Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Special Announcement Part 2

Well, we're back to schoolbooks.

It's the first day of Spring 2015 at UNT, and thus, it will cut back considerably in terms of postings, hence my mad rush to publish as much as I could before now.

Like last year, I will be posting, but it will not be as frenetic as it has been in the past few weeks.   Some semesters have been relatively easy.  Some have been extremely tough.  I have no idea which one I will have.

Personally, I dislike going through all this.  School gets in the way of more important things (J/K).  I hope to be able to put in a few, but for anyone keeping up with Gallifrey Exile or my sister site Rick's Café Texan, I may be silent for a few days or even weeks. 

I shall be back, but I think it's fair to let people know the truth rather than think I'll be gone.

Hope to be back very, very soon. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Ten Things I Hate About Who. Number Ten: Vulgarity and Silliness

I have made no effort to disguise my growing disdain for NuWho.  I was concerned I was speaking to an empty theater so to speak, but to quote the Face of Boe, "You are not alone".  On one of the Facebook pages I belong to (Classic Doctor Who Fans Who Dislike New Who), I have come across a series of thoughts by Mr. Paul Berry.  We in the group were so genuinely impressed by his series that I urged him to publish them. 

Ethan White of Sixstanger00 has requested permission to upload them on his YouTube page.  I don't know if Mr. Berry has but hope he does.  I for my part asked for permission to reprint them on this site. 

For this essay, I have added all pictures save the first, which was part of the original essay.

Mr. Berry has graciously allowed me to republish them as he posts them, and here is the tenth and final of a ten-essay series.  It is reprinted as written with the content exactly as it appears. The only alterations made are for any grammatical/spelling errors, spacing for paragraphs, and perhaps a few afterthoughts which will be noted after the photos.

I hope readers enjoy and share them.  I also hope readers will debate these matters, for I believe in a healthy debate.  However, I find Mr. Berry's comments and thoughts quite well-thought out and worthy of a greater audience. 

With that, I present Part Ten of this series: 10 Things I Hate About New Who


Okay I admit I've shoehorned two reasons into this the last of my posts, but as one story in particular closely connects both issues, I hope you'll excuse me.

I must confess I've never liked Doctor Who when it gets silly. That's not to say it can't have humour or be fun, but when it crosses the line into puerile frivolity it just doesn't work for me. The Classic series was not exempt from silliness: the Graham Williams era when Tom Baker began to get much more control over things often veered in that direction, and as a 12 year old I was mortified by some of the early McCoy stuff, in particular The Rani dressing up as Mel and Richard Briers doing a pantomime turn as the Chief Caretaker amongst other examples.

The loss of Power of the Daleks from the BBC archives perhaps spares us from some of the 2nd Doctor's more outlandish moments. Would this classic be undermined for instance by a moment not recorded in any telesnap, where the Doctor apparently gets up from a chair and walks off with it still attached to his behind? Generally speaking though, despite going through its camp periods, Classic Who nearly always realised it was a mistake and pulled itself together. The camp/silly periods were but but blips in the show's 26 year history.

Not so for the new series, where silliness seemed to be part of the show's remit from Day 1. No longer something to be embarrassed about or shied away from it has carried all the way through the show's 21st century incarnation. The modern version of Doctor Who to my mind has never had a prolonged period where it has been played straight.

What do I mean by silliness?, Some would argue that Doctor Who by its nature is silly and indeed there is a large subculture of fans who revel in the camp elements of the series. But going back to what I said in one of my previous posts, to suspend my disbelief I have to believe in what is going on and any silliness usually undercuts that. It is a fine line between what is acceptable and what is ridiculous, but can anyone argue that Christopher Eccleston's first episode was not irrevocably tainted by that awful burping bin idea? I remember thinking at the time I hope to God that was a one-off; sadly it wasn't and there were plenty more such moments to come.

Only 4 episodes in I was literally astounded by the two part Slitheen story where depths were plumbed which made all the criticism that had been levelled at stories like The Happiness Patrol seem minor in comparison. After going to great pains to point how that Doctor Who in the 21st century to quote Davies was being approached as full blooded drama, this was Doctor Who as send-up. The baby faced flatulent Slitheen being the sort of thing that would have once cropped up in a Lenny Henry or French and Saunders sketch parodying the show.

The Slithheen bring me neatly to my other point. You could once rely on Doctor Who being a clean cut show for the family, I don't think toilet level humour ever occurred in Classic Who. In short the series was tasteful well-mannered entertainment, the sort of thing the BBC name was once synonomous with. Crude vulgarity was just another bad aspect Russell T Davies brought to the show in his attempt to update the show.

