Doctor Who: Where in the Whoniverse are the Doctor’s pals now?

Wales Online has an interesting “where are they now” type article for a few recent Doctor Who alumni. All of the listed people seem to be working fairly consistently still, so the often mentoined “curse” that supposedly befalls former Doctor Who cast members seems to be dead as a dodo, or at least on vacation.  

Link: Doctor Who: Where in the Whoniverse are the Doctor’s pals now? – Wales Online.

Bonus Link: The Curse of being a Doctor Who Companion

 

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Doctor Who / Star Trek: Assimilation Squared Issue 2

Since there is a new Star Trek film just on the horizon and a new season of Doctor Who hitting the airwaves, I figured that now would be a great time to read some more of the recent comic crossover Assimilation Squared. For those that didn’t catch my last review, this story centers on an alliance between The Borg and The Cybermen – two similar alien races from both franchises. Their first action as a unified front was the sacking of Delta IV, an attack that was very surprising considering the way The Borg usually make themselves known prior to any offensive actions. In the final panel in the previous issue the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise and the crew of the Tradis were just about to meet in what The Doctor assumes is prohibition era San Francisco.

While the first issue dealt mostly with setting up the shocking alliance between both armies of zombie androids and their attack on Delta IV, issue two is a little deeper, a bit more “talky”. Tipton does a great job writing convincing Star Trek: The Next Generation dialog. For example, I really enjoyed the conversations between Commander Geordi LaForge and Commander Data since their “bromance” was often times my favorite part of the show itself. Usually Data would misunderstand a human trait of some sort whether it be laughter or anger, and Geordi would have to set him straight. Take this snippet for example:

Data shows that he is often very human
Data shows that he is often very human

Geordi has pointed out that Data was created more than thirty years ago, and that he could benefit a lot from some of the more “modern” android technology being worked on currently. Data, in the most supreme example of foreshadowing ever, ponders on whether that could get out of hand, and if he’d lose himself in the process.

I was surprised that the beginning of the issue shifted back, in a non-linear manner, to before the meeting between The Enterprise crew and The Doctor. This makes sense because we only saw Picard and Co. for like half a panel at the end of the last issue, so it’s good to see what they were doing during the Delta IV attack. Starfleet has set up a mining operation on a remote aquatic planet populated by “fish people” a fact that Commander Worf humorously undercuts with “they sound delicious!” In order to make quotas and keep the flow of the minerals steady, the folks in charge of the operation have had to cut corners leading to accidents and losses of life. Geordi asks why they are mining so frantically, a question Picard replies to with “The Borg”. It seems that Starfleet was nearly decimated at the battle of Wolf 359, a Star Trek battle depicted in the fan favorite episodes The Best of Both Worlds: parts 1 and 2.

Speaking of those episodes, and derailing any sort of flow here: that two-parter is soon to be re-released with HD special effects next week on Blu-Ray, you should all pre-order it below if you like the series:

The-Best-of-Both-TNG-Blu-ray-covers

Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Best of Both Worlds (Blu-ray +UltraViolet)

You may be asking yourself: “Where is this Doctor fellow that is supposed to be in the book, I think there is an image of him on the cover?” Well, much like the previous issue, the interactions between the two sets of characters is kept to a minimum until the very end where we finally see them interact. This scene is pretty funny as The Doctor basically ignores everyone and bee-line’s it directly to Commander Data. There is a misunderstanding where the Enterprise crew thinks that the holodeck has gained sentience and that the Doctor is merely a “bug” in the system, and The Doctor simultaneously thinks that Data is some sort of anachronistic robot that shouldn’t be in the past. And just when everyone is having fun, the Borg and Cybermen arrive…..bummer

Poor Data
Poor Data

I really enjoyed issue one of this series, but issue two tops it in every way. The first issue almost seemed like two unrelated stories jammed together, and this one flows so much better overall. I definitely love the art style by J.K. Woodward, he uses life-like painted interiors that one seldom sees in comics these days. It really adds to the realism that makes one think this could have been a real episode of either show. Now that the cast is all together, and the villains have appeared, I think we are in for a real treat in the next issue. Maybe Commander Worf will smack the Doctor for talking too much or maybe we’ll find out what’s going on!

