by Catriona Mills

Articles in “Doctor Who”

Could I Love Doctor Who Any More Than I Do?

Posted 27 April 2008 in by Catriona

No, is the short answer.

The episode we’re currently watching, though, is full of grammar jokes, which just makes me love it more.

We’re 29 minutes through the episode, and we’ve already had a reference to my favourite comeback to non-specific pronoun use—“She’s the cat’s mother”—as well as a tautology rant and a comment on conditional clauses.

But my favourite so far?

The irritating villain responds to the suggestion of space travel by sighing, “Oh, if only that was possible.”

At which point, the Doctor and I said simultaneously “If only that WERE possible.”

“Grammar nerds of the world unite” is a good slogan.

“Grammar nerds of the world celebrate your union by sharing your amusement at in-jokes embedded in the script of a cult sci-fi TV show” isn’t a slogan that will fit on a T-shirt, but it works for me.

Rewatching Doctor Who

Posted 11 April 2008 in by Catriona

Since my sister and my sister-in-law are visiting for a short period, we’ve been rewatching some episodes of Doctor Who: my sister never saw the first episode of Season 3—“Smith and Jones”—or the Christmas special that came between Seasons 3 and 4. And, of course, we now have the first episode of Season 4—and episode 2 to come, as of this weekend.

So we’ve been rewatching them, starting with “Smith and Jones.” And the rewatching is bringing up certain responses to the programme that have been somewhat deadened over the nine months or so since the last season ended.

I have a main point, but the first thing I always think with the new season is that it’s too Earth-bound. I did—and do—love John Pertwee, but at least he had a reason for being Earth-bound. Even then, you started to long for a space episode, which is where “The Curse of Peladon” was such a joy—well, that and the fact that David Troughton was in it.

But the revamped series doesn’t seem to have an justification for the fact that it’s so Earth-bound, and it did start to irritate me a little in Season 3. Sometimes, the Earth focus worked: “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances” were glorious episodes. And Torchwood is completely Earth-bound, and that works. But every now and then I start to want an episode set in space: the TARDIS doesn’t just travel in time, and while Shakespeare is wonderful, so are the occasional cat-people.

But the main thing that broke my heart—and still breaks my heart when I think about it—was the departure of Martha.

I loved Martha. She still sits as number three on my list of all-time favourite companions. And I say that as a life-long Doctor Who fan, someone who remembers Tom Baker from the original airing of the episodes.

My all-time favourite companion is still, and will always be, Ace. Part of the appeal of Ace, for me, is that she was the closest in age to me of all the Doctor’s companions, which had its own attraction. But I also loved the dynamic between Ace and Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor, the “Professor.” And Ace was also the companion for some of the stories that are still my favourites: “Ghostlight,” “The Curse of Fenric,” “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy.”

Next to Ace comes Sarah Jane Smith. Again, the great pleasure of those episodes is the relationship between her and Tom Baker’s Doctor: I do love the Doctor’s tendency to say “Have you met Miss Smith? She’s my best friend.”

I use the term “relationship” advisedly. I am—as I noted when I said I was becoming a romantic in my old age—capable of becoming a ‘shipper if a show strikes me in the right way. But I’ve never been a Doctor Who ‘shipper . . . and, as an old-school, life-long fan, I found the rabidity with which Doctor/Rose ‘shippers attached themselves to the programme a little disturbing.

(Especially since I was, much as I hesitate to say it, not a big fan of Rose. Billie Piper was both gorgeous and adorable; I’m not arguing with that. But I found the relationship between her and the Doctor a little co-dependent, which didn’t appeal to me.)

But the friendship between Sarah and the Doctor I loved, and was thrilled beyond measure when Lis Sladen appeared in the new version—enough to even enjoy the ex-wife vs. new girlfriend vibe behind her interactions with Rose.

But Martha comes a solid third, and I suspect she always will. I was almost foaming at the mouth—metaphorically, I should say, to protect my fracturing reputation for sanity—when the Master was taunting the Doctor about the relative weakness of Martha compared to his earlier companions.

Oh, sure, Rose looked into the Time Vortex. That is pretty cool, and I’m not denigrating it—I’ve never done that.

But what Martha did in that three-part finale was phenomenal. Walking across the Earth? In a year? The only person to escape the burning of Japan? Bringing that passion, and intelligence, and energy to the saving of the human race? That took a fortitude and strength that Rose—no insult intended—was never required to display. Rose might have had it, but Martha displayed it, and I’m with Captain Jack: I’d trust Martha to the end of the world.

I want to avoid spoilers, and so I’m not going to say what I hope for from Martha. But I miss her.

One season is not nearly enough time to spend with my third-favourite companion. I’m sure you won’t be offended at your ranking, not considering who numbers one and two are.

And I suspect you’ll always be number three, Martha Jones. I wish you’d come back.

List of Things to Do When I Travel in Time, in Honour of the New Season of Doctor Who

Posted 6 April 2008 in by Catriona

Obviously, at some point in the future I will be able to travel in time. That’s a given. At least, I certainly hope so.

And if there’s one thing that watching television has taught me, it’s that time travellers often have little or no time to prepare for their initial departure. So, it seems a sensible precaution to make a list of things to do when I do become a time traveller.

Number one, currently, is to go and see Shakespeare perform in his own plays. And then heckle him. I get a kick out of the idea of shouting “You suck, Shakespeare! Stick to the quill, you ham!”

