Man, 2013 may as well be called “year 50” as it was the year of 50th anniversaries wasn’t it?
CS Lewis’s death, JFK’s death…
I feel like there was something else…
Time to come clean. I’m not a big whovian, or rather I’m a whovian of whovians as the behind the scenes of Dr Who, the enthusaiasm of its fans, its brilliance at establishing a narrative reason for changing actors, the very fact that it’s survived in a multitude of forms for fifty years, everything about the show is almost more interesting than the show itself.
Yet the show itself remains very entertaining and I’ll give just about any episode a chance. So here’s my two cents on two presents for Dr Who’s birthday.
All the Whos in Whoville
A little play put on by a theater in my town this is the result of a fever mad dream brought on by the question, “what if Dr Who invaded How the Grinch Stole Christmas?” Yep, it’s fanwank, pure fanwank, and if you have a problem with that, then you’re probably not a whovian. Almost everything since Russell T brought Dr Who back to television could be rightly accused as fanfiction, and probably stuff even earlier than that. No Dr Who is a property that gives to its fans and receives from them and this story would be no less out of place with any of the other Christmas specials the show has done (for good or ill). Heck the play even taunts judgmental critics by actually naming one of its characters “Mary Sue”. If you’ve got a problem with that, go watch something less fun and joyful like… I dunno, the Wire.
So if we look past all that and judge the show on its own, how is it?
Again, as a casual whovian, I have to say that this little play, gets the heart – the soul – of Dr Who down. Heck with props put together on a shoestring budget if anything it looks more like original Who than the current era of episodes. Of course the play does what every fan probably puts in their fanfic: bringing all the doctors together and letting them get up to shenanigans. While one could see the salvation of Galifrey being cause for such a glorious unity, does saving Christmas really rank as a reason for them to unite?
YOU BET YOUR SONIC SCREWDRIVER IT DOES!
Oh sure technobabble is thrown in right before the intermission explaining how all this happens (indeed the immediate TARDIS sequence leading up to the intermission is probably the weakest – and slowest – part of the play), but deep down we all know it’s about saving Christmas. After saving his homeworld, this would be my second choice for crisis that would bring all the doctors together. (that would probably be my only rewrite: instead of having time/space collapsing into a point, have like… the Grinch getting a hold of Dalek technology and he decides to steal ALL Christmases that ever were, are, and will be)
Of course not even the BBC can afford to hire every actor who played the doctor so how does this place do it? Impersonators! Pretty darn good ones too. In fact, the 2nd doctor is SO good, you actually wonder a moment if Kentucky’s invented the time machine and actually STOLE Troughton from the past (if I understood the actor correctly afterwards, the BBC has actually tapped him for his look-alike services which is probably the best move they’ve done in awhile). Probably this will be the biggest hangup for most fans as the play does take a moment to hang a lampshade on how everyone is just “slightly” off from their originals. It’s certainly something Dr Who would do but part of me almost wishes they played it completely straight (which would make what they do with the 5th doctor even funnier).
My only other complaint is that there might have been a bit too much of the doctors stuck in the TARDIS. At some point one wishes they would just go out, split up, and fight through the Grinch’s minions (which should be ludicrously silly – like cyberdog-reindeer Maxes) or brave the mountain’s traps.
Regardless, my enjoyment of the show far outweighed any complains and it was a very fun time (if anything, BBC should make it their 2014 Christmas special – and only use impersonators for the doctors, just to make it more fun) that left you wanting more by the end (as all good shows do). Everyone’s given a chance to shine, the companion for this play (a grown up Cindy Lou) is the hottest one after Karen Gillan, and the Grinch chews enough of the scenery that there’s no doubt he’s earned a place in the Dr Who rogues gallery. If I had any regrets, it’s that I have no way of sharing the show with some whovian friends of mine that I think would really enjoy it.
So if you’re near Louisville this weekend, love Dr Who, and don’t take anything too seriously, stop by and catch a showing. Though this weekend is the last.
Day of the Doctor
Yes, I bought a ticket and went and saw this at a 3D showing in a theater (the 2nd time I’ve seen a 3D movie). I have to get out of the way first: yes they utilized the 3D to great effect and to actually tell the story instead of just gimmicks (though they had some fun with 3D gimmicks too).
Look if you’re reading this you’ve probably already seen it so there’s no real point in me gushing about it in the same way 90% every other critic has. It was great. It was epic. It was just about the only story possible that was worthy of the 50th anniversary. Let’s get to complaints so we can start an internet flamewar!
Actually the single, greatest fault of Dr Who, his “achilles heel” if you will is that he is the moral focus of the show.
What do I mean? Well… ok let’s look at the first, minor climax in the special. The doctor(s) decide that rather than let a bomb go off in London they should… the only way to put it is “mind rape” everyone else in the room. (Never mind the morality of “memory wipers” in the first place.) Obviously I’m not in favor of London blowing up but is forcibly screwing with people’s minds that better of an alternative?
Which brings us to the Time War. Again, I could be talking out of my arse (as I’m still watching some of those early episodes) but from everything I’ve read/seen (and throwing out the weird stuff like how do you calculate how many children died on a day of a time war when those same children could have had their adult selves fighting on the battlefield at the same time or been erased from existence earlier or…) the use of the Moment was about more than ending the war and saving the universe, it was about saving the soul of the Time Lords themselves. I mean when you intend to kill everyone (that is, was, and will ever be) and remake it all in your own fashion… I mean where do you go from there on the evil scale? What could be worse? Undoing your efforts so you could do it twice? That’s my biggest problem with the solution offered in DotD. What does it matter to save the lives of every Time Lord if their souls remain damned? Though I’m willing to admit that later episodes could address this point so it may all work out. Until then, the ending nags in the back of my brain just a little.
I’m also hoping maybe we’ll get to see more clean up from the time war as a consequence of this “work-around”. I mean we’ve already seen the Nightmare Child (at least that’s what I say about it) so how about the Couldabeen King? Or more…
The 12th/13th doctor may have his work cut out for him…
Though, I still think the greatest 50th celebration of Dr Who, may be this one.