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5 Underrated Matt Smith Era Stories

ElevenInShadowsTDODT

Matt Smith leaves behind him three series (and a bit) worth of televised adventures. There are several justly celebrated stories nestled in his era; people love ‘The Doctor’s Wife’, they foam at the mouth over ‘The Eleventh Hour’, and they positively fall down and have a joy-fit when ‘The Day of the Doctor’ is mentioned; but what about some of his other stories? The stragglers? The forgotten? Or even the downright despised? Here’s my little list of 5 underrated Matt Smith stories:

Beast Below

The Beast Below

It came hot on the heels of ‘The Eleventh Hour’, perhaps the greatest first episode for a new Doctor ever and an all time Who classic.  Beast is seen by many, Moffat himself included, as something of a stumble. Now look, I’m not saying it’s perfect, I know there are several things that just don’t seem to make any sort of sense, but there’s something about this story that just does ‘it’ for me. And it’s also completely INSANE. A whole city, riding on the back of a giant space whale? That is proper bonkers, but it works.

 

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Victory of the Daleks

Hey, stop throwing that garbage at me and hear me out, damn it!

And so the stumble continued. Apparently. Episode three of the Moffat era, and we get to ‘Victory of the Daleks’, an episode that has had the vitriol of many a fan spewed its way. I think that’s very unfair, and a great deal of it can be boiled down to ‘Don’t like new Power Ranger Daleks, WAH!’. Personally, I don’t mind the bright colours; they’re bold and visually interesting; it’s the hunchback that riles me. ANYWAY. This has a lot to enjoy; Daleks serving tea – the Doctors rage as he beats one of the Ironsides with a massive spanner thingy –  Spitfires! In Space! Attacking a flying saucer! – The Doctor facing down his deadliest foes with a Jammy bloomin’ Dodger!

It’s not perfect. There are things wrong with it. It really feels like it should have been a two parter. But come on, there’s plenty to love in there.

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Night Terrors

Another Gatiss episode. This is one of those stories that just seems to slip people’s minds completely. I remember at the time it received flak for not addressing the whole River-is-Amy’s-daughter hub-bub that just immediately preceded it, but I think it’s unfair to judge this episode solely on that. For one thing, it wasn’t even supposed to be at this point in the series, it swapped places with ‘Curse of the Black Spot’. I think if it had gone out in its originally intended slot, it would be looked upon much more fondly. That aside, it’s a wonderfully small and atmospheric tale; with Smith’s way with children at the forefront not for the first, or last, time. And those Dolls, they’re just damn freaky, okay? Time for a reappraisal, yes?

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Let’s Kill Hitler

FUN. Come on, grouch; this one is a riot, with River Song, BOTH River Song’s, just ripping up the screen. I can understand why this annoyed some, it’s a case of foiled expectations. After the epic ‘A Good Man Goes To War’  and its revelations about the Pond baby, I think the last thing most of us expected was for it to be followed up by such a bizarre, funny episode. This is Moffat all over, zigging in the second part when you expect him to zag. Or something. And it’s why it’s so often looked down upon; a fan with expectations unmet is an arsey son-of-a-sod.

‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ is Moffat just pressing the joy button again and again. AND RORY PUNCHES HITLER.

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The Time of the Doctor

YEAH. THAT’S RIGHT. This one received a lot of noisy hate when it aired, and it’s easy to see why. The expectation was sky-high, not only was it arriving hot on the heels of the hugely successful ‘The Day of the Doctor’, but it was Matt Smith’s finale. Moffat being Moffat, he didn’t write a straight-forward regeneration ep, but something a little more left-field, giving us something a bit unexpected. Even I wasn’t entirely sure on first watch, I came away a little dissatisfied, but on subsequent re-watches I discovered something wonderful: IT’S AMAZING. Yes, it needed to be longer to have more time to breathe, Moffat really did try to cram as much in as possible, but for large stretches it’s a simply magical journey and a beautiful send-off for one of my favourite Doctor’s; and since when does an episode have to be perfect to be awesome? Watch it again, maybe you’ll see it too.

So what do you think? And have I missed any that deserve a place on the list?

