Confession #105: I Don't Believe in Looming


Recently I stumbled across some old episodes of the TV show "Who Do You Think You Are?" Here in the US, the show has been running for eight seasons; the UK original is going on thirteen. Among the celebrities who have traced their roots on the UK version are David Tennant and several other actors associated with the program in one way or another (e.g., John Hurt, Mark Gatiss).

When I got to the US episode on actress Ashley Judd, I was startled to discover that she and I share a 10-great grandfather (making us 11th cousins). That triggered my genealogy bug again, and for the last few days I've been poking around to see if there are any new records to be found online since last I looked.

This was all in the back of my head, then, when I sat down to think about what to blog about next. Was there a way to bring genealogy into a discussion of the Whoniverse (spoiler: there's always a way)? Having discarded ideas about discussing characters like Kate Stewart (daughter of Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart) or our favorite UNIT scientist Osgood (some relation to the UNIT sergeant of the same surname?), I decided to focus on the Doctor himself.

Enter looming. For those of you who may not have read (or possibly even heard of) the Virgin New Adventures (NA) series of novels, these books continued the Seventh Doctor's story after the final televised adventure Survival. Two of these novels (Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible and Lungbarrow) included revelations about Time Lord history and how their biology was altered so that they could not reproduce sexually. Instead, new Time Lords are "loomed," or reproduced on special bio-engineering machines from extant genetic material, and "born" as adults.


Nu-View #17: The End of Our Beginning


Bad Wolf / The Parting of the Ways (Series One, Eps. 12-13; 2005)
Viewed 20 Mar 2014

Doctor/Companion: Nine, Rose Tyler
Stars: Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper
Preceding Story: Boom Town (Nine, Rose)
Succeeding Story: The Christmas Invasion (Ten, Rose)

    The Doctor plops himself down into a big, red comfy chair in the Diary Room, looks straight at the camera, and declares in disbelief, "You have got to be kidding!" Oh, Doctor... How could you predict my reaction to this past weekend so perfectly?

    As the Ladies sit down together to watch the final two episodes of Nine's all-too-short tenure, I'm finally happy and relaxed. I've spent a frantic week preparing to put our house back on the market, and it's finally wrapped up; the listing will go live the next day. The only downer is knowing we're saying goodbye (again) to the Doctor who started my love affair with this whole crazy show.

    We're all ready for a good time. As the TARDIS crew each settle into the games in which they've been inserted, the quips fly around the room. Trin-E and Zu-Zana use the defabricator on Jack, who then assures them, "Ladies, your viewing figures just went up."

    jA's eyes sparkle. "I'd like to be watching that channel!"

    Over with the Anne Droid, Rose's competitor Rodrick (played by Paterson Joseph, an actor whose name has popped up now and again in "who could be the next Doctor" lists) explains the most basic rules of the Game Station to her. "It's play—or die."

    "Sounds like it's play and die," corrects jE.

    When the tension rises, though, we fall mostly silent. I can't help but admire RTD's skill with a slow burn. He knows how to reveal each plot point, little by little until the audience comes to the obvious conclusion just as we're meant to. The story is lent even more gravitas by Eccleston's masterful performance. He is powerful here, a man visibly damaged by his recent history.


    Nu-View #16: Dining with the Enemy


    Boom Town (Series One, Ep. 11; 2005)
    Viewed 11 Feb 2014

    Doctor/Companion: Nine, Rose Tyler
    Stars: Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper
    Preceding Story: The Doctor Dances (Nine, Rose)
    Succeeding Story: Bad Wolf (Nine, Rose)

      The fact that we happened to watch this particular episode the day before I left for Gally was totally fortuitous for me. Among other things, having it fresh in my mind helped me appreciate having Annette Badland (who played Margaret / Blon Fel-Fotch Passameer-Day Slitheen) at the con.

      Better yet, the re-watch reminded me what a profound episode it is.

      It begins with a reminder of how we first met the unfortunate Slitheen family. "I hate those guys," interjects jA. "They're ishy." And it seems "Margaret" hasn't changed much beneath, even if she has taken on an air of public service, heading up the Blaidd Drwg project.

