Confession # 107: I'm Feeling Undervalued

Dec
07

Since the show's rebirth in 2005, and its subsequent booming popularity in the US, the Powers That Be (PTB) have done a pretty good job including fans on this side of the Pond in various events and celebrations that might interest us. They've not generally made us wait for a later broadcast date for new episodes, occasionally even giving us simultaneous access (like the around-the-world release of the 50th anniversary special), and have made an effort to include American stops on their publicity tours.

These last few months, though, I've felt undervalued as a North American fan. Specifically, there are two multi-part storylines that have been delayed significantly for the US audience: Class and The Power of the Daleks.

Power is widely regarded as one of the best stories out there; I often see it at or near the top of "What lost story would you most like to see returned" lists (along with Marco Polo). In the UK, the 6-part animated reconstruction was released online one downloadable episode per day beginning on 05 Nov 2016. Just over two weeks later, the entire serial was available for purchase on Region 2 DVD, with online/downloadable color and blu-ray versions yet to come (31 Dec 16 and 06 Feb 17, respectively).

By contrast, the US got a cinematic version (one night only!) on 14 Nov 16 (Canada, Australia, and New Zealand got similar options), with a weekly episode airing on BBC America starting on 19 Nov 16. For those of us who weren't able to make it to a theater on the 14th nor have ready access to BBCA, the wait extends out to 24 Jan 17, when the R1 DVD will be released from a single outlet (Barnes & Noble, for those wondering).

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Beginning of the End

Nov
23

Review of Destiny of the Daleks (#104)
DVD Release Date: 04 Mar 08
Original Air Date: 01 - 22 Sep 1979
Doctor/Companion: Four, Romana II
Stars: Tom Baker, Lalla Ward
Preceding Story: The Armageddon Factor (Four, Romana I, K-9)
Succeeding Story: City of Death (Four, Romana II)

By the time Season 17 rolled around in late 1979, Tom Baker had been in the role of the Doctor for nearly five years and was beginning his sixth and penultimate season. His Companion Romana, having been shunted back into the more traditional "either scream or listen attentively as the Doctor talks" role from the "intellectual equal and foil to the Doctor" originally advertised, lost her appeal for actress Mary Tamm. The production team apparently felt there was still plenty of story left in the character, though, as they decided to make use of the fact that Romana is a Time Lord (or Time Lady, depending on who is speaking and when) to allow her to stay on with a different actress in the role.

Thus we open the season with one of the most famous scenes in Lalla Ward's on-screen stint as Romana (usually referred to as Romana II, to distinguish her from Tamm's depiction, Romana I): her regeneration. Contrary to the way we have always seen the Doctor regenerate—only under duress/when his current body gives up, and with no choice in the outcome—Romana has apparently decided to regenerate for kicks and grins, trying on new bodies much as the Doctor tried out harlequin or Viking outfits. Thus the writers lampshade the fact that yes, we just saw Lalla Ward as a different character at the end of last season; she's Romana now.

For the time being, Baker still appears to enjoy the role, perhaps not least because the adventure involves not only the Daleks but also Davros, a character introduced to the canon during his first season (in a story that's now widely considered among the best ever). It certainly also had to help that he and his new costar were attracted to each other (Baker and Ward were famously involved, though their actual marriage lasted only sixteen months); going to work every day with your honey has to put an extra spring in your step (at least until one or both of you start finding the scripts regrettable...).

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Confession #106: I'm at a Loss

Nov
10

I had something else planned for this Confession, but in the days leading up to the US Presidential election, all thoughts of blogging left my head, and now that potential post no longer feels like the right thing to post today.

So I guess what I have to say instead is only peripherally related to Doctor Who. I like to think that the Doctor stands for equality and justice for all people, no matter their color, religion, species, or other identity. I like to think that he calls us to do the same, inspired by his example—including when he messes up.

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Operation Brain Candy

Oct
26

Review of The Ribos Operation (#98)
DVD Release Date: 03 Mar 09
Original Air Date: 02 - 23 Sep 1978
Doctor/Companion: Four, Romana I
Stars: Tom Baker, Mary Tamm
Preceding Story: The Invasion of Time (Four, Leela)
Succeeding Story: The Pirate Planet (Four, Romana I)

Of all of Tom Baker's season openers, I think The Ribos Operation has to be my favorite (though Terror of the Zygons is strong, too). There are any number of details that contribute to my affection for this particular story, and I'll try to outline some of them below, but it probably doesn't hurt that it's the first installment of a series-long arc—the first ever.

Having cut my Whovian teeth on the modern era, a full series story arc seemed natural to me in my early fandom days. I knew when I started watching pre-Hiatus/Classic Who that the traditional style was serialized one-offs, so it's not that I found that format unusual or off-putting. However, when I got to Season 16 (also collectively known as The Key to Time), the familiarity of a longer arc felt comfortable and made it easy for me to settle in for the long haul.

The early minutes of the first episode are thus necessarily spent setting up the whole season. We are introduced to the White Guardian, who takes the Doctor and his TARDIS out of time and charges him with recovering the six segments of the Key to Time in order to restore order to the universe. We also meet the new "assistant" with whom said Guardian has saddled the Doctor: Romanadvoratrelundar. This young (though mature, at "nearly 140") Time Lady is quickly established as the intellectual equal (if not superior) of the Doctor, having graduated with a "triple first" from the Time Lord Academy (and looking down her nose at the Doctor for "scraping through with 51% at the second attempt").

In contrast, the Doctor's vastly more extensive experience proves to give him the advantage over his rather naïve new Companion. While she can analyze a situation based on surface evidence, he knows how to sniff out duplicity and when to trust his gut. Unfortunately, this sets the stage for Romana to be something of a dupe, but her overall charm and poise keep her from falling completely into "bumbling sidekick" territory.

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Confession #105: I Don't Believe in Looming

Oct
12

Recently I stumbled across some old episodes of the TV show "Who Do You Think You Are?" Here in the US, the show has been running for eight seasons; the UK original is going on thirteen. Among the celebrities who have traced their roots on the UK version are David Tennant and several other actors associated with the program in one way or another (e.g., John Hurt, Mark Gatiss).

When I got to the US episode on actress Ashley Judd, I was startled to discover that she and I share a 10-great grandfather (making us 11th cousins). That triggered my genealogy bug again, and for the last few days I've been poking around to see if there are any new records to be found online since last I looked.

This was all in the back of my head, then, when I sat down to think about what to blog about next. Was there a way to bring genealogy into a discussion of the Whoniverse (spoiler: there's always a way)? Having discarded ideas about discussing characters like Kate Stewart (daughter of Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart) or our favorite UNIT scientist Osgood (some relation to the UNIT sergeant of the same surname?), I decided to focus on the Doctor himself.

Enter looming. For those of you who may not have read (or possibly even heard of) the Virgin New Adventures (NA) series of novels, these books continued the Seventh Doctor's story after the final televised adventure Survival. Two of these novels (Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible and Lungbarrow) included revelations about Time Lord history and how their biology was altered so that they could not reproduce sexually. Instead, new Time Lords are "loomed," or reproduced on special bio-engineering machines from extant genetic material, and "born" as adults.

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