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The Magician’s Apprentice

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HOLY CRAP.

What was that?! It was just SO MUCH. It was a bit like having The Pandorica Opens as the season opener. I’m not gonna lie, I really need to see it again to get any settled, strong opinions. Need to let it all simmer and settle. I NEED TO SEE PART TWO! Perhaps more so than most two-parters, I need the full picture.

Okay, so here are a few (slightly half-formed….) (okay, very half-formed) first thoughts after watching this crazy beast just the once.

My main takeaway is that it was like the dark, deep season 8, coupled with the wild colour of season 5. Yes, dark AND colourful. The double. Moffat is taking everything he’s done and squishing it into one. It’s a giant, bold way to open a season. It takes no prisoners and doesn’t gently hold the hand of any newcomers. (And is Who the ONLY show that reviewers obsessively worry about what new viewers will make of it?)( They’ll think ‘What the heck was that pile of crazy? I need to catch up.’ Give ’em SOME credit, guyz.) (Alright, alright, if it neglects new fans, it’ll die. I get it.)(But also, COME ON.)(Has this got annoying yet?)(Yes?)(Okay, I’ll stop.)

(Not yet)

(Now?)

(FINE.)

Was it all a bit TOO MUCH to open with? It certainly ran at you screaming and waving its arms, it was quite discombobulating in a way. It was also a new, fresh feeling way to open. Moffat does like to change things up. If RTD liked a series to have a familiar flow to it, Moffat is the opposite. Change is his familiar. It does make me wonder, if this is where we start, where the heck is this season going to take us next?! 

Moffat’s Who is a big tangled mess of time, of cause and effect. This story was another dive into that sort of story. This can annoy some, confuse others, but I love it. No good or bad deed goes unpunished. You can’t just hop around in time for centuries without kicking over a few stools that you’ll end up tripping over later.

In terms of Moffat season openers, I’d currently place this above Asylum of the Daleks, and then… hmm…. possibly above Deep Breath? Nothing will usurp the Eleventh Hour, and I think The Impossible Astronaut thrilled me more completely on first watch. Let’s see how I feel upon second viewing, and after part two completes the story.

Oh, and remember when the first episode of a season was ‘New Earth’? Different show, mate. Different show.

cap9

YAY!

DAVROS DAVROS DAVROS DAVROS. I LOVE Davros, okay? It’s been WAY too long since his last visit, and Julian Bleach was, once again, awesome. Unfortunately, the return of Davros was spoiled for me. A few hours before broadcast, someone found a pic of Davros and Twelve from the episode and tweeted it. Yes, some people really are total dicks. So a lot of the WAAAA?! OOOOH! OH MA GAAAAAAAAAAAD! of it all was stolen from me. But still… DAVROS.

The ‘hand-mines’. I mean, what on Earth? But also ‘wow’! And creepy as all hell. The opening, with young Davros, was wonderfully atmospheric and fantastical. It was Who meets a Del Toro film.  Seems like Skaro had a taste for mixing weaponry and the organic even before Daleks were developed.

Speaking of which…. Skaro! That beautiful Dalek city. And we got some classic era Daleks, including that sexy swine, the Special Weapons Dalek.

“Unlimited rice pudding!” Oh, I did snigger when I heard that. Davros is obviously a fan of watching classic Who. Though only the stories featuring him, the big headed so-and-so.

CLIFFHANGERS! Are there many things more lovely than a Doctor Who cliffhanger? And how wonderful that this season is so two-part heavy, ‘cos it means we’re gunna get a butt-load of cliffs to hang from.

The look on the Doctor’s face when that wee boy tells him his name…. Did the Doctor play a part in making Davros who he is?

The old ‘You would make a good Dalek’ thread continues to develop, with the Doctor holding the pepperpots own weapon and preparing to ‘Exterminate’… or is he..? I have theories, people! (Basically, no, I don’t believe he’s about to frazzle Davros Jr.)

