Doctor Who Video Roundup

Rather than clogging up your blog “reader”, I figured I’d post some videos that I’ve been meaning to mess with all week. I’ll try to post something else this weekend, and move away from 50th anniversary stuff for a while. I still need to watch the much derided “BBC after party” that is so spectacularly bad it’s hilarious and a few more specials (like the one from Big Finish), so they’ll be on here eventually, but maybe not in the next few days.

Strax videos:

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Doctor Who: The Last Day (2013)

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After the incredibly awesome mini-episode The Night of the Doctor, I was pretty stoked to see yet another mini-episode a few days later. Sadly, this four minutes of material lacks almost all of the impact that TNOTD had and barely comes across as well as those one-minute cellphone prequels they did for series 2. I’m only writing about it because I feel like I should be a “completionist” since I’ve been tackling all of the other 50th anniversary material. This was intended as a prequel to the actual special, but it almost seems more like a DVD special feature.

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The Last Day tells the story of a Gallifreyan soldier that has been enlisted into the Arcadian branch of their military. As viewers, we see the unfolding story through the eyes of this soldier, a fact that almost immediately makes this seem like a “cut-scene” from a modern “first person shooter” videogame. We are told that Arcadia is the “safest place on Gallifrey” and that nothing has ever gone through both of the oddly-named “sky trenches” we saw in The Day of the Doctor.

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Our soldier goes through the agony of having a psychic head-cam bolted into his skull: first the actual pain, then multiple hallucinations of the instructor talking to the newbie seemingly dying. The instructor goes through great pains to explain away these “hallucinations” as an after effect of the camera itself, and not any sort of premonitions. Our soldier is taken to a large gun battery and briefly participates in some target practice. He is told to be on the look out for a Dalek, because “only one would destroy the city”. Seconds later millions of our old armored squid-guys fill the sky, and massacre all of the soldiers.

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It’s good to see a bit more of the Gallifreyan military, since anything about their society outside of their high-ranking elite is fairly vague in the TV and books. This was essentially an introduction to the ground soldiers we saw in The Day of The Doctor, and it did well in that regard. Sadly the script isn’t great, the acting is bland, and it feels rather cheap to be quite honest. I didn’t hate it by any means, but it The Last Day seems fairly unnecessary. I would have rather enjoyed four more minutes of Paul McGann, and that’s all there is to it.

Check Out These Shiny New “Time of The Doctor” Promo Images

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Leaked Video of The Day of the Doctor “Mini-Sodes” Before the Feature

As I posted last week, the theatrical release of The Day of The Doctor included two featurettes involving Strax and the “three doctors”. I was saddened to learn that these were not on the DVD / Blu-Ray evidently, but someone has “leaked them to Youtube for us!

Hope Strax doesn’t find out!!

Also, if you missed my 50th Anniversary coverage, here you go:

 

 

An Adventure in Space and Time (2013)

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I was pretty happy when the BBC announced this “docudrama” of the creation of Doctor Who. I mean, I was blown away by all the 50th anniversary programs we got this year, but this was just the icing on the cake for me. Mark Gatiss had his work cut out for him in organizing a film that not only told this “origin story” of the long-lived television show, but did it in such a way that it wasn’t geared solely to the most hardcore of hardcore fans. As the opening card states “you can’t rewrite history, not one line…”, so things had to be altered somewhat for dramatic effect, but it seems like everything in this was within the realm of reality. It’s for this reason, the BBC couldn’t have got a better Doctor Who ambassador than Gatiss to make the program

Mark Gatiss first proposed something similar to An Adventure in Space and Time ten years ago, it was to commemorate the 40th anniversary, or so he thought. BBC higher ups flat out rejected the idea, implying that there was zero interest in reviving the show, and such a drama would be a niche program that the masses would not enjoy. This was still “the wilderness years”, a time when fans had basically settled in the fact that their beloved show would never be back. And so, time passed. In 2005 Doctor Who did come back, and ended up being one of the biggest things BBC could ever dream of. Personally, I’m glad this got made now, and not in 2002. Everything would have ended on the bitter notion that the show was over and we were looking back into one of TV’s most beloved ghosts of the past. By waiting, they were able to really treat everything like how it should be treated – a celebration.

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The story of An Adventure in Space and Time is essentially split into two halves that blend together. The first is the story of Verity Lambert, a hard working woman in a “boys club” trying to progress her career in the 1960’s. Lambert was hired by the BBC Head of Drama, Sydney Newman, to create a show based around an idea for a time traveling history program. She was partnered with Waris Hussein, an Indian “art film” director, and thrown out to get things right. They were both inexperienced, and handicapped from the start in the eyes of many at the BBC due to race and gender, but they made it work. After a few false starts, they were able to persuade veteran character actor William Hartnell to take the title role. Then it happened, the show’s second serial, The Daleks, exploded and catapulted Doctor Who into popularity.

The other half is the story of William Hartnell’s role as The Doctor, how it changed his life, and how he didn’t want to give it up. Hartnell was type-cast as “crusty” soldiers in war movies almost exclusively, and this was making him feel unappreciated. He is portrayed as lacking self-esteem, and harboring anger issues due to his career taking a wrong turn. We see his home life being a tad “rough around the edges” as he treats his own family, wife and granddaughter, pretty poorly. Little by little, the role warms his heart, and changes his life. Then just as quickly as it happened, his poor health rips the job away from him.

