Confession #101: I'm Tired of Speculating

May
11

About two and a half weeks ago, on 23 Apr 2016, we got the latest big news in the continual evolution of our show: the announcement of the new Companion. In a two-minute video titled "Friend from the Future," we were introduced to Pearl Mackie's character Bill as she and the Doctor hid from Daleks. Fandom immediately began passing judgement.

I will admit that first impressions can be important in forming an attachment to a character, but I find it astounding that some fans have already decided they either love or hate Bill based on 124 seconds of footage. I only read a few reactions (mostly along the lines of, "Why won't she shut up? What part of 'killing machines' doesn't she get?") before I stopped paying attention.

Frankly, I'm tired of all the speculation so far ahead of the fact.

Regardless, it's kind of the bread and butter of fandom (especially for those of us who blog) to leap into the speculative fray. I'm therefore essentially duty-bound to give you my own thoughts on what may be in store for us once Bill's adventures aboard the TARDIS come to our screens. Long time readers will be shocked (sarcasm) to hear that I am "cautiously optimistic."

Here's the thing. While I can see the point of those who think Bill's lack of chill when faced with Daleks makes a poor addition to a potential Companion's résumé, all we have by which to judge her is this tiny snippet of time during which she is immersed in a completely foreign situation. We have no idea what led up to that moment, what else she may or may not have been exposed to while with the Doctor up to this point, or what else in her life might have led her to find him in any way credible. In other words, we know nothing, Jon Snow. (Sorry—wrong franchise.)

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All That Is Gold Doesn't Glitter

Apr
27

Review of Revenge of the Cybermen (#79)
DVD Release Date: 02 Nov 10
Original Air Date: 19 Apr - 10 May 1975
Doctor/Companion: Four, Sarah Jane Smith, Harry Sullivan
Stars: Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Ian Marter
Preceding Story: Genesis of the Daleks (Four, Sarah Jane, Harry)
Succeeding Story: Terror of the Zygons (Four, Sarah Jane, Harry)

Continuing my exploration of Cybermen stories featuring Doctors who have been under-represented in my reviews over the years, this month I consider the Fourth Doctor's only encounter with these iconic enemies in Revenge of the Cybermen.

Aside from being the first time in nearly six and a half years that the Cybermen had appeared on screen (and the last time for another seven), Revenge had the dubious honor of falling between what became two of the most highly regarded stories of the pre-Hiatus (and some would say any) era: Genesis of the Daleks and Terror of the Zygons. How, then, does a mild-mannered serial make its mark on the world? With a fabulous TARDIS team and a plot that has just enough twists to keep it interesting, of course.

The story opens—as every story in T. Baker's first season—following directly on from the end of the prior one. The Doctor, Sarah Jane, and Harry are all gripping the Time Ring, hoping to land back on Space Station Nerva where they began. Although they arrive intact, the TARDIS has not yet made the temporal adjustment to meet them. Obviously, they decide to look around while they wait.

To their dismay, they find dead bodies scattered everywhere. It turns out that Nerva Beacon, as it is currently known, has been under quarantine the last few months, as all but three crew members and one civilian (an exographer, there to study the asteroid the beacon is orbiting) have succumbed to a mysterious plague. However, what's really behind all the deaths is even more sinister.

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Confession #100: I'm Still a Neowhovian

Apr
13

Five plus years ago, when I decided to start this blog, it seemed to me that most of the opinions I was reading online about Doctor Who were being offered up by "old school" fans—the ones whose formative years included watching Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, or Peter Davison and who really seemed to know their shit. I'd been searching for a way to talk to more people about what I thought of the show, and figured writing a blog that came at it from the POV of a newb (I'd been a fan for only about two-and-a-half years at that point) could be my niche.

Since then, of course, fandom has continued to grow. Being "new to Who" is hardly uncommon these days—there's even a Twitter hashtag about it. Further, as time marches on I have moved gradually toward that Old Guard territory, especially as I include the entirety of the pre-Hiatus/Classic run in my personal brand of fandom. I feel like some sort of weird hybrid (no Series Nine capital letter there, though) between those drawn in by the modern revival and those forever faithful to whichever flavor of the original run they grew up with.

