by Catriona Mills

Articles in “Doctor Who”

Live-blogging Doctor Who, Season Two: The Christmas Invasion

Posted 27 January 2009 in by Catriona

The strangest thing that has happened today: wasps built a nest behind my copy of Janet Malcolm’s The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. The strangest thing about that, for me, is that the book is a paperback.

“Go back to where it all began,” ABC? Oh, poor Christopher Eccleston. Why doesn’t he qualify for your description of the reboot of Doctor Who?

Of course, the episode hasn’t started, yet. That’s why I’m filling the space with unnecessary rambling about wasps. (Seriously, they love our study. I’m always finding nests behind odd books. Last time it was Leslie Stephens’s Literature and Society in the Eighteenth Century. At least that was a hardback.)

I’m really glad I don’t live in South Australia right now. Despite the humidity here, it’s better than temperatures well over forty.

Ah, here we go—after this mysterious crime writer talking.

And that looks like the Earth to me; I think we’re going to zoom into London. Yep, there we are, Jackie decorating the Christmas tree and putting out presents for Rose. Aw, she breaks my heart, sometimes, Jackie.

And Mickey—but he can hear something. Sounds oddly like the TARDIS. Jackie hears it, too. And they both go running out into the quadrangle. But they can’t see anything—until the TARDIS comes screaming in for a very poor landing indeed.

And there’s David Tennant! Not his first appearance as the Doctor, but one of his earliest. He’s still wearing Christopher Eccleston’s clothes.

“Merry Christmas!” he says and then keels over.

Nick’s so completely uninterested in this blogging that he doesn’t even have his iPhone to hand. He doesn’t even know that I just wrote that. Well, that’ll teach him.

Now the Doctor’s in bed, with Rose and Jackie [in retrospect, I should have said “with Rose and Jackie looking after him,” but you know what I meant]—Rose won’t take the Doctor to hospital because of the high risk of his being dissected. But she knows he has two hearts, and she checks they’re both beating strongly.

ROSE: He’s got two hearts.
JACKIE: Oh, don’t be stupid.
ROSE: No, he has.
JACKIE: Anything else he’s got two of?

Cheap laugh, but funny. Ouch—my coffee’s really hot.

And here’s Rose’s psychological breakdown at the idea of regeneration. She’s really hung up on the whole “human” thing, isn’t she?

I love Jackie’s soliloquy about why Howard sleeps over now—beautifully delivered. And there’s Harriet Jones, Prime Minister! Aw, bless, Harriet. I think they treated you badly—narrative wise—but you’re a sweet woman, really. And you do well for yourself in a kind of . . . really tragic and horrible way.

Have I mentioned Guinevere One, yet? Because it’s about to come face to face with some sort of mysterious floating space rocky object. I won’t say what, because of spoilers.

Rose and Mickey, wandering down the street listening to Christmas carols.

MICKEY: TARDIS this, and TARDIS that.
NICK: This one time, at TARDIS camp.

Ah, Nick’s just read something on my blog. I wonder what that was?

Ooh, creepy Santa masks—I wouldn’t trust those guys, Rose. And, sure enough, they’re an explosive brass band. Well, you should have known that that would happen, what with the creepy plastic masks. Or are the masks metal? Either way, they’re creepy masks.

I do like action scenes: they allow me to catch up on the dialogue.

More of the glowy yellow stuff comes out of the Doctor’s mouth—I forgot to mention that before.

Ooh, a mysterious new Christmas tree has turned up on Rose’s doorstep and has now become homicidal. There’s something unusually horrifying about a homicidal Christmas tree—especially when you’re trying to manhandle an unconscious Time Lord out of the apartment.

Think of something else, Rose. Ooh, sonic screwdriver! That’ll work. That always works. I bought one for my nephew last Christmas, and he spent the next week opening doors for his mother.

Ah, and now the Doctor’s conscious. Hang on, I should hit “save” at this point.

Creepy Santa robot things! Nick’s ranting now about how there’s a steely side to this Doctor that you don’t see much of later—which I think is rubbish. I think this Doctor is far too steely and determined.

This dialogue with the Doctor and Jackie where he’s trying to explain what he needs makes me laugh, but I’d not noticed before how similar it is to the detox scene in “The Unicorn and the Wasp,” which also made me laugh.

“Harvey Wallbanger?”

The Doctor’s looking a lot worse for wear, now—which is a problem, since he managed to reveal that the creepy Santas were only pilot fish, which means there’s a shark up there somewhere. And yet no-one associates this with the disappearance of Guinevere One? Except that one guy talking on the telly who, as Nick points out, is a terrible, terrible liar.

