Confession #120: I Love a Retrospective

My kids had spring break last week. We spent some lovely time with family members whom we don't get to see often enough, and returned home with a couple of spare days to laze around the house. The girls and I have been making our way through modern Who together over the past few months, and before we headed out of town, had reached the end of Tennant's run. Although they were resigned to the change, they were (much like their mom at that stage) not really ready to move on.

However, with several more days of spring break stretched out in front of us, and the Smith era just waiting there invitingly, the girls decided to dive in. They grudgingly agreed to give this not-Tennant guy a try, knowing that eventually we'd roll back around to Capaldi (remember that they started modern Who by watching Series Ten), but they weren't harboring any high hopes.

We started on Wednesday the 4th with The Eleventh Hour (S05E01, a day late for the eighth anniversary of its first broadcast) and binge-watched nearly two full series, finishing The Girl Who Waited (S06E10) by Sunday the 8th. That's twenty-four episodes in the span of five days—a serious feat, if I do say so myself. Somewhere in the middle they reached the fourth of the five stages of the Whovian's regeneration cycle (counting "Regeneration" as the first), though I don't know that they necessarily rank Eleven as their favorite. Still, they're on board with him being the Doctor, and they adore Amy, Rory, and River. Result!

As we've been watching these episodes, I've found myself struggling to remember details before they unfold on-screen. I've had to ask myself how long it's been since I last watched Smith's series, and have come to the uncomfortable conclusion that I may well not have watched them again since shortly after they aired. Since the 2010 Christmas special (A Christmas Carol) was the first episode I ever reviewed on the blog, I know that I've watched them all at least twice from Series Six onward, once for the experience and once for note-taking. But as a result of the huge gap between then and now, I constantly find myself beset with "oh yeah!" moments.

Among those was the realization that I've almost-but-not-quite solved my previously mentioned problem about how to give the girls context for meeting Neve McIntosh (Madame Vastra) at CONsole Room, our local con. Sadly, in the last couple of weeks Neve has had to cancel due to a work conflict. However, Catrin Stewart (Jenny Flint) and Dan Starkey (Commander Strax) will both still be there.

Although my daughters have met Vastra, Jenny, and Strax in A Good Man Goes to War (AGMGtW), they barely got to know them at all, and Strax has died. For the girls to appreciate these guests more fully, then, we have a little over four weeks left to make our way through at least The Snowmen (the seventh episode past the end of Series Six). I don't anticipate that will be much of a stretch, but getting all the way into Series Eight (eighteen episodes past S6) could still be a trick, with school back in session and all the other springtime activities on our calendar between now and CONsole Room.

However fast or slowly we careen through the rest of the modern era, though, I will treasure this retrospective more than any other. Seeing my kids experience that shock of realization as plot points are revealed to them for the first time (e.g., when we learn River's true identity at the end of AGMGtW) has been a priceless gift. My adult brain was already too jaded when I watched these, too ready to deconstruct and analyze (though at some point I really will have to talk to the girls about how messed up some of the stuff Moffat writes for/about female characters is) to get quite the same purely emotional payoff.

Best of all, though, is that it is a shared experience. Now we can quote bits of these episodes to each other, or reference specific moments, and we all understand each other. And for me, at least, it's a reminder of fun time spent together. I hope—I expect—that there will be much more to come, including (likely) cosplay. But these past weeks have been the foundation; I will cherish them always.




Glad to hear that you enjoyed watching the Matt Smith era with your children. Good luck with your future talk about Moffat's writing of female characters...

Speaking of shared experiences, is there any chance of your viewing more stories with G again? Those reviews were always great fun and there haven't been any for some time.

Also, have you thought about adding similar episode-specific reviews with your daughters? That could be interesting too.

By bingly (not verified)
mrfranklin's picture

I would like to do more of the Retro-Views with G, but since we moved ~3 years ago, she hasn't been our neighbor. In fact, I think it's now been just over a year since I last had the chance to sit and talk with her at all. :\ In other words, it's not off the table, but it seems unlikely at this stage.

