Is Doctor Who anti-Religious?

This message is a continuation of something that was posted on “Matthew C.’s” blog Tea With Morbius in which some guy yelled at him for being a conservative and liking science fiction. This stance has always confused me completely as many people I know have religious beliefs and watch tons of science fiction TV. I’m even a Gnostic-Christian that leans libertarian and have no problems at all with having my beliefs questioned.

For me, religion and science fiction go hand-in-hand for many reasons, most notably for the concepts in many of the actual stories. We can’t have things like The Matrix, Philip K. Dick Stories such as Blade Runner, or even Star Wars without some bit of respect for religion. I know that this will make a few people angry that hold the “the religion is stooped!!11one LOL” mindset, but that’s how it has always been. Lately there has been a big smugness cloud hanging over fans of science fiction, one in which many that do not believe in any sort of deity take everything as a symbol of atheist pride. Let’s say that we find ourselves watching and episode of Doctor Who, and The Doctor finds out that a civilization’s “god” is actually a guy in a suit…BOOM TAKE THAT RELIGION! I guess it all boils down to a side-effect of the somewhat recent trend of both sides of the utterly stupid “religion vs. science” geek war that has been raging for a while. Don’t even get me started on the fact that the two institutions co-existed fairly well for nearly a millennium with only the occasional blemish such as throwing scientists in prison for heresy. Not everything is Galileo vs. The Church for Christsakes!

There are many instances of a somewhat anti-religious stance in Doctor Who, but I honestly chalk most of it up to lazy writing. Akin to my much beguiled “space Nazis” trope (I need to write something on here about that), the lazy religion bashing episode sometimes comes off as just as lame. In Doctor Who, one such episode sticks out like a sore thumb to me as the literal archetype for this type of story: Meglos. While not a particularly bad episode, Meglos excels is painting a world in a somewhat one dimensional manner in which religious folks are raving lunatics, and scientists are the best at everything. On one hand we have the citizens of the main planet split into two philosophical groups: “savants”, a group with an utterly patronizing name right from the beginning, which worship science fighting it out with the deions, a group that follows religion. This episode also features an evil cactus monster just to show how serious we can take the eye rolling religious debates.

Another motif that has clumsily popped up in Doctor Who a few times, and about 70 billion times in the original Star Trek, is the “people worship what they don’t understand” trope. In Star Trek we had the episode where the civilization worshipped the U.S. Constitution, The episode where the kids worshipped some guy in a mumu, the one where people worshipped a computer…and so on…Planet of Fire showed this when we find out that people are worshipping an empty spacesuit and the Face Of Evil did the same thing with an evil computer, there must have been a run on god-like evil computers somewhere.

These more-clumsy episodes paint religion as the total antithesis to science, something that uncivilized morons take part in. This is not the norm for the show however, as much of Doctor Who is a lot more “nice” with religious imagery and concepts, even bordering on painting the Doctor himself as a “space Jesus” of some sort. For me Meglos was simply a fluke, if anything Doctor Who teaches us that we should question authority when reasonable, something that actually chimes with my Gnostic worldview, does this mean that I feel that the show is made in that regard, NO, but just like many atheists I can see what I want as well.

As In posted in the original comments section of the thread that kicked my stream of mind ranting, I feel that more recent Doctor Who episodes are far more forgiving of religion, something that may confuse people as both show runners have been uber-super-duper atheists. One episode in particular stands out to me as the showpiece for my viewpoint, a Russel T. Davies penned episode called “Gridlock”. The plot centers around a trip to New New Earth, a planet plagued with terrible traffic. Every day the masses that live and die in the traffic jam hear weather reports such as the following:

“The sun is blazing high in the sky over the New Atlantic—the perfect setting for the daily contemplation… This is for all of you out there on the roads. We’re so sorry. Drive safe.”

For me this was obviously a reference to what these people see as heaven, something attainable if everyone has faith that the traffic will ease up. Suddenly everyone breaks out into an old hymn called “The Old Rugged Cross”:

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

Refrain

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.

Refrain

In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.

Refrain

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I’ll share.

Refrain

As we can see Martha breaks out into tears as we see these people hopelessly clinging to the faith that they will emerge from this ordeal and go to where they plan to go. The Doctor takes it upon himself to save them, and literally leads them out of the traffic in an almost biblical way. If Doctor Who was so unanimously anti-religion, why would there be an obvious allusion to The Doctor being Christ-like in this episode. It doesn’t end there either; season 3 seems to me to be the most religious of all the seasons considering the ending. At one point, the world is in ruins and everyone has lost hope that they will survive as the Doctor is incapacitated and The Master has seemingly won. Martha literally travels the world spreading the gospel of The Doctor’s name until everyone thinks of him. This somehow gives him all the power of the world, and he flies around and kicks ass. To be honest I wasn’t a fan of this Doctor as a Space messiah revelation, but it still stands.

