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John Nor
of planetzogblog
Interests: TORCHWOOD! And Doctor Who, natch.
Recent Activity
Blimey. After reading this news, I've just been reading some of Volume 1 (2005 - 2007) of the blog, thinking how BTS became more and more a part of the weekly (when it was on) Doctor Who experience - from 2005 (though I wasn't quite reading from "Rose" onwards), to being a regular reader for the 2006 season, to being a regular reader-and-commenter for the 2007 season. Of course it wasn't just TV Doctor Who - the Torchwood and BBC7 reviews between the 2006 and 2007 DW seasons were particularly amusing. With BTS Volume 2 (more Torchwood, DW 2008 then the DW "gap" year, then Moffat Season One) I've continued with the reading and the commenting. Thanks Neil (and the rest) for all the reviews to read and comment on!
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Good review Frank. You said: "As the Mill's CGI gives way to a plunge (rather Citizen Kane-like) through the girders and construction of Sardicktown and settles in the bustling streets, Moffat immediately makes a connection with us, here and now in post-Coalition government Britain, briefly reminding us with the newspaper headline 'Spending Plummets, Tax Soars' that his revisiting of Dicken's own Carol is as much about the haves and the have-nots of Cameron and Clegg's Britain as it is about Ebenezer Sardick's cruelty and soullessness." I was also thinking Citizen Kane - though the "El Rancho" scene and the start of this DW story - in my review. Kane and the Sardicks do have certain similarities I suppose. "Cameron and Clegg's Britain" - I realised why the currency is "Gideons" and wrote about that too... Click here for planetzogblog review of A Christmas Carol.
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I watched this quiz question last night too - and was bemused - and I agree with you Neil, "McCoy" was the "correct" answer, at least the most sensible answer. (I thought there would have been more of a media hoo-ha about this.) As the question was "Who played Doctor Who for the longest period?" and they counted 2005 as a "Tennant year", they should have counted 1996 as a "McCoy year": both times the actor was onscreen for a regeneration, "playing Doctor Who". No problem with whether the TV Movie is "Doctor Who" or not as they include McGann as part of the question. (That the programme defined the Tennant years as 2005 to 2009 - rather than to 2010 - was another thing.) The length of time between first TV appearance and last TV appearance is the most reasonable interpretation of "period" in the question. The "McCoy years" are 1987 to 1996. (The "McGann year", 1996.) Also, as "period" isn't "screentime" or "number of stories", I think that although it is an ambiguous question, McCoy would be the sensible answer.
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Good review though I disagree with a few points... Tom you said: "Russell T Davies was often (and rightly) said to have under-thought the logical, science fictional plot progression of his stories, giving his writerly attention instead to the drama and the emotional journey of the characters. But Moffat over-thinks his, to the extent where the science fiction is not so much a story that we're shown as a logical argument that we're told." The idea that RTD didn't write well-plotted science-fictiony DW stories is a curious one (though one I have read before, which perhaps stems from New Earth which overshadows his other stories with its nonplot.) I disagree that this ep of Moffat's is merely a "logical argument" rather than an action-packed story. There is a massive amount of plot in it but it all flows rather smoothly and also features four sequences across the 55 minutes which are really hugely emotional storytelling. "But the very fact that it's necessary for us to make up our own answers is a testament to just how muddled the plotting in this story is. I'm all for challenging drama, but too much ham-fisted sci-fi exposition can distract, to the point where it ceases to be drama at all." As far an unanswered plotpoints I thought (link) the only one was how River was at the wedding (though I did make up my own answer, then again she is a Woman Of Mystery.) I don't think there is any "ham-fisted sci-fi exposition" - at one point Rory even asks what the Doctor is talking about and the Doctor provides the one-line, more poetic answer for him and the audience. "Maybe this convoluted beast of a story would have worked if it had been spread out over multiple episodes, and the exposition was given time to develop more slowly." I think it's partly so extraordinary because of the sheer amount of plot, all the twists and turns, and that these 55 minutes at the same time contain so many great character moments. "We can whine all we want that the Pandorica’s restoration field comes out of nowhere," It is a poetic extension of the idea of the prison though. "Yes, I understand that Moffat has chosen to play the long(er) game and postpone the answer to this question until next year. But while that's a refreshing and surprising way of handling plotting in Doctor Who, it comes at the cost of reducing The Big Bang to a dramatic fizzle. This isn’t Lost." The myth of Lone Centurion, the Doctor spiraling the Pandorica to the heart of the TARDIS-Sun, the poignancy of the Doctor rewinding and unraveling, the triumphant return of the TARDIS - it was nonstop drama all the way and the final moments had the Doctor acknowledging the unanswered questions during the final uplifting scene so I don't agree there was any dramatic fizzle during the 55 minutes. 'I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to read it as an allegory for the Doctor being “forgotten” in the 1980s and subsequent “remembering” in 2005 by a generation of writers who had been affected as children by stories of the Doctor, making this the most metatextual Doctor Who story since Love and Monsters.' That's an interesting interpretation and one that makes sense considering the Doctor appeared for one day in 1996...