Capaldi, man. CAPALDI! Have we ever seen a Doctor take such a journey? Develop and change so much over the course of his run? This isn’t just the actor getting used to the role, this is purposeful development. We have moved into peak Twelve, he’s a Doctor fully bloomed. The difference between the short-haired, severe Doc in, say, Into the Dalek, and the one we have now. Talk about a journey. We get everything in here, the funny, the wildness, the dramatic chops, the sense of loss, terror, shame. Capaldi can do everything.

Playing Pretty Woman when he saw Clara. The charming devil.

The Master/Doctor relationship. He sent her his final confession! His best and oldest friend. (Missy. Master. Missy. Master. Can we just call her by her proper title, now? She’s THE MASTER)

Gomez was superb again. So bonkers, then cruel, then funny, then everything at once. “Davros is your arch-enemy now? I’ll scratch his eye out.”  “How’s your boyfriend? Still tremendously dead?” She really gets some terrific lines, and Gomez delivers them all with aplomb. And, being the Master, of course she can’t resist attempting a bit of the old double-cross when Daleks and the TARDIS turn up.

The return of the hug agenda.

Colony Sarff was suitably creepy, gross looking, and the effect when his face twisted and he turned into a big ‘ol pile of snakes… coooooooool. And yuck. I bet that had a few wee ones shivering when they went to bed that night. (And was I the only one who couldn’t help but think ‘MARA!’ as the main snake reared up. Yeah, I knew it wasn’t. Didn’t stop me squeeing.)

Loved the Universe-wide jaunt, searching for the Doctor. Seeing the wider universe of Who.

The Doctor was afforded two different and equally ace entrance scenes. One dark, one pure, unbridled joy. Again, can you imagine early Capaldi rocking that axe? How far he’s come. And can you imagine any other recent Doctor getting away with that entrance? It just feels like it would be toe curling with Tennant or Smith attempting it…! At first I thought they’d thrown the switch too far the other way, but then Clara only went and addressed it and it was made clear just why he was behaving so. Good stuff.

cap road

HMM…

There were a few edit and sound issues for me. Weird late cuts. Strange shot choices. Hard to hear lines. Stuff like that.

It was kinda a bit much to take in comfortably on first watch. I really feel like I need a second watch. I felt ATTACKED.

Didn’t it, you know, destroy more or less everything last time someone had the bright idea of blowing up the TARDIS?

Looked a bit parky in UNIT HQ. Health and safety in the workplace nightmare, that. Maybe consider an office relocation, before someone catches their death.

Kate Stewart. I mean. *shrugs*. Underplayed to a fault. I get it, she’s supposed to be normal, unimpressed, straight ahead, but come on, inject a little personality. A little *something*.

As I said, it reeeaaaalllly feels like an episode that I can’t fully contend with until I’ve seen the whole picture. So come at me, The Witches Familiar.

(I reckon I know haw Clara & Missy survive (Missy basically tells us earlier..!), and just what the Doc is about to do with that gun. I wonder if I’ll be right? I’ll let you know next time….)

***

Doctor Who is back, guys. DOCTOR WHO.

@doctorwhothing

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The MUST SEE episodes of Modern Who

10docs

Doctor Who has been back on our screen for ten years now (or more, really a lot depends on when you’re actually reading this) (For example, if the year is ‘now’ 2047)(Or 1937), and boy-oh-boy have we been treated to a wealth of ace new Who over that time. There have been a few brown smears here and there too (someone should really have a word with Mr Moffat when he brings up the name ‘Steve Thompson’ yet again), but they are far outweighed by the ace.

Recently there have been a lot of ‘Top Ten Episodes of Modern Who’ type lists. Only ten? These people are lightweights. I’m going to pick out the two must-sees from each season of modern Who. Plus some more tossed in on top.

Others have had their chance to point out what they claim to be ‘the best’, now here’s The Doctor Who Thing list. Which yes, MAKES IT DEFINITIVE. Take a peek, and if you rabble don’t agree, you can go straight to Hell. A Hell made of poo.

