Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The Fifty-Year Itch

Doctor Who
The Day Of The Doctor
Fiftieth Anniversary Special

"...now reset to its factory settings.  Happy anniversary."
Right then.  Fifty years of Doctor Who to celebrate, one episode to do it in.  Go.

Where do you start?  The obvious answer is Lots Of Doctors, because that's how it's always been.  We've had The Three Doctors (Tenth anniversary), The Five Doctors (Twentieth) and Dimensions In Time (Thirtieth, but we ignore that one).  And why not: it's an entirely logical way to step it up, For One Night Only.

The hard part is why they've come back, and what to actually do with them.  The Doctor is regularly painted as the most amazingly brilliant man in the universe, so you'd need an amazingly horrible problem to require more than one of him to fix it.  So far we've had a Time Lord emergency, abduction by megalomaniac, TARDISes colliding, sheer coincidence, and randomly popping up one after another for Children In Need.  (Or whatever Dimensions In Time was actually about.)  But we've also had umpteen finales threatening the universe and time itself and all the bits in-between, and one Doctor has mostly sufficed.  What is there for another one to actually do, besides own a second screwdriver?

The Day Of The Doctor has an elegant solution: just as he's about to end the Time War with an ultimate sacrifice, the Doctor (John Hurt) is offered a glimpse of his future selves, and at the consequences of his actions.  He's with the other Doctors so he can learn from them, not just so they can topple the monster-of-the-week.  It may not be Steven Moffat's first pinch from A Christmas Carol, but it's a neat idea, and it ties up the last eight years of Doctor Who.

Above: the entire 'Classic era' celebration.
If one were to nitpick (perish the thought), it doesn't have much to do with Doctor Who pre-2005 you know, that whole fifty-years bit so I'm not sure how much of an overall celebration it really is, despite having the original titles and various sneaky references.  (Headmaster: I. Chesterton!  UNIT dating!)  More alarmingly, it cuts out all the Doctors before John Hurt, whose Time War Doctor didn't exist a year ago.  This is a bit galling if you're, say, a fan of any of them, especially on the big anniversary.  And quite a lot of us are in that boat.  (Peter Davison's fabulous Five(ish) Doctors Reboot goes some way to filling the void.  Move over, Curse Of Fatal Death: this is the best and most affectionate Who spoof ever.)

So it's not what a lot of people expected, and no, Christopher Eccleston isn't in it either.  (Big surprise.)  I suppose it's no use moaning about what it isn't: we'll just have to examine what it is.  So what about this Time War Doctor?

Well, he's a bit of a masterstroke, allowing us to look at the "new" Doctors from an outsider's perspective.  As a crusty old fan for going-on twenty-one-years, this is absolute manna.  He's the kind of Doctor we're just not allowed any more: older, a bit slower, and not afraid to use long words.  Ever since 2005 the show's been more exclusively youth-orientated, with a lot of baby-talk and sonic-screwdriver-pointing, and it's enormously satisfying to address that.  (Of course it would have been nice to have someone like Sylvester McCoy doing the actual addressing, but since Hurt's embodying classic Doctors in spirit, and since he's John ruddy Hurt, it's not a bad compromise.)  The lack of any preconceptions or past episodes gives Moffat (and Hurt) a blank slate to work with.  He's fascinating to watch.

He's also utterly, spit-your-drink hilarious.  We all knew it'd be fun to put Matt Smith and David Tennant in a room and it is but seeing them chided by a blustery old uncle is pure Doctor Who gold.  I honestly can't pick a favourite put-down.  There's "Do you have to talk like children?", and "What are you going to do, assemble a cabinet at them?", but then there's "Timey what?" and his tone of voice when he hears "Allons-y." I want to hug everything that comes out of his mouth.  It's a shame we can't keep him for every time there's a bad line.

Hurt-Doc catches up on old scripts.
He's up to Rise Of The Cybermen.
As for his eventual decision, and the emotional heart and soul of the episode – er, that's less of a masterstroke.  Blowing up Gallifrey has never sat well with Steven Moffat's "Everybody lives" philosophy, so this isn't a huge surprise, but it's still pretty horrifying: all three Doctors agree that the pros outweigh the cons and prepare to press the button, until Clara talks them out of it using tears, so they tuck Gallifrey away in a pocket dimension allowing the Daleks to blow each other up in the crossfire.  The Time Lords survive, the Daleks die, everybody's happy, although the Doctor forgets (leaving all his subsequent moping in place).  Yeah, there's several quite big problems with this.

