strange_complex: (Doctor Who anniversary)
Still with the muscle aches and general tiredness. I do think it is starting to get better at base level now, but between the approach of term and me wanting to go off a lot at weekends and Do Things, I suspect I am also cancelling out a lot of the gains. So this morning, the first time for three weeks that I haven't had to set an alarm, my eyes gradually opened at around 11:30am. Which is fine, because my whole plan for today was to Do Nothing, but I clearly need a few more of those.

Anyway, by around 13:30 I had eaten some breakfast and read the internet, and was looking for something nothingy to do, when I came across the Eruditorum Press Doctor Who Poll. Perfect! I have now voted, and since I started out by writing up a short-list of stories and ranking them, I have a record of what I chose which I may as well preserve here. Votes in different categories, including brief recaps of the poll rules, under the cuts.

Best televised Doctor Who story - five points )

Nineteen other top televised Doctor Who stories - one point each )

Twenty also-rans - nul points )

Top five non-televised stories )

Five hate votes )

Best People etc. )

Polls close at the end of September, and the results will be on the Eruditorum blog over the course of October, apparently.

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strange_complex: (Strange complex)
Well, I think we can safely say that Moffat's decision to go heavy on the two-parters this season was a good one. Oh, mid-story cliff-hangers, how we have missed you! Plus the obvious advantages of being able to develop both characters and complex mysteries over a more generous span of time. Not all two-parters are perfect, of course. Mid-season ones in particular have tended to be a noticeable New Who weakness, in fact. But perhaps that was only ever because they were in the middle of the season, rather than because they happened to be two-parters, all along?

I'm also starting to think I like the pitch of the Doctor's character a little bit better this season. He seems less arrogant / grouchy for the sake of it, more at ease with himself and more natural in his exuberance when he shows it. Maybe it is partly to do with how his relationship with Clara has developed? Now that she is stronger too, and we've got past the whole lying-to-each-other theme from last season, he too seems to have become more enjoyable to have around the screen. The business with the cue-cards, with the Doctor needing to make a thing about even a whole dimension (inside the TARDIS) only having room for one him, and Clara being all 'yeah, whatever' in response, was all just lovely for being obviously a performance on both sides, rather than fragile and tense for being a little to close to the truth as it tended to be last season.

It helps, too that I absolutely love cabin-fever stories like this one - and even better when they acknowledge what they are, as this one did when Cass told the Doctor he could "stay and do the whole cabin-in-the-woods thing" if he wanted. In fact, I think this story was actively nodding at some of Doctor Who's very own cabin-fever stories of the past )

Other strong moments which I haven't had occasion to mention yet include spoilers )

Diversity issues also involve spoilers )

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strange_complex: (Cyberman from beneath)
The first half of this season of Doctor Who has been characterised by Steven Moffat either writing or co-writing all of the episodes himself, except for Robot of Sherwood, which he apparently trusted Mark Gatiss to do on his own. We now move into a second phase - a run of stories by writers who are all entirely new to the series.

I think the biggest consequence of that this week is that the sciencey plot details suddenly went from sketchy-but-good-enough to utterly hokey )

I also didn't like the way the entire story was precipitated by Courtney Woods' desperate desire for the Doctor's approval )

That said, we did get some pretty decent material as the episode unfolded )

In the end, though, that whole discussion was utterly undermined by the have it both ways ending )

Other notes - this was an episode heavy with Classic Who continuity references )

Meanwhile, Water-and-Breathing Watch was once again on the case this week )

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strange_complex: (Adric Ugg boots)
Yay! For the first time this season I was able to watch Doctor Who live on broadcast, it was a good episode, and I have time to write up my thoughts this evening! Happy times.

I am so glad that the Jenny, Vastra and Strax Show is becoming a regular feature, and even more so that we haven't had a weak episode with them in it yet. I wouldn't call this episode mind-blowing, but it definitely qualified as a really good romp, and because it didn't try to position itself as anything more it left me well satisfied. The running jokes around Strax's battle plans and Mr. Thursday repeatedly fainting, the proper mad-scientist-style steaming coloured liquids in conical flasks, and the brilliantly groan-worthy satnav urchin all helped to seal the silliness deal. Meanwhile, Diana Rigg and Rachael Stirling both entirely lived up to their promise, were done great justice by the script, and delivered the proper character-driven drama which I craved and missed in Cold War and Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS.