In closing, Doctor Who isn’t anti-religion, but some writers may write it that way, as you have seen I can find examples of the exact opposite as well.

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Reaction: Doctor Who – Closing Time

Aside from Vincent and the Doctor, The Lodger was easily one of my favorite Doctor Who episodes of season five. Aside from being totally unorthodox in the way it was structured, it was almost like a buddy comedy. I felt that it was one of the better episodes solely based on the face that it showed The Doctor totally at odds with how to act in modern society; it truly brought out his alien nature. Simple mistakes like paying rent with a huge bag of cash may seem like a good idea to The Doctor, but would raise more than a few eyebrows. When it was officially announced that Craig (played by James Corden of Gavin & Stacy fame) would be returning as a “fill-in” companion this year, I was pretty stoked. Not only would a character I liked return, but it was revealed to be a Cybermen episode. And not a Russell T. Davies era “stomping around saying catchphrases Cybermen” episode, but a proper one, complete with Cybermats!

While there are some emotionless metal guys running around, the majority of the episode is centered on The Doctor and his one last attempt at saving the world. It seems that despite knowing that he will die in mere hours, he stops by Craig’s old haunt on some sort of a “farewell tour”. There is an ulterior motive of course, in that he has found some kind of power fluctuations in the area, so the Doctor uses this as an excuse to investigate a bit. What we see is a man on his last legs presumably 200 years after he dropped off Amy and Rory (in his time), trying to cope with his imminent death, and stop the death of one of his friends. Knowing that he basically endangers all that come near him, the Doctor wants Craig to stay away, but seems to only draw him in more.

This episode was very good for what it was: the fluffy episode towards the series finale that keeps one optimistic before their soul is crushed by the bleak ending we all know we will have. This has been seen in Boom Town, Love & Monsters, and finally The Lodger. I know that all of these episodes are somewhat “love it or hate it” affairs, but I think that Closing Time is one of the better ones. My personal favorite thing about the episode was the Doctor’s revelation that Craig’s son calls himself “Stormageddon” in baby language; I give it weeks before someone actually names their kid that. In the grand scheme of things Closing Time does nothing for the larger picture save a scene with River Song at the very end, but that wasn’t what it was there to do. It was the “palette cleanser” right before the main course, the episode that will hopefully blow us away and finish up some stuff we’ve been getting worked up about for 2 full seasons.

spoiler for next week:

Fragmentary Thoughts on Questions Still Left to Unanswered In Doctor Who

Since the end of Doctor Who’s fifth season I have been milling around a bag full of questions that were seemingly left unanswered. I assume that some of this will be touched on in the final episode of season six, but if it doesn’t can it all be explained away by saying “the silence did it?” Most of these appeared in the penultimate and final episodes last season, The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang. Most of these seem to point towards somebody or something “messing with” Amy at various points in time, and all stem from one big question:

Why was the TARDIS taken back to June 26, 2010? –

“Space and time isn’t safe yet. The Tardis exploded for a reason. Something drew the Tardis to this particular date and blew it up. Why, and why now?”

– The Doctor at the end of The Big Bang

It has been speculated upon that this is a dangling plot thread left unanswered. At this point I wonder if we’ll actually see the real reason for this unveiled this season, but one thing does come to mind. Assuming that Amy and Rory “got it on” right after their wedding date, could the significance be that this was River Song’s conception date? This brings two possible options:

Was somebody trying to stop her existence? Going back to the conception date thing, we can assume that River does not fulfill her goals set aside by the silence, so maybe they are trying to kill her before she even is born…Maybe she is the one that actually stops their evil plans. Here are examples of how River was supposed to get over-written Terminator style, only to have the Doctor goof it up:

Somebody tried to kill Amy by somehow turning Rory into an Auton – this failed because of the Doctor.

Somebody broke into Amy’s house before her wedding day, but she wasn’t there…

Since this approach was bungled up, maybe the “big bad” went to plan B.

What if she was actually brought there to actually cause the explosion… With what we know about River in the latter half of this season, she was set up to be a weapon to kill the Doctor by the Silence. What if she has been brainwashed to destroy the TARDIS, most likely by the post-hypnotic suggestion from the silence? What if she actually did her job by destroying the universe only to have the Doctor undo it completely?

This also could explain why The TARDIS materialized in rock, maybe the TARDIS itself was trying to protect everything from River, and put her in a time-loop.

