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Doctor Who Thread of Space and Time: Discussing Twice Upon A Time (SPOILERS)


#3933

But when were their mothers born?


#3934

How about the names Sheldon? Or Jennifer?


#3935

I think Jennifer is a more common name then Sheldon.


#3936

Well. Only if you’re talking about humans.

Sheldon is a very common name for a snail, while the only snail Jennifer was the Holy Leader of their main religion, 1000 years ago, so it’s quite an uncommon name for a snail. (Except in Uzbekistan, where a quirk of parallel linguistic evolution means Jennifer is a very common name for male snails)


#3937

The timing of the Christmas special has been confirmed - 5:30pm on Christmas day.


#3938

Series 7 and sundry bits

After how disappointing series 6 was, I had low expectations for this series and the first half of it met them.
The Christmas special (The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe) is just pretty
dull more than anything, with some annoying directorial flourishes. Asylum of
the Daleks is fairly awful - with the separation of Rory and Amy, which never
really feels legit; the one of an
ever-growing number of examples of how Moffat thinks its hilarious and cool to
continually reuse the title of the show in dialogue (it isn’t), with the Daleks
forgetting who he is; and the first appearance of Clara, as Oswin. And Oswin is
utterly dreadful here, because she is everything bad about Moffat’s writing
distilled into one character. She has almost aggressive levels of flirting
instead of a personality, she’s reduced down to a title (Soufflé Girl) instead
of a character and there’s the weird insistence that Matt Smith’s chin and
Arthur Darvill’s nose are somehow big and weird enough to be noteworthy when
they’re really not. Within that single episode I was reduced to thinking
"oh fuck off, Clara" every time she appeared, which took almost half a
season with Martha.

This is a series of two halves and
the first one is based around getting rid of the Ponds. The problem the show’s
quietly given itself is that it’s continually competing with itself for bigger
and grander exits for its companions. The well-liked main ones, at least
(sorry, not sorry, Martha). Rose was trapped in a parallel world, Donna had her
memories wiped lest she die. So how to get rid of Rory and Amy? Moffat decides
on a slow release, with them gradually getting weaned off travelling with the
Doctor, meaning they (supposedly) rapidly age to him and the viewer.

It doesn’t really work though. The
competition of real life vs the Doctor never feels like much of a competition
because we’ve never really seen anything that qualifies as a real life for
them, just arbitrary snatches. They don’t have the anchor of Jackie or Martha’s
awful family, or Wilf and Sylvia. Chris Chibnall, of all people, tries to
remedy that hastily in his two (two!) episodes by introducing Rory’s hitherto
unmentioned dad and it still doesn’t really work. Mark Williams does his best,
but it’s a fairly thin, inconsistent role (at the end of Dinosaurs On A
Spaceship he’s shown going travelling loads, but is able to do nothing but
watch his cube for a year in The Power of Three). Why wouldn’t they keep
travelling with the Doctor?

I think the best exit option for
the Ponds was ambled past at the end of the Christmas special. After having his
fairly boring adventure with Claire Skinner, the Doctor drops by Rory and
Amy’s, reveals he’s not dead (which they knew anyway) and has Christmas dinner.
And that’s a good way to leave it; the Ponds are his good friends that have
grown out of travelling with him, but who he can drop by and spend time with
when he’s feeling lonely (like it’s implied he does with the Brigadier). It’s
not a big spectacular exit and is a little ambiguous, but you can explain that away
with a line from the Doctor “Rory and Amy have a life now,” to Vastra
or whoever.

But instead we get the slow
release and then the diminishing returns of the Weeping Angels and more American
filming to please the Yanks. You can instantly tell the difference between this
actual filming in New York
and the Daleks Take Manhattan, where it was faked, mainly because the show is
rather happy to show it off, which is fair enough. That Rory saves the day by
dying is nice, but the plot requires him to be a complete idiot for a long stretch
of time and him and Amy being trapped in the past doesn’t quite hold up to
scrutiny (yes, paradoxes, but there’s nothing stopping the Doctor parking in
Jersey and commuting to New York to see them).

