Sunday, 24 November 2013

The Doctor's 50th: How Was It For You?

Something has been very wrong with the universe of late. I've not been that into New Who. It would be unfair to say that it was Steven Moffat's fault. However, I've found the disjointed, long-form, timey-wimey nonsense has gotten a little much when it came to the "Impossible Girl" stuff. That isn't to say I didn't love Clara. I just didn't love the Clara story. I felt it was an attempt to do something different, which should never be discouraged, and that it failed.

By the end of series 7 I was contemplating whether my 20 year love affair with the Doctor was coming to an end. "I'll always have Big Finish", I comforted myself. But then...

Night of the Doctor came along. What a beautifully tight 7 minutes of perfection. Paul McGann! As the Doctor. Maybe Steven Moffat had a plan... I was intrigued, excited and I couldn't wait for the 50th anniversary special. Did it live up to that prequel?


There was plenty of "fanwank", as they say. The opening titles, the shadow of the police man, Foreman's yard, Coal Hill school (with one "I. Chesterton" as head Governor), UNIT (and a reference to the 70s/80s controversy), all 13 Doctors (yeah, 13!) and... well there's more. So much more.

But it wasn't too fanwanky. That was the beautiful part, everything was so subtle and completely devoid of heavy-handedness that I thought maybe we were watching a different show.

And the story. For a show about time-travel and science fiction, the story was solid, straightforward and lacking any unnecessary baggage. Zygons, Daleks, Gallifrey, UNIT, Doctors, moral decisions. It was all in there and it was all good.

And the jokes. Oh the jokes! John Hurt did a wonderful turn of being "that fan" using his position as a "classic" Doctor to mock all the foibles of New Who in a way that wasn't cruel. Tennant and Smith made a wonderful double-act too.

And Billie Piper. I dislike Rose Tyler and when I saw Billie Piper was in it, I sighed my "It's all going to be about her. Again" sigh. But it wasn't Rose and Piper was amazing! The Moment was her best part yet.

AND TOM BAKER! Tom isn't one of "my" Doctors. I'm a wannabe 80s fan. And because of his perceived reluctance to be part of Doctor Who (see his Five Doctors snub et al.) I've always had a little niggling downer on him. But oh wasn't he good? A future Doctor with an old face. SQUEE

It was just so right. Not perfect, nothing ever is, but right. So many more things I could write about but there just would never be an end to this post.

Goodness it was good.

Then came the After Party on BBC 3. It would seem the BBC realised fanboys wouldn't be able to cope with near-perfection. They'd need a scapegoat for their fanboy rage. And so they presented us with one of the worst live shows of recent memory, car crash telly in which the highlight was Bernard Cribbins stealing cake from Sylvester McCoy. It was truly awful. Thank you BBC, you know just what we need. You always do.

But there's MORE! Peter Davison, being the ever awesome man he is, wrote and directed a small little tribute to Who. The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot was the best thing on TV last night. That takes nothing away from the 50th special. Nothing. But this, this was sublime. Hilarious. I want a series! The three 80s Doctors were amazing, the cameos superb (Janet Fielding ending Peter Davison's dream stands out). And the ending... oh that ending. I don't care, whatever the truth may be, the "statues" in The Day of the Doctor will always be the three Doctors. Oh so excellent.

We were spoilt. Spoilt like we never have been before and may never be again. What a treat!


Saturday, 23 November 2013

My Top 5 Favourite Doctor Who (TV) Stories

Today is the day we've all been waiting for. Doctor Who is 50 years old!! And the internet is awash with lists. Especially those ranking episodes. Hats off to those who've ranked EVERY episode of Doctor Who, and even to those who just ranked every New Who episode. Of course these lists come with one great big disclaimer: every episode of Doctor Who means something to someone. I read those lists with a sense of wonder that there are so many to choose from and annoyance at slights against episodes I quite enjoy (and the fact Time and the Rani 4 places from bottom, it deserves to fall off the list completely...)

I've not seen every episode, despite being a fan for 20 years!, and admit I'm totally top heavy interms of 1980s Doctor Who (those were what was being repeated on UK Gold when I first got into Doctor Who at the age of 10 years old). But I thought I just pay tribute to my favourite TV episodes of my favourite show! 

