I had fun the last time I did this, so here’s some more.
Did you know John Mahoney was English? Weirdly, I learned this by mistake somehow; I was watching something British, and there was this guy, and I’m like “Hey, is that Frasier’s Dad? It looks like Frasier’s Dad.” So I looked up John Mahoney’s filmography… And it turned out that no, that wasn’t actually him in the British show I was watching, but yes, John Mahoney was in fact born in Blackpool.
Oh heck. I set the publishing time to PM instead of AM. Oops.
Merging my normal art project with my recent meme of fake sitcom title cards gave me this idea: a random assortment of Doctor Who title cards.
An excerpt from Doctor Who: The Monster Files
Behind the Scenes
The introduction of the Spider-Daleks remains one of the most divisive choices made by the American series. After several years of negotiation with the Nation estate over licensing the use of the Daleks in the new series, FOX finally bought the rights to the Daleks outright in early 1999. Early plans for season 4 would have introduced the Daleks as the primary recurring antagonists. However, budget difficulties forced them to delay the introduction of the Daleks until mid-season. When the “trapped on Earth” arc led to a ratings slump, however, the second half of season four was retooled, and the Dalek reveal was pushed back even farther, to the season finale. When the decision was made to cancel the series, the original finale, which called for a dozen expensive Dalek props and two new spaceship sets was scrapped in favor of the much cheaper Nothing at the End of the Lane (Then called Dispossessed).
The original season 4 concept was to have unfolded similarly to the aired version up through the mid-season finale. In place of A Time To Reap, a two-part adventure was to have aired featuring the return of Varnax. Varnax was to reveal that he had not been the Doctor’s enemy during the Time War, but rather his ally, until he was manipulated into betraying the Time Lords by their true enemy, the Daleks. The Morthrai would be revealed as a Dalek slave race, sent to prepare the way for their masters. Varnax was to have redeemed himself in an act of self-sacrifice to save the Doctor and delay the Dalek invasion. Over the second half of the season, the Doctor and UNIT would defend against Dalek advance forces, culminating in a full invasion. At the end of the season, the Doctor would regain freedom of space and time by refitting Varnax’s ship, the Jonah, into a new TARDIS. The second version of the season finale was similar, with a more compressed timeline. Several elements of this draft eventually made it into the Sci-Fi channel series.
After the deal was made to transfer the series to the Sci-Fi Channel, the Daleks would be revisited mid-season. There was some confusion over whether the arrangement negotiated between FOX and the Nation estate covered the Ray Cusick Dalek designs (These concerns appear to have been ultimately baseless). Further, there was a general belief that modern audiences would have a hard time accepting the unwieldy original design as a serious threat. Thus, a new CG-based design was commissioned. The idea of a spider creature had appeared in several of the competing proposed scripts to The Last Time Lord. Early designs for the new Dalek called for a fully organic creature, but the resources needed to render such designs were deemed too expensive (This design would later by used by Stargate SG-1 for the Reetou after their original model was also deemed too expensive to animate). Later proposals included a fully “liquid metal” Dalek, and a mechanical version intended to “transform” from the classic style. The final design incorporates elements of both proposals, with “liquid metal” legs attached to a core that is clearly derived from the Cusick design. The transparent dome and visible brain within are an homage to Sci-Fi Horror films of the 1950s.
Although the “transformation” concept was dropped, references to it remain in the script to Children of War. Many interpret these references to indicates that story is intended as a direct sequel to The Dead Planet. Daleks would not appear in their original form until 2003’s Daleks vs. Cybermen.
