Confession #82: I Still Like Murray Gold


Every now and again, I indulge myself and sit down to watch some Ninth Doctor story or another, letting the nostalgia wash over me. From the moment I hear that sting slide into the first, triumphant downbeat, something in my heart lifts in a way no other version of the theme song can evoke. Over the past ten years, composer Murray Gold has produced a half dozen or more versions of the title theme, incidental music for every episode, and musical cues for a multitude of characters, and I'm still not sick of him.

Not to say there aren't moments I wouldn't mind a change, especially when the sound mixers decide to allow Gold's work to stomp all over the dialog, but generally speaking I quite like the way he scores the show. Aside from that first version of the title theme (still my favorite), I especially love the way just a bar or two of a particular melody—sometimes less—instantly reminds me of a specific character.

Each Doctor has had his own theme, though the ethereal oo-ooh'ing one created for Eccleston's Ninth Doctor was shared with Tennant's Tenth before its tone was modified. And though not every Doctor's theme has been immediately obvious to the audience as such, it doesn't take long for even a snippet of a particular melody to become inextricably linked with its Doctor. How many fans, for example, can listen to "I Am the Doctor" without immediately envisioning Smith's Eleven?


Confession #81: I Want Certain Retcons


Continuity is a tricky thing in Doctor Who. Due to the nature of the beast, with a plethora of writers contributing to the "canon" (a loaded, debatable term), contradictions abound. For large things, like humanity becoming aware of non-Terrestrial life, a showrunner will usually find a way to smooth over the issue with a clever (or not-so-clever) retcon. A few such instances were highlighted recently in an article at the Houston Press.

However, sometimes rather egregious inconsistencies remain unaddressed. Other times, writers throw in ideas that some fans simply find distasteful (while others, of course, couldn't care less). There is at least one of the former category—and several of the latter—that still irritate me. Here are some of the blips in the Doctor's adventures I'd like to see sorted.

I'll start with the actual discontinuity, which involves the Blinovich Limitation Effect (BLE). First mentioned in Day of the Daleks, and later in Invasion of the Dinosaurs, the BLE began as a vague hand wave to explain (without explaining) why our heroes couldn't simply go back and try again and again if they failed their mission the first time. Later, in Mawdryn Undead, we learned that an extension (or corollary, perhaps) of the Effect meant that if two versions of the same individual from different points on their personal timeline were to touch, there could be catastrophic effects.

Unfortunately, post-Hiatus Who has, more often than not, ignored the perils of the BLE—unless it happened to suit a particular storyline. There are, off the top of my head, three examples of characters crossing their own timelines and touching other versions of themselves. The first, where Rose holds her infant self in Father's Day, does actually lead to severe consequences in the form of Reapers. It's not the same result of that corollary that we saw in Mawdryn Undead, but at least we see how the paradoxical crossing of her own timestream affects Rose and her surroundings.


Confession #80: I'm Not Celebrating Ten Years


The recent flood of "ten years ago today" posts about the relaunch of Doctor Who with Christopher Eccleston's spectacular Ninth Doctor and Billie Piper's Rose is kind of weirding me out. It's not that I feel old thinking about how much time has passed, or nostalgic about the moment the show came back. It's that I have no personal connection to that moment.

You may recall that although I was first introduced to the show through Rose, that didn't actually happen until early 2008. I'm still three years out from my personal ten-year Doctor Who anniversary. So all those "remember when...?" and "where were you?" posts strike me as odd.

Yes, I remember seeing Rose for the first time, but I didn't approach it as I've heard the fans who'd made it through the Wilderness Years did, with either breathless anticipation or trepidation. For me, it was a way to pass some time of an evening with a friend who was enthusiastic about something of which I'd barely heard.

I have fond memories of the way we watched the first five episodes together, but then our viewing fell by the wayside. I had enjoyed the stories, but wasn't hooked (that didn't happen until much later, when we got back to it with Dalek). To be honest, I can't even pin down the dates to within better than about a year until I finally caught up with "live" viewing.


Confession #79: I Want Sister-Friends


[Note: In case you saw yesterday's post but didn't click through to read the comments, YES, it was an April Fool's joke. I've no plans to end the blog, despite the fact that the first paragraph was gospel truth.]

Last week I talked about how nice it would be to see more "bromance" in the TARDIS—that male-male bonding that doesn't hinge on competition or other head-butting dynamics. But there's another type of common human relationship that happens all the time in real life but is relatively rare in fiction. It's a female-female bond I'm going to call sister-friends.

Think about the women you know (yourself included, if that's how you identify)—family, friends, coworkers, random people at the grocery store, whatever. How often do you find women keeping the company of other women and how often are they with men? Alternatively, think specifically now about women you know well. Who are the handful of people with whom each woman has the closest relationships? Are those people exclusively men? Or are there other women in that innermost circle?

Now compare to what we see of the Doctor's Companions (especially in the modern era). Starting with our current title holder, note that while Clara can get chummy with other women (as she only does when traveling with the Doctor, as far as we've ever seen), the people she actually spends time with are (a) the Doctor and (b) Danny. On rare occasions we've seen her with her father and/or her grandmother (or mentioning her long-dead mother), but those relationships are incredibly thinly developed on screen.

Even when we enter Clara's world a little more completely, as in The Caretaker, nearly everyone around her is male: the headmaster, the other teacher the Doctor mistakes for her boyfriend, the beat cop who gets vaporized by the Skovox Blitzer... Only Courtney rises slightly above bit player status, and even then I'd argue she's more there to bounce off the Doctor or highlight the relationship between Clara and Danny than anything else.


Confession #78: I Want Bromance


When I mention the Doctor's Companions, who's the first person who pops into your head? Is it the current or a recent Companion: Clara, or maybe Amy? Is it the first one you ever saw: Rose or Nyssa or Liz Shaw or even Susan? What about your all-time favorite (if it's not one of those I've already named): Sarah Jane, Jo, Ace, Barbara...?

When I say "Companion," how often does a guy come to mind?

Even if we restrict the Companion count to television, there have been a great many folks who've traveled with the Doctor over the years. Using the fairly generous selection criteria on the relevant Wikipedia page, we get a total of fifty individuals, including such outliers as Kamelion and Adam Mitchell. Of those, seventeen are men (eighteen, if you count the male-presenting Kamelion; or nineteen if you include male-voiced K-9). That's roughly 35%.

More strictly, if one doesn't include those who were only on one adventure (like Sara Kingdom or Jackson Lake) or didn't have their names in the opening credits (like Adam), but does include regular UNIT staff (the Brigadier, Sgt. Benton, and Capt. Yates), the Companion count comes in closer to thirty-seven or thirty-eight. Eleven or twelve of those are men (depending on whether or not you count Jack Harkness), or about 30%.

Either way we count, men are relatively uncommon TARDIS travelers. And yet some of the Doctor's longest-lasting, most intriguing relationships have been with these male Companions. There are two in particular that I'm thinking of: the Brigadier and Jamie.



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