 

Doctor Who: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

While the novelty of having a title such as X on a(n) X (ex: Snakes on a Plane) would have been more topical in 2006, it does show exactly what we are getting here: a fun “romp” episode that doesn’t take itself seriously at all. With how serious and well-layered the previous episode was, this stands as a stark counter-balance to Asylum of the Daleks with all the “in your face” zaniness that is usually reserved for comedy episodes. I know a lot of fans dislike episodes like this, but I generally like them. As you will see, there is a dark edge here as well, not just fluff.

The plot centers on an unidentified spacecraft that is found to be hurling towards earth, this of course freaks out many Earth-based agencies including the Indian Space Agency. The Doctor is enlisted by the ISA to “take care of it” so that they can stop any sort of crisis with it crashing. The Doctor needs a “Gang” to check it out, so who better to enlist than the legendary Queen Nefertiti, a big game hunter named Riddell, and “the Ponds”. They find out that the ship is an ancient Silurian “ark” full of dinosaurs, and fun ensues.

Doctor_Who__Dinosaurs_on_a_Spaceship_brian_williams_triceratops

This episode is notable for introducing a new character – Rory’s father, as played by Mark Williams of Harry potter fame. Brian (Rory’s dad) is sucked into the whole situation completely accidentally, and the first truly humorous scene involves The Doctor’s reaction to his presence. When the Doctor picks up “The Ponds” Brian is helping Rory fix a light bulb just as the Tardis shows up and materialized around all three of them. The Doctor does not in fact notice Brian until way later when they are leaving the Tardis. He assumes some random person walked into the Tardis. It’s never explained how the two don’t seem to have ever met despite the zany antics The Doctor was up to at Amy and Rory’s wedding, but I guess he could have been absent. In The Big Bang, we clearly meet Amy’s parents, but Rory’s family appears to be his siblings or something. I guess it’s a mystery we will never know the answer to!

Another Harry Potter Alumni takes the stage as the villain of the piece – David Bradley as Solomon. As with many Doctor Who villains, Solomon is initially not the antagonist of the piece, but reveals himself in the third act. His initial story is that the problems are all related to the fact that his legs have been mauled by raptors and his “Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum” of the robot world (as played by the double act –Mitchell & Webb) have been insufficient in helping him out. Once we realize that he wants to capture “Neffy” for his collection we learn the real truth. Solomon is basically a space pirate and has killed all the Silurians on board and a lot of the dinosaurs. He was trying to figure out a way to monetize the dinos before the accident happened, just as the “Gang” shows up.

doctor-who-dinosaurs-on-a-spaceship-solomon

What happens next has divided fans of the show, but is not without precedent. The Doctor, realizing how truly evil Solomon is, sets it up so that Solomon is killed by a slew of missiles launched by the ISA. He doesn’t give him a second chance or anything; he basically says “your dead!” and leaves him to his fate. Many internet fans flipped out because of this, partially because many were lead to see the Doctor as a pacifist “space Jesus” up through the first few seasons, but having this view is a mistake. I could list a number of times where the Doctor essentially murders people, but there is no more telling instance than the very first serial of the show. At one point The Doctor, as played by William Hartnell, has to be stopped from smashing a caveman’s skull in with a huge rock simply because he “was slowing them down”. The doctor has a dark side, and being away from companions makes him like this. Hopefully this is a theme further explored!

All in all, I really liked this episode. It isn’t the most intellectual stimulating episode out there, but it’s a fun episode none-the-less. It was great to see some of Rory’s family in a little bit of detail, and Brian was a great character. He was not as cool as Wilf when it comes to family members of companions, but not many are as awesome as that guy! Chris Chibnall has done some mediocre work on Doctor Who in the past, but this episode was pretty good. Maybe fans can look forward to his second episode this season after all!

Doctor-Who-Dinosaurs-on-a-Spaceship-ridell-neferrtiti

 

Asylum of the Daleks

If there is one thing that the Daleks have been for the past 50 years, it’s inconsistent. Sometimes Daleks are intelligent, other times they are simply idiotic. Sometimes they are evil, other times they are comical. And the most important: sometimes they are scary, other times they are lame.