And now Rose too sees that something is wrong—which isn’t hard, what with the screaming alien face on the television screen.

Ooh, serious men in dark cars and dark suits. This is worrying, unless it’s UNIT, of course. Nothing wrong with UNIT. And there’s Mr Llewellyn, the man with the beard on television, the one who is the bad liar.

Is that the first instance of “Harriet Jones, Prime Minister”/“Yes, we know who you are”? Of course, Harriet isn’t fazed—she’s seen aliens before.

LLEWELLYN: Maybe they’re not actual Martians.
RANDOM OFFICER: Of course not. Martians look completely different.

Poor Llewellyn—is he the only one who hasn’t met aliens before? And now the aliens are speaking—it’s an odd but strangely convincing language, though I think it’s highly unlikely that translation software would be able to translate that language after only a few lines. After all, you should see what translation software does when you run a John Keats poem through it. (Oddly enough, do it with Led Zeppelin lyrics, and they become more comprehensible.)

“Our longest night”? That rings a bell, but I can’t put my finger on it. Ah, now that’s the first reference to Torchwood, after a brief reference in “The Long Game.” But this is the real spinning off, the introduction to the new programme.

And now the translation software has given a translation of the Sycoraxes’ message—and they seem mighty sure that they haven’t got their personal pronouns mixed up. I wonder how they can be so sure.

Rose is still freaking out, indicating that this Doctor is nowhere near as cool as the old Doctor, that this one is ineffective compared to the ninth regeneration.

The Sycorax don’t like being threatened, apparently—and now dozens of apparently unconnected people are wandering away from their homes and jobs, with mysterious circles of blue light flashing up around their heads and necks. Guess the translation software didn’t get that personal pronoun wrong, after all. These would be the “they” that the Sycorax threatened with harm if Earth didn’t surrender.

It’s a useful threat, though—there’s something sincerely creepy about these people just standing silent at the edge of high buildings. Two billion of them? Wow.

Rose, for goodness’s sake. Can you not pull yourself together? She’s now insisting that there’s nothing we can do, that there’s no-one to help them.

(Torchwood is missing a third of its staff? Which third? Because Captain Jack is always standing on the edge of high buildings, so there’d be nothing new about that.)

Nick wonders why they’ve put a plaque about humanity on Guinevere One (even excluding the blood sample, which seems odd) when the probe is supposed to land on Mars. As he points out, that’s usually reserved for craft that are leaving the Solar System.

Now Harriet is calling for the Doctor to come and help humanity, which will be a little difficult if he only has one heart beating. Rose has completely broken down, now. Man, I hope I’m never ill in a situation where Rose is my only hope of nursing.

Should I be sympathetic at this point? Nah. She can cry after the crisis, not during.

Glass shatters as the Sycorax ship hits the atmosphere.

NICK: I reckon at least half a million people just fell off their buildings.

I like the ship design, though. (Hey! They rebuilt Big Ben!) And I like these scenes of people just standing in the street stunned, staring up at the ship as it passes. So plausible, if depressing. We are a species of rubber-neckers.

The Sycorax are calling for the world leader to stand forward, and Harriet does so. (Seriously, Doctor Who is the only programme on Earth in which the Americans aren’t allowed to control things in the case of alien invasion. Well, and Torchwood.) She is transported aboard the spaceship, along with others—including Llewellyn, who steps forward to talk to the Sycorax leader, with an oddly sycophantic speech for mercy, but it doesn’t matter overly much, since he and then the random officer whose name I don’t think we ever hear are both killed with what I can only describe as a glowing electrical whip.

The Sycorax want Harriet to surrender on behalf of the world or they will kill the one-third of the population who are standing on the rooftops (the ones with AB+ blood).

Rose, Jackie, Mickey, and the unconscious Doctor, meanwhile, have disappeared into the TARDIS, as a safe place for them to hide. But the Sycorax can recognise the TARDIS technology, now it has been activated by Rose and Mickey’s presence (Jackie has been left outside)—and Rose, not knowing that they have been transported to the Sycorax spaceship, steps outside, screams, and is followed out by Mickey, who drops his Thermos of tea by the Doctor’s head.

Harriet is thrilled to see Rose, but less thrilled when she hears the Doctor isn’t with her. The Doctor, meanwhile, seems to be responding to the mixture of tea and the fumes that the tea is causing when it drips onto the TARDIS wires.

Rose, meanwhile, is spouting random phrases from her adventures with the Doctor—and, frankly, coming across as a little aggressive, for a spokesman to a warrior race.

Aha! The Sycoraz are speaking English! I wonder what that means? Perchance the TARDIS translation circuits are working again?