This does sort of paint the Silence and the “villain alliance” in series 5 as heroes of some sort, but what if that is true. What if they know of something The Doctor doesn’t know about – something that is truly evil, and the REAL villain in this whole thing? Something the Doctor unwittingly causes. I honestly think that there is an evil renegade Timelord out there causing this whole mess, Omega, Rassilon, The Rani, The Master etc…

What if “Silence falling” is a bad thing

Survivors Episode 2 (2008) Reaction

The one thing I find most disturbing about post-apocalyptic television shows and movies is the way the film makers can make a normally crowded area look desolate and destroyed. One of my favorite episodes of Doctor Who is an old William Hartnell serial called The Dalek Invasion of Earth. It was the second episode featuring the metallic pepper pots, and as a result of their new found popularity, the production team opted for some on-location exterior shooting. This resulted in an incredibly grim look at London after the Daleks enslaved mankind, complete with an abandoned Trafalgar Square and other London Landmarks full of patrolling Daleks. This same unsettling image is done to a fine degree in the second episode of BBCs Survivors, as we finally see some of the aftermath of the plague. As far as one can see, there are emptied shopping centers, urban blight (most likely from a riot), overturned cars, and wreckage strewn about. These kinds of shows really rely on this sort of visual desolation to look good, and Survivors gets an A+.

We do see our first antagonists of this series in a rival group of survivors with different views on how to stay alive. While our star group hope that everyone will play nice and live in happiness, the truth is that situations like this really do bring out the worst in humanity. This opposition group has laid claim to large portions of territory, especially a well-stocked supermarket. When the survivors come across this they are horrified to see people resorting in such a way. After the crazed gasoline thief that ultimately burnt himself so nobody could share with him, and this barbaric lot, I do believe that our main characters have finally realized how life is going to be from here on out.

We also see a side-story of sorts where a woman uses her looks to seduce a man to not only take her in, but to share his enormous warehouse full of supplies with her. He hopes that she will reciprocate with a relationship with him, maybe even a sexual one; sadly, she is just leading him on. She lures him with promises of a worldwide distribution business for their stock, and he buys it whole-sale. I’m not sure if this character ends up being bigger than she is, but I could see them using her to drive a wedge within the survivor ranks.

Once again, the acting in this episode is superb, and a special nod goes to Anthony Flanagan as Dexter, the leader of the aforementioned gang of thugs. From his greasy hair, to his pale complexion, and his evil demeanor, they really couldn’t have picked a better actor for the job. He’s going to be the guy in the show that any sane viewer is going to root for some misfortune to befall. As for the rest of the cast, I do wish a few of the other survivors would get fleshed out a bit more. Anya, Al, and Najid immediately come to mind in this case. As this is only the second episode, I can imagine that this will come with time.

All in all, this was another fine episode of Survivors. Hopefully the show keeps this quality up and doesn’t resort to either a cheap ending like the Hollywood version of I am Legend or a super preachy one either.

International iPlayer Announced – Old News but New To Me!

FINALLY! A major TV broadcaster is getting with the times and realizes that we live in a global community now; I’m amazed that it’s the BBC no less. For years I have had to jump through numerous hoops to get access to some of the programming I want to see. When I first started getting into UK television, I continued my use of bittorrent, a less than legal peer to peer sharing platform. I already use it for anime episodes that have not been released over here, so I figured “why not?” My conscience later got the best of me, and I started buying DVDs straight from overseas for use on my swanky regionless DVD player. This meant I had to be patient, and hope thing actually got released on DVD. When I heard about BBC iPlayer, I hoped that we would at some point gain access to its treasure trove of first run goodness, and it seems like that day is coming. I guess BBC finally realized that people were paying stupid amounts of money to buy virtual private network accounts in order to stream the content overseas, and in this economy any revenue stream is a good revenue stream. If folks are willing to pay for international TV, why not give in.

While I get my Doctor Who fix, and a host of other shows on BBC America, the right programming may lead me to plop down the money for this service. Right now there are two stumbling blocks, this service is currently only available in western Europe, and it’s only for IOS devices such as the iPad. Hopefully it gets a wider release as this Wikipedia article suggests:

“BBC TV productions are paid for by the UK television licence fee and rights agreements with third parties. Thus, all BBC iPlayer TV programmes are accessible from IP addresses allocated to the UK only, as of 2011. It has been reported that many people outside the UK circumvent that rule by buying a virtual private network account with an IP address located in the UK.
However, most radio programmes can be accessed globally, with the exception of a few programmes, mainly sports broadcasts, that are affected by rights issues. One quirk is that mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPod Touch cannot access radio overseas via BBC iPlayer whereas computers can.
An international version of the iPlayer was launched on 28 July 2011 in eleven western European countries, after receiving the approval of the BBC Trust in November 2010. The international iPlayer takes the form of an iPad application which offers a limited amount of content for free, supported by pre-roll ads and sponsorship, but its core business model is subscription. The global iPlayer app includes some features that are not in the UK version, including the ability to stream shows over 3G as well as Wi-Fi, and a downloading feature to store programmes on the iPad for offline viewing. At launch 1,500 hours of content was made available, of which 60% had been produced and commissioned by the BBC, while 30% had been commissioned by the BBC but produced by independents. The other 10% was entirely non-BBC content, including ITV’s Primeval, and Channel 4’s The Naked Chef and Misfits. Launches in the US, Canada and Australia will follow later 2011, as part of what is intended to be a one-year pilot.”