The Chibnall episodes are
interesting, not in and of themselves (Dinosaurs on a Spaceship is stupid,
Power of Three has a decent concept poorly executed and terrible voice-over)
because, going by the special features, it seems he was given a brief and then
left to do them himself without Moffat’s input. The behind the scenes stuff
shows Chibnall on set basically acting as show runner. Which I guess is part of
why he got the job now. I can only imagine it was to help lighten Moffat’s load
while he also worked on Sherlock. So seemingly working with no oversight, these
two episodes are perhaps the best look at what Chibnall will do with Doctor Who
and… well… it’s no more inspiring than his previous episodes and only
marginally moreso than Torchwood (mind you, a kick in the balls could be more
inspiring of hope than series 1 of Torchwood).

Fortunately, the second half of
series 7 is a real step-up. Cockney Clara at Christmas was also a bit annoying
and contrived (JLC is required to switch between cockney and posh, but still
ends up using her own accent for parts), and the Doctor moping at Christmas and
then again in The Bells of St John is tiresome, but by the Rings of Akhaten,
Clara’s actually pretty good: smart, funny, likeable. It’s a surprising turn
around and holds up right until The Name of The Doctor, at which point she
stops being a proper character and becomes a Mary Sue. I can live with
companions as puzzle box, as Amy was, over being a pure audience stand-in, but
with her ascent to “Impossible Girl”, Clara becomes an anorak’s stand-in,
knowing as much about the Doctor as the most hardcore audience member, which
doesn’t quite work. It undermines the inherent mystery of the character (such
as it still exists) and makes her less plausible.

There are other changes to the
show for this half-series which really freshen it up though. From The Bells Of
St John onwards, there’s a new verve to direction that feels modern even
compared to the previous half-series, especially in the way location slugs are
integrated into the visuals. The new title sequence is good, if a bit
conceptually bankrupt (and there is totally a hidden face in there, did you
hear?), and much better than whatever they thought they were achieving by
continually changing the colours and logo texture on the Amy set. The Doctor’s
costume gets a slight redesign, which looks good. I especially like that in the
Snowmen he essentially wears a Victorian version of his costume that still
manages to remain his costume. That’d be an interesting idea to use larger
scale - a Doctor’s costume that is constantly changed and adapted by where/when
he (/she) is but still is still recognisably always the same general outfit.

The new TARDIS console room is the
best change. There’s an elegant simplicity to it which is a good contrast to
the copper kettle one. There’s lots in there, from rotating ceiling bits, to a
gallery level and extra control panels on the side, but it never feels busy,
you can instantly take it all in without being overwhelmed. The colour palette
is much calmer than the last, allowing characters to more easily stand out.

There are some good episodes in
the second half of the series too. Cold War is a lot of fun and a nice return
for the Ice Warriors. Hide is wonderfully creepy, but falls apart a bit at the
end. The Rings of Akhaten uses its slowness and relative simplicity to be
nicely sweet (though could have benefited from having the aliens speak English
and the humans sing in something else). Even Name Of The Doctor, which I have
issues with, is a pretty decent story for the most part. Journey To The Centre
Of The TARDIS is the only real let-down. You wait decades for a TARDIS interior
story and then you get two in the space of two series. JTTCOTT doesn’t really
do anything that The Doctor’s Wife didn’t achieve previously and then tells a
story that relies on a literal reset button for a conclusion and undoes the
character development for its guest characters - it somehow seems wrong that we
find out Tricksy has been, well, tricked into thinking he’s an android only for
that to undone and barely addressed, with him carrying on likely never finding
out. I don’t need a happy ending, but it’s just a bit unsatisfying and
incomplete.

But for me, it all falls apart
with that reveal of John Hurt. The War Doctor still feels like a cheat. Name Of
The Doctor doesn’t really end, it just stops with that stunt reveal (and
there’s no real explanation of how Clara jumping into the Doctor’s life-tear
thing immediately cures the Great Intelligence doing the same thing). Day of
the Doctor doesn’t really pick up from it and also doesn’t bother to give any
closure on its Zygon story.