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David Bradley is one of those character actors that always stood in the background of many films that I enjoyed. I always noticed him, but he was never on my “top actor” list. He’s show up in something, like Hot Fuzz for instance, and I’d think “oh hey, that’s Argus Filch!”. Recently, I’ve been really noticing how great this guy is. I think it was when my wife and I started watching The World Without End, and his role of Brother Joseph stood out. He was a villain of sorts, actually quite a horrendous character, but he did such a good job at it. I was excited to see him get this gig playing William Hartnell, and was pretty confident that he’d do okay, but boy was I surprised when he did GREAT. Whenever an actor provides a performance that makes me have teary eyes, like Bradley does towards the end of the film, he’s doing something right. If he doesn’t at least get some sort of nomination at the BAFTA awards something is wrong.

Aside from David Bradley, the casting in An Adventure in Space and Time is amazing. Brian Cox (The actor, not the scientist) does a fine job with his interpretation of Sydney Newman. The loud, boisterous, and almost eccentric Newman is complete with goofy catchphrases and a dark side that show this man saw himself as “the life of the party” and cool, just as long as you didn’t make him mad. Jessica Raine, who fans might remember in the Doctor Who episode Hide, was another outstanding choice, this time for Verity Lambert. While she understates the “piss and vinegar” that Lambert was known for, I feel Raine did an amazing performance. Sacha Dhawan portrays Waris Hussein, and did such a fine job being subtle with much of the man’s life. Hussein was Indian and homosexual in a land where neither was tolerated. Some actors may have played up either trait into the land of stereotypes, but Dhawan did not.

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Eagle-eyed viewers will notice that there were quite a few nods the the past within the show. Classic Doctor Who actors like William Russell, Carole Ann Ford, Jean Marsh, and Anneke Wills all appeared in short cameos throughout the film. Other people like Toby Hadoke and Nick Briggs also appear, and will be recognizable by longtime fans. These “Easter eggs” are combined with shot for shot remakes of a handful of scenes from various 60’s episodes, and I loved playing “spot the episode”. My favorites were the recreation of the ill-fated “pilot episode”, The Dalek Invasion of Earth scenes and the Cybermen, shown eating and smoking cigarettes in a menacing way.

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I was only disappointed with one thing in An Adventure in Space and Time, and sadly it was one thing I was pretty excited about. Reece Shearsmith was cast as Patrick Troughton (The second Doctor), and although he only appears for a few moments, his portrayal as Troughton was disappointing to me. Being an impressionist, Shearsmith mimicked Troughton’s voice and mannerisms pretty well, but it fell flat. I’d rather he played his own version of Troughton, like Bradley with Hartnell, because his impression seemed hollow for some reason.

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Earlier I talked about a moment that made my emotions get away with me, well more like two moments. One was a scene involving William Hartnell at home after he was “fired” from the show due to his ailing health. Bradley pumped so much emotion into a relatively simple scene involving Hartnell “breaking down” in front of his bathroom mirror that it was almost hard to watch. With Bradley bawling and saying “I don’t want to go!” one could easily get lost in his performance. The other moment, one that fans were are on, involves Hartnell filming his final scene. At one point he looks up to the empty TARDIS and sees a “future vision” of Matt Smith in the role leaning on the TARDIS console. With a knowing smile, the audience gets the symbolism that this “regeneration” has created a way for the show to go on, and it will live on without Hartnell. I think some people took the scene too literally, and a glance at the internet showed more than a few people asking “Did the Doctor visit William Hartnell?” and other indications of a point well missed.

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An Adventure in Space and Time was amazing, and I may have even liked it more than The Day of the Doctor. I’m one of the weird cases in that I grew up a fan of Tom Baker Doctor Who from PBS, but grew attached to William Hartnell episodes in particular. I wasn’t even alive in the sixties, so it’s not like I have nostalgia for the time period, so I can’t put my finger on why I loved this so much. I think I just feel like many overlook the First Doctor, and William Hartnell in particular. He may have had his personal demons, but this respect he has been getting lately is amazing. In closing, I will state it once again, this needs BAFTA nominations – Gattis for screenplay, and Bradley for Acting.

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The Science of Doctor Who – With Professor Brian Cox (2013)

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When all of the numerous Doctor Who specials were aired this past week, there was one that really surprised me – The Science of Doctor Who – With Professor Brian Cox. These sorts of specials come out in America all the time, especially on cable channels wanting a ratings boost during a blockbuster film release weekend. I’ve seen history shows that capitalized on 300, The Da Vinci Code, Star Trek, and basically any other genre film that has a large fan base. It seems Doctor Who has entered the fray with it’s own science program starring Brian Cox. American fans may remember Mr. Cox from many shows aired on The Science Channel including Wonders of the Solar System and Wonders of the Universe. He’s also on a few episode’s of Stephen Fry’s Q.I. (shown on Hulu in the U.S.) and one Doctor Who episode, The Power of Three, in a cameo of sorts. Cox can essentially be seen as the successor to David Attenborough and Patrick Moore, both prominent UK based science presenters.

