21st Century Doctor

I’m Still Listening

next-time-on-doctor-whoBy no means redeeming Moffat for the first three episodes of the new Doctor, Listen, in my honest opinion, has been the best of the series so far and shows that despite evidence Clara and The Doctor can work together.

I did have some sneaky sense that something was just terribly wrong and that they simply didn’t work as Time Lord and companion. I can now see they still have a fighting chance – and I almost warmed to Danny Pink as well. Almost. It still might take another story or three to get me really bedded into seeing him as a viable character.

If you haven’t seen the episode yet, you would be unwise to read any further.

On the other hand, if you’re still reading – it was interesting to watch an episode that really didn’t have a villain. The Doctor has fear as a companion and that fear gives him his strength. Without that fear, that voice that keeps talking even when no one else is around, when silence hangs heavy – without that, the War Doctor could not have stood the test and did what he did. Without that ever present companion, the Doctor would not continue to soldier on.

What was under the blanket? Was that Clara? If she’s under the bed, then was she under the blanket as well? I guess, in some ways, it’s interesting to leave that one unanswered. When you lie awake at night and you hear something in the house. When you settle yourself and the pipes creaks, or you can just catch something scuttling across the roof tiles. That isn’t Clara… What it is, well – like I say, best not to consider it.

That was an interesting character piece, grappling with the past and the future. The Doctor ended up at the end of the Universe again. This time, he seems to have gone even further than the last, when he disturbed The Master and the Toclafane. At the end of time, something lurked outside the door. Clara again, perhaps? Or, just the threat of something, the fear of something made real. A manifestation of that dependable companion?

Yes, Listen might have been a turning point for me. I saw a Doctor before me. I didn’t see Peter Capaldi. I felt I was watching the same old Time Lord I have followed so avidly before and he had a new face. This was not simply another actor playing a role in a way that left me feeling slightly uncomfortable. Here, Capaldi did his bit and he stepped into those big Gallifreyan shoes. I saw The Doctor and I found myself comfortable with it for a moment. I saw a little of the darkness, and I saw the touch of age making him something different. The Doctor that shies away from hugs, who questions existence, who struggles to accept that he doesn’t know everything.

And then the episode ended. I found myself watching the clock, wondering what might happen next. In the end, we discovered another facet of Clara, the Impossible Girl. Clara, who would be at the side of The Doctor from the start to the finish, watching over him. Even before he became The Doctor we know, blankets pulled tightly over his head in the dead of night. Sleeping out in a barn – a barn that would one day be a ramshackle place to think over the future of his homeworld and his greatest enemy.

In those wee hours when the monsters lurk everywhere and we’re certain, if only for just a moment, that we might not make it through the night.

I liked that rather a lot.

Almost as much as I liked the trailer for the next episode. That made me squeal.

Midway through the trailer, we catch a glimpse of a Police database with several brief mugshots.

We see:

Brilliant. Daak made me squee. I squee’d out loud in front of my whole family.

Into the Not So Cool Dalek

into-the-dalekI have a real problem with the episode “Dalek“.

RTD made the damned thing so cool, no Dalek before or since can live up to it. Seriously.

The whole sequence where the Dalek assimilates time energy to regenerate, then heads out to exterminate its captors. The solders fall back, firing meagre weaponry that fails even to penetrate the Dalek’s basic shielding. We see bullets fly, only to slow, flatten and fall to the ground. The soldiers spread out, and we discover the Dalek war machine has 360 degree rotation in the upper and mid-section. Killing energies fly – soldiers fall, skeletons momentarily visible.

The Good Dalek did some of that here – and the soldiers tried all they could to stop it… but the Dalek couldn’t do anything really cool. It didn’t do anything new. It blundered along like the Jock sauntering into the party late, unaware that the really Cool Guy arrived an hour earlier in the same clothes and pulling off better tricks.

As a result, “Into The Dalek” didn’t break enough new ground. Doing the “Innerspace” thing, miniaturised to complete repairs, proved interesting enough, but the Dalek failed to stun or amaze. I want to be wowed.

And, I could easily be wowed with just that 360 degree swivel thing and a bit of hovering.