Oh, yes! It’s the Doctor, in his stripey pajamas and Howard from the market’s dressing gown. He’s not going to save the world, just yet, though, because he’s too busy going into a monologue and coming over all vain about his personal appearance—he rather wanted to be ginger. He’s also doing a little bit of explanation about how regeneration works and a little back story, but the Sycorax would really like the plot to start up again.

Now the Doctor goes into a fairly excellent monologue, but I really don’t think that I can transcribe it—and I couldn’t do justice to David Tennant’s articulation of “a great big threatening button.”

And did the Doctor really just eat that human blood? I’m not sure that’s hygienic, Doctor.

The Doctor presses the button. (NICK: But why did they move forward? They were already right on the edge!) But apparently, blood control—which the Doctor regards rather as though it were a tin monkey clapping tambourines together which he’s just found at a flea market and which he thinks would look fabulous in the living room . . . (Actually, where can I find a tin monkey?). Anyway, you can’t use it to kill people.

And now—barring a brief moment where the Doctor thinks he’s delivering a heroic monologue (he does love a monologue, this tenth regeneration) but then realises it’s a bit from The Lion King—the Doctor and the Sycorax commander are duelling, and the Doctor’s not doing so well. Plus, he’s in pajamas, which just looks silly.

And there goes his hand.

D’you know, I have a feeling that that hand might actually come in handy at some point in the future?

But the Doctor grows another one.

SYCORAX: Witchcraft!
THE DOCTOR: Time Lord!
ME: Those two items aren’t parallel!

But don’t listen to me. The Doctor wins, though he won’t fight to the death, of course. Instead, he forbids the Sycorax to ever return to Earth. (And namechecks Arthur Dent. But if he met Arthur Dent, do you not think he could have brought him back to Earth? Because we know Arthur wanted to come home—well, you know, once he realised that the dolphins had managed to save it by a process that I haven’t ever really understood.)

What? Oh, the plot? The Doctor has killed the Sycorax leader—after he cowardly attempted to stab the Doctor in the back—and warned the Sycorax off, which impresses Rose, Mickey, and Harriet Jones, Prime Minister.

Wow, this is a long episode. But now we’re coming to a climax, while Jackie hugs the Doctor, because Harriet has received a message from Torchwood—and tells them to fire at will.

And they do—a weapon that looks as though it were scavenged from the Death Star, which blows the Sycorax ship out of the sky and send its debris raining down over the Earth.

And the Doctor is not pleased—not pleased at all. Harriet has a good point, here: the Doctor may be the Earth’s champion, but he’s not there all the time. And the Doctor’s becoming truly self-righteous here. And here he does something that I’m not at all sure I approve of—when he goes wandering over to Harriet’s aide and mutters, “Don’t you think she looks tired?”

And while Rose, Jackie, and Mickey are all united in the Doctor’s support here, I’m not at all sure I am. Hasn’t the Doctor just brought down England’s Golden Age? He doesn’t seem too bothered, though—he’s in the TARDIS wardrobe room, wearing the fourth Doctor’s second scarf (the one all in shades of red, not the one with multi-coloured stripes) and Nick thinks he saw the third Doctor’s tartan cape in there, too—and he picks the outfit we know: the suit and tie, the Converse, the coat that we later learn he got from Janis Joplin.

And as they sit at Christmas dinner, we can see the effect of his words, as already they’re talking about a vote of no confidence in Harriet Jones. Well, we’ll see how that works out for you, Doctor.

Meanwhile, London is basking in and building snowmen from the remains of hundreds or thousands of dead Sycorax, while the Doctor and Rose have a really horribly believably awkward and adorable conversation about whether she’s going to continue travel in the TARDIS.

And, finally, the Doctor pulls something out from his previous regeneration, when he insists that his future travels are going to be “fantastic.” Well, we’ll see—next Tuesday, with “New Earth.” See you then!

Live-blogging Doctor Who: The Next Doctor

Posted 25 January 2009 in by Catriona

So here with are, with an unusually early play of the Doctor Who Christmas special. I wonder if there’s anything in the title, “The Next Doctor”?

Hmm. We’ll see.

In the interim, before the episode actually starts, here’s a little rant that some of you in Queensland might recognise: What the hell is up with this humidity?! Seriously, Brisbane, I’m likely to die if you don’t tone this weather down. A weak cool change, you say? What use is a weak cool change when there’s three degrees of difference between the lowest temperature and the highest temperature? Seriously, this is unnatural!

Right. I feel slightly better now.

Oooh, hang on—the ABC is repeating season two of Doctor Who? Right, it may be necessary to live-blog those, as well.

But here we are with the Christmas special.