1) The Doctor didn't have a choice.  There was no alternative.  That's how Impossible Choices work.  Reminding him how sad it is that people will die isn't actually going to help, seeing as they'll die anyway if he doesn't do it.  And rewriting it so that there was another choice all along reduces the dramatic stakes to zero.

2) Didn't the Doctor also do this to stop his own people from destroying the universe?  Okay, there's a reference to the High Council having "other plans", but that doesn't tally with blowing up all of Gallifrey to stop them, as he directly said he did in The End Of Time.  It's no longer clear why the Doctor needs to blow up Gallifrey in the first place, since the Daleks are now the only problem again, the "impossible" choice has been rewritten so that it's, um, a slightly difficult one?  The ruddy goalposts have moved, again, in order to make things less interesting.

3) Considering Doctors #10 and #11 know the Daleks will survive, probably because of that daft "crossfire" plan, why not detonate The Moment anyway with Gallifrey gone?

4) Actually, since the Daleks survived, what's the fecking point in any of it?  Wasn't their survival one of the main reasons he's regretted it ever since?

The upside is that it didn't go where The Name Of The Doctor was hinting.  Hurt isn't there to deflect genocide onto a comfortable "doesn't count" incarnation.  Doctors #10 and #11 own up to the deed, and gradually remind Hurt that he is the same man after all.  But none of that counts for very much if they're just going to wipe away all that nasty drama and leave behind inconsequential fairy-dust.  Everything that's happened since 2005 still stands, because amnesia, but now all that PTSD (including Christopher Eccleston's entire character arc) is meaningless.  It might be "big" to rewrite this stuff, but it's not really worth it.  Everybody lives, and absolutely none of it matters.  Aptly enough, someone should have considered the consequences.

Okay, enough about what doesn't work.  It's the anniversary special, so what's special about it?  Well, there's Zygons.  Are you happy now, surprisingly-vocal-Zygon-fans?  The manky shapeshifters look and sound great, their plan holds just enough water (although where did they get Time Lord art from in the first place, and why are they so obsessed with non-organic technology all of a sudden?), and they're just inconsequential-yet-scary enough to keep things interesting until the real plot explodes.  (Typical Moffat, this is in the last reel.)

Then there's Kate Stewart, acting-replacement-for-the-Brigadier, who continues to be a wonderful addition to the Whoniverse.  It doesn't make much sense that UNIT would grab the TARDIS and not know the Doctor was in it (particularly as a motorbike disappeared inside moments before, so clearly someone's home), and it makes no sense at all that these consummate professionals wouldn't look for intruders under some suspicious sheets, but whatever: I like her, and her assistant with asthma.  I'll trade the Paternoster Gang for them now, thanks.

Two eyes.  One shot.  Hundreds of Facebook cover photos.
There's all the juicy Time War footage, which okay, still doesn't visualize all the weirdness we've heard so much about it's not so much "moments on fire" as "Daleks shooting things" – but it looks great.  And the big finale, putting all questions of what it means to one side, is lovely, with all thirteen (!) Doctors dropping by at once, including Peter Capaldi (!).  We even see the gang together, avec body doubles and dry ice, in a cute final shot.

Then there's the thing that made headlines in the first place: David Tennant is back!  Here characterized as a dashing ladies' man who's noticeably short on Time Lord eccentricity (and usefulness), but then that's exactly how I've always seen him, so I loved it.  He gets some hilarious interplay with Elizabeth I, some delightful moments with Matt Smith, and best of all, the burden of Doctorliness doesn't have to rest on his shoulders any more, which is good as I always found him lacking there.  To quote Clara, he's a hero, and "any old idiot" can be one of those.  (It's just a shame about the "I don't want to go" joke, which is in pretty poor taste.)

There's not much good stuff to say about Clara, whose continued anonymity means she's randomly a schoolteacher now.  She's cute, she's clever, she has virtually no distinguishing features, so all those moments where the other Doctors marvel at her Clara-ness seem rather unearned.  But on the plus side (and who saw this coming?), Billie Piper's in this, and she's great.  No longer playing Doctor Who's reigning spoilt brat, Piper excels as the conscience of the ultimate weapon.  Distinctly human yet radiating alien intelligence, it's enough to make you wish they'd given Rose's character a few tweaks before letting it out of the workshop.  Come back, Billie, all is forgiven!

