Deep Breath – Some Quick Thoughts

Deep Breath is, at its core, a fairly typical regeneration debut story. The story itself wasn’t bad, but wasn’t exactly anything special either. But a regeneration story has the primary function of successfully introducing the new Doctor to the audience. This is the single most important thing we needed from Deep Breath, to break in Peter Capaldi as the new Doctor, and, as such, the episode did an excellent job of it. Everything else is secondary, in my opinion, although there were definitely both plus and minus points.

As I’ve said, the story was nothing exceptional, not exactly setting the world on fire for me. However, there were some nice scenes in it. The character set-pieces and interaction were generally excellent (with the exception of one thing). There were also quite a few nice bits of humour in among all the sad bits, and I also really liked seeing Lady Vastra, Jenny and Strax again. I enjoy these characters a lot, and I think that Strax is absolutely hilarious.

On the negative side, the plot itself was definitely a bit thin, there were at least a couple of glaring plot and character inconsistencies, particularly Clara’s aggressively negative overreaction to the new, older Doctor, which was TOTALLY out of character. Any other companion, yes, it might’ve actually been more realistic, but not the Impossible Girl. She’s met them all. And even if, as some people argue, she has no memories of her other lives (which I disagree with), her reaction was STILL over-the-top and totally out of character.

Hey, she’s already pretty familiar with regeneration and different Doctors, she’s even been in an adventure with three different Doctors (Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt), in The Day of the Doctor 50th Anniversary Special, and having already met (and liked) an older Doctor (Hurt), her overly-negative reaction to Capaldi because he is “old” is totally unrealistic and out-of-character.

The shame is that Jenna Coleman is a pretty good actress, and Clara, as a companion, is quite likeable. But Steven Moffat didn’t come up with the writing goods for her on this occasion, writing her not as herself, but reducing her to some kind of a one-dimensional cypher, a dig at and representation of fans who can’t handle regeneration and the replacing of “their” Doctor with a new one. In her defense, I have to say that this is NOT Jenna Coleman’s fault, and the young lady can only deal with the scripts she’s been given.

Another major plot flaw was actually one of the nicest scenes in the entire episode, the phone call from the Matt Smith Doctor on Trenzalore to Clara, said call obviously being made before or during the events of The Time of the Doctor. It’s all very poignant, heart-tugging and well-acted, until you actually stop and think about it, and you realize that it simply couldn’t have happened. It was was a major continuity flub and sloppy writing by Moffat. Nice, emotional, tear-jerking writing, but sloppy and wrong, wrong, WRONG.

MattDoc says to Clara that “the time is getting close”, and “it’s going to be a real whopper” (he’s obviously referring to an “upcoming regeneration”). But remember back to what happened at the end of The Time of the Doctor. The whole crux of the story was that the Doctor was coming to the end of his final incarnation. There weren’t going to BE any more regenerations. As far as MattDoc was concerned, for pretty much the ENTIRE episode, he’d run out of regenerations, and he was going to die. That was the whole point of the story. Which is what would’ve happened if Clara hadn’t begged the Time Lords to save him, as they did right at the end, by popping up at the last minute and giving the Doctor a new cycle of regenerations. So Matt Smith’s Doctor couldn’t have made that phone call. He didn’t know he was going to regenerate before it actually happened. Very sloppy continuity mess-up on Moffat’s part.

Those were my two main gripes, and the rest I can live with. However, one thing I couldn’t complain about was Peter Capaldi’s performance as the new Doctor, which was excellent, top notch. I think he’s going to be an excellent Doctor. For that reason alone, I’ll give Deep Breath a B instead of the C that I thought the fairly average story by itself actually deserved.

Doctor Who: 50 Years in Space & Time (Part 11)

Here’s the penultimate part of my look back at Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary:

  • The Radio Times Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special
  • The TV Times Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special

11. Radio Times 50th Anniversay Special

The Radio Times Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special is a real doozy, with no less than TWELVE variant covers featuring all of the Doctors, including “War Doctor” John Hurt.

There’s also a Steven Moffat article, on set with Tennant, Smith and Hurt, a celebration of 50 Years of Radio Times Doctor Who covers, a detailed overview of all eleven Doctors, and even a competition to win the Doctor’s bow tie. What’s not to like about this? Another nice one.

12. TV Times 50th Anniversay Special

The TV Times had their own 50 Years of Doctor Who Anniversary edition, which was also pretty good, although they didn’t go quite as overboard as the Radio Times, with only four variant Doctor Who covers.

There is a nice Classic Companions piece, interviewing Peter Purves (Steven) and Frazer Hines (Jamie), plus a mini-review of The Day of the Doctor. But the main piece of the Doctor Who anniversary is the five-page 50 Years of Doctor Who Special celebration, which includes interviews with not only David Tennant and Matt Smith, but also Tom Baker and Peter Davison.

