Intergalactic Man of Mystery


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.


The Only Show in Town


Review of The Greatest Show in the Galaxy (#155)
DVD Release Date: 14 Aug 12
Original Air Date: 14 Dec 1988 - 04 Jan 1989
Doctor/Companion: Seven, Dorothy "Ace" McShane
Stars: Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred
Preceding Story: Silver Nemesis (Seven, Ace)
Succeeding Story: Battlefield (Seven, Ace, the Brigadier)

Having just come from a killer performance by Circus Juventas, watching Greatest Show was ... a tad jarring. I've really come to love seeing all the ridiculously amazing things skilled folks can do with flexibility, balance, and trust in their partners, and having that utterly backgrounded for sleight of hand and (oh, dear god) the 1989 version of "rap" patter from the Ringmaster (what does it say about the British view of my country that this particular character had an "American" accent?) threw me off a bit. Once I got past wanting to see a circus and got back to seeing Doctor Who, it went a little better.

Sadly, I wanted to like it more than I did. Perhaps it will grow on me with further viewings (one can hope). Aside from the aforementioned circus angle, I'm not entirely sure why that's the case, either. I mean it's got plenty of mystery and suspense - "The Plot Thickens" was practically written across the screen every other scene - and anyone who follows the blog regularly will know I'm a sucker for Seven and Ace.

Ace, of course, is - as always - pitch perfect for me. Her bravado in the face of clowns that clearly creep her out (honestly can't blame her - ick!) is an endearing part of her character. We know she's really a tender, mixed-up teen under it all (which is, I believe, a great deal of what the Doctor loves about her), and trying her damnedest to put a brave tough face on it all. Throughout, she's more obviously attuned to the bad vibes than the Doctor, but that's part of his schtick at this point, too (as evidenced by one of the closing lines) - Intergalactic Man of Mystery, if you will. His personality in this Regeneration feels quite solid here, as if McCoy really knew by now where he wanted to take the character, and was ready to sink his teeth into that darker persona. Heaven knows I've got no complaints about these two leads.


The Kandy Man Can't


Review of The Happiness Patrol (#153)
DVD Release Date: 08 May 12
Original Air Date: 02-16 Nov 1988
Doctor/Companion: Seven, Dorothy "Ace" McShane
Stars: Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred
Preceding Story: Remembrance of the Daleks (Seven, Ace)
Succeeding Story: Silver Nemesis (Seven, Ace)

On the one hand, Seven and Ace always make me happy. On the other, Happiness Patrol is, umm... not the best executed story of all time. I'll admit the premise is interesting enough (a planet where it's illegal to be unhappy), but wow...

It's disappointing not least because it actually starts out quite well, with a scene that completely creeped me out, as someone who has herself struggled with clinical depression. There's enough of a stigma associated with mental illness in our society as it is, but to have even the slightest hints at one of the most common of them (depression) lead to one's "disappearance"... It's truly chilling.

Even the poor TARDIS isn't immune. She ends up painted a "cheerful" shade of pink which actually prevented me from noticing her presence in the background of any of the scenes until I was watching the extras. It's a nice little touch, though, reminding us that the TARDIS somehow does blend in, even when she doesn't.

Sadly, the rest of the execution on this one, like so many before, is fettered by its budget. The effects are all-around rather poor, including the bizarre form of the Kandy Man and the pathetic excuse for a go-cart (even a child could have outpaced that thing on foot). And the lighting was atrocious. It's like they decided that if it wasn't going to be film noir (reputedly once the intention, or at least hope), then at least they could light it like crap to make it "dark."


Nu-View #8: Lucky Number Seven


The Curse of Fenric  (Story #158, 1989)
Viewed 15 May 2012

Doctor/Companion:   Seven, Ace
Stars:  Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred
Preceding StoryGhost Light (Seven, Ace)
Succeeding Story:  Survival (Seven, Ace)

The masses have small number of regular readers has spoken! The lucky winner of our who-do-the-Ladies-watch-next contest is Seven. Since we've already seen my favorite (Remembrance of the Daleks, Nu-View #6), I decided to go with another one that seems to be generally well-regarded by "the fans" (whatever that means).

Even more exciting than having let the readers decide our viewing material, we've got a new addition to the team! Please welcome the newest of the Ladies of WhoFest, L! L is a more recent acquaintance (now friend) of mine, and always acted a bit jealous when I'd talk about WhoFest. Finally, she asked, "how do I get in on this thing?" and here we are.

I've known for a while that L is a Whovian, because I could tell her things like the fact that Louise Jameson was a guest at Gally (though I did have to clarify with a "Leela") and she knew enough to be jealous. It turns out she, much like jE, grew up watching Who, though not religiously. So there's a lot she's already seen, and plenty she's missed. Sadly, jO was unable to join us again, but the rest of us had fun anyway.

After we'd made introductions all 'round, and L was settling in, jE took it upon herself to explain the format: "we make snarky comments while we watch." What's not to love? And L seemed to fit right in with the gang. As the story opened, jA noted that even the font used to subtitle the Russian was evocative of the '80s; jE wondered how, with the boats all of 2 feet apart, the soldiers didn't notice their "comrades getting eaten"; and L said she liked how they make them Russian by adding eyeliner. I just loved the way that Seven and Ace bluff their way onto the base: "About time, too!" huffs Seven, as the British soldiers finally get around to pointing guns at them to question their presence. It was very "Hounds of Baskerville"- or, y'know... vice versa.


Fire and Ace


Review of Dragonfire (#151)
DVD Release Date:  08 May 12
Original Air Date:  23 Nov - 07 Dec 1987
Doctor/Companion:  Seven, Melanie Bush, Dorothy "Ace" McShane
Stars:  Sylvester McCoy, Bonnie Langford, Sophie Aldred
Preceding StoryDelta and the Bannermen (Seven, Mel)
Succeeding Story:  Remembrance of the Daleks (Seven, Ace)

Since this month's R1 releases included two Seven stories and a Four story, I was going to start with Nightmare of Eden and keep it chronological. After Simon Guerrier (a fellow panelist with me at Gally, and Whovian content creator in his own right) responded to one of my tweets essentially telling me I was slacking, I decided I had to start with Dragonfire.

To be honest, I was sort of looking for an excuse. I adore Ace, and have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to see her introduction. Coming at it from the future, so to speak, was actually a tad unsettling. While the original audience was still reveling in a recognition-of-returning-character moment (Glitz!), I'd cut that moment short to squee that I'd just noticed Ace(!) quietly serving him a drink in the background. Almost from that point on, I have a hard time paying any attention to Mel. Maybe it's that Ace is my all-time favorite Companion (yes, lately Rory's been giving her a run for her money, but stepping back from the swirl of new episodes for a while, the cream rises, and Ace comes back out on top), maybe it's that I know it's Ace's turn next, or maybe it's just that the script seems to have more for Ace to do than for Mel. Whatever the case, it already feels like a Seven-and-Ace story to me instead of a Seven-and-Mel one.

And the script doesn't waste any time developing her character, either. I mean, I love that our first proper look at Ace involves her chafing against authority. We get the whole sense of where she's come from (though, seriously - how does a kid from Perivale know it was a "time storm" that swept her off to Iceworld?) and what her life on Earth was like, too. On the other hand, I was a tad taken aback that there's never any explanation for why she chose to call the Doctor "Professor." Oh well. I suppose that's part of its charm.



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