Category Archives: General

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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The Crack with the Spiders


Photo credit: Ben Templesmith

Someone asked me, “So , what’s the crack with the spiders in the last episode?”

I considered this for a moment and then decided I couldn’t see any relevance to the spiders. Nothing pivotal or surprising.

I thought the theme of this half of the series ran along the lines of ‘People live and die; but the Doctor goes on.‘ The Doctor has his own adventures. He accrues companions as and when he needs them. Without specifically referencing the novels, things happen when we, the viewer, don’t watch. And, even when we the reader don’t read.

Much as Sarah Jane established in “School Reunion“, and Rose after her – the Doctor touches people’s lives, but they continue without him. Sometimes, they remain ‘touched’ by his absence and it affects the way they continue to exist. Oswyn has been ‘touched’ before she even got started; as a species, the Daleks have experienced an irrevocable change, and many have been scarred beyond assistance or repair. The Doctor, the Predator, the Oncoming Storm – the Last of the Timelords – he strikes the universe like a smooth, flat stone, and the ripples continue long after his departure.

I’m not sure the spider had any relevance beyond being a clue that the spaceship (with the dinosaurs on) wasn’t just a spaceship. It was an ark, from Earth (and, perhaps, a nod to original episode The Ark in Space, from the classic 12th season). I’m not suggesting the Silurians intentionally included spiders amongst the species carried away from Earth, but like any ship you can’t avoid some vermin and insects. I responded as much to my friends you asked the question, but I suppose I can’t completely cast aside the thought they might mean more than that.

Even as a viewer, the Doctor’s ripples impact me.

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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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Pausing A Moment Too Long

I realise that programme planning depends on many different factors, but from the viewer perspective if you leave something for too long surely you pass from longing through frustration to grouchy indifference. i appreciate that Doctor Who requires a lot of time and preparation to complete a season – 13 episodes of scripting, casting, rehearsing, shooting, post-production, special effects and promotion – but a considerable gap between Christmas the next series seems too much.

Yes, I know that 2013 represents the 50th birthday celebration for the series and that we probably have something big to look forward to, but… This year we will only get five episodes and a Christmas story, and then the remaining seven episodes in the New Year. We have a single season stretched over a two year period.

I could swear this sort of thing happened in the past and meant the death of the series. Colin Baker suffered something similar, a whole year slipping by before his forced generation into Sylvester. Might the 50th year be the last? If not, can we expect further loss of momentum? How can BBC Worldwide sell a series like this to media hungry Americans (and similar) when they have so little to offer up. The average US citizen and scifi fan will have seasons of 20+ shows and multiple options of like-themed entertainment to fall back on. Here, the BBC offers up a smattering, a splodge, a smear of Who.

I dearly hope we have a pile of quality Who to look forward to, with every story a jewel, a winner. I, as a fan, hate the waiting – and I’ll hate it even more if we get to the episodes themselves and find them lacking. You cannot live off good will alone. Long term fans have been stung before. With the passing of Sarah Jane and the quiet suicide of Torchwood, we only have original Who to fall back on. Don’t let us down, Mr Moffat.

Am I Touched?

I have put my faith in the hands of Tim Kring before. I commited time to watch his creation. I invested years in pursuit of an explanation. I sought satisfaction in the midst his storytelling. In Heroes I did, for a season or two, feel the paypack for my faith. I found profit in my investment. Kring turned out a story that gripped me from week to week. In that first season of Heroes, I genuinely found myself on the edge of my seat. I mean that – I perched with excitement and groaned when the end of the episode rolled around. I wallowed in anticipation for the rest of the week, looking forward to the next slice of horn-rimmed spectacles and clockwork supervillianism.

Last night, I watched Touch. I watched it on Sky, and I’ve started with episode two. Somehow I missed episode one, but the IMDB entry sufficed to bring me more or less up to speed. My wife doubted Kring from the outset and a passing comment questioned whether Kiefer Sutherland could be anyone but Jack from 24. I watched without prejudice and opened myself up to the possibilities. I want to give Kring the chance he deserves. While Heroes meandered, faultered and declined, before passing away with a wheezing gasp, I’m prepared to move on. I can offer Kring a clean slate to work from. I propose to watch Touch untainted by cynicism.

I liked the episode. I didn’t come away from it feeling like I did with Heroes. I suspect I could stop watching right now and not worry at all. I wouldn’t lose sleep worrying about what I might have missed. I can see how that attitude might work against me, as I already detect a need for investment. I noticed a reference to 3:18PM in the synopsis of Episode 1, and 318 appeared above the door of the pawn shop in Episode 2. I watched the excited Japanese girls travelling with their digital video camera, but didn’t see any relevance to their presence within the context of the story. I can see strings flapping around. I note the possible threads that lie here and there.

I watched the whole of Lost, from start to finish. I followed the experiences of Agent Cooper through both seasons of Twin Peaks, through thick and thin. I have invested myself in short lived series and long. I approach Touch with an open mind, but also with a sense of trepidation. When Lost concluded, I felt robbed; whereas, the closing moments of Twin Peaks assured me I had not wasted my time. I hope that time I gift to Tim Kring in this new creation will not go to waste. I trust in his creative genius to offer me something worthy.

Don’t let me down, Tim.