      And so it proceeds, though the first half of the episode is mainly the slightly silly, doesn't-make-sense-if-you-look-to-hard fare we've come to expect from Who. RTD exhibits a bit of a tin ear for dialog in a place or two—e.g., when Blon takes Cathy the reporter to the loo with her, so she can shed her skin suit and kill the woman, then makes a seemingly rude noise upon entering the stall. Cathy comments, "Sounds like we got here just in time!" Incredulous, jA asked, "Who does that?" Perhaps we can give RTD a pass on that one, though, as he's presumably never experienced a communal ladies' room moment firsthand.


      Nu-View #15: Reliving "Everybody Lives!"


      The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances (Series One, Eps. 9-10; 2005)
      Viewed 19 Nov 2013

      Doctor/Companion: Nine, Rose Tyler
      Stars: Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper
      Preceding Story: Father's Day (Nine, Rose)
      Succeeding Story: Boom Town (Nine, Rose)

        After seven months' hiatus (yes, I know—dirty word), the Ladies are finally back together to watch the Ninth Doctor again. They began the evening in high spirits. "I love coming back to this season; it's what I fell in love with," jA declared, and jO and I gave knowing nods.

        Speaking of things we love, jA needed her memory jogged. "Is this where Jack comes in?"

        "Oh, yeah," came jO's appreciative affirmation.

        After that, there are surprisingly few comments; mostly we're all more interested in watching the action unfold. Now and again, though, something will trigger a comment.

        For instance, when the Doctor explains his consternation to Nancy ("It's not a real phone; it's not connected."), jE quickly adds, "Neither am I." Or when Nancy and her little band of kids settles down to someone else's dinner, jA observes, "That's a lot of place settings for a family of, like, four..."

        Mostly, I keep my thoughts to myself, not wanting to interrupt the others' enjoyment of the show. I can't help thinking, though, what a minx Rose is, or how Moffat won a writers' bet by working "Chula" into one of his scripts, or how full of British patriotism this episode it ("a mouse in front of a lion"). And even though the CG is already pretty dated, eight years down the road, Dr. Constantine's transformation is still utterly horrifying. That's body horror at its best.


        A Dark, 21st Century Doctor


        Review of The Doctors Revisited - Ninth Doctor

        No matter who ends up being our favorite, I think if we're honest with ourselves, each fan instinctually compares every other Doctor to the one they see first. Whether you declare that one "your" Doctor or simply your first, everyone else is, on some level, automatically compared with the one who set your personal standard.

        Thus it is for me with Eccleston. Sure, I became a Tennant fan, and consider him "my" Doctor because it was him who cemented my fandom—but Eccelston's Ninth Doctor defined the Doctor for me, and watching him in the role always feels like coming home.

        I was gratified that those interviewed (including Neil Gaiman, Steven Moffat, Marcus Wilson, Nicholas Briggs, Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Corey Johnson (Henry van Statten), and John Barrowman (Capt. Jack Harkness)) picked up on some of the same things that drew me to Nine. For one thing, he was always sure of himself—no "absent-minded professor" vibe to this guy. (This could explain why it took me a while to warm to, for example, T. Baker's Four, who often seemed at a loss.) Further, he doesn't have to be busy, busy, busy to be in control. As Gaiman put it, "He doesn't do anything quite a lot and yet he's still the center of attention."

        There's a distinctive darkness about him, too. Perhaps one reason I so love Dalek is that moment when he first comes face-to-face with the eponymous creature. We've only ever seen this Doctor (and on first viewing for me, that meant the Doctor) be confident; even on Platform One when things went wrong, his "that's funny" face is not one of "how unexpected; now what?" but of "I've just found a new puzzle to solve." Here, though, suddenly confronted with not only a known-dangerous foe but also a reminder of the atrocity he had been forced (now in vain?) to commit, he stands before us stripped to the bare emotions. His whole arc is about showing us how damaged he is. Moffat expanded on that idea as follows:



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