Best fanfic ever!
Lastly, not leastly, there are the Easter Eggs.  John Hurt regenerates, or begins to, enabling Youtubers to make that all-the-Doctors compilation at long last.  So there you go.  (He regenerates for literally no reason, but he adds "I suppose it makes sense", so I guess that's all my questions answered!)  And, oh right, Tom Baker is in it after all.  Surprise!  Whether this is jumping the shark or paying homage to someone who's lived the part for forty years, it's still completely mesmerising to watch, not to mention having him interact with my other favourite.  Every mannerism is absolute magic, as it always was with Baker, and it's absolutely worth the weirdness just to have him back for this one scene.  Never mind all that Gallifrey Falls No More guff the scene's actually about I haven't been this emotional about Doctor Who since, well, last week.

Which brings us to Matt Smith, who's as good as ever, which is to say he's quite a bit better than the material.  His Doctor has been a bit stuck on wibbly-wobbly for a while now, but Smith still manages a few genuinely thespian moments, and he's never less than captivating.  With so little time to reflect, I just wish we got more episodes out of him.

And that's it.  There's a lot to like: it's often funny and sometimes dazzling, and hey, it's the first episode of Doctor Who I've actually wanted to watch again in years.  Is it a good celebration?  Yes and no: it's actually better than most multi-Doctor extravaganzas, which tend to be aimless pat-on-the-back-fests, but the point it tries to make is still rather misguided.  It takes pains to set up a future for the Doctor which, I can't help but suspect, seems more exciting on paper than it will be in practice.  But, we'll see.  Fifty years on, we're lucky to have a future to contemplate.  It makes sense to celebrate that, if ultimately little else.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Whoniversary! Day Of The Fanboy

It's the 23rd of November, 2013.  Doctor Who is fifty years old, and I am going to celebrate.  I'm not going to do it alone.

Yes, for one post only, I'm bringing back The Hill, previous co-writer of this very blog!  (And current writer and illustrator of the dazzling Hillesque.)  Oh, what fun we shall have, live-blogging-it-all-at-once-afterwards.

We'll begin the day watching The Mind Robber, the first Doctor Who story I remember seeing.  The Hill, are you excited to watch a story starring Patrick Troughton?

What do you want me to say?

Solid gold banter!

Above: An ancient piece of "vid-ee-oh" technology.  Steam-powered.

10.00am: The Mind Robber

The story begins with the TARDIS buried in lava.  The Doctor panics, and uses an emergency switch to send the TARDIS into a realm outside of time and space. 

Well, this seems like a nice place to get old and die.

The Hill, who watched all of the William Hartnell era with me but opted out after he regenerated (William Hartnell is the only real Doctor), sizes up the new companions.  Particularly Zoe. 

Ugh.  I hope she dies.

I see this is the start of the Doctor having twattish companions who do stupid things.

Help, Doctor!  My mouth's full of candyfloss!

"Jamie, Doctor, help me, I'm trapped!"  It's a fucking door*Zoe walks in, falls to her doom*  Hahahahaha!

I wish they'd stop showing me her arse.  It's all I can see.

The Mind Robber, starring Wendy Padbury's arse.
She doesn't like Zoe very much.  All of a sudden, Zoe beats up a superhero.

Oh, apparently she's really good at fighting.  So she has one redeeming feature.  Even if this is really poorly done.

She's optimistic about Jamie, fan-favourite, who finds himself locked in a castle. 

Maybe he'll do something cool.

We catch up with Jamie shortly afterwards.

Well, he did fuck all.  How disappointing.

Do you at least like Patrick Troughton?

I like him sometimes.  When he's understated.  When he's over the top, it's like he's in a children's play.

Things come to a head when the Doctor is plugged into the same fiction-creating machine as the bad guy.  (Well, that seems like a good idea!)  Cyrano de Bergerac battles d'Artagnan; Sir Lancelot batters Blackbeard.  I vividly remember this from when I was little, although I do remember it being a bit more spectacular.  (It's actually a bit boring.)

Soon everything is solved by Jamie and Zoe mashing some buttons and the Doctor pulling the plugs out of the bad guy's head.  (I said he should do that!)  It's an abrupt ending.  The Hill, what did you make of The Mind Robber?

Well, the first episode was reminiscent of The Space Museum and The Edge Of Destruction, in a sort of random-bollocks-what's-going-on kind of way.  The final resolution reminded me of the end of Amy's Choice, in a nice way.  It's a shame it was so abrupt.  It didn't really have a conclusion.  I thought Zoe was irritating and useless.  Um.  But I guess the rest of it was fairly entertaining?

So, yes, a classic, glad we agree.  One thing we both like is the Doctor saying that, just because he's been to the year 2000, doesn't mean he's an expert on its pop culture.  Are you listening, David Tennant, whose Doctor has read all the Harry Potters and watches EastendersWell, are you?