Reaction: Doctor Who – The God Complex

That's my fear door

“Praise Him!” “Praise Him!” “Praise Him!” “Praise Him!” “Praise Him!” errr *cough*

“The God Complex” is an odd episode, not in a bad way, but it definitely is different than anything else we’ve seen this season. First and foremost the direction was spot on for an episode that was supposed to make us feel uncomfortable and anxious. With a heavy use of surreal cinematography techniques including dutch angles, quick cuts, overlays of text and more, this almost felt a bit more like something Edgar Wright would have directed than a Doctor Who episode. Not that the story resembled anything like that. The actual plot was strange as well; it seemed to take the best elements from the “Hell scene” in Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey and crossed them with a bit of The Curse of Fenric, a seventh Doctor Story, chiefly with its use of fear and faith as a motif.

I was really worried that this would devolve into nothing more than a Scooby Doo corridor chase scene in the first act of the episode; but as we got further in, everything got a bit more mature than I was expecting. By “mature” I don’t mean gore and nudity, but complex themes not usually reserved for a family show.

While a lot of sci-fi has a tendency to take digs at religion and faith systems, this episode does it in a far more classy way than shows such as Stargate. Instead of coming across in a patronizing atheistic manner that some sci-fi embodies, we get an episode where the villain literally feeds on faith. Whether that faith be in a person, an idea, or a deity, we learn that most people fall back on faith when faced with our greatest fears in order to get us through. What if this faith is tampered with and everyone is brainwashed to have faith in the very thing that is about to kill them? The creature, a large minotaur-like monster, then finds this rapturous wave of faith for itself and feeds. Body after body falls until the Doctor can figure it out. Confusingly, Rory was shown to be a fatalist in some manner, and was said to have no faith. Since he only lives for himself, we are led to believe that the monster would leave him alone. Wouldn’t he have faith in Amy?

This idea is best played out when we find out that Amy hold all of her faith in the Doctor. He greatest fear is the Doctor abandoning her in some way, and she clings to him for help. Realizing that Amy regards him as some sort of God-like figure he has to make her lose faith in him or she’ll die. This was seen at one other point in Doctor Who history, an eighties episode called the Curse of Fenric. Then it was Ace that the Doctor was forced to mess with, although that instance was far more cruel than what we got tonight. The Doctor could have said something like “I could have saved your baby, but I chose not to”, instead we get the Doctor humbling himself.

All in all this was a good episode, but I will have to watch it again to fully take it in. the unorthodox direction, the weird plot and a few things to ponder make this hard to fully register. I do have some things to ponder for next week:

What exactly did the Doctor see behind his fear door? I assumed it was himself, but could it be someone truly evil?

What does the doctor worship? Amy asks this and the Doctor basically brushes it aside. Was this a random bit of dialogue, or is there importance to it? I feel this may tie in to point one, possibly showing the “big bad” of this season. It may be false hope, but I really want there to be a crazy evil time lord to be the ringleader at the end, and I wonder if this was the seed planted in our heads.

If the Minotaur is related to the Nimons and was seen as a God to some group, did that imply that he was the God of them? It wasn’t really made clear.

British Science Fiction VS American Science Fiction: Why All The Fuss?

Anyone stopping by this site might wonder why exactly I don’t just talk about ALL science fiction, I mean it’s not like I don’t watch stuff from my home country at all. Keeping in mind that I am a Star Trek fan, I’ve dabbled in Star Wars, and I love some old Buck Rogers, that doesn’t excuse the fact that I am shamelessly addicted to stuff from the “other side of the pond”. The question remains, is there really a difference to the two different styles, can one distinctly draw a line between the two sides and separate them? For me, the answer is yes.

I think the main difference can all be chalked up to the argument of mood vs spectacle with the British productions geared heavily towards atmosphere, mood, and concepts and most American helmed productions relying mostly on spectacle, visuals, and special effects. As one can imagine, most of this can be chalked up to budgetary constraints, as anyone with access to millions of dollars in production budget would love to make something as grand as Star Wars, but if you are given far less you may have to settle for Blakes 7. What this usually means is that the actual scripting for these British programs has to be scripted to concentrate on tension, horror, and relationships versus escapist imagery. This forces the writers to go for ballsy content that will grab viewers and hold them; while there are a few American scifi shows that have taken this route, many “wuss out”.

A prime example of this neutering of concept in favor of spectacle can be seen in the American version of Life on Mars, a remake of a UK show from a few years ago. At first glance, the shows seem similar, but anyone will immediately notice a stark difference between the two. First and foremost, we have the production values in place hammering away any subtlety in concept. Instead of filming in antiquated areas, and keeping things dingy, the American show goes for a smooth veneer of CGI effects on things to add in the twin towers and other relics to constantly remind us of another time.