SEASON ONE:

9 and rose

The glorious return of Doctor Who! Many thought that nobody would be interested, that no one would watch, perhaps forgetting that the McGann TV movie pulled in a large audience when it was shown. Yes, okay, I was one of those worried that no one would watch, apart from you sad nerds, and me. STILL a super strong run. Sure, we had the Slitheen and burping bins to contend with, but it’s still one of the most satisfying seasons of new Who. And oh by gosh, how thrilling would it have been if they’d been able to keep that regeneration under wraps?

Dalek

POW!! As I may have mentioned elsewhere (I totes did), ‘Dalek’ was the first ten out of ten episode of new Who for me. I’d enjoyed all the eps before it, to a greater or lesser degree, but this was the first one to really blow me away. The fact the writer has not since worked on the show is a bloomin’ tragedy. How on Earth did the make those pepper pots a credible enemy?! By taking them seriously, and trusting the original design.

The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances

“Are you my Mummy?” The Grand Moff, smashing it for six first time out to bat. Before the series aired, I had serious doubts about Mr Moff being involved, but he proved me wrong immediately. Straight away he gave us something creepy that seeped into the public consciousness. Oh, and I like to think I have a strong stomach, but when Victor Meldrew began his transformation? My goodness but did it disturb.

SEASON TWO:

10 an rose

And so Tennant swaggers in, helping to stamp the shows place into many new viewers hearts. In retrospect, this season now feels a little like a slight wobble. It’s certainly the season that would sit at the bottom of any list of new Who seasons I were to make. That’s not to say it’s ‘bad’, or doesn’t contain its fair share of cracking episodes, but it feels slightly lesser compared to Eccs year, and fails to reach the highs we would get in the next two Tennant seasons.

The Girl in the Fireplace

Moffat’s first bit of ‘timey-wimey’. Clever, scary, and full of emotion (b-b-but Moffat doesn’t do emotion, RTD does!), this is a bit of a cracker and shows so much of what Who can do squeezed into one episode.

The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit

“The Beast and his armies will rise from the pit to make war against God”. Genuinely unnerving at times. A real sense of stepping into a terrifying place that must not be uncovered. Even the bloody Ood are great, in their first story. One of a very few stories that actually has the power to scare grown adults. Wonderful.

SEASON THREE:

10 martha

This season is probably notable for three main things, that the show would go on without Billie Piper just fine, the first appearance of the modern series defining new monster, The Weeping Angels, and the introduction, to new series fans, of the Doctor’s arch nemesis, The Master. AND OH MY GOD THAT MOMENT IN UTOPIA! THE WATCH! YANA! GAAAAHHHHHH!! Yes.

Human Nature/Family of Blood

Adapted by Paul Cornell from his own Virgin New Adventures novel, this is amazing, scary, emotional stuff. And boy, was Baines a terrific, creepy baddie. And that ending! The Doctor’s cruel punishments. Yes plz. Why has Cornell not been back since?!

Blink

“Don’t even blink.” The Weeping Angels take to the stage for the first time. Some quite like this one, so I’ve heard.

SEASON FOUR:

10 and donna

Tennant’s last season, and the return of Donna. This was my fave 10th Doc/Companion combination, and a nice freshening up of the relationship after the love story of the Doc and Rose, and the unrequited love of Martha. Two mates, travelling through time & space, fighting monsters.

Silence in the Library

“Spoilers”. I recall thinking the Donna season was  ‘fine’ up to this point. Oh, I was enjoying things, and loved the Doctor/Donna partnership, but this story really took things to a whole other level, as so often happens when Moffat’s name is up front as writer.

Midnight

Boy, a real belter this from RTD, delving deep into the ugly side of human nature and the pack mentality. And who knew a woman repeating what you were saying could be so shiver-some? I really like many of RTDs episodes, but it would have been great to see him dip into this well a few more times.

SEASON FIVE:

11 Amy

CHEAT TIME – This one gets three in recognition of it being THE BEST MODERN SEASON OF WHO.

Seriously.

It is.

I AM CORRECT.

