21st Century Doctor

And Cough

Peter Capaldi is The DoctorSomeone asked me whether I was looking forward to the return of Doctor Who this weekend.

At a very simple level, the answer would be ‘Yes’. I want to see what Moffat and Peter Capaldi have in store.

I have had this date in mind for some time. When I changed job earlier in the year, I measured time from when I started to when the new Who would be on. I’m not sure why that’s relevant, but it did cross my mind.

Now, it has snuck up on me and, yes, I’m looking forward to settling down in front of the TV this Saturday evening and watching Deep Breath.

What do I want from this new series?

Apart from Capaldi being magnificent…?

I want to see the Doctor trying hard to return Gallifrey to where it belongs and involving the Time Lords in the universe once more. Their existence never interfered (much) with his life in the old days, during the Classic Who period – so, why make such a big deal of them that they can’t co-exist with him now. Knowing that these people exist within reach and that the Doctor had cause to run from them seems, to me, to add something to the story – not ruin it.

I want to see a fresh dynamic between the Doctor and his companion. We have had friend, lover and mate – one way or another. What can we try next? Stranger, mentor, loner. The manipulative stance of the 7th Doctor toward Ace? The growling indignation of the 6th? Something interesting, and yet not so negative as to drive me away. Something that suggests he cares enough to carry passengers, but you’re not 100% comfortably you’re certain of his motives or best intentions towards them. Like Ace, might the companion represent the pawn in some Long Game.

I’m quite happy to see more of the old enemies and The Doctor beginning to make progress in combating them, without annihilating them. Or striking them down with retrograde amnesia. I liked the way the Cybermen had evolved a bit in Nightmare in Silver – they need more of the Borg from Star Trek about them. They’re always seeking to improve themselves, enhancing the artificial and excising the organic. They should never be the same from one story to the next.

I also like seeing stories that suggest The Doctor has a lasting impact and that sometimes that impact isn’t a good thing. In some of the recent arc stories we have seen suggestions of this, but I’d like to see more. The sixth Doctor had some adventures like this, where he returned to somewhere earlier regenerations had visited and saw something of what they’d left.

At base, more Who normally satisfies me, regardless.

Who in 2014

English: The current TARDIS seen at BBC TV Cen...

What Who needs to do this year is go back to the roots of the revival. That’s my thinking.

I appreciate that over the last few years, we have experienced a rebirth and with it, the guidings hands involved have taken it upon themselves to try different approaches.

All the series have had an arc plot – which I like. I can’t argue with the concept of that. When you’re watching a show for a baker’s dozen of episodes, it’s nice to have a sense that you’re involved at a deeper level than a more casual viewer. I get that. It means that someone can come in and have an experience of Who for the first time without necessarily needing to undergo a pre-viewing training session. On the other hand, those who have spent the time coming back time and again have the chance to see a bigger story develop.

Of course, those who commit themselves to the Doctor Who concept on a yet wider level can have the appreciation of a meta-plot. Gallifrey and the Time Lords actions in the Time War has offered this. The Doctor has struggled with the actions of his people and the steps they took. For those viewing the new series since Eccleston, the Time War has been a background hum from the outset. Since the second episode, when Jabe, of the Forest of Cheem, recognised the Doctor and saw the pain in his existing as the last of his kind – we have been on a journey.

Beyond plots, we have had some great writers – especially some of the guest writers in the last couple of series, superb guest actors, marvellous leads, fine villains – and the triumphs of the anniversary episode…

However, at the same time, we have lost some of the wonder, and certainly lost the sense of regularity.

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Good Characters Go to War

River Song (Doctor Who)

Yesterday, I watched ‘A Good Man Goes to War‘, and I like it. No, I love it. For some reason, it works as an episode introducing the new season (or at least the second part), piles on new characters like they’re going to be relevant (which they haven’t been until the 2012 Christmas Special) and progresses the story of River Song by leaps and bounds (which for some might be a turn-off, by I have always loved the River Arc and have the hots for Alex Kingston).

As a roleplayer, the episode stands up as a great model for starting a campaign. You get a pretty solid story, a pile of new characters, an immediate challenge for the characters to face, and an ongoing quest to latch future adventures off. You have rich back story potential in the Madame Vastra, for example, or Strax – aliens who have lives that work against the norm. Sontaran Strax has a penance to serve, set by The Doctor, and he does his best to keep to his word. He vows to punish and defeat everyone once he had served his time – but plods on helping and healing in the meantime. Like River Song, his story ends here – but we know that much has come before and we have glimpse some of that in the 2012 Christmas Special.

The brief appearance of the Cybermen provides the chance for action and explosions without needing to get them directly involved. The presence of the Cyber-fleet adds to a cinematic quality. I found the whole episode felt like a film more than an average episode of the series. When you felt like you’d reached a conclusion toward the end, they tack on a little bit more than supplies a necessary twist that would drive through the rest of the season.

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All the Daleks Here Now

The New Paradigm Dalek

The New Dalek Paradigm

I did sort of hope that all the Daleks would have made more of an appearance in the ‘Asylum’, after all the hoo-haa about getting hold of older models. Indeed, I didn’t feel we saw enough older Daleks – of which plenty must exist amongst promotional groups. How many conventions have you visited on the geek circuit to find a Doctor Who look-a-like, TARDIS and one Dalek or another, generally of the old grey or black variety? Why couldn’t they use some of those, especially when the Doctor ventured into Intensive Care. Surely, all those Daleks should have conformed to the pre-golden format.

Personally, I got excited about the presence of the Special Weapons Dalek in the trailer. Admittedly, when it appeared originally – in “Remembrance of the Daleks” – it had very little screen time in action; the ‘Asylum’ seemed to effectively relegate to the status of scenery. I guess that they didn’t have the inclination to sort the innards out or something – refurbishing the tricycle or whatever. Maybe the Health & Safety standards associated with people working inside Daleks have become tougher – and the BBC didn’t want to dish out for the upgrade. In the old days, you could stick a couple of trolley wheels on the edges and tell the guy to get on with it. Now, they probably want remote controls, mini-bar facilities, breaks… the whole Savoy treatment.

I’m shocked that so little investment seems to have been even made in the use of the iDaleks from ‘Victory of the Daleks‘. Didn’t Moffat intend for the new purebreed Daleks to become the standard for his tenure? Using the RTD golden Dalek model just seems a little bit lazy.

“We spent all this money making the golden Dalek model for Season 1 of New Who – and I don’t think we’ve quite got our monies worth yet. Hey, let’s wheel out the gold ones and have a few of the iDaleks in the backdrop. Maybe let the white iDalek speak a bit, for diversity reasons.”

I felt that the CGI wide shots could have done more to include older models – would it have harmed anyone in the least to have added a few classic Daleks in the ‘big picture’ view?

I’m sure they do have a genuine excuse – maybe the Terry Nation Estate agreement doesn’t extend to the older models? Maybe I should have watched whatever Confidential episode might have followed the episode (did they do one? I didn’t check… Have they dropped those, too?).

I do some research and get back to this subject…

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