1. Survival 

When I became a fan of Doctor Who this was the end of it all. But in reality, I feel like it was the beginning of Doctor Who as we know it today. The Seventh Doctor and Ace (my absolute favourite TARDIS team) arrive in Perivale, Ace's former home, and find all is not as it seems. So far, so Doctor Who. Except its suburban setting, its focus on Ace's friendships and its general overall feel seem like a soft run for the sort of Doctor Who Russell T. Davies would sell us in 2005. It even had cat people, one of RTD's reoccuring themes! It felt so different to what had come before (though well in keeping with the general Ace character arc) that it is quite unforgettable. Sure some of the acting is truly appalling but I just loved it. Even the Ainley Master seemed to be more than just a pantomime villain for once. 

2. Earthshock 

Nobody splits fans quite the way Adric does. I started watching Doctor Who properly with The Keeper of Traken, so Adric may not be my favourite companion but I do still have a soft spot for him. Meanwhile... I LOVE THE CYBERMEN! So an episode that makes Adric into somebody truly likeable whilst making the Cybermen seem properly menacing for the first time in a long time (and so far this has been unrepeated since) was always going to make my list. Of course the heartbreaking conclusion was, that the dinosaurs were killed by the Cybermen, was almost too much to bear. I jest, I jest. Poor Adric. (P.S. I love Tegan...) 

3. The Dalek Invasion of Earth 

An epic tale with some fantastic shots of Daleks in London. The First Doctor at his finest with a heartbreaking speech to Susan as he leaves her behind. This is a solid story with a grand scale that I couldn't possibly leave off of my list. 

4. The Doctor's Wife

How could you not love this episode? The TARDIS has been the constant companion/owner of the Doctor, never failing to get the Doctor and friends into (and then out of) trouble. Here she is made flesh and given a voice. And didn't it work well? Heartbreaking and joyous all at once, and House is actually quite a menacing villain as he torments Rory and Amy.

Idris: There's something I didn't get to say to you.
The Doctor: Goodbye.
Idris: No. I just wanted to say, Hello. Hello Doctor. It's so very very nice to meet you.
The Doctor: Please. I don't want you to.
Idris: I love you.

*cue sobbing off screen in the living rooms of the nation*

5. Remembrance of the Daleks

Ace. With a "magic" baseball bat. Versus the Daleks. They didn't stand a chance really. I love this episode, the hat-tips to An Unearthly Child, the supporting cast and the great cliffhangers of episodes one and two. Hovering Daleks, the Special Weapons Dalek, Davros in moderation, companion in need of rescue but only because she was about to use an anti-tank weapon to destroy a Dalek. If you like Doctor Who but are "Meh" about this episode then I'm sorry but you are wrong!! ;) Plus it, rather heavy-handedly, deals with racism and hatred. EPIC.

I want a rematch of Ace versus a Special Weapons Dalek. I've always wanted to see a Dalek look scared...

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Given What Disney Is Doing For Live-Action Marvel, Imagine The Possibilities With Star Wars...

When Disney purchased LucasFilm, I spoke of my lack of concern and expressed my long repressed love for Disney. My confidence in Disney's stewardship of much beloved fictional universes 

                                                  Reason For Loving Disney #2

This week Marvel, another recent Disney acquisition, announced that on top of several upcoming movies and the brand new Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D TV show they would be releasing, via Netflix, 4 more TV shows which would ultimately lead in to a mini-series named The Defenders. 

With some rather strong storylines playing out in the comic book world too (as Marvel reinvents its universe in the latest round of "Marvel NOW!" releases), Marvel is going from strength to strength.  

A lot of Star Wars fans are fearful of what may be coming and how carefully Disney will look after the franchise that means so much to them, I just need to point out the care and planning Marvel has been putting in to the creation of its "cinematic universe". Unlike Fox's handling of the X-Men franchise, Disney/Marvel has forged a consistent and high quality product that appeals to mass audiences whilst not causing the sort of fanboy tantrums (and I say that as someone who almost became homicidal when there was a brief consideration of rebooting Buffy) caused by things like... the Phantom Menace! 

Disney didn't buy Marvel or LucasFilm out of a love of Iron Man or Han Solo. They didn't do it because they felt some deep artistic need to tell stories in those various fictional universes owned by those companies. They did it to make money. But they have shown that in making very large sums of money they haven't forgotten to make a story that appeals to all the right people. 

Yes there are plenty of Disney flops and there are plenty of political reasons not to like Disney. But Marvel fans are now getting the sort of output that couldn't have been dreamed of before and I have a feeling that Star Wars fans are only a few years away from a similar tsunami (in a good way) of quality live-action stories that they have been praying for for years. 

Until they buy out the rights to Star Trek and replace Captain Picard with Mickey Mouse, Make Mine Disney!