Something That Matters


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

Wow.  Where do I start?
Maybe it's best to back up and explain that in the lead-up to Series Six, especially in the last couple of weeks, I've been doing my desperate best to avoid seeing any spoilers for the series - I've even avoided some of the official BBC news items.  Hopefully this attempt at isolationism will allow me to come to the series with a suitable sense of surprise as new plot points are revealed to the Doctor and his Companions. (If you've already read all the spoilers, you'll probably be able to tell me exactly where I'm going wrong in my analysis and speculations, but please don't.  I really want to find out in my own time, by watching the episodes.)  I have to say, I found plenty of surprises, but even more tantalizing tidbits that could be either clues or red herrings (with Moffat you never know).
From the moment in the prequel when Nixon assures his caller that "there are no monsters in the Oval Office" (a beautiful political double entendre that you can apply to your administration of choice), it's clear that we're in for a doozy.  And the action really is pretty much non-stop from the rapid strides of an irate monarch right through to the moment we hear the sting into the credits.
As I understand it, one of Moffat's goals was to make the season opener feel more like the finale in scope and drama.  For my money, he's done it.  Surely there has never yet been a single episode so crammed full of quotable (and quite possibly notable, in terms of story arc) quotes.  Some are just plain hilarious (like the exchange when the Doctor's asserts that River's wearing her "'he's hot when he's clever' face"), some are poignant ("We do what the Doctor's friends always do:  what we're told."), and some set off little alarm bells ("You lot.  Thought I'd never get done saving you...").

Farewell to an Old Friend


All too soon after Nicholas Courtney, one of fandom's favorite Who actresses has passed on.  Yesterday Elisabeth Sladen, known to Whovians of all flavors as Sarah Jane Smith, died of cancer.  Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was without Internet most of the day yesterday, so I know I'm a little late to join in, but I wanted to add my voice to the chorus of those expressing their regret for her death at such a relatively young age (63).  Everything I've ever heard of her indicates she was a lovely person, and I'm so sad that we will not have her bright light with us any more.

RIP, Lis.  You will be missed.

Elisabeth Sladen
01 Feb 1948 - 19 Apr 2011

When Religion Meets Who


Review of Kinda (#119) - Mara Tales, Part 1

DVD Release Date: 12 Apr 11
Original Air Date: 01 - 09 Feb 1982
Doctor/Companion:   Five, Adric, Tegan Jovanka
Stars:  Peter Davison, Matthew Waterhouse, Janet Fielding
Preceding StoryFour to Doomsday (Five, Adric, Nyssa, Tegan)
Succeeding StoryThe Visitation (Five, Adric, Nyssa, Tegan)

In the UK, Kinda and Snakedance were released together (in March 2011) as a boxed set called Mara Tales.  Due to that fact, not to mention the fast-approaching premiere of Series Six, I've decided to post my reviews of both DVDs together.  It's my hope that that will also allow me to provide a sense of continuity between the two, which comprise the only appearances of the antagonist/creature known as the Mara.

Kinda is all about Story.  There are grand ideas and deeper themes that actually kind of obscure the regular characters.  More than in most cases, the Doctor is swept up in events around him, and things just happen to, rather than because of, him; his presence (unlike Tegan's) is really inconsequential.  That fact alone makes it a rather atypical story, even before considering the aforementioned themes.

Further, the Companion dynamics are a bit odd.  Although this is smack in the middle of Nyssa's time in the TARDIS, she appears for a total of about 3 minutes in the entire story, at the very beginning and end.  The others get separated early in the first episode, leaving Tegan to play her key role in the unfolding drama, while Adric tags along with the Doctor.  When Tegan and Adric finally are reunited, they snark at each other so much you wonder how no blood has yet been shed in the TARDIS.  In fact, it was this exchange - which painted Adric in a particularly poor light, as a self-absorbed ass - that finally gave me a better sense of why so many fans dislike him so thoroughly.


Confession #10: I Wish the Doctor Wouldn't Lie About His Age


I'm hardly the first person to rant about this, but I have to say it's one of the things that bugs me most about the on-screen revival of the Doctor: he's constantly lying about his age.  Oh, sure, you can hide behind the old saw that he really has no clue - what with all his traipsing through time and space, I've no doubt that he's lost track exactly - but that's really no excuse.

Think on this.  There have been nearly a dozen occasions when the Doctor specified his age (I'm only considering televised episodes here - no spin-off media, since those bring in a whole extra level of complexity and continuity issues).  My research indicates he gave his age in the following episodes with the numbers indicated:

Tomb of the Cybermen:  450
Mind of Evil:  "several thousand years"
DW and the Silurians and Planet of the Spiders:  748
Brain of Morbius and Seeds of Death:  749
Robots of Death:  750
Key to Time (Ribos Operation)756 759
Revelation of the Daleks and Trial of a Timelord:  "900, more or less"
Time and the Rani:  953

Two of these situations in particular lead me to believe the Time Lords, at least, had ways of keeping track of such things.  For starters, Romana has his exact age (759) on the tip of her tongue when the question of whether or not the Doctor is "old" is raised at the beginning of The Ribos Operation.  He corrects her ("756!"), but she claims he's "lost count somewhere," suggesting his age (or date of birth, even) is part of the "confidential" information to which Romana seems privy (what with details of his Academy record also blithely cascading forth).


Confession #9: I'm Tired of Catchphrases


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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