Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Matt Smith Autopsy

I lost count of Who I Am,
but focus on the fez.

Steven Moffat never had a 'Master Plan' for Doctor Who.

A 'master plan' suggest that something will be long, but that it's been worked out, step by step, and that at its conclusion you can follow the clues to the same conclusion presented.

That isn't Doctor Who.

Moffat's three years as showrunner on Doctor Who show that he doesn't just make things up as he goes along.  He just makes things up.

If there were a 'master plan', there would be cohesion, continuity, and consistency in Doctor Who.  There just isn't, no matter how hard the Moffia (his fans, those who think every word he writes either for Doctor Who or Sherlock is holy writ) insists.

A fool will always find
a greater fool to admire him...

Weeping Angels die if they look upon each other (Blink).
Weeping Angels DON'T die if they look upon each other (The Time of Angels).
Weeping Angels die AGAIN if they look upon each other (The Time of The Doctor).

Little Amelia is left waiting for The Doctor all night, and he doesn't come back until many years later (The Eleventh Hour).

Little Amelia is left waiting for The Doctor all night, but he does come back in the morning to tell her of all the adventures she will have (The Angels Take Manhattan).

And I won't even get into the Many Deaths of Rory What's-His-Name (Williams?  Pond?  Pond-Williams?  Williams-Pond?).

When you can't even keep a character's last name straight, you can't claim a 'master plan'. 

It isn't just that Doctor Who under Moffat has had no sense of continuity within the three seasons he's been in charge.  However, that isn't to say that isn't one of the major problems Doctor Who has.  Story threads that are given are never answered.  It's been two episodes since The Name of The Doctor and I'm STILL waiting to find out exactly HOW the Doctor and Clara got out of his timestream in Trenzalore and get back to Merry Olde England in The Day of The Doctor.   I have a sense that such questions will never be answered, because all Moffat Era stories (not just ones penned by him, but by his minions) rush through things without seeing a need to answer points of logic.

Take the end of The Crimson Horror.  Here, we see the two annoying children present Clara with evidence of her past adventures as perhaps the Doctor's first part-time Companion (has she ever really travelled in the TARDIS in two consecutive stories, I wonder).  Among the bits she is shown is a photograph of herself aboard the Soviet submarine from Cold War.  When I saw that, all I could ask was, 'who was taking pictures inside what I thought was a secret submarine?'  I don't think stories are meant to provoke such questions.

The photograph thing is also something I wondered about while watching The Day of The Doctor.  Just how did UNIT get pictures of people they neither worked with or who were technically both not yet born and already dead by the time the Zygons were making their play for Earth?

If that is perhaps being nitpicky, let us briefly look over how Doctor Who casually either ignores or flat-out erases Canon from both the Classic and even NuWho Eras.  In The Trial of a Time Lord season, we were introduced to the villain of The Valeyard, the amalgamation of the Doctor's dark side that comes between his twelfth and final regeneration.  That being the case, the Valeyard should have been somewhere in the last season once The Time of The Doctor established that Smith is technically the Thirteenth Doctor.  However, that did not happen. 

I'm sure a convoluted answer can be provided how something introduced in Canon in 1986 was ignored in 2013.  However, the easiest answer is almost always the best, so here it is: NuWho fans who know nothing of anything that came before Rose simply hadn't heard of the Valeyard so it was easy to ignore and dismiss pre-Rose Canon for their benefit.

Kind of a drag...
In regards to NuWho, it is amazing how things change from one producer to another.  When David Tennant's Tenth Doctor had an abortive regeneration in Journey's End Parts I & II (The Stolen Earth/Journey's End), we were told by Russell T Davies that it was not, repeat, NOT an actual regeneration.  Now, with Davies' successor Steven Moffat, we are told that it WAS an actual regeneration.  Even worse, with the introduction of John Hurt's 'War Doctor', the entire numbering that had been pretty much undisturbed since 1966 was thrown completely out of whack.  Still, despite what really is an exercise in nonsense is dismissed by the Moffia.  When we were told Ninth was still Ninth, Tenth still Tenth, and Eleventh still Eleventh the Moffia went through all sorts of contortions to show how Hurt's 'War Doctor' was not an actual regeneration (despite all evidence to the contrary). 

Now that Moffat has reversed course, enshrining it in The Time of The Doctor, the Moffia now say that Matt Smith is somehow bizarrely still The Eleventh Doctor but the Thirteenth Form of the Doctor (as The Nerdist put it). 

As a side note, The Nerdist is basically a whore for Moffat.  Chris Hardwick has metaphorically rimmed Moffat so often he ought to have 'Moffat's Bitch' tattooed on his forehead.  The Nerdist, which insists is the repository of all things nerd/geek-related, knows which side of its bread is buttered, and it will never contradict any proclamations 'The Moff' makes regardless of how contradictory or illogical it may be. 

Yet I digress.  Doctor Who now, if we go step by step, story by story, is a collection of illogical bombast where every episode sets fans crying.  I truly am amazed how much time NuWhovians spend crying over Doctor Who episodes.  It's getting to where a single Doctor Who story causes more tears than Schindler's List, Casablanca, and It's A Wonderful Life combined.  Honestly, the only time I remember coming close to crying at a Doctor Who story was at the final episode of Planet of the Spiders, but at least then we had two things that are missing from NuWho: genuine acting and stillness to which to appreciate it.  No sappy/loud Murray Gold music needed to play for Elisabeth Sladen and Jon Pertwee, just solid acting and great dialogue.  It must be the quietest regeneration in all of Doctor Who, and I think still the best precisely because it was so still, so soft. 

You know, Jon Pertwee always HATED
silly costumes, feeling they diminished the Doctor's authority.
Then again, what would Jon Pertwee know about being The Doctor?

As I look at the Matt Smith Era, I am filled with such a sense of disappointment.  I started out liking Smith as the Eleventh Doctor, but by The Vampires of Venice my enthusiasm began to waver.  Once we got into Doctor Who as River Song & Friends with Special Guest The Doctor, things started sliding downhill.  Now, with his tenure as the Eleventh/Thirteenth Doctor at an end, I find that the stories have been abysmal.  Part of the problem is the writing.  Moffat is blessed with having the Moffia.

Moffat never needs to provide answers.  He knows that the Moffia will either never ask questions or will repeat like robots any answer 'The Moff' gives, no matter how illogical or ridiculous.  If confronted The Moff and his Minions will dismiss it all with a 'they are too stupid to understand the intricacies of it all' rather than actually answer the objections. 

The stories, particularly this last season, have been lousy.  The average score for the Eleventh/Thirteenth Doctor has been a dismal 3.  By comparison, only three Classic Who stories so far (The Gunfighters, The Web Planet, and The Dominators) have scored lower.  The fact that only three Classic Who stories earned a lower score than an average Eleventh/Thirteenth Doctor story says something about where the series is at.

I'm sorry.  I'm so sorry.

A part of the problem in the Smith Era has also been Smith himself.  His interpretation has been described as 'child-like'.  I take objection to that description.  The Eleventh/Thirteenth Doctor is actually an idiot.  His era has been built on little catchphrases ("XYZ are cool", "Geronimo!") and randomly bizarre behavior.  He appears nude for no reason.  He uses his handy-dandy sonic screwdriver to where it becomes a virtual magic wand.  He waves his hands more than he does his handy-dandy sonic screwdriver and does some really nutty things, like insist Santa Claus is real and named 'Geoff'. 

Smith has become highly popular, especially in America, but that popularity I think stems from the fact that he has turned the Doctor from a heroic figure people of all ages can rely on to save the day to a gibbering nutjob who hops up and down screaming about his 'Golden Ticket'.  A successful lead character has to have a sense of authority.  This is why Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock Holmes or Patrick Stewart's Jean-Luc Picard have been successful.  They can be odd, goofy, even comic, but they still have a sense of gravity to them.  Smith quickly threw that out the window with his take on the Doctor as this bumbling half-wit who did the worst thing possible...defer to other characters.

