The Cat's (Partly) Out of the Bag


Review of A Good Man Goes to War
Warning:  This review contains episode-specific spoilers and wild speculation about future episodes.

This one was a real mixed bag for me. Sure, it was a huge-scale production, with epic tie-ins where the Doctor called in favors from across time and space. But it all felt a bit too much. Also - the Spitfires? I ~edit~ hate the Spitfires-in-Space (...which you'd already know if I'd been blogging last year and had published the scathing review I wrote of Victory of the Daleks)! So take out a few of those called-in favors to make it feel less cobbled together (seriously, it has the kitchen sink feel of some of RTD's most egregious I'm-trying-too-hard ventures), and the story will drive it just fine.

There is, after all, plenty of drama. Will our heroes recover the baby? What is the real motivation behind her abduction? How far will the Doctor go down the path to the Dark Side? (How far can Moffat take a religious order created via an off-the-cuff text message?) Oh, yeah - and who's River Song?


Confession #11: I Miss the Serial Format


Is it possible to be nostalgic for a time when you weren't even paying attention? If so, then that's my situation. I never watched any of the pre-relaunch stories when they were current (not having grown up watching Who), and yet I've got a little it-was-better-in-the-old-days-itis.

From the very beginning, when the Doctor reluctantly kidnapped his first Companions to keep them from exposing him, it's been about a story unfolding gradually over a matter of weeks, with occasional one- or two-episode arcs (though, admittedly, An Unearthly Child had very little to do with the three other episodes that immediately followed). I miss that continuity of episodes, the way one led directly into the next (even the last one of a story often set up the next story, at least very early on) - and the little cliffhangers every half hour. Among other things, the serial format allowed for more extended storytelling.


The Almost Plot


Review of The Almost People
Warning:  This review contains episode-specific spoilers and wild speculation about future episodes.

OK, I'll be honest:  the specifics of the ending surprised me.  As for the general shape of it, though, I totally called it (see my previous speculation regarding the Creepy Eyepatch Lady). That part wasn't as heavily telegraphed as the events of either the previous episode or this one, but it's all there if you go look for it ("breathe, Pond").

What was just as obvious as in The Rebel Flesh was the "mistaken" identities. I already pointed out last time that there were almost certainly two Ganger Jennifers (poor Rory - finally grew a pair, only to discover he'd been led around by them). The further hints laid out here were again copious (e.g., the machinery won't recognize her as a valid operator), but hardly more so than the hints that Amy was saving her affection for the "wrong" Doctor. I'm not even sure how we were supposed to get fooled by that, since just about the only time we see the "distinguishing" shoes is the initial close-up on them; all we have to go on is the other characters' reactions to the supposed DoppelDoctor. The only surprise would have been if they hadn't mixed them up. After all, what's more cliché than the Beast really being a Prince (unless it's the inverse)?


End of an Era

Review of Planet of the Spiders (#74)

DVD Release Date: 10 May 11
Original Air Date: 04 May - 08 Jun 1974
Doctor/Companion:   Three, Sarah Jane Smith, with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart
Stars:  Jon Pertwee, Elisabeth Sladen, with Nicholas Courtney
Preceding StoryThe Monster of Peladon (Three, Sarah Jane)
Succeeding StoryRobot (Four, Sarah Jane, the Brigadier)

The last story I reviewed was all about firsts.  This one's rather the opposite, as Three's swan song. I'd heard lots about it for that reason, and even seen the final regeneration scene a couple of times on YouTube (it's so much better in context). I'm really pleased finally to have the opportunity to see the whole thing. I suspect that if I'd been soaking in it at the time (you know... if I'd been a Brit, and old enough to watch tellie), it would've been even more of a thrill to watch.

As it is, I can kind of watch it from two perspectives:  Historic Story (HS) and Standard Fare (SF). As HS, it's got lots of portent, what with the whole Cho-je/K'anpo/Doctor dynamic that only comes to a head in the last episode or two; it's nice seeing a little more of the Doctor's personal history. There are also little nods all over the place to the entire Pertwee era - from the Metebelius crystal coming back to UNIT from Jo (who's off galavanting in the jungle) to the redemption of Mike Yates (former Capt. with UNIT, who turned traitor in a previous story) to the fabulous Sgt. Benton almost blithely offering to risk his life in the Doctor's stead ("Wouldn't it be better for me to have a go first? I mean, I'm expendable and you're not.").


A Beautiful, Um, Friendship?


Review of Terror of the Autons (#55)

DVD Release Date: 10 May 11
Original Air Date: 02 - 23 Jan 1971
Doctor/Companion:   Three, Jo Grant, with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart
Stars:  Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning, with Nicholas Courtney
Preceding StoryInferno (Three, Liz Shaw, the Brigadier)
Succeeding StoryThe Mind of Evil (Three, Jo, the Brigadier)

How can you not love stories that you know in retrospect to be The Start of Something?  At the beginning of Three's second season, having been stranded on Earth sidekicking for UNIT for a year now, the Doctor needs a new "assistant" - and a new challenge.  Enter three new regulars:  Jo Grant, Capt. Mike Yates, and the Master.  I wonder if anyone at the time had any idea how big an impact their new villain would have...

This story is full of win. Not only do we get the aforementioned introductions (including the Master's hypnotic control of others, and his Tissue Compression Eliminator), but we get some key "rare appearances," too. For example, we have only seen another Time Lord or another TARDIS a couple of times before (in The Time Meddler and The War Games), and the Autons last appeared in Three's first adventure (Spearhead from Space). There's also lots more of the same things we've already come to love (e.g., the Brigadier and the Doctor snarking at each other with some glee).



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