Seven

Confession #105: I Don't Believe in Looming

Oct
12

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.

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More "Meh" Than Nemesis

May
25

Review of Silver Nemesis (#151)
DVD Release Date: 02 Nov 10
Original Air Date: 23 Nov - 07 Dec 1988
Doctor/Companion: Seven, Ace McShane
Stars: Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred
Preceding Story: The Happiness Patrol (Seven, Ace)
Succeeding Story: The Greatest Show in the Galaxy (Seven, Ace)

Marching through our list of under-represented Doctors (in terms of the percentage of their stories I have reviewed in one form or another), we come now to the Seventh Doctor, whose lone encounter with the Cybermen happened to fall on Doctor Who's twenty-fifth anniversary.

While the production team—writer Kevin Clarke in particular—made a valiant effort to add a sense of significance to the passage of that particular twenty-five years (1963-1988), the result was perhaps not as compelling as they might have hoped. Making that span the orbital period of an eccentric object (launched, it turns out, by the Doctor himself some 350 years prior) was not altogether a bad idea (presuming it's orbiting the sun, that would put it beyond Jupiter, but not as far as Saturn, were it in a nearly circular orbit—which admittedly seems unlikely). However, the logical contortions they have to employ in order to make that quarter-century seem consistently historically significant are awkward at best (1913 is called out as "the eve of the First World War"; 1938 "Hitler annexes Austria"; 1963 "Kennedy assassinated").

As for the Cybermen, they're not even the eponymous Nemesis; that name actually belongs to a mysterious statue made of validium—"living metal." Frankly, I found the title to be more about misdirection than double meaning. While one could argue that both statue and Cybermen are silver nemeses, the Cybermen are relegated to a secondary or even tertiary role.

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A Future Set in Ash

Apr
29

Review of The Fires of Vulcan (#12)
Big Finish Release Date: September 2000
Doctor/Companion: Seven and Mel
Stars: Sylvester McCoy and Bonnie Langford
Preceding Story: The Apocalypse Element (Six, Evelyn, Romana II)
Succeeding Story: The Shadow of the Scourge (Seven, Ace)

Although I've always had a soft spot for Sylvester McCoy's Seventh Doctor (especially when he's paired with Sophie Aldred's Ace, my all-time favorite Companion), somehow in my explorations of audio adventures, I'd never sat down with one of his before. I've come close, in that I did once track down episodes of Death Comes to Time, a webcast from 2001-02, which had only limited visuals and relied heavily on the audio component to get the story across. As for Big Finish product, though, this was my first.

I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, especially given that The Fires of Vulcan co-stars Mel, of whom I've never been a fan. Although supposedly a bright woman—a computer programmer, no less—she seems to have been reduced on screen to an overly optimistic cheerleader to the Doctor and an epic screamer. I had been told she was much improved on audio, but I still winced a little at the prospect.

To my mild surprise, though, the rumors were true, and Mel didn't grate on my nerves. She was still a little too upbeat for my taste, but it fit her character well, and it wasn't excessive. In fact, I can honestly say it wasn't until I was finished listening that I remembered how little I usually care for her.

The story begins with a "modern day" (1980) discovery: there's an English police phone box buried in the ruins at Pompeii. UNIT promises to take care of it, and the poor archaeologist is left wondering what's going on. When we hear the TARDIS materialize a few seconds later, the Doctor and Mel don't, either; the Old Girl wouldn't show the Doctor where they'd landed. Soon, though, we realize they're in Pompeii—the day before Vesuvius erupts.

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Confession #61: I Want a 50th Boxed Set

Jun
04

Over the weekend, reports surfaced that The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot; the unofficial-but-officially-sanctioned half-hour special written and directed by Fifth Doctor Peter Davison and co-starring Colin Baker (Six), Sylvester McCoy (Seven), and (briefly) Paul McGann (Eight); would at some point be released on DVD. The source of this information is apparently C. Baker himself, sharing the news at a Doctor Who Appreciation Society event. Details are ridiculously sketchy, pretty much only including the fact that it's slated to happen and that it will be part of a "special set" focused on Matt Smith.

Folks are already speculating wildly about what will be on this rumored set, though most (like me) seem to have settled on the idea that it will be something 50th anniversary-related. My favorite overly enthusiastic and admittedly too optimistic list of items that might be included encompassed everything from the Proms to Hurt interviews to a specially created farewell to Eleven.

Admittedly, if it does turn out to be an anniversary set, there is a lot of material from which to choose. A lot of material was only available in one part of the world or another (e.g., the aforementioned Proms, or the Doctors Revisited series which didn't make it to the UK until mere weeks before the anniversary). But how likely do we really think it is that BBC Worldwide would include videos of panel interviews, for instance? Realistically, there's a pretty short list of what they're likely to use.

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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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