Next up: An Adventure In Space And Time.  I've been saving this for two days.  We both love William Hartnell, and The Hill especially loves his early days with Ian, Barbara and Susan, so this drama (about all of that) should be pretty good.  I've tried to avoid spoilers, because apparently there are spoilers about this fact-based drama set in 1963.

As seen on iPlayer, via the Wii.  I've got technology whiplash!
1.00pm: An Adventure In Space And Time 

By Mark Gatiss.


Gatiss's main scriptwriting hang-up is excessive nostalgia.  This is a period piece.  He can't miss.

The nostalgia's very bittersweet.  Lots of references; I spot William Russell (Ian) as a security guard, plus Jean Marsh (Sara Kingdom) and Anneke Wills (Polly) in a crowd.  The recreated original cast are a mixed bag.  Ian and Susan are all wrong.  (Whoever cast them should be fired.  Have they even seen the actors they're supposed to be recreating?)  Barbara and the Doctor are much better.  The combination of David Bradley's sad old man, and the heavily cuddly music, is already making me rather teary-eyed.  It's very sad.

He's quite attractive.

She means Sacha Dhawan, as the show's first director, Waris Hussein.  We like the angle of Waris (the BBC's first Indian director) and Verity Lambert (their first female producer).  I love Verity's impassioned speech defending the first Dalek story as a really great, meaningful piece of television, and not just a load of bug-eyed monsters.  It feels like what I've always wanted to say to people who take one look at Doctor Who and just sort of sneer at it. 

Yes.  I like stuff about women, and I quite fancy him.

Yes, we get the picture.  Wedding's in June, everyone.

An Adventure In Space And Time, starring Sacha Dhawan's arse.

What do you think of Brian Cox?  He's a very versatile actor.  You hate him normally.

Do I?  It's probably because I didn't like Manhunter.  He's all right in this.  Anyway, I like David Bradley, but he's too tall.  He's the same height as Ian!

And too old.  How old was William Hartnell?

He was 55, playing older.  David Bradley is 71.  Playing... 71, I guess?

But he's supposed to be playing William Hartnell!  He's playing someone in his 50s, but he looks really old!  Ugh.

All this is during a break where The Hill makes an apple crumble.  (Because Doctor Who, I guess?)  We settle down afterwards to watch the rest.  By the time he's forced out of the show, we're both in tears.  I already had a quiet little blub when David Bradley did the "One day, I shall come back" speech; when we see Hartnell do it at the end, it's a sledgehammer.

We don't want you to go, either.  :(
I do not understand Doctor Who fans' obsession with regeneration.  It is morbid and sad.

I know.  It's weird, the focus being so much on how sad and painful it all is.  You kind of wonder if it's worth it.  I wish they hadn't emphasised Hartnell's illness and line-flubs so much; that "Chesterfield" thing became a running joke, you know.  It just seems as if he bumbled through it, but that's not fair.  I suppose they've only got 90 minutes, though.

I don't think they focused on the fact that he was actually really good.  I think his acting and his portrayal of the Doctor got much better as it went on.  You certainly don't notice any line-flubs in the later episodes.  Yeah, I don't like that all my favourite characters left.  And that's just what the show is.

It was never the same after Susan/Ian/Barbara went.  Anyway, this is a moving drama, very affectionate, if a bit skewed and angle-y.  (Well, it would be, it's not a documentary.)  I suppose it's good that they didn't just say "It was all worth it, the show comes first", and focused instead on Bill Hartnell.  That seems right.  Even Matt Smith looked sad and resigned about it at the end.  (That was the spoiler.  And that was fucking weird.  It was like, "I think I'm having a stroke!"  I like to think they were saying, "The Eleventh Doctor has to go as well.  He knows how you feel, Bill."  Or something.)  There just is no happy ending here.

With sore eyes and hot apple crumble, we watch the interviews at the end.  We're glad they added them.  It feels right to consider the real William Hartnell afterwards.  He was much more than just a grumpy old man who forgot his lines.  As for the rest...

Matt Smith is brilliant as the Doctor but I can't stand him as himself.  He just comes across as a complete idiot.  It's bizarre, you know, it's the complete reverse of David Tennant.

And on that note, I've decided to watch my favourite episode of the new series.  Without further ado, it's...

Let's watch this instead.

The Hill finds Doctor Who: The Ultimate Guide on iPlayer, so we end up with that.  You'll have to wait for the Favourite Episode.  No peeking!

"Geez, Hill.  Don't you like anybody?"
3.30pm: Doctor Who: The Ultimate Guide

Who's she?