And there’s the Doctor, stepping out into a Christmassy scene—snow, which is presumably not the detritus of an alien spaceship, for once; people in Victorian costumes; spinning camera angles; Christmas carols; a mouthy urchin.

All very Dickensian.

But there’s someone calling for the Doctor off-screen, which is much more to his taste: it’s an attractive woman in a corset, who must be freezing (well, bits of her must be freezing).

But she keeps calling for the Doctor, and David Morrissey comes haring around the corner, pulling out his sonic screwdriver, telling Rosita to get back to the TARDIS, and telling the Doctor that this is a job for a Time Lord.

The Doctor’s bewilderment is brought to a sudden halt by a furry creature wearing a Cyberman mask.

Both Doctors: Allons-y.

The creature starts climbing a building, and the new Doctor (to make it easy) manages to lasso it, but is pulled straight up the building—as is our Doctor when he grabs the rope.

NEW DOCTOR: Perhaps if you could pull?
OUR DOCTOR: I am pulling. I couldn’t not pull in this position.

Our Doctor is a little startled that the new Doctor doesn’t seem to recognise him, but they’re mostly worried about their impending deaths, as they’re pulled through a window, across a warehouse floor, and towards another window.

Rosita saves them, but they’re simply roaring with laughter and embracing. I’ve always known that the Doctor was a narcissist, but this seems to be taking it a little far.

Our Doctor is really keen to induce recognition in the new Doctor—he doesn’t want to know how he regenerated, as long as it wasn’t something stupid, like tripping over a brick: “Although, there are worse ways to go. Depends on the brick.”

Our Doctor claims to be John Smith, presumably because he recognises—as the new Doctor admits—that this new Doctor has some form of amnesia. He can remember nothing since the Cybermen—which comes as a shock to our Doctor, though it probably shouldn’t, not with the creature with the Cyberman mask.

The new Doctor remembers nothing, just a vague sense that something odd is going on. Now he’s off to a funeral—and our Doctor is not going to let him out of his sight.

Ooh, a Cyber Controller! Thought Nick says not: he’s never called a Cyber Controller. But he has a visible brain! What else could he be?

Ooh, and Dervla Kirwen! Maybe I’ve spelt that wrong, but I’ll go back and check later.

And she’s going to the funeral, too. Ooh, I wonder if that’s a coincidence?

Of course, the new Doctor is not actually going to the funeral—he’s just breaking into the corpse’s house (that’s not a good phrase, but that’s live-blogging, for you) during its final absence.

Ah, the new Doctor’s sonic screwdriver.

OUR DOCTOR: But . . . that’s a screwdriver. How’s it sonic?
NEW DOCTOR: Well, it makes a noise. (Taps it on the doorframe) That’s sonic.

Love that line.

While he and the new Doctor wander around the house of the late Reverend Aubrey Fairchild, the new Doctor tells him about the previous death: Jackson Lake, come to London to take up a new job.

Oooh, a fob watch. Really? And whispering? Are his memories contained within?

Nope. Says the new Doctor, “It’s more for decoration.”

Nick wants me to point out that the Cybermen seems unusually excited and happy about the Cyber King—well, unusual for the Cybermen.

And now our Doctor has found an infostamp—like a floppy disk, apparently, containing a history of London from 1066 to 1851, where we are now. And it has a curious effect on the new Doctor, who says he was holding an infostamp the night he regenerated.

Our Doctor wants to head back to the new Doctor’s TARDIS, but a quick final look through the house reveals a Cyberman hiding in a cupboard—and another one who comes from somewhere else.

Our Doctor leads them upstairs, telling the new Doctor that they can’t afford to lead them out into the London streets. He’s insisting to the Cybermen that he, not David Morrissey, is the Doctor, that they should be attacking him, not the new Doctor—but it’s the new Doctor who neutralises them, by doing something with the infostamp’s core that I can’t pronounce and wouldn’t have the faintest idea how to spell.

The new Doctor is not pleased that our Doctor told the Cybermen that he was their target—he’s worried that our Doctor is trying to steal his only remaining thing, his identity, like the Cybermen did.

And now we’re at the funeral, a grave surrounded by sombre Victorian gentlemen—except for Dervla Kirwen, as Miss Hartigan, matron of a workhouse, who arrives slowly, dressed in bright scarlet with a scarlet parasol, thoroughly scandalising the mourners.

And she taunts them about the difference between their charity and the sheer hard work involved in what she does, about their suppressed desires and their hypocrisy, before she calls the Cybermen to slaughter all but four men whom she names and protects.

She needs them, she tells them, for their children—presumably they also run workhouses or orphanages.

