Posts Tagged ‘Dr Who’

Doctor Who Live

Monday, November 8th, 2010

On Saturday night I went to see Doctor Who Live at the Odyssey in Belfast.

I will admit that I was a little excited by the prospect. I’ve been a Doctor Who fan for a long time, way back to when I was young, and it was all very scary. The earliest episode I can remember is City of Death, an excellent Tom Baker story shown in 1979, when I would have been six according to my calculations. Since Doctor Who was never repeated back then, I read a lot of books instead, to find out about all the adventure I missed. I still buy the odd one.

When Doctor Who got so much publicity last Christmas, I rejoiced.
“YES!” I said to myself. “Vindication at last! Now the rest of the world finally understands that Dr Who is important”.
Or words to that effect. And it is important! Dr Who’s rebirth represents the triumph of something that is quintessentially British – the triumph of the little guy against overwhelming odds, by being clever and a little bit cheeky. In nearly all of the US sci-fi shows, there is a sizeable crew who work together to solve problems, and behind them the resources of the USA, or the Federation or whatever. Whereas Doctor Who only ever has a small cast – the Doctor and one or two assistants, working on their own, defending the downtrodden, fighting injustice, and almost always trying to avoid violence. I like that approach a lot.

So yes, I am “a bit of a fan”, and was quite excited to be going to the Odyssey, dressed in my extremely long Tom Bakerish scarf. So what was it like?

Well, it was based loosely around the Jon Pertwee story Carnival of Monsters, where an alien has captured a series of the Doctor’s adversaries, and is showing them off for the entertainment of the audience. Vorgenson, is played by Nigel Planer, a not insignificant actor in his own right. The evening is then an opportunity for the audience to “ooh” and “aah” at the appearance of their favourite monsters as they roam the arena, while a live band plays the music associated with each villain.

The monsters are well done, gradually building up to the Cybermen and Daleks at the end. And the music is good too, brilliantly conducted by a very energetic guy who I suspect was Ben Foster, who usually works on the Doctor Who music. They also had a choir along with them, including a soprano who song some of the hauntingly beautiful stuff that featured in the show two years ago. And they brought along Nick Briggs to play Winston Churchill, and provide live voices for the Daleks. So far so fanboy. So what did I really think?

Well I had a blast.  If I had been 10, I probably wouldn’t have calmed down for a week. As it is, I’m 37, and I was pretty much calmed down a day later. But it take take a day. There’s a lot of sheer joy in just experiencing it, and to be honest I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

4 stars 🙂

Doctor Who – The End of David Tennant

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

Well, it had to come sooner or later, and it came too soon.

But last night, New Years Day, brought the final episode of Doctor Who as we have known it, with David Tennant, Russell T. Davies, Julie Gardner, and Phil Collinson. The next time we see it, almost everything will be different. So how did it end?

Warning – if you haven’t seen it yet, then stop now – spoilers follow.

What was good:

  • I have to admit that it was a real joy seeing Bernard Cribbins’ name in the titles. He is a legend, and it was cool to see him get a major role. And it worked very well. As a side note, I noticed that the Doctor seldom accepts salutes from anyone, but he accepted them from Wilfred. I liked that too.
  • In some ways, the timing was good – I’d hate to have to wait a year for the next episode.
  • The Master was good. As a crime of opportunity, cloning himself onto the entire human race was very in character, and John Simm was fantastic as all the different copies of himself at the end of part one. In part two, there was less of that comedy, and instead we see the Master as the ultimate survivor, happy to join any side as long as he survived. I’ve always liked the Master, and though I think the character has been all wrong recently, I liked him in this.
  • It was great to see the return of the Time Lords. I’ve been waiting for this. And to have Rassilon as president was a gorgeous touch. The Time Lords, in their desperation, reached back to find a leader of dubious integrity, but unquestioned power. That seems in character for them. And the plan to end the war by ending time itself seemed in character given the mood they were in.