Take River Song.  When she 'landed' the TARDIS without the familiar whooshing sound, she remarked that the TARDIS wasn't suppose to do that, that he 'left the parking brake on'.  Never mind that all other TARDISes we've seen in the show's history (the Meddling Monk, the Master, the Rani) all made that whooshing sound.  Never mind that people who could operate the TARDIS better than the Doctor (his granddaughter Susan Foreman or the Time Lord Companion Romana, whom I discovered some 'Whovians have never heard of) kept that whooshing sound.  By this little bit of dialogue, Moffat and Smith diminish the Doctor.  Worse, the Doctor, rather than reply that River is wrong, merely says that he likes that sound, showing that River is right and the Doctor, the lead character, is wrong.

It isn't just with River that he cedes power.  The new main character has been the same-sex bestiality of Silurian Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint.  Since when do others rescue the Doctor? 

For myself, I am so glad Matt Smith is going.  He was in no way my favorite Doctor.  I truly don't have a favorite Doctor.  My view has always been that of the Brigadier, "Wonderful fellow.  All of them".

All of them...except Matt Smith.

Finally, if Peter Capaldi (the Twelfth/Fourteenth/First Doctor of a New Regeneration Cycle) is not allowed to make the Doctor the daring and dashing wise man, if he is made to basically do Matt Smith's Doctor, Doctor Who may please NuWhovians/the Moffia who are easily pleased, but both Classic Whovians and average run-of-the-mill viewers will reject the show and it may continue to make money but the quality, the intelligence of some truly great stories from the past, will be forever gone. 

Doctor Who will appeal only to those like the person I sat next to at the Day of The Doctor screening, who said, "It's not suppose to make sense.  It's British!"


Friday, December 27, 2013

Always Christmas, Never Logical


With The Time of The Doctor, at least two things are certain.  One, this 'trilogy' (The Name/Day/Time of The Doctor), or as I call it, 'the lazy way to title stories' has finally come to an end.  Two, Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor is No More. 

Put this under the 'thank God for small favors' department. 

The Time of The Doctor is simply not just a mess, not even a disaster.  It's a chaotic, insulting and crushing end to simply the worst Doctor in the series' history, one that even he did not deserve.

A message is being sent throughout space from a mysterious planet.  This planet is surrounded by all sorts of aliens, and the Doctor (Matt Smith), with the aid of a Cyberman head he calls 'Handles' (Kayvan Novak) attempts to find out what the planet and the message is.  There is a quarantine on the planet which even the TARDIS cannot break through.  Wouldn't you know it, at this exact time Clara Oswald (Jenna-Louise Coleman...I still use the 'Louise') is in need of a boyfriend for Christmas, having invented one to her family.

Side note: I thought only closeted lesbians were in need of 'inventing boyfriends' to their families.  Not that, if the dialogue is to be believed, the Doctor has 'invented a boyfriend' himself, though I think he means android, at least I think that's what he meant.  Hard to say given the same-sex bestiality of Madame Vastra and Jenny.  In any case, I digress.

When he arrives, Clara rushes into the TARDIS to see the Doctor completely naked!  Why is he naked?  Because he's going to Church.  Why does he seem oblivious to the fact that he is complete nude in front of anyone, let alone a woman?  Well, in a nutshell, it's because the Eleventh Doctor is either a total idiot or clinically insane, not a quirky insane, but in a 'posing a danger to himself and others' insane.  The Doctor and Clara hop between her family (who are at the very least puzzled as to why Clara's 'boyfriend' is to them completely naked but to Clara fully dressed) and the TARDIS. Handles now identifies this planet.

It is Gallifrey, The Doctor's lost world.

The Doctor refuses to accept it is Gallifrey (despite having set as his goal in The Day of The Doctor to search for his home world, a mere month ago).   Now they encounter the Papal Mainframe, the first ship that arrived on 'Gallifrey' and which put the quarantine and can get them through it.  Tasha Lem (Orla Brady), the Mother Superious, beckons them enter (which does require them to appear nude, though we are spared more actual nudity).

He really didn't need to reveal all...
Tasha Lem, carrying on a River Song-like flirtation that actually is creepier than anything Song and Eleven ever got up to, informs him that this mysterious message brings fear due to no one knowing what it actually is.  Not as much fear as Clara has when encountering the Silence for the first time.  Tasha sends Clara and the Doctor down to the planet, where a town exists.  There be dangers on the surface, like Weeping Angels that temporary threaten them, that is until he magically gets the TARDIS to sweep them away (and we learn, the Doctor is naked again, this time it's his bald head that's exposed.  He got bored one day and shaved it off.  Rational thing to do, right?).

The signal comes from a clock tower on this planet in this town. Here, no one can tell a lie due to a truth field, here in this town called Christmas.  Yes, Virginia, the town is called 'Christmas'.   The clock tower reveals all: the crack in time we first encountered in The Eleventh Hour and which reveal a shocking secret.  The message in Gallifreyan is decoded.  The Message is "Doctor Who?"  Sadly, Handles analysis broadcasts the Question to every ship waiting out above this mysterious planet.  He also learns the name of the planet with the town called Christmas.

It is Trenzalore, where he is destined to die.  Moreover, should he reveal his name (and given the truth field, he has no choice), the Time Lords will emerge and the Time War begin again.

Decisions, decisions.

The kick is good...
The Doctor sends Clara to the TARDIS, ostensibly to help but to try to send her to Earth and safety.  She, however, will not be denied, and hangs on to the TARDIS as it begins to dematerialize.  With him refusing to speak his name, the Doctor now will protect Christmas and Shan declares that 'silence will fall'. 

All sorts of aliens manage to get through: Sontarans, Weeping Angels, even a wooden Cybermen, a wooden Cyberman who unleashes fire.  The Doctor defeats them all as he grows older.  After a 300 year wait on Trenzalore, Clara and the TARDIS finally get back to Christmas.  The Doctor takes Clara up to the clock tower to see the brief Christmas sunrise but Wilson, I mean Handles, finally breaks down.  We also learn that rather than being the Eleventh Doctor, he is actually the Thirteenth.  The 'War Doctor' was Regeneration Number 9, and whom we once thought the Tenth actually was the Eleventh AND Twelfth, his quasi-regeneration in Journey's End Parts I and II (The Stolen Earth/Journey's End) counting.  Hence, he who was once the Eleventh is now (by Moffian fiat) the Thirteenth and final Doctor, having come to the end of his regeneration cycle and thus doomed to die permanently. 

In what must have been yet another confab with Tasha Lem, we learn that those aboard, like the Silence and even Tasha are actually dead and basically Daleks in drag.  Despite Tasha saying that she is dead, Tasha somehow pushes the Dalek within her back long enough to kill the other Daleks and allow the Doctor and Clara a chance to escape.

And finish cooking the Christmas turkey they put in the TARDIS console. 

Despite his promise to never send her away again, the bird literally ends up holding the bird when he dumps her back at her parents...again! 

Guess Clara doesn't get the hint that the Doctor is just not that into her.

Now there is all-out war on Trenzalore where all the Doctor's enemies battle it out in Christmas, with only the Daleks left rolling to fight the Church of the Mainframe.   Clara is at home with her family at Christmas, moping over the Doctor (as all women are apt to do).  Fortunately, the TARDIS materializes and she whisks herself off yet again, to see Tasha Lem piloting the TARDIS!

In the Battle of Christmas, Clara beholds a decrepit Doctor, sitting in front of the crack.  The Daleks demand he emerge, and he shuffles up the clock tower, deciding to sacrifice himself and meet his final end.  Clara, however, goes to the crack in the wall, pleading with the Time Lords to spare him, telling them his name is "The Doctor".  From the sky the crack emerges and sends out regenerative energy, which allows him to have such power that he literally blows up the Dalek mothership with the regeneration energy.