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The main attraction for fans of the show, rather than all that pesky learning that could happen, is that there are a handful of “skits” peppered into the show involving Brian Cox having an adventure with The Doctor in the TARDIS. This all occurred because Professor Cox accidentally entered the time traveling police box in his way to his dressing room. The Doctor decided to “show him up” by showing off some real “wonders of science”. Had Brian Cox been a trained actor, these could have been amazing, but without that, they are merely decent. Cox seems sort of wooden throughout.

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There were of course celebrity guests involved, a fact that always makes me cringe with these sorts of things. Charles Dance, Richard Bacon, Rufus Hound, John Culshaw, and Christian Jessen lent their talents as scientific assistants to Professor Cox as he explained a handful of topics. These included how the Eye of Harmony could actually be possible, how time travel could potentially work, alien contact, and a handful of other topics related to Doctor Who. I’m not too familiar with any of these guests aside from Charles Dance, so their relevance was lost on me a bit as an American. A few of the sections were pretty cool, including an explanation on how the hourglass shaped space-time universe works. Others were seemingly disjointed, like a section where Brian Cox began explaining time travel via diagrams on a blackboard, only to alter course into an entirely different subject, then return much later on.

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While The Science of Doctor Who – With Professor Brian Cox was essentially a sneaky science program piggybacking on the 50th anniversary hysteria, that isn’t to say it’s not a good program. Cox does a fine job of teaching concepts from physics and astronomy in such a way that even kids can understand it and apply it to how they see the universe. Perhaps the only downside was the faux-“chumminess” between Cox and his celebrity guests, most of which seem to be less than enthusiastically involved, Professor Cox included. Brian Cox has done a great job helping “normal people” understand psychics, but I feel someone like Neil Degrasse Tyson or Bill Nye hold more “nerd credibility” and energy than Cox. I like my science guys either fun or “trippy” like Carl Sagan so to me Cox sometimes comes off as smarmy and a bit pretentious, and I would have hoped he would lighten up a bit for what was ostensibly a family program.

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Revisited: The Top Ten Things I wanted to see in the 50th Anniversary Back in March 2012

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Doctor Who 50th Celebration – David Tennant toy (Photo credit: p_a_h)

Almost twenty months ago, I made a few predictions, or at least some sort of wish list for what I wanted to see with the Doctor Who 50th anniversary celebration. Here it is:

Top Ten Things I’d like to see (Or Not) With the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary

There has been a lot of chatter on podcasts and fansites where people want to know how fans felt about what we got, and more specifically want we wanted in the first place. This mostly came up because there was a vocal minority that whined about “how BBC were handling things” in relation to “the 50th.” I think looking back at my ramblings from then would be fun, since I do have such an article . I will re-list each segment of the original article, then follow it up in a different color with commentary on how it turned out, why It didn’t happen, or why I was full of crap.

Red words = I got it wrong

Blue words = I got it right

(I apologize if the color formatting does not work well in your reader)

10. Multi Doctor Story with at Least McGann and Tennant – I know that some fans bemoan such an episode, but I think it goes without saying – the best way to celebrate the long run of Doctor Who is to run a “multiple Doctor story” like past episodes such as “The Three Doctors”, “The Five Doctors”, “Dimensions in Time” etc. The old saying goes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” so why not – why break a tradition that has been around for decades. This coupled with the fact that David Tennant has basically said that he is going to have something to do with the anniversary, I think It’s a shoe-in that we will see something like this, even for a short cameo.

What I would really LOVE to see is Paul McGann reprise his role as the eighth Doctor. Many fans see him as an overlooked part of the saga, and he is still technically a “current Doctor” as his regeneration has been only seen off-camera. We don’t know how old he was before the time war, I mean heck, he could have had white hair before it was all said and done. Unlike other older titular actors, McGann isn’t much older, so they do not have to come up with a terrible explanation about why the Doctor has aged forty years. This brings me to:

NAILED IT – This turned out better than I expected. Not only did we get a new “Three Doctors” essentially, but all twelve incarnations – no make that all thirteen – Doctors had appearances via computer effects and well placed stock footage. One can’t forget the awesome inclusion of The Night of The Doctor(READ THE REVIEW!), starring Paul McGann to make this 100% on the ball. 

9. Cameos from older actors – The above problem is one that I hope they don’t have to discuss as one only has to watch something like Dimensions in Time to see how weird it is to see a former “doctor” that has aged so much. Of course I’m speaking of Tom Baker, and the silly half-explanation about why he was old, overweight and had grey hair. Yes, age happens, and I’m sure Moffat is a more than capable writer to pull something like this off, but why waste tape? Why not have as many actors as one can get, that want to take part, and have them be there in cameos? Maybe we can have a scene of some sort of government body like the Parliament composed of actors from the older show. This would be good to showcase the older actors, and not get too over the top. If they were to bring back an old companion, like they have done with Sarah Jane, Jo Grant, and the Brigadier, why don’t they bring back:

NAILED IT – Aside from Tom Baker’s awesome appearance, there was a veritable “who’s who in Doctor Who, if you factor in things like Adventures in Space and Time, Night of the Doctor, and The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. Tom was the only “classic Doctor” to appear in the main special in the flesh, and it was explained with tongue-in-cheek vagueness to avoid my main concern. “The Curator” is such a mysterious character that nobody really knows the intention. Could he be an aged Fourth Doc? Is he another Timelord? Is he a future incarnation? The other specials had brief cameos cameos from just about every living person that wanted to be involved, from John Barrowman to Matthew Waterhouse!  