But back at the new Doctor’s home—Rosita has been worried about their absence—our Doctor is surprised they’re not living in the TARDIS and by the presence of mounds of Jackson Lake’s luggage in the corner, which our Doctor immediately tears opens, over Rosita’s complaints.

(Nick and I have a brief conversation, in which Nick is surprised that I’m not shocked by his tentative identification of Rosita as a prostitute. Seems obvious to me.)

The new Doctor takes our Doctor out to see his TARDIS: Tethered Aerial Release Developed In Style. It’s a hot-air balloon. Well, powered by gas—I don’t know whether that’s different to a hot-air balloon or not. It’s rather stunning, though. I don’t know how advanced the technology was by this point, though people had been ascending in balloons for some fifty years by this point.

But our Doctor doesn’t think much of balloons, and offers to tell the new Doctor how he became the Doctor—he thinks he’s figured it out now.

(Elsewhere, Mercy Hartigan is sending the four men from the funeral off to an unspecified task involving their children; they’re controlled now by those glowing Cybermen devices in their ears.)

Back in the stables—at least, they look like stables—where the new Doctor is living, our Doctor explains how the Cybermen could have escaped from the battle of Canary Wharf, thanks to the battle with Davros and his reality bomb at the end of last season.

And the Cybermen came across Jackson Lake . . . but he’s dead, says the new Doctor. Not quite, says our Doctor, showing the mongrammed “J.L.” on the back of the new Doctor’s fob watch.

(I stop blogging briefly to coo over the images in the Cybermen’s database on the Doctor and all his previous regenerations.)

This data stamp is the one that Jackson Lake was holding the night he went missing—and it streamed its content into his brain, causing him to believe that he was the Doctor. But Jackson knows there’s something else going on here—he knows the Cyberman took something from him.

And the Doctor is genuinely sorry to say this, as he points out gently to Jackson that the pile of luggage is very large for a single person—and Jackson’s face freezes and then breaks, as he sees all over again the death of his wife.

Man, David Morrissey is brilliant in this scene.

And the Doctor’s sympathy rather dissipates—and the music becomes rather inappropriately jaunty—as he hears the infostamps buzzing and sees them glowing: it’s a call to arms, and the Cybermen are on the move.

It’s not so much the Cybermen, though, as dozens of children under the Cyber-controlled presence of the four men from the funeral. The Doctor can’t remove the control, because the furry Cyber-creatures (does anyone remember the Cybermats? They were a bit rubbish) are keeping guard from alleyways.

They’re all converging on an unidentified building that the Cyber-controlled men call “The Court of the Cyber King.”

(Meanwhile, Jackson’s “fugue state” has dissipated, and he’s now fluctuating between despair and anger.)

Two Cybermen sneak up on the Doctor and Rosita—DOCTOR: Do you have your legs on silent?—and Miss Hartigan appears, scorning the Doctor’s offer of help.

The Doctor, planning on injuring the Cybermen with a damaged infostamp, does at least manage to convince them that he, not Jackson Lake, is actually the Doctor. That doesn’t look as though it helps, since Miss Hartigan orders them killed, but Jackson arrives and destroys them, as he did in the Reverend Fairchild’s house, with the manipulated infostamps.

Jackson Lake has found the deeds to his London house, in the cellar of which he thinks he found the Cybermen and saw his wife killed: this, then, could be a way into the Cybermen’s lair.

Meanwhile, Miss Hartigan kills the four men she had previously saved from the funeral—and puts the children to work in some sort of insane, steampunk chamber full of chains and wheels and mysterious spheres with spikes on them.

She takes the Cyberman’s arm, as he takes her off to see the Cyber King that they’re all so proud of.

Meanwhile, the Doctor, Jackson, and Rosita are in Jackson’s basement, where they find a Cyberman and Dalek technology.

Miss Hartigan, on the other hand, has just found that she is supposed to become the Cyber King, and she isn’t overly thrilled about the whole thing:

MISS HARTIGAN: But you promised me I would never be converted.
CYBER CONTROLLER: That was designated a lie.

Becoming Cyber King involves having a Cyber helmet—or at least those curious handle parts—welded onto the sides of your head. It doesn’t look like a pleasant process.

The Doctor and his companions, meanwhile, have found the room where the children are working; the Doctor recognises it as an engine, but he’s not entirely sure what’s happening, since the machine is reconfiguring itself.

The Cybermen aren’t too thrilled with Miss Hartigan, meanwhile, because the conversion hasn’t removed her emotions: her joy is too emotional a response, apparently. (NICK: And “All hail the Cyber King!” isn’t?)