Screw subtlety, here we have "shock and awe"

I was constantly baffled by the use of yellow lense filters to instill a weird vibe on the show, it made it look like portions were filmed on Venus or something. I know folks had a hideous concept of color back then, but wouldn’t it be better to actually use sets with yellow, green and brown things in them instead of just tossing a filter over everything? It’s not like the sky was yellow back then, though I was born in the 1980’s so maybe I missed that memo. This basically ruined the show for me right from the beginning because it makes it hazy and hard to see anything in any of the shots. Instead of thinking “man, Gene Hunt’s office has terrible décor”, I thought to myself “why is he at work at sundown in a foggy yellow-lit room?” While both shows do a fairly decent job of keeping the early 1970’s fashion and hairstyles in check, the American one looks a bit too “shiny” and somewhat gratuitous. The acting seems more “Hollywood” and fake, and everything looks too clean and sterilized. Even the classic cars seem to all be from car shows, no spec of dirt on any of them. The U.K. Life on Mars excels on “not trying too hard” and succeeds by keeping everything simple. The U.S. version tries far too hard, and as a result fails.

Another huge misstep is the overall casting of the show. In the original, Sam was a normal sized guy, athletic but not too large. This was at odds with Gene Hunt’s large size and physicality. We were to believe that if the two were to ever get in a fight, Hunt would decimate Sam with sheer size and brute strength. Instead we have a Sam that towers over Hunt, a sixty year old Hunt to be exact. I know Harvey Keitel is a well-liked actor, but how am I supposed to believe that he is a hardass, if it looks as if he could break a hip at any moment. Everyone else looks “too pretty” if you get my drift, nobody looks like a real person, and it seems like they cast the show from a modeling agency.

Dear God! Why is the sky yellow?

My final real problem is that the show has been whitewashed to be more politically correct. In the original Gene Hunt is not a nice man, he is a corrupt cop that uses his rank to bully everyone around him. Aside from that he is a chauvinist, he is racist, he is homophobic, and he has the manners of a drunken frat guy. While a bit of that stays in, things like racist views are taken largely out, as to not offend people. I can see why this happened, but the whole point of the character is to show an exact opposing view to Sam, someone that Sam tries so hard to avoid being. This way, when Gene starts to soften up, especially in the sequel show Ashes to Ashes, he is that much more endearing.

I could keep going, but I’d rather not nit-pick the entire show to death. Truth is, had I never seen the original version I still would have been annoyed by the show, and probably not finished it.

By doing this comparison, I am by no means belittling American science fiction as the inferior product, but it does show why one can almost never truly adapt a program from there to here, our sensibilities are so different. On the flip-side imagine a show like V (the new one) being created in the U.K., it would be an entirely different show. So yes, there is a difference in the two brands of sci-fi, and I prefer one over the other.

Doctor Who Dubstep Remix

You know, I actually don’t like most dubstep music, but this is pretty cool:

 

 

that and the video is funny!

Columbia House: An Easy Way to amass a Large Doctor Who DVD Collection

I’ve had friends ask me how I was able to afford all of the Doctor Who DVDs that I own, which to be honest isn’t a ton, but to them it is impressive. My secret is that I’ve signed up for Columbia House on two occasions to take advantage of their introductory package. The last time I did it, I had to pay for one DVD and got four or so for just shipping. My total bill was in the neighborhood of around $40 USD, which is a LOT better than the $150 or so that it would have been if I simply paid out of pocket. There is one major drawback, in that one has to fulfill an agreement and buy more DVDs at club prices to “make good”, but it usually only ends up being 2-3 DVDs which is still a good deal. Right now they have a deal where you get 3 DVDs for a buck each, then have to buy 5 more in five years. This isn’t as good as my introductory offer, but check back often as they change these up a lot.

They do hound you with their director’s selections that one has to reply to, or you get some utter crap in the mail, but if one stays vigilant you can really save some money. Here is a list of the currently available serials for 9/16/2011:

Delta and the Bannermen
Four to Doomsday
Brain of Morbius
TV Movie
Pyramids of Mars
War Machines
Terror of the Autons
Masque of Mandragora
Kinda
Snake dance
Curse of Peladon
Attack of the Cybermen
Three Doctors
Time Meddler

There are also a handful available for club members only, mostly collections and boxed sets.

A Fandom Divided: Stop The Insanity!

Craig Ferguson said it best when he put lyrics over the iconic theme for Doctor Who, lyrics in which he tried to sum up the point of the show for those that may have not seen it:

“One thing is consistent though and this is why the show is so beloved by geeks and nerds.
It’s all about the triumph of intellect and romance
over brute force and cynicism.
Intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism!”

