Ten Years of the Tenth Doctor: School Reunion

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Pain and loss, they define us as much as happiness or love. Whether it’s a world, or a relationship… Everything has its time. And everything ends.

Doctor Who is, obviously, a family show. We all know that (the debate as to how effective a family show it is can be saved for another time) but, at the same time, it’s always held something of a special regard for children.

After all, it’s the children who are going to be pretending to be Daleks in the school playground come Monday morning (I say that, probably I was the one being K9). It’s like the Krillitanes say in this episode; there’s something special about the imagination of it. And so, in turn, Doctor Who has a pretty special relationship with the child portion of its audience.

Which is why, in many ways, this conceit at the heart of this episode is so fantastic. It’s not just the fact that we’re setting a Doctor Who episode at a school – but, in and of itself, that’s a wonderful concept. Juxtaposing the mundane and the alien is something Doctor Who has always done very effectively, but there’s something so much more personal about setting it in a school, rather than the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Everyone has, at some point, wondered if the teachers slept at school at night… but what if they were aliens as well? It’s a fantastic image.

But the episode doesn’t stop there; it takes it further. It’d be easy for the cold open to end right after Mr Finch has ate the child; with any other episode, that’s where you’d expect the titles to start, and the music to come crashing in. Not here, though.

Because the hook of this episode isn’t the fact that aliens are teachers.

It’s the fact that the Doctor is a teacher.

And there’s something unique about that, and the way that this episode melds those two worlds. Certainly for me, there was something a little extra thrilling about seeing the Doctor – my Doctor – walking up and down corridors that I could have quite easily been in myself just a few hours ago. Teaching a lesson I could have been in (well, I say that, I don’t actually take physics lessons anymore) surrounded by students that I could have been.

This episode, moreso than any other, is one that’s able to merge the world of Doctor Who and the world we know. And I think that’s pretty impressive.

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Also notable is the fact that this is the first time we really delve into the Time War with the Tenth Doctor; though we are, obviously, aware of it as an audience, it was always framed in terms of the Ninth Doctor. Understandable really – it was through him that we came to know about it.

But thus far we’ve not really seen David Tennant’s Doctor being confronted by the Time War; in both New Earth and Tooth and Claw, it simply didn’t really come up very often. This is his first Time War episode – it sets a precedent for how things will follow on from here.

I find it fascinating, actually, and I consistently find this fascinating, how well telegraphed a lot of the Doctor’s later development was, even right from the beginning. When we see the Tenth Doctor being tempted by Mr Finch, that right there is sowing the seeds for the Time Lord Victorious, a good three years down the line. Hubris has always been this Doctor’s fatal flaw, and here it is on display, as early as his fourth episode. Tennant does a wonderful job here; it helps, of course, that’s he’s playing off of an actor as talented as Anthony Head (Giles!) but he gives a brilliantly subtle and understated performance when first confronted with the Skasis Paradigm. It’s moments like this that prove, over and over, why Tennant was cast as the Doctor.

Interesting further still, though, is the Doctor’s little diatribe about aging, and why he has new companions. “You can spend every day of your life with me, but I can’t spend every day of mine with you.” David Tennant, once again, performs this wonderfully; he does a great job of conveying how strained the Doctor is in that moment, trying to hold himself back from an emotional outburst. It’s clear that this is something he’s kept bottled up for a long time, and will continue to do.

It’s a new way of looking at the dynamic between the Doctor and his companions; that’s why he’s always running. Always moving forward, never looking back.

And that brings us quite neatly to Sarah-Jane Smith.

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Sarah Jane was, and remains, iconic in her own right. One of, if not the, most popular companions of Doctor Who’s original run, this was one of the most meaningful interactions that the new series had with its history in the first couple of years of its life. True, we’d had the Daleks, and shortly afterwards we’ll have the Cybermen – but there’s something rather different about having metal men in suits, when compared to the sheer joy that is seeing Elisabeth Sladen on screen as Sarah Jane once again.

