Confession #115: I'm Considering Cutting Corners

Oct
11

My daughters have continued to expand their Doctor Who horizons in the past few months (we're currently on a Seven-and-Ace kick), which has led them to a broader awareness of my own fannish activities. The last time I mentioned some breaking guest news from Gallifrey One, for example, one of them pouted, "I really want to go to Gally..."

It dawned on me last weekend that although getting them to Gally with me is unlikely to prove financially feasible any time soon (flying roughly 2000 miles isn't cheap for one, let alone three or four—never mind the cost of lodging, food, and souvenirs), we have a local Doctor Who con (CONsole Room) where they could dip their toes into the experience.

So I wandered over to the CONsole Room site to see what the con might have in store for my girls, should we decide to go. At this early stage (we're still seven months out), there isn't a lot of detail to be had. However, there is a headliner who's been announced, and having seen her myself at Gally, I can vouch for her being a great guest: Neve McIntosh (a.k.a. Madame Vastra). I bet the girls would love her.

Except they currently have no idea who Vastra is.

Now I'm in a bit of a pickle. I have been trying hard not to force any viewing on my kids, because I want them to want to watch my favorite show, rather than to feel pressured into it, thereby enjoying it less. I've presented some options throughout the Classic/pre-Hiatus run, and let them choose among those curated offerings. My reasoning is sometimes peculiar, but so far they haven't come away disliking anything, even the more esoteric and oft-disparaged serials.

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A Series of Unfortunate Events

Sep
27

Review of The Ultimate Foe (#143d)
DVD Release Date: 10 Oct 08
Original Air Date: 29 Nov - 06 Dec 1986
Doctor/Companion: Six, Melanie "Mel" Bush
Stars: Colin Baker, Bonnie Langford
Preceding Story: Terror of the Vervoids (Six, Mel)
Succeeding Story: Time and the Rani (Seven, Mel)

The final (one might even say "ultimate") story of the Sixth Doctor's tenure was riddled with unfortunate circumstances. Perhaps most blatantly, writer Robert Holmes—widely considered one of the best of the Classic era, and the one who penned Episodes 1-4 of The Trial of a Time Lord (TToaTL)—took ill and died before completing Episode 13, forcing Script Editor Eric Saward to finish it off.

Making matters worse, BBC executives still weren't seeing eye-to-eye with the Doctor Who team. The show had been put "on hiatus" between Season 22 and TToaTL (Season 23), and things were not really looking up despite the renewal. With producer John Nathan-Turner (JNT) also at odds with his script editor, it's amazing anything ended up on screen at all.

Saward had agreed to write Episode 14 as well as finishing its predecessor, but things with JNT deteriorated enough that Saward eventually walked out, leaving JNT to do Saward's script editing job while Pip and Jane Baker, who had written Episodes 9-12, stepped in to complete the season. No matter how many notes a writer leaves, no other writer can produce something that looks just like what the original creator had in their head. And to be blunt, Pip and Jane Baker are no Robert Holmes. The resulting episode is uninspiring at best.

When one adds in all this context regarding the production to the retrospective knowledge that Colin Baker would be forced out of the lead role before the next season, the overall effect while watching The Ultimate Foe is like of standing outside Pompeii with the TARDIS on Volcano Day. One feels pity for the poor souls trapped in this hopeless situation, knowing just how it ends and that you can do nothing to save them—and that doesn't make it any prettier to watch.

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Confession #114: I've Come Full Circle on Rose

Sep
13

Several months ago, I got my daughters to agree to watch an episode of Doctor Who with me—just one. I told them if they didn't like it, they didn't have to watch any more. It turned out, though, that they did quite like it, and we ended up watching another right away.

Since then, we've watched a number of stories together, from Series Ten to The Monster of Peladon to Dalek. With the summer holidays winding down and a new school year starting, we've come to something of a viewing standstill (though I'll admit to not being overly anxious to push forward, as the next two episodes in the queue are Love & Monsters and Fear Her...), but now that we are ~85% through Rose's time as a (regular) Companion, I have to say it's made me think about her differently—again.

