Good luck Jodie Whittaker…. you’re probably going to need it.
Today, after the Wimbledon final the BBC announced that Jodie Whittaker will be the new Doctor in Doctor Who. She will be the first woman to take the role of the iconic Time Lord since the show’s inception in 1963. A lot of the fans will be against this. Already there are Tweet storms galore, people saying goodbye to the show forever, how a woman will ruin the show, and who the true fans really are. I’m going to withhold any judgment until we at least get to see her in the role.
The casting of a female Doctor really shouldn’t be a surprise, but I was surprised. Casting a female Doctor is risky, and I didn’t expect the BBC to take that big a risk with a new showrunner coming in. Current showrunner Steven Moffat is stepping aside and Chris Chibnall is taking over for the next season. I really wanted current Doctor, Peter Capaldi, to stick around for a season under the new runner, but it was not in the cards. I fully expected a female Doctor to happen eventually, just not in the first year. I know there have been a lot of hints and seeds planted over the last few years suggesting the next Doctor would be female, and there were numerous hints dropped in the Series 10 finale:
MASTER: Do as she says. Is the future going to be all girl?
DOCTOR: We can only hope.
BILL: But, hey er, you know how I’m usually all about women and, and kind of people my own age.
BILL: Glad you knew that.
- Will Whittaker get a long run as the Doctor?
- Is this just a quick fix to satisfy the fans who were asking for it?
- Will she be quickly replaced?
- Are they setting her (and the show) up to fail?
- Will she be a “sexy” Doctor?
- How will they cast the 14th Doctor?
- Will the companion be male or female?
- How will the stories differ?
- Will they be tailored for a female Doctor? (I hope not actually. One of my favourite things about the show is that in a well written Who story the Doctor should be interchangeable with any of the past incarnations.)
- Will they be a bit more serious and dramatic or will it be played more for humour?
I really wasn’t sure who Jodie Whittaker was, but I quickly checked IMDb and see she was in Attack the Block and played Beth Latimer on Broadchurch… It’s been a while since I’ve seen Broadchurch so I had no idea who that character was until a friend told me she was the “mom of the dead kid”. I did really enjoy her in both roles. She is a talented actress and will hopefully bring something special to her new role.
Jodie Whittaker will be the thirteenth Doctor, and 13 isn’t a lucky number…. Ah well, as with everything with Doctor Who, time will tell….
Again, good luck….Doctor.
The Doctor, brandishing his guitar enters a diner in Nevada, which seems to indicate that this scene takes place after tonight’s adventure. The waitress behind the counter is Clara? Well it’s at least Jenna Coleman. The Doctor sits down, saying he has no money but taps his guitar and says that he can play in exchange for food and he begins to play Clara’s theme. The waitress asks the name of the song, and if it’s sad. He tells her it’s called “Clara”, and he says that nothing is sad until it’s over. The waitress asks him to tell her about Clara…
At the end of the last episode (Heaven Sent) the Doctor escaped his confession dial after being trapped in it for several billion years and emerged on Gallifrey. His home planet, saved from the Time War, has apparently not been put in another dimension but shoved to the end of time where the rest of the universe won’t be able to catch up to it. As clumsy as that sounds, I kind of like the concept, even though many fans could probably pick a billion holes in that idea in the blink of an eye. On Gallifrey the cloister bells are ringing all across the capital as the Doctor has returned. In quiet contemplation the Doctor goes to the barn that we saw in the Day of the Doctor anniversary special (as well as Listen last season) where a woman enters and starts to angrily tell him to get out until she recognizes him. Could it be his mother? Or someone who raised him? A nanny type figure perhaps? After the Doctor changes his coat from that dashing red velvet jacket to a black coat more reminiscent of the first Doctor’s wardrobe, the woman brings him some soup, and he’s about to eat, when a group of outsiders (Shobogans perhaps?) surrounded his table, in a very “last supper”-ish feel as a battleship flies up to the table with its weapon targeting the Doctor. The pilot is delivering a message that the President wants the Doctor to go to the capital. Drawing a line in the sand with his boot heel, the Doctor returns to his soup. More soldiers are sent to retrieve the Doctor, the General from Day of the Doctor is sent to retrieve the Doctor, but he will not go. In the capital the leader of the Sisterhood of Karn tells the President that the Doctor doesn’t blame Gallifrey for the Time War, he just blames the president. The President finally goes to the Doctor, with the General and with his soldiers and orders them to shoot him. All the soldiers miss. Insubordination, because the Doctor is an honoured war hero. The Doctor proceeds to tell Rassilon to “get off my planet”, and we see the ex-Lord President banished into space, though he really has nowhere to go.
