Monthly Archives: November 2013

Thoughts on The Day of the Doctor

Thoughts on Day of the Doctor

Day of the Doctor delighted fans across the world.

The Classic Who opening on “The Day of The Doctor” was perfect as the original credits and scene of the junkyard panned over to see Clara teaching in Susan Foreman’s old school. With Ian Chesterton listed as Chairman and the clock showing the exact time the first episode “The Unearthly Child” was broadcast, there are plenty of in-nods in just the first few minutes.

In some ways this episode is meant to be a blessing from old Doctors to new. John Hurt represents the old style of Doctor—a grouchy curmudgeon like the first who’s repelled by the fresh-faced young Doctors kissing girls and showing off. “Am I having a mid-life crisis?” Hurt wonders. The banter is fun as eleven calls his “coconspirators” sand shoes and granddad and Ten calls Eleven “chinny.”

Ten: “Allons-y!”

Eleven: “Geronimo!”

War Doctor: “Oh for God’s sake! Gallifrey stands”

The duplicate mannerisms emphasizes how Ten and Eleven aren’t just both Doctors, they’re the popular young New Who Doctors who have much in common.

However, by the end, the War Doctor gives them his approval, using their age gap to escape from prison (or so he plans). They stride into battle side by side, blowing up daleks and finding the way to peace. At episode end, the Fourth likewise blesses the Eleventh as he embarks on a new stage of his quest.

As such, the 50th was sweet and charming. However, other aspects are more problematic.

The Zygons make an awkward villain. They’re new for New Who fans but they’re not terribly classic, appearing in a total of ONE classic episodes (fittingly, “Terror of the Zygons,” a Fourth Doctor episode). Their body takeovers are more laughable than threatening. Admittedly, the Doctor’s solution of confusing the humans and Zygons and forcing them to thus negotiate is clever (though similar to “The Almost People”). But this doesn’t feel like a true apocalypse from the sucker people. Likewise, Elizabeth manages to slay one all on her own with a small dagger.  The battle with one’s double and the game of who is real has appeared in many Who episodes already.

So the Elizabeth plot is pure fluff. The Zygon plot isn’t much threat. The Doctors exchange snark but basically trust each other. The Time War is barely seen.  

In fact, the Time War, a war through time and space, is shown more dramatically with the aftereffects in the Eighth Doctor prequel than in anything from this episode, with Gallifrey scenes that indicate a very conventional war, in fact. People are shooting and screaming, the Gallifreyan high command is giving orders, they have a cellar of doomsday devices. It’s a scene of “insert standard war” rather than the more unusual mythos and interesting Gallifreyans of “The End of Time,” for instance. The Doctor invades Gallifrey only to leave a desperate message, then walks off with the Moment with no trouble at all. Gallifrey felt like it should have been an entire episode in itself, not this shorthand.

Then comes the War Doctor’s conflict. For the John Hurt Doctor, this episode is a question of when he’ll press the button and what it will do to him. The Big Ideas, mostly about the Doctor’s guilt and responsibility for destroying his own race, are dealt with but briefly and somewhat shallowly.

The weapon as mass destruction that would stand in judgment of its user is a clever touch, forcing morality into even an attempt at genocide. Bad wolf tests the War Doctor to his core, forcing him to face what he’s planning and how it will affect him as well as the galaxy. As the Gallifreyans note, only the Doctor, who tries to be a good person and is quite self aware, could withstand such a challenge. The main arc of the plot thus is meant as a psychological study, as the War Doctor faces his future and the 11th Doctor faces the incident he has denied and forgotten. When Ten insists, “This is a decision you won’t be able to live with,” he makes it clear what destroying Gallifrey has done to him.

Most Who episodes don’t actually use time travel tricks after arriving at the destination in space and time. In this episode, Matt Smith and friends appear Time Lords, those who have mastered time and can use it to advantage, as in “The Pandorica Opens.” Granted, this might get convoluted and painful if used too often, but it’s nice to see the time travel tricks being used well.

This is meant to be an Eleventh Doctor episode, happening after the evens at Trenzalore when he was forced to confront the War Doctor in his memory. As such, he’s the one with a companion and his theme music plays. While the other two have their memories wiped, he is expected to grow and change from the encounter.