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Paul you said in your review: "The Big Bang is very possibly the greatest episode of Doctor Who ever made." I would agree with that, (as to why, my thoughts are more detailed in my review - click here for the planetzogblog review of The Big Bang.) I like how you've woven the Doctor speaking about stories - "Just make it a good one, eh? Because it was, you know. It was the best” - into that start (and end) of your review. (I also mention that line in my review though to illustrate something quite different.) What makes these 55 minutes (very possibly) "the best" is that those minutes are chock-full of scenes that are hugely emotional, scenes that feature intricate plotting that all makes a satisfying science fiction kind of sense (which also reflect the themes of the season), and each of these scenes are brilliant. Select just about any scene and it could be argued it's one of the all-time great Doctor Who scenes. All these scenes together means the ep is utterly superb.
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"Where are you getting 2019 from? 1999+14=2013... with the bulk of the episode taking place in 2011." Just to comeplete this "Fish Custard" timeline controversy discussion... At the time of broadcast of Ep1, I was thinking the "present day" could be anything from 2010 to 2020 (as scene one was 2005, but "Fish Custard" unclear.) However, we now know "Fish Custard" was 1996 (in a seeming meta shout-out to the TV Movie, the Doctor is there for just one day then is gone for years). So the story goes 2005, 1996, 2008, 2010.
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Paul you said: "It certainly rescues the Autons from burping bin ignominy; the last time we saw a plastic boyfriend, it was Noel Clarke with a champagne cork stuck in his bonce. This, I believe, is called progress." I noted that when I reviewed this ep (the jeopardy that the Doctor saves his companion from in the "first" Nu-Who story is what he doesn't save her from in this "last" Nu-Who story), though I prefer to think of Moffat's story having even more resonance because RTD's story exists, because he is riffing on what has gone before - this season hasn't exactly shied away from making links to the whole history of Doctor Who. After reviewing the ep I've been trying to think what this season means as a whole, episode by episode - click here for planetzogblog speculation of what the season is all about: "Doctor Who the 2010 season mysteries contemplated". (It contains some wild speculation at the end as to what the last ep will feature, the significance of Stonehenge, and this is the last half an hour before broadcast, so, last chance to speculate really.) This whole discussion in the comment-thread about how the Daleks and chums expected this plan to function - it just occurred to me that what the Daleks are doing is similar to River's messages through time: River uses Gallifreyan inscriptions and, in a similar way, the Daleks decide they have to "speak companion" to really get something to attract the Doctor's attention. (They are aliens after all.)
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Neil you said: "And is the Doctor The Beast Below now? In fact, every episode this season is practically begging to be re-watched and re-evaluated in light of this frankly magnificent hour of television." Very good - the Doctor is now "The Beast Below" indeed, I didn't spot that motif being repeated. The Silurian story may reflect the themes of the season though too, as it does feature the Doctor and companions adventuring into an "underworld" like this story. Above, below, up, down - from the Angels two-parter, these seem to be fluid notions this season for Moffat though. I've been thinking about what the season means in the light of this Stonehenge tale too - click here for the planetzogblog review of The Pandorica Opens.
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Tom you said: "Toby Jones does quite well with the role and he’s well-served by most of the material he’s given. I would love to see the Dream Lord again, and if this is the first part of a grander plan then perhaps someday I’ll look with more kindness on this episode. For now, though, I’ll just remember it as a decent story which was well served by its cast and made great use of a limited budget, but failed to live up to its own high aspirations." Well I thought (link) Toby Jones was superb, and his banter with the Doctor is what this brilliant story is all about (but, of course, this only becomes apparent 40 minutes into the story.)
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You say Stu about a plot point "and look at how I’m burying that in some brackets". That particular plot point was why I thought this was a very bold story indeed.