I mentioned in a recent article for Yahoo that there’s a palpable sense of legacy throughout this episode; more than that, though, there’s a real pathos and poignancy to the episode. It’s not just about seeing Sarah Jane taking another lap around the corridors, there’s genuine emotional depth to her return. The Doctor is forced to confront what happens when he leaves people behind, and Sarah Jane is able to find closure. (It’s rather wonderful, though, that’s she’s become like the Doctor in her own right though; a fantastic little detail is that, when breaking into the school at night, both the Doctor and Sarah immediately head for Mr Finch’s office.)

With hindsight, of course, this episode is particularly poignant; even five years on, it’s difficult not to view this in light of Elisabeth Sladen’s passing. She embodied the role perfectly – twice, for two different generations of children. I wasn’t there the first go around, when Sarah Jane was travelling with the Third and Fourth Doctors, but I was there watching The Sarah Jane Adventures each week. And as wonderful as it is to see her… it’s sad, too. It’s a harsh reminder of one of the key themes of the episode; pain and loss define us, just as much as happiness or love.

(The first time she appeared on screen in this episode – Mr Finch introducing her to the Doctor – I was just beaming. Grinning at the screen like a fool. It was just genuinely wonderful and truly heartening to see Sarah Jane on screen again, because she’s a part of my childhood too.)

Ultimately, then, School Reunion is a strong effort from Toby Whithouse, and it’s another impressive instalment in the ongoing story of the Tenth Doctor. Once again, we’ve got another effective reminder of just why I love this era of the show so much.



Ten Years of the Tenth Doctor Reviews

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Looking at Aziz Ansari’s stellar Master of None

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Once again, very entertaining, but with some important discussions about representation on TV. It’s good to address that sort of thing, and hopefully the existence of Master of None (with a token white friend, no less) is going to lead to more diverse programming in general. Diversity is good because it’s different; differences means the stories are more compelling and interesting. Master of None isn’t Friends, and that’s good – seeing the same thing over and over again is repetitive and boring. Master of None is new and entertaining. (And very funny.)

The post linked to is a review of Master of None, with each episode being talked about and evaluated individually. It’s a format I don’t really use anymore, admittedly, but it worked well enough at the time.

I enjoyed Master of None season 1 quite a lot, but never managed to find the time to watch season 2. Of course, since then, there was that babe article about Aziz Ansari, which I think would change how I watched it quite significantly.

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So I’ve already written my Yahoo article about it, but I figured it was also worth writing something here, because it’s not every day we get a new Doctor Who companion, and if anything warrants multiple articles…

I have no idea who Pearl Mackie is, but that’s exciting in and of itself. I mean, I say that, I haven’t actually known who any of the companions were ahead of their casting, but the point still stands! There’s a lot of potential here, which is something I’m really looking forward to. (I do keep calling her “Pearlie Mack” by accident, which is her Twitter handle. I kinda need to stop doing that.)

Beyond that, though, it’s really far too early to actually say anything. Judging by the trailer, you can make an educated guess that she’s probably from the 80s, or thereabouts; they refer to 2017 as the future, she’s wearing clothes with that sort of aesthetic, so on and so forth. That, however, tells us little about her character.

I can understand, I think, why people are a little frustrated with the introductory scene; the meta humour and questioning causes a little friction against the accepted Doctor Who norms, and that’s always the sort of thing that pushes fans out of their comfort zone. More to the point, there’s also the fact that we’ve seen this kind of genre awareness before, so it feels a little derivative.

Again, though, this is a very short clip; it doesn’t give us a lot to go on, and there’s also very little context to the whole thing. For introducing a character during Match of the Day, this is a reasonably effective conceit. Makes sense to engage in that sort of questioning for the general public, who likely do think the Daleks are a little bit silly.

It’s great that this casting is showing a commitment to diversity, of course; it’s really important that Doctor Who gives us good representation, particularly considering it’s a family show. Similarly, it’d be nice if Bill was LGBT as well – explicitly, that is, rather than the bisexual subtext of Clara. (Which was great and all; it’d just be nice to have some direct confirmation, you know?)

All in all, then, this is pretty cool. New companion! How could it not be pretty cool?

New Doctor Who – be it episodes, Doctors, or companions – is always pretty cool.