(In case this comes across as a little too mad, I must emphasise that I’ve never actually heckled anyone in my life—but I’ll make an exception for the Bard of Avon. On the other hand, I mentioned this to Nick, and he responded “I was with you, up to the heckling part.” I think I have to mention at this point, that this wasn’t originally my idea. But I still want to do it.)

At the risk of sounding shallow (and this, coming from the person who fancies heckling Shakespeare, must be taken as a warning), I think I’d be compelled to do some book shopping.

The main problem with my Ph.D. thesis was the ephemerality of the source material. I could stock up on all the relevant material for about 40 shillings, and save myself an enormous amount of hassle (and save the wonderful university library a small fortune).

Of course, then I’d have to cross my own timeline to deliver them to myself—so that might prove more problematic than I’d originally thought. I’d hate to end up in one of those situations where you think your future self is an apparition and accidentally kill yourself: those never end well.

Still, I’d definitely see about picking up copies (prompt copies, perhaps) of Cardenio and Love’s Labour’s Won. For my own edification only, obviously: you’d never be able to prove they weren’t just very good forgeries.

The main problem with time travel (well, apart from the obvious absurdities) is the tendency to think “Well, if I’m going to travel in time, I may as well go and see some history!” Then you stop and think about what history entails, and it doesn’t look like such fun.

I mean, the French Revolution I find fascinating, not least because of its direct impact on British culture—and therefore British literature—in the period that I study. But I don’t want to see it firsthand. (Mind, I’d love to see the lost Doctor Who story set in the French Revolution, but that’s another story and a different point.)

Ditto with the Battle of Thermopylae. Love the story, but definitely don’t want to see it in person; frankly, even bits of 300 were a little hard to watch.

But I’d like to have a little wander around in the more benign parts of some lost times. A Roman market. Sherwood Forest, before it disappeared. Tintagel in the time of Arthur. London before the Great Fire. Damascus, back when the Pearl of the Desert was largely unknown to Western visitors. Oberammergau, before the Passion Play became a major tourist destination. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon. A trip on the Orient Express in the 1920s. Perhaps the great ball on the eve of Waterloo, although I suspect that would be heartbreaking (still, you might catch a glimpse of Becky Sharp stealing Amelia Osbourne’s husband).

I asked Nick what he’s do if he could travel in time, but he said he doesn’t have a historicist bent, which led to the following conversation:

ME: You could travel forwards in time as well as backwards.
NICK: Well, I’m not convinced that travelling forwards in time is possible.
ME: I’m not convinced travelling backwards in time is possible.

Apparently, though, it is theoretically more possible to travel backwards in time than forwards, which is contrary to the very nature of Doctor Who. So I think you’d have to at least try and travel forwards.

But you can’t even suggest what you’d want to travel forwards to see. Just “the future.” I would like to see a time when we could actually travel in space. (I mentioned this to a friend once, that I’d like to travel in space, and he said “Why?” Really, there’s no way I can answer that question. I just want to.) But if I have a time machine, travelling in space seems less interesting.

I have a feeling that I should perhaps have listed more noble intentions for my time-travelling future. Things like saving the contents of the Great Library of Alexandria (or even, more recently, the looted Iraqi museums). So perhaps I am shallow.

I’ll salve my conscience by reminding myself that this is all highly theoretical. Perhaps, had I the chance after all, my better self would come to the surface, and instead of exploiting Volcano Day, I might try and prevent it.

After finding that copy of Cardenio, naturally. After all, there’s no hurry—I have a time machine.

Oh, Thank You Very Bloody Much, Torchwood

Posted 5 April 2008 in by Catriona

(I’m going to do my best to avoid specifics and spoilers in this post, but I am reacting immediately to the final episode, which I only finished watching fifteen minutes ago, as well as to the season in general.)

And thank you, Torchwood. Thank you very bloody much.

You know, I asked really nicely.

All I wanted was some relief from unremitting horror and distress. Occasionally save the victim of the week. Perhaps a few jokes. The odd light-hearted episode.

But could you bring yourself to manage that? Oh, I think you know the answer to that, now, don’t you?

And yet you teased us.

You brought in James Marsters in a role that didn’t make me want to punch his character in the face. (And, honestly, that became the case fairly shortly after the fourth season of Buffy. It certainly wasn’t the actor’s fault, but rather a result of the way in which they manipulated the development of the other characters in order to keep Spike an integral part of the show. That did annoy me. Although I’ll forgive a lot for the sake of his part in the Muppet episode of Angel.)

But he was lovely in Torchwood, and it was an interesting new angle on Captain Jack’s character.

And there were shades of this season that reminded me of the good old days of Doctor Who—the original Doctor Who, that is.

The quality was far more consistent than the first season: some of these episodes frightened me as much as good old episodes like “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy”“. (Oh, those clowns! They still haunt me.)

I even mentioned how lovely I thought Cardiff looked in the show, and you had to go and mess with that, as well.

In fact, was there anything I liked about the show that you were willing to leave intact, Torchwood?

Don’t get me wrong—there’s nothing inherently bad about shifting the boundaries of an audience’s expectations about a show. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that programmes that don’t do that rapidly stagnate, and lose the audience that they’re attempting to placate.

But there are degrees, Torchwood. And I really don’t enjoy spending my Saturday nights weeping in front of the television.

So if you could just bear that in mind next season, I’d really appreciate it.

I’m a loyal fan, you know, and I could handle a little bit of placating before I stagnate, I think.

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