Clara doesn’t seem right as the episode’s only genuine companion (aside from Bad Wolf of course). Her immaturity on Who and in general are stressed as she has little to offer in this great conflict. With all the humor and ego bruising, someone like Donna Noble would have been the perfect snarky companion watching these scenes play out, yet filled with the maturity of “The Fires of Pompeii” to help the Doctors make the ethical choice. And for once, there was even a plot that would allow her to come back.

Speaking of “The Fires of Pompeii,” the end of this episode felt like a colossal cheat. The Doctor can destroy millions to save billions, in a decision much like his at Pompeii, or others he’s faced, in “Genesis of the Daleks” and “The Parting of the Ways,” for instance. He’s been suffering from his choice for seven years (that we’ve seen) or over 400 (that we haven’t). The Pompeii story, with the horrors of letting people die, or the other two, where the Doctor chooses to find another solution because he can’t bear to save through killing, all have the emotional ring of truth. But how seriously could anyone take a movie about the people who can go back in time, save Hiroshima, and find a no-consequences method of ending WWII? It just feels wrong.

Of course, this does spin off Eleven and Twelve’s next story arc (one presumes): the search for Gallifrey. It’s likely no coincidence that by Christmas the Doctor will be on his last life (For Nitpickers, that assumes the John Hurt Doctor’s odd regeneration with help from the Sisterhood of Karn DOES count, whether he calls himself “the Doctor” or not, and his metacrisis mess in which the Tenth Doctor did APPARENTLY die and regenerate DOESN’T count). As shown in the series, the High Council can award people with an entire new set of regenerations, among other rewards. It promises to be a fun storyline…despite the dramatic feel of “undestroying” the tragically lost Gallifrey.  

Unraveling the science in science fiction tends to never end well, but I must ask: Nine said Gallifrey is time-locked, so he can’t interfere. Is that so different than “locked in an alternate dimension”? While they may be quite different, the concepts feel the same. Either way, it’s mostly impossible to get to and a fitting quest for the Doctor. Is it worth mentioning that all the Daleks being under Time Lock and destroyed from all of time, space, and history really isn’t working out?

Certainly everyone loved the hoard of Doctors rushing in to help, and the Fourth giving his bit of advice to a purposeless Eleven. The fangirl in the Fourth’s scarf was also a lovely touch, as we, the asthmatic, gushing viewers, got to be in the episode too.

If anyone’s aiming for a final count this episode offered…Three TARDISes. Two companions (counting Bad Wolf but not Queen Elizabeth). One companion’s descendent (the Brigadier’s daughter). One crazed fangirl, times two. Two 4th Doctor scarves. One fez (that bounces between many timestreams). The second wedding a Doctor has had onscreen.  More of the Time War than ever seen. Zygons, Daleks, a Cyberman head. Two giant rooms of doomsday devices. Several time loop paradoxes. 13 Doctors (with some as old footage) 5 Doctors with new footage for the show (and an additional one in Night of the Doctor). And the count can go much higher if one includes the lovely scenes from The Five(ish) Doctors (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01m3kfy ) (with John Barrowman getting a bonus for the driving). If 5, 6, and 7 are indeed hiding in the episode, the count can go up to a whopping NINE Doctors, from 4 through the one who doesn’t yet exist, with John Hurt as a bonus in the count. And Doctor #9 is present in spirit as John Hurt regenerates into him.

So happy 50th to all and to all a good night. It was fun, it was delightful, but it was more of a giggle than the great confrontation with the Time War.  All in all, it felt a bit like the Stargate 200th, more fan nods than great epic plot for the ages.