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On Canon

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Just something I’ve been thinking about recently, what with the whole Arrow fiasco; for those of who aren’t in the know, the show has recently departed fairly significantly from comics canon, and then earlier today Marc Guggenheim tweeted an article about how we should all just forget about canon. As with most things Arrow related these days, people are angry, as ever.

So anyway, it’s kinda got me thinking about canon.

Part of me loves canon, and always will. I genuinely find it fun – the mental arithmetic of trying to keep everything in track, squaring away any inconsistencies, resolving plot holes – all of that is the sort of thing my nebbish fan side gets a great deal of enjoyment from.

(Incidentally, one of my favourite attempts to make everything canon is the idea that the Peter Cushing Doctor, who’s a human inventor literally named Dr. Who, came from Pete’s World, which was the parallel universe where the New Who Cybermen came from.)

But I’ll freely acknowledge that is as restrictive as hell; to adhere to canon is to impose an extreme number of limitations upon a story. It’d be awful if Doctor Who threw out a great idea for a story, because it would contradict one line from the 80s. That’s just not worth it.

So, really I tend to just dismiss it entirely. They’re all stories, in the end – just make it a good one! Yes, it’s fun to try and match it up, but that doesn’t make it anywhere near a priority. Typically, my approach to canon is well articulated here, in this particular article; it sums up quite well how we all need to just relax and focus on more important things, and certainly shouldn’t be focused on limits and constraints and suchlike.

But! That’s Doctor Who canon, which is one thing. The issue with Arrow is that of comics canon, and that’s… something else entirely.

Arrow is functioning as an adaptation of another story, the same way the Harry Potter movies were adaptations of books and suchlike. There’s a source material here, and people are angry at the manner in which it’s been diverted from.

And I dismiss those concerns! I dismiss them entirely. Arrow doesn’t need to be a slavish adaptation of the comics; it never has been. The Flash isn’t a slavish adaptation of the comics; it never has been. Very, very few of the mainstream superhero movies adapt single comic storylines – the upcoming Civil War movie, which I’m really looking forward to, is very clearly taking the Civil War comic as an inspiration and a starting point, rather than the be all and end all of the movie.

I’ve written before about the benefits of adapting source material, rather than translating it straight to the screen; the comics act as an inspiration, and something to build from, rather than being the purest form of the story than we have to adhere to. (Though it is worth noting that the question of the spirit of the source material is something entirely different, and presents some unique concerns of its own.)

To make the complaint that something isn’t respecting the canon is… often missing the point, I feel. It obscures the real issues, and makes it very easy to dismiss complaints.

There isn’t a problem, in theory, with killing the Black Canary. There is a problem with Arrow fridging a female character, again, and that needs to be the focus of our ire.

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Ten Years of the Tenth Doctor: Tooth and Claw

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And so begins the empire of the wolf.

An interesting thing, which I am starting to notice about these episodes, is that I’m actually quite familiar with them; part of the reason why I did my Ninth Doctor reviews was to refamiliarise myself with a character that had always been something of an enigma for me. I didn’t exactly know all of those series one episodes quite so well, and thus I often found myself quite surprised by them.

But that’s not quite the case with series two – there’s something almost reflexive about these, because I know them quite well. I think series two is probably the run of Doctor Who that I’ve watched the most, so it’s almost like it’s burned into my mind, in a way.

It’s difficult to approach it critically as a result of this; there’s something about it that just feels like trying to review the story of Robin Hood or some such similar. It feels like it just is, rather than being a piece of television that I can properly engage with.

Much the same applied to the Star Wars movies when I reviewed them in preparation for The Force Awakens, actually; because of how well I knew them, there was initially something difficult about finding anything particularly new or interesting to say about them.

Nonetheless! I do think there’s still a lot of nuance to pick up on in these episodes; there’s a reason why I came to know them so well, after all, and it’s because they are bloody good.

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One of the things which is most immediately noticeable about Tooth and Claw is, I think, quite how fast paced it is. Russell T Davies, in his wonderful book The Writer’s Tale, spoke about how this episode ran over by 10 minutes when it was first edited together; rather than cutting out any individual scenes, however, they chose to pare it back until it “moved like lightning”.