That's Clara.  (It starts with a specially-filmed segment in the TARDIS.)  What do you think of her? 


She quite likes Karen Gillan's Guardians Of The Galaxy hair, though. 

Quite attractive!  Who are they?

I don't know who most of these people are.  I hope they'll go away.  (They don't.)

This is your typical talking heads clip-show guff, complete with all the lazy official idioms, so Hartnell is "grumpy", Troughton's a "clown", Pertwee's a "man of action", Peter Davison is "young", Sylvester McCoy is "Buster Keaton", blah blah blah.  They even talk about how Daleks couldn't do stairs, but then they could.  Christ, are we still on this?

A couple of incredibly thick-sounding people do Dalek impressions.  A thick-sounding narrator calls the Fifth Doctor "Peter DaviDson", the Whomobile a "pimp-wagon", and says such-and-such "didn't suffer fools gladly".  Jesus.  Make it stop!  At least there are a few amusing own-goals: some bloke says "Delete" was the Cyberman attempt to "come up with another word for 'Exterminate'", and John Simm's Master performance was "He was told to chew the scenery, and did."  That's about the size of it.

On it goes.  At one point they roll out Hartnell's "One day" speech.  No!  I'm not crying again!  We don't have the energy to watch it all.  That's definitely why we stopped.

So, what's my favourite episode?  Well, it's not everybody's.

The Dream Lord contemplates you.  He is unimpressed.
4.30pm: Amy's Choice

Any opinions on this one?

Before we watch it?  I like it.

Phew.  (We watch it.)  Right then: I suppose I love Amy's Choice for its simplicity.  This isn't another half-baked, overcomplicated Doctor Who plot.  It's a tight mystery, with just enough ideas; all of them fit nicely.  Which reality is the real one, the future in a creepy village or stuck in the TARDIS freezing to death?

It's not gonna be the one where she's heavily pregnant, is it?  How are they gonna carry on with that next week?

How indeed!  (Melody Pond reference.)  Anyway, you're supposed to go "Oh, it's obviously the TARDIS one".  There's that line: "What's this, Attack Of The Old People?  Oh, this is ridiculous!"  Turns out it's Option C!  Cleverington.  The plot is just-right-sized, including the baddies: we've got scary old people with a memorable gimmick ("There is an eye in her mouth!"), a cold sun threatening to seriously freeze-burn the TARDIS crew, and then there's the Dream Lord.  Toby Jones is completely mesmerising, creepy, clever and funny all in the right dose.  And he never came back to Doctor Who.  For once, they had a good idea and didn't overdo it!

Best of all, Amy's Choice is a vehicle for some juicy character-development.  The Doctor's relationship with Amy comes to the fore her dependence on him, his influence on her, their shared effect on Rory.  The plot comes entirely from who these characters are and why they like each other.  Yes.  Just yes, all of it.  The Doctor's lifestyle is re-examined.  ("What is the point of you?")  The music's moody.  The special effects look good.  The direction makes all those little Dream Lord appearances and disappearances look great.  Even when it snowed on location, and it wasn't supposed to, it looks like that's what they meant to happen!  It's like both realities are the same, hint, hint!

He's like an adorable little pug that knows your secrets and will kill you.
It's a pretty good episode.  Matt Smith and the Dream Lord are very good.  I like the Amy and Rory character development, and it makes me cry, but in a nice way, unlike that drama we watched earlier.  It makes me even more resolved not to watch beyond Series Five again.  Other than this evening, obviously.

Okay, so moving on...

Oh, and I like when he drives through the village in a camper-van, rescuing people.  He doesn't rescue people very often.  It's not hugely plot-relevant, but it is what a hero would do.

Yeah, that bit's great.  See, it's the simplicity again: he goes and rescues people.  Just does it, for once.  I mean, it's all great, but... yes.

Next up: pausing to eat and rest, because those are things humans need to do.  Followed by some recent Doctor Who minisodes, which will hopefully prepare us for the main event!

Official Eighth Doctor idiom: good-looking.
6.30pm: The Night Of The Doctor

So then.  The end of Paul McGann's Doctor.  (Although it sort of ended in 2005.)  What do you think of Paul McGann?  ('s Doctor.)

Although I found the TV Movie utterly traumatising, for obvious they-murdered-my-Doctor reasons, I do think that Paul McGann is a good actor and gave a very sweet portrayal of the Doctor, and I would have liked to have spent more time with him.  Like, seriously: get rid of Eccleston and Tennant.  Replace with McGann.  Much better.

And in this?

I was surprised by how excited I was to see him.  Unfortunately it didn't go where I was hoping it would.

