Daily Archives: Thursday, 1st July 2010

Doctor Who – 2010 Series Mutterings

OK, now the dust has settled on the series finale, I thought I’d do a post on my impressions of the series as a whole.

Those of us who grew up on “classic” Doctor Who are quite used to the idea that every few years there would be a change of cast, a change of production crew, and sometimes both at the same time. And these are the times when the series can leap off in a new direction, while still maintaining at its heart the same principles. Which is a good trick.

But over the last few years, a whole new generation of fans has been created. Some of them will have seen Christopher Eccleston’s single year in the role, but there are a lot who had only ever known David Tennant as the Doctor. And given the way David inhabited the role, became The Doctor more thoroughly than anyone since Tom Baker, and was, not to put too fine a point on it, so bloody good at it, any actor taking the role after him was going to have a major challenge to be accepted by the audience and to fill David’s shoes. Well, not literally. He did get his own costume.

Then there was the writing team. I know Russell T Davies has his critics, but I’ve always liked his approach to the series. It was, therefore, a Very Good Thing Indeed that the BBC management had a flash of good sense and offered the job to the Best Bloody Doctor Who Writer Ever, Mr Steven Moffat. If anyone could take the reins from Russell, and make the show new again[1], and to have Huge Ideas, Steven was the man.

And when it was announced that Matt Smith was the new Doctor, the reaction was interesting. There were people who said he was too young. I saw one comment from someone who said that the Doctor couldn’t possibly be younger than he was[2], and how this was the Worst Thing Ever, and so on and so forth. Me? I trusted in the judgement of Steven and the other execs – they’d been expecting to cast an older actor, but once they saw Matt, they knew he was the one.

And so, when the series returned with new titles, a new version of the theme tune[3], a new Doctor, a refurbished TARDIS and a new companion, what was it going to be like? Come to think of it, this was pretty much how I felt back in 2005, when Rose was first shown.

Well, if you’ve read any of my posts on this series, you’ll know that in my opinion, it’s been great. Steven’s episodes have been superb, as you’d expect, but the contributions from other writers have also been superb. We’ve had Vincent van Gogh meeting the Doctor! We’ve had Siluri-err, Eocen— err, them reptile guys! We’ve had a mention for Zygons! And we’ve had stories that weren’t afraid to put genuine emotion on screen.

Matt Smith has been quite superb as the Doctor, and he’s barely got started. Once he really gets into it, I think he’s going to be amazingly incredibly good. He’s already utterly bonkers, and that can only get better…

Karen Gillan as Amy Pond – what can I say? A companion who takes no nonsense, who’s courageous, funny, and generally excellent.

And Arthur Darvill as Rory? A good guy all round. Not naturally brave or adventurous like Amy, his devotion to her made him follow her everywhere, even to the extent of waiting 2,000 years for her. Not at all like Mickey Smith, who took a lot longer to grow into a useful companion.

And putting Mr Moffat in charge means we get to see more of River Song, one of the most interesting guest characters we’ve ever seen in Doctor Who. Alex Kingston appears to be having fun, and apparently we’ll be seeing more of her next year…

The only problem now is that we have to wait until Christmas for the next episode.

[1] A good thing to do after five years, to be honest
[2] If I could be bothered replying on forums, I’d have muttered “welcome to my world, sonny”
[3] Still not sure about that, but I like the choral bits

Doctor Who – The Big Bang

Very little of this post will make sense if you’re not familiar with events in the previous episode, The Pandorica Opens, so I’ll assume you’ve read my slightly long post on that.

The Earth is hanging in space. There are no stars in the sky. How can it still be there when the whole Universe has just ceased to ever have been[1]?

Flash forward 1,894 years, and Amelia Pond[2] is praying to Santa, which takes us back to the start of The Eleventh Hour, only this time the Doctor doesn’t appear to sort out the scary crack in her wall, as he’s busy not existing. Amelia is a somewhat strange child, who persists in painting pictures of “stars” in the sky, which everybody knows don’t exist.

In a suitably odd way, a barely-seen person who looks suspiciously like the Doctor slips a flyer through Amelia’s letterbox. It’s advertising an exhibition of something very strange indeed: the Pandorica. And written on the flyer are the words “Come along, Pond”. And when Amelia is taken to the exhibition, it’s full of Very Strange Things. Stone Daleks, Nile Penguins, and the Pandorica, looking just the same as the last time we saw it. Well, apart from the note stuck on it which reads “Stick around, Pond”. And so Amelia hides until the museum closes and approaches the Pandorica. And touches it. It lights up and opens to reveal…..

Amy!

Amy, who appears to be less dead than the last time we saw her, says to Amelia[3]

OK kid, this is where it gets complicated

And so it does.

