Thursday, November 28, 2013

Doctor Who: Revisiting the Revisting

Note: I'm going to contune to use classic Doctor numbering.  click here for an excellent explanation why that is the proper choice.

As we close in on the final month of the momentous Fiftieth Anniversary year of Doctor Who, all of the "Doctors Revisited" specials have aired.  I had already planned to look at their choices compared to mine for each incarnation at this time. However, I got bonus material this past weekend.

The "Day of the Doctor" was all about revisiting.

And, yes, I love the round things too!

Therefore today will not only recap each Doctor's chosen and re-aired adventure, but great moments in revisiting from the Anniversary Special as well.

Before continuing, I'd like to apologize to every Doctor Who fan in the United Kingdom on behalf of my country, the United States. I don't know where they find the people to host BBC America Doctor Who events, but they need to search a little harder and find some who are aware of ANY aspect of the classic series.  One of the only mentions it got (aside from multiple "wouldn't it be cool if"s referencing things the classic series did years ago) was the woman who seemed amazed and full of scoffing that people she knew actually listed Tom Baker or Sylvester McCoy as their favorite Doctor.   Whovians across the pond, sorry for my countrymen's lack of connection to historical significance.

"Day of the Doctor" was first and foremost a Doctor story.  While it would have been nice to see gangs of companions returning, it wasn't the same kind of tale as "The Five Doctors." Their appearance in person would have diluted the core story too much.  (Apparently, Peter Davison had that aspect covered anyway...see his section below.)

It's use of Clara, the current companion, was limited enough to prevent taking too much time away from multiple Doctor interaction, but still placed her in the primary role of any and all companions:
Asking for information, being plucky and clever and reminding the Doctor to be "The Doctor."

Whatever one considers the part Billie Piper played, she essentially filled the same role.

However, through the use of the Black Archive more companions than could have appeared were acknowledged, and referenced as they looked while on the series, without overcrowding the story.

Certain individuals from the classic and new series were judged deserving of larger nods, and rightly so in most cases.

One of the biggest revisits was using the original opening credits before passing the sign for I.M. Foreman's junk yard on the way to Coal Hill School.

Clara worked at this school where Ian and Barbara taught Susan, who got an exteneded look on the Black Archive board.  Ian's name was listed on the sign as "Chairman of the Governors."  The beginning is the perfect place to start.

The Brigadier got many call backs by involving his daughter and Unit in the adventure. This was a fitting tribute for an actor who worked with all the classic Doctors.   Referencing his old file cases and the confusion between the seventies and eighties was a nice touch for us old geeks in the crowd.

From the current version, we got to see River's red high heels, and Captain Jack's vortex manipulator.  I'm guessing this somehow explains how River had it as it's in the TARDIS now.  Guess there's an upcoming, earlier appearance of Professor Song in the cards.

My one complaint is Sarah Jane deserved something strong in this episode.  Since recognizing that loss could have thrown in a giant emotional shift, I'm hoping they're saving it for another episode. Christmas? (He added hopefully.)

Revisiting the Zygons was twofold.  For the classic series, it was because instead of coming up with a new shape shifting threat, they pulled out these sucker festooned nasties, last seen in 1975.

For the current series, the conflict resolution was basically a repeat of the Silurian meeting from "Cold Blood." However, this one looked to have a happy ending, showcasing one of the main themes of the special:  He can be more successful at being "The Doctor" when multiple versions of him work together.

Of course there were Daleks.  Leaving them out would be like celebrating the golden anniversary without the TARDIS...or the Doctor for that matter.

As soon as this special was announced, jokes and hopes were flying around referring to it as "The Eleven Doctors."  The lead up, the name, and the trailers indicated it would be a multiple Doctor adventure, but not that one.

Amazingly, Moffat and the gang managed to do it.  While the official name was "Day of the Doctor" in actuality, they impressively pulled off giving us "The Thirteen Doctors."

Well, technically, "The Fourteen Doctors" when the dust finally settled.

It was glorious to see the Doctors together, but that was mostly stock footage.  To really revisit the Doctors, BBC America gave it to us in monthly doses all year long. 