5×07 November 17, 2000
Setting: New York, NY, 1980s
Regular Cast: Hugh Laurie (The Doctor), Lee Thompson Young (Leo), Katherine Heigl (Ruth)
Guest Cast: Judson Mills (Detective Coogan), Shia LaBeouf (Gabe), Alyson Reed (Jerri), Deah Haglund (Jenkins)
Plot: En route to the twenty-fifth century’s hottest wedding venue, the TARDIS suddenly diverts due to an override program triggered when it detects Time Lord technology in late-20th-century New York. The Doctor had programmed the TARDIS to search for lost Time War weapons after his encounter with the Time Destructor in San Francisco. The Doctor tries to locate the device using the TARDIS sensors, but the signal somehow appears to be coming from the whole city. While pounding the pavement for clues, Ruth is attacked by a drug addict. The Doctor is able to neutralize the desperate man using Venusian Akido, and they learn that there has been a massive recent surge of drug-related violence and drug-related deaths linked to a mysterious new street drug called “Warlock”. Using faked credentials, the Doctor gains access to forensic reports and learns that the autopsies of Warlock users inexplicably found shards of an unknown metal in their brains. The Doctor realizes that Warlock is linked to an inter-dimensional Time Lord weapon called an “N-Form”, which can physically extend itself through miniature wormholes created by a carefully engineered neurological structure. Ruth and Leo follow the young addict, trying to find the source of the drug. They learn that his home life is troubled due to his mother’s chronic depression and alcoholism, and the Doctor’s research into deceased Warlock users indicates this is a common pattern. The Doctor theorizes that the N-form developed a fault and is identifying a particular kind of human emotional trauma as a threat. Ruth and Leo trace the supply of Warlock to a single dealer, Jenkins, but even the Doctor can not determine the connection between the drug (which seems to be a simple plant-derived anti-depressant) and the N-Form. Believing that he can disable the N-form if he enters direct mental contact with it, and therefore takes a dose of Warlock. He enters communion with the N-form, a writhing mass of sharp metal tentacles. The N-form claims that the human race is marked by the enemy of the Time Lords. Since the N-form’s base program will not allow it to leave itself in the hands of the enemy, it can not deactivate without destroying the neural patterns that allow it to manifest in the physical world, which will kill any human who has taken Warlock. Meanwhile, in the physical world, Ruth finds an old newspaper clipping reporting that Jenkins had died six months earlier. Jenkins’s initial encounter with the N-Form had destroyed his brain, and his reanimated body is now being controlled by the N-Form directly. As humans, Jenkins considers Ruth and Leo to be enemy spies and extends a tentacle from his skull to dispatch them…
4×21 March 10, 2000
THE ARMAGEDDON VARIATIONS (Serial 57)
Setting: Seattle, WA, UNIT-time
Regular Cast: Hugh Laurie (The Doctor), Sarah Michelle Gellar (Lizzie Thompson)
Guest Starring: Jonathan Frakes (Agent Blackwood), Denis Forest (Malcolm), John Lithgow (John Manning), Rodger Bumpass (Voice of the Morthrai Council)
In voice-over, the Doctor describes the “Monty Hall” problem, in which the participant is asked to choose one of three doors, behind only one of which is a prize, then offered the chance to switch his selection after one of the other doors is opened. The Doctor explains the problem in terms of parallel universes. His explanation is wrong about a key aspect of the problem, but he reaches the unintuitive correct solution: switching doors increases the chances of winning. The Doctor and Lizzie have just arrived back in the present at UNIT to find the Morthrai mothership approaching Earth. Agent Blackwood pressures the Doctor to give UNIT Time Lord technology to combat the aliens, but the Doctor, having witnessed the dire consequences of humanity obtaining such technology, refuses, insisting that they attempt a diplomatic solution. He uses the TARDIS’s communications equipment to request an audience with the Morthrai ruling council. An attache from Washington accompanies The Doctor, Lizzie, and Blackwood to the mothership. The humans argue that, despite the Morthrai’s technological superiority, human numerical and resource advantages will ultimately lead them to a military victory. Given the great cost to both sides in a military confrontation, the Doctor suggests a compromise: human bodies which are near death or suffering from severe brain injuries could be given the the Morthrai as hosts, and with their technology and increased hardiness, the Morthrai could live in areas of the planet uninhabitable by humans. Even Lizzie is taken aback at the possibility of sharing the planet with aliens, but the Morthrai leadership seem to be satisfied with the terms. Negotiations come to an abrupt halt when multiple nuclear launches occur on Earth, targeting not the mothership, but other Terrestrial nations. Malcolm contacts the council, informing them that he has secretly launched a coordinated infiltration of dozens of nuclear installations across the Earth to throw the planet into chaos and neutralize its military capabilities. With no further need to negotiate, the council prepares to execute the Doctor and the humans… And the Doctor is back at UNIT, moments after emerging from the TARDIS. This time, the Doctor advises Blackwood to launch an immediate attack on the mothership before it can send reinforcements to Malcolm’s contingent. Missiles eventually destroy the mothership, but not before it can launch a retaliatory bombardment which kills billions. UNIT itself is attacked by Morthrai soldiers, and the Doctor realizes that the aliens were able to evacuate their