8. The Return of Susan – what better way to look back at fifty years of this amazing show than to have the first companion come back? I have no idea how this would be pulled off, but having Carol Ann Ford reprise her role as the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan Foreman would be awesome, even if it was a brief appearance.

NOPE! – Unless you count her portrayal in an Adventure of Space and Time, and the cameo of Carole Ann Ford, the actual character never appeared in any return. She was mentioned, and we saw a picture of her in U.N.I.T.’s black vault, but that’s about it. 

7.  No “every villain teams up” story – Since we’ve already had this kind of thing happen in “The “Pandorica Opens” and “The Big Bang” it would be boring to have the same thing crop up in the special. I know it would be an easy idea to go along with, but this needs to be special, and to copy something from two seasons prior would not be so great.

NAILED IT! – although this does appear to be the plot of the Christmas Special.

6. The Return of the Master – I’d love to see the master come back, especially if they decide to do a regeneration scene. While I think John Simm did well in the role, albeit being in two serials that I did not particularly love, I’d love to see new blood. Maybe Bennedict Cumberbatch will have free time?

NOPE! Not even close!

5. No metafiction drenched “breaking the fourth wall” stuff – Red Dwarf: Back to Earth was a solid few episodes of Red Dwarf, although fans were torn on it just a tad. A lot of that came from the plot, which seemed to make the distinction that the guys onboard the titular mining ship, were in fact on a TV show. While this made for an interesting story, it was almost on the verge of “jumping the shark” plot-wise, I mean where would they have gone from there had they kept that revelation part of the show? It would be too easy to write an episode where someone makes a TV show out of the Doctor’s exploits, but I hope we don’t see that. If they are going to think of something similar though….

NAILED IT – although the chances of this happening were pretty slim. There was a tiny “fourth wall” breaking scene with Tom Baker that rivaled the infamous “merry Christmas to all of you at home!” scene from the sixties “Congratulations (Wink)!”, but that wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

4. Load us up with “special features” – I know Doctor Who Confidential is gone, but we need some documentaries produced, sort of like the one they made right before the 2005 re-launch just re-tooled to hype up the anniversary and rebirth of the show. This stuff would make some fans appreciate a show’s heritage that they may have never known about before 2005-6 and make any DVD set that much better.

NAILED IT! – As you can tell, by my recent reviews, this was more than done.

3. “Making of” Movie – A real kicker would be a drama production of the story of the production of the show. Many fans do not know the uphill battle the show had before it became an icon of British scifi. Lorded over by a female producer (Verity Lambert) and an Indian Director (Waris Hussein) in a world of old white guys, the show definitely had an uphill battle at the beginning, not to mention its terrible ratings the day it first aired, the day JFK died.  As Picard would say: “Make it so..”

NAILED IT- Not only did I predict the movie, An Adventure in Space and Time, I predicted half of the plot! I did base my earlier post on my knowledge of Gatiss’s earlier proposal from a decade ago (the 40th anniversary special that BBC scoffed at), but had no idea that this literal scenario was going down.  

2. More than one episode – I know we have half of the seventh season to look forward to in 2013, but I hope they do something like David Tennant’s final “season” where we get multiple long form episodes, just as long as they aren’t as unspectacular as what we got then. I’m not saying they were terrible or anything, but they definitely were at the bottom of Davies’ caliber as a writer.

Nope! but I will say that long form episode in the theaters and in 3D made it a much better pill to swallow. 

1. No Regeneration – while I bet this would get the papers really rolling, add to viewership, and keep everyone buzzing, this would overshadow the actual anniversary if it would happen. If Matt were to leave soon, I hope he stays on until the eighth season. Not only would that make him have the traditional “four or so years” but keep that season exciting as well.

NAILED IT – Although the Christmas Special says “hi!”

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So, to answer the question above, I got almost EVERYTHING I expected and more. I was fairly pessimistic going into the second half of series 7 for some reason, and the top quality of those episodes and the 50th itself more than made up for my reservations. If anything, I’m more excited about the show than I was two years ago because of how much I’ve enjoyed the the 50th.

Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor (2013) 50th Anniversary Special

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Be warned, there are spoilers below:

This has been a real hard weekend for me because I had to wait until 10:00 Monday night to watch The Day of the Doctor while most everyone else saw it over 48 hours ago. This was because my wife and I scored some tickets at a (relatively) close theater in order to watch the special in 3-D on the big screen. We almost missed our chance because the original 7:30 showing sold out in a few days, leading the company to create a second showing. This wasn’t just an isolated case either, my area (the greater Kansas City area) had around 6-7 theaters that were ALL sold out.

The reason I was initially slow at getting tickets was that I stupidly underestimated the popularity of the show in 2013. This is of course because I recall being one of the few people that had ever heard of the show back in 2005-6, and assumed I could roll in late and still get tickets. Back then, I was basically mocked for liking “a show nobody has heard of” from a few people that shall remain nameless (You know who you are!). I’m so happy that Doctor Who seems to have such a large dedicated fanbase here in The States today. I should have known that younger folks enjoyed it, as you often see tons of cosplayers at anime and comic conventions in the area. Thanks to AMC and their events company for opening a second showing, that was a great thing for the fans (and AMC’s cash tills!).

