The Night of the Doctor (2013)

Night-of-the-doctor-paul-mcgann

“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!

Night-of-the-doctor-paul-mcgann-cass

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.

Night-of-the-doctor-sisterhood-of-karn

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.

Night-of-the-doctor-eight-dying

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.

Night-of-the-doctor-eight-regeneration

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!

 

Advertisements

Doctor Who: The Stones of Venice

The_Stones_of_Venice_cover

Synopsis

“The Doctor and Charley decide to take a well-deserved break from the monotony of being chased, shot at and generally suffering anti-social behavior at the hands of others. And so they end up in Venice, well into Charley’s future, as the great city prepares to sink beneath the water for the last time…

Which would be a momentous, if rather dispiriting, event to witness in itself. However, the machinations of a love-sick aristocrat, a proud art historian and a rabid High Priest of a really quite dodgy cult combine to make Venice’s swansong a night to remember. And then there’s the rebellion by the web-footed amphibious underclass, the mystery of a disappearing corpse and the truth behind a curse going back further than curses usually do. The Doctor and Charley are forced to wonder just what they have got themselves involved with this time…”

Thestonesofvenice

I’ve really been enjoying these Eighth Doctor adventures from Big Finish so far, and was excited to dive into another one. This play is slightly surreal in both setting and plot. While it exists in the far-flung future, the characters and things happening in and around Venice make it seem as if it could have honestly been a historical episode. There are Dukes and Duchesses, art dealers and religious cults wandering the streets – all of these scream “medieval period piece” to me. This oddness in setting makes for a serial that revels in atmosphere and characterization over the story itself.

We basically have a group that wants Venice to Sink, another than does not, and a religious cult that believes a long-lost Duchess holds the keys to salvation. These three groups run around and talk to each other for four episodes, and not much else happens. This simple story is kept this way because the author wanted to build an engrossing mystery, but there is one problem. The story is really quite simple, and many will figure out the big M. Night Shyamalan-styled twist at the beginning of episode one. For me, this would be like watching (or reading) a Hercule Poirot mystery knowing the killer from page one. No matter what sort of swerves and red-herrings come our way, it just isn’t that exciting.

I’d say that this is the weakest of the Paul McGann episodes so far, and there is a great explanation for this. When Big Finish did these audios, they actually recorded a few of them at the same time. While we got “Storm Warning” as a smashing introduction to Charley and a great re-introduction to the Eighth Doctor, this was actually the first one recorded. I’m not saying that those portrayals are bad, but they are a bit more subdued than earlier episodes. Keeping this in mind, the episode is a success and an entertaining listen based on the setting alone, although it fails to meet the standards of its predecessors.

Doctor Who – Storm Warning

I remember being excited to import a copy of the Doctor Who television movie directly from the UK back when I got back into the show back in 2004. I had just purchased a region-less DVD player from China, and wanted to show everyone just how much of a nerd I could truly be. I had heard bad things about this movie, things that gave me absolutely no hope for it whatsoever. The movie could have been worse, but Eric Roberts basically ruined the whole thing for me; a fact that leads me to wish any character he plays in a movie the worst outcome possible. Remember that scene in The Dark Knight when Batman causes Roberts (as Sal Marone) to break both legs?  Tears of pure joy from this guy.

Aside from a few bits of questionable dialog, that weren’t his fault, I have always felt that Paul McGann would have been an awesome Doctor had he been allowed to hang onto the role longer than a 90 minute Television movie. Thankfully all memories of The Doctor being half-human and Eric Roberts in a silly outfit were washed away the moment I booted up Storm Warning from Big Finish. Here is the official Synopsis for Paul McGann’s triumphant return to the Tardis:

October, 1930. His Majesty’s Airship, the R1010, sets off on her maiden voyage to the farthest-flung reaches of the British Empire, carrying the brightest lights of the Imperial fleet. Carrying the hopes and dreams of a breathless nation.

Not to mention a ruthless spy with a top-secret mission, a mysterious passenger who appears nowhere on the crew list, a would-be adventuress destined for the Singapore Hilton… and a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey.

There’s a storm coming. There’s something unspeakable, something with wings, crawling across the stern. Thousands of feet high in the blackening sky, the crew of the R101 brace themselves. When the storm breaks, their lives won’t be all that’s at stake…

The future of the galaxy will be hanging by a thread.

The Eighth Doctor was definitely an underrated version of the character. Not only did he feel cheerful and somewhat goofy, but he definitely had a romantic and adventurous side; these are traits not really seen for a long while in the television show. The eighth Doctor definitely looked to be more of an Indiana Jones type of character, and that definitely is the case in this revival. I’m a fan of the darker Doctor’s as well, but the wide-eyed swashbuckling, name-dropping, and most importantly – fun Doctor is what I like the most; this could be why I seem to like Matt Smith’s take on the character so much. I did try to get into a few of the BBC Eighth Doctor Books at one point, but found quite a few of them to be depressing, pretentious, and a bit too un-Doctor Who for my liking. I’m glad that the continuity Big Finish has created at this point seems to have nothing to do with those books, as I probably would not have liked them much.

What we see here, is both a re-introduction of The Doctor and the appearance of a new companion. This story does a great job of tackling both tasks, and is as good as Rose in the regard that it does not get bogged down by its own baggage and keeps the story moving. What I mean by this is that we don’t have a long winded passage where we find out what happened to Grace Holloway and Chang Lee, as this is definitely not needed; this was one problem I have had with the newer BBC wales series as the writing tends to have the Doctor constantly talk about his previous companions (Like Rose), and in the case of a character such as Martha Jones, it really hurts the narrative. The new companion in question is Charley Pollard, a tomboy-ish girl that fashions herself to be an “Edwardian Adventurer”. Charley seems to be the perfect foil alternative to many classic female Who companions, and comes across as independent and strong, not just a shrieking character that always gets in trouble (Susan, Mel, etc..)

This drama seems to share a bit with the later Steven Moffat televised episodes of the show in that Charley is shown to be troublesome to time itself in the same way that Amy Pond seems to be. Since the Doctor plucked her from a large scale historical event, (the crashing of the R101), her mere existence afterwards is a paradox and causes him problems from then on. I like this little subplot, as it give any later audio dramas a plot to latch onto, rather than them just being a set of unrelated adventures.

The actual plot of this story involves the doomed flight of the R101 dirigible, and much in the old Doctor Who fashion it is explained that such a catastrophe was somehow caused by aliens and the Doctor was there. We have seen this with the Titanic, The London fires, Pompeii, and basically any other disaster! The aliens in question are the Triskele, which are described as being “dolphin-like” I’m not sure how literally to take the comment as the description given during the play could also describe our typical view of “grey” aliens, but since there are no pictures that I know of, I imagined them as such. This could be my only fault with the play that I could find – there is a lack of descriptive remarks that give an idea of the way that characters and such look. This isn’t exactly a deal-breaker, but I would have liked a few more “that looks like a dolphin” type remarks to solidify any impressions I had gained.

Storm Warning is a great beginning to a new series of Doctor Who dramas and kept me entertained the whole way through. This play has definitely re-kindled my like for the eighth incarnation of The Doctor, minus all the crap from the TV movie. I can’t wait to see what happens next.