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Tom you said: "Why trot out the Daleks?" (Then listed various possible reasons.) Any of those reasons suggested I don't think would be the prime consideration of the production team - with a show relaunch that involves a radical new theme tune for the new Doctor and a new TARDIS interior, "new Daleks" don't seem that surprising. You do say the reason was maybe "just because Moffat wanted to reset their status quo as quickly as possible by redesigning them and bringing them back into continuity for real this time." I reckon (click here for planetzogblog review of Victory of the Daleks) that the basic elements of the show are the TARDIS, the Doctor, the Daleks. Sure, the Classic era of the programme didn't feature the Daleks every year - however one of the traditions of Nu-Who is now "the Daleks every season". Even though this is a radical new era in many ways, it is still Nu-Who.
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Mentioning a single-paragraph review Stu, you - jokingly - say that you hope you've "made up for that omission": I will say that I do enjoy reading your extensive reviews on this blog, and to have reviewed all of Nu-Who, in whatever review-format, is impressive. Stu you said (at the start of your review): "Which means that in fact, The Beast Below, is Steven Moffat’s mission statement. Philosophically, narratively, we’re in completely different place" then (at the end of your review), "Then, right at the end, Moffat curiously evokes The End of the World himself" I read this story quite differently - it was very much a continuation of the RTD era (albeit a story ultimately unlike any of the previous 203.) There was nothing "curious", I thought, about evoking the story The End of the World, indeed from the start it seemed to be "Moffat's The End of the World" - it is the same start-of-season structure as 2005: a trio of stories to showcase the TARDIS time-travel, "present” story to begin, then “future” and “past”. A story in which the relationship between Doc and companion is at the forefront after the intro story. One of the central concepts of Nu-Who (crafted by RTD) was the “Last of the Time Lords” which was at the centre of his second story, and it is at the centre of the second story of this era, so, very much a continuation of the RTD era. I expand upon these thoughts in my review - click here for planetzogblog review of The Beast Below. I do agree that the style is different, but in terms of content - this is still very much the "Nu-Who" begun by RTD.
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"2025" is a year that I associate with some Troughton-Doctor era future-Earth stories, I mentioned that year in my comment in my excitement (as I mentioned Sixties DW) - to be more precise the "present day" of the Matt Smith-Doctor era seems to be 2019.
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A good read as always Stu. Stu, you said: "After intricately keeping to the timing of one year ahead in the last four and half series, do we even know now when Amy was picked up from?" I reckon "present day" for this era of Doctor Who is 2025, the "far future" of a few DW Sixties stories. "there's a general shift from primary colours to something more naturalistic" Possibly, though bold reds seemed to be a theme in the episode. Interesting that they kept the "orangey" aspect of the TARDIS interior. Read your review after I wrote mine, and we seem to agree that there are echoes of previous Moffat (and RTD) stories... Click here for planetzogblog review of The Eleventh Hour.
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Great trailer, "Montage trailer 2 (30 second variant)". However, unlike "Montage trailer 1" and "Vortex trailer" there is no BBC-YouTube version of it, which is curious. I guess the BBC gave DigiSpy an "exclusive" (?) of this vid after the press launch. (There are now DW-fan LoRes YouTube versions.) Strange how there is nothing for this trailer on BBC-YouTube (and bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/ ) though, in this era of "Web 2.0"? There may be "Montage trailer 2 (full-length variant)" online from the BBC in the near future though, the press launch trailer...
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I'm not very sure what "inconsistencies" of the Time War storyline you mean. It all seems to make consistent sense with those first mentions in The End of the World and the story Dalek - do you agree? I suppose now we will never quite see the Eighth Doctor use 'The "moment", the end of Gallifrey' onscreen, though I was surprised we saw earlier in the final day and the small detail of the crashed Dalek Saucer in the ruins of Gallifrey though. One other detail I thought was interesting was the colour scheme of the (Time War) Time Lords (and Daleks). The Daleks - grey and white no more - united in bronze (and gold) and war. Time Lords - scarlet and orange / green / heliotrope, no more - united in red (and gold) and war. What I'm saying is, the production design could be read as another aspect of the Time War.
