Confession #9: I'm Tired of Catchphrases

Apr
06

The Daleks just wouldn't be the Daleks if they didn't trundle around screaming Exterminate!, but before Nu-Who (or "the RTD era," as some would prefer the beginning of the Doctor's on-screen return to be called), they pretty much had the monopoly on catchphrases.  These days, everybody's got one, from the Cybermen (Delete!) to the Sontarans (Sontar-ha!) to the Doctor himself (the repeated use of Geronimo! is the one thing that really rubs me the wrong way about Eleven).  Even the Companions are getting into the act (Spoilers, anyone?).

Since when was having a clearly identifiable catchphrase cool?  Somehow "fantastic!" didn't sound as inane coming from Nine's lips, but perhaps I just wasn't yet inured to the idea of the same word popping out of the Doctor's mouth every other episode.  It gets much worse with Ten, who even goes so far as to consciously cultivate a catchphrase in Army of Ghosts:  "I like that: allons-y! I should say 'allons-y' more often."  And, of course, after that he does.  He even gets to uncork his self-proclaimed ideal catchphrase ("Allons-y, Alonzo!") in Voyage of the Damned.

It's getting out of control.  For a particular example, put yourself in the Doctor's place.  I mean seriously - you're about to sacrifice everything in a last-ditch effort to save the entire universe, you have one last chance to say something to your beloved friends, and you choose... "Geronimo"?!  What sort of shitty "famous last word" is that?  I mean, generally speaking, I dearly love Moffat's writing (The Curse of Fatal Death still puts me in danger of snorting my drink out my nose every time), but c'mon...

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Confession #8: I'd Love to See More Classic Baddies (and Think We Will)

Mar
30

Part of the bread and butter of Doctor Who is introducing new creatures to be antagonists for the Doctor.  Writers experiment with it, thrive on it, even cash in on it (~cough~TerryNation~cough~).  Despite our perceptions, though - thanks mostly to institutions such as the Daleks and the Cybermen - most of them show up no more than twice.  So it's not surprising that we end up with such one-offs as the Sycorax, clockwork robots, the Carrionites, the Vashta Nerada, and the Krafayis (some of which fully deserve to remain relegated to the annals of history).  We've also, however, had recurrences of the (rather regrettable) Slitheen, the Ood, and the Weeping Angels as well as the return of the Autons, the Sontarans, and (WTF?) the Silurians.

But what I really want to see is more links back to some the more interesting - and not yet overused - pre-RTD-era baddies.  Here I'm thinking of entities such as the Toymaker, the Black Guardian, the Valeyard, or Omega.  In fact, all of these crossed my mind at one point or another as a possibility for the culprit behind the as-yet-unexplained Silence and reason for the TARDIS's explosion in Series Fnarg.  And while Toby Jones' brilliantly creepy Dream Lord could well have been interpreted as another aspect of the Valeyard, I don't honestly think either the Valeyard or the Toymaker are good fits for the Big Bad of Series Six.  My money (and a huge pent-up fangirl squee, if this wishful thinking pans out) is on Omega.

It's recently been brought to my attention that I'm behind the curve on this idea.  So I'm certainly not an original thinker on this front, but I submit that I am at least an independent thinker (like Newton and Leibniz, or Hertzsprung and Russell).  Suffice it to say, I had the idea myself - it sprang from the murky depths of my own fandom, not from cruising others' forum posts.

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Nu-View #2: First Thoughts on Four

Mar
29

The Invisible Enemy (Story #93, 1977)
Viewed 23 Feb 2011

Doctor/Companion:   Four, Leela
Stars:  Tom Baker, Louise Jameson
Preceding StoryHorror of Fang Rock (Four, Leela)
Succeeding StoryImage of the Fendahl (Four, Leela)
Notable Aspects:

  • First appearance of K9

For some of the Ladies, this was their first experience with Four.  While jE watched him during his original run, and jA at least knew his look, jO got to be our complete n00b.  Initially, it was Leela (or "Barbarella," as jO liked to call her) who got most of the attention - with that "leather bikini" of hers, it's easy to see why she was jE's dad's favorite Companion.  But most of the Ladies agreed that she was a good, fearless Companion, taking it upon herself to take care of the poor, defenseless (as she saw him) Doctor.  I didn't have the heart to tell them right then about her somewhat ignominious departure on Gallifrey.