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When we got there, a huge line suddenly appeared about 60 to 90 minutes before the showing, and I have never seen so many fezzes in one place in all my life. There were cosplayers of a few Doctors (mostly Matt Smith) including someone rocking an awesome First Doctor costume. We were there super early, and chatted up some of the other people in line. We got to hear some pretty good theories and even some pretty ridiculous ones from everyone, but all in all it was a great crowd.

I figured I’d go into the general theater experience, since people may want to know what was different, and how the crowds were. Any UK readers will be happy to know that we seem to have got the full experience over here as well. When we were finally seated, the usual asinine movie trivia on the screen was replaced by Doctor Who trivia. In many instances you could hear people in the audience participating, and it was cool seeing some of the younger fans, or at least newer fans, gasping at some of the answers. One in particular was a question like “which of these rock bands appeared in the 1960’s episode, The Chase?” When it was revealed to be The Beatles, you could hear a sudden enthusiastic murmur, where one could tell that minds had been blown.

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There was a funny moment where there was a ridiculously long pause before the 3D “reel” was switched on (I’m aware they do it with hard drives now), and about 25 sonic screwdrivers suddenly appeared from fans, young and old, attempting to fix the problem. This atmosphere was awesome to behold. I’ve been to midnight releases and special events in the past, and the most you’d ever see might be the odd clapping at the end of the film. These fans let out many “squees” during the episode itself, and I’ll later post what got the biggest reaction. You could tell that many saw this as a “once in a lifetime” experience. Everyone was excited, energetic, and happy.

Before the show, we did get treated to two short intro videos that I’d assume were not on the TV broadcast. One involved everyone’s favorite Sontaran warrior Strax briefing the audience on general theater rules. He apparently brought his own clone batch to the theater and wanted to make sure there would be no trouble from us “flesh creatures”. He reminded us not to use our cellphones, and showed what happened to the last guy he caught with one. He walks by a man trapped in restraints on a wall behind him. Accused of sending spy messages to his field commander, this man was not in good shape after Strax got done with him. Another complaint was “talking during the film” which was illustrated as having a similar punishment. Strax did approve of our cultures obsession with torturing “small corn creatures” until the exploded, then eating their fluffy bodies. He remarked how the “tiny screams” of the popcorn made him happy. The audience seemed to love Strax, and this vignette.

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The second mini-episode, if you could call it that, was one of Matt Smith and David Tennant (in character) hyping up the crowd. It opened with Smith’s Doctor in a white room congratulating the fans on making it to this “100th anniversary special, in amazing 12-D” someone came out and reminded him that this was only the 50th anniversary, and he seemed bummed. Apparently 12-D is something to behold, and mere 3-D is quite boring. The Doctor assumes it has something to do with budget cuts and apologizes. We get some banter from Smith and Tennant in the form of instructions on how to use the 3-D glasses and a special warning that Matt’s chin “could be unnerving” in 3-D. Eventually they both ask “wait wasn’t there supposed to be a third dimension” as John Hurt appears facing the other direction. You could have heard a pin drop in the audience after the initial GASP of shock on seeing “The War Doctor.”

There was also a “making of” featurette after the credits, narrated by Colin Baker, it was really good, but wasn’t anything earth-shattering.

NOTE: Before I talk about the actual episode, I’d love to hear if anyone else had similar theater experiences, feel free to drop a comment! Man, I’ve written quite a bit already for not actually talking about the episode!

Right from the opening seconds of The Day of the Doctor I knew I was in for a treat. Instead of the new opening title sequence that we got used to seeing throughout series seven, the episode opens with the original 1963 opening titles. The camera pans over the shadow of a policeman, and a sign that reads “I.M. Foreman, 76 Totter’s Lane” advertising a local scrap merchant. For those that do not know, it’s basically a remake of the very first scene of the very first episode, An Unearthly Child! To completely drive it home, we even see that Clara has some sort of teaching position at Coal Hill School, yet another callback – that was the school Susan attended, and Ian and Barbara taught at. According to a sign inside Ian Chesterton has even been promoted to a governorship in the school! At this point, I knew that this episode was going to be an “Easter egg hunt” for little tidbits that look back at the show’s past.

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Before I get to far into this, I’ll mention the 3D. I’m generally not a huge fan of 3D in movies because it often distracts from the film. I loved Avatar, Coraline, and Tron 2, but those are exceptions that used the effects well. Usually studios have a tendency to abuse the effect and make films nearly unwatchable. I’d say The Day of the Doctor uses it pretty well for the most part. Some scenes seem overdone like the helicopter scene and others use the effects to add depth to the picture. Sort of like having the picture be “bigger on the inside” 😛 I’d say it wasn’t necessary to see this in 3D, but it helped the theater experience immensely.

Right from the very beginning, one can see that The Day of the Doctor seems to have a noticeable budget increase over it’s normal TV brethren. It looks expensive (but not flashy), important, and movie-like, if that makes any sense. Just the way the opening titles are presented, the Tardis being airlifted to Trafalgar Square via helicopter, seems like the opening of something like a James Bond film. I think seeing this in a theater was a great decision on my part, because you can tell it was designed for it.