What wasn’t so good:

  • The Time Lords finally return, but leave again. That sucks. The Doctor has always rebelled against authority, and that stemmed from the fact that he was a rebel and an outcast from his own people. When he was the last of his people, he went from poacher to gamekeeper, which I think explained his actions in the Waters of Mars to some extent. I think it would have been better to have kept the Time Lords in place after their return, for the possibilities that it would have given. But it was not to be.
  • How long can we drag out an ending? I was watching it online, so I could see that the plot ends had been tied up, but there was still a lot of time to go. I wondered what kind of plot twist was to come. What I didn’t expect was a farwell tour from the Doctor. I know why Russell wanted to do it, but I didn’t love it. And I don’t like Martha’s new hairstyle.
  • In some ways, the timing was terrible – I complain quite a bit about Eastenders at Christmas, where they put so much effort into making sure that all the characters have the most miserable time possible, which I think is horrible. To be honest, I’d rather have had a Christmas special that was more upbeat, and kept the regeneration until later in the new year. But of course, then the BBC wouldn’t have had the huge ratings, and I suppose that’s what it’s all about (and not the okey cokey, as is so widely sung).

What I’m not sure about:

  • The Doctor’s speech before he saves Wilfred. I can understand it, and it was a very human thing to do. But the Doctor isn’t human, and I’m not sure I like it – I don’t think it’s very in character for him. But I can certainly understand it.
  • The regeneration setting the Tardis on fire. It didn’t do that last time, or any other time, so why should it this time? I believe I know the reason why – I’ve heard that the new series will have a refitted Tardis. But it still doesn’t make sense.
  • There was an opportunity to show the Doctor’s actions in the Great Time War, but once again, it wasn’t done. It’s clear that he was fighting in the war, but not quite on the side of Gallifrey, which I guess we already knew. But it’s still a great untold story, unfortunately.

So there we have it. The end of an era. I said to someone recently that I could now die happy, because after all these years I have been proved right – that Doctor Who really is cool, and extremely important, as shown by the complete media saturation over Christmas. It’s extremely pleasing for those of us who kept the faith through the poor years of Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy, and the wilderness years of only books and CDs. It’s been wonderful to see Doctor Who back on top again.

And yet I keep having the same conversation with friends. We are all worried about what will happen next, when a whole new team takes over. But I have some faith in that new team, with Stephen Moffat at its head, and we haven’t too long to wait. In the meantime, in the words of the Doctor himself:

One day, I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine. 

So long Doctor Who (no spoilers)

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

So that’s how the big cliffhanger resolved!

Tonight’s episode had lots of good things – the plot used a couple of old hooks, which was nice. Davros was at his ranting maniacal best, which I always love, and his plot had a nice catastrophic scale to it.

But it was so obviously a Russell T. Davies script. The action was compressed down almost to the point of some things getting lost, just so he could spend ages on gooey-eyed looks. All of Doctor Who doesn’t have to be about Rose!

But, all the same, Doctor Who does rock, and next year, when it’s not on, I’ll miss it.

Doctor Who News

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

Well, according to the news (Radio 4, as well as the BBC News web site), the time has finally come, and Russell T Davies is hanging up his sonic screwdriver and leaving Doctor Who.

Doctor Who News

This was always inevitable for someone who has such a high profile television career (for example listed here), who is bound to have turned down a lot of other jobs over the past 5 years.

So lets have a ponder about his contribution:

  • Let’s face it, he got Doctor Who back onto television when it had been basically written off after the failed revival of 1996. And not only did he get it back on tv, but he made it successful. That’s a phenomenal achievement for something which had some fairly low expectations. The fact that he was a respected figure in the tv industry meant that the BBC trusted him with a decent slide of cash to make the first series. And the fact that he loved with the show with the passion of a fan meant that he was really excited about, and wanted it to succeed not for the good of his career, but because he just loved it. For that I’d buy him a drink any day.
  • But I have to be honest, I don’t think that the episodes that he himself has written have been the best. I get the feeling that he works best as a creative visionary, but that other people are better at the actual nuts and bolts of writing stories. If you have an honest look at an episode list (such as this one), I think the best episodes in each season were those written by other people. And he has written some of the worst ones (notably Love and Monsters in series two).
  • I think we can admit that he is a bit obsessed with sex. This has obviously come out (pun intended) more fully in Torchwood, but it has also become a feature of Doctore Who during his reign. To be honest, I can live without that.
  • He has tended to ground Doctor Who much more than in the past, in both ways. There have been more earth-based episodes then before, which is aimed at making it a bit more accessible, and real for people. I can understand that. But he also created characters with much more baggage than usual, with families to worry about and come back to. That’s probably a bit more realistic, but at times there was a danger of drifting out of sci fi into soap.

He’ll be a hard act to follow, having produced some great Saturday evening television, and having set high expectations for the series going forward.

But the good news is that Stephen Moffat has written some of the best episodes of the new series, and he has been a fan since childhood as well, so I guess he’s as safe a pair of hands as we good hope for.