It’s a very effective choice; the pacing of Tooth and Claw does wonders for the tension of the episode, and helps to create an episode which is both exciting, and at times quite scary. Despite this, though, there’s also time to breath – the episode never feels overstuffed, and none of the different concepts ever feel like they’re struggling for room.

That helps a lot, I think; the tenser, scarier aspects of the episode only work as well as they do because we’re allowed the time to process them. The characters are beaten back – but when they are, we watch them regroup, we watch them think, and we watch them recover. This in turn is useful in establishing the Wolf (or, you know, the lupine wavelength haemovariform) as something to be afraid of across this episode.

Of course, the episode trades on a lot of iconography we already recognise; werewolves are the sort of horror monster that much of the audience are familiar with, and thus the imagery of the full moon and suchlike is already very evocative in this context. It’s great to see the new Doctor taking on this sort of monster – it fits into a great Doctor Who tradition of colliding with other genres, flitting around the format, and putting a unique spin on timeless stories.

Tooth and Claw does an impressive job of making the Wolf scary independently of what we already know, however, which is an achievement in and of itself. Like I’ve already said, the pacing of the episode brings a lot of tension to it; however, the way Euros Lyn, the director, manages to present the wolf is similar effective, with a very memorable sequence of the Wolf eating someone. Obviously, it’s not a visceral depiction of blood and claws, but rather lots of quick close ups intercut with one another – in some ways, it really makes the scene feel quite frenzied and manic, which I think is a really great way of working within the confines and limitations that are presented when trying to show a werewolf eat someone during tea time television.

Also rather creepy is the Host, despite his limited screentime; there’s something about his sickly pallor and jet black eyes which is deeply unsettling. (There’s a nice reversal of this at the end, with a touch of pathos as the Host is ‘drowned’.) The only thing that doesn’t quite work is the Shaolin Monks; while the concept of a clerical order devoted to worshipping the Wolf is fascinating, this is something that remains a pretty surface detail. As such, you end up with the impression that they were written for the visual, and the visual alone.

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Another important aspect of this episode is to set the tone and direction for the character development of our TARDIS team across the series.

Here, we’re introduced to the Doctor and Rose as time travelling tourists; they’re having a hell of a lot of fun with what they’re doing. Mucking around in history, taking in the sights, really revelling in every experience. But, by the same measure, it’s made very clear that they’re in danger of losing perspective – while they sit around laughing, people have died. This is still real.

As a device, it’s a pretty clever one; we the audience are already predisposed to take the side of Rose and the Doctor, particularly when they’re so joyous. The “we are not amused” bet is a wonderful conceit, actually – not only is it indicative of how the two are treating their travels, as well as developing their relationship some more, it gets the audience involved. Of course we’re expecting Queen Victoria to say “we are not amused”, because if she didn’t, it’d be like a Charles Dickens story without ghosts, or a Shakespeare story without witches.

But it means that we’re guilty of the same mistakes – we get so caught up in the fun and the adventure and the laughter, we aren’t aware of the costs. Not the way we should be.

Speaking with ten years of hindsight, it’s clear that this is a rather influential episode; again, we’re seeing the foundations of the Tenth Doctor’s arrogance, which will come to plague him in subsequent years. On top of that, though, it’s similar to the arc we saw Clara taking last year, explored in Face the Raven, and resulting in her eventual demise (of a sort).

I’m looking forward to seeing the consequences of this, and the manner in which it develops over the course of the series – there’s something rather mysterious about that Torchwood Institute that Queen Victoria was talking about, don’t you think?

All in all, then, we’ve got another very strong episode here. Interestingly, it was written as a late replacement script, when another writer’s attempt at making something of the premise fell flat. Frankly, you’d never be able to tell – this is a very polished effort, and it’s a fine hour of Doctor Who.



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Arrow: The Rise and Fall of Felicity Smoak

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In the third episode of Arrow’s first season, we were introduced to one Felicity Smoak; an IT support girl at Queen Industries, she was initially intended as a one episode character who would provide a little bit of tech-related exposition before never really being seen again.

Despite these initial intentions, however, the character was revisited; the primary reason was that the Arrow cast and crew quite liked Emily Bett Rickards, who played Felicity. They weren’t alone in this, of course, as the character became something of a fan favourite.