Cynicism can hurt any sort of fandom as it gives many a false sense of what the general opinion of the masses could be. It also makes it hard to attract new fans, as the older fans are seen as jerks by the general masses. I try to stay away from acting like this if I can, but fail miserably when it comes to things like WWE wrestling; something I used to love, but struggle to tolerate today. The difference between me and other fans, is that I try not to get too worked up about things; if something pisses me off, I simply distance myself from it for a while as to not prolong the torture I endure when I attempt to watch it. This however is not a trait shared between me and other fans of certain shows I like, Doctor Who being the one that caused this reaction.

I’m all for having differing opinions on things, in fact, while doing this blog I began to read a fellow blogger’s site, Tea With Morbius run by a Mr. Matthew C. We don’t see “eye to eye” with our views on the show, but he doesn’t attack me for it, we just have polite discussion about things we both like. That’s the beauty of a show like this; it has been going on for so long that it has many fans of many different eras. This common courtesy has not been happening on a lot of Doctor Who related message boards as of late, with one of the more popular ones out there turning into a vile cesspool of trolling, personal attacks, and utter disgusting behavior. Sadly I decided to stop attending one such site today, not because I don’t like seeing different opinions, but because I don’t like seeing a group of people scared to say what they believe with fear of being attacked.

This isn’t just from cynical “haters” of the current season, but smug “fanboys” as well, while I don’t like such brandings, they are sadly the best way to illustrate the situation. On one hand we have folks that post their undying hatred for the current show to the degree that some have begun to personally attack others for liking it. This has caused a group of “cheerleaders”, folks that champion the current series, to show up and try to counter them at every turn. All I see are two groups of asinine people fighting for no reason. I guess it may just be my current annoyance with many dualistic institutions such as our current government and its sudden inability to work together; but I don’t want my favorite fandom to suddenly get a huge schism right down the middle. I have seen this happen with other things such as the aforementioned pro wrestling scene (WWF vs. WCW in the past, currently WWE vs. TNA), The Japanese anime Gundam (UC fans vs. “Wingers”) and many more.

Why can’t we all be more moderate? With Doctor Who, I mentioned that there are many different flavors for fans to like. In my case, I grew up watching old Tom Baker episodes on PBS in the late eighties, when it came time to actually watch more than just the handful of 70’s serials I had seen, I made a real effort to take it all in. I fell in love with the William Hartnell episodes of the 60’s as well as those same Tom Baker episodes immediately. I did, however, not take to the 80’s era as much and still do not regard it as one of the better eras of the show. But that’s the thing; it’s just my opinion in the end. Many HATE the older episodes, and love the very same ones I do not like. Do I feel the need to yell at those folks and get them to my side? NO! I respect the show too much, and generally like any era of the show. I’d take a “bad” episode of Doctor Who over pretty much anything else on TV most of the time, well that is except for the TV movie (I kid, I kid!).

We all just need to chill out, and stop the penis measuring contest. In the grand scheme of things there are more important things in the world to get riled up about, and a science fiction show isn’t one of them!

Reaction: Doctor Who – The Girl Who Waited

I’ve tried to keep this largely spoiler free, any story points are purposely left vague.

Every year a Doctor Who episode comes around that makes me think to myself “this is the one that will get the Hugo awards nod.” Last year I felt exactly the same way about Vincent and the Doctor, and it was at least nominated. I’m not going to go out and say that it was a perfect episode, but in my honest opinion The Girl Who Waited is the best episode of this season so far. It has been a while since we’ve had an episode so emotionally gutting that it seemingly left many fans sobbing at the end. I did not thankfully cry, but was struck with the immense sense of emotional uneasiness usually left for when I finish watching something like Children of Men or District 9, not a show deemed a “kid’s show” by many. Keep in mind that I by no means want the entire series to play out like the last episode, but these emotional “adult” episodes keep fans buzzing and keep the show pretty exciting.

What a comeback for Tom McCrae as well. When he last let his pen touch paper in the Doctor Who realm we ended up with Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel; neither was a really bad episode, but neither pushed the show the same way they could have. I remember hearing that that two-parter was somehow related, even adapted, from the Big Finish audio drama Spare Parts, I don’t see how as that particular audio episode was AMAZING, and the TV variant was average. Perhaps the only bad thing I can say about the whole thing is that McCrae himself was obviously very pleased with himself after the episode aired, and managed to make himself look like a total arrogant jackass on the Confidential episode this week. For my money, one has to write a series of great episodes before one can act that smug (LOL). A lot can be credited for both the acting and the direction from all involved, as with the faltering of either would have resulted in a very different animal.

So anyway, back to the episode…We finally saw the return of the Doctor’s moral ambiguity and alien POV to the show this week. Many times lately, we have been witnessing a Doctor that somehow sees himself as a superhero or “space Jesus”-like character, flying around saving kittens in trees and helping old ladies cross the road. While this Doctor isn’t as edgy as say, Captain Jack Harkness, he has no qualms manipulating folks for the better good, a quality not really seen in large part since Sylvester McCoy’s run on the show many years ago. The scenario in question involved the Doctor lying to his most trusted companions only to place them with a horrendous decision to overcome at the end. Without spoiling the actual plotline, a memorable moment had Rory yelling “you’re turning me into you!” and Amy screaming “I trusted you!” both pretty intense for said “children’s show”. This should come as no surprise for long time and even recent fans, as we have learned many times that rule number one is “the Doctor lies”.