Despite my fondness for them firmly placing them above any other Doctor Who villain, it really depends on who the writer is on how these guys are used. Episodes like 2005’s Dalek are instant classics in the minds of many fans, while others such as Daleks In Manhattan come off as camp as a sequined cape. I was surprised to realize that this was showrunner Steven Moffat’s first real foray into these armored squid guys, and for the most part he really nailed it. If anything, he has found that a way to make a monster scary again is to wound it, or drive it crazy. The headless Cyberman armor in The Pandorica Opens is a fine example of this, and in this episode we have an asylum full of the Dalek equivalents.

First thing first, I had no idea that Jenna Louise Coleman was going to be in this episode. For the first time in a VERY long time we had an actual surprise that wasn’t ruined by a big UK newspaper or a questionable write-up in a magazine. Her appearance is a two edged sword though, as I really enjoyed her character, but this is probably not the same character that later shows up later on. Without outright spoiling my reasons for those that have not seen the episode, let’s just say that if it is her – Moffat will have to unleash the “timey wimey” on the show to achieve this.

This episode had it all for fans of older Dalek episodes. Returning, is a human slave class lead by the Daleks, minus the stupid speech pattern that the robomen had, or those dumb helmets from the Davison era. We had a glimmer of the many factions within the Dalek Empire including a new “parliament of the Daleks”. While this was a bit Star Wars-esque (galactic senate anyone?) it achieved a reasonable way to have thousands of Daleks in a room at once. Those thousands of Daleks were very impressive, but failed on one regard. The promise of “Every Dalek Ever Made” wasn’t an outright lie, but one had to play “Where’s Waldo” to see most of them. There was a special weapons model, and a 1960’s model in there from what I could see, but they weren’t features quite as prominently as I had hoped. I bet somebody with far too much free time has spotted them all, but I’m too lazy for that.

All in all, I really liked this episode; it had everything I like about Moffat scripts: mystery, surprises, horror, and a dash of humor. This season, despite how short it this half is, seems to be more up my alley than the previous Christmas episode, and holds the “blockbuster” status teased in the lead-up.

Doctor Who / Star Trek: Assimilation Squared Issue 1 Review

Outside the realm of fan fiction and other such non-official works of fandom, there really hasn’t been any sort of official crossover between Doctor Who and Star Trek. While fans would no doubt go crazy for an actual televised adventure pairing the two properties, something like a novel or a comic book is such a better fit. When I opened my mailbox earlier this week, this is exactly what I got with Doctor Who / Star Trek: Assimilation Squared Issue 1. The book is written by Scott and David Tipton along with Tony Lee.

This first issue starts with a bang, as a federation aligned planet called Delta IV is invaded by the Borg in a manner not fitting their usual attack patterns. We find out that it is typical of these monstrous zombies to warn people before they set out for assimilation, but this time they just swoop in with guns blazing. Could this be caused by their mysterious alliance with a new race that the federation has never seen?! (yeah we all know it’s the Cybermen :P) The Prime minister of Delta IV and a few Starfleet officers are left to find help on a tiny escape shuttle. One can only assume that they will stumble across the enterprise pretty soon. We jump ahead to Ancient Egypt in which the Doctor, Amy, and Rory are setting out to stop an ancient alien invasion. It seems that the pharaoh at this particular time might just be not what he seems. With that plan foiled the Tardis crew set out for 1940’s San Francisco, a locale very popular for fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation!

This book does a great job of capturing the two styles of the seemingly unrelated universes. While we don’t actually get to see the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise until the very last page of this issue, all of the other Starfleet related stuff is very much in line with what we have seen for many years in all of the various Star Trek materials out there. It will be nice to see how the writers handle Picard and his crew in the upcoming issue, especially with the Doctor in tow. Speaking of the Doctor Who front, the dialog is very much spot on, with how the Doctor tries to handle a bumbled infiltration into a pyramid to confront the pharaoh. His hijinks are the comic relief of this issue, and definitely show the tone of the show very well i.e. fun but dark. Some of the dialog is a bit sparse, but with the nature of the comic being VERY action oriented, it really doesn’t warrant a ton of heavy dialog. I will be looking out for that in coming issues.

The highlight of this book has to be the art style. J.K. Woodward, an artist I’m not familiar with, does these cool painted interiors that make the book look like a million bucks. I’m not sure if this is hand painted or digital, but it’s really nice. Some of the images of The Doctor and Amy look especially great as I’m assuming the artist is using references from the show itself. Here is an example page:

All-in-all, this was a great kickoff to a fun romp, but it was all over way too soon. The next issue should be awesome with the Doctor ending up on board the Enterprise and meeting the crew that we all want to see. For me this is a definite buy for fans of both franchises.