The farting was but the first instance, another episode presented us with a lovely visualisation of frozen vomit; there was then the silly scene of Captain Jack having a laser pistol hidden up his behind which if RTD had gotten his way would have also given us a shot of John Barrowman's bum on prime time BBC1.

The following year brought us jokes about the Doctor's genitilia, rather inappropriate humour about the Royal Family and a tasteless inference of oral sex. To my mind all this stuff cheapens and taints the show and lowers it to the level of an Austin Powers movie.

The Matt Smith Era has seen this level of puerile silliness go into overdrive. We have now been subjected to the supposedly hilarious idea of the Doctor being naked 3 times, once hiding under a dress, then stripping for Comic Relief, and finally that lamentable scene in The Time of the Doctor with all that nonsense about holographic clothes.

It's almost at times as if Moffat is being deliberately iconoclastic. That he is supposedly a fan and has any respect for the integrity of a 50 year old character I find hard to believe.

The silly "Doctor Who?" joke seems to recur numerous times in the new series, particularly in the Moffat era, it as if he's trying to justify the name of the show to himself. The scene in Asylum of the Daleks with the Daleks saying "Doctor Who?" over and over and then the Doctor dancing around the TARDIS repeating it was positively embarrassing to watch.

There's also the sheer childishness of the 11th Doctor's Dr. Doolittle abilities as he chatted to a transgender horse. Of course any chance there is to get a gay or sexual joke in there Moffat and Davies are straight in (no pun intended: RA).

I could go on but it is almost impossible to watch Doctor Who these days without a story being blighted by these things, even some of the better episodes. Even though the new series has had moments of drama, it is to the side of frivolity that the programme inevitably leans. Since 2005 it would be fair to say Doctor Who has been afraid to take itself very seriously.

So that's my 10, I could probably think of another 10 but I'm going to leave it open to anyone else if they want to continue on from where I've left off. I have to say these posts have allowed me to get something off my chest which has been bothering me for a long time and I am heartened to see many of you have been in agreement with me about my misgivings . I am a lifelong fan of Doctor Who that no longer watches the series. It's a strange situation to be in and I feel cheated and robbed in a way.

I strongly believe that between them Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat have perverted a great sci fi icon into something cheap, crass and puerile. I have tried to like the new series, time after time I have tried to make excuses for it and forget the mistakes of the past and give it another chance but every time it lets me down. New Doctor Who leaves me feeling angry and mockingly contemptuous, rather than the comfortable feeling of nostalgia I get from the classic series.

I appreciate the show has to change and evolve. I never wanted a carbon copy of the Classic series. I believe we could have had an updated Doctor Who that was relevant to the 21st century and was actually good. Occasionally I have seen glimpses of this in the new series but it has never been capitalised on or sustained. A good percentage of the changes Davies and Moffat have brought to the show have been to its detriment.

It is now nigh on 10 years since Doctor Who returned and it should have been a cause for celebration. Instead I can only look back on 10 years of disapointment, failed potential and on how I became shut out of a show that had been such a big part of my life. Compared to the achievements of those original first ten years, I honestly feel the show has moved on very little from that first episode in 2005.

It's like the series is stuck in Groundhog Day or as Doctor Who would call it a Chronic Hysteresis and to paraphrase Romana... I dont think it'll ever get out of it.

I remember watching from Rose to The Impossible Planet Parts 1 & 2 (Impossible Planet/Satan Pit) and being like many NuWhovians.  This is the GREATEST Doctor Who episode of ALL TIME!  NO, they've done one BETTER!  My enthusiasm for the show grew and grew.

Then came Love & Monsters, and I was left quite literally speechless, stunned at the freakshow I had seen and worse, growing with a shaking fury the more I thought on it.  I was so appalled at the end of it that I refused to watch Fear Her because the trailer became tainted by mere association with that horror.  I was so enraged and disgusted I quit watching Doctor Who then and there.  For full disclosure I did watch Doomsday Parts 1 & 2 (Army of Ghosts/Doomsday) but only to show my friend Fidel Gomez, Jr. (who may or may not be dead) the Daleks and Cybermen. 

He found the whole thing hilarious.  I found it sad and pointless.

It wasn't until The Eleventh Hour that I came back to Who and give it a second chance, and while I do still watch Doctor Who, it is almost with no sense of pleasure, seeing it as being determined to divorce itself from the first 26 years to concentrate on its first nine.  I am extremely close to saying that, despite the "50th" Anniversary Special and the efforts to make NuWho tie in with Classic Who, the revived Doctor Who has nothing to do with what came between An Unearthly Child and Survival

Mind you, this is coming from the fact that the end of Love & Monsters left me a bit puzzled.  "What kind of love life could they possibly have?" I asked myself at the end.  Put it to my naïvete, but I didn't get the 'love life' bit, at least at first.  When, after some thought (seriously, I had to think about what kind of love life Elton and Linda could be capable of), my reaction was "Eww!" 