Felicity was soon bumped up to a season regular, and had become a key member of the Arrow cast. She remained a fan favourite, of course; the third season saw a Felicity-centric episode, The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak, which contained flashbacks to Felicity’s college days, and introduced her mother, Donna.

For quite some time, Felicity was everyone’s favourite character. She could do no wrong. The audiences loved her.

Now, she’s near universally hated.

So what changed?

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It’s easy, of course, to blame it on “Olicity” – that’s the name used to refer to the relationship between Oliver and Felicity, which developed across the third season, and… was complicated, we’ll say, during the fourth.

Easy, but not entirely accurate, that is.

In theory, there’s little wrong with developing a relationship between Oliver and Felicity; certainly, in the early seasons, the pair had chemistry together, and that’s part of why the character of Felicity was so popular. Certainly, had it been written well, you likely could have convincingly depicted a relationship between Oliver and nearly anyone on his team – how different things would have been had we got “Oliggle”!

But the operative term of the sentence – “had it been written well” – is essentially the embodiment of the issue. Olicity is not well written. Felicity, of late, has not been very well written. Frankly, Arrow of late has not been very well written.

The problems here are twofold: one is a matter of emphasis, the other of contrivance.

The first problem, and arguably the greater of the pair, is the manner in which Felicity is treated by the narrative. Felicity is valorised by the narrative; constantly, we are told that she is great and strong and powerful, with nearly every other character having some dialogue about how wonderful she is. (Diggle in particular has fallen foul to this of late.) Obviously, on a surface level, this is just particularly unsubtle writing; the old maxim of “show don’t tell” is one which springs to mind in this instance.

More than that, though, is the fact that this narrative lacks any form of balance – given how insistent Arrow has become in beating the audience over the head with constant references to how great she is, there is rarely any acknowledgement of her character flaws. A good example of this is 4×16 Broken Hearts, in which Felicity is constantly sniping and making cruel digs at Oliver – but rather than her being criticised for this, Oliver is told simply to give her time.

Through not allowing Felicity to have character flaws (or, at least, ignoring the ones she does have) Arrow has fallen into the pitfall of a giving us a very superficial and shallow “strong female character” – as opposed to “strong” meaning well rounded, three dimensional and nuanced, a more literal interpretation of “strong” has been pursued, hence Felicity being shown as infallible and literally described as “strong”.

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The other problem (albeit one linked to the former) is that much of the drama surrounding Olicity is extremely contrived and very poorly written. A recent example of this was Felicity regaining the ability to walk, so that she could then walk out on Oliver, due to the fact he’d been lying about her – entirely ignoring the fact that, of course, she’d spent the episode prior trying to convince her mother that people in relationships can lie to each other if they love one another enough. It’s astonishing, really, how much Arrow is reliant on the use of lies and deception to further their plot; it’s as if the writers know of no other form of communication.

(Incidentally, on the matter of Felicity’s paralysis; it would take an entire post to properly break down the failings within this arc, as opposed to a single aside within a larger post, so I likely shall return to this subject in the future. For now, though, I think it’s important to note that this six episode paralysis arc was not only poorly written, but was so poorly handled as to be bad representation and quite disrespectful as well.)

You end up getting the indication that those involved with the show perhaps just aren’t very good at writing romantic arcs – except, then, how does that explain Diggle and Lyla, or Roy and Thea? Both of those stories were reasonably successful, and have added a lot to the respective characters.

The answer, then, is that the writers aren’t very good at writing a romance when they feel it needs to be the focus of the story; Diggle & Lyla and Roy & Thea were always subplots, forming part of something larger. Here, with ‘Olicity’, it takes centre stage – largely at the expense of other characters, who recieve limited screentime as a result of this.

Laughably, though, this brings up back around to the beginning – not just of this article, but of Arrow. We established earlier that Felicity became a fan favourite character – part of that was because fans were responding so poorly to the character of Laurel, and her romantic plotline with Oliver. That, in part, is why Felicity was written as the main love interest, with Laurel being simply a close friend of Oliver’s – and when “reduced” to this role, the character began to thrive.