Here’s hoping the next few episodes are up to the quality of this one, and with a Cyberman episode, the return of Craig, and the answers we need sooo badly I don’t see how it won’t.

Survivors Ep 1 (2008) Reaction

Having never seen the original version of the Survivors due to my assumption that it was not released outside of the UK until very recently, I was able to take to the new version (well, 2008 version…new for me :P) with an open mind and very clean slate. I was initially drawn in due to the inclusion of a handful of actors I like including Freema Agyeman, Paterson Joseph, and even a very brief appearance from Shaun Dingwall. Of course all three have been in Doctor Who, but I enjoy their performances in just about anything they are in, especially Mr. Joseph. With my love of all things grimy and post-apocalyptic, the immediate premise of Survivors was right up my alley. I’ve been ready for a show in a similar mind to Day of the Triffids, except a bit more modern. Survivors asks the age old question of how humanity will react if we are plunged into a nightmarish world of survival. As many would imagine, some will be heroic, and others will do anything to survive even using others and resorting to evil.

The premise of the show is fairly simple, a woman named Abby comes down with a horrible case of flu that the tabloids and such are labeling the “European Flu”. Much like the media circus surrounding both the “bird Flu” and “Swine Flu” many are freaking out about the whole thing including news agencies and politicians alike. Abby falls asleep only to find her entire world turned upside down when she awakens THREE DAYS LATER. Not only is her husband dead in the next room, but so is her entire neighborhood. Scared for the safety of her only son, she embarks on a quest to find him, alive or dead, and meets the worst of humanity.

While Abby is definitely the main protagonist of the show, this initial episode does concentrate on many other people including Anya and her friend Jenny (a doctor and a schoolteacher respectively), Al Sadiq (the son of a wealthy businessman), Najid (A very religious Muslim boy), Samantha Willis (a media minister for the government), Tom (A prisoner), and later Greg (a man trying to live as a loner with his trust in the world shot). All of these stories are separate at first, but slowly merge together as the survivors begin forming small parties.

As a first episode, this one does a good job of instilling the same jarring horror that was seen in both Day of the Triffids and 28 days Later. In many cases, whatever character we happen to be following is a single entity amongst a mass of decaying corpses, many of which are their friends, family members, and in Najid’s case his entire church congregation. This leaves many to cope a lot better than others, notably the differences between Anya and Abby. Abby reacts in a very strong manner, pledging to find her son at any means necessary. On the other hand Anya initially attempts to end her own life, due to the horrors witnessed at the hospital.

While I’m more into science fiction and fantasy that relies on humor and wit, possibly even adventure as the main driving force, I enjoyed this episode. As dark and bleak as Survivors is, I was still engrossed. Not once did it cross into the “hard drama with a sci-fi veneer” edge that many sci-fi shows faded into. Not that I’m slagging off such shows as being inferior, I just usually don’t like them as a matter of taste. I think it’s just my affinity for post-apocalyptic stories that lets me enjoy even the darkest of the genre, Children of Men comes to mind, while I generally don’t like other similar things. I’ve avoided comparing this show to Lost as it existed much earlier in its previous incarnation, but in a way it is structured in a similar method. You basically have all of these people with conflicting viewpoints, ways of life, and even beliefs forced to work together because the world has been reduced to a matter of “strength by numbers”.

Right now I’m watching this show on Netflix, and plan to finish both seasons. Hopefully at some point I can get a chance to catch the original as well, assuming it has aged as well as most Terry Nation stuff.

Review – Doctor Who: The Holy Terror

Big Finish Audio “quick review”

Summary: The TARDIS lands in a forbidding castle in a time of religious upheaval. The old god has been overthrown, and all heretics are to be slaughtered. Obviously it isn’t the sort of thing which would happen there every day — just every few years or so. Soon after the Doctor and Frobisher are hailed as messengers from heaven, they become vital to opposing factions in their struggle for power. But will they be merely the acolytes of the new order — or will they be made gods themselves? Evil is growing deep within the crypt. And the pair soon find out that they will be lucky to escape their new immortality with their lives.

Before I listened to this audio adventure I had not really came across anything with the non-human companion Frobisher in it. This is a shame because he is such a fun character that I definitely want to hear more with him; I may even try to get a trade paperback of the comic strips that he originally came from. For those not familiar with the character, Frobisher is a shape shifting alien that insists on making himself look like a huge penguin and speak like he’s from a seedy New York back-alley. I’m all for more non-human companions, they definitely make the concept that much more interesting.

