The Monday Meme: Day 24

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(Found on tumblr)

 

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Video: All Regenerations From Hartnell to Smith (Including Hurt and McGann)

Here is a fitting tribute to the one time every few years that Doctor Who fans both dread and anticipate the most – The regeneration. This video includes ALL of the regenerations minus the fake-out one with David Tennant where he displaced the energy and simply healed himself. That’s right, you see both John Hurt and McGann in here! I am confused by the inclusion of Matt Smith’s Doctor and his “death” at the hands of “The Impossible Astronaut”, but I didn’t make the video. And without further ado…

 

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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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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Doctor Who: The Name of the Doctor (2013)

Doctor Who season finales have been generally decent throughout the current run, although most of them were getting a bit too epic until Moffat took over as show runner. When you’ve had things escalate from the earth being in peril, to a Cyberman / Dalek war, to The Master decimating everything on up, it seemed that Russell T. Davies was always trying to outdo himself each year. One thing I’ve enjoyed a lot since season five is that this tendency to “popcorn movie” finales has been toned down in favor of slightly more subdued ones. Granted, the universe is usually blinking from existence or something, but at least the Doctor is no longer part of an immense war or similar things. Tonight was at long last the finale for season seven, a season I generally enjoyed despite a feeling of disjointedness all year. Even though The Name of the Doctor seemed low key, there were far more moments where I was literally yelling “holy (expletive)!” at the screen.

First and foremost, I was amazed at the opening scene, one which shows a crew of puzzled technicians called to the scene of a theft. What we soon realize is that this was “the theft”, the one that started it all; this was when the Doctor borrowed the Tardis on Gallifrey! Clara is seen falling through time itself, and says that she has been running throughout his history in order to save him. It was at this point that I was grinning from ear to ear, as the next few minutes are filled with scenes of Clara interacting with all of the “classic” Doctors in various old episodes. This was obviously done with a computer, but there were some real cool things like a colorized William Hartnell in the mix. I know the fiftieth anniversary isn’t until November 23rd, but I think this was the moment that this fact really sank in for me.

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The plot for the episode is as follows: An evil scheme is revealed by the Great Intelligence/Doctor Simeon (one again played by Richard E. Grant) to force the Doctor to his final resting place – Trenzalore. The nature of Trenzalore has been a lingering mystery since it was revealed last season, but we find out that it is the place where time travelers are laid to rest. Since Simeon has kidnapped The Doctor’s friends (The Paternoster Gang) The Doctor has to jump into action to save them, and stop Simeon at whatever plan he is concocting. It seems Simeon, flanked by the creepy “whispermen”, wants to open the “Doctor’s Tomb” and destroy the Doctor from existence in a petty act of revenge. He does this by jumping directly into the Doctor’s time stream, and reversing every success he ever had as the protector of the universe. Pretty soon entire planets begin to disappear, as does the people most important to The Doctor. Clara then realizes that the only way to stop him is to also jump into the time stream, at the cost of her own life.

“I don’t know where I am, I just know I’m running.  Sometimes it’s like I’ve lived a thousand lives in a thousand places.  I’m born, I live, I die.  And always there’s the Doctor.  Always I’m running to save the Doctor.  Again and again and again.  And he hardly ever hears me, but I’ve always been there right from the very beginning, right from the day he started running.”

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This selfless act answers the question of how Clara could have shown up multiple times and died trying to help The Doctor. When entering the portal, she has shattered her existence into millions of fragments all destined to save The Doctor from Dr. Simeon. Moved by her kindness and a little chat with his “timey wimey” wife, River Song, The Doctor decides that he will save Clara for once and leaps into his own timeline. What followed was the most spectacular and yet also infuriating cliffhanger in the history of the show. When he is re-united with Clara, The Doctor tries to divert her attention from a dark figure standing in the bowels of his time stream. This figure is his greatest secret, something the Doctor is both trying to hide and feels ashamed of. The figure turns and it is revealed to be none other than John Hurt (1984, V for Vendetta) as a mysterious forgotten regeneration of himself…..credits roll. The wait until November is going to be excruciating!