What a glorious year for Doctor Who. This is when things could have gone completely tits up. RTD and Tennant had left the building. Would the show be able to survive? Uh, OF COURSE.  And so we got that Doctor, with those companions, the tone, the new Showrunner unleashed from single stories to run riot on a whole season; and it all rests upon the shoulders of three titanic stories:

The Eleventh Hour

It’s just beautiful. And the finest introduction story for a new Doctor ever. It just fills me with a giddy joy. The stakes were high with this one, new Doctor, new head writer, new producers, new companion, new, new, new. The opportunity for this to be ‘the great stumble’ were sky-high. Of course, they bloody nailed it. Amazingly so.

The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone

The best Weeping Angels story so far.

YOU: “Wait..! The best?! Wuh-Wuh-What about ‘Blink?!” *Puffs on asthma inhaler*

ME: “What can I say, I’m a sexy, handsome rebel.” *Puts on shades and revs motorcycle*

Yes, obvs, ‘Blink’ is amazing, but you know what..? I liked their second appearance even more. No, it doesn’t lessen the Angels. Hush now. It’s Moffat off the leash again, and I love it.

The Pandorica Open/The Big Bang

“We’re all stories, in the end.” STILL the best season finale we’ve had, this. God, but it’s thrilling, big, confident stuff. And I love how we go from the big, noisy, colourful Pandorica and its epic series of giant cliffhangers, to something that feels much smaller. And the Doctor, crumpled, by young Amelia Pond’s bed. Beautiful.

And to think that mixed in among these episodes were the likes of The Lodger, The Beast Below, and Vincent & the Doctor. Incredible stuff.

SEASON SIX:

DOCTOR WHO SERIES 11.2

Alright everyone, hows about you layoff season six, yes?! We cool?! This season comes in for some serious stick, and it’s easy to see why. It’s not, I would argue, because there are loads of dud episodes contained within, no, it’s entirely down to the heavy arc nature of the run. This is the risk you take if you have a heavy arc season. If the arc, for whatever reason, doesn’t quite satisfy, or doesn’t seem to stick the landing, the whole season is tainted by association. Because let’s be real and funky-fresh for a second: there is LOTS of very good Doctor Who in season six. Don’t let the squashed ending or lack of satisfying emotional follow through on the River revelation blind you to that.

But which are the two stand outs?

The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon

Remember when you watched the first episode of season 6 for the first time? BLOODY HELL! I was astonished, surprised and thrilled and had to watch it all over again as soon as it was finished. No one but Moffat can write Who like this.

The Doctor’s Wife

Neil FREAKIN’ Gaiman, yo. Good lord. This is a beautiful story. My fave moment? The end, the Doctor happily twirling around the console. THE FEELS. To have a talent such as Gaiman working on our little, daft show is incredible (and, uh, proof positive with his next story that even the greats can stumble and fall into a fresh, moist pile of bottom droppings).

SEASON SEVEN:

DOCTOR WHO BEHIND THE SCENES IMAGE

Season seven. Bit of an odd fish. Despite the Clara mystery kicking off right from episode one, it really does feel like two separate seasons. The Pond farewell tour, and The Impossible Girl series. And sandwiched in between, a Christmas special..! This can make season seven feel bitty, not a satisfying whole. Despite this lack of unity, there are lots of good episodes lurking within.

Episodes like:

Hide

Yeah, the happy sappy ending is a little disappointing (just let a scary-ass monster be a scary-ass monster already!), but otherwise this is a lovely, spooky thing. And those scene’s in the forest with the Crooked Man are creep-tastic.

The Name of the Doctor

That pre-credits sequence alone is worthy of a round of applause. The Doctor catching River’s hand, another round. That Hurt reveal, my hands are now starting to ache from all this clapping. It’s just good stuff, and sets us up wonderfully for:

50th Anniversary

50

The Night of the Doctor/Day of The Doctor/Time of the Doctor

There was so much room for disappointment with this one. Really, the chances of ‘failure’ were exceptionally high, Moffat must have felt immense pressure. And then he only went and pulled it off. (read what I had to say about ‘Night’ here) A glorious trio of treats. Yeah, I know some of you aren’t keen on ‘Time of’, but you’re wrong, dog-food face!