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Day of the Doctor Easter Eggs and In-Joke References

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  • The original credits, then 76 Totter’s Lane and the Coal Hill School begin the episode as they began the series.
  • The school sign reads “Headmaster: W. Coburn” and “Chairman of the Governors: I. Chesterton” … Anthony Coburn wrote that episode, “The Unearthly Child.” Ian Chesterton was a teacher at the school and the Doctor’s companion…he might even still work there.
  • The clock Clara motorcycles past shows the exact time the Unearthly Child was broadcast. And she writes No More on the whiteboard. Hmm….
  • They don’t dwell on the bit where Clara has met Hurt and Ten before during her splintering into souffle girl adventure, but that could just be confusing and awkward.
  • Smith hanging from the TARDIS mirrors his own first episode The Eleventh Hour. Both times dramatic and fun.
  • 11 wears Amy’s reading glasses. 10 wears his own “cool” glasses.
  • “Reverse the polarity” is the Third Doctor’s line.
  • The fangirl is wearing 4’s scarf of course. She also uses it as a weapon, as he frequently does.
  • Zygons hail from the 4th Doctor and Sarah adventure “Terror of the Zygons” (in which people dramatically back up when menaced by them, as in this one). This is their first New Who appearance.
  • Clara uses Jack Harkness’s vortex manipulator. River Song presumably has a different one.
  • Elizabeth the First and 10’s courtship and wedding (teased in several episodes) are finally shown.
  • Even the War Doctor uses a gun to shoot the wall, not the enemy.
  • The sealed message from the past, paintings as messages, etc, are seen in “The Pandorica Opens,” among others.
  • The escape from a dungeon scene nods to many moments, especially 3 and Jo scenes.
  • The oft-mentioned Time War described by 9 and 10 is shown.
  • Gallifrey and the Time Lords’ terrible collars. Also their vault of doomsday devices.
  • The fez of “The Pandorica Opens,” itself a nod to the fez 7 wears, returns (many times over!). Even 10 wears it.
  • In “Night of the Doctor,” 8 meets the sisterhood of Karn from “The Brain of Morbius,” toasts his audio adventures companions, and transforms.
  • Earth is doomed to fall to alien invasions, a nod to many many episodes.
  • The Moment comes to life with a personality very similar to the TARDIS of “The Doctor’s Wife.” They’re both even wooden boxes.
  • Bad Wolf played by Billie Piper
  • 11’s signature high-energy theme music
  • In UNIT, Clara sees a cyberman head and a wall of old companion photos, starting with Susan’s. River’s red sparkly high heels are also there and Amy’s “Angels Take Manhattan” pinwheel.
  • Hurt: “Timey wimey?” 10 “I don’t know where he gets it from.” 10 first said this in “Blink.”
  • The concept of the Doctor protecting children is emphasized in “The Beast Below” and “The Doctor the Widow and the Wardrobe” among others
  • John Hurt regenerates, noting he’s “Wearing a bit thin,” the words 1 used on changing to 2.
  • This show uses several of Moffat’s signature loops and paradoxes.
  • The concept that the Daleks will be terrified of three Doctors. Also, the plan to move Gallifrey so the Daleks all shoot each other is similar to the solution in “Blink.”
  • Rewriting and preserving timelines
  • Obviously, “The Three Doctors,” “The Five Doctors” and “The Two Doctors” all dealt with the same sort of paradox and snarky comments towards the other Doctors’ dress, mannerisms, etc. It’s no wonder 10 isn’t shocked to see 11 after all that.
  • This one particularly mirrors The Three Doctors, with the old crochety one complaining about the ridiculous clown and the “cool” charmer. In fact, that was a Brigadier episode, as this is a Brigadier’s daughter one.
  • 11 mentions Trenzalore and their fate there
  • The need for a Big Red Button
  • Daleks daleks daleks
  • 10: “I don’t want to go.” 11: “He always says that.” 10’s last words on the show are…still his last words.
  • 11 warns 10 about SPOILERS! for the future…by this point in Ten’s life, he’s met River and heard her catchphrase in the Library.
  • On the Doctor getting kissed: Hurt: “Is there a lot of this in the future?” 11: “It does start to happen, yes.” A reference to the asexual attitude of the first seven Doctors in contrast with New Who.
  • “They’re getting younger all the time,” Hurt notes (though he thinks 10 and 11 are companions).
  • Eleven has the same phone number as Ten had in “The Stolen Earth.” Seems he still has Martha’s phone.
  • The Tardis is switched to its original white circles décor. The museum had a similar wall pattern.
  • “Is it important?” “In twelve hundred years I’ve never stepped in anything that wasn’t.” This actually seems a parody of Eleven’s Christmas Carol line that he never met a person who wasn’t important. While the latter was sweet, the former just seems silly.