Now we (kind of) learn the whole reason the Time Lords put the Doctor in the confession dial, they’re afraid of the Hybrid and need to know what the Doctor knows about it. The Doctor tells them what he knows, but uses an extraction chamber to pull Clara Oswald out of time at the instant of her death on Earth billions of years ago, because he says she knows what the Hybrid is. Now the race is on as the Doctor hides from the Time Lords in an attempt to break through to the Matrix sub levels and find an old TARDIS (since his own is still on Earth) and rescue Clara. His plan succeeds and somewhat makes sense, he will take them to the end of time to escape and restart Clara’s time stream, saving her life. Only thing is that her heart does not restart, and she is not really “alive” again. At the end of time he finds “Me” or Ashildr with whom he argues about who the Hybrid is. She teases the Doctor that he himself is the Hybrid, he accuses her of being the Hybrid, but Ashildr tells him that the Hybrid is not one person, but two people, the Doctor and Clara being together and being so similar. The Doctor fought through billions of years of torture to get her back, so it’s not really a stretch to think he would destroy everything, to abandon every code he ever lived by, to leave Gallifrey in ashes to save her.
Left with only one alternative to keep her safe, the Doctor is set to wipe Clara’s memory of him, but instead, ends up wiping his own memory of her. To him now, she’s only visible by the holes she’s left in his life (and memory). He kind of does the reverse to what he did to Donna in series 4, which is probably for the best. If he had to deal with Clara’s death a second time it would be difficult to forge a relationship between him and whoever the incoming companion is, not only for the character but for the audience too. A lot of people really didn’t like Martha just because she came in after Rose. As I’ve said before Clara became a very divisive character to the fans. Hopefully now everyone can move on, those who love Clara can go forward imagining that she’s still “alive” and probably having adventures, those who don’t love her can imagine that she’s returned to the trap street and her destiny.
Great acting, and a great story that had me until the very end, but I think the ending left me a little disappointed because it didn’t offer much resolution to Clara, Me, the Hybrid, or Gallifrey. It felt like lazy writing to take the easy way out and give everyone the “happy” ending where no one died, and there was really no monster to defeat.
- As if it needs to be said, Capaldi. His performance was great. Again. And Coleman herself was quite good too, 100% emotion when she says goodbye to him.
- I absolutely loved the classic control room in that TARDIS. Oh, do I love it. I would decorate a room in my house that way.
- Screwdrivers are cool. The screwdriver is back. Great another sonic to add to my collection. If you were smart BBC you’d already have these toys in production for me to buy for Christmas…
- The sound editing. Really, I had a hard time picking up the dialogue from the background music and other sounds. That frustration made the episode less enjoyable.
- Too bad they couldn’t get Timothy Dalton back as Rassilon, plus everything on Gallifrey seemed rather rushed. Rassilon was banished too easily and the Doctor seemed to become Lord President in a mater of moments?
- Having the General regenerate from a bald white male into a bald(ish) black female seemed a little preachy to me. Also, I liked the first actor (Ken Bones). Also also, the Doctor just murdered him. After fighting until the end of time to save someone, he cavalierly kills him, because he knows he’ll regenerate? I didn’t really like that idea. And he used a gun, this character, this legend who is famed for never carrying a weapon grabs the first gun he can find and shoots down the General in cold blood.