At my core, though, I know I am still a neowhovian. Much as I adore the serial format and other hallmarks of the pre-Hiatus years (not least the various Doctors), I still view those stories through a lens of history rather than one of nostalgia. For me, nostalgia comes firmly in the form of the Ninth Doctor and Rose. Every time I hear the synthesizer sting screaming into those brass-heavy bars and the frenzy of the strings' "Chase," a sense of rightness and anticipation washes over me. To my brain, nothing will ever be so quintessentially Doctor Who as Series One.

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Attack of the Mediocre

Mar
23

Review of Attack of the Cybermen (#138)
DVD Release Date: 07 Jul 09 (Out of Print)
Original Air Date: 05 - 12 Jan 1985
Doctor/Companion: Six, Peri Brown
Stars: Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant
Preceding Story: The Twin Dilemma (Six, Peri)
Succeeding Story: Vengeance on Varos (Six, Peri)

After I posted my last review, which was for the Peter Davison audio adventure Spare Parts, one of my regular readers pointed out that I haven't reviewed all of the televised adventures, and suggested I consider doing more. Given that my focus has generally been on the more-readily-agreed-to-be-canonical TV run, I thought that was a great idea—especially since it also makes it easier to come up with something to post about.

So I went and made a list of the DVD reviews I've already done, and the stories covered on in Nu-Views and Retro-Views, and proceeded to make a convoluted spreadsheet. I decided I should begin with ones I've never touched on at all, and try to even out the proportionality of reviews to available serials across all the pre-Hiatus/Classic Doctors.

Colin Baker turned out to be most slighted in this sense, in that only two of his eleven serials (counting the Trial of a Time Lord as four serials) have been reviewed, and one of those was a Nu-View. That means 82% of C. Baker's run is untouched (T. Baker is at 62%, Davison 60%, McCoy 50%, Troughton 50% (of existing serials), Hartnell 47% (existing), and Pertwee 33%). I seemed obvious, then to start with Ol' Sixie. But which serial?

It didn't take long for me to pick one, and several to come after. Having just witnessed the ultimate beginning of the Cybermen last month, and realizing that three more Doctors also had unreviewed Cybermen stories, I settled on a theme. First up, then, is Six's encounter in Attack of the Cybermen.

One of the advantages of reviewing less familiar stories (I'd only seen this one a couple times before) is that I can still be a "new" fan to a certain degree. Because I didn't grow up watching Doctor Who, I still come to it from the perspective of one who believes post-Hiatus/NuWho is just as much "proper Doctor Who" as the pre-Hiatus/Classic stuff. And since I couldn't remember off the top of my head what the story was about—even when looking at the DVD cover art—I didn't have many pre-conceptions, despite it not being entirely new to me.

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Confession #99: I'm as Fangirly as Anyone Else

Mar
09

In midst of the announcements of the upcoming regime change in Doctor Who land, one major detail was left unresolved: the status of Peter Capaldi's position as the lead. This week we learned that Capaldi has been asked to stay on, but hasn't yet made a decision about whether or not to accept that invitation.

My reaction to this revelation was a combination of elation that the door hadn't been closed entirely on the possibility of seeing Capaldi under a different showrunner and extreme wariness; I know how uncertain my desired outcome is. I recognize that there are plenty of folks on the other side of that fence, but that fact baffles me. I have never for a moment wished anything less than a T.Baker-esque tenure for Capaldi's Doctor, so when I run across folks who think he's the Worst Doctor Evar, I just can't relate at all. As I reflected on that chasm of differing opinion, I realized that I am, in fact, a Capaldi Fangirl.

I almost hesitate to apply the label "fangirl" to myself, simply because of the vitriol that seems to come with it. For some people, being a fangirl is the worst possible thing another fan can be, a close cousin to the "fake geek girl."

I find it interesting to note that there is a strongly gendered component to this particular struggle. It's almost unheard of for someone to disparage another as a "fanboy" when it comes to expressing love for a thing (though it's not uncommon when discussing certain anti-social behaviors), nor do you hear accusations that someone is a "fake geek guy."

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