mothership before its destruction. Blackwood sacrifices himself to buy the Doctor time to locate Malcolm’s base. Before he dies, the Doctor reveals that he is using his Time Lord abilities to play out possible timelines in order to find a way to defeat the Morthrai. This is dangerous, because two points determine a line, and thus, anything he witnesses in two different timelines becomes “locked in”. On the next reset, the Doctor again pushes for negotiation, but this time as a delaying tactic, sending the attache while remaining behind himself. Though UNIT is able to defeat Malcolm at his base, the mothership launches a surgical strike which disables Earth’s nuclear capabilities. The Doctor tries many more variations, and despite his efforts, more details get locked in. He eventually realizes that the attache is a deep cover Morthrai agent who, left unsupervised, will give the ruling council key strategic information. Since he is now committed to sending the attache, on the next loop, he sends Lizzie along with him. Once Malcolm is defeated, the Doctor and Blackwood travel to the mothership via TARDIS. The Doctor tries to offer the council the same deal as before, but the attache turns on them. Blackwood dispatches him and reveals an explosive device with which he intends to destroy the mothership. Abandoning Blackwood in disgust, the Doctor tries to flee with Lizzie, but the TARDIS refuses her entry. Unable to escape with Lizzie, the Doctor resets the loop a second before detonation. Explaining that he’s locked in too much of the timeline to change his approach, the Doctor allows the timeline to play out almost exactly as before, but this time, he leaves Blackwood behind to deal with Malcolm and joins Lizzie on the mothership early. When the Morthrai council refuse his offer of a diplomatic solution, the Doctor reveals that he has sabotaged their weapon systems, leaving them defenseless against human counterattack. Advising them to leave, he and Lizzie prepare to depart. As the TARDIS still won’t allow Lizzie inside, he prepares to send her back to Earth with the mothership’s teleporter, but Manning, who like Malcolm, has become obsessed with the glory of conquest, tries to shoot the Doctor, hitting Lizzie instead. As she dies in his arms, the loop resets again. Before Blackwood can even ask, the Doctor volunteers to use Time Lord technology to help the humans defeat the invaders.
Because why not.
- Heaven Sent
- The Doctor Falls
- World Enough and Time
- Hell Bent
- The Pilot
- Into the Dalek
- Time Heist
- Thin Ice
- Last Christmas
- The Witch’s Familiar
- Death in Heaven
- Mummy on the Orient Express
- The Girl Who Died
- The Magician’s Apprentice
- The Caretaker
- Dark Water
- The Husbands of River Song
- The Lie of the Land
- Kill the Moon
- The Return of Doctor Mysterio
- The Eaters of Light
- Twice Upon a Time
- The Zygon Invasion
- The Woman Who Lived
- The Zygon Inversion
- Knock Knock
- Deep Breath
- In the Forest of the Night
- Under the Lake
- Face the Raven
- Before the Flood
- Empress of Mars
- The Pyramid at the End of the World
- Robot of Sherwood
- Sleep No More
10-38 are mostly arbitrary; the two Zygon stories would rate much higher if it weren’t for the bit where a literal lord delivers the message that young people should just calm down and not do anything extreme in order to achieve freedom, equality, and the right not to be murdered in the street by a bunch of hicks for failing to disguise what they really are well enough. I imagine that I will look back on the Capaldi era as… a thing which happened.
Pop between realities, back in time for tea, here’s some thoughts about the 2017 Christmas special…
- Look, asking me to believe that David Bradley looks at all like William Hartnell was going to be a stretch, but it’s the sort of thing a fellow has to accept as just what happens when fifty years pass and people die and all. But that morph shot when archive footage of Hartnell turns into new footage of Bradley? That is nightmare fuel on the level of the new 2017 rebooted Teddy Ruxpin.
- Look, asking me to accept Mark Gattis… At all. At Christmas? Seriously?
- Notice that they never say when the Antarctica scenes are set? There’s even a spot or two where the dialogue gets slightly awkward in order to avoid it. There’s an unpleasant sense here of Moffat, of all people, here at the end, being just a little ashamed of some of the goofy stuff that hasn’t aged well. Like how “The Tenth Planet” was set in 1986.
- I dig the classic TARDIS set. I don’t think it works especially well as a regular set for the modern show, but I would really like for them to find excuses to roll it out once a season.
- I rather liked the musical reprises, “I Am The Doctor” on Testimony, “Vale Dicem” when the Doctors arrive on Villengard, and the Ninth Doctor’s Theme during Bill’s heart-to-heart with the Bradley Doctor. But Murray Gold seems strangely muted for what I gather is his last outing; none of the big manipulative antics he’s known for.
- That scene with Bill? That is the only moment when Bradley actually seems to be playing The Doctor, rather than playing an over-the-top caricature of the Fandom Zeitgeist of what “The First Doctor” was like. He complains a lot, he’s curmudgeonly, he’s bitter, he’s sexist, he hates the French. He dislikes his future selves’ sense of taste. Yes, look, Doctor Who was indeed hella sexist back in the ’60s and the Bill Harnell was personally kinda on the regressive side even for his time. But that era of the show was a lot of other things too, and this didn’t feel, outside of that one moment, like an earnest attempt to revisit the feel of that era, just a “The Five Doctors”-style attempt to bring in a William Hartnell impersonator to do a goofy First Doctor shtick. Only in The Five Doctors, everyone’s shtick was meant to be adorable, not sexist.