First Doctor:

My Pick: "The Daleks"
Their Pick: "The Aztecs"

I discussed this choice in my original post because it already aired at that time.  I still think a more historical (for the show, as in the first or second story line, not one where they meet historical people) adventure could have shown the differences between the earliest version of the show and what it became just as well. (Ian as the hero with the Doctor as more passive, etc.)  However, I'm not sure if any episode from that far back would properly hold the attention of viewers used to the high production values and fast pace of the current version of the series.   

The best bet for getting across the point of what an amazing accomplishment defining the character and the show was is exactly what the BBC did.   Mark Gatis's An Adventure in Space and Time conveyed enough of the feel and history of the birth of Doctor Who but presented and framed it in a way that allowed modern audiences to experience the impact of Hartnell's portrayal without it being diluted through the limitations of technology of the time it occurred. The use of some famous quotes from the new series made powerful connections as well.  I wish it was clear that there was some dramatic license taken with Hartnell's replacement.  The indication that he was aware of creating a lasting legacy was very cool, but subtle.  In truth, Hartnell chose to step down because of his heath, and had a hand in picking Troughton.  He knew the show could, and should continue long after he left.  

Second Doctor:

My Pick: "Tomb of the Cybermen"
Their Pick: "Tomb of the Cybermen"

Woo! I got one!  

Due to lack of intact stories from that time, it wasn't hard.  It's a shame the recently recovered episodes weren't found sooner to allow a greater depth of selection.  That being said "Tomb" was a really solid adventure.  It kept my family's attention far more than "The Aztecs" and in fact, more than some of the later Doctors choices.  Troughton invented the idea that the Doctor pretends to be far less intelligent and effective than he truly is, and it was very cool to see that in its original form again.  It was amazing to see how much of the Second Doctor's mannerisms Matt Smith has taken on and made his own by somehow adding the weight and emotion of over a thousand years of age to them.  The only parts of the story that felt padded were the many times different characters felt the need to go back into the vault after the Cybermen had been sealed in it "permanently."

Third Doctor:

My Pick: "Terror of the Autons"
Their Pick: "Spearhead from Space"

My guess is they picked "Spearhead" because it is the only classic series episode that was filmed in a way that can be shown in high definition.  While it was a well told tale, with some iconic moments of suspense and thrills, and did establish the characters and status quo for much of the Third Doctor's time, the padding was excessively obvious.  I remember that as being common in Pertwee's early serials, likely due to them being intended to be watched as single episodes, not all at once.  I also remember lying on my living room floor watching some of his seven parters on New Jersey Network and feeling like they were never going to end.  

They really should have chosen one with the Master, both for story quality, and because Roger Delgado was awesome.   

Fourth Doctor:

My Pick: "Genesis of the Daleks"
Their Pick: "Pyramids of Mars"

First a major complaint. I know the "Revisited" interview sections were limited, and couldn't feature everything. However, I can't fathom how they went through that whole show, other documentaries for "Doctor Who Week," and the "Day of the Doctor" without a single mention of Jelly Babies.  Come on! Someone isn't paying attention.  

Despite my possible obsession with Leela, the Fourth Doctor choice had to include Sarah Jane Smith.   Her interplay with Baker is the gold standard for the Doctor/Companion relationship.   It appears that six parters couldn't be used, making Pyramids of Mars" a fine choice. It stands alone as an exciting and interesting story.  Also, it features the important moment demonstrating that time isn't fixed and what the Doctor does or doesn't do in "the past" will have an effect.  Bonus points for the nice link to the current series: Gabriel Woolf played Sutekh (who may have been the inspiration for Satan), and then went on to play The Beast in the new series episode  "The Satan Pit."  That's one Bad Woolf. 

Ha Ha! See what i did there?  Um. anyway, Moving on.

The Doctor's iconic scarf worn by Osgood in the Anniversary makes sense. The Fourth Doctor switched to a more burgundy one for the later part of his time, which is the one Peter Davison unraveled in "Castrovalva."  He must have left the first one with UNIT.  Perhaps Clara borrowed it on her first, forgotten, visit to the Black Archive, explaining why it showed up in the home she worked in as a nanny.  (I can riff like this all day.  The real reason it was there is likely to make Whovians wearing them during crowd scenes filmed in London not look out of place.)