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The story follows The Eleventh Doctor as he is summoned to The Tower of London by U.N.I.T.’s very own Kate Stewart. She has special instructions from Elizabeth I of England, to have The Doctor check out a secret stash of Timelord art. It appears that Timelords create moments of time preserved in stasis that take the form of “3-D pictures” in frames. It seems many “paintings”in this gallery have been smashed from the inside, implying that something has escaped the pictures themselves. With this we are shown a painting called either ”No More” or “The Fall of Gallifrey” that depicts the final day of the Great Time War. This was the very day that The Doctor’s unmentionable past incarnation “The War Doctor” (John Hurt) ended the time war.

I loved this scene because the “Time War” has been so vague in the past, that seeing the Dalek invasion of Gallifrey’s “second city” Arcadia was awesome. It is at this point that we see “The War Doctor” steal a devastating super-weapon from the Timelord armory, one that has the power to annihilate entire galaxies.

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This weapon, called “The Moment” is classified as a “Galaxy Eater” and was locked away because it gained sentience and could not be controlled. With this weapon, “The War Doctor” heads to a desert and plans his ultimate sin against his own people. Suddenly a manifestation of “The Moment” appears, looking exactly like Rose Tyler, and rips holes in space and time in order to show “The War Doctor” his own future. This causes cracks to appear near The Eleventh Doctor and “War Doctor” causing them all to end up in Elizabethan England, the exact place where “The Tenth Doctor” is trying to stop a Zygon invasion. This is where everyone puts it all together and realizes that The Zygons are the ones that escaped the paintings using Time Lord Technology.

Once the threat is eliminated in a peaceful manner, “The War Doctor” goes off to activate “The Moment” as he believes his ultimate sacrifice causes peaceful things to happen such as the end of this Zygon invasion. He is headed off by Ten and Eleven, and they all discuss the situation. All incarnations after “The War Doctor” hated what happened, and blamed this forgotten incarnation for all sorts of bad things. They decide to help him not be alone in his decision, to lessen his burden. That is until Clara’s tears inspire a new choice: not killing everyone on Gallifrey. Eleven proposes that they could conceivably lock the entire planet of Gallifrey away, much like those paintings, and only make it appear that it was destroyed.

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This following scene is one of the best scenes in all of Doctor Who in my opinion, and involves a co-operative effort by these three Doctors to save their planet. The Arcadian leadership seems less than thrilled to find out that they have been targeted by three versions of one man they really can’t stand, and are even more annoyed when they find out “All twelve of them are here”. This cuts to a scene where you see twelve TARDISes heading into battle, and footage of EVERY SINGLE DOCTOR helping out. This was of course stock footage pulled from old episodes like the trick used in The Name of The Doctor, but it was still awesome. I nearly teared up at this point, probably because I had something in my eye, but held it back like the badass dude that I am. I was shocked when one of the Gallifreyan higher-ups said “No, Sir all thirteen”, since I had no idea that Peter Capaldi was going to make a “teaser” appearance in this. I have no idea how the internet kept this quiet, and I thank all of you.

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The Doctors Thirteen saved the day (hopefully) and went their separate ways. Happy in the fact that he did the right thing, “The War Doctor” starts regenerating from all the stress he had and we briefly see a glimpse of Doctor number Nine. It sucks that Christopher Eccleston didn’t want to help with the anniversary, but I’m glad we have finally seen all of the regenerations now.

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Everything winds down and fans are treated to the cameo of all cameos – Tom Baker’s return to the show. He is introduced as “The Curator” and seems to have a bit more knowledge than he should about the Doctor, Gallifrey, and Timelords in general. This character is kept fairly vague as to his true nature, but it was pretty great seeing Tom back after all these years. Finally, there is one more shot to hammer the point home that we saw something special:

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It may have been the atmosphere, it may have been the theater experience, and it may have been the 3D, but I feel that this was the most fun I’ve ever had at the theater, and it may have been the best episode of Doctor Who I’ve ever seen. It had awesome side characters, although there were very few. Elizabeth I was cool, and I loved seeing Kate Stewart and her assistant Osgood, and hope they show up more often in the show. I love multi-Doctor stories, but generally find them somewhat confusing and borderline nonsensical. That wasn’t the case with The Day of The Doctor, it all fit together, filled in some plot holes leftover from the Davies era, and made me excited for season 8’s search for Gallifrey!.

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As Promised, here are the biggest audience reactions of the night:

  •  The first scene with David Tennant got a big “Squee” from some fangirls.
  • Seeing Billie Piper got a similar reaction.
  • A lot of big laughs in certain scenes like “The Wedding”, The Banter between Doctors, Clara opening an unlocked door etc.
  • When the fans saw 12 TARDISes in in the climax there was some cheering, then it exploded once you saw Peter Capladi say “Make that Thirteen”. I was happy because some fans are concerned female fans will reject him next year.
  • The scene with Tom Baker went over VERY well.
  • The final scene involving all 12 Doctors standing together got cheers.
  • The end credits exploded in cheers and applause.

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The Night of the Doctor (2013)

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“I’m a Doctor … but probably not the one you expected!”