Or, if someone could please serve me up a technicoloured iDalek (per “Victory of the Daleks”), because I didn’t have a problem with that particular makeover. They appeared in “Asylum of the Daleks“, so why not since… and why did they appear on that occasion and not have an issue with the old gold-style kind?

Anyway – I found the threat of the Dalek underwhelming and the human forces uninspiring. For all the tough talk of putting The Doctor to death the moment he arrived, they appeared woefully ill-equipped in the face of a single enemy.

And why did they bring it on to the ship if they didn’t have the guns to handle it? I understand the lure of a partly disabled Dalek and the potential of turning it against your opposition – but, when it bites during the operation to heal it, shouldn’t you have proper gloves and something ready to put it down, just in case?

The Clara/Pink sub-plot didn’t grab me much.  It seemed weakly tagged on and all too obvious where it was going with the anti-militaristic viewed of the Doctor in the aftermath of his last regeneration. A Good Man Went to War – and he didn’t like it much.

I know everyone differs in taste and exposure to TV – and kids watching won’t have this issue at all (but, I’ll be continuing with this in a moment) – but guest starring Tyres (Michael Smiley, ‘Spaced‘) and Vod (Zawe Ashton, ‘Fresh Meat’) in the same episode proved a little too much for me. How can I take this war seriously?

Especially given the continuing adjustment to The Doctor…

I didn’t have trouble with the accent this time, but I did suffer some severe Malcolm Tucker moments. When The Doctor first inspected and talked about the Vault inside the Dalek that inhibited certain emotions – something in his tone and delivery just shouted Malcolm at me. Anyone who never watched “The Thick of It” won’t get what I’m suffering. However, I suspect those people who straddle fandom of Who and Tucker might be having issues differentiating the performance – which ultimately must come back to Capaldi and the writing.

One hopes that he still has time to settle.

Take a Deep Breath

Doctor-Who-Deep-BreathI had no particular expectations about Peter Capaldi as The Doctor, because the actor and the character so often have little in common. I mean, take David Tennant adopted a different accent and before Who his hair wasn’t so flamboyantly coiffured. I wanted to take the new Doctor as something of a blank slate.

Deep Breath offered an unexpected experience in that respect, as I found myself genuinely struggling to understand anything Capaldi said for the first 10 or 15 minutes. Maybe I’m just getting old and decrepit or something. I’m ready to consider that the failings of age might go some way to providing explanation. Perhaps my problem is a combination of Capaldi’s accent and the incidental music?

I definitely got the ‘jump on’ vibe – the sense of revisiting some basic principles just for the benefit of new viewers. At the same time, the script and plot contained plenty of elements suitable for fans – both of the Classic Who period and the 21st century rebirth. The Clockwork Robots were obviously not simply a nod, but an out-and-out connection to the much-loved episode, The Girl in the Fireplace.

I found the difficulty suffered by Clara in taking onboard the regeneration a struggle to empathise with. No one seems to have gone through this much trauma before – even Peri, who in waking to find the Doctor regenerating into Colin Baker was promptly set upon and strangled. She adjusted remarkably well.

Deep Breath has a slight feel of The Christmas Invasion, with The Doctor taking to bed, recovering from his regeneration. Capaldi harnesses the bewilderment common in so many post-regeneration Doctors, new and old.

I like Strax, though he undoubtedly must have a Jar-Jar/Marmite-style following amongst viewers. Sometimes, the humour hits the mark; other times, you have to wonder why Moffat has singled the Sontaran out for ridicule… I mean, they’re already a race of short, potato-headed clones. Do they need more piss taken out of them?

In some respect, now that I think about it, the fight between The Doctor and the Almost Man was rather similar to the sword fight between Tennant and the Sycorax Leader in The Christmas Invasion. The combatants battle close to the edge of the abyss and we have genuine doubts as to whether the Time Lord has it in him to not only win the fight, but also to put an end to the threat. Both adversaries spiralling to the ground… well, if anyone labels The Doctor out as cold for this act, it begs comparison with Tennant as setting the precedent.

I’m ready to continue watching and see how this pans out. Moffat has piqued my interest with Missy, as I’m certain it’s meant. I’m thinking something to do with River and her Virtual Tomb in the Library.

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.