At a remove from the program, it’s actually quite interesting to watch this all unfold; I don’t think I’ve ever really seen a character plummet from such heights to such depths before. Certainly, I can’t think of any fan favourite character who became quite so reviled so quickly – can anyone?

But, ultimately, within the program itself, it’s very disappointing. Arrow is far from its glory days, and it’s questionable as to whether it’ll ever really emerge from the shadow of its former self. The blame can’t be placed on Felicity, not really, nor Emily Bett Rickards; she’s a competent actress, and a very nice person as well. She deserves better material to work with than what she’s getting.

No, the real problem lies with the writers, who are struggling to bring any sort of coherent emotional or thematic arc to Arrow, or to their lead characters.

The writers of Arrow… have failed Felicity Smoak.

This article was previously published on the Yahoo TV website.


Was Arrow Season 3 really that bad?

Vixen Series Review – Arrow’s Animated Adventure

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4 actors – and 1 actress – who were nearly Doctor Who

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Time isn’t a strict progression of cause and effect; from a non linear, non subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey-wimey… stuff. It twists and it turns, and it could have taken a lot of different paths at different points.

Like, for example, with the part of the Doctor. As with any piece of casting, there was an audition process, and a shortlist, and finally an actor was eventually cast – but what if things had gone differently? What if the final choice for the Time Lord had gone to one of the other finalists?

These are the men – and women – who nearly took on the TARDIS…

An article on Doctor Who. Nice little listicle. Always fun.

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Ten Years of the Tenth Doctor: New Earth

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Can I just say, traveling with you… I love it.

Those of you with long memories will remember that, in 2014, I did a series of reviews to commemorate the ninth anniversary of Christopher Eccleston’s single series as the Ninth Doctor; each week a new episode, and I managed to cover some of the books too.

Those of you with even longer memories will remember that, in 2006, David Tennant’s first full series as the Tenth Doctor began – today marks Ten Years of the Tenth Doctor.

(Incidentally, I’ve written two articles about this most auspicious anniversary for Yahoo TV; you can check them out here and here. It’s a little selection of the top ten moments of the Tenth Doctor’s tenure – or, at least, some of my favourites.)

In any case, though, I think it is becoming clear what the purpose of this post is – we are embarking upon yet another series of reviews! This time, we’re covering the second series of Doctor Who, which aired in 2006; it was the first time we saw David Tennant in the title role, the first time we saw Cybermen in the modern series, and our final year with Rose Tyler as the companion.

I’m getting ahead of myself, though. Right now, this is about being introduced to a new Doctor – and for me, ten years ago, this was about being introduced to Doctor Who, essentially for the first time at all. Though I’d been aware of Eccleston’s run, I only joined the show at Bad Wolf; this episode was the start of my proper journey with Doctor Who.

So. Let’s get to it, shall we?

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The first, and I think most important question, is as to how successful this episode is at introducing the audience to a new Doctor.

It’s worth considering the position that the show was in when this episode was broadcast; for a lot of the audience, Eccleston would have been the only Doctor they’d ever known. Though the concept of regeneration wasn’t exactly an unfamiliar one, whether a show could survive a second reinvention so soon after its previous one is a legitimate question.

And, of course, at this point David Tennant’s Doctor wasn’t exactly very well known; though people had known he’d play the Doctor for almost a year at this point (given that it leaked not soon after Eccleston’s debut) they’d seen very little of his actual performance. The Christmas Special – aptly titled The Christmas Invasion – was structured around us not seeing the Doctor for the bulk of the episode; he only really appears in the third act, with possibly a little over 20 minutes of screentime.

Conventional wisdom, then, would suggest that perhaps you shouldn’t open the series with a body swap comedy; we’d presumably be better off spending time actually getting to know the Doctor as he is, rather than seeing the Doctor possessed by Cassandra (more on whom later). And, interestingly, this was initially the opinion of the production team as well – as I understand it, Tooth and Claw was originally to be the first episode, with New Earth taking second place. I’m not entirely certain as to why the order was switched in the end, but the fact remains that they were – did it work, though?