- Steven Moffat really doesn’t seem to be able to let go of Clara, or is it Jenna? Last Christmas she could have had what I’d consider a classy and touching send off if she woke up from the dream crabs an elderly woman. Instead that was a dream too and she was young and ready for more adventures. This year she had a touching and moving death that was incredibly well done, but now she’s been pulled out of time and that dignified send off has effectively been denied to the audience. I know the show is supposed to be a family show, and possibly the fault lies with me that I’ve grown up and grown impatient that the show hasn’t aged with my own viewing tastes. I think this “resurrection”, no matter how temporary it is supposed to be (since Clara did say that she will return to Gallifrey to accept her fate and return to her proper time stream and die) kind of lessens the impact of Face the Raven and my enjoyment and appreciation of that episode.
- Are the only TARDISes left on Gallifrey antiques hidden beneath the Matrix? Seriously? None of their temporal engineers could construct or grow more for some of them to return to the universe? That thought never crossed anyone’s mind?
- I wanted more resolution to Gallifrey. Bring it back once and for all, have the good Time Lords running it and just move forward, or have it sealed away still and continue to have the Doctor trying to rescue it as he kind of lost track of that goal pretty quickly in this regeneration. And again, the Gallifreyan segments of the story all seemed quite rushed.
- For all the importance they were putting on the Doctor not being able to recognize Clara and having to forget her to keep her safe, uhm, the Doctor now knows what Clara looks like again because she was painted on the side of the TARDIS. At least the paint disappeared when the ship dematerialized.
- Great now there’s a diner travelling around in space, and , I feel that having Clara and Ashildr’s TARDIS look like a diner forever is just an excuse to make “restaurant at the end of the universe” jokes.
- Does anyone else feel like Clara’s “death” is rather meaningless now, which is actually more sad than her actual death?
I rarely look forward to Christmas, it’s a humbug of a day to me, but I do usually look forward to the Doctor Who Christmas special. I’m not too sure how this one’s going to work out….at least a week later we have Sherlock and the Abominable Bride
Well, that was intense wasn’t it? Heaven Sent was a remarkably well built up “build up” episode, leading into next week’s series finale Hell Bent. I’m even more excited for the finale than I was for this week’s episode because there are still so many questions left unanswered.
At the end of the last episode (Face the Raven) the Doctor was transported to parts unknown, by party or parties unknown, immediately after witnessing Clara’s death. Alone. Saddened. Angry. Scared. The Doctor is without his best friend and being chased by a monster throughout a mysterious mechanized and moving castle. The monster is known as “The Veil” and the Doctor says he knows what it is, or that he’s seen it before (sorry, I’m very tired tonight and haven’t had a chance to re-watch the episode, so some things may be fuzzy). The Veil shambles very slowly after the Doctor, who has timed it’s pace and knows how far away to draw it so he can rest or eat or plan his next move in relative safety. The mystery deepens as the Doctor discovers the vague clues that will hopefully lead him from this prison that has been designed specifically to frighten him. It seems the only things that will stop the Veil from advancing upon him are truths. On his first face to face meeting with it, the Doctor confesses that he is scared of dying, and that stops the creature. Throughout the episode the Doctor will confess more things to stop the Veil, some personal, some just general secrets; but all the while he’s narrating away to the absent Clara.
I’m not going to go into everything that happened, I’m not going to recap scene by scene how the Doctor solved the mysteries (or even if he did), suffice it to say that through a series of tests the Doctor finds himself at a wall made of Azbantium, a material stronger than diamond and ten feet thick (or something like that) that he punches and punches, breaking his hand, causing him pain until the Veil is finally upon him. Instead of one last confession he tells the Veil a story, one from the Brothers Grimm, about The Shepherd Boy:
The Doctor does just that. Each room in his prison (except the final trap room) resets itself each night, so the Doctor realizes that there is a version of himself from when he first arrived stored in the hard drive of the teleport. After punching the wall a few times, the Veil kills him, but Time Lords are notoriously hard to kill. Even when regeneration fails, it still takes them days to die, so the dying Doctor crawls back to the teleport, hooks himself up and triggers the mechanism, bringing a brand new version of himself back to play the game again. A game he plays for a billion years until the wall is finally broken. At that moment a brilliant light shines through the hole in the wall, shattering the Veil and dropping it into a clockwork pile of scrap and the Doctor steps through. The rift he used collapses, and he’s cut off from the teleporter, the castle, and stuck out in a desert it appears. The rift has turned into a small disc — his confession dial, which we see close on the miniature castle. He turns to see a small boy who he tells to run to the city and find somebody important; tell them that he’s back and he knows what they did, and that he’s on his way, and if they ask who he is tell them he’s had to take the long way ’round. The camera pans out and we see the city. The Doctor is on Gallifrey. He gives us one last line before the close though, that the hybrid is not half Dalek, nothing is half Dalek, that the hybrid that is destined to conquer Gallifrey and stand in it’s ruins is him.