- And, I mean, I’m not of the camp that believes Steven Moffat is a misogynist. You have to ignore way too much in order to support that. But we’re into “after three shakes, you’re playing with it” territory here: at some point, you’re no longer mocking the tacit sexism of ’60s Who; you’re reveling in it.
- Also, did anyone else notice that when Bill outs herself, the Captain looks scandalized, but the Doctor looks kinda creepily aroused?
- Though I will grant that the Captain’s reaction was fairly understated, which was a relief, especially coming from Gattiss, a guy who, as a writer at least, seems to love writing “people from the past freak out at the concept of gay people” scenes.
- Oh, that scene with Bill and the Bradley Doctor on Villengard? Bill’s framing of the Doctor’s reasons for leaving Gallifrey not as what he was running from but what he was running to? That’s fantastic.
- And so, frankly, was the Doctor’s casual dismissal of his reasons for leaving as, essentially, “A bunch of things which seemed way more important at the time than they do now.”
- I am glad they didn’t try to retcon in a more specific reason for the Doctor’s first regeneration by having him get shot or something.
- Little surprised they didn’t CGI up an improved regeneration sequence. I have no feelings one way or the other about the decision beyond surprise.
- I am also glad they let him just say “Time Lords” instead of having him talk around it to maintain the purity of the whole “Time Lords didn’t exist as a concept until The War Games” thing.
- You noticed, didn’t you, that the speech Bill gives to the Doctor when he sends her back to the TARDIS on Villengard, the one about not being able to see her right in front of him, is the same one he gives Clara in “Deep Breath”?
- Look, Clara, you’re the one who erased his memory. And sure, you had good reason, but it’s kinda a dick move to take him to task for it when you’re the one who did it.
- “That’s the trouble with hope. Makes one awfully frightened.” Well, there’s 2017 in a nutshell for me.
- A story with no real enemies, the Christmas Armistice as a major plot point, themes of rebirth, and this fairytale ending where it turns out that no one is ever really gone makes this very straightforwardly the most “Christmas” of all the Christmas stories.
- At the same time, with all this stuff about reaching back and fiddling with one’s own past, interfering in the deaths of the parents of one’s friends, and everyone who ever lived getting a second life in the distant future, this is somehow the most straightforwardly Faction Paradox that Doctor Who has ever been. Which is super weird because…
- It’s kinda also the most fluffy and insubstantial of the Christmas stories.
- It bothers me how little any of the pieces of the story have to do with one another. Exactly what purpose does the Bradley Doctor serve in the narrative, anyway? I guess on the surface, he’s a plot device to create the temporal strangeness that serves as the setting to the episode. But what narrative function does he play?
- What’s the Captain doing there anyway? Okay, the two Doctors trying to kill themselves in Antarctica in the ’80s breaks time. This is within the bounds of the sort of things we’ve seen before. Not the same exact thing as happened in “Father’s Day” or “The Wedding of River Song”, but close enough that we’ve established a basis between those earlier two to accept that fucking around with life and death on a temporal level like that can cause time to go sideways, and the exact details of what that means will vary depending on the exact circumstances. But “diverts a guy on his way to being beamed back to 1914” seems like a stretch. Why him? Testimony is apparently picking up people from all of time and space, and the one who gets shanghaied by the Doctors’ temporal crisis is a random Captain from the trenches in World War I? Why any of the infinity other people they’ve been beaming up?
- It’s nice to see Rusty again, and I really like his animosity toward the Doctor; it woulda been easy to make him friendly, but the idea that hating the Doctor for his similarity to the Daleks would stick with Rusty is wonderful. Though I felt it undermined his credibility how easily the Doctor manipulated him. You get the feeling that you could basically get Rusty to do pretty much anything you liked by reminding him that helping an inferior lifeform would piss the Daleks off.
- But speaking of which, Testimony freezes time on Villengard while the Doctor’s with Rusty. Which means that the time-freezing thing is something Testimony was doing, not because of the Doctors. There’s no sense of causality between the Doctor’s meeting, the “temporal error”, the Captain, or anything else that happens.