The Holy Terror is, for all purposes, a satire on how silly religious zealotry can get sometimes. As a spiritual person, this doesn’t appeal to me on the “ha ha look at religious people LOL” wavelength that many will most likely take the episode as, but more a glimpse into how fundamentalism is bad. The episode starts with the untimely death of a man named Pepin VI. In this land, Pepin VI is seen as a living God, and the simple act of his death means that he was not only a liar, but anyone that supported him should be imprisoned or killed. Pepin VII has no interest in being king at all, much less some sort of God-king. In fact he questions this very fact as he literally feels no different than he did before. Since he should feel like a god, this concerns him greatly. When the time comes for him to conjure up a miracle to satisfy the masses at his coronation a certain blue box appears…

What follows is an odd mixture of horror and humor, the likes I haven’t really come across in any Doctor Who media. On one hand we have grotesque situations like the appearances of characters like Amulf, a depressing take on the evil man-servant archetype, this one having had his tongue brutally removed to show servitude. On the other we have zany comical scenes such as Frobisher getting a statue dedicated to himself, a fact that sort of goes to his head. These two seemingly opposing story types meld somewhat well and lead this story to be one of my favorites of the whole line. Considering I’m not a huge fan of 1980’s Doctor Who, I really like Colin Baker’s work on Big Finish and feel that the direction those guys put forth really brings out characters that were once reviled by most. I mean, look at what they did to Mel!

The only real downside to this story is that it does contain a random M. Night Shyamalan-esque twist towards the end of the story once we know the true nature of the actual villain of the story. This revelation (that I will try not to spoil) flips the story upside down and makes characters switch around in importance. This is a bit jarring, but evidence of something like this happeneing was planet fairly early on in the story.

My Rating 5 out of 5

Doctor Who Random Thoughts (catch-up edition)

Yeah …. it has been literally months since I last posted on here. Truth is I have been trying my best to get a new job, a driver’s license, and keep up with the shenanigans at my current workplace, all this amongst other things. The last episode I looked at was “the Curse of the Black Spot” many ages ago, so instead of going back and forcing myself to write a bunch of blog posts about things that aired months ago, I figured I’d get myself all caught up in one fell-swoop.

First and foremost, I want to commend BBCA for finally pushing Doctor Who into (as close as one could imagine) the mainstream. Their advertising, toy sales, store tie-ins, and other promotions have taken my favorite show from some obscure basement dweller-esque obsession a more recognized nerdy past-time. It makes me crack up how popular the show has become today, and how easily the younger folks out there have latched onto it.

I remember ordering a nearly 20 foot long Tom Baker era scarf for the costume on my “about page” for a Halloween party a number of years ago. When I got to the party, literally one person, my wife (then girlfriend) knew what I was dressed as. There was a random dude we saw at Target that seemed pretty stoked I had the scarf and hat on but others dismissed the costume entirely as if I had made it up. Now one can see a multitude of Doctor Who costumes at conventions, even ones that have nothing to do with science fiction. We recently attended an Anime Convention in Kansas City where there was something like 3-4 Tenth Doctors running around, this fact made me very happy.

I think my own personal smugness with the fandom truly came into effect when my former boss gave me crap about my love for the show. This was not in a malicious way, but the product of a two party fun-poking competition where I pointed out how big Doctor Who was getting and made fun of Lost (his favorite show) and vice versa. My crowning achievement was setting up a display at the store with a generic sign that said “local favorites” comprised of Doctor Who books and DVDs we had been getting. This display was met with snickers from him until season 5 was released on DVD. Pretty soon I did take down my display, only to replace it with a huge professionally done display sent by corporate full of Matt Smith toys, daleks, books and more. Needless to say I didn’t hear any snide comments for a bit. I know, small victories and all….(LOL) You see I’m not one that wants “my show” to stay “underground” aka nobody has seen it. I’d like to share my fandom, and now I can.

So anyway, this week marks the middle of the second half of season six, and we are FINALLY getting some answers. Being a Moffat fan, the structure of this season does not bother me, but I can see a few folks chomping at the bit for resolutions for things a few seasons in the making. I do hope that this series arc concept isn’t repeated to such a degree in the future, as I actually enjoy episodes that stand on their own a bit more than ones that are a mere puzzle piece in the grand scheme of things. It’s hard to really rate such an episode because it could be utterly brilliant once you see what comes later. A return to a more “anthology” style suits the show better (in my opinion, of course). This season hasn’t been bad at all, in fact it has been great….it’s just been different as well. I will say that I preferred last season a bit compared to this one as a whole, but that could change if the next few episodes blow me away.

Now that we basically know who River Song is, and how she is related to The Doctor, Amy, and Rory, these last few episodes really need to flesh out the craziness in the Doctor’s apparent death. I still feel that the “death” we saw was staged for some reason, but knowing the way Moffat likes to mess with us it may not be that simple at all. I just hope that the whole thing gets wrapped up with a bow at the end, maybe introducing a huge foe for a while at the same time.