The Doctor, now restored to his younger self, bids farewell to both Clara and a vision of Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), and then a quick facelift.  The new Doctor (Peter Capaldi) comments about how he doesn't like his kidneys colors before asking an incredulous Clara one question: "Do you happen to know how to fly this thing?"    

Geronimus Idiotus...

The Time of The Doctor is the perfect embodiment of what the Matt Smith/Steven Moffat Era has been to Doctor Who: a massive pile of shit.  The Time of The Doctor is the After Earth of Doctor Who: a hopelessly idiotic vanity project that fails spectacularly to achieve anything good but is an embarrassment to all involved. 

The best example of how The Time of The Doctor is a vanity project for writer/showrunner Steven Moffat is when Tasha Lem informs the Doctor of the breakaway sect that "engineered a psychopath to kill you".  His reply?  "Totally married her.  I'd never have made it here alive without River Song".  Song has been extremely divisive: some think her as this great Doctor Who icon, some see her as a monstrous character.  I fall squarely in the latter, detesting her ever since I saw her, not in Forest in the Library Parts I & II (Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead) but in The Time of Angels Parts I & II (The Time of Angels/Flesh and Bone).  With little bit of dialogue, Moffat sticks it to the River-haters by having the Doctor credit her with being vital to his life.  He even manages to go one more, by throwing in Tasha Lem, a River Song clone in all but name.

Tasha and River are cut from the same cloth, so much so that even the most casual Doctor Who viewer cannot miss the parallels between them.  Both carry this oddly flirtatious, almost brazenly sexual banter with the Doctor.  Both basically attempt to have sex with the Doctor (and the Doctor appearing both pleased and a bit frightened, like a virgin in Reno).  Both apparently can fly the TARDIS, something once reserved exclusively for Time Lords (The Doctor, his granddaughter, Romana, and the Doctor's Time Lord enemies like the Meddling Monk, the Master, and the Rani).  We can even thrown in the fact that technically, both are dead.

However, having seen The Time of The Doctor twice now, I am astonished that, even given the low IQ of the NuWhovian, the ridiculous plot holes and questions The Time of The Doctor has are not questioned by them. 

Trenzalore has an impenetrable shield...that the Weeping Angels could get through.  The Doctor picks up a Cyberman head that acts like a cross between the Angels in Voyage of the Damned and K-9 exactly why?  He couldn't find information the old-fashioned way...Wikipedia?  WHY is there a town called Christmas where apparently it always snows and people dress like they all came from Scandinavia?

I'm bald now.  Baldness Is Cool...

When Clara sensibly asks how can a town be called Christmas, the Doctor rapidly replies, "How an island be called Easter?"

I'll field that question.  Easter Island, or Rapa Nui as the inhabitants call it, was sighted by Europeans on Easter morning 1722 and thus christened 'Easter Island'.  The ball is in your court, Moff. 

Again and again Moffat shows either his contempt or his shockingly lack of coherent storytelling by putting things in that make no sense in the first place, then never bothering to answer things. 

Tasha Lem can fly the TARDIS?  How?  The Daleks have taken over the Papal Mainframe and are masquerading as Tasha Lem or the Silence.  How then can the Dalek-as-Silence continue to have the power to make people forget?  Moreover, is Tasha actually dead or alive? 

The answer to that one must be that Tasha Lem, River Song substitute, is alive OR dead depending on Moffat's whim.  If she is dead, and the Dalek inside her controlling her, how can a dead person come back to life to kill off the other Daleks and save the Doctor and Clara?  How does a dead person be conscious of the fact that, as she put it, "The Dalek inside me is waking".

I confess to bursting out laughing at this particular line.  "The Dalek inside me is waking."  I thought I'd heard all sorts of idiotic things on Doctor Who these past few years: "Bow ties/fezzes/Stetsons are cool", "Hello sweetie", "Spoilers", "I blew'em up with love", but "The Dalek inside me is waking" certainly ranks up there with being astonishing in its idiocy.

Moffat tries to get the emotions going with characters like Barnable (Jack Hollington), this 'adorable' little boy from Christmas who looks up to The Doctor, or with Handles, the head of a Cyberman.  However, we can't feel for these characters because there is no actual connection between the Doctor and anyone else apart from Clara.  Throwing in an 'adorable' little boy does not equate having a relationship between the two of them that we can feel anything for or about.  Given Barnacle and the Doctor were never shown building a lifelong relationship or indicating anything other than misguided hero worship I as a viewer couldn't care less about little Barnacle.

Even worse is Handles (typical idiotic nickname).  Despite Murray Gold's score trying desperately to pull at my heartstrings, I cannot bring myself to cry over a metal head finally wearing down.  At least with Castaway's Wilson (the most obvious inspiration), there was a connection between Tom Hanks and the volleyball through Hanks' interaction with it.  Try, try, try, anyone crying over Handles (and I imagine quite a few NuWhovians did), I found the whole thing dragging. 

As a side note, shouldn't Murray Gold just retire and give the music to someone else? 

Moffat also throws things in for the spectacle of the thing, but never bothers to answer the questions he poses.  I've already mentioned some things that don't make sense, but let's throw in some more.  The subplot with the Oswalds is irrelevant to The Time of The Doctor.  Let's leave aside how derivative this whole thing is of Bad Wolf Parts I & II (Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways), right down to how the Doctor tricked Rose...I mean, Clara...into going in the TARDIS and back to Earth only to have her rescue him.  Let's also leave aside how Clara pleading with the Time Lords to save the Doctor is reminiscent to Martha's "I DO believe in Doctors, I DO, I DO!" business in Vengeance of the Master Part III (The Last of the Time Lords).

What true purpose did the Oswalds play in the story?  They popped in at the beginning to showcase bad comedy, and then near the end to do what, exactly?  Given the Oswalds, unlike the Tylers, the Moffs-Nobles, or even the Ponds/Williamses, were never part of Doctor Who, why bother throwing them in now?

What The Time of The Doctor really was was a showcase to show off Matt Smith, who gives yet another overdone, overblown performance.  He couldn't resist one final monologue at the end when he defeats the Daleks ("I blew'em up with regeneration"), and there was Smith, hamming it up with gusto and lousy make-up.  He was so relishing the chance to get a spectacular send-off that poor Peter Capaldi got the shortest regeneration in the show's history (NuWho AND Classic).  Just a quick face change and voila, a new Doctor.  Whether he is now the Twelfth, Thirteenth, or even Fourteenth Doctor (thanks to another lousy deus ex machina that played like parody...the trapped Time Lords sending new regenerative powers to the Doctor after he declared Canon the "War Doctor" and the abortive Tennant regeneration being two previous regenerations) remains to be seen, but no matter how you cut it Capaldi's regeneration scene was a slap in the face to which to welcome him.

What is highly amusing to me is how NuWhovians, who did contortions that a Chinese acrobat would look at in envy, attempted to say how Smith was still the Eleventh Doctor with elaborate counting systems or that the "War Doctor" was not a real regeneration because he called himself the "War Doctor" rather than just plain Doctor; when Moffat said Smith was still the Eleventh they said the same thing. NuWhovians would also go on about how the Doctor could go past the Twelve Regeneration Rule established in The Deadly Assassin by harping about how River "gave up her remaining regenerations to the Doctor".  Now they meekly go back to their online forums to deny what they had been repeating as Scripture only a month ago in order to fit into Moffat's own nutty bastardization  of the Doctor Who world.  After enduring NuWhovian nonsense about how we, who argued that Smith couldn't be the Eleventh Doctor given the events of The Day of The Doctor (I won't even get into that quasi-regeneration business with Tennant), were all wrong, were all stupid, were all incapable of understanding the genius of "The Moff" (and by extension, theirs), now contradict themselves to keep the logical inconsistency Doctor Who stories have become.

In short, the fact that they cannot or will not grasp how nothing in this so-called The (Blank) of The Doctor trilogy makes sense on any level says more about a.) how utterly demolished Doctor Who has become under 'The Moff' and b.) how utterly inept and witless NuWho fans truly are.          