I’m actually inclined to say that it did work. David Tennant does a great job here (which we’ll come to expect from him, of course) and the script allows for us to see a general range of the Doctor’s emotions, and get a decent, if still superficial, understanding of the character. We’re introduced to this Doctor’s charm – he’s pretty effortlessly moving around the hospital and interacting with the different side characters – but also his sheer joy and enthusiasm at seeing a new place; the “New New York” exchange is a pretty simple one, but it’s a rather endearing way of showing us this character trait.

Of course, beneath all that, we’ve got some of the first hints of this Doctor’s potential for anger; he’s quick to raise his voice, actually, almost to the point of being quite volatile in his mood swings. That wasn’t something I quite remembered, which was interesting to note; I’ll definitely be paying attention to that over the next couple of weeks, to see if that’s an attribute that remains. Of course, though, it is worth noting that each time he was quick to anger was directly linked to Rose, and her relative safety at any given time; part of this was likely to establish the depth of care the Doctor has for Rose, and their general bond with one another.

As to the whole body swap hijinks… well, it’s difficult to say one way or another whether the episode would have been better without them. Certainly, Cassandra spent less time in the Doctor’s body than I actually remembered; it was, really, just a very short sequence with a couple of jokes. It serves well as a juxtaposition of what the Doctor is typically like, and what the Cassandra-Doctor is like; the episode is essentially defining the character of the Doctor in contrast to what he’s not. For the most part, I think they strike a decent balance with it – I don’t know that it would have worked quite as well had Cassandra spent more time in the Doctor’s body.

doctor who new earth review the flesh sick people cat nuns russell t davies james hawes first episode david tennant tenth doctor

The actual plot of the episode is, undeniably, pretty flimsy; like with last year’s Rose, it takes the backseat to the character beats and the thematic stuff. Certainly, the final resolution is weak – even Russell T Davies has said that he came up with that essentially by the skin of his teeth fairly late in the day. Personally, I wouldn’t say that the pseudo-science technobabble they came up with is significantly worse than, say, the anti-plastic McGuffin of Rose, but then, of course, everyone knows that intravenous medicine just doesn’t work this way, so it’s definitely a lot more noticeable.

On the flip side, though, we’re introduced to a lot of quite interesting concepts here, which I don’t think that New Earth is always really given credit for. New Earth itself is a rather quaint idea – I love that line about how everyone gets all nostalgic, and then a revival movement starts. Similarly, the hospital itself is quite inventive; I love the cat nuns, and the patients are a really neat concept. I think they’re also probably the closest that modern Doctor Who has ever come to a zombie story really; in any case, they’ll always have a special place in my heart, because the first time I saw this episode is still the most scared I have ever been by an episode of Doctor Who. Weeping Angels didn’t have anything on these guys; there was something about them that gave me that sense of crushing claustrophobia and being surrounded that just really, really freaked me out.

(“You don’t have to watch it, you know”, said my dad, after I jumped out of the seat for the third time in a row. “No no it’s fine” I said, eyes still glued to the screen. I was terrified, but I bloody loved it.)

There’s also something rather clever, I think, in positioning this as a sequel to The End of the World; we’re seeing our new Doctor, surrounded by the trappings of one of the old Doctor’s adventures. The whole idea of being new is a nice thematic thread across the entire episode – New New York, the new race of humans, etc – and it’s mirrored quite effectively through Cassandra. This is the story of how she has to accept that everything ends, and there’s some nice pathos with that towards the close of the episode.

Everything ends, but this isn’t the time for endings; this is a new beginning, with a brand new Doctor. He’s only just getting started, but it’s one hell of an episode already.



Ten Years of the Tenth Doctor Reviews

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Star Trek: 5 potential premises for an anthology show

star trek discovery anthology show bryan fuller klingons mirror universe trill cbs

It’s currently being reported by the website Birth Movies Death that Bryan Fuller’s new Star Trek TV series will be an anthology program, with each season featuring a new cast and taking place in a new setting; it’s also being indicated that the first of these seasons, which will air in 2017, will be taking place prior to The Next Generation, but after The Undiscovered Country.

