Thursday, February 1, 2024

Some Special Doctor Who Specials

The thirteenth anniversary of this blog, (earlier this week but after the last post) will be a look at another anniversary. 
Doctor Who! 
(at the end of last year)
That's as good an excuse as any for how late this is.

The Sixtieth Anniversary, the return of Christmas Specials and a new Doctor!
What a time to be a Whovian!

A Whovian who has been a fan of the show for over forty years.
Obviously I am very happy about the return of the old Logo shape.

Some generalities to start with.

Anabelle pointed out the importance of the return of Murray Gold. It's not that the in between composer wasn't good, but the episodes feel far more full with Gold's music. There weren't really any cues that stuck with us during Jodie's run and the lack of past musical references removed some of the feeling of continuity. The specials had new music, call backs to Gold's previous run, and musical references to occurrences of the Chibnall era when referenced. 

I was and am a big fan of Jodie Whittaker's portrayal of the Doctor, and the show was still better than most things on the air when it ran and now. But the specials have returned Doctor Who to bringing a great deal more satisfaction when the stories end, which was missing in much of the writing of the previous run. 

The Fiftieth Anniversary was a tribute to all of Doctor Who, but mostly a celebration of the returned series.

The BBC Centenary special felt like more of a celebration of Classic Who as well.

Enough comparing and dwelling on the past, it's time to look at each of the new specials.

Because these were different, and aside from some mending, were much more about looking forward. For all the crazy theories about who else was coming back with Tennant and Tate, this was their run, done in three parts, for both in story and out of story reasons. A pair of performers that had one of the best Doctor/ Companion chemistries wanted to come back to have a couple more adventures. Russell T Davies let the BBC know, wrote the stories, got some Disney money and the rest is history. (and boy did they throw that Disney money up on the screen!)  Donna and the Doctor have both gone through many things since they last met. They have changed somewhat with the weight of that time (an insane amount of time on the Doctor's part) but their chemistry is still magic.

Children in Need
A nice little pile of bootstrap paradoxes heralding a fun era of Doctor Who!

The Star Beast
Of all the possible characters to return, Beep the Meep, from an old comic strip in Doctor Who Magazine had to be one of the lowest guesses on everyone's list. It does make me hopeful that we'll see Frobisher appear in the show, since the technology is available to bring a shape shifting sentient penguin to life now. The story here, as stated taken from a comic strip, is incidental. The real point was getting Donna and the Doctor back together. The even realer point was undoing what I feel was the biggest downer ending in all of NuWho. Donna had a fantastic character arc, and taking it all away was a glorious tragedy... but I'd rather have a glorious happy ending any day. The bond and connections between both the performers and the characters were incredibly obvious. Removing any possibility of revisiting that, or remembering it for Donna, was far more heartbreaking than it needed to be. This is particularly true since it came right after the extreme high of the "Everyone Flies the TARDIS 'Song of Freedom' " moment. We got a good old fashioned, fast paced Doctor Who tale, with Miriam Margoyles being equal parts goofy fun, and horrifying as Beep the Meep. The start of the victory lap for Donna and the Doctor repaired the past and sent them running for the next specials. Donna's husband and daughter were just as fantastic additions to the supporting cast as her Grandad and Mom were in the past and still are.

Wild Blue Yonder
This is the story that stands the most on its own. The first one is to reset the downer ending from the past, the final one is to introduce the new Doctor and tone. This one is to focus on the Doctor and Donna together. How better to do that than do a story where Tennant and Tate are the only performers in it, as both heroes and villains? They were fun together, there were terrifying moments, and an outrageous amount of running involved. Doctor Who in a nutshell. There was a tiny cold open with some other actors, but I don't thing anything that happened there will have an impact of any mavity on the general goings on of the Whoniverse. The bit with using the salt superstition at the end of the universe was a weird but cool bit of justification for the show taking on more fantasy elements. Minor nit pick- It made for good suspense, but for all the talk and demonstration of the bond between The Doctor and Donna, I feel like he should have recognized which one was correct when he brought her on the TARDIS at the end, and had the fact that it was the wrong one be part of his complex plan or something. 

The Giggle
The return of a foe not seen since the First Doctor's era, over fifty-seven years ago. Sort of... new fantastic actor, the same character. Neil Patrick Harris's performance makes me really want a live action Batman Versus the Music Meister now. C'mon James Gunn, you're a master at working music into superhero stuff already. Make it happen. We also get the return of a classic companion, Mel! Honestly, it could have been anyone, the point here was that the idea offered in "Power of the Doctor" that UNIT could hire any past companion is now a reality! This is excellent news as the answer of most Whovians to the question, "Who should they bring back?" is EVERYBODY!!!! Between that, the Memory TARDIS, and Davies's goofy idea that the bi-generation was retroactive, meaning all the Doctors are still flying around through time and space (something I think all Whovians secretly believe) we're set. The gangs of past actors who are enthusiastic about returning to this amazing show now have multiple ways to come back whenever they want. We got a huge nostalgia filled story last year, making it too soon to do that again. This one had some nostalgia but was more about looking forward. Between the Toymaker, Mel and the returning lead duo, there was enough looking back. Plus any day with Kate and UNIT is a good one. But the idea was to show that the addition of more fantasy elements into Doctor Who wasn't going to change what the core of the show was about. The Doctor still pointed out the dark parts of humanity, but sided with them because the light parts can overwhelm those. (Once again, like Craig Ferguson said, "Intellect and romance triumph over brute force and cynicism!") As usual with Russell T Davies, the change has an in story reason. Because of the bi-generation, the Fourteenth Doctor will have the happy ending/ healing time he needs to allow the Fifteenth to operate without a chunk of the emotional baggage the Doctor has been lugging around for much of the current series.

The Church on Ruby Road
Man, did I miss Christmas specials! They always have a bit more warm hearted whimsy than regular episodes do. It also snuck in a bit of a Christmas reference with its It's a Wonderful Life like demonstration of the impact one person can have. Since this was the only episode we've gotten so far with the new Doctor and companion, we won't know how much of that whimsy will transition into the show with its greater fantasy element, and how much was due to the Christmas special. Either way it will be fun to find out. Notice the show still stays true to the show's philosophy: the time jumping, singing goblins in a flying boat still do not use magic, but an alternate kind of science. Also, singing. Woo!!!!
The new Doctor is full of fun and energy and wisdom and gadgets and compassion. And the new companion is wide eyed and enthusiastic and brave and resourceful and kind. There's new adventures to be had and new mysteries to solve. 

I can't wait till the stories continue throughout all of time and space in May.


longbow said...

Mazel Tov

Jeff McGinley said...

Back atcha!

Jesse said...

The specials were pretty incredible! Is it just me, though, or or has the audio mix in Dr. Who the last couple years made it really hard to hear the dialog? I don't have this problem on other shows, but on Dr. Who I need to turn on subtitles to make out the dialog when it is up against the music.

Jeff McGinley said...

They were awesome.
I'm the wrong one to ask, between my hearing and focus, and Rosa's issues with British Accents, we've watched Doctor Who with subtitles since the show came back.

My whole family (Mom, Us, Kim's group) watch EVERYTHING with subtitles now.

longbow said...

I also watch British shows with the subtitles on. The weird one is I watch everything with subtitles if I'm eating. Apparently I can't hear over the sounds of my aging skull constantly moving

Jeff McGinley said...

Thanx for sharing. Maybe its like having to turn down the radio to see better when driving. I've had to do that for years.