- Unless, of course, the whole thing is a rouse. I mean, the Doctor screws around with time right in front of them to save the Captain and no one objects or anything. Could it be that Testimony never actually intended for the Captain to die, but rather set the whole thing up, matchmaking between the Doctor and Alistair’s dad, offering him a chance to see Bill, giving him back his memories of Clara, as a kindness?
- But this only pushes the question off again: why now, and why the Captain? If this was all a set-up by Testimony, why did we get this episode and not David Tennant catching Colin Baker before he whacked his head and flying off to meet Jo Grant’s grandpa? I mean, other than “Because no one wants to watch that.”
- The Captain’s identity is a bit out of nowhere, isn’t it? This is largely the same issue as the previous three bullet points, but, like, it being specifically him doesn’t connect to anything else in the story, it’s just “HERE IS A CONTINUITY REFERENCE. YOU NERDS LIKE THOSE DON’T YOU?”
- I’m feeling a little bipolar about this whole episode now that I think about it. Whiplash back and forth between “There’s a whole bunch of stuff crammed in here for no reason” and “It seems a bit thin, doesn’t it?”
- There’s the beginning of an arc going on with the Bradley Doctor being reluctant to regenerate, then horrified by his future as “The Doctor of War” (Don’t think I haven’t noticed how completely free they are with acknowledging the Hurt Doctor now that the cat’s out of the bag, despite his introduction as the secret the Doctor would take to his grave), and finally resigning himself to his future when his successor saves the Captain. But this ultimately isn’t his story, it’s the Capaldi Doctor’s, and thusly it doesn’t get enough focus for the weight it ought to have. The emotional heart of the episode has been shifted over to a side-plot.
- Which gets me to the thing that worked the least for me: the Twelfth Doctor doesn’t have an emotional arc. We don’t actually see him grow or change or react to what happens around him in a way that brings about the ultimate character change. In the end, he changes his mind about dying and decides to regenerate instead. But why? It doesn’t feel like something that comes out of the events of the episode. In fact, his very last scene with Nardole, Bill and Clara suggests that he still hasn’t changed his mind. But then suddenly, for no clear reason, he consents to the regeneration. And despite his long speech, there’s no suggestion for why he does it.
- You could tell a story about how meeting his former self causes him to face his own fears about regenerating. But that isn’t this story.
- You could tell a story about how seeing Bill resurrected as a glass avatar and realizing that she is no less real even though she exists now as a being of memory rather than flesh and blood helps him to get past his refusal to let this version of himself be relegated to memory. But this isn’t that story. In fact, it seems like to the very end, he still isn’t completely able to accept that memory-Bill and memory-Nardole are legitimately themselves.
- You could tell a story about the Doctor finally getting the answer to the question he poses to Bill about the sustainability of good — that he is the force in the universe that tips the scales in favor of good. But, again, this isn’t that story; the reveal happens to the wrong Doctor, and besides, the whole concept is introduced only in the middle of the second act.
- You could even tell a story where meeting Testimony convinces the Doctor that the kindness he puts into the universe can ultimately be repaid, and this makes death less appealing. But again, this isn’t that story. This is a largely unrelated story, at the end of which, the Doctor shrugs and says “Okay, fine, I’ll regenerate.”
- Y’know, I’m the one person who actually liked Tennant’s “I don’t want to go.” I think most people wanted some kind of grandiloquent speech instead. This whole episode was Capaldi’s “I don’t want to go,” and he finishes on a big speech which, honestly, does nothing for me. I mean, it starts out at largely cliche platitudes, saying nothing that wasn’t already said much better in “The Doctor Falls”. By the time he gets to the bits about his name, honestly, the whole thing seems like just random meaningless gibberish trying to sound profound.
- Jodie Whittaker is lovely, but I wish she’d gotten at least a whole sentence or two. Enjoyed the physical acting, but she gets far and away the least screen-time of any incoming Doctor in the new series. Given that they’ve released her new costume, I will also note that she continues the trend of the new Doctor looking cooler in the remains of her predecessor’s wardrobe than in her own.
- Though not thrilled with the extent to which it’s a very straight rehash of Matt Smith’s first scene.
- Overall… It was fine. Least favorite of the Capaldi Christmas Specials. Not disappointing-to-the-point-of-inducing-a-three-year-neurosis or anything. But a let-down all the same.
4.X Living in Harmony: On the planet Hath, war has broken out between the Human and Messaline colonists. Traveling alone, the Doctor finds himself separated from the TARDIS and thrust into this tense situation. What has driven a wedge between these once-allied races? And who is Harmony Beck, an enigmatic young colonist who seems to know far more about the Doctor than she possibly could…
As is tradition when Christmas isn’t on Saturday, next week’s post will be delayed until Monday.