Wooden Cyberman: an oxymoron.
Time of The Doctor: from a moron. 

Let's be frank: The Time of The Doctor is nonsense from beginning to end.  Naked Doctors?  Why?  Wooden Cybermen?  Who came up with that idea?  Did the Cybemen think that a version of themselves made out of wood, complete with FLAME THROWER, made any sense?  Besides, weren't all the Cybermen destroyed in Nightmare in Silver?  Is a wooden Cyberman really a Cyberman, given Cybermen are humans who have been technically modified?  If Smith is the actual Thirteenth, where oh where did the Valeyard, the amalgamation of the Doctor's dark side who comes between the Twelfth and final regeneration go?

Oh, yes, that's from the Classic Era, and no NuWhovian (or Moffat) really care about THAT!  How is something between An Unearthly Child and Survival relevant to Doctor Who anyway? 

Brady is basically doing an Alex Kingston as River Song impersonation and the script doesn't give her anything to hold onto.  In terms desirous and enraged by the Doctor, there is no sense in why she does anything: why she admires his nude body, why she rages against his keeping Christmas safe.  Coleman continues to play Clara as a typical NuWho female Companion, one forever pining after the Doctor.  While it's good to know she went from nanny to English teacher I can't for the life of me figure out why Coleman struggles to make Clara interesting.  Smith by now has become so entrenched with his 'Doctor As Idiot' that it's not really even worth commenting on how bad he was.  The make-up and walking stick, which I figure was there in part to make his Doctor more 'distinguished' merely served to point out how weak his Doctor eventually devolved to.  No make-up in the world makes up for teaching children 'The Drunk Giraffe'.

The Time of The Doctor is a big, loud, overblown piece of trash, appealing only to people who can't be bothered to look past the pretty colors and naked bodies to see that it holds no logic within itself, let alone with its The (Blank) of The Doctor alleged trilogy, and let alone within the eight years NuWho has been on.

If Peter Capaldi is not allowed to make The Doctor a more serious, stable, rational, and intelligent hero, if he continues down the road Smith and Moffat created, then without a doubt The Time of The Doctor is up. 

What Would Pertwee Say?


Next Episode: Deep Breath

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

100 Whos, 100 Reviews

Before The Time of The Doctor premieres (and once reviewed, I would be up to 101 Doctor Who stories), I thought I'd have my rankings of all the Doctor Who stories I have reviewed.  Again, to set the ground rules: this is for all Classic Doctor Who released on DVD in the United States from the First Doctor story An Unearthly Child to the Third Doctor story Terror of the Autons except for the First Doctor story The Tenth Planet.  Also included in the rankings are the Fourth Doctor story The Sun Makers and all NuWho stories from the Ninth Doctor story Rose up to the Tenth Doctor story The Idiot's Lantern, and all Eleventh Doctor stories from The Eleventh Hour to The Day of The Doctor.

How I arrived at this list is as follows.  Every story earned a score between 1 and 10, 10 being a masterpiece, 1 being an absolute disaster.  Once they were scored, they were compared to other stories with similar scores and then determined which was 'better'.  This determination came from such things as overall story, acting, cinematography, etc.  There was also the Would I Rather Rule, as in "Would I rather watch Story A or Story B?"  If I preferred watching one over the other, it went higher. 

The listing includes both the score and the Doctor the stories featured.  Example: The Tomb of the Cybermen (10/2), means the story got a score of 10 and it was a Second Doctor story.

With that, let us move on.  In order from 1 to 100...

Num. 1: Simply the Best So Far

  1. The Tomb of the Cybemen (10/2)
  2. Spearhead From Space (10/3)
  3. The Aztecs (10/1)
  4. Inferno (10/3)
  5. The Time Meddler (10/1)
  6. Doctor Who & The Silurians (10/3)
  7. The Seeds of Death (10/2)
  8. The Mind Robber (10/2)
  9. The Evil of the Daleks (10/2)
  10. The Unquiet Dead (10/9)
  11. The Ice Warriors (10/2)
  12. Inside the Spaceship (aka The Edge of Destruction) (9/1)
  13. The Ambassadors of Death (9/3)
  14. The Romans (9/1)
  15. The Dalek Invasion of Earth (9/1)
  16. The End of the World (9/9)
  17. The Invasion (9/2)
  18. Terror of the Autons (9/3)
  19. The War Games (9/2)
  20. The Daleks (8/1)
  21. The Sun Makers (8/4)
  22. The Celestial Toymaker (8/1)
  23. The Web of Fear (8/2)
  24. Dalek (8/9)
  25. Father's Day (8/9)
  26. The Rescue (8/1)
    Num. 27: The Highest-Ranked
    Eleventh Doctor Story
  27. Cold Blood Parts I & II (The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood) (8/11) 
  28. Amy's Choice (8/11)
  29. New Earth (8/10)
  30. Rose (8/9)
  31. Night Terrors (8/11)
  32. The Krotons (8/2)
  33. The Eleventh Hour (8/11)
  34. An Unearthly Child (7/1)
  35. The Daleks' Master Plan (7/1)
  36. The Enemy of the World (7/2)
  37. The Doctor's Wife (7/11)
  38. The Underwater Menace (7/2)
  39. School Reunion (7/10)
  40. Marco Polo (7/1)
  41. The Idiot's Lantern (7/10)
  42. The Girl Who Waited (7/11)
  43. The Sensorites (7/1)
  44. Galaxy 4 (7/1)
  45. The Wheel in Space (7/2)
  46. The Empty Child Parts I & II (The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances) (6/9)
  47. The Crusade (6/1)
  48. The Christmas Invasion (6/10)
  49. The Reign of Terror (6/1) 
  50. Bad Wolf Parts I & II (Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways) (6/9) 
    Num. 50: Stuck in the Middle
  51. Planet of Giants (6/1)
  52. The Keys of Marinus (6/1)
  53. The Faceless Ones (6/2)
  54. The Chase (6/1)
  55. Vincent & The Doctor (6/11)
  56. The Abominable Snowmen (6/2)
  57. Victory of the Daleks (6/11)
  58. Aliens of London Parts I & II (Aliens of London/World War III) (6/9)
  59. Day of the Moon Parts I & II (The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon) (6/11)
  60. The Big Bang Parts I & II (The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang) (6/11)
  61. Tooth & Claw (5/10)
  62. The War Machines (5/1)
  63. Rise of the Cybermen Parts I & II (Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel) (5/10)
  64. The Time of Angels Parts I & II (The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone) (5/11)
  65. A Christmas Carol (5/11)
  66. The Moonbase (4/2)
  67. The Rings of Akhaten (4/11)
  68. The Space Museum (4/1)
    Num. 69: The Most Wildly
    Overrated Doctor Who Story
  69. The Girl in the Fireplace (4/10)
  70. The Gangers Parts I & II (The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People) (4/11)
  71. The Doctor, The Widow, and the Wardrobe (4/11)
  72. The Beast Below (4/11)
  73. Boom Town (4/9)
  74. Dinosaurs on a Spaceship (4/11)
  75. The Long Game (4/9)
  76. The Ark (3/1)
  77. Hide (3/11)
  78. The Crimson Horror (3/11)
  79. The Day of The Doctor (3/10-11)
  80. The Space Pirates (3/2)
  81. The Power of Three (3/11)
  82. The Name of The Doctor (3/11)
  83. The Angels Take Manhattan (3/11)
  84. The Wedding of River Song (3/11)
  85. A Town Called Mercy (3/11)
  86. The Lodger (3/11)
  87. The Gunfighters (2/1)
  88. The Bells of Saint John (2/11)
  89. Asylum of the Daleks (2/11)
  90. The Vampires of Venice (2/11)
  91. The Web Planet (2/1)
  92. Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS (2/11)
  93. The Dominators (2/2)
  94. The Snowmen (2/11)
  95. River's Secret Parts I & II (A Good Man Goes to War/Let's Kill Hitler) (2/11)
  96. Cold War (2/11)
  97. The God Complex (1/11)
  98. The Curse of the Black Spot (1/11)
  99. Nightmare in Silver (1/11)
  100. Closing Time (1/11)
Num. 100: Grotesque in Every Way

Too low?  Too high?  Did I make a mistake in ranking one story over another?  Let me know.  We have so many more stories to go, from the Third Doctor story The Mind of Evil to the Tenth Doctor story The Impossible Planet Parts I & II (The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit) to the Eleventh Doctor story The Time of The Doctor.  I know there will be duds in the future, but there are also good stories too. 