SEASON EIGHT:

12 & Clara Crouch

Season eight is remarkable. It’s remarkable because, eight full seasons in, it delivers perhaps the most consistent seasons since the shows return. And it’s also remarkable because it feels so different to the Matt Smith years, but is helmed by the same head writer. Somehow, with the introduction of a new Doctor, Moffat was able to shake up his game and deliver something fresh. Something with the flash and bang of his own run, combined with the focus on character and emotion that characterised much of RTDs run. Well I suppose this must have pleased many of those who loved RTDs run but constantly yak on about Moffat being the Devil who should be sacked immediately because fan entitlement, right? Ha-ha-ha-ha, no. Of course not. Because those people are nuts.

Deep Breath

I wrote about Capaldi’s first episode here, and my admiration for it has only grown with each new viewing.

Listen

IT’S AMAZING. Some people don’t agree. These people are clearly Koo-Koo. I love this story. It’s scary, exciting, beautiful, and more besides. In any list of my favourite Who stories, it would make a strong case for being number one. Go HERE to read me gush some more.

CONCLUSION:

There have been LOADS of awesome Who episodes. Far to many to make it onto this list. Oh, and that it’s quite clear I’m a shameless Moff fan-girl. SHAMELESS!

So these are the correct answers, but what would you put on your (probably (definitely) wrong) lists?

@DoctorWhoThing

Doctor Who Thing Facebook

pssssst: Out of the Specials year? Duh, it’s ‘Waters of Mars’, dummy!


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A Decade of ‘New Who’

Eccs

Well, I didn’t see this coming ten years back.

When Doctor Who first returned, my greatest fear was that it would immediately fail. I didn’t have any worries about the content, that I would dislike it, that it would be a big pile of TV-Poop, I just didn’t want to see it linger unloved for a season or so and then be  shuffled off-screen once again. Unloved. Unwatched. An embarrassment.  If that had happened, I don’t think we would have seen it come back for a long, long time. Perhaps not at all in my lifetime.

Of course, quite early on the announcement came that it was being commissioned for two further seasons, so I could rest easy. Whatever happened, I was getting three full seasons of new Who. Since that point, I’ve never felt the need to worry or obsess over the shows safety. There’s been no point where it’s failed to pull in a substantial audience and left itself open to questions about its future (whatever some dumb-dumbs might try to make you believe).

TEN YEARS. Which TV Shows last ten years? Especially on UK telly? Especially-especially UK sci-fi/fantasy?! It’s outlived three shows created to sit in its place during the off months, and still shows no signs of slowing down.

I was recently on top-dog Who podcast Reality Bomb discussing (badly) ten years of new Who, and I commented that the moment where the new series really bedded in for me, really made me feel like I was going to be all in on this newy-new version of my beloved show, was ‘Dalek’. There’d been tone issues for me once or twice before this point, ol’Burpry Bin, Cartoon-Plastic Mickey and farting Slitheen, but with ‘Dalek’ came an episode I wanted to hold tight.  It seemed perfect, and did what many thought impossible; it made the Daleks a credible threat to new viewers. It didn’t even try to radically overhaul them, it trusted the original design and instead just wrote a damn fine episode. (Also, the swiveling mid section, THAT WAS COOL AS HECK, why did they forget that so quickly?!) I enjoyed much of what came prior, but this was the first one to truly blow me away. And, of course, then we were treated to the likes of ‘The Empty Child’, ‘Fathers Day’ and ‘The Parting of The Ways’.

(Speaking of ‘The Empty Child’, if you’ve read any of this blog, or my tweets, then you may have been able to read between the lines and guess I’m something of a Moffat fan, but when he was first announced prior to season 1? NOPE. Oh, I enjoyed his comedy work, but I just could not understand how that guy was now writing for Doctor Who. The ‘Coupling’ guy? Mr ‘Chalk’?! Welp… what a dummy I am. From his first story, he knocked it out of the park, and is now way up there with my favourite Who writers. From ‘The Empty Child’ to ‘Blink’ to ‘The Eleventh Hour’ to ‘Listen’, he’s written some of the finest Who we’ve ever had.)