We have seen the 'crazed villain tries to enslave humanity with the help of an alien parasite' plot a quazillion times before on Doctor Who of course, but by framing it as a Jenny, Vastra and Strax story, keeping the Doctor off-screen for the first ten minutes and even then revealing him as helpless and paralysed, it felt fresh enough to capture the attention. I loved the flashback scenes in which the Doctor explained how he and Clara had arrived in Yorkshire, too, with their fake 'old film' look - a classic device. That said, I wasn't too sold on the magical machine which could undo the effects of the red poison, which felt like a rather easy cop-out - although I suppose it could reasonably be explained as the end result of the experiments which Mrs. Gillyflower performed on Ada. I also wasn't sure what we were supposed to make of the Doctor kissing Jenny, followed by the rather teenage joke involving his sonic screwdriver when she stripped down to her leathers. Matt Smith's Doctor has reacted uncomfortably in the face of previous romantic advances from both Amy and governess!Clara, and has shown no interest (that I can remember) in Jenny before, so it seems oddly inconsistent to have him suddenly going all Benny Hill over her.

Still, it was great to have a story set in Yorkshire, and some fab northern jokes to go with it as well (Bradford - "All a-swarm with the wretched ruins of humanity"). 'Sweetville' wasn't just riffing off local industrial magnate Titus Salt's planned workers' village Saltaire. It used the design of the factory there directly, with even the concept drawing unveiled at the talk which Jenny attended clearly based on the real equivalent for Saltaire. Apparently the actual filming happened in Bute Town, though, which would explain why the stonework on close-up shots of the cottages looked wrong. People were very into regularly-laid square-cut stone in Victorian Yorkshire, but the cottages of Sweetville have irregular stone.

Finally, sure enough, as I predicted earlier in the week, we had a prominent reference to the Fifth Doctor era, in the form of the line about struggling to get a 'gobby Australian' (i.e. Tegan) back to Heathrow. But, as you'd expect with a series that has as much back-catalogue to draw on as Doctor Who, and a writer who knows that catalogue as well as Mark Gatiss, there were other nods and winks for the knowing as well. The gramophones playing fake factory noises in particular reminded me of the Meddling Monk's recordings of Gregorian chants in The Time Meddler, while the line about the red leech growing fat on the filth in the rivers recalled the eco-warrior stories of the Pertwee era - and especially The Green Death, which seems to have inspired the structure of the title as well.

I feel much better for that episode, and am actively looking forwards to next week's now. Having actual children in the TARDIS promises to be interesting, and certainly something which I don't believe has ever happened before outside of the two films made with Peter Cushing. I wonder if it is in part a reaction to the fact that The Sarah Jane Adventures sadly cannot continue any longer, with the format of the spin-off being folded back into the main show? Anyway, it is certainly something new for new Who, and I hope it makes for interesting new story-telling possibilities as a result.

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strange_complex: (Sleeping Hermaphrodite)
I didn't post about this last weekend, because I was too busy attending [livejournal.com profile] swisstone's wedding, and I haven't since because I was more concerned with painting my kitchen and following the election. So I'm way behind the times now, and can't really add much that hasn't already been covered on [livejournal.com profile] doctorwho and elsewhere. (If you don't follow these matters but are mildly interested all the same, I would draw your attention in particular to [livejournal.com profile] cavalorn's theory about time-travel and the Doctor's jacket, which I think is very likely to be correct).

I do like to make sure I post an entry on each episode as they come out, though, so here's just a few notes on my own reaction before I forget all about it.

Overall, it's a great episode )

Changing the Angels )

The effects of the Time Crack )

River Song )

The seduction scene )

So, seems I had more to say than I thought, huh? Looking forward to tonight's episode - vampires plus time travel plus Venice = WIN! And, although the plot clearly won't be the same, I'm also rather glad that one of the small handful of Big Finish audios I have heard happens to be The Stones of Venice. I'll be interested to hear what resonances, if any, there might be between the two - especially since I see that I've noticed the fairytale feel of the Big Finish story in my review of it, and that is clearly a major theme of the current season of Doctor Who as well. One hour to go!