  • Kate wants a file from the seventies or eighties. It’s murky when UNIT events of the Third Doctor era happened as they were meant to be in the near future (80s), not the present (70s). Hence the date. 
  • The end credits, with the Doctors’ faces, is reminiscent of the old style.

  • The motorcycle ridden into TARDIS echoes similar stunt riding in “The Bells of Saint John.”
  • Kate Stewart, daughter of the Brigadier from 3’s era (also seen in “The Power of Three”) and UNIT. Their Tower of London base was also in “The Power of Three” There’s a picture of her father and the Doctor sends a “space-time telegraph” for him.
  • The code 11 scratches into the wall is the time and date Unearthly Child aired. 17-16-23-11-63, and the first Doctor Who episode aired at 5:16 p.m. on November 23, 1963.
  • Kate is horrified by “Americans with the ability to rewrite history”…this could be a dig at the American Doctor Who movie or Torchwood season four among other things.
  • 11 mentions he lies about his age. This nods to a few inconsistent counts through the series.
  • Finally all the Doctors unite to save Gallifrey (which is described by 9 and 10 as “time-locked” so this may actually have already worked. They’re seen on screens along with a glimpse of Capaldi, Doctor #12, the first time a Doctor is seen on screen before his regeneration.
  • “Hopefully the ears aren’t as prominent this time.” This nods to the fat that he will soon be Eccleston.
  • The Moment is mentioned in “The End of Time” and several comic books, modified from the De-Mat gun of 4’s “The Invasion of Time.”
  • And of course, number 4…

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I wrote an entire book of these sort of references….available free today through Monday at    http://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Who-The-What-Where-ebook/dp/B00GMWKBUE/ Doctor Who: The What Where and How.

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Review of Doctor Who, An Adventure in Space and Time

This was a touching homage to the creators of the amazing cult show and a delightful treat for fans, bookending the series with its beginning before the 50th anniversary special tomorrow.

It’s delightful watching Producer Verity Lambert get her start, learning beside the terribly young director Waris Hussein as they both fight the white male dominated BBC. Watching Verity defend the Daleks’ existence was a special treat.  As she uses expressions like “Brave heart,” or Hatnell asks “Doctor Who?” the program nods to its many episodes and in-jokes. The music turns menacing for the Daleks but also shows the creation of the theme song (unchanged in 50 years!) and the sound effects.

Of course, there’s the traditional period music and costumes placing the show firmly in the 60s. We see the first woman in space and the Kennedy assassination that is being revisited so much this weekend, along with Who. We also get to visit a world of taping where four takes was considered far too much effort, with no budget and none of today’s tech.

Watching William Hartnell bond with his granddaughter through his relationship with his fictional granddaughter and his science fiction adventures is a delight. Of course this is framed partly as his struggle, his adventure to grow into a science fiction legend. At the same time, the series itself gain fannish status as kids on the bus start chanting “Exterminate!” and the first fan magazines and merchandising appear as the show begins to show what a success it can be. When a new producer joins, it’s lovely to see Hartnell being fannish, insisting that the proper buttons must do the proper jobs. With something on Verity’s cheek and the toasting photo of actors there’s a lovely cycle back to the beginning as the show tells a good story with artistry and heart as well as all its nods to fans.

The device of dialing the TARDIS to achieve flashbacks and flashforwards is charming for fans as well. Of course so many script moments from entering the TARDIS to the Daleks to the Doctor’s farewell to Susan are refilmed, along with the making of parts of the episode. As the show ends with a few actual actors and contributors, this delightful docu-dram takes its place in history…and the history of time itself.

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So many new books!

Yes, I have two Doctor Who books out this week for the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who (yay!)