Let us begin...

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Eleven For Eleven: The Eleven Worst Doctor Who Stories So Far

With The Day of The Doctor now officially reviewed, I have exactly 100 Doctor Who stories, Classic and NuWho, that I have written about.  With that in mind, I decided it would be good to pause and look over the Best of the Best.  Having done that, it is now time to turn our sad eyes to the cacophony of disasters that masquerade as 'quality television.  That's right, time to look at the Worst of the Worst, the Eleven Worst Doctor Who stories so far.

Now, first some ground rules.   This is not a Best or Worst Doctor Who Stories of All Time.  The stories covered are as follows: all Classic Doctor Who stories released on DVD in the United States from the First Doctor adventure An Unearthly Child to the Third Doctor story Terror of the Autons with the exception of The Tenth Planet (which was released too late for consideration) as well as the Fourth Doctor story The Sunmakers.  This list also includes all NuWho stories from the Ninth Doctor story Rose down to the Tenth Doctor adventure The Idiot's Lantern, as well as all Eleventh Doctor story from The Eleventh Hour to The Day of The Doctor.  Therefore, do not look for anything past the Third Doctor or most of the Tenth Doctor Era.  They just haven't been reviewed yet.

As for the reason I selected eleven rather than ten, while it's tempting to say it's one for each Doctor, the truth is that eleven stories so far have earned a perfect 10/10.  I didn't want to leave one out, so I opted for Eleven.  Therefore, we should then give equal time and look at our Bottom Ten. 

Other than that, I think we're ready.  Therefore, without further ado, the Bottom Eleven Doctor Who Stories so far, starting at Number 11.  I recommend reading this while listening to something like New Order's Blue Monday (one of the greatest songs ever written) or perhaps something from my favorite DJ, Andy Hunter (personal recommendations: On Automatic, Hold On, or Sandstorm Calling). 

Num. 11
The Vampires of Venice (11th Doctor)
Writer: Toby Whithouse

I had started out as a fan of Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor.  I even named my fantasy football team BowTiesAreCool.  There were a few off stories before The Vampires of Venice, but it wasn't until the fifth Eleventh Doctor story that I started to become disenchanted with Smith.  That disenchantment eventually grew to an almost pathological hatred for how much of an idiot the Eleventh Doctor was and my antipathy towards almost everything related to Matt Smith, Steven Moffat, and especially River Song (whom I first encountered in The Time of Angels Parts I & II) can really stem from this story.

First, they are NOT vampires.  Second, Smith's Doctor here really started becoming too stupid to believe.  He seemed unaware of what a bachelor party was or why a scantly-clad woman was doing in the box.  Then we get the aftereffects of Amy Pond's attempted rape of the Doctor (seriously, she all but tried to rape him, a most disturbing sight apart from River Song naked).  When an understandably upset Rory confronts the Doctor, asking if he kissed her back, he replies, "No, I kissed her mouth," apparently unaware that 'back' had another meaning apart from body parts.  The jokes about 'the Doctor's being bigger than (Rory's)' were not so much risqué but stupid, the story both predictable and repetitive of School Reunion (written by...Toby Whithouse!), and frankly, I did something I hadn't done while watching Doctor Who in a long time.

I rolled my eyes at the whole thing.

Num. 10
The Web Planet (1st Doctor)
Writer: Bill Strutton

I kept thinking that it was almost a contest to see just who could come up with more and more stupid aliens while watching The Web Planet.  At a shocking SIX episodes, a story too long by at least four episodes kept going down, down, and down, to where things were becoming too ridiculous to tolerate.

Apart from the fact that some of the plot points were similar to previous Doctor Who stories (and this when the show was still relatively new), we get some simply sad moments.  The most notorious moment in The Web Planet is when the Zarbi, the ant-like creatures threatening the moth-like Menoptra, crashes into the camera with such force that it not only jerks the camera violently (and visibly) but also makes an audible crash.  The creatures were so unbearably silly: the Menoptra with their whisper-like delivery, the chirping Zarbi, and then the ringleader who communicates by what First Doctor William Hartnell referred to in character as a 'hair dryer thing'.  We can't expect to take something seriously if the cast doesn't; then again, nothing could make The Web Planet a serious effort. 

It's painful to watch. 

Num. 9
Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS (11th Doctor)
Writer: Stephen Thompson

That big friendly button.  More than anything else, that 'big friendly button' damns Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS to being a lazy, even insulting Doctor Who story.  There is so much wrong within it I cannot imagine how anyone could think well of it.  The Doctor threatening to blow up people, then laughing it off as if nothing.  A human so stupid he was convinced he was a robot (let alone this playing little in the overall plot).  The Doctor forcing the 'cyborg's' brothers to basically play nice.  And those are the more simple parts of this disaster. 

You throw in this History of the Time War book within the TARDIS' library.  In it, Clara reads the Doctor's name.  This big galaxy-shattering secret, we are basically told, is available to anyone with a library card who can check out The History of the Time War.  The reasons for 'the Impossible Girl' are also kind of left hanging.  How ever will we get out of this?  Answer: the Big Friendly Button, which is indicative of the thinking behind Doctor Who now and the overall intelligence of the average NuWhovian.  You just reset everything and all is forgotten, problem fixed: Clara remembers nothing, things are now as they were before we started.  Now that we have a reset with The Day of the Doctor, how then does The History of the Time War book change?  Are we to believe we have a reset within a reset?

Num. 8
The Dominators (2nd Doctor)
Writer: Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln
(under alias Norman Ashby)

If memory serves correct, Doctor Who was on the verge of cancellation during the end of the Patrick Troughton era.  Given such stories as The Space Pirates and The Dominators, it's not surprising.  The Dominators is the best example one has on what NOT to do, which was to attempt to make a ready-made toy from a Doctor Who monster.  The Quarks, far from being the new Daleks, were a disaster.  They weren't menacing.  They were almost cuddly, and the high-pitched chirping they made didn't help.  That, as well as the fact that a child (who could easily fit inside a Quark) could outrun them, and whose heads were far too spiky to serve as good playthings.  Really, the Dominators themselves must have been incredibly stupid to rely on these cuddly little things to conquer the planet's inhabitants, even if they were the perfectly-named Dulcians.

The Dominators was meant to serve as allegory about the pacifism of the hippies, but the Dulcians, with their curtain-as-clothes flowing about them, and the Dominators, with shoulder pads that Joan Crawford would have beaten other children for, were equally stupid. Even the writers were embarrassed by it all, Lincoln bemoaning the fact that the superior The Web of Fear was mostly missing, but all five episodes of The Dominators was still around.*   The Dominators was such a disaster that even the production company knew it, cutting the planned six-part story down by one episode.  In a good turn, the extra episode freed up to create the utterly surreal opening to The Mind Robber, so at least one good thing came from it all.

Sadly, from here on down it's all Eleven Doctor stories. 

Num. 7
The Snowmen (11th Doctor)
Writer: Steven Moffat

It isn't the fact that The Snowmen leaves more questions than answers.  That I could live with.  It is the fact that The Snowmen does treat the audience like they were imbeciles and basically makes The Doctor a guest star on his own show (among other aspects) that makes this a horrid episode.

