Nu-View #5: Color Me Surprised

Aug
24

The Mark of the Rani  (Story #140, 1985)
Viewed 09 Aug 2011

Doctor/Companion:   Six, Perpugilliam "Peri" Brown
Stars:  Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant
Preceding StoryVengeance on Varos (Six, Peri)
Succeeding Story:  The Two Doctors (Two, Six, Jaime, Peri)
Notable Aspects:

OK - I'll admit it: I was really surprised by the reactions to Six. While jE was already familiar with him (in fact, he was the reason she stopped watching, back in the day - and despite not feeling well, I'm pretty sure that's her real excuse for missing this time), neither of the other two had ever seen him before.  I carefully picked my favorite of his stories in order to cast him in the best possible light.  Who knew - it worked!

First impressions were mixed. The credits were declared more '70s than '80s (and Six's smile garnered such adjectives as "creepy" and "psychedelic"), but the music was "totally '80s!" Then came the requisite disgust with Six's coat-of-many-colors, which for this story was closely followed by "what is she wearing?!" in reference to Peri. Finally, there was the general snarking about the supposedly American Companion ("gotta work on that accent, lady"), which actually continued through the whole show ("you're so incapable!" "I don't like her at all..."). So far, I was in familiar territory.

Then things turned weird.

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Misleading Title Goes Here

Aug
17

Review of The Sun Makers (#95)

DVD Release Date:  09 Aug 11
Original Air Date:  26 Nov - 17 Dec 1977
Doctor/Companion:  Four, Leela, K-9
Stars:  Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, John Leeson
Preceding StoryImage of the Fendahl (Four, Leela)
Succeeding Story:  Underworld (Four, Leela, K-9)

Robert Holmes is widely regarded as one of the best writers in Who history, and he certainly contributed vastly to the franchise. In The Sun Makers, he takes a time of personal irritation and molds it into a weirdly engaging dystopian tale of excessive taxes and stagnating humanity. Having fled Old Earth, the human race now lives on distant Pluto, in constant daylight from its six artificial suns (the only mention of any "sun makers" we are ever to get).

It starts out wonderfully creepy with a Citizen apparently pleased to hear of his father's death, and continues with lots of stereotypical tromping (not much running, really) through corridors from there. However, to my eye, it soon took a rather darker turn - something I feel was unintended, or at least reflects the change in times since its original broadcast. Things are quite violent on this future Pluto, as people threaten each other with all sorts of tortures (not just Leela, either, who seems actually to be on par with the locals for a change). Public torture and execution - viewable in person, for a small fee - also appear commonplace. Near the end of the story, there's even a cheerful - not angry, mind you; cheerful - mob of revolutionaries who throw an official to his doom.

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American Torchwood Is Weird

Aug
15

It finally dawned on me, as I watched Episode 6 ("Middle Men" - which, by the way, had (in my opinion) the best cliffhanger of the series to date, even if it wasn't all that suspenseful), that one of the things that's throwing me off about Torchwood: Miracle Day is the fact that it's been produced in the US. It's not the actual presentation of the material, or different "production values" or anything like that, though. It's the actors.

One things that has always made it easy for me to immerse myself in Who is the fact that I am being introduced to characters with faces I've never seen before. I only know these actors in their Who personas (with the exception of a cameo in City of Death by John Cleese and, actually, Five - who I couldn't help thinking of as "Tristan" for the first two stories I watched). That was true with the first three (BBC-produced) series of Torchwood, too. Now in Miracle Day, I'm seeing faces all over the place that I know elsewhere.

I hadn't realized how much of a difference that would make to me. It's jarring, though. It takes me out of the moment, and I start pulling back and thinking in terms of a production instead of getting pulled into the story. "Where have I seen this actor before?" I ask myself. "Oh yeah - it was [as a regular in a sitcom / in that soap opera I used to watch / in one of my favorite films from the '90s / whatever it may be]." Some of the magic seeps out in those moments, especially if I can't figure it out at first - that drives me to distraction.

I have to wonder - is this part of Who for Brits? Is that one reason I'm usually so "easy" when it comes to my enjoyment of post-Hiatus Who compared to those who constantly recognize guest artists in Torchwood's parent show? I'm really curious now, but I don't have any good way to research the question (or even an idea of how to do so without bias), other than the utterly subjective one of asking any of you out there who have an opinion to weigh in. So let's hear your thoughts.

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Confession #16: I Hate the Non-Regeneration

Aug
10

Warning: profanity ahead
Now anyone who has an opinion about Doctor Who in its post-Hiatus incarnation is almost guaranteed to have a further opinion about one particular moment. Whatever your feelings about the "Bog-Standard-Regeneration-Effect #1" (and you can read mine in Confession #4), its use for the faux climax of Series 4 at the end of The Stolen Earth was a bait-and-switch of epic proportions.

Even putting aside Doctor 10.2 and how that whole storyline played out - which is the part about which most Whovians (whether the neo- or paleo- variety) would be most likely to offer their two cents - the actual Non-Regeneration Event itself was, in my opinion, a travesty against God and man (or against Doctor and Fan, if you will). Why does it put my knickers in such a twist? I'm glad you asked; I was going to tell you anyway.

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Confession #15: I Wish Sgt. Benton Had Traveled with the Doctor

Aug
03

I don't really know, but I'm guessing every fan has at least one character about which they think, "man! - s/he should have been a Companion!" Currently, I'm having such wishful thinking about Mdme. Vastra. (Wouldn't that be a brilliant change-up for the TARDIS crew? How often has the Doctor had a non-human companion? KamelionRomana, K-9 (anyone I'm missing?) - a small fraction of the total, regardless.) When we get back to pre-Hiatus Who, though - something that's sadly "mists of time" for me rather than "misty nostalgia" - I've found that there's one recurring yet secondary character I'd really have loved to see travel with the Doctor on a regular basis:  Sgt. Benton.

Benton is a generally congenial soul, mellow and pleasant to be around. That all makes him great as a background character, but what makes me think he'd have done well long-term? There are a couple of major reasons, really, and they have to do with his basically unflappable personality.

First, he tends to take everything in stride. What better qualification than that can a Companion have? (Well... I'll consider that later.) When faced with all sorts of weirdness, Benton pretty much never bats an eyelash - with the exception of reasonable self-preservation instinct. Most famously, he had the best-in-the-history-of-the-franchise reaction to his first view of the inside of the TARDIS. Here's how it played out.

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