Confession #104: I Love Seeing Double


No matter what else brings fans to Who, the Doctor (in his many incarnations) and his Companions are the backbone—the major components that keep us coming back. While not every character or actor is every fan's cup of tea, some seem to be ones we (or at least the production team) can't get enough of. They appear multiple times, either within the same story (doppelgängers) or at some later date (suspiciously familiar), more often than not without explanation.

Doppelgängers are a familiar concept in the modern era, even discounting Clara's split-across-time personae. The Zygons alone are responsible for an unseemly number of them. Perhaps most famously, the Osgoods—one human, one Zygon (and eventually another Zygon)—appeared side by side, working to maintain a tenuous peace. Of course, any time the Zygons crop up, they keep the audience guessing about which individual is the original and which the doppelgänger. It's good mental exercise.

Similarly, we've seen the Flesh. Not specifically sentient by itself, the Flesh was a more technological take on Zygon bio-duplication. (And now I'm wondering if it didn't start as a script work-around before usage rights for the Zygons could be secured...) Before we saw the larger-arc implications of the Flesh, though, we got full-on doppelgänger action with the Eleventh Doctor and his Ganger (the term for a Flesh duplicate directly referencing the German root word).

In both of these cases—Zygons and Gangers—the doppelgänger is patterned off an original, and needs that reference material in order to maintain its shape and the knowledge base (sometimes including personality) of said original. However, sometimes we've had full-on doppelgängers that exist completely separately from each other.


Confession #103: I Like Doctor Who Tropes


Despite the common claim that Doctor Who can "do anything" because of its premise—the setting could be anywhere in the universe, at any time in its past or future—the show is also well known to do much the same thing over and over again, for various reasons. These plot, set, and character ideas have appeared so often that they've become tropes. And I love me a well-executed trope.

For example, a tried and true way to save money on a show that often suffers from its imagination being larger than its budget is either to set a story in a single location or to set several stories in a filming block in the same location. If the production team can simply re-dress the set and shoot from a different angle to make it look just different enough, the audience (aside from a certain subset of nerds who look for that stuff) won't even notice.

In the pre-Hiatus/Classic era, this trick was so frequently used as to become almost a joke. Viewers all knew that an alien planet would be set in a quarry (very often the same one), and that interior scenes of the Doctor and his Companion(s) getting chased through a ship's interior or alien citadel would go past the exact same, re-dressed chunk of corridor a dozen times. (In fact, this trope is so well known it became part of the title of a 2010 commentary book.)

More recently, we've seen a number of Welsh locations re-used: the National Museum of Wales and the Temple of Peace in Cardiff, Dyffryn Gardens in the Vale of Glamorgan, Llansannor Court in Cowbridge, etc. The production teams are clever enough that a casual viewer won't necessarily figure out how often these spots have appeared, but for behind-the-scenes aficionados, some of these favorite locations could slip into trope territory.


Confession #102: I Take the Broader View


Last week was rough. The big thunderstorm that rolled through town on Tuesday was excitement enough, what with trees and branches downed everywhere and power out for as much as a couple days for some folks. But then Wednesday night the epidemic of police violence against Black citizens hit close to home.

Less than five miles from my home, on a stretch of road I've driven countless times myself, a Black couple and child were pulled over nominally due to a broken taillight. The man, whose name was Philando Castile, did not leave the scene alive.

Aside from this particular tragedy happening in my neck of the woods, Philando's death affected one of my micro-communities directly. You see Philando—or "Mr. Phil," as he was known to the kids—worked at my daughters' school.

So why am I bringing it up here, of all places? There are several reasons. First and foremost, it's what's been on my mind. And though I don't get a lot of traffic on the blog, especially since I changed my weekly posting schedule, this is where I have the largest platform. As a white person—a white American, specifically—I feel like I have to stop hiding behind my desire not to invite conflict (good God, I hate facing personal conflict) and speak up when and where I can.

But it's not entirely unrelated to Doctor Who, either. Because when it is at its best, the Doctor (and the show in general) makes us challenge our usual perceptions.


Confession #101: I'm Tired of Speculating


About two and a half weeks ago, on 23 Apr 2016, we got the latest big news in the continual evolution of our show: the announcement of the new Companion. In a two-minute video titled "Friend from the Future," we were introduced to Pearl Mackie's character Bill as she and the Doctor hid from Daleks. Fandom immediately began passing judgement.

I will admit that first impressions can be important in forming an attachment to a character, but I find it astounding that some fans have already decided they either love or hate Bill based on 124 seconds of footage. I only read a few reactions (mostly along the lines of, "Why won't she shut up? What part of 'killing machines' doesn't she get?") before I stopped paying attention.

Frankly, I'm tired of all the speculation so far ahead of the fact.

Regardless, it's kind of the bread and butter of fandom (especially for those of us who blog) to leap into the speculative fray. I'm therefore essentially duty-bound to give you my own thoughts on what may be in store for us once Bill's adventures aboard the TARDIS come to our screens. Long time readers will be shocked (sarcasm) to hear that I am "cautiously optimistic."

Here's the thing. While I can see the point of those who think Bill's lack of chill when faced with Daleks makes a poor addition to a potential Companion's résumé, all we have by which to judge her is this tiny snippet of time during which she is immersed in a completely foreign situation. We have no idea what led up to that moment, what else she may or may not have been exposed to while with the Doctor up to this point, or what else in her life might have led her to find him in any way credible. In other words, we know nothing, Jon Snow. (Sorry—wrong franchise.)


Confession #100: I'm Still a Neowhovian


Five plus years ago, when I decided to start this blog, it seemed to me that most of the opinions I was reading online about Doctor Who were being offered up by "old school" fans—the ones whose formative years included watching Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, or Peter Davison and who really seemed to know their shit. I'd been searching for a way to talk to more people about what I thought of the show, and figured writing a blog that came at it from the POV of a newb (I'd been a fan for only about two-and-a-half years at that point) could be my niche.

Since then, of course, fandom has continued to grow. Being "new to Who" is hardly uncommon these days—there's even a Twitter hashtag about it. Further, as time marches on I have moved gradually toward that Old Guard territory, especially as I include the entirety of the pre-Hiatus/Classic run in my personal brand of fandom. I feel like some sort of weird hybrid (no Series Nine capital letter there, though) between those drawn in by the modern revival and those forever faithful to whichever flavor of the original run they grew up with.

At my core, though, I know I am still a neowhovian. Much as I adore the serial format and other hallmarks of the pre-Hiatus years (not least the various Doctors), I still view those stories through a lens of history rather than one of nostalgia. For me, nostalgia comes firmly in the form of the Ninth Doctor and Rose. Every time I hear the synthesizer sting screaming into those brass-heavy bars and the frenzy of the strings' "Chase," a sense of rightness and anticipation washes over me. To my brain, nothing will ever be so quintessentially Doctor Who as Series One.



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