Reaction – Doctor Who: The Wedding of River Song

Tick tock goes the clock
And what now shall we play?
Tick tock goes the clock
Now summer’s gone away?

Tick tock goes the clock
And what then shall we see?
Tick tock until the day
That thou shalt marry me

Tick tock goes the clock
And all the years they fly
Tick tock and all too soon
You and I must die

Tick tock goes the clock
He cradled her and he rocked her
Tick tock goes the clock
Even for the Doctor..

Tick tock goes the clock
He cradled her and he rocked her
Tick tock goes the clock
Till River kills the Doctor..

Now that’s more like it! After a few episodes that honestly felt like filler episodes in the grand scheme of things, we have a really well done Moffat episode. I know the fanbase will be largely split with Moffat fans rejoicing to the hills and his detractors slamming it, as this was a VERY Moffat episode. Structured in a similar vein to The Impossible Astronaut and even The Pandorica Opens, we see more of the old “timey wimey” going on. We know how the Doctor escapes death, why River is in prison, and whether or not River is married to the Doctor (sort of…lol).

Not every question was answered, but we got through a good chunk of it. I guess we can chalk most of my previous ramblings about who broke into Amy’s house, and the destruction of the Tardis to be the master plan of the Silence to kill the Doctor at any means necessary. This largely points to these first two seasons being merely a stepping stone in a much larger ongoing storyline. This is both good and bad, as I hoped we would finally know everything that has happened at this point, but I’m glad all the answers weren’t rushed in one solitary episode. I was truly worried that we were going to have seen sixty minutes of random flashbacks and such.

The Wedding of River Song was a very important episode, not as much for the actual content, but as a casual reboot of the series. What many may not notice is that with the perceived “death” of the Doctor as seen by many, we have seen the end of the “super Jesus, Earth savior” Doctor, and the birth of a hopefully more reclusive Doctor that spends less time on Earth. What I hope we see is more “monster of the week” episodes where we might see a sense of the Silence “being onto him” or some such, but just in the background. We all know this will lead to the eventual reveal of the final battle between the Doctor and the Silence, most likely for the 50th Anniversary. I still cling to the possibility that we haven’t seen the person in charge of the Silence as of yet, and it would be amazing to find out who it is in a few years. All I know is that once he starts going to a place called “The Fields of Trensalore” we’re in for it.

Another fun tidbit is that the emphasis on the mystery behind the Doctor’s name adds new relevance to the title of the show. Many casual fans, or folks that may skim an episode here and there may wonder why the show is even called Doctor Who, some might even think that it’s his name. It’s a nice capstone for nearly 50 years of continuity and makes us wonder why he’s so secretive of his name. Does his name link him to something terrible?

My ongoing theory is that there is some big bad guy out there that needs to know the Doctor’s name for some reason. I’m wondering if the Doctor didn’t use it as the password for the “time lock” he used to trap the Time Lords and Daleks within Gallifrey, once it is uttered, this lock will be broken and cause havoc. Suddenly you’d have The Master set free, and all sorts of other pissed off Timelords. This would fit in with the alien coalition trying to stop the Doctor at all costs with the Pandorica, and even explain the Silence claiming that they have witnessed a dark future caused by the Doctor. Of course we won’t hear the name as viewers, as finding out that the Doctor’s name is “Barry” would probably ruin the show.

On a side note, I loved the little “fan-wanky” bits in this episode. For starters, when we find that all of time has been compressed to a solitary moment, we see anomalies such as Charles Dickens talking about his upcoming BBC Christmas special. Once he gets rolling you realize that he is talking about A Christmas Carol. Dickens was once again played by the returning Simon Callow, a man that many will remember from An Unquiet Dead way back in season 1. Other nice nods included the reappearance of Winston Churchill, who has apparently started riding a mammoth to work. With a less “in your face” cameo, we find that fan favorite companion “The Brigadier” has finally been laid to rest within the show. This follows the real life death of Nicholas Courtney. I would have liked a similar send-off to the one Elisabeth Sladen received, but the nod was nice to see.

So yeah, good episode, and a good savior for a somewhat mellow second half of a season. I can’t wait to see where this goes.

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

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.

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.