Confession #111: I Want More Globetrotting

Apr
12

One of—perhaps even The—most sought-after missing serial in Doctor Who is the early Hartnell adventure Marco Polo. It's the fourth-ever story, the earliest missing serial, and—with the exception of two of the six episodes of The Reign of Terror—the only gap in the first season of the show. It is also believed to have been a truly beautiful piece of television.

Although the audio still exists, the only visual record we have of Marco Polo is set photos. These images give us a tempting glimpse at the opulent sets and costumes that no doubt fuel the fan ardor for the serial. But is there something besides its status as the Who-footage version of a unicorn or the Fountain of Youth—or perhaps more accurately, a Tasmanian tiger—that gets fans worked up every time a rumor of its discovery resurfaces?

I would argue that one of the reasons Marco Polo ranks so highly in the minds of those pining for the return of lost episodes is its setting. Even nearly eight hundred years after the travels of the real Marco Polo, China continues to be considered fairly exotic by the standards of Eurocentric cultures like the UK and US. While setting a story in a location unfamiliar to a broad swath of your fanbase has the potential to further exoticize that location, it also has the potential both to pique audience interest and to familiarize that audience with different cultural perspectives.

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Stomachturn

Mar
22

Review of Mindwarp (#143b)
DVD Release Date: 10 Oct 08
Original Air Date: 04 - 25 Oct 1986
Doctor/Companion: Six, Perpugilliam "Peri" Brown
Stars: Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant
Preceding Story: The Mysterious Planet (Six, Peri)
Succeeding Story: Terror of the Vervoids (Six, Mel)

I will admit, dear readers, that I cringed at the thought of needing to rewatch Mindwarp for this review. Parts Five through Eight of The Trial of a Time Lord (TToaTL) have always ranked high in my personal list of regrettable Doctor Who stories, and I'm afraid nothing changed this time around.

There are a few things that stand out in my memory about Mindwarp, no matter how long it's been since my last viewing: the way Peri gets so thoroughly screwed over; Brian Blessed's sheer, scenery-chewing volume; and the return of Sil, perhaps my most hated antagonist ever. None of these key traits serve to recommend the adventure, nor are they improved on repeated viewing.

While I've never particularly cared for Peri, no one deserves the shitty treatment—especially in a farewell appearance—that she gets here*. Even before the Doctor goes off the deep end (and he does, though neither we nor the Doctor himself, as evidenced by his reactions back in the courtroom on Gallifrey, really know why), he is truly horrible to his Companion. The prime example ties into another of my dislikes about Mindwarp: Sil.

Given the way Sil made my skin crawl (and not in a "love to hate" way) in his first appearance, I—like poor Peri—have no desire to be anywhere near him, even narratively. When she discovers Sil is on Thoros Beta with them, and that it is in fact his home planet (a detail the Doctor neglected to mention), she tells the Doctor outright that she wants to leave. Sil tortured her the last time they met, and she has been understandably traumatized by the experience.

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Confession #110: I'm Past Ready for New Episodes

Mar
08

I'm going to let my Fan Entitlement flag fly for a moment—something of which I don't generally approve—and say that it's about bloody time there were some new episodes of Doctor Who on the air. The first episode of Series 10 is finally going out on 15 Apr 2017 (mere days after my next Confession, incidentally), and I couldn't be more ready.

It's selfish and rude of me to be so antsy—after all, other shows have even longer waits—but going a full year between episodes in 2016 was like torture, especially given all the other Scheiße that went down last year. Since the show's return in 2005, we've generally not had to wait more than about six months for new material—even during the Year of Specials—though there have been a few larger gaps. The span between the 2011 Christmas special and the start of Series 7, for example, was just over eight months.

During Capaldi's era, however, extended wait times have become both increasingly long and increasingly standard. Right from the get-go, we had to wait eight months between Smith's departure in the 2013 Christmas special and Capaldi's debut in Series 8. The following year, there were nine months between the 2014 Christmas special and Series 9.

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Feel the Power

Feb
22

Review of Power of the Daleks (#30)
DVD Release Date: 24 Jan 17 [Region 1]
Original Air Date: 05 Nov - 10 Dec 1966
Doctor/Companion: Two, Ben Jackson, and Polly Wright
Stars: Patrick Troughton, Michael Craze, Anneke Wills
Preceding Story: The Tenth Planet (Two, Ben, Polly)
Succeeding Story: The Highlanders (Two, Ben, Polly, Jamie)

Although we've had some brilliant windfalls in recent years in terms of recovered "lost" episodes of Doctor Who, there are plenty that are still missing in their entirety. Perhaps the most famous/famously sought-after is Marco Polo, but Patrick Troughton's first serial Power of the Daleks is also high on many peoples' lists.

Perhaps that is the reason that BBC Worldwide took the unusual step of animating all six episodes of Power. While they have previously commissioned animations for missing episodes of stories that are incomplete in the archives, this is (correct me if I'm wrong) the first story to be reconstructed in its entirety with no surviving visual material but a few minutes of clips and stills.

Although the animated reconstruction was released on the BBC Store last November (fifty years to the minute from the original broadcast of its opening episode), a physical version (DVD, rather than digital download or BBC America broadcast) was not made available in the US until late January. Being the obsessive collector I am (and refusing to pay for it twice), I therefore didn't get to see it until just recently.

The story begins with the first-ever regeneration. As a fan fifty years out, it feels oddly portentous watching that moment, even animated (though I still find the original surviving footage more moving). Troughton's skill and the lampshading of the wildly radical concept of the lead character's complete change of not only body but personality through the Companions' reactions to him paved the way for everything that followed.

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Gallifrey One: 28 Years Later - Day Three

Feb
20

Sundays at Gally always have their own peculiar flavor. There is still a lot to do and see, but the specter of the end of the con hangs over everything, too. At the beginning of the day, though, it's relatively easy to pretend there's another two days of the con to go.

This year I spent most of my day in Program D at the discussion panels rather than in Program A at the main stage big events and interview panels as I have often done. Unfortunately, at the beginning of the day I wanted to be in both places at once. Program A held a live commentary screening of The Waters of Mars with actual NASA scientists giving the commentary. I know I would have loved it, and been nodding along (perhaps even noticing some of the same things as they were said), and both the tweets I read and personal accounts I heard indicated it was a hoot.

Instead, though, I chose to go to the panel about diversity in Doctor Who. It's unfortunate that programming came down to a single panel encompassing every type of human diversity in a mere fifty minutes (that's hardly enough to talk about any one, let alone all of them), but it was still good to have the conversation. Interestingly, the only time casting a new Doctor came up was at the end, when it was noted that it felt like this had been the only panel of the weekend that hadn't discussed it.

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