Back we go to Stonehenge, where AutonRory appears to have recovered from his Auton conditioning and is cradling Amy’s body and talking quite lovely nonsense. At this point, the Doctor appears, quite unaccountably wearing a fez and carrying a mop. He tells Rory that he (Rory, that is) has to get him (the Doctor) out of the Pandorica, even though he appears to be already out of it, what with him standing there and all that. After some suitable confusion, the Doctor disappears again. Rory heads down and opens the Pandorica with the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. Amy is placed inside with the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver and an implanted message from the Doctor, where she’s eventually restored with the aid of a bit of Amelia’s DNA when she touches it, which explains the last bit. Sort of.

Rory, still feeling guilty about having killed Amy, insists on standing guard over the Pandorica, which leads to legends for the next two thousand years of a Roman centurion being seen near it time after time….

The Doctor, having previously blagged River’s vortex manipulator, nips forward in time to meet Amy and Amelia, where they find that the stone Dalek in the museum has revived itself and wants to do some exterminating (well, it’s been about 2,000 years, poor thing). It gets slightly zapped by a handy museum guard, who turns out to be Rory. Which suggests that those Nestene guys make really durable plastics, but never mind.

While they’re all doing some classic running around, the Doctor acquires a fez from an exhibit, decides it’s cool and puts it on. Just before barring a door with a mop, he pops back in time to see Rory. Yes, that’s right. He got out of the Pandorica because he got Rory to get him out of the Pandorica and went back to get Rory to get him out of the Pandorica. This is, as Douglas Adams said about the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, impossible. Or at least the kind of paradox you can get away with if the universe is too busy never having existed to notice you violating causality and generally mucking about with time, which also doesn’t exist.

After getting his sonic back from Amy, he pops back to deliver the leaflet to Amelia, and to put the “Stick around” notice on the Pandorica. Which makes more sense than the previous bit, but hey…

While they’re running round the museum avoiding the stone Dalek, which keeps regenerating itself enough to move around a bit, they’re interrupted by another Doctor. To keep the confusion to a minimum[4], I’ll call him Doctor2. Doctor2 is smouldering slightly and doesn’t look at all well in the moments before he falls down the stairs and lands at the Doctor’s feet. Doctor2 whispers something in the Doctor’s ear before collapsing in a generally dead manner.

The Doctor announces that Doctor2 is indeed dead, and that he’s got twelve minutes, what with the Universe closing in on itself, Amelia having disappeared, as she no longer ever existed, though Amy’s still there for the usual wibbly-wobbly reasons. Up on the roof, the Doctor realises why the Earth is still around – that bright light in the sky isn’t the Sun, it’s the explosion around the TARDIS, which for even wibblier and wobblier reasons is happening at every point in time. He picks up a signal – it’s River’s voice saying “I’m sorry, my love” over and over again. The TARDIS has locked her in a time loop to protect her from the explosion, which allows the Doctor to use the vortex manipulator to rescue her. She’s so grateful for this that with Amy’s help she destroys the fez that the Doctor was still wearing. Look, just because the Universe it ceasing to ever have been, there’s no reason to let the Doctor get away with wearing an inappropriate hat, is there?

While everyone except the Doctor is enjoying the destruction of his hat, they’re interrupted by the arrival of the stone Dalek, which has recovered from being slightly zapped by Rory. On their way back into the building, after pointing out that they’ve got about four and a half minutes before the Dalek is due to kill him, the Doctor explains his Cunning Plan. As the Pandorica contains an imprint of the Universe[5], and the exploding TARDIS is exploding at every point in time, all you have to do is drop the Pandorica off at the moment of the Big Bang, create a second Big Bang, and regenerate the whole Universe. Simples.[6]

Now at this point, I was expecting that what Doctor2 had whispered to the Doctor had been intended to stop him getting exterminated, but Mr Moffat is even more twisted than that. The Dalek does indeed shoot the Doctor, who then zips off using the vortex manipulator. River tells Amy and Rory to find him while she has a nice chat with the Dalek, which involves the Dalek asking for mercy, and while what happens next occurs off-screen, it’s pretty clear that it didn’t get any…

Ooooookay. Amy and Rory get to where Doctor2 (who we can now revert to calling the Doctor, as we’ve caught up) was lying and find that he’s presumably more alive than the Doctor[7] said he was.

River catches up with them and they find the Doctor, looking not quite dead, but not all that well either, inside the Pandorica. He has a word with River, who explains the Doctor’s plan to Amy and Rory: he’s going to fly the Pandorica into the heart of the explosion, which will reset the Universe. The downside is that he will never have existed, and will (even though he technically doesn’t exist) be on the other side of the cracks, which will have sealed. All of which makes trapping Rose in a parallel universe look like a mild inconvenience. But before he goes, he talks to Amy, about her house with its too many empty rooms, about how she can’t remember how she “lost” her parents, how the crack has been eating at her life…

And the Pandorica lifts off, crashes through the roof and heads for that big explody thing in the sky. Quite why the aliens who built it as a trap for the Doctor should have given it flight capabilities is one of those questions its probably best not to ask, but anyway, it flies into the explosion, which explodes even more, and time rewinds and….