Seeing the scarf and Tom Baker on the Revisited special was cool, but having him play the Curator in "Day of the Doctor" was magically heartwarming.

It was amazing for several reasons:
A) First and foremost, because it's Tom freakin' Baker returning to in continuity, on TV Doctor Who.  I started to tear up as soon as I heard his voice...Because I'm pathetic.

B)  Because it sets up a cannon precedent for previous actors to return to the show appearing at their current age.  Heck, maybe a retired Time Lord's appearance is unstable, and every time the Curator appears, he'll be played by a different actor?

C)  Because it brings hope.  Doctor Who has always been about hope.  The show's been focused too long on his grave on Trenzalore.  The Curator is evidence of a different, hope filled future where The Doctor doesn't uncharacteristically die in a giant battle, but peacefully retires.

D) Because it works as a fabulous bookend with the finishing moments of the unfinished "Shada." The Fourth Doctor was talking about Professor Chronotis, the infamous Time Lord criminal Salyavin now retired peacefully on Earth.  Romana couldn't believe they were the same person because he seemed like "such a nice old man."  The Doctor wondered if the Time Lords will exaggerate his actions to criminal levels, leading someone to meet him in the future and say:
" Is that really the Doctor? How strange. He seems such a nice old man." 

Yes, yes you are, Tom.

Fifth Doctor:

My Pick: "Five Doctors"
Their Pick: "Earthshock"

The key three elements of "Earthshock" were that the Cybermen were a surprise, Adric's death was a surprise, and the end credits were played silently over Adric's broken badge.  

BBC America managed to spoil the first two in the interview show before the episode, and leave off the last one due to credit time compression.  While it was nice to get more Cybermen, the episode lost a great deal of it's impact.  Also, the padding was evident again.  I feel bad bringing that up, because the classic stories were all meant to be viewed in weekly installments.  Watching any serialized adventure all in a row will inherently contain elements that feel like repetitive "padding."   I still do, and always will, love all the classic Doctor's episodes, but watching them as a tired adult, I understand why my Dad used to fall asleep in the middle of the story every Saturday night after a tough week at work.  The new series creators were very conscious of the current viewing culture and plotted out their show to be able to be watched in full seasons.  I'm not saying one is better than the other - only that they were designed with different intents.  The original cliffhanger structure kept fans coming back week after week for over twenty five years.

Again, no Master?   With all the reruns of "The End of Time" you'd think they'd provide at least one historical Master story.  I probably shouldn't get excited that this means the evil Time Lord is being saved for a "Master Revisited" special any time soon, huh?    

Come to think of it, the Master may be the only one deserving of a "revisit" who wasn't in the Fiftieth that Davison missed in his awesome The Five(ish) Doctor's Reboot.

Sixth Doctor:

My Pick: "The Ultimate Foe"
Their Pick: "Vengeance on Varos"

When Whovians were making their own lists as The Doctors Revisited  was starting up, "Vengeance on Varos" got many mentions.  I had forgotten about that one, and now that I've seen it I know why.  Sil was entertaining, I'll give them that much.  Also there was a fair amount of well written, thought provoking commentary about society and television.   However, most of that top notch writing was in scenes without the Doctor.  Thinking more about the "padding" in this episode led to an understanding of the pacing of the New Series.   If one were to take a classic story, and remove most of the scenes the Doctor was not in, you'd have an adventure about the length and speed of the new show.   You'd also need to build up the emotional connection to the Doctor and his companion, because of the minimized time spent on the other characters, which is precisely what the New Series does.  

Having rediscovered how much I like Patrick Troughton, I think they should have shown "The Two Doctors."

Nice to see him narrating the "making of" after the 3D theatrical version of "Day of the Doctor", occasionally throwing some Sixth Doctor attitude into the mix!

Seventh Doctor:

My Pick: "Survival"
Their Pick: "Remembrance of the Daleks"

Dang! That was good.  

Daleks climbing stairs, Ace blowing things up, the Doctor being crazy prepared and devious, and the special weapons "tank" Dalek as an element in the Dalek civil war!