Let's go over some of the really bad things.  The same-sex bestiality of Silurian Madame Vastra and Jenny takes center stage.  They I think were in The Snowmen more than Matt Smith was (and since when was he ever friends with the likes of THEM?).  Moreover, the Doctor tended to defer to them.  The Sontaran Strax, who had been killed off in River's Secret Part I (A Good Man Goes to War) now not only reappears sans explanation (and no, webisodes do not count, not being Canon) but has forever made the once-mighty Sontarans into a source of bad comedy.  The villain of The Great Intelligence doesn't really live up to his name, and unless he intends to turn the whole earth into ice I don't see how snowmen will be much threat in the Amazon. 

Finally, what resolves this great crisis?  Is it something the Doctor thinks up?  Perish the thought, what kind of program do you think this is? Doctor Who?  No, it's TEARS, the tears of a clown...or rather, the magical nanny/bar-wench Clara that turn into acid rain that melts The Snowmen. 

Whoever wrote this really is a stupid man...

Num. 6
River's Secret Parts I & II
(A Good Man Goes to War/Let's Kill Hitler): 11th Doctor
Writer: Steven Moffat

I consider A Good Man Goes to War and Let's Kill Hitler one story which I have titled River's Secret Parts I & II.  I think it's a pretty accurate description given that River Song had at this point in Doctor Who had become the de facto star of the show, with the Doctor being a minor character there to serve her purposes (especially her perverse psychosexual appetites).  We get not one but TWO Doctor Who stories that center around this narcissistic, vain, gleefully murderous creature whom we kept getting told is "the great love of the Doctor's life".

Given the Doctor has travelled with Romana, Jo Grant, Sarah Jane Smith, and Leela of the Seveteem (among others), I find the idea that he could be attracted to someone as needy, intellectually inferior, and manipulative (not to mention, as unattractive) as River Song highly dubious.

A Good Man Goes to War is a horrid thing.  We get introduced to the same-sex bestiality of Silurian Madame Vastra and Jenny (who frankly, went unnoticed by me: I didn't even mention them in my review).  The Doctor is pulling a 'Coalition of the Willing' to help rescue Amy Pond, someone who frankly isn't worth rescuing.  Amy is such a terrible person: Rory, the man who genuinely loves her (God knows why), who has waited an eternity for her, basically gets told off when he meets HIS daughter.  Oh, no, she's going to be called Melody POND, not Melody Williams.  Why should Rory's daughter carry HIS name?

We then get the Big Reveal: River Song is Amy and Rory's DAUGHTER.  SHE is Melody Pond.  Isn't it obvious: Melody=Song, Pond=River.  Makes (no) sense to me.

As if all this is not nonsense enough, we get more appalling treats in Let's Kill Hitler.  Amy and Rory's lifelong friend Mels, who is always in some sort of trouble with the law, kidnaps the three of them and orders them to whisk her off to Nazi Germany to 'kill Hitler'.  No reason, she just felt like it.  Let's leave aside the fact that a.) Hitler plays no part in Let's Kill Hitler and b.) there really is no point to this particular episode other than to showcase Alex Kingston, we get the most amazingly dunderheaded moment in Doctor Who history: Mels, human, regenerates into, you guessed it, The Legendary Legend of Legendness, River Song!

Humans cannot regenerate.  This whole 'yes she can because she was conceived by the Power of the Holy TARDIS' nonsense should tell any thinking person the sheer stupidity of it all.  Then again, we're dealing with people who still yearn for the TARDIS to land in front of 221 B Baker Street, so the fans aren't great intellects.  Finally, if we accept that indeed, River Song CAN regenerate because Steven Moffat says she can...I mean, because her parents did the bump and grind in the TARDIS, it leaves the plot thread from Day of the Moon Part II (Day of the Moon) unanswered. 

How does a little girl who 'regenerated' in 1969/70 manage to grow up with people not born for another ten years in another continent altogether?

Num. 5
Cold War (11th Doctor)
Writer: Mark Gatiss

Never were Classic Doctor Who monsters so bastardized, bowdlerized, and simply dumbed down than the Ice Warriors were in Cold War.  Here, instead of the menacing but slightly lumbering creatures, they were turned into these vaguely-Alien types who were searching for Ripley to kill. 

Cold War had all the trapping of the dismal state of Doctor Who today: an idiot Doctor, a rushed pace that allows for little to no actual story to get in, plot points that make no sense (who was taking pictures inside a secret Soviet sub anyway), a monster that demanded our sympathy because he was 'the last of his kind' (echoing the more superior Ninth Doctor story Dalek) and a simply unforgiveable deus ex machina that resolved everything without the Doctor having to do anything.  As someone who loves the Ice Warriors, and who was thrilled to see them return, I finished Cold War in shaking fury at what Gatiss (self-proclaimed genius and second-rate Mycroft Holmes) had done to them.  I'm an honest man: I think well of both The Unquiet Dead and The Idiot's Lantern, but Cold War was simply sickening.  I would say Mark Gatiss should be horse-whipped for what he did, but I worry he might enjoy it.

Num. 4
The God Complex (11th Doctor)
Writer: Toby Whithouse

Really, what does anyone remember of The God Complex?  I remember things, but not for 'the right reasons'.  

I remember how The God Complex went out of its way to make Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor a barely functioning idiot.  Here is where I first fully noticed his penchant for referring to Amy and Rory as "The Ponds".  He, if I understand things, does not know that most women take their husband's last name upon marriage.  Granted, this is not always the case, but I don't know a case where the Husband takes the Wife's name.  NuWhovians who don't question things insist the Doctor called them "The Ponds" because he thought Amy was the more dominant of the two. 

Perhaps, but if is so why does he call Rory's father Brian William "Brian Pond" in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship (forcing Rory's dad to tell the Doctor, 'I am NOT a Pond').  Am I suppose to believe that Amy is so dominant that she made her father-in-law change HIS name too?  I think not, and the nasty habit of the NuWhovians to call them "the Ponds" rather than "the Williamses" came from this.  The God Complex clearly shows the Doctor to be stupid.  There is no way around it.

Even worse, The God Complex kills off the best chance at a REAL Companion (Amara Kara's Muslim medical student Rita) because she cannot face her greatest fear.  And what is her greatest fear, that fear that will kill her?  Her father's disapproval.  Frankly, this seems to heap insult to injury.  I wish they had killed off Amy and Rory (again) and the Doctor take on Rita as a Companion.  She made better Companion material than either of 'the Ponds'. 

Num. 3
The Curse of the Black Spot (11th Doctor)
Writer: Stephen Thompson

Oh, look, a cheap knock-off of Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl.  How clever.  Is it its derivative nature that curses The Curse of the Black Spot?  Is it the fact that Rory Dies Again (the beginning of Rory as Kenny to where it quickly devolved into a pathetic joke)?   Is it the fact that the Doctor is still an idiot who appears unaware of his surroundings?  Maybe its super-speed pacing that never allows for any character development of anyone, leads or guests. How about the fact that the Siren shares similarities to The Empty Child Parts I & II (The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances)?

Well, it's all that and so much more.  The story is boring and nonsensical.  Attempts at both humor and heartfelt fall so totally flat.  Frankly, The Curse of The Black Spot was a waste of everyone's time and talent, to where I simply cannot recall anything other than contempt for it. 

Num. 2
Nightmare in Silver (11th Doctor)
Writer: Neil Gaiman
At least this much is true about Nightmare in Silver: it lived up to its title.  Just as I was furious at the disaster Cold War made of the Ice Warriors, Nightmare in Silver not only made a disaster of the Cybermen, but it couldn't even keep continuity WITHIN ITS OWN EPISODE.

These are suppose to be upgraded Cybermen, capable of super-speed.  That super-speed is used exactly once, to spirit away one of the two most annoying child actors to disgrace the screen.  It is wrong when you are actually rooting for the Cybermen to kill off children, but these two were so horrible (both in terms of performance and character) that getting rid of them would have been an act of mercy.  It also gets to where Matt Smith's Idiot Doctor remains Idiot even while under the Cyber-Controller's control.  Seriously, "Mr. Clever"?  That's something Smith's Doctor would say, NOT the Cyber-Controller.