So she deletes the Cyber Controller, and that scares the other Cybermen into behaving themselves. Meanwhile, the Doctor and his companions are evacuating the child workforce.

Jackson, though, is having another of his moments: he’s starting to remember what else the Cybermen may have taken from him, in the figure of an angelic blonde child, who is now standing high up on the machinery, wearing, frankly, far too much mascara. The stairs explode before Jackson can get to his son, but the Doctor is rarely fazed for long, and he’s up (improbably fast, it must be said) on a convenient rope, grabbing young Frederick, and down through red-tinted smoke.

Now, this is the point where I’m going to ask everyone to suspend their disbelief and just forget how deep the Thames is, for a moment. This is a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen—movie, that is—approach to the relative depth of urban water courses.

Yes, apparently there’s an enormous robot in the Thames, but that’s okay, because it’s stomping its way across some of the Thames-side suburbs of London as we speak.

It’s actually a pretty nice piece of steampunk design.

The Doctor, rejecting Jackson’s offer of help, grabs infostamps and sets off for the TARDIS—the hot-air balloon TARDIS.

The Cyber King, meanwhile, is using its guns to demonstrate its overwhelming might.

NICK: Oh my God, you just killed Charles Dickens!

And the Doctor is off in the TARDIS. (Wow, that’s . . . seriously, that’s a lot of mascara on that kid.) He’s showing remarkable control for someone who has never flown a hot-air balloon before.

(Nick is torn between being uncertain about Dervla Kirwen’s acting and being impressed by how attractive she is.)

NICK: I’m starting to think that Russell T. Davis doesn’t like uppity women.

The Doctor fails to convince Miss Hartigan that she should leave, to colonise another world, and instead attacks the main Cyber party with his infostamp.

(Last time we watched this, a friend exclaimed at that point, “Hey! He’s getting Zoom whitening.”)

What the Doctor has done is sever the connection between her and the Cyberman, which allows he to scream herself and all the other Cybermen to death. Actually, I’m not entirely sure what happened there. It’s not as though she was receptive to the Doctor’s rhetoric before she became the Cyber King, so why is she receptive now? It’s as though the infostamps basically worked as an extremely fast-working course of anti-psychotic drugs.

Oh, well—that’s not important right now. The Doctor also uses the Dalek technology to transport the falling body of the Cyber King into the void before it can crush half of London.

And everyone in London cheers, though I think the Doctor does actually get thanked rather a lot, doesn’t he? I remember him being thanked by the Ood last season, for example. Still, a bit of cheering is always nice.

Jackson is trying to ask the Doctor to Christmas dinner (a combination Christmas dinner and wake, it sounds like), but the Doctor is reluctant. He shows Jackson the TARDIS, at Jackson’s request—and Jackson insists that the Doctor needs a companion.

I’m pleased, I admit, by the Doctor’s stutter there when he says that sometimes his companions forget him—I’d hate to think he felt no backlash from what happened with Donna. But, no: says the Doctor, his companions break his heart.

Aw.

And so he agrees to Christmas dinner with Jackson and Rosita—and they’re off. Until the specials at Easter, anyway.

And that was “The Next Doctor”! (Wow, sorry—that was long. Won’t happen again!)

Real-Time Blogging Doctor Who, Season One: Rose

Posted 11 January 2009 in by Catriona

This should be interesting. We haven’t even put the disc in yet and Nick is already complaining. Mind, I agree with him there: the TARDIS-shaped box takes up an enormous amount of space, and the glue perished very quickly, so the insets keep falling out. I’m quite glad that the others didn’t come in, say, a Dalek-shaped box.

Nick’s now decided that these should be called recaps, but I don’t fancy doing that: I’m already a little uncomfortable, thinking about the fact that these have already been recapped on TWoP. But then I decided that, firstly, that didn’t mean I couldn’t do it, as well, and, secondly, I never cared for those recaps, anyway.

And all that before we get to the actual episode . . .

. . . which, of course, opens not with the Doctor, but with Rose (once we get past the opening credits, which were exciting enough in 2005, sixteen years after we’d last heard them on live telly, and with the slow panning down to London from outer space).

Rose, and her alarm clock—Rose looking terribly cute, actually, back before she started annoying me.

And the careful shots of the plastic dummies, just so we know what’s actually coming up.

Now Rose being adorable with Mickey on her lunch break, and now back to the work montage.

Ah, but now things are heating up, when Rose has to take the lottery money down to the basement to poor, dead, never-seen Wilson. (That’s not a spoiler, surely? Not four years on. Sorry, but Wilson is totally dead.) And you can tell it’s getting serious, because the very jaunty music has stopped as soon as the lift doors open.