Obviously, K9 was worth a few comments, too.  From the first little cheer when he first came on screen to the "no - not K9!" when the Nucleus made contact, The Tin Dog was another hit.  I know some fans hate him, but I've always found him cheerful and amusing, especially after having seen some DVD extras in which other actors talk about how John Leeson would crawl around on all fours on set during rehearsals.  How can you not love someone who gets so thoroughly into the role?

As for the Doctor himself, the reception was generally warm.  jA reminded me of my own initial reactions when she noted that he's "got quite a voice."  I remember being quite familiar with only his image, and having taken quite a while to get accustomed to the voice that went with it.  With the limited exposure to earlier Doctors, though, jO found Four the best of them so far (perhaps because he's younger).  She found that though he comes across a bit more pompous, he's overall quite likable.  I think he had such a huge effect on everyone who grew up watching him that it's unsurprising to see elements of him in later Doctors - especially Ten, as jA pointed out.  For those thoroughly steeped in the RTD era, Four seems "more Doctor-ish."

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Mutiny of the Botany

Mar
23

Review of The Seeds of Doom (#85)

DVD Release Date: 08 Mar 11
Original Air Date: 31 Jan - 06 Mar 1976
Doctor/Companion:   Four, Sarah Jane Smith
Stars:  Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen
Preceding StoryThe Brain of Morbius (Four, Sarah Jane)
Succeeding StoryThe Masque of Mandragora (Four, Sarah Jane)

As I've mentioned before, sometimes Tom Baker's performances as Four leave me a bit cold.  Not this time.  I can't exactly put my finger on why, but The Seeds of Doom really worked for me.  From the opening moment in the Antarctic (is that Hoth?) to the closing moments where the Doctor and Sarah Jane have a timey-wimey moment, this is a classic, full-on romp.

Obviously, there's personal danger and a threat to the entire planet, but the baddie is amusing (you know he's bad, because he wears his black leather gloves inside, and all the time) and the alien menace is suitably absurd.  Most of the effects used to realize said menace are also pretty good, as Who goes, though the spanner one character uses to bludgeon another was very obviously rubber (spanners aren't generally so wobbly), and I have to admit that the camera-flash-on-a-stick "laser guns" literally made me laugh out loud.

One thing I really enjoyed about this story was the "flash-forward" meta-references, only noticeable from this future perspective.  Several times I was put in mind of other Who episodes (like Midnight, while the Doctor, Sarah Jane, and some of the baddies are holed up, hiding from the Krynoid), and one can't help but draw the parallel with Fargo when the composter is introduced.

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An Eye to the Future

Mar
16

Review of The Ark (#23)

DVD Release Date: 08 Mar 11
Original Air Date: 05 - 26 Mar 1966
Doctor/Companion:   One, Steven Taylor, Dorothea "Dodo" Chaplet
Stars:  William Hartnell, Peter Purves, Jackie Lane
Preceding StoryThe Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve (One, Steven)
Succeeding StoryThe Celestial Toymaker (One, Steven, Dodo)

Although we don't really figure it out until halfway through, The Ark is sort of two stories wrapped into one. Beginning with a rather typical "outsiders bring harmless-to-them germs into a closed population, threatening to wipe out said population" plot, the story soon takes a turn toward more socio-political themes.  Groups are set against each other and make plans of varying degrees of stupidity and brutality.  Obviously, this being Doctor Who, there's also a time-travel twist to the tale (which I won't completely spoil here), but that is primarily clever storytelling rather than a necessary element for plot advancement.

Perhaps the most memorable aspect of the story, at least on the surface, is the abysmal quality of the monster-of-the-week, which is poor even by Doctor Who's standards (and that's saying quite a lot!).  The actors playing the Monoids could not have been comfortable with body-length rubber sheaths that included huge (clearly visible) zippers up the back, mangy wigs draping down over half their faces, and ping pong balls painted as eyeballs in their mouths.  Every time one of these pathetic critters waddles on set, you can't help but snicker and think about the mechanics of wearing the costume (particularly the moutheyeball - nor does it help to learn that it actually was ping pong balls they used).  Yet somehow, the Monoids manage to fulfill their literary roles in (both parts of) the story relatively well.  Clearly that's a testament to the quality of the tale the writers had to tell.

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