Rushing through this fiasco we get things that don't make sense (why doesn't the secret Emperor just order the destruction of this amusement park in the beginning? why are there troops patrolling a planet long thought abandoned?) and that are a cheat to the audience (when would we have known that Porridge looked like the Emperor's coins when we were never shown the coins or when the figures looked nothing like him?). 

It's hard to get any lower than The Doctor, once the figure of strength, courage, and intellectual prowess, jumping up and down screaming about his 'Golden Ticket'. 

However, despite their worst efforts, Doctor Who has found something more appallingly bad than Nightmare in Silver. 

The Worst Doctor Who Story So Far Is...

Num. 1
Closing Time (11th Doctor)
Writer: Gareth Roberts
I simply despised every single moment of Closing Time, starting with the always hideous and thoroughly untalented James Corden as roly-poly Craig Owens (Tony Award be damned).  If I truly believe the Doctor was making this 'Farewell Tour', why would he, someone who can travel through all time and space, out of all the beings he's known, visit THIS fat lunkhead?

It just isn't the return of a simply annoying character that makes Closing Time so hideous.  It's the nadir of the "The Doctor is thoroughly stupid" mentality.  He finds name tags fascinating, especially since they carry the name of "The Doctor".  His name tag says "The Doctor".  THIS is considered clever. 

Closing Time also undercuts the premise it attempts to hold up.  Everyone around roly-poly Craig Owens' life tells him he's too stupid to take care of his illegitimate son, and he's determined to prove everyone wrong.  How does he do this?  By taking his baby to confront Cybermen AND by handing his child to a perfect stranger as he runs off to join the Doctor. 

Nothing stupid there.

We get more grotesque and sickening moments with the Doctor in Closing Time.  The Doctor 'talks baby' (did Roberts steal this idea from Baby Geniuses?).  The bastard Alfie, according to The Doctor, calls himself 'Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All', though we never fully learn WHY a baby would adopt such a stupid name.  We get the Doctor suggesting that he is in love with roly-poly Craig Owens, and more 'people think we're homosexual lovers, isn't that FUNNY' business that would have been pretty dumb in the 1970s, let alone today where same-sex marriage is becoming more commonplace. 

However, what truly makes Closing Time the WORST Doctor Who story so far is five little words:

"I blew'em up with love".

How I hated Closing Time, the Worst Doctor Who story so far.

Now we're on our way to the Next 100. 

The next Classic Who story is the Third Doctor story The Mind of Evil.
The next NuWho story is the Tenth Doctor two-part story The Impossible Planet Parts I & II (The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit).
The next Eleventh Doctor story is The Time of the Doctor.

May I find some true pearls and quickly dump the pits.

* Since the DVD release of The Dominators, four of the five missing episodes of The Web of Fear were rediscovered, and thus we can have a restoration of both the story...and  Haisman and Lincoln's reputations. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Eleven For Eleven: The Eleven Best Doctor Who Stories So Far

With The Day of The Doctor now officially reviewed, I have exactly 100 Doctor Who stories, Classic and NuWho, that I have written about.  With that in mind, I decided it would be good to pause and look over the Best of the Best.  Of course, I'll also have the Worst of the Worst, but for now, let's take a look at what we've done and select the Eleven Best Doctor Who stories so far.

Now, first some ground rules.   This is not a Best or Worst Doctor Who Stories of All Time.  The stories covered are as follows: all Classic Doctor Who stories released on DVD in the United States from the First Doctor adventure An Unearthly Child to the Third Doctor story Terror of the Autons with the exception of The Tenth Planet (which was released too late for consideration) as well as the Fourth Doctor story The Sunmakers.  This list also includes all NuWho stories from the Ninth Doctor story Rose down to the Tenth Doctor adventure The Idiot's Lantern, as well as all Eleventh Doctor story from The Eleventh Hour to The Day of The Doctor.  Therefore, do not look for anything past the Third Doctor or most of the Tenth Doctor Era.  They just haven't been reviewed yet.

As for the reason I selected eleven rather than ten, while it's tempting to say it's one for each Doctor, the truth is that eleven stories so far have earned a perfect 10/10.  I didn't want to leave one out, so I opted for Eleven.  Other than that, I think we're ready.  Therefore, without further ado, the Top Eleven Doctor Who Stories so far, starting at Number 11. I recommend reading this while listening to something like New Order's Blue Monday (one of the greatest songs ever written) or perhaps something from my favorite DJ, Andy Hunter (personal recommendations: On Automatic, Hold On, or Sandstorm Calling). 

Num. 11
The Ice Warriors (2nd Doctor)
Writer: Brian Hayles

The Ice Warriors have not been in many Doctor Who stories.  The time period between their last appearance in The Monster of Peladon and their return in Cold War was thirty-nine years.  However, they could have had a better debut story.  While The Ice Warriors is a long story (at six episodes, about two and a half hours long), it never slacks off in pacing.  The villains are intimidating with their slow serpent-like speech, and each cliffhanger works to build the tension of how our characters will get out of things.   

The Ice Warriors does what good Doctor Who has excelled at: it creates a memorable villain, it gives the characters dangerous situations, and most importantly, it keeps the violence to as little as possible and no overt violence from the title character.  The Doctor has to think his way out of things, and here, the triumph of intellect makes it all the more pleasant.

Num. 10
The Unquiet Dead (9th Doctor)
Writer: Mark Gatiss

Sometimes a simply great performance pushes an individual story higher.  The best example I can think of is Simon Callow as Charles Dickens in The Unquiet Dead.  Callow owns the role of the great writer, but what made The Unquiet Dead work (among other things) was that Dickens wasn't just there to lend color.  Dickens, instead, was a central and important character to solve the mystery of The Gelth, who go from almost innocent to malevolent within the hour.  The images of the reanimated dead and the Christmas setting of Victorian Cardiff (why Cardiff, I wonder) also work well.

Finally, I think this is where Christopher Eccleston had some levity to his interpretation of a darker Doctor.  As the lone survivor of The Time War, who had to destroy Gallifrey to save the universe, he could be rather morose.  However, here the Ninth was allowed some enthusiasm for Charles Dickens, and Billie Piper's Rose Tyler had that mix of empathy, vulnerability, enthusiasm and strength that started her out as a Great Companion. 

Sadly, The Unquiet Dead is the only NuWho story to make the list (and as sidenote, I imagine some of my acquaintances will be livid about this ranking).

Num. 9
The Evil of The Daleks (2nd Doctor)
Writer: David Whitaker

It is simply horrifying that perhaps the greatest Dalek story in Doctor Who has only one surviving episode.  Yet it is a testament to the power of The Evil of the Daleks that despite this, it has rarely failed to rank among the Greatest Doctor Who stories of All Time (and certainly here on this list, it won't go missing). 

The Evil of the Daleks gives us great moments of sheer tension (will the Doctor be forced to help the Daleks?) and destruction.  In the final episode, as the insane scientist/collaborator Maxible continues his mad quest for Dalek domination, the chaotic disintegration of the Dalek order (a virtual civil war with the Dalek Emperor thrown into confusion himself) instigated by the Doctor must have been a wild and brilliant 'final end' to the Daleks.  Of course, they would return, but as it stands, the story itself holds up brilliantly, and perhaps in the due course of time a full animated reconstruction will come about.

Num. 8
The Mind Robber (2nd Doctor)
Writer: Peter Ling

The Mind Robber is without doubt the most surreal Doctor Who story in both the Classic and NuWho.  Its first episode is filled with simply bizarre moments where the TARDIS and the crew are eventually swept into the Land of Fiction ruled over by The Master of Fiction.  Even at its most bizarre there is a logic that goes with it. 

You get literary characters, you get a somewhat mad world where anything is possible (see Jamie change faces!)  Even this twist of basically having TWO Jamies work within the simply way-out plot of The Mind Robber, and the fact that Doctor Who took this offbeat turn AND MADE IT WORK elevates this adventure to among simply the most inventive, creative, and brilliant stories in the Canon.  Sadly, they didn't take many more chances like they did with The Mind Robber, which is a real shame given the overall premise of the show itself (the being who can travel in time AND space).