The series was going in such a cool direction when it was axed, I'm saddened all over again.  This episode made me believe it could have organically evolved to the production quality, great writing, and popularity it is now, without vanishing for years.

As the only Dalek entry, "Remembrance" was a heck of a pick.  Minimal repetition, complex characters, great Doctory moments and a fun ride for my whole family all the way around.  OK BBC, you're idea was MUCH better than mine, credit where it is due and all.

Eighth Doctor:
My Pick: Well, duh.
Their Pick:  Well, duh.

Which episode was selected was in no way a surprise to anyone. How much my whole family enjoyed it was.   This was way better than I remembered.  Apparently, in my younger and more foolish days, I let nit pickyness over the changes Fox insisted on cloud my judgment of the whole movie.  Chalk one up for accepting "different isn't always wrong."  It had more in common with the current series than the classic one.  McGann made a fantastic Doctor and I'm very glad the world got to experience more of him in the Big Finish Audio dramas.

An even more pleasant surprise was seeing him get his regeneration scene in "Night of the Doctor."  And it was on the planet where his Fourth Incarnation fought "The Brain of Morbius" no less, further tying the two series together, and canonizing that the Doctor could be a woman. Ha!  McGann still played the role excellently.  Here's hoping we see more of him.  

War Doctor:

I'm sure the obvious question is, "How can you Revisit a Doctor that didn't exist until this year?

Technically he can't be Revisited, but that's not the point. It was John Hurt's character who did the revisiting.   

First of all, he was needed.  The Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors all talked about the events of the Time War without referencing one excessively important fact.  The Doctor would NEVER be a soldier in a war, and never commit double genocide. Those actions are opposite to the entire history and nature of the character.  None of the incarnations we've seen could be believable as this character. Creating a specific, specially modified regeneration to be the one who performed those actions was the only way to keep the Doctor true to himself.

While a new and different personality, there was a great deal of "revisiting" to John Hurt's interpretation.  The War Doctor was presented as a generic Classic Series Doctor, pointing out a great deal of silliness in the ways the more recent Doctor's behave.  His performance was closest to the role the first Doctor played in the "Five Doctors." Actually, it was closer to a more active version of Hartnell's return in "The Three Doctors."  This can't have been an accident seeing that he regenerated after using the First Doctor's, "wearing a bit thin," line.   

If the whole reason for the War Doctor's creation was Christopher Eccleston not wishing to join in the anniversary celebration, maybe it was a blessing in disguise.  There couldn't have been the entertaining interplay between old school and new school Who on screen without John Hurt. (The Ninth Doctor was also fond of pointing his Sonic Screwdriver at opponents.) 

Plus, it caused John Hurt to play the Doctor!

Now all we need is some Timey Wimey story so the War Doctor can battle the Professor Yana Master for an I Claudius reunion.

Ninth Doctor:

My Pick: "Boom Town"
Their Pick: "Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways"

Once again, the BBC picked a better one than I did.   Although I think their choice had more to do with the first appearance of David Tennant, and the importance of "Bad Wolf" to "Day of the Doctor" than Eccleston's performance.

Despite my appreciation of John Hurt above, we really missed the Ninth Incarnation in this adventure.  It would have great to see his interplay with the other three, both how he dealt with the guilt from the War Doctor, and how he would regard his goofier successors.  His stock footage appearance in the climax over Gallifrey was one of the loudest of many cheers in our home.   It took thirty years for Tom Baker to make an anniversary appearance after regretting skipping "The Five Doctors." I hope many new fan's first Doctor doesn't have to wait that long. 

Tenth Doctor:

My Pick: "Stolen Earth/Journey's End"
Their Pick: "Stolen Earth/Journey's End"

Hey, I got another one right!  Really, though, it's nearly impossible to pick a bad David Tennant episode.   This one had everything in it and all the companions.  Plus they showed an entire marathon of his episodes before the interviews, meaning I probably would have been right with nearly any pick.

I realize it was probably to avoid explaining the lack of a companion, but choosing the Tenth Doctor from within "The End of Time" for "Day of the Doctor" has some intriguing connotations.