Russell T Davies says he's shocked, SHOCKED that anyone would think oral sex was going on in here.

Sure, Davies NEVER meant to suggest oral sex.  No doubt about it.  In fact, I bet Davies is still a virgin who has never gone cruising and that Queer as Folk just sprung from someone else's imagination and has nothing to do with Davies or his past (real or imagined). 

I hate Love & Monsters for many reasons (a bad monster, terrible acting, deliberate mocking of the Doctor Who fanbase, almost cartoonish chase scenes, an almost brutal manner with the characters, nonsensical characters to begin with).  The "not oral sex" joke, which for better or worse went over my head, was the most disgusting thing of a disgusting episode. 

Of course, little did I know that Steven Moffat would manage to outdo Love & Monsters.

Here, Barry and I are in total accord.  What is it with all of Moffat's "Doctor Who?" jokes?  I have nothing against this.  The Classic Era had some fun on occasion with "Doctor Who?", like in The Gunfighters or The Five Doctors.  However, the few times "Doctor Who?" was used in the original was few and far between.  NuWho has an almost pathological obsession with it, and like any joke, it's gotten stale with every passing use. 

To quote the great Morrissey, That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore
To quote Frozen, Let It Go.

This is the thing Moffat and the Moffia simply don't get.  You can't take something seriously if the characters can't take it seriously.  Doctor Who is a science-fiction program, not a fantasy program.  The Librarians is a fantasy program, so all sorts of outlandish things can happen because we are not in a 'real' world (for example, Santa Claus appearing).  Doctor Who, for its part, has to be grounded in some sort of reality, otherwise it's just idiotic (for example, Santa Claus appearing). 

Why fans enjoy "Doctor Who?" or the Doctor 'speaking horse', let alone think that the Doctor would come out in favor of same-sex horse marriages, is clever or some sign of genius I genuinely have no idea.

Doctor Who 2.0 is dying.  It is a bad show, too wrapped up in it own faux-mythology to be any good as solid science-fiction.  People may love it, but they also have an affinity for things like Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Adam Sandler movies.  Does that make them 'quality' too?  Popularity and quality are not always the same.  It's clear that Steven Moffat, self-delusional 'genius' is at the heart of all Doctor Who's problems.  If he remains stubborn and is allowed to hold on to power, then the brilliant work that has come before, and that includes the revived Doctor Who, will all be shambles, sacrificed at the altar of a raging egomaniac who is surrounded by sycophants and nitwits.



Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Nightmare Before Christmas of The Doctor


We've had Doctor Who Christmas specials for what, eight years now.  Apart from a reference in The Feast of Steven episode in The Daleks' Master Plan, I don't think Christmas was a large part of the Doctor Who mythos in the Classic Era.  Now, however, we live in a new world, where NuWho feels compelled to create a story every December 25th that will tie in some way to the season's festivities (with the exclusion of course of any mention of or reference to Jesus Christ, a figure which has absolutely NOTHING to do with Christmas and which would be too offensive for Christmastime viewing since people don't want 'religion' during Christmas).

Last Christmas, the most recent Doctor Who Christmas special, as a story is very easy to sum up.

Last Christmas is Alien meets The Thing with an extremely heavy dose of Inception and a pinch of Miracle on 34th Street put into the Doctor Who blender.   Do we really need to waste time on a recap when the above description pretty much covers all the bases?  Oh, very well...

Clara (Jenna Coleman) finds herself meeting Santa Claus himself (Nick Frost) and two of his elves on her rooftop, with Kris Kringle dropping tangerines all over the place.  She isn't all that fazed by it, but having travelled with The Doctor for what appears to be millennia one can't blame her for being a bit nonchalant about the whole thing.  The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) whisks her away to The North Pole.  There is a base there, and it's under siege.  There are four people at the North Pole: Shona (Faye Marsay), Ashley (Natalie Gumede), Fiona (Maureen Beattie), and Professor Smithe (Michael Troughton).  They are menaced by beings not dissimilar to the Face Huggers of Alien (which The Doctor claims to have never heard of, sharply remarking that the use of Alien is probably the reason Earth keeps getting invaded).  The Doctor and Clara arrive just as these creatures, known throughout the galaxy as Dream Crabs, are attacking.