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(About Claire Bloom...) "Never have so many plot threads been left dangling, so in that context it's inexcusable in my view. While some fans can come up with ingenious explanations, as you have, average viewers are left baffled. It baffled me and I'm a fan who knows the backstory." To continue with the quick alphanumeric discussing of the "plot holes" that Fazzinchi began earlier in the comments (also refer to my earlier comment)... 1. a) Claire Bloom - was who? 4. Time Lord Things b) Rassilon These are (respectively) major and minor mysteries intended to be so, as another BTS review this week has noted DW is about mystery. 1. b) Claire Bloom - "how"? 2. Ood civilisation 3. Donna 4. Time Lord Things a) and c) and c)ii) These are all explained onscreen so I don't need to provide an "ingenious explanation". 4. Time Lord Things d) Logopolis / The End of Time regens... Yes I did provide an "ingenious explanation" of sorts. The percentage of the audience that knows of Logopolis but doesn't know of The Tenth Planet would still understand this is a vigorous and energetic Time Lord I think. When I said 'so are there "rules"?' I was talking specifically about the regen in Time and the Rani. 'There are rules in writing. Rules are made to be broken but if you break one - like having a story that makes no sense as your finale, at Christmas, on BBC One, knowing you'll have millions of viewers - there has to be a very good reason for breaking it. The reasons weren't good enough. The regeneration was nicely done but the rest was weak, at best. The Master gets to yell at his parents for messing him up. Donna's ok in the end... It's not really "Luke, I am your father" is it?' The two-parter made sense (as explained). That Master moment was great! If U/TSoD/LoTTL was Empire, I think this was Jedi (if Jedi was even better than Empire.)
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Tom you said: "Of course there were things I didn't like. For starters, the explanation we're given for how/why the Doctor "destroyed" the Time Lords and Daleks doesn't align quite right with the cryptic hints we've gotten all along. The extent to which being in the final day of a time-locked Time War means death isn't satisfactorily explored, but apparently that's the situation. The suggestions that Gallifrey "burned" at the Doctor's hands are now rather questionable," In the tradition of Smith and Jones, Blink, and so on, it was timey-wimey, except there was an actual clear DW-style explanation - the thought and idea of the drums of the Legend of the Master were amplified 6 billion times into a physical link. The "moment", the end of Gallifrey, still happens, as it always had (like Smith and Jones, like Blink). I though the onscreen explanations for Ood civilisation (it was the dreams) and Donna were fine too. "I really don't mind the fact that we never find out who The Woman is, or who the other person covering their eyes is. Doctor Who is all about mystery and periodically, new mystery has to be injected into the program. That's what the Time War was about, and now that it's been demystified a bit, we're due for more mystery." Exactly! I agree with your sentiments about how wonderful this finale was, though I suggest it has "story logic" too.
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I will begin by saying I enjoyed the review and the review title is Neil's best since "Reichenbach Balls"! The "plot holes" listed in the review though (which seem to be the element people are discussing in the comments)... Claire Bloom - was who? It was the Daily Telegraph who built fan expectations for an "explanation" on 29 April 2009 with their "news story" (most fans knew of this "Mother" rumour than began from that newspaper, yes?), though I thought it was pleasingly ambiguous in the end and didn't need to be explained. That she was a Time Lord was enough explanation for the "how". Ood civilisation - it was the dreams. Donna - the Doctor mentioned a "defence mechanism" he left her. The Time Lord Things, Fazzinchi has covered this in his comment very well, his points a) to c) a) Big Bad Time Lords - agree with Fazzinchi. (It was said by the Doctor too.) b) Rassilon - agree with Fazzinchi. c) Quite so, Fazzinchi - signal strengthened 6 billion times. c) ii) The Master's plan - he described the 6 billion human-Masters as "mongrels", he regarded the TLs as a better plan. However... d) 4th Doctor fall / 10th Doctor fall... Not-we - they wouldn't know of Logopolis. Fan explanation (some fanfic from me! Based of course on "Doctor Who Facts") - the 1st Doctor regenerated because he was as he says “wearing a bit thin” (and no other reason.) I would say that the (energetic in S12) 4th Doctor was “wearing a bit thin” by S18, so it was that and the fall. 10th Doctor wasn't “wearing a bit thin”. Also, remember the 6th Doctor fell off an exercise bike - not a radio telescope or a spaceship - and he regenerated, so are there "rules"? Anyway, as I say - enjoyed the review, and look forward to Neil's "final appraisal of the RTD years" - "mixing vitriol with praise".