- As if it needs to be said, Capaldi. His performance was great. Again. It was effectively a one man show tonight, and he shone, showing again why he is such an excellent Doctor.
- A great mix of suspense, fear, and still some heart as he deals with the death of Clara.
- I’m sure there are things to nitpick at, like how come the Azbantium wall room doesn’t reset and rebuild the wall? But overall I couldn’t find much not to like.
- I’ve really enjoyed this season so far, and after seeing the trailer for the finale I certainly hope they don’t screw it up!
- I’m nervous about next week…..if the Doctor is “the Hybrid” will this incorporate line from the Paul McGann/Eighth Doctor movie where he revealed to the Master that he was half human on his mother’s side? It might make some sense as the trailer describes the Hybrid coming from two warrior races, and who could be more war like than we humans? I know Moffat likes to meddle and tamper with the history of the show, but that is one part I chose to forget. I actually remember reading a Doctor Who comic book where they effectively retconned that out, when the Doctor mentioned tricking someone by lying and saying he was half human.
- This episode was written by showrunner Steven Moffat, whose stories I really didn’t enjoy the last several years. This season though, he’s been very good. Maybe back in the form that made him probably my favourite writer of the Russel T. Davies era. Could it be that I wasn’t really a Moffat hater, but a Matt Smith/Eleventh Doctor hater?
Next week we are Hell Bent, on getting some answers, resolutions, and hopefully the payoff to the long writer’s game we seem to be in.
So it’s been an interesting week on Twitter and to be a Doctor Who fan. Last week’s episode, Listen, strongly divided the fandom. Some loved it, some hated it, some thought it was just “meh”. I thought it could have been good, but it wasn’t. When I did my review, I was in a bit of a rush so I forgot to rant about how it was even possible for the TARDIS to go to Gallifrey during the time of the Doctor’s childhood…don’t give me the excuse that “the safeties are off” so they could go to a place that is time locked. It really just stunk of Moffat wanting to get his fingerprints (through characters he created) all over every aspect of Doctor Who cannon. I have to shake my head sometimes.
The scripts and stories have been pretty repetitive for a while now. There was a beauty and a simplicity before to the stories that drew in the new fans, and pleased the old. These days the arcs are so convoluted (and sometimes so are just single stories) that I think it will hurt the show, making it harder to gain new fans. I think Moffat can still be a good writer, as I’ve said many times before he’s written some of my favourite episodes but he’s just not a showrunner. He needs a good person guiding him. The Russell T. Davies shows were a great era of Doctor Who. Not perfect, nothing is, but it was a great time to be a fan. RTD wrote 31 eps in four (four and a half-ish by counting the “Specials” season) seasons he was showrunner, Moffat has written 25 by the end of this season during his four years as showrunner but for some reason, Davies’ shows felt less intrusive to the season. It seemed he wrote the first episode or so of a season and the last couple. He set up the new characters (either Doctor or companion) and finished it off. Yes, in season one he did a few more mid-season episodes, but the show was still finding its legs, and he did write the Christmas specials during his years. Other writers filled in the remaining episodes of the season, writers such as the then brilliant, Steven Moffat.
Today I was catching up on things via Twitter, and it seems that Steven Moffat has “rage quit” the Twitterverse. I’m not sure if it was actually Steven Moffat, or if it was a verified account or not, but @steven_moffat it seems was getting into it with fans of the show and apparently didn’t want the criticism.
— Doctor Who Rants (@DoctorWhoRants) September 20, 2014
— Doctor Who Rants (@DoctorWhoRants) September 20, 2014
— Doctor Who Rants (@DoctorWhoRants) September 20, 2014
and then we have articles like this http://thytriguy.tumblr.com/post/97903818417/steven-moffat-listen-and-why-im-done that make a lot of good points.