@DoctorWhoThing

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Fan Shame

Whizz-Kid

If you grew up a Doctor Who fan, then it’s current popularity and acceptability can seem a bit disconcerting at times; and at others eleven different shades of wrong. Doctor Who was not something you did out in the open, amongst normal people! It was a great and heavy shame which caused our sofa-slump-ruined backs to arch yet further under the pressure. Just a month ago three teen girls (teen girls!! WHAT?!) brazenly, and with no effort made to keep the conversation from the people surrounding them, discussed how they were going to throw a ‘Doctor Who party’. They’d each wear a fez and cook up some fish fingers and custard. It was all I could do to stop myself screaming in their faces ‘You weren’t there, man! Oh you don’t know what it was like back there, in the nineties! I’d read my copy of DWM in the safety of my bedroom lest the eyes of norms should see me with it and cause me to feel vaguely embarrassed! Take your ‘I Heart Tennant’ T-Shirt and shove it up your arse!!!’

But of course I exaggerate.

A bit.

Doctor Who fan girl group

Growing up, I didn’t know any other Doctor Who fans. I don’t recall ever really talking about it with anyone; and this was pre-internet, so there was no online community to argue with over why McCoy was the best/worst thing to ever happen to Who. Young fans today all know what Doctor Who is, and a lot of them watch it and talk about it, online and in actual scary real life. Which is brilliant. And bonkers. This is my little secret that nobody else really cared about, that people made fun of; they laughed at the dodgy effects and rubbish monsters –  and now it can muscle its way up to the number two slot in the American Box Office. HOLY FRAK. That’s how big this thing is now, and not just here, around the world; more and more people seem to be falling for this shows distinctly shonky charm.

This is good.

This is weird.

This sort of feels like it proves all us quiet kids growing up in the seventies, eighties and nineties right. You see, we knew all along this show was special, and now? Well now the rest of the world is starting to see what we see, and that’s amaz… no, weird. That’s still a bit weird.

Of course one day, perhaps even one day quite soon, that popularity will nosedive again. It happened before, it will happen again, there’s no way to prevent it. But right now, oh right now, Doctor Who is not just something isolated boys pore over in their bedrooms, it’s something teenage girls throw parties about.

Doctor Who young fan


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Closer Look: The Night of The Doctor

NightOfTheDoctor

The 50th anniversary of Doctor Who is now done and dusted for another year, and who among us isn’t already breathlessly looking forward to the next 50th anniversary extravaganza this coming November? The fans are bombarding Moffat with pleas to include the classic era Doctor’s more fully this time around, and perhaps rather than the terrifying Capald-eyes, a close-up of his jaw  to mix things up, keep it fresh.

Yeah.

Oh, what treats were bestowed upon us loyal fans by Moffat and the BBC; new episodes, ‘An Adventure in Space and Time’, that thing with the D:Ream keyboard player I didn’t watch, the 50th special itself, and on, and on; we gorged hungrily at the BBCs generous teat like the piggy, entitled fans we are. But oh, and oh, oh, oh, for this little piggy, one sugary treat stands out above them all: ‘The Night of The Doctor’.

McGann Rugged

‘I’m a Doctor, but probably not the one you were expecting.’

Just look at him  there, dashing and rugged enough to make a member of the Westboro Baptist Church question their sexuality. Now unfortunately, I had the surprise of Paul McGann’s return spoiled for me. The mini-episode was dropped without warning, I had no idea it was coming; only when I happened to click on Digital Spy and laid eyes upon a picture of McGann’s manly fizzog illustrating their main story, with the headline ‘Paul McGann Reutrns to Doctor Who’ to really spell it out for the hard of thinking (most of their readers), did I find out. So going into this episode for the first time, there was no surprise reveal, I already knew (up yours, Digital Spy!), but in the end, this affected my enjoyment of the short video not one jot.

Fans had gnashed their teeth in fury at Moffat, enraged that, apparently, it was going to be a modern Doctor’s only love-in for the 50th; and here Moffat swiped their legs from underneath them like the expert Troll prodder he is. I like to think he laughed for a full hour after it went out, picturing all those double chins dropping within the first minute.

McGann start

McGann is often seen as the hard-done-by man of Doctor Who. I think most fans wanted to see him, for however long, back on screen as The Doctor. Opinions on his TV Move tend to verge from ‘wuz alright’, to ‘WORST EPISODE EVAH’; but most seem to concede that McGann himself shone in the role immediately. With that potential series being put down before it had chance to find its legs (phew!), that seemed like it was going to be all she wrote for McGann as the 8th Doctor, Big Finish aside. But no, we wanted him back.  He deserved it, we deserved it, and boy did it feel good to see him up there BEING the Doctor again! And with considerably less shit hair! And a real jazzy new set of togs, too! Loving those boots, Paul.