This is the first time I’ve seen
Day of the Doctor since broadcast and it’s more enjoyable than I was expecting,
but still, the War Doctor bothers me (I’ve written a longer thing about that on
my blog, here, to save this post going on too much). The Zygon story’s pretty
good, but I’m not sure how well it really sits with the Time War one. Tennant
resumes his role well, but I don’t get why they didn’t try and gel his hair a
bit – it looks so sad, which is more distracting than him having aged four
years.

There’s a fundamental problem with
the Day of the Doctor though and it’s that Moffat’s obsession with
"everybody lives" is taking over the show. When it was just in his
episodes during the RTD era, it was fine. And it didn’t get in the way too much
of his full series. But taking it and retconning the show’s history is a bit of
a dick move. By undoing the Doctor’s destruction of Gallifrey, however much
it’s handwaved away that he believes he destroyed it, Moffat undermines
the last eight years of the show and the character. The Doctor’s spent hundreds
of years and two lives wallowing in survivor’s guilt and grief, learning to
live again and open up to the joys of the universe, but it’s ok, none of that
really mattered, because he only killed Daleks! It’s a really heavy-handed move
and not one that needed to be done. The episode highlights that the 11th Doctor
had forgotten the number of children that died on Gallifrey, while the 10th
Doctor knew it instantly. We’re meant to think that’s callous on the 11th
Doctor’s part, but it’s not, it’s healthy, if anything. He’s moved on. The End
Of Time drew a line under the Time War stuff, it let the Doctor move on from
his all-consuming guilt and the show actually did that with the 11th Doctor. To
go back and edit away his tragedy was unnecessary and more than a little
disrespectful to RTD.

The Smith era ends with Time of
the Doctor, which is fairly unsatisfying. The naked under hologram clothes
thing is a weird gag, laboured well past whatever it may have been worth. Tasha
Lem feels like a River Song knock-off, or just another exhibit in the case
against Moffat being able to write women that well. The dangling plot threads
of the era are tied up, but, much like with River’s story, it feels impossibly
over-complicated: The Time Lords are trying to re-enter the universe (which is
only possible after the Doctor crossed his own timeline to prevent himself
having destroyed them, assuming he ever did at all) through the last crack in
the universe, which exists from the Doctor’s TARDIS being blown up in 2010 by
splinter members of the Church of Silence, who exist to stop the Doctor from
letting the Time Lords come back and go to war with all the races who are also
trying to kill the Doctor, after having also tried to kill him with the
Pandorica, in order to the stop the TARDIS exploding in 2010 and destroying the
universe. And that’s before you factor in all the stuff with River Song and the
Doctor faking his death (oh and why did the Silence need a space suit when
River came up out of a lake anyway?)

Smith’s exit is good in places –
the mid-stage of the aging effect, after the first 300 years is a nice, subtle
effect – but the idea that he’s expecting to die rather comes out of nowhere.
Not three episodes previous, in Nightmare In Silver, he was threatening a
Cyber-Planner - that was in his head – with regeneration to destroy it. Could
be a bluff, but the same Cyber-Planner, with full access to the Doctor’s head
at this point, specifically numbers how many times he’s regenerated (and has no
reason to lie). Plus he started to regenerate when shot by River (although I
suppose that was actually a robot pretending to be the Doctor, so… :s). It
feels the War Doctor was a hasty idea thrown together for a bit of publicity
and possibly as an excuse for Moffat to get to do the story of the Doctor
reaching the end of his life cycle, just to get it out of the way. But when it
comes to him actually regenerating, it feels even more overdone than even Tennant’s
farewell tour thing. His leaving speech breaks the reality of the moment with
the subtext of it being about Smith, the actor, leaving, breaking the surface
and just becoming text.