Not sure if embedding those tweets will work or not, but fingers crossed, because I have to go. I’m not going to get to watch tonight’s episode until very late probably, as I’m out of town for a bit this evening, but again, my fingers are crossed that it won’t be the letdown we had last time. Don’t worry, my review will follow, just a bit later than usual. I guess at the end of the day, I just want them to replace Steven Moffat before he ruins my favourite show and what has been lovingly build for 50 years. I think he needs to take a step back, take a bit of time off from it, and then have him come back to write the occasional episode, as long as it is respectful of the show, it’s fans, it’s history and the next showrunner’s vision. He shouldn’t come back if his ego just demands he get his dirty fingerprints all over everybody else’s work.
If you read a few days ago I put up my “countdown” post, three days until Asylum aired and the triumphant return of Season 7 to the airwaves. Tonight we all got to see the return of Doctor Who. Before movies, I had the Doctor. Before anything really, I guess, I had the Doctor. Sure as a kid I read comic books, had Lego, G.I. Joe, and Hardy Boys books. I loved Star Wars and got into Star Trek. All were things that I had “collected” to some degree or another, but Doctor Who was “the one”. It became the one that I was obsessed with. My first experiences with Doctor Who came from TV Ontario at 6:30 pm right after Polka Dot Door, which was on right after Sesame Street. The music would start up, Tom Baker’s intro would begin, and….. Mom would quickly turn off the TV or change the channel so my little brother and I wouldn’t have nightmares. Flash forward a good number of years, and I started working 4 pm to Midnight Friday and Saturdays during high school. Once I got home I couldn’t sleep and found Doctor Who airing at 2 am on YTV, and found myself hooked on the Jon Pertwee episodes they were airing. Eventually one November day their programming changed and they started running all the episodes (from the beginning) at 4:30 in the afternoon (and re-running the day’s episode at 2 am). I recorded every episode that they aired. I copied them over and edited out the commercials. I loved the show. From An Unearthly Child to Survival, I saw them all. As the episodes came out on VHS tape, I bought them all. As they came out on DVD, I bought them all too. Missing episodes? I’ve bought the CDs. Even when the show was off the air, I talked it up to friends, and defended it even to those same friends. I had a 20 foot scarf and wore it regularly…well at least in winter.
When the show returned in 2005, it was amazing. My show, my favourite show was back. Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Doctors for a new generation, and now Matt Smith. The transition from Doctors 9 to 10 was really seamless. From Doctors 10 to 11 we had a change in executive producers. Gone was Russell T Davies, the man who was largely responsible for the success of the relaunched series, and in his place was Steven Moffat, Hugo Award and BAFTA winning writer of some of the best stories from the first four seasons. Davies was a “showrunner” and that meant laying a skeletal plot for the entire series, holding “tone meetings” to correctly identify the tone of an episode, often described in one word—for example, the “tone word” for Moffat’s “The Empty Child” was “romantic”—and overseeing all aspects of production. I loved the episodes Moffat wrote when they fit into Davies’ skeletal arks, but now, left to his own, I don’t think Moffat is a “showrunner”.
Even though I enjoyed probably 95% of Asylum of the Daleks, I still had some major problems with the story. If you’re reading this and haven’t watched the episode, click away. Read my review Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters, it was a really good book and movie, and here there will be spoilers.