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strange_complex: (Cathica spike)
I've entered the Sixth Doctor era. This would appear to mean unusual verbosity, even for me. Sue me: there is Classical receptions and meta-commentary, and I have Stuff to Say about both of them. You have been warned.

Sixth Doctor: The Twin Dilemma )

Sixth Doctor: Vengeance on Varos  )

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strange_complex: (Adric Ugg boots)
Just bringing myself up to date with my Who reviews here, before I move on to an overall review of the books, films and cult TV I have been gorging myself on for the past twelve months...

Fifth Doctor: The Visitation )

Fifth Doctor: Black Orchid )

Fifth Doctor: Four to Doomsday )

And, as happened previously for the Third Doctor, I have now seen all of the Fifth Doctor stories currently available on DVD. So it's on to Sixie (OMG what am I letting myself in for? ;-p @ [livejournal.com profile] miss_s_b) forthwith.

In the meantime, here are some common points which struck me about the Fifth Doctor era:
  • It's notably more Earth-focussed than the Fourth Doctor era – enough, in fact, for it to be acknowledged in the script at the beginning of Black Orchid, when the Doctor asks the TARDIS, “What’s the matter old girl? Why this compunction for planet Earth?” As for so many things from this period, knowing this helps make more sense of the similar approach of New Who. It also means more [pseudo-]historicals than in the Baker era, as the production team try to vary the precise character of the Earth setting a little.
  • Cliff-hangers in this period are also notably different from earlier eras. For Pertwee or Baker, they tend to be terrible things being about to happen to companions and / or big reveals of monsters or terrifying alien devices. For Davison, though, they are much more focussed on him: generally close-ups of his face registering horror, resignation, dismay etc.
  • The stories almost always start out well, but all too often a faint sense of ludicrousness begins to overlay the proceedings (usually at around the same time that the main monster is revealed), soon followed by pointlessness.
  • While the DVD extras of the Pertwee and Baker eras are full of people expressing admiration for each other and remembering what a great time they had, these ones largely consist of people politely trying not to be too rude about Jonathan Nathan Turner. I can't blame them.

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strange_complex: (Doctor Caecilius hands)
I'm pretty slow writing these at the moment, but still watching avidly, and writing when I can manage to.

Multiple Doctors: The Five Doctors )

Multiple Doctors: Dimensions in Time )

A digression on Tom Baker )

Third Doctor: The Curse of Peladon )

And that's me done with Three for the time being, since I have now seen all of his stories that are available on DVD. At some point I'll go back in fill in the rest via Other Means - but for the moment, I'm well into the Five era instead. Write-ups of that will appear... eventually...

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strange_complex: (Invader Zim globe)
Well, I haven't posted a Doctor Who write-up here since August, it would seem. What with Belfast, and then Vienna, and then term starting, I haven't had much time for anything but memes and cut 'n' paste lately. Which isn't to say that the last month or so hasn't been enormous fun. Just not conducive to writing about cult TV.

Now, however, I have a whole weekend to myself and nothing in particular to do - for the first time in about six weeks. So it's time to start catching up!

Fifth Doctor: Earthshock )

All in all, good stuff - and I look forward to seeing more of the stories which precede and follow this one.

Second Doctor: The Invasion )

Overall verdict - a real classic with some brilliant moments. Just a pity about the feminist failure surrounding Isobel's venture into the sewers.

What's more, with those two stories written up, I do believe I can allow myself to actually start watching Doctor Who again now, rather than getting by on old episodes of Poirot and Sex and the City in an attempt to stop my write-up backlog growing even larger than it already was. Hooray!

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strange_complex: (Cities condor in flight)
The three stories below are the first fruits of my new Lovefilm subscription. Apparently realising I'd been immersed in the Pertwee era anyway of late, they started me off with Beneath the Surface boxed set: two Pertwee stories and a Davison one, all about the related races of the Silurians and the Sea Devils.