My brain is buzzing with speculation that this is an aborted regeneration of The Doctor, perhaps the one that turned rogue during the time war. Fans have often wondered which incarnation that did all the bad things that he feels terrible about all the time, looks like it may be this guy. I love this revelation because we all know what happens when The Doctor loses his grip on “humanity” just a bit. We’ve seen the Dram Lord, Mr. Clever, The Valeyard, and even what happened to the Master, we could finally be getting close to the mystery of the Last Great Time War. I know some fans will get mad that there could be a tangential incarnation of the Doctor out there, but this is not a new thing. I mentioned the Valeyard from Trial of a Time Lord. But don’t forget that there could have been pre-Hartnell era regenerations as seen in The Brain of Morbius!

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I also loved how the “name of The Doctor” was not revealed in this episode, as anyone with half a brain cell could figure out. Steven Moffat isn’t as dumb as the folks that decided to reveal the Marvel character Wolverine’s backstory; as it would ruin all the mystery, plus no one would be happy with it. The name was the “password” to his crypt, and he was nearly forced to utter it until River Song whispered it to open the door. The episodes title is actually a play on the fact that he took the name “The Doctor” as an oath to be good and help people, but one of his lives didn’t for some reason. And I’m sure we will find out why in November. While the episode did reveal just about all the mysteries related to Clara, there is a bit of muddled continuity in previous seasons. One has to wonder why The Silence were so keen to stop The Doctor from going to Trenzalore, unless they were actually not bad guys at all and knew he would cause something really bad to happen by showing up. I hope this gets addressed and doesn’t get added to other plot holes related to The Silence from way back in season five.

I absolutely loved this episode, and felt it was easily one of the better season finales. Granted I hated the finale for season three, and a few others felt a bit bloated, but that is saying a lot for me to have liked it so much. The acting was superb, the cameos from “classic” Doctors was really cool, and the finale was amazing. The long wait until November is going to be excruciating; I mean this is almost as bad as the infamous Star Trek cliffhanger from The Best of Both Worlds!

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I’ve been Catching up on Doctor Who On Amazon, maybe you should as well:

Doctor Who: Series Seven – Part Two [Blu-ray]

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Random Doctor Who References in American TV Shows

Rugrats: The 1990’s Nickelodeon classic needed something – genocidal killer mutants!

Family Guy – As far as I know there have been at least three references in Family Guy of something related to Doctor Who, the first was when Brian mentions that since marijuana has been legalized in Quahog, “Doctor Who ratings are through the roof”. Another brief reference involves Peter naming an owl “Doctor Hoo”. The best example of this is in the very first Star Wars special that they did. As the crew jumps into hyperspace, one can see the fourth Doctor theme through the window to which Peter suggests that “Hyperspace is weird!”

Simpsons – Matt Groening is a big fan of Tom Baker Era Doctor Who, so it’s really no surprise that The Doctor Shows up constantly!

Futurama – And the tradition carries over in his other show as well.

South Park – Fairly recently, South Park did an episode featuring a German Comedy Robot named “Funnybot”. Of course Funnybot is in fact a parody of a Dalek!

Star Trek – One could write a book about Doctor Who references in Star Trek and even vice versa. One of the oddest took place in a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode entitled “The Neutral Zone”. In the episode, the crew comes face to face with survivors from an ancient cryoship. One of the thawed folks, Clare Raymond, is scanned so that her lineage can be seen. It seems she is descended from William Hartnell, Tom Baker, Colin Baker, and Even Kermit T. Frog!

Saturday Night Live –The season 30 episode starring Paris Hilton had a treat for all the Doctor Who fans out there. Sadly Paris Hilton, of all people, donned a Tom Baker-esque scarf and contributed to a new phone sex line for nerds including Star Trek, Harry Potter, and World of Warcraft ladies. To be honest, even with a Doctor Who scarf, Ms. Hilton is just about as sexy as a brick to me.

 

Survivors Episode 2 (2008) Reaction

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

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

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

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

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