The Doctor finds himself in the TARDIS. He realises that it’s a few days earlier, and he sees himself with Amy and time rewinds some more and he sees Amy putting the advert in a window, as we didn’t see her do in The Lodger and time rewinds some more and he tries to tell Amy that she needs to remember and time rewinds again, and he’s back at Amelia’s house, the night she waited for him to return.

He finds Amelia asleep in the garden, and puts her to bed, and talks to her. He tells her that when she wakes up, she’ll have a mum and a dad, and she won’t remember him, but that it was a great story about the daft old man who stole, or was it borrowed a magic box, that’s both old and new, and most definitely blue.

He says that the cracks are closing, but that they can’t close until he’s on the other side.

I think I’ll skip the rest of the rewind. I hate repeats.

And Amelia wakes up. The crack has gone, the Doctor was never there. And the sky is full of stars.

And Amy wakes up at home, on her wedding day. And her parents are there.

She calls Rory. She knows something important is missing, but can’t remember what. And they get married.

And at the reception, we see a fleeting glimpse of River, who’s left a present: it’s her diary full of spoilers, which we now see clearly as a blue book with TARDIS-like patterns on the front, but its pages are all blank. And Amy sees a bow tie, and braces, and she feels desperately sad, though she can’t imagine why. And a single tear falls on River’s book. And Amy interrupts her dad, who’s just starting his speech and tells everyone that someone is missing, someone really important.

And she talks about her imaginary friend, and then it comes back to her, and she shouts

I remember you, Raggedy Man! And you’re late for my wedding!

And there’s a blast of wind, and the wonderful sound of the TARDIS, and there it is, Old, New, Borrowed and beautifully Blue, and there he is, because as he said in the previous epsiode

If you remember something, it can come back

And he quite wonderfully introduces himself to everyone as Amy’s imaginary friend. And proceeds to dance in a manner that has been described as “like a drunken giraffe”.

And he calls Rory “the new Mr Pond”. Rory says that he’s not Mr Pond, that it doesn’t work that way. The Doctor tells him that it does, and he cheerfully agrees.

The Doctor then meets River at the TARDIS, which he’s parked in Amy’s garden, as it was in the middle of the dance floor. He gives her back her vortex manipulator and the book, whose pages are now filled again, and asks her again who she is. She tells him

You’ll find out very soon now. And I’m sorry, but that’s when everything changes.

And off she goes until next time. The phone rings in the TARDIS. Someone else needs the Doctor. But before he can leave, Amy and Rory come aboard. There’s a little bit of chat, and the Doctor says “so this is goodbye”. Amy agrees, and yells “goodbye” out of the door.

And off they go to meet their next adventure!

And after all those twists and turns, and temporal impossibilities there are still questions yet to be answered. Quite apart from the identity of River Song, there’s the matter of what it was that took control of the TARDIS at that particular point in time and caused the explosion? We know what the Pandorica was, but what about the Silence that’s going to fall? All this will, we’re told, be revealed next year. But I’m sure Mr Moffat has some even wibblier, wobblier, timier and wimier stuff to come.

Oh, and if you looked at the hideous length of this post and the one on The Pandorica Opens, here’s the executive summary:

:clap: :clap: :bouncy: :bouncy: :bow: :bow: :dizzy: :dizzy:

Wonderful stuff.

[1] Look, this is going to get very timey-wimey, so the grammar may get a bit more odd than usual
[2] You’ll see why I’m carefully referring to her as “Amelia” shortly…
[3] This is less confusing than Amy saying it to Amy, you understand
[4] Or at least as low a level as it’s likely to get for this episode
[5] Or something like that. It all gets a bit confusing, err a bit more confusing, from here
[6] No meerkats were harmed in the making of this post
[7] If you’re not having this kind of reaction: :dizzy: , I may have missed a few bits

Weight and Stuff Report – 28 July 2010

Weight: 230.2 pounds (16 stone 6.2 pounds, 104.4 kg)

No change today.

The Sunderland Airshow had its usual opening act: the RAF Falcons parachute display team. Following a recent accident, they weren’t using their normal smoke canisters, but were flying flags instead. Anyway, here’s a close view of a landing:

Touchdown

Touchdown

Again, that 500mm lens got me in a lot closer.

Weight and Stuff Report – 1 July 2010

Weight: 230.6 pounds (16 stone 6.6 pounds, 104.6 kg)

Another month begins with another slightly higher weight. But never mind, that makes it more likely that I’ll be at a lower weight at the end of the month. Or something like that, anyway.

The picture for today is another one from Durham. This is the cathedral and the old mill I showed you yesterday, taken from the riverside walk.

Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral

This one has had some gentle HDR treatment[1], a little touch of the content aware fill to remove some odd clumps of whateveritis that grows next to rivers and some general Lightroom tweaking.

[1] I may do some more HDRy HDR later, but for now, I’m preferring the more subtle version that brings out the details.