A Mysterious Plan

Jan
25

Review of The Mysterious Planet (#143a)
DVD Release Date: 10 Oct 08
Original Air Date: 06 - 27 Sep 1986
Doctor/Companion: Six, Perpugilliam "Peri" Brown
Stars: Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant
Preceding Story: Revelation of the Daleks (Six, Peri)
Succeeding Story: Mindwarp (Six, Peri)

Today I start a new review series, with an arc I've long avoided here. The Trial of a Time Lord (ToaTL) is, depending on who you ask, either a season-long, fourteen-part story or four, two- or four-part stories connected into a season arc. It comprises approximately half of the Sixth Doctors televised tenure in the role, and thus looms larger in my mental landscape than perhaps it should.

So because my reviews over the years have been particularly shy of Sixth Doctor adventures (at least the televised ones), I decided I'd finally tackle ToaTL for the first part of 2017 (with a Dalek breakaway—see what I did there?—for Power in February) before Series Ten begins.

As we begin this season, then, we see the TARDIS being pulled into a large structure in space, and the Doctor steps out—alone—into a darkened hallway. The room he enters is also darkened until, with some vaguely ominous words, someone eventually identified as "the Valeyard"—the person who is to become his major adversary over the coming episodes—reveals that they are in a Time Lord courtroom.

The Doctor is the subject of a hearing to determine whether or not he is truly guilty of "conduct unbecoming of a Time Lord." As part of his protest, the Doctor claims he can't be put on trial because he's Lord President of Gallifrey (Oh, Doctor... You sound unpleasantly like the new POTUS...), but is told that as a result of his neglect for his duties, he's been deposed.

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Confession #108: I Don't Feel Very "Neo" Anymore

Jan
11

Exactly six years ago today, my first post appeared on this blog. It's a little hard to believe it's been so long! When I started out, I had a lot to say. I was still less than three years into my fandom, and really didn't have anyone to talk to about the show, at least not in any in-depth way. I had only just joined Twitter, in order to promote the blog, and hadn't even heard of Gally until I'd been on Twitter for a while. (That was back in the day when one could still decide on a whim in August to go to Gally the following February, rather than needing lightning-fast fingers during a brief few-minute window in May.)

So it felt exciting and energizing to try to connect with other fans and share my take on things in a way I'd not seen discussed. I didn't feel like most of the folks whose opinions I was reading at the time could relate to my perspective at all, and I hoped to add a new voice to the mix.

Since then, I've developed a great many fan friendships, some of them close. I've had conversations both online (here on the blog and elsewhere) and in person about any number of Doctor Who-related topics. I've experienced my second realtime regeneration and all the feels that accompany the change in lead actor. I've met many cast, crew, and production team members. I've been on a bunch of panels at both Gally and my local con CONsole Room.

And the conversations have changed.

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Just a Sprinkle of Humbug

Dec
31

Review of The Return of Doctor Mysterio
Warning: This review contains episode-specific spoilers and wild speculation about future episodes.

Ah, the annual Christmas Special... That sixty-minute episode that tries to be all things to all people, but most especially to those who never watch Doctor Who except this once a year. No wonder Moffat chooses Christmas as the time to trot out his most gimmicky ideas.

Having already exploited Santa Claus/Father Christmas two years ago (and included a nod to Sherlock Holmes (and thus his own work on Sherlock) in 2012), Moffat needed a new cultural icon to shoehorn into his annual holiday offering. Since there would undoubtedly be copyright issues with something like Lord of the Rings or Star Wars, it seems he decided it was instead time to cash in on the recent resurgent popularity of superheroes—thus we end up with "Doctor Who Does Superman" this year.

Not that a fluffy superhero "romp" is entirely unsuited to the situation. The trope is easily relatable to a casual viewer, who thereby doesn't have to know anything about the show at all to understand the premise of the episode. I'm not a huge fan of this type of genre crossover, but I thought the conceit by which young Grant gained his superpowers was sufficiently Doctor-y and believable in-universe. ("Take this," the Doctor tells 8-year-old Grant, handing him a gemstone to hold with what, in retrospect, turns out to have been a particularly unfortunate choice of words.)

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Out Like Apathy

Dec
21

Review of The Leisure Hive (#109)
DVD Release Date: 07 Jun 05 (Out of Print)
Original Air Date: 30 Aug - 20 Sep 1980
Doctor/Companion: Four, Romana II, K-9
Stars: Tom Baker, Lalla Ward, John Leeson
Preceding Story: The Horns of Nimon (Four, Romana I, K-9)
Succeeding Story: Meglos (Four, Romana II)

It's the beginning of the end for the Fourth Doctor, as he takes one final victory lap around the universe before handing over the keys of the TARDIS to a younger, blonder version of himself. By this point the Four/Romana II team functions like a well-serviced TARDIS, comfortable with each others' foibles and confident in each others' roles in the partnership as much as their own.

As usual, I find Romana's quiet competence to be one of the highlights of the story. The Doctor is mostly watchable as well, since Baker has yet to decide he's So Done With the role, though the spring is certainly gone from his step. The guest cast also performs well—only as campy as the script requires.

The script, though... Well, it could be worse. In fact, I remembered it as being worse before I re-watched it for this review. But it's certainly not a shining star in the oeuvre, either. Remembering that this is the season opener makes the director's choice of spending nearly a full minute on an establishing shot panning across an Earth beach scene (Brighton) feel even more questionable; why would you think that would entice your audience to stick around for more?

Poor K-9 doesn't stick around for long, either. Romana tosses a ball toward the shore in a moment of frustration, causing the hapless metal hound to chase after it to the point of self-destruction. Having thus gotten an unfavored character out of the way, the writer uses Romana's dissatisfaction with their vacation spot as the impetus for sending our heroes off to the leisure planet Argolis—now without the randomizer fitted into the TARDIS's guidance system for the first time since Romana's regeneration.

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Confession # 107: I'm Feeling Undervalued

Dec
07

Since the show's rebirth in 2005, and its subsequent booming popularity in the US, the Powers That Be (PTB) have done a pretty good job including fans on this side of the Pond in various events and celebrations that might interest us. They've not generally made us wait for a later broadcast date for new episodes, occasionally even giving us simultaneous access (like the around-the-world release of the 50th anniversary special), and have made an effort to include American stops on their publicity tours.

These last few months, though, I've felt undervalued as a North American fan. Specifically, there are two multi-part storylines that have been delayed significantly for the US audience: Class and The Power of the Daleks.

Power is widely regarded as one of the best stories out there; I often see it at or near the top of "What lost story would you most like to see returned" lists (along with Marco Polo). In the UK, the 6-part animated reconstruction was released online one downloadable episode per day beginning on 05 Nov 2016. Just over two weeks later, the entire serial was available for purchase on Region 2 DVD, with online/downloadable color and blu-ray versions yet to come (31 Dec 16 and 06 Feb 17, respectively).

By contrast, the US got a cinematic version (one night only!) on 14 Nov 16 (Canada, Australia, and New Zealand got similar options), with a weekly episode airing on BBC America starting on 19 Nov 16. For those of us who weren't able to make it to a theater on the 14th nor have ready access to BBCA, the wait extends out to 24 Jan 17, when the R1 DVD will be released from a single outlet (Barnes & Noble, for those wondering).

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