And McGann is so much the Doctor here, cheeky, dashing, petulant, clever, and willing to lay down his life without a moment’s hesitation to try and save the life of a complete stranger. Yes, this is The Doctor we know and love.

Mcgann wasn’t the only returnee though, as up rocked the Sisterhood of Karn, from Tom Baker classic ‘The Brain of Morbius’. I don’t think anyone was expecting that. Personally I would have preferred The Kandyman, but each to their own.

McGann Regenerates

‘Charley, C’rizz, Lucie, Tamsin, Molly: Friends, companions I’ve known, I salute you.’

The amount Moffat squeezed into this short, short episode is quite something; and the amazing thing is that it doesn’t feel rushed. We’re introduced to a potential new companion in Cass, and off she and the Doctor run, hand-in-hand; what fresh adventures await? Then the whole thing turns on a dime and you realise she isn’t a potential spunky new cohort for the 8th Doctor, she’s the thing that’s going to bring about his end. And then! And then, resurrection, and the Sisterhood, and a shrugging off, finally, of the Doctor mantle as he accepts his role in the Time War; and at last – regeneration. The end of McGann, of the 8th Doctor, and a hello to the War Doctor. Six and a half minutes, people; this all happens in six and a half minutes. Moffat don’t mess about here, son.

And good golly, how can something with a sub-seven minute runtime be stuffed silly with so many quotable lines??

 ‘Bring me knitting!’

‘Because the front crashes first, think it through.’

‘Four minutes? That’s ages, what if I get bored?’

‘Yes, I’m a Timelord, but I’m one of the nice ones.’

‘The keepers of the flame of utter boredom.’

‘Physician, heal thyself.’

Mental. It’s up there with the likes of ‘City of Death’ for quotability.

Cass Night 2

Almost-Companion Cass makes a brief but memorable impression. She’s set up as a classic Who companion; she’s strong, sparky, willing to put others before herself. As she grabs the Doctor’s hand we want her to run with him right into that TARDIS and to go get into trouble; but then she stops. By setting her up as such a classic companion, having her then rather die than be saved by  a Timelord shows us exactly how far the Doctor’s race have sunk; how despised they are. It speaks volumes for the acts they must have committed; something that is then barely touched upon in ‘The Day of The Doctor’. The Timelords shown there seem a pretty decent bunch.

Of course, this McGann niblet just made people go even more crazy, demanding a return, further web-episodes, an entire TV series even; but should that happen? Well, no, of course not. A full on return to our TV screens would probably not be advisable; though I think if Capaldi ever runs into another Doc in an episode, it should surely be McGann. Tennant’s had his return, Smith’s just gone, and there’s no way Eccleston’s slipping on the leather jacket again. No, get McGann back, let him strut his stuff in a multi-doc episode, then leave it there. Plus, for those of you desperate for more from the 8th Doctor, there’s already a lot of stuff out there. ‘The Night of The Doctor’ essentially made his Big Finish audio adventures cannon. Those audio episodes ARE the 8th Doctor series, so go pick some up and give them a whirl.

Moffat has given the world of Doctor Who many treasures over the last decade (let’s all ignore the introduction of the term ‘Timey-Wimey’, hey?), and ‘Night of the Doctor’, in my eyes, ranks way up there. It sits nestled, all short and tiny and perfectly formed, next to ‘Blink’, ‘The Eleventh Hour’, ‘The Empty Child’, and all the other classic’s he’s penned.

Now please, someone, anyone, bring me knitting!


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Seven and Ace

Welcome to a site dedicated to that classic British Sci-Fi show, ‘Sapphire & Steel’. Ah, humour…

My name is Matthew Stott and I’m a writer. I’m also, which may come as a surprise to you, a bit of a Doctor Who fan, and have been since I was young enough to fit comfortably inside something really quite small. Like a school bag, or a wastepaper bin. You get the idea. This place right here is my ‘Doctor Who Thing’ and it’s where I write stuff about the greatest TV show ever, ever; yes, I’m talking about ‘Sapphire & Steel’. That’s a callback, people! I’m a fun guy.

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