As a blogger who posts a lot of travel photos (the 21st Century equivalent of forcing your friends to watch your vacation slideshow) and vegan recipes (who doesn’t love those?), I am clearly quite in tune with the kinds of things that excite the interests of the public. So heed my warning here: If you are not a fellow geek or at least geek-friendly, then this will hold no interest for you. This is all about Doctor Who, the most amazing science fiction franchise of all time. Suck it, Star Trek!
After a lot of song and dance from the BBC, Doctor #12 was announced yesterday to be veteran actor Peter Capaldi. I was relieved, as it meant I could safely visit fansites or Facebook pages again without seeing speculation from brain dead morons that the new actor would or should be a major celebrity, American, Billie Piper, or some other bit of nonsense. I was also relieved to find that the actor chosen was in fact an adult, reversing a trend set into place by the current show’s producers to make the character appear progressively younger. Capaldi is also a great actor, and likely has a lot to offer the show.
The hype surrounding this episode did its intended job; it got the fans excited and/or angry, and it got them talking. Though I never bought that any writer or producer would ever be stupid enough to actually name the Doctor (“The Question That Must Never Be Answered” is as much a metafictional reference to the show itself as it is about the character/plot within it), I admit I can at times get swept up in hype. What will they reveal? It’s a misdirect, but from what are they misdirecting? Will we find anything out about Clara? Can we get through a finale without bringing in Daleks or Cybermen? This season has had some great episodes, but some stinkers as well. I thus viewed it with some cautious optimism.
Why am I just getting around to writing this review a week later? I have a good reason. The episode is so full of glitz and excitement, I wanted to watch it again to make sure that alone wasn’t flavoring my perception. Now that viewing number two is complete, I feel more confident about making a decision. It had some problems, but over all it really was spectacular.
NON-SCIENCE FICTION FAN WARNING: I am really geeking out here and it may be embarrassing for you, so you are welcome to leave now. Or at leas keep the eye-rolls to a minimum.
For three years in a row, my partner and I had been attending a Doctor Who convention in Los Angeles called Gallifrey One. Moving to Europe got in the way of attending this year, so we wanted a consolation prize. FedCon, Europe’s largest science fiction convention held yearly in Dusseldorf, Germany, seemed like an adequate substitute. This con was less specific than the primarily Doctor Who themed Gallifrey One, and promised scads of stars from a variety of shows, including Star Trek (both Deep Space Nine and Voyager), Doctor Who/Torchwood, Battlestar Galactica, etc. Overall, there were some disappointments and guest cancellations, but we made the best of it by getting out and seeing the city when the schedule thinned out. Getting to meet John Barrowman, Eve Myles, and a few Voyager cast members made it worthwhile, but it really made us appreciate and miss the extremely well-run Gallifrey One.
I was torn about this episode long before I even watched it. On the one hand, I adore Neil Gaiman. This is the guy who wrote Neverwhere and American Gods, and had even written a really great episode of Who already (“The Doctor’s Wife”). On the other hand, from last week’s epilogue and preview, I saw that two young children would be companions in this story. The sneak peek seemed to indicate that the personalities and acting talent of the children would leave many fans wishing they hadn’t complained so much about Matthew Waterhouse or those twins from Colin Baker’s first episode. Given I felt pulled in both ways, I dove into the episode being as open-minded as possible. Let me now make it clear: I no longer feel torn.
Before getting caught up on my Doctor Who viewing, I had heard several fellow fans rave about this episode as the best so far this series. I want to withhold such a judgment until I’ve had more time to ruminate, but this was definitely a very strong episode. Written by Mark Gatiss, who also brought us the very enjoyable “Cold War,” it successfully brings together all of the elements of a really great Who episode. I’m not happy about the last scene, but let’s save that for a moment.
The title of this episode alone excited me, as I’ve fantasized for years that an episode be focused on the interior of the TARDIS. It was never really explored in the original series (save the poorly budgeted “Invasion of Time” with Tom Baker), and–given how massive the TARDIS is and that it is supposed to be sentient–it is ripe with possibilities. Overall however, “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS” (written by Stephen Thompson) is a bit “meh” for me. It almost works as a standard story (it is fun and engaging), but it falls short of really delivering what a story about the center of this massive, mysterious vessel should.
I realize that my Doctor Who reviews have lagged behind a bit, but I’ve been traveling and hadn’t had a chance to watch them. So this may be old news and you may not want to read it, but I have to write it all the same. My OCD requires that everything be sequential and symmetrical. So here we are. Also–after questioning Neil Cross’s ability as a writer and possibly as a human being after the disaster that was “Rings of Akhaten,” I am happy to report that he has redeemed himself somewhat with this episode.
After ranting last week about the disappointing “Rings of Akhaten,” I was hoping that there would be something better to come. Though “Cold War” wasn’t perfect, it was definitely a vast improvement. This was Doctor Who meets The Hunt for Red October, without the involvement of right wing weirdo Tom Clancy. And though it doesn’t quite meet the standard set by “Dalek” or even “The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood,” it was a suprisingly satisfying return of a villain I wasn’t entirely sure would work well in 2013.
I’m not being grumpy or unfair here. I like Matt Smith. I see a lot of potential in Jenna-Louise Coleman. I really enjoyed the debut episode of this half-season (is that what we’re calling it?). I definitely have it within me to be optimistic about Doctor Who, as can be proven by the fact that I regularly defend the Colin Baker era of the original series. Now, that being said…
“Rings of Akhaten” was crap. Sorry. I see a lot of my fellow Who Geeks rushing to defend the episode and its writer Neil Cross, but I have to call this as I see it. Lazy. Cheap. Dull. Irritating. Senseless. We have to own when the series lets us down, and it really did here in a big way.