For one thing, it means all three Doctors joined together right before their regeneration.  The War Doctor regenerated at the end of the adventure, the Tenth when he returned to "The End of Time" and the Eleventh next month in the Christmas special.  Maybe all the Doctors all arrived at this battle shortly before their regeneration. Wasn't the Seventh's appearance from the 1996 TV Movie? That's another one.  Perhaps regenerating shortly afterwards explains why none of them remember it.  We'll have to see if it gets referenced during Peter Capaldi's run.

The other bit of weirdness is that at the end of "Day of the Doctor" he's leaving his other selves and heading right into a battle with Gallifrey's high council.  There was a passing reference in the special where the military commander talked about the Council's plan failing. This means if all the Doctors showed up a little sooner, the planet would have been in the process of appearing near the Earth.  Weird.   Other fans have speculated that in saving Gallifrey, the Doctors have also preserved a royally hacked off Master and Rassilon.  I kinda got the feeling that whatever the Lord President was doing meant they were blasted into the void, not back to Gallifrey.  At least I keep telling myself that in order to sleep at night.

Eleventh Doctor:

My Pick: "Pandorica Opens/ Big Bang"
Their Pick: "Impossible Astronaut/ Day of the Moon"

Instead of illustrating the Eleventh Doctor's time with the end of the first big story arc, they did it by choosing the start of the second one.  Considering what's on the way for the Christmas Special, that's probably the right choice.  Plus he got several marathons this week, I think of his entire run if all of them are combined.

We now pause for old fans like myself to mope because they didn't run marathons for all the classic Doctors as well.

That puts my final revisited score at three correct out of eleven...and two of those (Second and Eighth) had no real other choices.  This is why I don't work in television.

Looking forward to finally getting some answers about the Silence next month.  

And knowing Moffat, quite a few more entertainingly confusing new questions.

I'd like to go on the record with a crazy prediction here:
Because he's running out of regenerations (assuming the thirteen limit from the classic series holds...he's expended energy a couple of times outside of true regenerations that it could be a problem.) he needs more energy.  He'll siphon it out of Donna Noble, regenerating himself, and curing her!  I figure there's a snowman's chance in Pompeii of this happening, as the casting logistics are tough, River is a much more obvious choice, and it completely undermines Donna's tragic ending.

But I REALLY want her to remember.

Twelfth Doctor:

Hey, this is Doctor Who, of course we can revisit future events!

With the single line of "No sir, all Thirteen!"  Peter Capaldi made what seemed to be a scene that was as awesome as physically possible even more awesomer.

I am excessively looking forward to his run as the Doctor, for three reasons.

1) Feeling a true part of it:
Thanks to the popularity finally growing, and BBC America gaining strength, this will be my first "live" regeneration.

2) For strictly petty and personal reasons:  
By a Disney World pool, a group of teen-aged girls saw my TARDIS tank top and cheered,  "THE TARDIS...AWESOME!" etc. and all my brain could do was scream, 

I can't wait to see how the teeny boppers deal with a fifty-five year old Doctor.  
Yay! The Doctor will be older than me again!

3) Most importantly:
 I always look forward to a new regeneration.  It means wild, exciting and fun new directions for a show with infinite possibilities already built in.  The Brigadier said it best, 

"Wonderful Chap, all of them!"



CSBlakebrough said...

Excellent post and thanks for linking to my numbering post!

Jeff McGinley said...

No problem, thanx for putting it in such a clear and complete format. Neil Gaiman sited the practical reasons for doing it (address below) but laying it out like you did is the most direct way to stop the argument before it rises.

Thanx for the compliment, and for stopping by.

longbow said...

I agree about vengence on varos. I've seen it on a lot of "bests" lists and I'm not sure I get it. Sil was memorable but not in an entirely good way

Once again, I have no shame in admitting that Leela played a large part in turning me from a boy into a man even though I was only 9 or 10 when I started watching on WHYY

Jeff McGinley said...

Varos had a bunch of interesting stuff in it, but much of it was independent of the Doctor being there.

Leela is still my favorite companion, but there was something magical about her chemistry with all the Doctors she interacted with (3 and 4 during her initial run, 5 and others in "The Five Doctors" and 10 and 11 in the return series and her own show. She's sorely missed.

Thanx for joining in!