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Great review Frank. Agreed, Tennant, Simm, Cribbins, Dalton, all splendid. I'm going to comment though on some of the points your reviewed raised, some interesting points and also some points we don't agree on... Frank you said: "never really daring to go very far at all in really shaking up the Universe. Gallifrey materialising over the skies of Earth is eventually reduced to just another hallucination caused by WiFi going crazy around the world. I imagine that's probably the billions of key strokes from fans venting their spleen on Gallifrey Base. However, this time one part of that narrative, the appearance of a new Doctor, isn't subject to his magic reset and there's nothing he can do about it" I suppose large swathes of the universe were destroyed in Logopolis. Is it really a "magic reset" though if the Doctor saves the universe, if Gallifrey doesn't become a new Mondas for the Earth? "And let's give him his due, the Doctor is the ultimate Proustian character with an ability to embody psychological or durational time rather than time on the clock or the time of physicists as the true measure of it all." Nice! Excellent way of putting it. Remembrance of Things Past indeed. "Let's disregard the rather odd scenes: of Martha and Mickey (it whiffs of a 'Mr And Mrs Smith Save the Universe' spin-off that we're not likely to see and really invalidates Martha's entire reason for leaving the TARDIS by falling in love and marrying Tom Milligan) and the faux Cantina scene with Captain Jack where the Doctor acts as a pimp" Matchmaker surely? I love all 6 scenes as I mention in my review (click here for planetzogblog review.) The Martha and Mickey scene was excellent - sure it was like a Ben Aaronovitch New Adventures novel chapter rather than regular Nu-Who, but still cool and fun. "inconsistencies and the implication that he simply isn't all that concerned with them" - "Thus we get no explanation about The Woman, played by Claire Bloom, and in having no explanation she's already been seen as variously Flavia, Romana or the Doctor's mother" There are still mysteries in the RTD-era - a good thing, surely? Ood civilisation - it was the dreams. "We see something new here, the Doctor throwing a tantrum and declaring like Harry Enfield's recalcitrant teenager Kevin that 'it's not fair!' " It reminded me of the Second Doctor bemoaning his fate in The War Games. "plotting that plays out like a game of Top Trumps. Great performances from Tennant and Cribbins, holding all this nonsense together, and highly enjoyable scenery chewing from Simm and Dalton." I'm not saying all of RTD's stories are shining examples of an elegant plot, but this one was. The Sound of Drums, (itself the DW theme) not War Drums, but - the rhythm of four, the heartbeat of the Time Lords, from the War mentioned in Nu-Season 1. It all made elegant Sci-Fi sense. I loved this story, it was a superb ending of an era, and part of a "joined-up" 5-year plot.
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Frank you said: "The various nationalities on the base are not just an homage to the similar set-ups in the Troughton era but they are in effect a microcosm of our own world" Good point about "our world" - regarding the Troughton era, I've been reviewing the Base Under Siege Season 5 it reminded me of The Wheel in Space (Tanya Lernov et al). "This encounter, as the Dalek literally gazes into her soul," What an amazing scene that was! "The man that emerges from the TARDIS in London 2059 is clearly not our Doctor simply through the way Tennant physically occupies the space, holds himself and expresses emotion through the set of his facial characteristics" Yes, I noticed in my review that he had a different take on the usual "Oh, I'm good" line, more aloof than cheeky. "post-Torchwood: Children Of Earth conclusion to the Tenth Doctor's era" Exactly! Who would have thought we could talk of post-Torchwood DW, but, yes. My review - Click here for planetzogblog review. I mention some of same precursor stories to this one, thinking now though - Voyage of the Damned, that story wondered about "those who would decide who lives" - they would be "a monster." There's more arcs in DW these days than there used to be!
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TimC - '"the characterisation of the Judoon here. In their previous appearance", "not stormtrooper bureaucrats as here"? They were the guys who put the Hospital on the Moon because the Earth was technically out of their jurisdiction, cataloguing and ticking-off everyone, in the story Smith and Jones. :) Damon you said: 'Having finally worked out that their natural language is actually just a series of tabloid-assigned abbreviated celebrity names: J-Lo, Su-Bo, Bo-Jo etc… it's no wonder they have no word for, or and use for the word, "Maverick".' Hah! Very good. I thought the Judoon stuff was the best part of the story, especially the "no admittance" silent gag, as they hesitated about freeing their leader because of that sign.
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I'm just putting my review up now. Wow this season of TW has been AMAZING.
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"Whatever happens, I can't wait" You, me and 6 million other Brits Damon! That's a lot of people tuning into this DW spin-off!
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Frank, I just realised the full extent of the pun of the Tory-philosophy satirising title of your review. Nice one!
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