When I first started watching, Rose was my everything. I fell in love with the show and the Doctor through her, totally reading their relationship—starting with Nine—as romantic. I even had my own headcanon about exactly when each fell for the other, and when each ~realized~ they'd fallen for the other. I made notes (I'm that kinda nerd).

I spent a great deal of Series Four (which was airing as I caught up to it) waiting with bated breath for Rose's return. It couldn't come fast enough for me. Although Donna replaced her as my favorite modern Companion (until Series Ten), for several years I had nothing but fondness for Rose. Then I started interacting with The Fandom.

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The Confusion of a Time Line

Aug
23

Review of Terror of the Vervoids (#143c)
DVD Release Date: 10 Oct 08
Original Air Date: 01 - 22 Nov 1986
Doctor/Companion: Six, Melanie "Mel" Bush
Stars: Colin Baker, Bonnie Langford
Preceding Story: Mindwarp (Six, Peri)
Succeeding Story: The Ultimate Foe (Six, Mel)

Let me begin by acknowledging what a ridiculously suggestive (nigh pornographic) creature design this serial has. Wowzers. How that got past the censors/BBC high muckety-mucks/whoever screens this stuff, I'll never understand. And now that that's out of the way, we can talk about the rest of it.

While Terror of the Vervoids has never ranked high in my personal preference list of Doctor Who stories, it does have one particularly intriguing aspect that sets it apart from most other pre-Hiatus serials: it's wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey.

Sadly this aspect isn't pervasive; it only shows up when we cut back to the courtroom for the scenes that remind us the Doctor is on trial for his life. In order to find evidence to defend himself, though, the Doctor has had to dip into his own future, as recorded by the Matrix. Thus we get a bigger hiccup in his timeline than usual, which has an interesting and slightly maddening side effect: we never get a formal introduction to his next Companion.

We join the Doctor and Mel with their travels already in progress. There's a distinct sense of familiarity between them that comes of a prolonged association with each other. In one way, I'm delighted by the cheekiness of this writing decision. We have just learned (along with the Doctor, because (a) his memory's messed up and (b) he got pulled out of time before the events reputedly happened) that his previous Companion Peri has died due to his actions/inaction. Normally we'd expect an adventure where he meets a new friend and invites (in this case) her to travel with him.

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Confession #113: I Like In-Doctor-nating Newbs

Aug
09

When I started writing this blog several years ago, I still considered myself a new fan. The original concept of the blog was to talk about the show—particularly the Classic/pre-Hiatus era—from the perspective of someone who'd only "discovered" it ~2.5 years before. It was also less common at that time to see women blogging about Who, so it seemed like a nice little niche I could carve out for myself in fandom writing.

Somewhere along the way, I seem to have morphed into something more akin to Old Guard. I'll certainly never have the same kind of cred as fans who grew up with the show in the UK, or even those here in the US who had to scramble for access via many-times-copied VHS tapes. (Along those lines, I'm really looking forward to the release of Red White and Who: The Story of Doctor Who in America by Steven Warren Hill et al., due out in less than two weeks.) However, I've noticed that as the show evolves and gains new young viewers, I have more in common with those long-term fans than the new.

I think that commonality has much to do with the fact that I am of an age with the fans who grew up with the show. As such, I relate to television in much the same way. Having been raised on 70's and 80's television, I don't find those periods of Doctor Who as foreign or off-putting as many fans of younger generations do. Nor does 60's Who seem as far out of my norm.

These are things I have to keep in mind when I want to introduce new people to our show. Depending on the kind of television the individual in question is used to, I might have to make different selections or give a different set of preparatory comments.

The general openness of a subject to the entire experiment is also important. For example, there is a big difference between a thirty-something fan who's seen all of modern/post-Hiatus Who and is interested in exploring more of the older Doctors; a twenty-something who came in with Smith's Eleven and doesn't really connect to Capaldi's older, crankier Twelve—and is pretty dubious about that whole black-and-white nonsense; and a pre-teen who mostly only knows about the show because their parent(s) watch. That necessary customization is part of the fun for me.

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