One of my dream storylines for the 50th Anniversary special was a multi-Doctor story featuring the return of Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor. Despite not being a huge fan of the 1996 movie that he appeared in, I grew to love his portrayal of the character because of the fine audio adventures produced by Big Finish. While my wish did not fully come true, I did get to see the Eighth Doc bless our screens for at least one final time. The Night of the Doctor is a fine prequel to The Day of the Doctor, and answers many questions. When did Eight regenerate? What/who is John Hurt‘s character? Who fought in the time war? There are more questions left after this, but the majority of the “gaps” that have been bothering fans for a while have either been filled or at least clarified. Pretty good for less than ten minutes of content!

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The story opens with a major predicament for a space pilot named Cass. Her ship is plummeting towards the planet Karn, and it doesn’t look good. Right in the nick of time, a mysterious man calling himself “The Doctor” shows up and offers assistance, but is turned away once it is realized that he is a Timelord. You see, it’s the early days of the “Time War” and Timelords are just about as popular as a particularly grouchy Dalek. Cass accepts death rather than speaking to The Doctor, a fact that devastates him to his very core. It seems that he has tried to hide from the Time War, and take no part in the various atrocities his people are committing. Pretty soon, time runs out both Cass and The Doctor crash into the planet’s surface, and both are killed on impact.

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Suddenly, The Doctor wakes up to familiar faces. The Sisterhood of Karn, not seen since the 1970’s adventure The Brain of Morbius, have revived him, but it’s not permanent. In less than five minutes he will die, The Doctor is given the choice of either a) Dying for good or b) Kickstarting his regeneration cycle and escaping his fate. There is a catch though, The Sisterhood of Karn wants The Doctor to take charge of his people’s actions in the Time War, they want him to stop hiding and become a warrior for once. With great pain, The Doctor accepts and regenerates into “The War Doctor” via some sort of “magical potion.” He is handed a bandolier and a new face appears, that of a young John Hurt, the man we saw at the end of The Name of the Doctor.

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For his short amount of screen time, Paul McGann delights with his version of The Doctor, bringing the momentary humor that I’ve grown to love in his audio adventures, and a slice of his dark side. Another notable happening is the fact that this “episode” essentially canonizes the aforementioned audio plays, by having The Doctor mention his companions before he dies. So, at least for now, Charley Pollard, C’rizz, Lucie Miller, Tamsin Drew, and Molly O’Sullivan are “legitimate” companions. I also liked how “Eight” took his regeneration. There was no emo-tastic “I don’t wanna die” tantrum that we’ve seen recently, just a stoic, if not slightly self-loathing nature to the way it happened. The effect was even like across between the new style (gold energy from hands and feet and head) and the old style (bright white light), which, if intentional, nice a nice touch by the producers.

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This ten minutes of Youtube greatness really brightened my day last week. I had no idea this even existed until I got home from work and noticed the internet had exploded into a nerdgasm of happiness. Petitions have gone up to get McGann back for some more filming in some capacity, and I think BBC had no idea that such a response would happen. It sometimes seems like old “Eight” is forgotten in the grand scheme of things, and having him get all this attention is awesome. Here’s hoping for a Capaldi / McGann episode in the future!

 

The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot (2013)

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Fans have been speculating for quite awhile about the mysterious “project” that Peter Davison was working on for the 50th anniversary. There were tweets that went out hinting at involvement with the Day of the Doctor, there were odd pictures, and even clandestine meetings between the classic actors making media rounds. That speculation has been silenced today, as fans were treated to a hilarious romp through the lives of four guys that don’t take themselves too seriously.

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The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot follows Peter Davison as he spearheads a campaign for his, and any other classic Doctor Who actors, inclusions into the 50th anniversary special. This is of course Davison, Sylvester McCoy, and Colin Baker playing self absorbed versions of themselves that borderline on being quite pitiful. Peter is jealous of how his younger children don’t seem to respect the fact that he was in the show, and feels that he should be in it to win their affections. Other classic Doctors are just as bad as Davison. McCoy, for instance, constantly drops the fact that he was in the huge budget film The Hobbit, and is even wearing a shirt with “The Hobbit” emblazoned on it. Colin Baker sits around forcing his family to watch old episodes of Doctor Who, not realizing that everyone has grown pretty tired of it. If you are wondering where the other two actors are that the title mentions, they are definitely in there. Doctor number four is a cameo from Paul McGann, who the other three humorously resent for having tons of work all the time, and then there is Tom Baker

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The “Tom Baker” scene was so ridiculous that both my wife and I laughed so hard that we scared our cats. The three actors start arguing who should call Tom for quite a while, only to get his voice message, a quote taken directly from Dimensions in Time from 1994. He, of course, was not able to answer them because they cut to the infamous “recycled from Shada” footage of the boat scene used in the original The Five Doctors. Both things were poking fun at the way Tom used to brush off Doctor Who anniversary stuff in the past, forcing the production teams to be “creative”. There are a lot of good gags in here, but this literally left us in tears.

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The plan that the “three amigos” concoct involves storming the production studio where the special is being filmed in sneaking into camera view. Keep, in mind that this is “Plan C” after bugging Steven Moffat over the phone failed, and picketing the BBC also failed. They eventually hitch a ride with John Barrowman to Cardiff, Wales and try their best to steal the real Tardis from a Doctor Who exhibition, as Peter seems to have forgotten that it was a prop in a fictional show. They eventually settle on merely “borrowing” their old costumes and convince David Tennant to prop the door open for them. Problem is, security is after them, and time is running out. I won’t spoil how they supposedly appear in the special, but it’s pretty great.