TEN YEARS..!..!

Sorry, still rolling that number around me bonce.

(Yes, this post is something of a ramble)

RTD, Eccs

So why has it managed to survive for so long? What were the early decisions that allowed a wide general audience to grab hold of our show again and hold it tight to their hearts?

Firstly, RTD really nailed what Who needed to become in order to thrive in the modern TV landscape. All of time and space, monsters, adventure, laughs and scares were all well and good, but you needed more than that. You needed characters that LIVED. Cutouts wouldn’t do, a lack of a real interior life, we needed characters we believed in, that had an emotional life and relationships that made viewers care. That made them invested in these crazy adventures.  RTD knew this and so we got a war damaged Doctor, and a companion in Rose that people could relate too, that had wants, needs, a disappointing life and, quite importantly, a family.

Many classic Who fans often derisively dismissed this fleshing out, the focus on the companions none-TARDIS life and family, as ‘soap’. These people should be avoided at all costs. 

Next, RTD made sure this was still a show for all the family. It would have been very easy to have made the show for adults, it’s probably what many classic Who fans would have done. It’s what I would have done. We’re all idiots. That would have been a HUGE MISTAKE. RTD knew this, part of the shows magic was that it was a show for everyone. Not just kids, not just adults, but all of us.

Well done RTD, you clever man.

My last high-five is to the man who sometimes feels like the half-forgotten man of Modern Who, Christopher Eccleston. When he was announced as the Doctor I was knocked for six. For so long the part had been seen as a bit lightweight, whenever names for new Doctor’s were raised in the press, they’d mention the likes of magician Paul Daniels and hairy lifeguard David Hasselhoff. They were mocking the role, basically. And then Eccs was announced, a serious, respected, ‘real’ ACTOR. This was a statement of intent. This show was not a joke, it was here to be taken seriously. I’ve no doubt that his involvement turned many peoples heads and allowed them to give the show a chance. He gave it some extra legitimacy.

Many bemoan the fact he left so swiftly, and seems reluctant to return, or even really talk about the show, but PHOOEY to them. He did what was needed, did it brilliantly, and we owe him a lot.

On that same podcast I mentioned earlier, I chose a defining moment in modern Who. No, it’s not from a Moffat story, I like other episodes and writers too, ya jerk. It’s from that first season. It’s the cliffhanger to ‘Bad Wolf’, the penultimate episode of the season. That exchange between the Doctor and a Dalek, that stirring, heart in mouth back and forth encapsulates so much of the show and of the Doctor. It’s a chaotic, brave man, willing to throw himself headfirst into the jaws of almost certain death without weapons or a plan in order to help out another. I’m not ashamed (okay, I’m slightly ashamed) to admit that I literally punched the air during it. I have not done so before or since. Because that reaction’s kinda weird. But yeah. This moment pulled it out of me.

TEN YEARS……….

Happy birthday Doctor Who. Still the best story world ever, ever.

Here’s to many more.

@DoctorWhoThing

Doctor Who Thing Facebook


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The Night of the Doctor

Night
Well, it’s now 357 years (approx) since the worlds bestest TV show ever EVAH began: ‘The Adventures of Mr Who, Physician.’ Let’s take a peek at one of my fave parts of the 50th bash, the return of the 8th 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 a certain website and laid eyes upon a picture of McGann’s manly fizzog illustrating their main story, with the headline ‘Paul McGann Returns to Doctor Who’ to really spell it out for the hard of thinking, did I find out. So going into this episode for the first time, there was no surprise reveal, I already knew, 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 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 Movie tend to verge from ‘wuz alright’, to ‘WORST EPISODE EVAH’ (I’m a fan); 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.

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’, ‘Listen’, and all the other classic’s he’s penned.

Now please, someone, anyone, bring me knitting!

@DoctorWhoThing

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Listen: or ‘HOLY CRAP-ON-A-CRACKER, IT’S AMAZING-!’

Listen

Listen…

LISTEN

Good Lordy Lord. As I believe the kids would say, ‘I can’t even?!?!’