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Free from now through Monday on Kindle is 

Doctor Who: The What Where and How

http://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Who-The-What-Where-ebook/dp/B00GMWKBUE/

Doctor Who is a show about books, TV, and science fiction for the fans within us all: The Tenth Doctor loves Harry Potter, the Eleventh Doctor wears costumes, Martha Jones wants to record Shakespeare’s lost play and sell it on the internet. As the characters gush over Agatha Christie or tangle with Men in Black, they enter a self-referential world of fiction about fiction, delighting in pure fandom. Producers Davies and Moffat nod to their other creations, from Sherlock to Casanova, and share their love for both the classic series and the larger world of Doctor Who novels, audio books, and comics. As the franchise riffs off Star Trek, Star Wars, Alice in Wonderland, and Hitchhiker’s Guide, it both celebrates the world’s most popular works and takes its place among them.

The other book, so new it’s just beginning to arrive, is

Doctor Who and the Hero’s Journey

The Doctor is certainly the legend with untold faces, the mythic hero who dies to save mankind only to return, regenerated into an undying god with new wisdom of the ages. But his companions are journeying too. Rose Tyler and Donna Noble cross the TARDIS threshold and grow from ordinary women into goddesses of transcendent light, restoring the world with their golden auras. Martha learns faith and Amy, the power of imagination, until both can save the Doctor purely with the strength of their belief. By willing the world to reshape itself, they harness the power of the oldest goddesses who ruled with creation magic rather than conquest. River Song is the divine child of the TARDIS, magic itself, while Clara learns the heroine’s mythic power of spreading herself through eternity and thus reshaping reality as the Doctor’s world. United, they battle for the earth’s redemption by confronting the shadows within.

http://thoughtcatalog.com/book/doctor-who-and-the-heros-journey/

It’s available on

ALSO, my Hunger Games guide,

The Many Faces of Katniss Everdeen: Exploring the Heroine of The Hunger Games is only 99 cents right now on Amazon. http://t.co/6vxNIKUgvb Of course, my terribly popular

Katniss the Cattail: An Unauthorized Guide to Names and Symbols in The Hunger Games is always 99 cents on Kindle and other ebook formats. https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/130687 or http://www.amazon.com/Katniss-Cattail-Unauthorized-Symbols-Suzanne-ebook/dp/B0078EKMOU/

There are also paperbacks.  On with the promotions!

ManyFacesKatnissKatniss the Cattail

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Catching Fire Review–This is What Movie Making Should Be!

Catching Fire, the movie, was very good–everyone agrees. The first half is the best as Panem descends into a police state (or moreso) with endless Peacekeepers, public whippings, and the ominous lines of trucks driving in. Gale and Katniss’s transgressions are made more sudden and dramatic, but worked well in the film. All around them are bits of graffiti alerting the public to the Mockingjay.

Scenes from President Snow’s point of view seemed briefer than in the previous movie (though this might be an illusion) and could have been more nuanced as he and Plutarch summarize their plans in what feels like mildly colorless exposition. His granddaughter, only mentioned in the books, is shown here, with a braid like Katniss’s as she mimics the world’s heroine. She’s one of several excellent bits of foreshadowing not present in the second book as Katniss and Johanna allude to Annie Cresta as “the one that…” or there’s an early threat of bombing District 12 into ashes like 13. In fact, as a little girl tells Katniss she wants to volunteer for the Games and Prim tells Katniss she can handle herself now, a theme of this next generation and their place in Panem is cautiously cropping up.

Some fans were wondering if the plot of poor Seneca Crane, martyred gamemaker, would continue through the sequel, perhaps with soppy memorials to the poor “filmmaker” who was sacrificed for his art. (See John Granger’s “Gamesmakers Hijack Story: Capitol Wins Hunger Games Again” at http://www.hogwartsprofessor.com for more on this).

To my relief, it didn’t. Nonetheless, as Snow watches Peeta and Katniss’s love story and discusses it with his little granddaughter, they’ve turned into the audience…passive helpless audience by the end. Katniss and Peeta are performers on multiple levels, though they seem sincere within the games–their pretense for the camera dies when they’re flung inside. (And in fact, the spile is all the sponsors give them…perhaps Haymitch and company have bigger things on their minds). Katniss’s Seneca Crane dummy, compete with her perfect curtsy from the previous film was a perfect giant middle finger to the gamemakers, only surpasses by Johanna’s dirty mouth. Ever Caesar had trouble putting a lid on her.