To the rescue comes Santa and his elves, who now must join forces to fight these otherworldly beings.  The Doctor knows that the Dream Crabs induce dreams that appear real and wonderful, but that this is really a form of anesthetic to lull the victims until they are dead.  Into this state Clara enters, finding herself once again with Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson), which she believes to be real (despite herself).  The Doctor goes in to rescue her at risk to himself, convincing her that, in the words of Dallas, "it was all a dream".

However, there is still more nefarious work about.  Once The Doctor pulls Clara out of her dream state, he realizes they are in a dream-within-a-dream (a completely original Steven Moffat idea which has never been used before in the history of film or television).  Now he must work out how to get out of the dream-within-a-dream, with a little from Father Christmas. 

At the end we find that the appearance of Santa Claus itself is connected to being in a dreamworld, and that the three survivors (the bad Professor having woken up dead, we're told).  Santa is not real, but the fact Santa isn't real allows them to escape the Dream Crabs on his sleigh.  The three women all wake up in their own worlds, with Shona looking up her list to see that her own dream matched so much of what was going on (minus the Game of Thrones marathon).  Thanks to them waking up, the Dream Crabs die.  The Doctor goes to Clara, only to find that she has aged 66 years. 

In what appears to be a beautiful reunion, but Santa popping up alerts the Doctor that he's in a dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream.  He awakens, rushes to save Clara in the present day, who agrees to keep travelling on with the Doctor.  Things appear to be as they should, though outside Clara's window, a tangerine lays...

For those at home keeping score, I count four dreams: Clara's dream of Danny, the group dream involving Santa, the group's dream OF the dream involving Santa, and the Doctor's dream of Old Clara.  Honestly though, I might have missed one.  For me, this entire idea was one dream too many.  It's another effort to make things more 'complex' but sometimes, Moffat should not gild the lily when he's given the opportunity. 

What can I really say about Last Christmas?  A bit illogical?  Yes (all those dreams, the Doctor flying Santa's sleigh because it makes for a 'Christmasy image').  Repetitive of other Doctor Who stories?  Yes (Santa sending the Dream Crabs to bed was not unlike the Ninth Doctor telling the children to "go to your room" from Moffat's own The Empty Child Parts 1 & 2, the 'judge what is real and what isn't' might have made us call this episode Clara's Choice, and Clara's speech about not marrying despite proposals due to a man she was with being 'impossible', well, let's just summon Sarah Jane Smith in School Reunion).  And that isn't even going into how Last Christmas so nakedly steals from Alien/Inception/The Thing/Miracle on 34th Street.  Moffat may acknowledge Last Christmas was inspired by those (except for Inception), but there's a difference between homage and rip-off. 

I leave it to you to decide which one Last Christmas was.

One of my correspondents on Facebook observed that Doctor Who doesn't have actual Christmas stories but either previously-seen stories set AT Christmas but with little to nothing to do WITH Christmas or Christmas stories adapted for Doctor Who.  There was Doctor Who Meets The Poseidon Adventure (Voyage of the Damned).  We've had A Christmas Carol (which followed Dickens' story beat for beat), The Doctor, The Widow, and The Wardrobe (which if not a strict interpretation of C.S. Lewis' work a remarkable facsimile thereof), The Time of The Doctor (a variation of It's A Wonderful Life, perhaps), The Snowmen (a retelling of the children's book The Snowman, if the TARDIS wiki page is to be believed) and now Last Christmas.

Perhaps this is to say that Christmas really has no purpose in Doctor Who (as Last Christmas could have been set outside Christmas without affecting the plot).  Perhaps this is to say that Doctor Who is a show running on its legacy as opposed to its originality (in other words, it's out of ideas and resorting to remakes to keep going). 

Last Christmas is suppose to be a dream, or a dream-within-a-dream or whatever, but perhaps it is just me, but my own dreams aren't as conventional as the ones within Last Christmas.   Dreams are a place where all sorts of things, however illogical, can take place, because dreams have their own logic.  Last Christmas' dreams-within-dreams-within-dreams-within-dreams weren't all that clever or original.

How many times has there been a 'base under siege' story in Doctor Who?

Now, like all good Moffat stories, when you think about it, doesn't make sense.  IF we are to believe what we see, Shona's dreams came from her Christmas watching of Alien and The Thing From Another World plus Miracle on 34th Street (the first two odd choices in and themselves for Christmas, but I wondered why she would choose to watch the Howard Hawks 1951 version rather than the John Carpenter 1982 remake, one of the few to be the equal of if not superior to the original. So long as she watched the 1947 Miracle on 34th Street and not the crappy remake with Sir Dickie in it, but I digress...).   HOWEVER, one can ask, WHY HER?  WHY THEM?  Why were these particular people the ones the Dream Crabs went after?  Why have them share the same dream?  I figure the Dream Crabs have some kind of herd mentality on these matters, but if the Doctor was the first one infected, where did he dig up Shona?