Ladies and gents, we have a new classic on our hands. For me, this is one of the finest episodes of modern Who. In fact, of all Who. After the credits rolled I actually had to stand and pace the room, my insides were juddering; this was something special. With this episode, Moffat once again confirms why, when he’s firing on all cylinders, he’s one of the very best writers Who has ever had. Perhaps even the best. Yeah, you heard me Holmes fans..! (Yes, yes, Holmes is bloody brilliantly amazing too, alright?! They’re both champs! Holding hands (perhaps kissing) atop Mount Who)  He can just make any surrounding episodes look resolutely ordinary.

‘Listen’ is all about fear; more specifically it’s about childhood fear, fear of the nothing, fear of the illogical, fear of the dark and what might be quietly waiting in there, looking back at us. Childhood fears can be irrational, imaginary, and grip like a vice. They can bubble up and affect us as adults, you never fully leave them behind, and in the Doctor’s case it seems it can actually shape who you are and how you choose to live. The Doctor became a man who rather than give in to fear, rather than spend his life crying in the dark, will make a point of leaping into shadowed corners waving a stick around, just to see what might come slithering out. He’s learned to refuse to let his fear debilitate him, for the Doctor fear is a superpower. In this episode he can’t quite accept that his fear is potentially irrational, that he may only be afraid of the imagined, and so tries to put a face (or tentacle) to his terror.

listen clara

Now this won’t be for everyone, because there’s no monster at the end to clearly identify, only the monsters of the mind (OR ARE THEY?! *WOOOOOOOO…!*). No CGI or rubber creature to pull into the light and dispatch, the monster exists in the Doctor’s imagination (OR DOES IT?! *WOOOOOO….you get the idea). ‘Listen’ is basically an exploration of the Doctor’s psyche, into just what makes him tick. What makes the Time Lord scared? What makes him jump into the dark to see what’s there? This is absorbing, brave stuff for Saturday night family entertainment. Despite the fact Who fans like to trumpet the elasticity of the shows format, when it actually does attempt to step outside of it’s usual boundries, a section of fans don’t like it (Hello ‘Love & Monsters’..!). Well TOUGH.

Many complain that there’s no clear resolution to the episode, was there a monster or wasn’t there? Perhaps there was. Perhaps there wasn’t. Perhaps there was one under that blanket, but not outside the door, or vice versa. But you’re missing the point. As I said, this is about childhood fears, the fear of the irrational, for that to keep its potency it must remain forever under the bed, forever in the closet, forever just out of view and shrouded from the absolute. Maybe it was all in the Doctor’s head. Maybe it wasn’t. But the FEAR was real, and will remain so.

OH! And the Doctor himself? He’s amazing, and brave, and wonderful…. and he was also a small boy, alone in his bed, crying because he was afraid of the dark. What a wonderful thing to show children watching this show, that there’s nothing to be ashamed of, even a man as marvelous as the Doctor once wept whilst curled up alone and frightened in bed.

‘Listen’; it’s creepy, thought provoking, moving, clever, funny: in short,  it’s the very best of Who, and I love it. 

listen dan

So what did you think of Listen? And did you fall for it as hard as I did?

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WARNING: Season 9 Starts Filming!

cap filming

Well yippee and yay and woo-hoo and shizz of that over-enthusiastic nature, season 9 has started its no doubt lengthy filming period! This means that the journey towards actually watching the thing becomes ever shorter! Oh, and that in the next few days, pictures of a spoilery nature may well begin to hop around the internet.

Now how you react to spoilers, pictures or written, varies from person to person. Some love devouring every leaked fact (and assumed-fact) squirted onto the net, whilst others like to stay as un-spoiled as possible, hating even knowing the episode titles ahead of time (episode titles aren’t spoilers, come on, guys!). The problem with us all being on the internet is it’s almost impossible not to stumble across something about an upcoming season that you didn’t want to know. Click the wrong link, or even follow the wrong person on Twitter who loves to attach filming pics to their missives, and before you know it the whole season is COMPLETELY RUINED. Well. Possibly not, but it can still annoy!