The story in general concerns the Doctor (and Amy & Rory) being kidnapped by the Daleks to invade their Asylum. The Asylum is a shielded planet where they house their insane, Daleks that went crazy or strayed from the Dalek path. Also on this planet is a survivor of a crashed spaceship who is trying to escape as well, Jenna-Louise Coleman as Oswin or “Souffle Girl” as the Doctor calls her. The Daleks send the Doctor to disarm the shield so they can destroy the planet (and him as well). On the planet any non-Dalek lifeforms (living or dead) are converted to Daleks by a nanobot cloud that surrounds the planet as a defence system. The Doctor and crew are given protective bracelets to fend off the nanobots, but of course Amy’s gets taken by Dalek converted zombies. I liked the nanobot converted humans with an eyestalk growing from their foreheads; they certainly did look like the Robomen from Resurrection of the Daleks. Both on the ship and the planet we see Daleks from all eras of the show, original series, “new” series, and the current series; yes the brightly coloured Daleks were there as well. I did love that the Doctor ran through an “intensive care” ward with Dalek survivors from battles on planets such as Spiridon and Exxilon. Planets where those Daleks survived battles with the Doctor. The Doctor finally meets Souffle Girl who has been helping him by hacking the Dalek systems to make a startling discovery that I won’t spoil. As the Doctor makes his way to rescue Oswin, she asks him why the Daleks fear him, and who he is to them. During this episode we get a little bit of an explanation about the show’s past continuity; that is how the Daleks have always been able to recognize the Doctor in each of his eleven regenerations. Hacking into the Dalek’s collective of telepathically shared knowledge, Oswin is able to remove the Doctor from their memories, thus making him unrecognizable to the Daleks everywhere, and allowing his escape.
First, let’s just say that I’m really, finally getting to enjoy Smith as the Doctor, it’s just everyone else in his regular cast that bother me. Amy Pond; a girl who was struggling to find work as a Kissogram delivery girl in her first episode is now apparently a supermodel. Not sure how that works…Rory, her husband, is now divorcing her….and they’ve altered his hairstyle to look more like Matt Smith’s Doctor for some reason…. I don’t blame Rory, as Amy seems very divorcable. I haven’t liked her much since the beginning, mainly because of the way that she “threw herself” at the Doctor at the end of an episode, after revealing she left to travel with him on the eve of her wedding. To me, that broke an unwritten rule of the show. I think Davies and crew saw the problems that a romantic relationship for the Doctor would create when they got too far in with Rose Tyler. The not-so-simple fix was they gave her a human clone of the Doctor in an alternate dimension. The Doctor stays true to his character and everyone lived happily ever after. Martha Jones has a crush on the Doctor, but nothing was forced, and there certainly was no seduction. Amy Pond I don’t like, but enough about her, we know that she is leaving after episode 5 (and Rory too) this season. Back to Asylum, let’s just say that Amy’s behaviour at the beginning of the episode continued to turn me off, but at least she got a little better as the show went on.
Next I found I had several plot or continuity questions that just didn’t add up. How was Skaro still around? Didn’t the Doctor destroy it both in Remembrance of the Daleks and in the Time War? How did the Dalek Parliament survive? How did all the different styles of Dalek survive? But the bit that really left a bitter taste in my mouth was the very end. With the Doctor removed from Dalek memory, he pokes his head out of the TARDIS to have them ask who the intruder is. He replies “he’s the Doctor, their ancient enemy”, the Daleks all in unison start to chant “Doctor who?” over and over and over again because they don’t remember him. Get it? Doctor who? Doctor Who…Okay, it was a nice hook at the end of last season, the first question, Doctor who? but to repeat it as much as it was at the end of this episode seemed just pointless to me. To have the Doctor himself giddily asking it to himself while dancing about the TARDIS console room elated that the Daleks have forgotten him was just cheese. And all the while, the standard Moffat-Who climax music is playing foolishly away in the background. That’s right I don’t even like the musical scoring of Moffat’s episodes anymore. My goodness I’m a bitter cynical one these days.
The episode was good up until the very end as Moffat plays “Who’s On First” with us, and soured me on what could have been a classic episode but to me became a poor way to start the season. At least there are only four more episodes with the Ponds left….hopefully. I feel the series needs a change, and their leaving may right the ship again. I say hopefully because we don’t really know that they are leaving. It was officially announced, but they also officially announced that Jenna-Louise Coleman would be joining the cast as the new companion at Christmas. I was pleasantly surprised to meet her early, but now I’m leery to believe them when they say Amy and Rory are leaving after five shows.
Ah well, the hour is late, actually it’s now early, 4:24 am and I should get to bed. I am certainly looking forward to next week’s episode Dinosaurs On a Spaceship, and holding out hope for the rest of the season. Time will tell, it always does….