She shines as one of the beloved book characters brought to life. Mags and Wiress, the show’s sad victims were well done, but I adored Johanna’s snark and Finnick’s terribly sincere range. Whether preening in his outfit or offering Katniss her sugar cube, he’s the right mix of defensive, pragmatic and charming. “What about you, girl on fire? Any secrets?” he smirks. In the Games, he’s panicked, desperate, but also self-willed enough to charm Katniss with only the force of his personality…and us along with him. He, like Haymitch in the first movie, is the Katniss character, defensive and traumatized. Both characters struggle to protect a loved one under their flippancy, both are tortured by the jabberjays. Seeing them side by side emphasizes that Prim is Katniss’s truest love as Annie is Finnick’s, that both characters are emotionally wounded. When Finnick loses Mags, it foreshadows Katniss’s loss to come.

The film compensated well for losing the first person point of view–Katniss and her friends have three kinds of mortified expression when Johanna strips in front of them (with perfect comic timing, just after Haymitch claims the Victors aren’t so strange). In her first scene of the movie, Katniss’s PTSD comes out clearly as she freezes before a crowd of turkeys. Even frivolous Effie comes out devastated when she must choose Katniss in the reaping and bid her goodbye in her wedding gown. Scenes like the Tributes’ fighting to end the games during their interviews, or Katniss finally, sweetly making friends, are brought to life beautifully, with stunning emotion.

In many ways, this one’s closer to its original than movie one was (movies 3 and 4 have me wondering if we’ll suffer from Harry Potter 7 syndrome with all the good stuff ending up in one of the two films). We see the terrible prison camp of District Eleven and the brighter, prettier Career Districts. Katniss’s Appalachian home is stark and cold with winter, like her feelings at the start. And for those disappointed about minutiae the last time (as I was, admittedly), Buttercup the cat was recast with an animal the right color (obviously, this still works in the story, as Prim could have gotten a new pet). Director Francis Lawrence notes:

That was a request from Nina the producer and Suzanne the author. That they thought the cat from the first movie was not the way he was described in the book. And that had annoyed a bunch of fans, and things like that. But it also just kind of bothered them that Buttercup was not a black and white cat. So I was happy to get one that felt like the Buttercup of the book…That was, quite honestly, the only simple thing, the Buttercup situation. http://io9.com/the-hunger-games-author-insisted-the-cat-be-recast-in-c-1462912646

This show offers a believable love relationship with Peeta and also Gale…as Katniss remarks in both book three and this movie, she’s trying to survive, not obsess over boys. Nonetheless, she, Peeta, and Haymitch have become a family as seen in the previous movie…though complete with their sass and teasing (“Take a bath, Haymitch” after Katniss has pelted him with water “I just did”). By contrast, Katniss meets with Snow while the holo of her act with the berries is playing right on the table, both reminding/warning the audience what she did and compelling her to watch along with them as her guilt is played out in front of her.

Capitol fashions are more disturbing than ever, with Effie’s devotedly cheerful butterfly dress that might even be constructed from real ones. The Capitol citizens celebrate in front of the President’s horrid pink and blue mansion with multicolored fireworks, and as he toasts, in a sinister moment, his drink turns red. Of course, much of the costuming was an acknowledgement that it was a reestablishment of moments seen in the previous film–she’s the girl on fire again in the parade, Effie dresses horribly as do the Capitol citizens again as well. Finnick and Johanna’s parade outfits were impressive, but once again, not strikingly unique. There was little surprise there until the beauty of the Mockingjay gown.

This long-awaited moment was impressive–the original gown is designer but with a metal winglike structure suggesting her own strength and the Capitol’s artificial cage. As she twirls, the metal vanishes, and for a moment, she breaks free. “The metal pieces rising up from the bodice are meant to signify fire and flames, while laser-cut feathers at the waist and shoulder hint at Katniss eventual transition into a Mockingjay.” EW reports.