Third Doctor: The Silurians )

In summary: a good story, with plenty of interesting ideas and characterisation. But Liz Shaw is something of a disappointment, as is the portrayal of women generally, and matters would be greatly improved by inserting a little humour and personal warmth into the relationship between Liz and the Doctor.

Third Doctor: The Sea Devils )

Overall: much on a par with The Silurians, but for me I think the insertion of the Master, the lighter dialogue and the warmer companion make this one slightly preferable - even if we've lost a small degree of poignancy in the process.

Fifth Doctor: Warriors of the Deep )

Final analysis: a pretty poor showing next to the previous two stories, but Five acquits himself well, I'm intrigued by Turlough, and I'm pleased to have finally pinned down some more floating scraps of childhood memories.

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strange_complex: (Ulysses 31)
With Sarah Jane covered, I'm now taking two parallel approaches to my Who viewing: returning to the early days to watch William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton's stories sequentially, while also joining Lovefilm and sticking all DVDs released to date for the Third, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors on my request list (well, except for Seven's final story, Survival, that is - I feel that particular one actually does need to be watched last).

When I said 'sequentially' for One and Two, what I'd originally really meant was 'sequentially but omitting those stories that are more than fifty percent missing'. Having watched Hartnell's first three stories back in January, then, that meant I was scheduled to sail right on past the next story, Marco Polo, and pick up at The Keys of Marinus instead. But then [livejournal.com profile] gair pointed me towards [livejournal.com profile] altariel, who had listened to the sound-track with linking narration, and she was so enthusiastic about it, actually ranking Marco Polo as the strongest story in the first season, that I decided to give it a try after all.

First Doctor: Marco Polo )

I'm definitely glad [livejournal.com profile] altariel stopped me from missing this one, then, and plan to continue with audio and / or still reconstructions when I get to other stories for which the original footage has been lost. I do reserve the right to rethink this policy when I get to seasons 3-5, though, where only four stories survive entirely complete out of a total of 26. That could get kinda tedious - at least unless tempered pretty heavily with complete stories from later eras. We'll see.

strange_complex: (TARDIS)
Yes, I finally did it. Last weekend, in fact. It's just that I was working so hard on my teaching portfolio last week that I didn't have much writing energy left for reviews in the evenings. So, now that I have a day spare, here goes:

Fourth Doctor: Logopolis )

Footnote )

strange_complex: (Cathica spike)
OMG, why am I reading an article which contains sentences like this:
"Sahlins' argument is thus for a dialectical relationship between externally generated events and localized actions"
when I could be doing this Who meme taken from [livejournal.com profile] snapesbabe?

Who's game? )

OK, I'm working now...

strange_complex: (TARDIS)
More Who notched up, as follows:

First Doctor: The Daleks )

First Doctor: The Edge of Destruction )

Alas, the next First Doctor story, Marco Polo, exists only in soundtrack form, so I can't carry the continuity I've maintained throughout his first three adventures any further. It's a pity, because I've really enjoyed these stories - there's far more to them than I'd ever realised before, and although they certainly show their age, they're definitely worth watching all the same. Still, there are plenty more First Doctor stories which do survive, and now I've got the hang of his era, I'm keen to watch them. Next stop - The Rescue followed by The Romans.

Fourth Doctor: The Sontaran Experiment )

Classic Who

Monday, 7 January 2008 19:06
strange_complex: (TARDIS)
Doctor Who has always been a part of my life. I suppose I must have started watching it because my Dad did - or, I wonder now that I know Who fans with children, did he start watching it seriously partly because he had a little kid to enjoy it with? Anyway, my memories of it stretch back at least to the age of three (more on this later), and I've kept up an active interest in it ever since.

Semi-fandom )

Put simply (and with a little help from Wikipedia), this is generally the level of difference between me and a serious fan:
Serious fan: It may be a controversial opinion, but I really think The Talons of Weng-Chiang is one of the high points of the Tom Baker era. I just love all the Sherlock Holmes references in it!
Me: [slight pause] Er - is that the one with the giant rat in the sewer?
Over the last year, though, my fandom for New Who has increased to such a pitch (thanks to the overall excellent series 3) that I've decided it's about time I ploughed back into the archives. Time Crash probably played a pretty big role there, actually. If New Who was going to reference Old Who so explicitly, then I decided it was about time I enhanced my appreciation of both by rediscovering the original - and maybe just a little bit of my lost childhood along the way.

