Revisited

First Fifty's Final Face

Dec
04

Review of The Doctors Revisited - Eleventh Doctor

As we wind down the year, anticipating the upcoming regeneration, we Revisit Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor. Since his reign is only current until Christmas, it's not as premature to do a retrospective on his era as it felt when this series of specials was announced.

I did, however, find it odd that the production team chose to throw out spoilers for the entire arc of Series Six left and right—and for the mid-series finale of S7, too—yet barely breathed a word about anything to do with the second half of S7 except Clara's personality and relationship with the Doctor.

I realize they had to be careful, if all of these specials were filmed at the same time; not even The Snowmen would've aired yet when everyone was interviewed. (And while I'm on the topic, here's the list: lead actors Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, and Jenna Coleman; supporting actors Mark Sheppard, Frances Barber, Hugh Bonneville, and Mike McShane; writer Tom McRae; producer Marcus Wilson; and show-runner Steven Moffat.) So long after the fact, though (remember that The Name of the Doctor aired way back in May), it provides a certain surreality to the episode, like time traveling back a year, when we had no idea what was coming with Clara's Series Seven storyline.

The rest of the special feels, for a fan like me, like redundant rehashing of obvious traits of the Eleventh Doctor, his Companions, and their stories. More so than the rest of the installments, even. Much like last month, it may be down to how recent all of this is, so I've tried to take it in context.

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More Relatable Than Ever?

Nov
13

Review of The Doctors Revisited - Tenth Doctor

It still feels really weird to me to think of David Tennant's Tenth Doctor as an "old" or "past" Doctor. Since it was his episodes that cemented my fandom, and I don't think of myself as having been a fan for very long, even though it's been five years now, at a gut level I can't help but think of them as quite recent. Yet it's been nearly four years since Tennant's last appearance. So it was with a strange combination of "walk down memory lane" and "didn't we just get these episodes?" that I watched as BBC America Revisited my Doctor.

Whether it's because this Doctor isn't yet very far removed, or some other reason, the list of interviewees in this episode is longer than any other: Doctor actors David Tennant and Peter Davison; Companion actors Freema Agyeman, Noel Clarke, and John Barrowman; Companion family member actors Camille Coduri, Bernard Cribbins, and Jacqueline King; supporting character actors David Morrissey, Dan Starkey, and Adam Garcia; writers Neil Gaiman and Tom McRae; and producers Marcus Wilson and Steven Moffat. All had glowing things (as always) to say about this particular Regeneration, and how he differed from all who came before.

The Tenth Doctor was a starkly different man from the Ninth. Less someone suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, he had an easier manner—like someone you'd know, it's pointed out—and was someone the audience could relate to, in terms of both fashion sense and mode of speech. Yet the darkness was still just under the surface. He doesn't cut his enemies much slack ("no second chances"), nor the friends who have disappointed him. As Tennant himself put it, "He can destroy a government by whispering in someone's ear. That's the essence of the Doctor. That sums him up."

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A Dark, 21st Century Doctor

Oct
09

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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Keeping the Flame Alive

Sep
11

Review of The Doctors Revisited - Eighth Doctor

In any rundown of all the Doctors, Paul McGann's Eighth Doctor always seems to get the short end of the stick. The same is true here, as the eighth installment of Revisited is about a two-thirds the length of any of the previous episodes. Further, McGann himself is conspicuous in his absence, the only surviving Doctor actor to date not to appear in his own retrospective.

Granted, since the series seems to be sticking tightly to televised stories—an oversight, in my opinion, since alternative media like audio adventures are where Eight really comes into his own—we can hardly have expected a long homage to a Doctor who only had 70 minutes on screen. Even bringing in Sylvester McCoy to discuss the regeneration barely padded things out.

However, Companion actors Daphne Ashbrook and Yee Jee Tso (who appeared in interview snippets, along with Steven Moffat, Marcus Wilson, and Nicholas Briggs) make a valiant effort to express to the audience why McGann's Doctor, and The Movie as a whole, should be of interest to those (presumably primarily "new series" fans) who are as yet unfamiliar with them. Their fondness not only for McGann and the rest of the cast but also for the entirety of the story is clearly evident.

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Intergalactic Man of Mystery

Aug
14

Review of The Doctors Revisited - Seventh Doctor

In his own way, Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy was also the "last of the Time Lords," since it was after his three series on the show that the BBC put it on ~ahem~ indefinite hiatus. As such, he took a lot of blame for Who's apparent demise, and many fans never particularly liked him.

If you're a regular reader, you're probably aware that I don't share that opinion of Seven. I was therefore quite happy to see the Revisited series continue the upbeat, celebratory tone it has maintained through every episode. Instead, it focuses on McCoy's Doctor as one who brought some mystery back to the character.

Guests on the episode (McCoy himself, Companion actresses Bonnie Langford and Sophie Aldred, and current era behind-the-scenes folk Steven Moffat, Marcus Wilson, Nicholas Briggs, and Tom McRae) agreed that while Seven came across as a clown, there was something "more" lurking underneath it all (much like Two, come to think of it). Especially at the beginning, he had a very vaudevillian veneer, and he loved to confuse his enemies (and occasionally friends) with trickery and sleight of hand. But there was never any doubt that he had a plan to get out of whatever situation he was in, and there was something almost sinister about the secrets he seemed to be keeping. As his series went on, his character continued to gain richness and texture; he got more complex, darker, and lonelier.

The transition worked particularly well as he moved between Companions. His time began with the boisterous Mel, with whom he had a very different relationship than his previous incarnation had. Somehow, they worked better together and showed more rapport than repartee.

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