portray The Doctor, causing many in doubt to call him ‘Kid Who.’

Season five’s opening episode “The Eleventh Hour” opens with a bang. The newly generated Doctor is trying to climb back into the runaway and about to crash TARDIS over London and nearly misses getting his goodies snagged by the top of Big Ben. An opening that promises excitement is always good, and it’s quickly followed up by the new series intro and theme. As opposed to other previous versions of the theme, this one grabbed me right away.

Any urge that one might have to say Matt Smith is a bit young is almost immediately diffused by the introduction of companion Amy Pond as a little girl. Ha, got you, the first new companion is a bit too young. She catches up though, and the young Karen Gillan (who had previously appeared as the soothsayer in the Pompeii episode early in season four) is in my opinion a spunky and refreshing mix of Rose, Martha and Donna. I like her.

There is quite a bit of charming mischievousness and understated menace of David Tennant in Matt Smith’s Doctor. The rest takes a bit of getting used to but I really do like him. The climax of “The Eleventh Hour” definitely cements Smith as The Doctor in my opinion however, very strong presentation. My favorite line of this new incarnation – ”I’m the Doctor, I’m worse than everybody’s aunt.”

Stephen Moffet, who takes over the series from departing Russell T. Davies, delivers a very tasty script featuring not only the best of a new regeneration, the establishment of a new order, new subplots and frightening new aliens. Still not sure about the new TARDIS having the old set from “American Bandstand,” but I’m sure I’ll get used to it. I really did love this. I’m not going to pass judgment and say it’s better than the old, but it is quite terrific.

Who da man? Matt Smith da man, and he’s also The Doctor.

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Boo Who

For real this time, not a Sun rumour, David Tennant is leaving his role as The Doctor.

Tennant, the second Doctor of BBC’s new “Doctor Who” series, brought the intensity and reality for folks new to the TARDIS while bringing the quirky fun and eccentricity that made the original version so cool for classic fans.

We’ll still have him in the role for four movie-length specials throughout the year as well as in the annual Christmas special at the close of 2009, titled “The Next Doctor.” Three guesses what that one will be about, and the first two don’t count.

We’ll miss you, David.