Fifth Doctor: Caves of Androzani )

Fifth Doctor: Castrovalva )

Childhood memories )

Fourth Doctor: Robot )

A journey has definitely begun here, and I'm looking forward to pursuing it further. I don't think I'll ever try to be a completist, because I know that would involve sitting through an awful lot of dross. But Operation Classic Who is go! ...at least until New Who begins again in the spring. :-)

strange_complex: (Ariel squee)
OMG yay! With the glasses, and the celery, and the 'you're a - fan' and the 'you were my Doctor' and the explanations for both Davison's age and how the Titanic could have crashed into the side of the TARDIS, and, basically, the WOW!

Wannaseeitagain! Hurry, up, YouTube!

strange_complex: (TARDIS)
BBC webcast version here; info about the original interrupted production here; Wikipedia page here.

This doesn't fit under my 'books read 2007' tag or my 'films watched 2007' tag, but I'm going to blog it anyway so that I can remember what I thought of it. The CD was a much-appreciated birthday present from [livejournal.com profile] hollyione, and I listened to it on the canal on my mp3 player.

As far as I remember, this is my first experience with a Doctor Who audio CD, though I've seen a couple of web-casts before. It's therefore also my first experience of Paul McGann's Doctor other than the movie, and you know what? I was pleasantly surprised. I didn't hate him in the movie, actually - it was rather things like Eric Roberts' ridiculous Master that grated there. But it wasn't really enough to judge his performance on properly. Here, in the context of an audio drama, he gets a decent, regular Doctor Who script to work with - and he does it very well. He reminded me of a sort of cross between Five and Six, with Five's youthful derring-do and Six's slight smugness. Which doesn't sound entirely complimentary, actually, but I do mean it to be. What I'm trying to say is that he sounded like a proper Doctor, and I think I 'get' the people who are avid fans of his Eight now.

Of course the prime attraction of this particular story for me was the fact that it was written by Douglas Adams. Obviously, anyone who's read Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency will recognise the character of Professor Chronotis, and there are a few other characteristically Adamsish elements, like conversations with over-logical ship's computers and someone being presented with a cup of liquid which is 'almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea' from a vending machine.

On the whole, though, someone looking for more in the vein of Hitch-Hikers or Gently will be disappointed - Adams clearly wasn't trying to produce anything particularly innovative here, but merely to earn a living by writing a fit-for-purpose script. The best character, Chronotis, he quite rightly took and reused elsewhere, and indeed did better things with him in the process. As for the rest, it's a fairly standard Who script, with a kidnapped assistant (sorry, Romana - even though you're a Timelord, your sex apparently still condemns you to be feak and weeble), a megalomaniacal villain, some thuggish minions, a psychic battle and some cute shenanigans from K-9.

That said, it's pretty good Who, and I very much enjoyed curling up with it in my berth in the evenings. I'm certainly open to more audio plays, more of the Eighth Doctor, and more of Adams' Who scripts as a result.

strange_complex: (Penny Farthing)
Only yesterday, someone was assuring me that Christopher Ecclestone wasn't going to quit as the Doctor after all, but that it was all a publicity stunt to get people excited. Guess not...

I'm sure this David Tennant guy will be fine, although I didn't watch any of Casanova, so I can't really comment myself. But it just annoys me that a whole incarnation has been used up on only one series, especially given the previous one was wasted on only a one-and-a-half-hour film. There are only 12 to play with, and the remainder need to be conserved! *mutters things about responsibility in the general direction of Christopher Ecclestone*

Also, if this must happen, I'd ideally like to see an older Doctor follow Ecclestone, just to keep a bit of variety in the role. Sure, there's a fine tradition of younger Doctors to follow - especially Peter Davidson. But I'd like to see an actor who can tap into those aspects of the Doctor's character so splendidly explored by people like Jon Pertwee.

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