You mean you weren't hoping to see him die?

Yes!  There are infinite possible adventures I want to see with the Eighth Doctor but DYING was the one thing I DIDN'T want.

I liked him in 1996, and I like him here.  He does Moffat's "funny" dialogue really well, and considering it's seven minutes long, he gets a lot of emotion across.  There's none of that nudge-wink campiness that's stuck to Doctor Who so much recently.  I like it.  I'm glad McGann got to regenerate, although it feels like a funny sort of favour after what happened to William Hartnell...

I thought the stuff on the spaceship was all right, but the stuff on the planet was very boring and quite disappointing, for such an important mini-episode.  Most of the dialogue was dreadful, but I guess we've come to expect that.  I really don't think the Doctor would stand there and die just because some woman wouldn't get in his TARDIS.  She was terrible, by the way (which probably explains why I thought she was Clara at first).  It makes no sense that he completely changes his mind about the war, and what he stands for, in the course of two sentences.

So not a fan, then?

No.  I am not a Doctor Who fan.  I'm surprised it took you this long to notice.

Right, onto Minisode #2, released on iTunes.

"If one Dalek gets through, we're finished."  What's the worst that could-
6.30pm: The Last Day



It's not much to write home about.  I guess Christopher Eccleston wasn't the only Northern Time Lord, then?  Um... I liked the bit about downloading people's death-memories.  (It's very Steven Moffat.)  The bit where that speck on the horizon turns out to be a Dalek is very obvious.  (Also very Steven Moffat.)

Also, words like "sky trench"?  I bet he doesn't even know what that means.

Righto, that's us "prepared".  We hope you are too.  (If you've made it this far, congratulations!)

It's at this point our friend Sam arrives.  He stopped at Tesco to buy junk food.  The shop assistant said: "Doctor Who snacks?"  THIS PERSON IS PSYCHIC.

So, Sam.  Excited about the 50th anniversary episode?

I have no clue what's going on.  It's not the thing about the first Doctor Who?

This is the Fiftieth Anniversary Special Episode.  They also did a documentary drama-type-thing, which is probably what you're thinking of.

So, are you excited about The Day Of The Doctor?

Yes!  Because I may have some inkling of what's going on.


Timey what?
7.50pm: The Day Of The Doctor

There'll be a proper review of this soon, so I won't say too much.  (We're on, what, a million words already?)  But I laughed.  I loved it when John Hurt took the piss out of the other two.  I liked the Zygons.  I loved the opening titles.  I don't know if any of it made sense, but it made me smile a lot.  It's probably a good anniversary celebration.  Oh, and: Peter Capaldi!  Sam, did you enjoy it?

I did!  I actually really did.  

Sam goes on to try to describe the plot:

It's undoing in that not-poor way, where it never... happened?  It didn't never happen, and...

And then he just wept unintelligably.  And you, The Hill?

Yeah, it was okay.  I liked that John Hurt groaned and complained at all the really embarrassing modern stuff. 

I already said that.  Say something else.

David Tennant wasn't as bad as I remember.  But that Car... Cara woman, whatever she's called, I wish she hadn't been in it.  What's she called?

Well, he was sort of in it.
CLARA.  They said it about a million times.  Agreed, though, I wish she wasn't in it.  Don't hate her, I just get nothing from her at all.  What, so she's a teacher now?  I thought she was a nanny?  And I see they're back to only seeing each other once in a while, which is boring.  She and the Doctor continue to have no chemistry.  Oh, and she is apparently Northern, every tenth word or so.

So, I think it was very conspicuous that Christopher Eccleston wasn't in it.  There was no reason for him not to be in it.  He's talking to these two incarnations that follow on from him, but... there are three.  Why have we skipped one? 

Mm.  It didn't bother me because the episode was so busy and Hurt was so great, but whenever there was a shot of the three of them, I did think... come on, that's meant to be that other bloke.

It's cool that they did the bit with "all thirteen" of him, but what are they saying?  Is that it, then?  Why not all twenty-three, why not all fifty?  They only did it because they know who the next one is-

I KNOW, how cool was that?

We settle down for the Afterparty.  I hope for an announcement of sorts, beginning with M and rhyming with Barco Polo, to confirm what I've heard in the papers.

It's been a long day.  I'm tired.  GENERIC PICTURE.
9.00pm: The Afterparty

Oh no!  It's live!  I can't bear it.  Turn it down, please.

Oh God, is that River Song?  Mute!

(Unmuted for the Tom Baker interview.)

Oh Christ, is that One Direction?  Mute!

I love that John Hurt is looking somewhere else.