Katniss’s gown for the Capitol party is reminiscent of a mockingjay, dramatic in red and black as she prepares for battle. I thought the reaction to the food wasting should have been bigger–Katniss obsesses over it so in the book, and it’s part of the central message. The Avoxes once again are basically cut, as is the suffering of people in District 12.

I was surprised Plutarch had lost his watch but the movie did a delightful job of keeping new viewers guessing. He’s excellent as a self-serving gamester using other as Snow dies…until it’s time for the Game to end. Katniss’s final shot, now seen in the Gamemakers’ lair, is wonderful, though on the practical side I must be concerned over the rescuers nearly smashing her with fallen debris. She rises into the air with a messianic glow, the Mockingjay, flying at last.

Fans will miss a few other moments–Cinna’s famous line that he’ll risk his own neck through his art but not anyone else’s, the teens’ discovery of how Haymitch won his Game. The sponsor gifts to encourage the new team. However, Haymitch’s snarky notes are back, or at least one.

Many fans likely admire the movie’s incredible similarity to the book, but I would have preferred a different ending – with the new medium, graphics, and point of view, the camera could have stretched over the revolutions and war-torn Panem instead of focusing on Katniss’s immediate world. All in all, Haymitch’s line brings the point of all war stories home – “No one ever wins the games, period. There’s survivors…there’s no winners.” As Collins’ saga of the torments of war and its afterefffects, this seems the standout moral of the story.

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Thoughts on The Night of the Doctor

Today marked the broadcast of a short YouTube prequel to The Day of the Doctor. And social media went nuts. It’s at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-U3jrS-uhuo&feature=youtu.be if you missed it.

The big surprise of course is Paul McGann reprising his role as the Eighth Doctor. “I’m a doctor…but probably not the one you’re expecting,” he smirks to the audience as well as to his potential new companion. Many incorrectly believe he only starred in the 1996 TV movie, but actually he’s been “the Doctor” in much more: his actor starred in many Eighth Doctor audio dramas, and Eight had an extensive life in comics and novelizations, considering There was no television series from 1996-2006.
As such, this is a particularly special moment for long-time fans, shared by Moffat. “Well, we had our new ‘hidden mystery’ Doctor and I was thinking, what else can we do for our anniversary year… I thought… Why don’t we get Paul McGann in and regenerate him into John Hurt? I’d like to see that! I’d love to see that!” Moffat explains.

The Eighth Doctor was certainly a lover not a fighter, in fact, he was the first Doctor to share a kiss with someone, and he spends the movie amnesiac and needy, looked after by the gorgeous physician Grace. Moffat adds, “The Eighth Doctor is perhaps the first of the sexy, romantic Doctors. I don’t mean he’s the first sexy Doctor – he’s not. But he’s the first one who kisses a lady, for example. He’s obviously dashing, terribly handsome and quite romantic. I always found it hard to imagine him fighting in the Time War. I’d always imagined the ‘Time War Doctor’ would be more grizzled, somehow, you know?” (Moffat)
With the creation of a Doctor between 8 and 9, many are speculating about the limit of twelve regenerations, established in the 1976 “The Deadly Assassin.” John Hurt might not call himself the Doctor, but surely he counts as a biological life spent, if not literally a Doctor (if he can’t be called the Ninth or 8.5th Doctor because he’s not a Doctor, relieved fans won’t have to recount and rewrite all of continuity). The Metacrisis Doctor of “Journey’s End” is never inserted into the count after all (though he too seems to count as a spent life).
Since the science fiction adventures of the Gothic Tom Baker years offered the original series rule that Time Lords are stuck with only twelve regenerations, it’s fitting that the episode with all the controversy over this returns to that planet. Nonetheless, the list of the Doctors is well-established (after fifty years, no one wants to renumber them all!) and television has supported the official count. In “The Name of the Doctor,” for instance, Clara says, “I saw all of you. Eleven faces, all of them you! You’re the eleventh Doctor!” The numbers surely will stick around, and Moffat appears to have included this line as a promise that he won’t wreck things too badly.
The twelve regenerations rule doesn’t actually seem firm though. The Master and the Valeyard are bribed with extra lives and try to steal them from the Doctor. Is gifting them permissible? It certainly seems possible, as River gives hers in “Let’s Kill Hitler,” and the Eleventh Doctor in turn offers some of his to heal her wrist later on. Visiting The Sarah Jane Adventures, the Eleventh tells Clyde he can regenerate 507 times, but he’s most likely quipping. Some fans have noted one can add the digits and get twelve – he may be hiding his vulnerability in code. Tennant noted when he took the role, ‘Time Lords can only have 13 bodies, but I’m sure when they get to that they can find some storyline where he falls in a vat of replenishing cream or something” (Merritt, Kindle Locations 652-654). Neil Gaiman explains his take on it:

“It’s interesting, that rule. It was obviously bendable to begin with (the Time Lords gave the Master a whole new round of regenerations). So I’ve always thought that it was more a law like a speed limit is a law than like Gravity is a law. And if there are no longer any police to make you observe the speed limit, you can drive as fast as you like. Although it’s a lot more dangerous. And that’s my opinion. As to what Mr Moffat thinks, he may either have a plan, or he may figure it’s not his problem, but is one for eight or ten years down the line.” (Q & A: Neil Gaiman)

In The Brain of Morbius, the renegade Time Lord by that name visited there to steal the Elixer of Life. It’s fitting that another renegade has come there now, not to preserve his own life, but to preserve the entire galaxy. The old series story resembled Frankenstein, unnaturally preserving life at the cost of others, while the Eighth doctor lays down his life as the Doctor to become a warrior on behalf of others. As always, a companion spurs him to the adventure, though it’s a dead companion, silently remonstrating him for his people’s actions. The Brain of Morbius reveals what might be earlier faces of the Doctor (in a self-referential moment, they’re actually photos of directors Christopher Barry and Douglas Camfield and script editor Robert Holmes, among others). How fitting then that we see an unexpected old face there as well as the War Doctor’s new face.
On the hero’s journey, the Chosen One frequently retreats into nature and meets the female guardian there, like the oracles of Greek myth, Galadriel with her seeing pool or Harry Potter’s white doe by the lake. The Doctor meets the sisters with their eternal flame and potions, and they change his mind, reminding him of his responsibility to the galaxy. Doctors are traditionally noncombatants. But as the sister tells him, “You are a part of this Doctor whether you like it or not,” he accepts his fate. Calling himself the Doctor and “one of the nice ones” isn’t enough to set him apart. In the hero’s journey tradition, the Doctor dies but returns more powerfully as a warrior and strides into battle.
There’s another delightful insertion of fan service for the serious participators. As the Eighth Doctor regenerates, he salutes his past companions from the audio adventures McGann voiced, establishing them as canon: “Charley [Pollard], C’rizz, Lucie [Miller], Tamsin [Drew], Molly [O’Sullivan]” (“The Night of the Doctor”). “Of course, Paul is not only known for the telemovie but for all his wonderful audio adventures. I’m always telling the Doctors and companions, as they come through the show, that they’ll never be quite done with it – Big Finish is expecting them,” Moffat concludes.

This was certainly a delightful surprise for all the Who fans prepping for the 50th anniversary…and I’ve sure prepped—my book Doctor Who: The What Where and How came out today (sorry, couldn’t resist. ‘Tis the season. http://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Who-The-What-Where-ebook/dp/B00GMWKBUE/) and my Doctor Who and the Hero’s Journey: The Doctor and Companions as Chosen Ones should be out any day from Thought Catalog, who keep telling me how excited they are.)

It’s certain the War Doctor’s adventure the next “day” will be terribly exciting. Hoping all your fannish activities this week proceed happily. Here’s to another 50 years!

 

Citations

Belam, Martin, Ed. Who’s Who? The Resurrection of the Doctor (Guardian Shorts). UK: Guardian Books, 2011. Kindle Edition.
Gaiman, Neil. “Q & A: Neil Gaiman” The Guardian 16 May 2011. Belam.
Merritt, Stephanie. “Tennant’s Extra.” The Observer 11 Dec. 2005. Belam.

“Steven Moffat on The Night Of The Doctor” BBC 14 November 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/doctorwho/articles/Steven-Moffat-on-The-Night-Of-The-Doctor

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