Confession #14: I Rather Like Torchwood

Jul
13

The recent relaunch of Doctor Who spinoff cum anagram Torchwood - this time in its American incarnation - has gotten me thinking again about the series as a whole. The fact that the 30 Day Doctor Who Challenge has a "favorite spinoff" entry coming up has exacerbated the situation, as Torchwood is one of the obvious possibilities. I hear a lot of bad-mouthing of Captain Jack's little gang and their adventures (even do a little myself, on occasion), but how bad is it, really?

I will admit that I watched the first two series mostly for the completeness of it - there was Who crossover, and I wanted the whole story. There were an awful lot of those stories that I'd rather not see again. I count Cyberwoman, Countrycide (worst. episode. ever.), and From Out of the Rain among those.

On the other hand, there were a few that I found quite engaging:  series opener Everything Changes, They Keep Killing Suzie (loved the premise), Random Shoes (similarly enjoyed this premise), Captain Jack Harkness (it was nice to get a little more background on Our Hero), Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (OK, yeah, I just really like James Marsters), and the rather disturbing Meat (not least because heroine Gwen's hubby Rhys finally gets let in on the big secret of Torchwood's existence).

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Nu-View #3: Foray Into Five

Jul
06

The Visitation (Story #120, 1982)
Viewed 19 Apr 2011, 21 Jun 2011

Doctor/Companion:   Five, Adric, Nyssa, Tegan
Stars:  Peter Davison, Matthew Waterhouse, Sarah Sutton, Janet Fielding
Preceding StoryKinda (Five, Adric, Tegan)
Succeeding Story:  Black Orchid (Five, Adric, Nyssa, Tegan)
Notable Aspects:

  • demise of the sonic screwdriver, which would not be seen again until The Movie in 1996

I found it difficult to decide at what point in his tenure to trot out Five for the Ladies' viewing. Eventually, I decided I wanted one that involved the classic trio of Adric, Nyssa and Tegan, and settled on The Visitation because it gave a good sense of the three of their personalities. I'd have used Castrovalva, but I wanted to save that as the denouement of the whole regeneration arc for another time.

Due to various scheduling conflicts, the Ladies had to watch this one in shifts. Each time we had at least one n00b and one veteran (here I include myself). Among other things, it was entertaining to hear the first impressions of appearances. One initiate commented that she wasn't sure about Five's outfit (to which jE immediately responded, "wait'll you see the next one!"). The other thought he reminded her of Chevy Chase. Everybody commented on the '80s-ness of the episode, from make-up to hair to costuming (jO thought Nyssa "would have looked so amazingly cool in 198[2]") to the TARDIS herself. There was also some consternation - coming from those accustomed to the modern "just swap 'em out" era - that the poor sonic screwdriver would disappear from the Doctor's toolbox for nearly a decade and a half after its destruction at the hands of the Tereleptils.

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Confession #13: I'm Mad at Eccleston

Jun
29

Looking at the title of this Confession, you might be under the mistaken impression that I don't like Nine. In fact, just the opposite is true. While my affections were eventually transferred firmly to Ten, Nine was the Doctor who brought me into the fold, and he truly was fantastic. I love him to pieces, and was definitely left wanting more.

So why the grumpy face? Simple. Christopher Eccleston, the actor who so brilliantly portrayed the Doctor's ninth incarnation, never really bought into the whole bonkers culture that surrounds Who. It wasn't for him. I suppose I can't really fault him for that (I know it's not everyone's cup of tea), but if you're not going to buy in, why put yourself in that position? Why take the role and then bail at the first available opportunity?

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Pearls Before Time

Jun
22

Review of Time and the Rani (#145)

DVD Release Date:  14 Jun 11
Original Air Date:  07 - 28 Sep 1987
Doctor/Companion:  Seven, Melanie Bush
Stars:  Sylvester McCoy, Bonnie Langford
Preceding StoryThe Ultimate Foe (Trial of a Timelord) (Six, Mel)
Succeeding StoryParadise Towers (Seven, Mel)

It was with mixed trepidation and excitement that I awaited the release of this particular title. As a regeneration story, it ranked high in my want-to-see list, but knowing the history behind this particular change of Doctors (Colin Baker, who played Six, was canned - the scapegoat for falling ratings; unsurprisingly, he was none too keen to return to do a regeneration scene), I was wary of the event itself. Sadly, this is the one instance in which a YouTube viewing does not detract from the in-context regeneration. We get no more explanation than the TARDIS hurtling through space, with Companion Mel and the Doctor both unconscious on the floor of the control room. Upon landing, the Doctor is rolled over by a Tetrap minion, triggering the regeneration process. Even the magic of television can't hide the fact that Six is just Seven in a bad wig and old costume. In that sense, this story starts out extremely disappointingly.

The rest of it, though, is surprisingly entertaining. I say "surprisingly" because, knowing ahead of time that the Rani (one of my all-time favorite foils for the Doctor) would be impersonating Mel, I was ready to cringe. However, even those sections came across relatively well. They were saved, of course, by the brilliance of Kate O'Mara (the Rani) and the perfect tone she kept while being simultaneously ingratiating and condescending (the unintentionally one-sided snarking between the Rani and the Doctor is great fun). Once she got out of Mel's atrocious outfit (and the equally atrocious ginger wig), I was able to enjoy her performance fully.

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Nothing New Under the Earth

Jun
22

Review of Frontios (#133)

DVD Release Date: 14 Jun 11
Original Air Date: 26 Jan - 03 Feb 1984
Doctor/Companion:   Five, Tegan Jovanka, Vislor Turlough
Stars:  Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Mark Strickson
Preceding StoryThe Awakening (Five, Tegan, Turlough)
Succeeding StoryResurrection of the Daleks (Five, Tegan, Turlough)

Coming, as I always do, from the perspective of the post-Hiatus series, I often find elements I've seen in those more recent episodes when I watch ones from earlier eras. Such is the case with Frontios. I was so strongly reminded of The Hungry Earth I kept having to remind myself that that story was some 26 years away. (Coincidentally, two stories before Frontios, the Silurians made their last appearance before cropping up again in Hungry Earth.) On the surface, there's very little connection between the two, but the common element of danger from below - that "the earth was hungry" (in so many words, even) - kept cropping up.

It's also not the only story to involve the "last" colony of humanity trying to survive (see, for example, The Ark or Utopia for two examples from opposite ends of the new/old spectrum). Here they are, having been at war for decades (The Armageddon Factor), the TARDIS is apparently destroyed (Journey's End), and the Doctor is mistaken as the culprit responsible for all their woes (take your pick). To top it all off, despite knowing better (The Waters of Mars), the Doctor knowingly and willingly breaks the Time Lord policy of non-interference, and entreats the people of Frontios not to tell the Time Lords (as it's gotten him in hot water before; The War Games).

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