We spend some minutes making up our own questions-One-Direction-probably-asked.  We're pretty confident about "Which of our songs would be the Doctor's favourite?", but we're too scared to confirm.  We periodically put the volume back on, cringe ourselves inside out, then restore the mute.

Ooh!  Michael Sheen!  I love him!

Ooh!  John Barrowman!

River Song again!  AAARGH!

I love the bit presented by K9, particularly the way he says "And... one... actual quarry."  Was rather hoping he'd confirm Marco Polo had been found, but, ah well.

There's not a single other television show that's done this, is there?

He's talking about regenerations, but that's still a succinct summary of the Fiftieth.  Cheers, Sam!

Doctors Five, Six and Seven turn up.

Good, maybe Colin Baker can be a miserable bastard again. 

(He was miserable in The Ultimate Guide.)

I love Peter Davison!  And Sylvester McCoy was my Doctor. 

Well, two out of three ain't bad.

The gang plug the Big Finish audios like their lives depended on it, bless them.  Then they plug The Five(ish) Doctors, which we're watching next!  Meanwhile we can't help laughing awkwardly at Colin Baker's appetite for cake.  And his face, when they told him that thing was a cake!

BBC3 starts playing The Ultimate Guide again.  Quick, press the Red Button!

10.05pm: The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot
(Our quest to actually watch it.)

We missed the start.  The Red Button sucks.  Good grief, can't they just put this on iPlayer?  Or BBC3, even?  There's nothing good on.

We leave it on, muted, until it starts again.  The Hill and I don't look at the screen.  Sam does.

Oh look, it's J-


Ahh, that's cute.  But don't look. 

God, how long is this?  Start again, damn you! 

Oh, it does look like it could be concluding.  It's about to end.  Oh, no it's not. 


It "ends".  Except Sam thinks he spies Behind The Scenes stuff.  Then a two-week-later epilogue.  Why not throw some ad breaks in while you're at it?  Fifteen minutes, I thought this was.

CREDITS!  Right, it's starting again.

It appeared online afterwards.


At last!
10.35pm: The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot
(For real this time.)

Well, that was perfect.  It was so good, I don't mind that they weren't in The Day Of The Doctor.  I don't even mind that they didn't announce Marco Polo.  I'm going to watch this again as soon as I can.  So, so funny.

Yeah, it was very funny.  I love Peter Davison.

John Barrowman was in it.  That's all I'll say.

Fair enough.  He was really good, too!  I love how gung-ho they all were.  I loved all the references.  I don't know which was my favourite.  I think it might have been Adric.  No, Shada!  What an amazing spoof.  I wonder what it was like for people who don't get it.

Silence from Sam.

I liked the bit where Sylvester McCoy quotes himself and Colin Baker says "stop quoting yourself" and Sylvester McCoy says "I got a bit wrong, actually."

I liked how mean and funny Colin Baker was.  The way he said "Really?" when Peter Davison explained it wasn't a real TARDIS.  And I liked John Barrowman's secret double-life.  All the John Barrowman stuff was really great.

John Barrowman.

Okay, fine, I'll try to find a picture of his arse.

I liked the bit where Peter Davison's having his dream, and she says "You're my mum's favourite", and then he rewrites it as "You're my favourite."

That whole dream sequence was just... laughing too hard, ahhhh.  Right, we should wrap up, literally no one is reading by this point.  Our Doctor Who Day.  Did you enjoy it?

I'm so tired.  But, yes, I did.  Now can I go to bed?

YES.  Sam left too, in case you're wondering.

So what did I make of our day?  (I'm talking to myself.  And you.)  A lot to take in, almost all of it good.  The Ultimate Guide and the Afterparty stank, but overall, it's been a great anniversary.  Quite possibly better than hell, it's definitely been better than Dimensions In Time.

And now, happily, all celebrated out, it's time to contemplate the future.

Oh.  Yes.  They.  Did.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Whoniversary! A Fan's Ramble

I've been a Doctor Who fan for most of my life.  I don't remember not knowing what Doctor Who was.

Of course, being born in the '80s, I didn't watch it until it wasn't on any more.  I've lived on videos, books and just about anything Doctor Who-related since (at least) 1992, when I saw a few episodes repeated after Stingray.  I'll never forget The Mind Robber, starring Patrick Troughton, where famous fictional characters came to life to do battle in a strange fantasy world.  My first taste of Who, it was scary, imaginative, and completely unlike anything else.  That was me hooked, then.  Jon Pertwee episodes followed, including The Sea Devils (which made me uncomfortably afraid of going to the seaside).  I considered Pertwee "my" Doctor for many years, probably as a favour for getting rid of the Sea Devils.