Num. 7
The Seeds of Death (2nd Doctor)
Writer: Brian Hayles

Like The Godfather Part II is a better film than the already brilliant The Godfather, so The Seeds of Death is a better story than the Ice Warriors' eponymous debut.  We get a clever story involving the high dependence on technology and how it can be ruthlessly used by these evil forces of the Ice Warriors.  We also get simply thrilling moments (such as the cliffhanger when Zoe is without a doubt going to get killed by the Ice Warriors), and throw in some beautiful looking cinematography and it isn't hard to imagine that The Seeds of Death could work as a feature film.

The pacing was great, the story never flagged.  This is especially noteworthy in that The Seeds of Death is a six-part adventures, and those tend to feel stretched out.  However, The Seeds of Death kept building and building on what had come before, and the Ice Warriors felt more menacing and dangerous than in The Ice WarriorsThe Seeds of Death moved quickly, making each turn more intense. 

Num. 6
Doctor Who and The Silurians (3rd Doctor)
Writer: Malcolm Hulke

This is the only Doctor Who story to feature "Doctor Who" in the title.  While NuWho has had stories that had "The Doctor" as part of the title (The Doctor's Wife, The Doctor's Daughter, The Day/Time/Name of The Doctor), none used the 'Who' except for Doctor Who & The Silurians.  From what I understand, that was a production error.  Still, whether Doctor Who & The Silurians or just The Silurians, only the second Third Doctor story, astonishes in its intelligence and subliminal messages.

In this the debut story for the Silurians, we get an intelligent allegory about preemptive war, the fear of 'the other', and how both sides can have elements that want to destroy rather than understand 'the enemy'.  Doctor Who & The Silurians was meant, I understand, as allegory for the Cold War, but more than that, the struggle between the worldviews of The Doctor and his best friend the Brigadier comes into sharp contrast.  What I really respected in The Silurians was that the Brigadier was not painted as evil, which would have been easy given his actions.  Instead, it was motivated by a sense of protection, but it doesn't stop the Doctor from calling it murder. 

Num. 5
The Time Meddler (1st Doctor)
Writer: Dennis Spooner

In many ways, The Time Meddler is a lighter story, but interesting in that rather than attempting to change history, the Doctor is attempting to keep history as is.  The Time Meddler is the first time we see another of the Doctor's own people (though the term Time Lord had not been invented yet), and it also has a villain that is less malevolent and more childishly reckless than anything else.  The Meddling Monk did not mean to create chaos, but he wasn't above doing so if it amused him.

This is another story where the pacing pushes forward, where bits of humor are allowed to enter (as when the Doctor tells an incredulous Steven Taylor when the latter refuses to believe the Viking headgear they found is genuine, 'What do you think it is, a space helmet for a cow?), brilliant and shocking cliffhangers (The Monk's got a TARDIS!) and which has one of the best endings in all Doctor Who: the three leads virtually becoming a constellation, heading off to new adventures.  A clever balance of comedy, drama, adventure, and a great turn by Peter Butterworth as one of the All Time Great Villains, The Meddling Monk: part clown, part menace, all excellent.

Num. 4
Inferno (3rd Doctor)
Writer: Doug Houghton

"Do you hear that?  That's the sound of the Earth screaming out its rage!"  The Third Doctor era was not afraid of tackling current issues in the guise of science-fiction, and Inferno looked at the uncontrolled use of natural resources and their potential impact on humanity.  However, Inferno gave the team both in front of and behind the camera a chance to create an alternate world where among the shocking things was the fact that The Doctor DIDN'T save the day.

The first Doctor Who story to use the parallel universe plot, the Doctor is caught up in a world where those he knows and loves are not themselves.  Inferno allowed the regular cast (Nicholas Courtney's the Brigadier, Caroline John's Liz Shaw, and John Levene's Sergeant Benton) a chance to play frightening versions of themselves.  We get two versions of the same story going on at almost the same time, heightening the tension of whether the Doctor can do anything to prevent both worlds from collapsing.  However, in the end we see that the Doctor and the Brigadier, friends to the end, are allowed a moment of levity to bring down the tension this six-part story created over all that time.

Num. 3
The Aztecs (1st Doctor)
Writer: John Lucarotti

"You can't rewrite history.  Not One Line!" How one longs for a time when such a thing was possible, rather than have the constant 'rebooting' that NuWho specializes in.   The Aztecs, the first historical Doctor Who still surviving, is a four-part breathless exercise in intelligence about the morality of imposing one set of values over another merely because one group sees the other's actions as evil or immoral.

There is simply so much brilliance in The Aztecs.  The best decision in The Aztecs is to make Jacqueline Hill's Barbara Wright the central character. As the history teacher, she would know more about Aztec culture than the others, but she also represents the Western idea that the European (or later on, the American) view that she could improve on their society.  Rather than use her influence to bring about slow change, Barbara decides human sacrifices must go in one fell swoop, endangering them all.  Apart from the questions of culture clash, we get some simply extraordinary sets and costumes, the likes of which we would not see again on Doctor Who.  Even with all the budget NuWho has, sometimes the surroundings look like they are from a studio.  The Aztecs looks stunningly authentic.  We even get a little romance on the show.  Long before Ten and Rose, we had One and Cameca.

Num. 2
Spearhead From Space (3rd Doctor)
Writer: Robert Holmes

There is something to be said about economy on Doctor WhoSpearhead From Space, the debut story for the Third Doctor, is I think the greatest debut story of any Doctor (sorry, Peter Capaldi).  It is the first Doctor Who story to be filmed in color, and literally filmed (as opposed to television recording, due to a strike).

Here we get a story by the great Robert Holmes, who is the best Doctor Who writer ever (not sorry, Steven Moffat).  As the Doctor struggles to recover from his latest regeneration, we get the invasion of the Autons (who curiously would be the first monsters in the revived Doctor Who).  The parallel stories of the Doctor's recovery and the invasion come to a head in the terrifying Episode Four.  It was actually quite economical: we don't see much in terms of when the plastic Autons come to life.  However, as they start marching through the city, killing civilians where they stand, I found it, even at my age, quite chilling.  If I had been a child, this would have had me completely behind the sofa.

And now, the Best Doctor Who story of the 100 stories reviewed so far is...

Num. 1
The Tomb of the Cybermen (2nd Doctor)
Writers: Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis

The Cybermen have been hit and miss throughout Doctor Who's history, but when they are good they are frightening beyond anything imaginable.  The Tomb of the Cybermen, I think, is there finest hour.  Drawing from The Mummy, we get a revived group determined to use those foolish enough to attempt to control the Cybermen themselves. 

The Tomb of the Cybermen has moments of tension and suspense but it also has a few moments of comedy.  It moves rapidly, never letting up on the thrills of these dangerous foes are placing on the Doctor and those dumb enough to ignore his warnings.  I think what really stands out in Tomb of the Cybermen (apart from the acting, the story, the pacing, and even the sets) is that it takes the Cybermen seriously as a threat.  Sometimes the villains, even the great ones like The Master or the Daleks, can look silly if not downright stupid.  The Cybermen have not escaped this, but in Tomb of the Cybermen, they are the villains to fear. 

Now, of course, we must turn to the Eleven Worst Doctor Who stories so far.  As for the continuation, we have three Doctors to balance. 

The next Third Doctor story is The Mind of Evil in the Classic Who series.
The next Tenth Doctor story is The Impossible Planet Parts I & II (The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit) in the Revived Who series.
The next Eleventh Doctor story is The Time of The Doctor, which will usher in the Peter Capalid Era, but as to whether he will be the 12th, 13th, or maybe even 1.2 Doctor, that remains to be seen. 

The End of Episode One of The Mind Robber

Simply the most beautiful shot in the entirety of Doctor Who...