As for doing Nu-Views with the girls, I'd had that in the back of my mind a while ago, but have been too swept up in the binging to make good. :) I'll have to ask them what they think about the idea, and then decide which episode(s) to take notes on. Hmmm... We'll be starting Series Seven soon; I'll bet The Angels Take Manhattan would be a good one to do...

By mrfranklin

Yes, Angels Takes Manhattan sounds just about perfect. I'd be very interested in their reaction to how it ends.

On a different note, your reply brings up another point; is something pushing 6 years old still Nu? I'd be interested in your children's answer to that question, for whom a period of 6 years seems like a much longer time.

For me, I think that as time marches on, the line between the classic series and the older new series is less distinct. The RTD era just feels like another era in an ongoing series to me now, whereas at the time it was new, exciting and different - and completely unexpected after that long out of production. That does not detract from RTD's achievement in bringing the series back and making a success of a property that I am sure was widely seen as an embarrassment by the corporation at the time. Certainly, I had the firm belief that Doctor Who was permanently over as a BBC TV series before then. And as such, it was easy to see it as a separate entity at the time. It's also a further achievement, that it is still close enough to what came before that as it ages, it just slots right in with the classic series - for me anyway.

With 13 years having passed since new series Doctor Who began, I'd be curious as to whether younger viewers who were not watching in 2005 and for whom Doctor Who has always been in production, particularly those who started watching during the Moffat era, draw much of a distinction between the RTD era and what came before it, beyond aging production values and some eras having better stories than others (but that is as true of different periods of classic and new Doctor Who as it is between them IMHO).

Do your children see more of a distinction between Seven and Nine or Ten as they do between Three and Seven, for instance?

I do still see Twelve as different from classic Who, but that may now be as simple as current Doctor vs past Doctors - and until the next series starts, Twelve is still current for me. I see him as distinct from Eleven too. Actually, I see Twelve's entire era as one giant missed opportunity, particularly now that it is over, so that may cloud my views on that era a bit too - I really wish that series 10 had been his beginning and that we'd see where he goes next from there - it seemed like a much better start for him than either of his previous series, so its rather a shame that it was an ending rather than a beginning.

That is not to say that the classic series didn't have missed opportunities too.

Speaking of which, I recently re-read your reviews of the Colin Baker era. And then more recently listened to Big Finish's The Wormery for the first time - I'm pretty new to Big Finish's Six (I'd heard a handful of Big Finish stories including a couple with Six prior to 2005, but then nothing from BF until 2015, when I was keen to try out Jago & Litefoot).

Over the past few months, my wife and I have been greatly enjoying the run with Six and Evelyn Smythe, which for us is sadly coming to an end. The Wormery does not include Evelyn - it is set just after The Trial of a Timelord with Six now on his own, prior to his meeting Evelyn. I highly recommend it - it almost makes The Trial of a Timelord seem worthwhile, which is an impressive feat in itself. And it is a startlingly weirdly inventive and funny story in its own right. Its weirdness probably means that it is not for everyone, as say The Marian Conspiracy is (your review of which is what got me re-reading all of your Six reviews again, as I hadn't heard it at all when you posted your review), but it *really* worked for me.

I don't think that there are any pre-requisites to listening to The Wormery other than it helps to have seen season 23. It does feature a recurring character called Iris Wildthyme, but I listened to it without any knowledge of that character at all and it was perfectly fine.

By bingly (not verified)
mrfranklin's picture

The girls have agreed to let me blog about their viewing of The Angels Take Manhattan. :) They haven't watched a whole lot of the Classic stuff yet (some Seven, a little Three, just a smidge of One), so I'm not sure how they view the distinctions between eras. I'll have to ask them when they've got more under their belts.

When I first started the Nu-Views, the idea was that some of the Ladies had seen the episodes growing up, and some hadn't, so for the latter group, it was their first time watching. Thus it was about a given story being "new to them," rather than out-and-out new. G, on the other hand, told me she had watched more regularly back in the 70s. For her, then, I figured it was more about refreshing her memory and so I came up with a different title for those posts. :)

I need to get back to some Big Finish, just for myself even (rather than to blog about). They make Ol' Sixie much more likable!

By mrfranklin

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