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As you can tell, The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot has tons of cameos from Doctor Who alumni both classic and new. There are literally too many to mention, but eagle eyed viewers will notice every era of the show represented, from Carole Ann Ford (Susan) to Mathew Watterhouse (Adric). These cameos aren’t too “in your face”, and many were too esoteric for me to pick out immediately, only a trip to Wikipedia shed light on who some of the people were.

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As you can tell, this was made for the fans of the classic show primarily, and it’s a great spoof of how many fans perceive various Doctor Who actors to be in real life. Unlike some parody material, this was very well made, and most importantly pretty funny. I’d rank it right up with The Curse of Fatal Death, and may even have enjoyed it more. If you’re a classic fan, do yourself a favor and check this out. New fans may scratch their heads with some of the jokes, but there is even stuff in there for them!

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EDIT: I’ve been getting a decent amount of traffic from folks that want to watch this, so here is a link to an official source:

Watch The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot Here

(let me know if the link crashes)

Happy 50th Anniversary Doctor Who!

This weekend is very special to me, as a beloved television show from my youth has hit a milestone that very few shows have or will ever reach – Doctor Who has been on for fifty years. I’m by no means a “new fan”, but there was a time when I lost touch with the show. When I found it again, it helped me get through a rough time and also helped me connect with my wife. For this, Doctor Who isn’t just some dumb TV show that I watch – it’s something that has always been there when I need it. Even if it’s just a form of escapist fun, it’s my favorite form of escapist fun.

One of my earliest childhood memories is that of my mother and I staying up late (at least from my viewpoint) and watching Tom Baker episodes on PBS back in the mid-1980’s. I clearly remember the shocks and scares of one episode in particular, The Hand of Fear. For years I had images of an disembodied mummified hand crawling around a space station murdering people permanently etched into the deepest recesses of my mind. Even into my teens, when I assumed I would never watch the show again, I would have nostalgic thoughts about how much I loved that episode.

Cover of "Doctor Who and the Hand of Fear...

Cover of Doctor Who and the Hand of Fear

But then Doctor Who did something that many of my other forgotten childhood gems did not do, it came back into my life.

My wife (then girlfriend) reminded me of the show when we started dating in the early-mid 2000’s. She entered one of the episodes into a “bad movie” marathon that some college friends would do, andI thought”I remember that show!” For some reason, it never occurred to me that they had old episodes on VHS and DVD since at the time only big popular shows would get that treatment. I had just signed up for Netflix to keep my Father’s death off my mind, and found a treasure trove of classic Doctor Who on there.

This was 2004, and I ended up “Googling” the show only to find out that the BBC was producing “new episodes of Doctor Who” in an animated form. I thought “well that’s cool” and watched Richard E. Grant‘s (now) non-canon adventure Scream of the Shalka with excitement. I was hooked. I bought some Target books, BBC books, and other stuff on E-bay, and started ploughing through the DVDs. I signed up for a popular message-board and saw news that blew me away: The BBC was bringing it back….like for real….not a cartoon either….legit.

Scream of the Shalka

Scream of the Shalka (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Flash forward to 2005, and I find myself downloading a “leaked” copy of Rose on Bittorrent. As I recall, I excitedly woke my wife up at some alarming time like 8:00 am on a Saturday (I’m a night owl) and basically forced her to watch it with me. I had secretly found out about it the night before, and wanted to surprise her. It was like Christmas morning for a small child, I simply could not wait any longer to dig into my presents. The leak of Rose, The very first Christopher Eccleston episode of the show, was one of those things that I suspect everyone on that forum did secretly, then pretended they did not online. I have no regrets for doing it as I ended up getting even more excited for the show’s return, and downloaded all the rest of the episodes.

This was back when BBC America was essentially a home and gardening channel and had no interest in the show, The Sci-fi channel blatantly said they “would never air it” and a simulcast was practically hysterical to think about. The American Doctor Who fan of 2005 was an internet pirate by necessity. Little by little, the show got more popular. “word of mouth” spread it like wildfire, and I sometimes felt like a drug dealer with it. Word got out that I had the episodes, and ended up burning terrible VCD and CD ROM copies for people. I turned a handful of my own friends into fans, something that I never expected to do. People that had never even heard of the show were getting into it, eventually The Sci-fi channel did pick it up for one season.

Seven years have passed, and the show is one of the more popular genre shows on TV here in America. There is a new generation of fans latching onto it, and although some may not know much about the classic show, new fans are a great thing. Fifty years is a long time. Granted, there was a hiatus in there, but even then the property still consists of over 33 seasons, TV and theatrical movies, multiple spin-offs, hundreds of audio dramas, hundreds of books, and much more.

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Doctor Who (Photo credit: Doctor Who Spoilers)

My wife and I will be attending a theatrical showing of the anniversary special The Day of The Doctor in wondrous 3D on Monday, meaning that I will try to avoid the fansites and such for a few days. To tide us over, we will be watching multiple other Doctor Who related programming all weekend, most notably An Adventure in Space and Time, the awesome looking docu-drama produced by the BBC starring David Bradley. Expect me to bombard this blog with 50th anniversary posts all week!