Wow, I’m out of practice at this.

I find this whole scene in the basement very creepy, but then I’ve always found the (spoiler!) Autons terribly creepy. The horrible little dolls! And that black plastic armchair that suffocated people! The only thing that frightened me more in the original series was the Peking homunculus.

And now the dummies start moving, and they’re waaaay creepier than the stop-motion dolls from the 1970s. Even Rose is thoroughly freaked, backing away, until—the Doctor grabs her hand. “Run!”

Hurray!

Actually, the dummies look less realistic and less frightening when they’re running. For some reason, they look more like people and less like dummies/Autons when they’re running.

DOCTOR: Why would they be students?
ROSE: ‘Cause to get that many people dressed up and acting stupid, they have to be students.

I can’t argue with that.

And there goes the Doctor. Well, that was quick. Shall we assume he’ll be back at some point? Rose looks a little shell-shocked—and that’s before her place of work explodes, which it just did.

Well, you can’t argue with that: that’s what the Doctor does, just wanders in to a planet and creates massive quantities of chaos.

Jacki really is at her most annoying in this episode, with the nattering about Rose being “aged” and “skin like an old Bible” and “honestly, if you walked in now, you’d think I was her daughter.” I like her more in later episodes. And Mickey, too, though I don’t dispute his desire to go down the pub to see the match. Perfectly normal impulse—unless it’s Man. United playing. Or Chelsea. Or Arsenal.

Uh oh, strange scuttling sounds, and rattling cat flaps.

Oh, that’s okay—it’s only the Doctor poking through the cat flap. Which sounds like a euphemism, but isn’t.

I love this scene with Jacki:

JACKI: I’m in my dressing gown.
DOCTOR: Yes, you are.
JACKI: There’s a strange man in my bedroom.
DOCTOR: Yes, there is.
JACKI: Well, anything could happen.
DOCTOR: . . . No.

I also love the montage of the Doctor wandering around the living room while Rose makes coffee and natters on—checking his new face in the mirror (how long has it been since he regenerated?) and flipping the playing cards all over.

And if Mickey is being immature earlier in the episode, at least that explains Rose’s assumption that the Doctor is pretending to strangle himself with the plastic arm.

I wonder if this exchange between Rose and the Doctor

DOCTOR: Just “the Doctor”.
ROSE: Is that supposed to sound impressive?
DOCTOR: Yeah, sort of.

is a nod to the fact that this is the first new episode in sixteen years, a nod to all those new viewers out there who don’t automatically see the title sequence and think, “Well, obviously he’s the Doctor.)

I love Eccleston’s Doctor, the way he can flip between a thoroughly brittle manic mood, almost hysterical, to a sort of portentous solemnity that also has something hysterical about it. I’m writing this passage during the sequence when he’s walking back to the TARDIS (our first real glimpse of the TARDIS, though Rose runs past it in the street after the explosion—and the first time we hear it) when he’s explaining how he can feel the Earth hurtling through space, and that’s a good scene to explain what I mean about this Doctor.

I’ve lost the knack of explaining where the plot is while also rambling on about other things!

For the record, Rose has just checked out the Doctor on the Internet, and now Mickey is over-protectively driving her to see the chap who runs the Doctor website. (Well, his driving isn’t over-protective, but you get my point.)

I like Clive’s son—“Dad! It’s one of your nutters!”—but his wife’s “She? She read a website about the Doctor, and she’s a she?” just makes me a little cranky. (Yes, there are girl Doctor Who fans, and, no, you don’t need to assume that a Doctor Who convention is just going to be sad men in anoraks standing around shuffling their feet.)

Clive is showing his photographs and pictures to Rose, and Nick wonders what the Doctor was doing at Kennedy’s assassination. I wonder that, too. He wasn’t assassinating the U.S. President, presumably, so what?

Ah, the wobbly wheelie bin. No, Mickey, don’t get out of the car! You fool! Oh, you know something bad’s going to happen when it’s a wobbly wheelie bin.

This sequence with the bin isn’t entirely convincing to me—and as I type those words, Nick says, “You know, given the requirements, I don’t think ILM could have done better with that.” But the strips of plastic attached to Mickey’s hands I like—they’re kind of creepy and mundane at the same time, but the wobbling bin itself—especially in the panoramic shots—isn’t convincing.

Mickey’s post-Auton make-up is fabulous, though—the shift in the eyebrows and eyes and the shininess of the skin. I love it. Very uncanny (in a Freudian sense).

On the other hand, the scene where the cork hits Mickey in the forehead is deeply unconvincing.

(While Mickey wrecks the restaurant, I want to know more about this boy for whom Rose left school. Who was he? Why is he never mentioned again? Why would she have to leave school? I want back-story, dammit!)