And then Capaldi gets perhaps the
limpest new Doctor intro by complaining about the colour of his kidneys and
asking how to pilot the TARDIS. With hindsight of most of his era now, it feels
completely at odds with how his Doctor would turn out, like they had zero idea
what they were going to do with him, which, also with hindsight, seems to sum
up a lot of Moffat’s alleged long term planning.

Anyway, the anniversary
extravaganza is made worthwhile by The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. The main
reason I held out to get the collector’s edition set of these episodes was to
get this half hour comedy by Peter Davison, which is still magnificently well
done (also to get the Night of the Doctor short with Paul McGann, which is…
well McGann’s great in it). Packed with cameos (chances are, if you don’t
recognise someone in this, they’re a Big Finish person), it’s wonderfully funny
and doesn’t at all stray into the area of relying on well-worn fans jokes or
convention favourite anecdotes (the Brigadier eye patch story, for instance)
and instead relies on Davison, Baker and McCoy being almost ruthlessly
self-deprecating. This was definitely worth importing the set from Australia for.

Speaking of DVDs, the series 7 set
is worth mentioning for how much they’ve changed from the earlier series. There
are no deleted scenes, no gag reel of outtakes and only commentaries on
selected episodes. The bulk of the special features are behind the scenes fluff
that seem to be the scraps of the aborted Dr Who Confidential for the year (I
guess it was cancelled after they started on it?) . But there’s also an
abundance of extra shorts. This has been growing for the past few series,
starting with one minute prequel scenes (which, by and large, add nothing to
the episodes). Then we got a couple of “meanwhile in the TARDIS
scenes” for series 5, a series of shorts for series 6 in which the bulk of
the Doctor’s relationship with River was dumped and in 7 a disparate array of
prequels and scraps. One is Clara not being able to find her bedroom in the
TARDIS, and despite being only two minutes long or so, manages to be about 80%
recycled jokes from the similar shorts with Amy. There’s one on the 50th
anniversary set that’s a 1st person view of a Gallifreyan soldier’s first day
on the job, just as the Daleks invade, which feels more like the opening to a
mediocre, mid-budget FPS video game than anything else. It’s all a bit weird
and inconsequential and given the ever tighter budget of the show, you have to
wonder why they’re throwing money at these things.


#3939

#3940

Just came to post the same thing. So we’re getting just another burst of gold light again for the regeneration. :disappointed_relieved:

EDIT: Just realized I’m going to be in London on Christmas Day so I could potentially watch the show when it first airs.


#3941

I wonder if the regeneration we see in that trailer might be yet another fakeout. It would be unusual to give away such a big moment.


#3942

I certainly hope so. I miss the distinctive and unique regenerations for each Doctor.


#3943

Speaking of, rewatching Night of the Doctor, I was surprised to see that 8 to War is actually a blurry glow effect rather than the usual New Who one.


#3944

It was an unusual one, influenced by that potion, wasn’t it? I felt like it was deliberately done differently to suggest it wasn’t a regular regeneration.


#3945

Could be, but it also felt a bit of a call back to the classic series effect of just doing a spot negative and a radial blur.


#3946

There’s a Facebook group with an article on the model work for the partially restored version of ‘Shada’;

https://www.facebook.com/notes/the-model-unit/doctor-who-shada-2017/1275396709233788/


#3947

That was great, thanks Steve. I know a little bit of Mike Tucker and the Model Unit from some of the great work they did on Red Dwarf in the past too.

I love that they tried to keep the materials and approach as era-authentic as possible.


#3948

And the Pink Floyd t-shirt.


#3949

Has anyone watched the new reboot of Ducktales? it has David Tennant as Scrooge Macduck


#3950

And Catherine Tate as Magica De Spell!


#3951

Has the series proper started in the UK yet? Disney XD had the pilot special a month or so back, but nothing following.


#3952

It looks like they’re still just playing the pilot every other day.

https://digiguide.tv/show-times/1216350/Disney-Ducktales-Woo-Oo-/Childrens/