Not long after, the show's thirtieth anniversary happened, along with Dimensions In TimeMy first "new" episode of Doctor Who, it featured all the surviving Doctors, supposedly in 3D... and was an Eastenders crossover.  Not exactly the best Doctor Who had to offer, but it was my first sight of all the other Doctors, so it was invaluable to me.  In 1996, the TV Movie happened.  A follow-up series starring Paul McGann did not.  Oh well: it was ninety minutes of Doctor Who, so it would do.  I busied myself reading about the show's past, including all seven Doctor Handbooks, the Sixties/Seventies/Eighties books, The Television Companion, Monsters, Companions, Timeframe, A-Z, The Completely Useless Encyclopedia, annuals, not to mention the fictional side of things.  I filled my brain with trivia, and filled a cabinet with videos.  At a still tender age, I tried to write a Doctor Who spoof and even sent an outline to BBC Books.  (I got a free book and a kind letter for my troubles.)  I loved this show, even when it didn't exist and even when it was rubbish.  It was, and is, part of who I am.  In hindsight, I could probably have gone outside a little more.

But I wasn't alone: my cousin was obsessed, and he had UKGold, a wonderful land where they repeated Doctor Who for free!  I saw a lot of wonderful stuff including Tom Baker's first episode all thanks to his diligent video-recording.  (Ta, Daniel!)  We went to at least two Doctor Who conventions (not, I must point out, in any kind of costume) and met Tom Baker (wonderful), Nicholas Courtney (delightful) and Peter Davison (having a bad day).  I decided not to go the year they had Colin Baker, but I met him in the end.  Sort of.  Well, I directed him to the nearest toilet.

At some point, I started to grow up.  I even, to a small extent, moved on.  But the show returned in 2005, so any plans that didn't involve being a Doctor Who fan went out the window.  (I lived right by Cardiff then.  Doctor Who was NEXT DOOR TO ME.)  Ah well.  I've followed the new show ever since.  It's often brilliant; more often it gives me something to gripe about, at least.  Gradually it's caused me to re-examine the original show, and the original Doctors' efforts in audio. I've found some really great stuff in both.  (And I still haven't watched all of "old" Doctor Who.)

It's a lot easier being a Doctor Who fan now.  Normal people watch it.  People talk about it and it makes headlines.  My family watch it, without my forcing them to do so.  My younger sister bugs me to find out what's happening next.  My older sister misses David Tennant so much she won't give Matt Smith the time of day.  My nieces and nephews grew up with Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith as the Doctor – their entire view of Doctor Who is different from mine.  I envy them, having (if they so wish) twenty-six years of stories and eight other Doctors to investigate.

Of course, not all of it exists.  Some hundred-odd episodes were destroyed (along with gobs of other non-Doctor Who stuff) in the 1970s.  I'd resigned myself to never seeing them it was just a fact of life, as sure as I've got two eyes and a nose although the odd one or two has come back over the years, usually found in dustbins and attics.  Last month, nine were discovered and released on iTunes.  Nine!  That's two Patrick Troughton stories, previously with one episode to show for each, completely restored.  (Well, almost.)  And I can watch them whenever I like.  On the bus to work, for instance.  Or right now, while I'm writing this.  I still can't believe it: I have seen The Web Of Fear!  I've seen The Enemy Of The World, which features two Patrick Troughtons!  This would have been completely unimaginable a year ago.  And there's every possibility there's more missing stuff on the way.*

(*And even before hitting Publish, The Mirror says that Marco Polo – a seven-part epic from the show's first year – has been restored!  Okay, this could be a whopping fib, but these days, who knows?  Isn't it wonderful knowing that stranger things have happened?)

It's incredible.  Just when you think you know what's out there, the sheer history of pop culture, what does or doesn't exist, it goes and changes before your eyes.  The impossible has become probable.  This, in itself, is quintessentially Doctor Who.

And here we are.  Fifty years of it.  Eleven Doctors, give or take a bit of Peter Cushingy, John Hurty small-print.  A shrinking number of missing episodes.  And for me, twenty-one years, a ton of books, a library of videos, friends who love it too, a housemate who sat through the entire Hartnell era with me, two trips to the Doctor Who Experience, a totally not-embarrassing collection of action figures, two sonic screwdrivers, various Daleks, a few TARDISes, a TARDIS-shaped piggie bank, and enough accumulated trivial knowledge to push my street-cred well into minus numbers.  I still watch it, and I still love it.  It's who I am.

Happy fiftieth!