So guyz, be careful out there, and be kind to your fellow fan. Pics like the one at the top of this article? Cool. But give people the option not to click on real spoilers.

Oh, and one more thing… DOCTOR WHO SEASON 9 HAS STARTED FILMING!!!! *flails-around-madly*

Matt Happy

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Gateway Stories

50 Who

There’s now over fifty years worth of Doctor Who rattling about, so what to do if you want to try and hook that friend of yours into watching if they’ve never seen the show before? Do you show them an easy ‘jumping on point’, like ‘Rose’? Or perhaps you forget about that and just show them what you consider to be a classic, like ‘Human Nature’, and hope that its quality will be enough to ensnare your prey?

Stop straining that flabby brain of yours, nerd, I’ve done your work for you; ain’t I a sweetie? Using my own thinking-smarts, and those of my sexy Twitter followers, I’ve collated a complete and total FOOL PROOF* list of stories that I think might be enough to turn a non-fan to the Who-side:

Modern Who

11th Hour

The Eleventh Hour

This would be my number one choice. Easy. Not only is it clearly a shiny, lovely piece of brilliance from Steven Moffat, but it’s a story in which everything is new. A fresh off-screen creative team flexes its muscles, whilst on-screen a new Doctor and a new companion capture our imagination. It’s a fresh start that’s not looking back, rather setting up things for the future. Even the look of the thing leapt up and pulled the show forward. If you can watch this and not want to see what happens next, you may not be human (maybe you’re a large dog in a human suit). Clearly I’m not alone in this (yeah, yeah, completely obvious) choice; Twit-folk like    and    and  and  and   and  and  and… and… basically loads of people agreed with me. What a clever, facially fabulous bunch.

Blink

Blink

Who author Jenny Colgan (@jennycolgan) tossed this one into the ring, and many lined up to agree.  ‘Blink’ seems to be a popular choice for many, but obviously it’s also an odd choice in many ways as it barely even features the Doctor or his companion. It instead focuses on Sally Sparrow, who exists only in this one episode. But it has several things going for it, not least of which is its sheer quality. Quality above all else is going to hook a new viewer into wanting to watch another episode. It also introduces The Weeping Angels, the most popular new series monster.

girl

The Girl in The Fireplace

This one was the top choice of Andrew Ellard (@ellardent), and he could be onto a winner with it. It’s sci-fi! It’s historical! It’s a romance! It has scares, and clever stuff, and funny bits, and… well just about everything. Almost all of what modern Who can be is encapsulated in this one story.

Go Classic..?

Now I wouldn’t personally use a classic series story as a gateway episode. Perhaps to a very young child, otherwise I think you’ll be on far safer ground with a story from the modern series. BUT! If I had to go classic, then the one I would plump for is:
dalek rem

Remembrance of The Daleks

It’s a blooming Dalek masterpiece from the pen of Ben Aaronovitch, which jump-started the McCoy era and lead the charge for a final two terrific years of the classic series. It’s exciting, it looks great, there’s a terrific TARDIS team at the centre who clearly love being together, juicy questions about race and fascism to ponder; in short: it’s brilliant.

But others thought differently, @SDElsden reckons Tom Baker classic ‘The Robots of Death’ is the one to turn a non-fans head, @AlphaOod insists Pertwee’s debut, ‘Spearhead From Space’ is the obvious choice,  would point people towards ‘The Horror of Fang Rock’, whilst @MarkTrevorOwen says that the Douglas Adams penned ‘City of Death’ has never failed for him.

Start with P-Cap!?

Deep

Deep Breath

A new Doctor, a new start… and a new jumping on point? Nah, unlike Moffat’s other first ep for a new Doctor, this one has perhaps too much baggage to act as a clean jumping on point. From a carryover companion, to the Paternoster Gang, to the previous Doc phoning from Trenzalore. I’m sure it would work for some, but it’s as likely to befuddle just as many.

Looking over this I’ve realised that all of the modern episodes chosen are by Moffat. So… maybe just show them one of the best Moffat eps and job done..?

Which adventure do you think makes the ideal ‘gateway story’?

*may not actually be fool-proof.

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