The report in question can be read here, and it’s got a few more details about the whole prospect. Although at this stage everything remains speculation, you can understand what would attract producers to this model; for example, it means that higher profile stars can be attracted to the project, because of the reduced time commitments. (Just look at True Detective, which has pioneered this anthology format; each year a new set of Hollywood movie stars star in this TV show.)

In any case, of course, I don’t really know much about the veracity of these details – but I’ve definitely got a few ideas for this series to explore…

So, the above is a few ideas I suggested for a Star Trek anthology show after the idea was floated that that was the form Discovery might take.

It was, I think, subsequently confirmed – or as close to confirmed – that an anthology show was part of Bryan Fuller’s pitch, but CBS wasn’t so sure about it. It’s one of the things that I’m kinda sad we lost about his version of the show, because there’s something about it that seems really interesting to me. You could imagine, say, the first series on the Discovery, the second the Discovery-B, that sort of thing – maybe a Trill character for continuity. Seems like a really fun idea to me.

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DC’s Legends of the Dark

dc legends of tomorrow legends of the dark constantine magic atom hawkgirl sara lance matt ryan vixen atom nyssa league of assassins cw zatanna arrow

With Vandal Savage defeated and the timeline restored, Rip Hunter bids farewell to his team; each returns to their own time, now truly a legend.

But upon Sara Lance’s return to Star City 2016, she’s met by another Englishman in a long coat who wants to assemble a team. His name is John Constantine, petty dabbler in the dark arts, and they’ve met before.

Darkness is rising, and a new team of Legends must rise up to defeat it.

So! DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is a program that I’m quite enjoying; it’s consistently fun and engaging, and they’re doing a really good job of developing each character. Certainly, it’s a lot better than Arrow, but… well, let’s not get into that now.

Anyway, something I thought was quite interesting, back before the series premiered, was that it was being marketed as an anthology series; each year, it’d deal with different themes, and something of a revolving cast of characters.

Which, you know, sparked the imagination somewhat. Currently they’re dealing with time travel – what if, next year, they’re dealing with magic?

DC’s Legends of the Dark

John Constantine is assembling a team of his own. It’s comprised of various different individuals from across the world, each of whom have a magical connection (with one notable exception, of course).

This team won’t be travelling across time, but rather, through different dimensions; they’ll visit fiery hellscapes and cold recesses of the underworld, while at the same time having to contend with new threats breaking through into the mortal world.

Each of these individual threats – such as Circe, Gentleman Ghost and Etrigan, all of whom the team will encounter – are being co-ordinated by a much older, much greater darkness.


Known as the Lord of the Unliving, Nekron is the personification of Death; darkness, before ever there was light. It threatens to break into our plane of existence, and corrupt the very fabric of our existence.

And that cannot be allowed to happen.

Hence this team.

  • Sara Lance, an assassin brought back from the dead – one of the few people resistant to Nekron’s powers over life and death.
  • Nyssa Raatko, one of the foremost members of the League of Assassins, and the last Heir to the Demon – that’s not just a title.
  • Kendra Saunders, reincarnated Hawk Goddess, and wielder of an Nth metal mace, one of the few weapons which can counteract the affects of magic. Given her own experiences with death and reincarnation, she’ll prove to be a valuable member of this team – but in many ways, her connection to death will also be their greatest weakness
  • Vixen, owner of the Anansi totem, and capable of channelling the life force any creature in the Animal Kingdom. Mari has a direct link to Anansi the Trickster God, who at times will be a hindrance more than a help.
  • Zatanna, a friend of Constantine’s – Constantine had known her late father, the magician John Zatara. Though she’s only been practicing magic a short time, it’s clear she has the potential to grow more powerful than any other.
  • Ray Palmer, the ATOM. Despite having no knowledge of magic whatsoever, he was with Kendra when Constantine asked for her help. Insisting on joining the team, Constantine quickly relented – after all, he’s not one to say no to a handsome man.

Across the course of their journey together, they’ll realise they are bound by more than just their mission – death unites them all.

As Nekron commands an army of their fallen friends, family and lovers, this group of seven will confront demons both occult and personal, and have to answer the question as to whether it is worth saving the world, quite literally, at the cost of your soul…

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