And Rose is inside the TARDIS for the first time, and completely and utterly freaked out. Can’t say I blame her.

When did the assembled hordes of Ghengis Khan try to get through the TARDIS doors? I don’t remember that episode.

Oh, dear: Rose is breaking down. Poor girl.

Damn, these two are self-absorbed. We’ve already had Rose’s “I’m sorry, I thought we were talking about me” line at the dinner table, and now the Doctor’s insisting “Yeah, culture shock—oh, what? Your boyfriend? Oh, him.”

Sorry, Doctor: I love you, but Rose has a point—a Police Public Call Box is not a good disguise. It wasn’t even really a good disguise in the 1960s.

And now we have the first real running scene of the new season: the Doctor and Rose, tearing along hand-in-hand towards the London Eye. It reminds me, vaguely, of all the running through Paris that the Doctor (the Fourth) and Romana do in “City of Death.” As always, with Russell T. Davies, I wonder if it’s deliberate homage.

And they’re underneath the streets, looking down on the Nestene Consciousness.

NICK: This is a setting they keep coming back to. Spaceship interiors, cellars . . .
ME: I think it’s the new series’ quarry, myself.

Oh, and Mickey’s still alive. Which is good, I suppose, though Mickey didn’t grow on me for quite some time.

The Doctor probably shouldn’t call us “dumb apes” and “stupid little people,” when he’s always claimed to be so fond of us.

This scene is odd: this hysteria when he’s talking about the Time War in some detail for the first time is heart-breaking, but the image of the Doctor as a diplomat doesn’t really work for me here. Maybe because he’s not very good at diplomacy? Or perhaps he’s just tentative in the role here, coming out of an uncomfortable role as a soldier?

While I’m pondering that, vaguely, the Nestene Consciousness has activated its Auton warriors, and they’ve killed poor old Clive. Why? Because he’s the only person other than Jacki and Mickey that we’ve seen in any detail this episode, and the implication is that we’ll feel sorrier for someone we know? Or because they recognise that he, like Rose, has had contact with the Doctor, albeit virtually?

Of course, Jacki is at risk, too, from the hyper-creepy Auton brides.

But that’s all right, Rose knows what she needs to do. I do feel a little sorry for the Nestene Consciousness, though. It’s controlling the Autons, and the Autons have always been mindless killing machines, but it doesn’t look like a nice death—it looks intensely painful, and the poor thing is only a refugee from a destroyed planet.

Oh, well—it’s dead now, so there isn’t much point worrying about it.

Rose, when your mother is trying to tell you not to leave the house because it’s dangerous, you probably shouldn’t hang up on her. She’ll be having a panic attack right now.

Now, now, Mickey: aliens are people, too, in the broadest sense of the word.

And while I’m writing that, Rose is turning down a trip in what she thinks is a spaceship. Because she’s an idiot. Who seriously turns down a chance to travel in the TARDIS, even if their boyfriend isn’t invited? (Sorry, Nick!)

Ah, but when the Doctor turns up again and tells her it’s a time machine, as well, then she’s off—and I love that grin of sheer joy on her face. But that exchange with Mickey (“Thanks.” “For what?” “Exactly.”) doesn’t leave me with a good impression of the newest companion.

And that’s “Rose”! Sometime in the not too distant future (that is, probably next Sunday), it’ll be “The End of the World.”

Public Service Announcement

Posted 11 January 2009 in by Catriona

I am, as vaguely promised in an earlier post, going to real-time blog (Nick has insisted I can’t call it live-blogging when the episodes aren’t actually airing on telly) the first episode of season one of Doctor Who this evening, probably around 5 p.m., when Nick’s finished killing zombies.

I don’t think it’s necessary to be watching the programme to enjoy the real-time blogging—at least, I don’t think it’s necessary for you. It’s fairly necessary for me to be watching the programme.

Still, it never hurts to give people a little heads up.

Well, There's A Turn-Up For The Books, And No Mistake: Updated

Posted 3 January 2009 in by Catriona

The new Doctor has been announced.

And it’s not, as we thought it might be, Paterson Joseph. I’m a little disappointed about that, actually.

Instead, it’s . . . well, you can read for yourself right here at Outpost Gallifrey.

It’s not that it’s a spoiler, not now it’s been officially announced; I just think people might like to learn the news for themselves.

For much the same reason, I’m putting my response to this in the comments thread, rather than right here.

UPDATE: Courtesy of the BBC, here is an extended interview with Matt Smith, which the Beeb kindly posted on YouTube.

Seriously, he looks about twelve.

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