Allow for a slight digression.  Shona referred to The Doctor as a 'magician'.  It's already known that the Season Nine episode is titled The Magician's Apprentice.  Steven Moffat is not known for subtlety.  Will Shona make a return? 

I sincerely hope not (though I wouldn't put it past him).  Already calls for Shona to be the next Companion (which shows the total lack of imagination among NuWhovians, who keep picking the same types: 21st Century British women as Companions).  However, given how Moffat always goes for a complex and convoluted answer when an easy answer would be better, I would not be surprised to imagine Shona (whose opening scene was to dance into the infirmary in the manner of Star-Lord in the opening of Guardians of the Galaxy) to get her wish and exchange numbers.

Still, I wonder why this massive invasion would select these particular people.  There wasn't anything tying them together or to The Doctor, so where did they come from?

There's something else I don't follow.  The Doctor claims to have never heard of Alien, yet this is the same Doctor who was fully aware of the entire Harry Potter series (like all things in NuWho, the ending made him cry.  Didn't have that effect on me, but oh well).  I find this rather illogical in that the Doctor, at least in the revived series, has been fully immersed in popular culture, and something as legendary as Alien and Aliens having escaped his attention seems unbelievable.

Then again, we have a story where Santa Claus comes across as real, so perhaps this is really a pointless point of debate. 

Another odd question from Last Christmas.  When the Doctor visits Old Clara, he says that he's seen people use these Christmas hats, though he doesn't seem to understand what they really do. 

Let us take the Wayback Machine to The Christmas Invasion, the first Doctor Who Christmas Special...

Yeah, the Doctor has seen people wear those Christmas hats.  It's not as if HE HIMSELF has ever donned Christmas gear...

One thing to have The Doctor unaware of Alien.  It's another to have him not aware of what a previous regeneration had/hadn't done. 

Sure, call it nitpicking.  I call it continuity.

Yes, the Doctor HAS seen people use Christmas hats. 
Shame he can't remember where or when...

Doesn't understand them.  HE'S BLOODY WORN THEM!  Is continuity THAT irrelevant on Doctor Who

At least this is a positive about Last Christmas: we had a plausible explanation for Santa Claus being there (the Dallas solution, I call it).  To his credit Moffat acknowledges the silliness of believing Santa Claus as real.  There WAS a solution, and it all would have worked so well, but Moffat went one too far with the tangerine (which I think is a British Christmas tradition).  I know it's a nod to Miracle on 34th Street, where they find a cane not unlike Kris Kringle's at the house Susan wished for.  That doesn't mean it works.

In the film, it was there to leave doubt as to Santa's existence because the whole film was based around that.  In Last Christmas, having already established that Santa was not real, why throw that in? 

Look, I'll just cut to the chase because I'm bored with this all and I want to finish this.  I didn't hate Last Christmas.  It has the sappy sentimentality that NuWhovians crave.  It gives them the little romance bit with Danny they all like (which was a waste because there is no pathos involved knowing that it really is all a dream where a struggle to believe whether it was real or not would have made things more tense, and frankly which was done better by of all things, Ugly Betty).  I didn't hate it.  I just didn't like it.  At times silly (the Doctor excited about driving Santa's sleigh...what would Pertwee think?), at times nonsensical (we never got the connection between our characters), Last Christmas has nothing that made me happy.

I cringed at seeing Santa come to the rescue.  I cringed at Santa riding Rudolph like a horse.  I rolled my eyes at Santa turning Rudolph's red nose like a car alarm. 

Seriously, Santa was immaterial to Last Christmas.  If you cut him out of the story, it would have worked just as well. 

I had made Last Christmas my make-or-break episode, whether it would be something so patently idiotic (after the horror of Death in Heaven Parts 1 & 2) that I would quit Doctor Who...again, or whether it was tolerable enough to keep this train chugging.   To his credit, at least Moffat decided that having Santa Claus be as real as you or I was too idiotic even for him, and that at least a plausible explanation for having Santa in Last Christmas was provided.  Therefore, Doctor Who survives to see at least one viewer continue, though this viewer has pretty much given up all hope that the show he still has fond memories of will now ever be truly good. 

Honestly, I'm beyond caring.

Toss up as to which is more embarrassing...


Next Episode: Davros' Revenge Parts 1 & 2 (The Magician's Apprentice/The Witch's Familiar)

Ho Ho No!