However, my absolute favourite was the A Brief History of Time (Lords) timeline, which runs along the bottom of the entire five pages of the main 50 Years of Doctor Who Special section. Anyone who knows me knows how much I like my timelines. Lovely.

To Be Continued…

Doctor Who: 50 Years in Space & Time (Part 9)

Here’s the next part of my look back at the Best of the Bunch from Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary:

  • The Night of the Doctor – mini-episode prequel
  • The Last Day – mini-episode prequel

8. The Night of the Doctor

Commemorating Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary, and the first of two very good mini-episode prequels to The Day of the Doctor is The Night of the Doctor, which was released on Youtube and BBC iPlayer on 14th November. At less than seven minutes long, it is an excellent swansong for the Paul McGann Doctor and as an introduction to the War Doctor. It was also nice to see the Sisterhood of Karn make a reappearance again, as we hadn’t seen them since the Tom Baker era. Both McGann and the Sisterhood should have been given more airtime in past Doctor Who series, so it was nice to see them again, and particularly in McGann’s case, to see him have a nice, much-deserved regeneration scene at last.

9. The Last Day

The second of the two mini-episode prequels to The Day of the Doctor, and, at under four minutes, even shorter than The Night of the Doctor, is The Last Day, which first appeared on YouTube and BBC iPlayer on 21st November. Seen from the point of view of a Time Lord soldier wearing a headcam, this one elaborates on the “fall of Arcadia” during the Time War. The sequence with the commander bragging about the supposedly impenetrable “sky trenches” and Arcadia being “the safest place on Gallifrey” illustrates the overconfidence and complacency of the Time Lords. When the Daleks burst through in large numbers, I was almost cheering them on. 🙂

To Be Continued…

Doctor Who: 50 Years in Space & Time (Part 6)

November was, overall, an eventful 50th Anniversary for Doctor Who. Lots and lots of great things were happening, on television, on DVD and in the magazines. I can now look back upon the entire 50th Anniversary and list my favourite items. Here, starting with the best, and working my way back, is what I consider to be the Best of the Bunch, in order of preference:

  • An Adventure in Space and Time
  • The Day of the Doctor

1. An Adventure in Space and Time

In first place, and deservedly so, is the sublime An Adventure in Space and Time, which aired on BBC2 from 9-10.30pm on the night of Thursday 21st November. This was simply the best Doctor Who production that I’ve seen in many years. The performances of all of the actors were exemplary, particularly David Bradley in the role of William Hartnell.

Indeed, I must say that the ONLY real criticism that I could express is that An Adventure in Space and Time, at under ninety minutes, was much too short. Because of this, there was the unfortunate need to skip over a number of extremely important figures and details in early Doctor Who history (for example, the vital roles played by Ray Cusick, Terry Nation, David Whitaker and a number of others) because of time and space constraints, if you’ll pardon the obvious and corny pun. This excellent drama would have benefited greatly if it had been at least half an hour longer, or preferably even forty-five minutes.

Many, many thanks to the irrepressible Mark Gatiss for having the dedication and perseverance to stick with this project over so many years, until the time was right and The Powers That Be at the BBC finally gave the go ahead to put it into production.

2. The Day of the Doctor

In second place, and, in my opinion, not very far behind An Adventure in Space and Time, was the 50th Anniversary Special itself, The Day of the Doctor, which aired on BBC1 on the evening of Saturday 23rd November, from 7.50pm-8.05pm.

As I’ve often said, I usually find most modern Doctor Who specials to be a bit hit and miss compared to the series proper. Often they’re a bit of lighter fare to entertain the family after they’ve gorged on the Christmas dinner and chocolate treats (and possibly a few drinkies for the mums and dads, yes siree!). And sometimes they seem to be just a bit of lightweight fluff filler thrown out to keep us hanging on in between seasons, or during the internal breaks within the seasons themselves.

But, that said, The Day of the Doctor was excellent. Not perfect mind you, but definitely excellent, and I consider it to be, despite a few minor niggles, without a doubt my favourite Doctor Who special of the modern era.

To Be Continued…

Doctor Who: 50 Years in Space & Time (Part 4)

In my last post, I discussed the Doctor Who contents of the 50th Anniversary editions of both the Radio Times and the TV Times, and both magazines have pulled out all the stops for the 50th Anniversary. But when it comes to the magazines, nothing beats Doctor Who Magazine.

The November 50th Anniversary edition of Doctor Who Magazine is an extra-special bumper 116-page souvenir special issue, and comes inside a lovely hard-card “envelope”, with lots of nice stuff both on back and front. The magazine itself is full of tasty anniversary articles and interviews, including:

  • A massive preview of the 50th Anniversary Special, The Day of the Doctor
  • Ghosts in the Machine, a behind the scenes feature on the prestigious An Adventure in Space and Time drama
  • An Unearthly Beginning, featuring never-before-seen drafts of An Unearthly Child
  • The Wonder of Who – what is the secret of Doctor Who’s appeal?
  • Who Was Anthony Coburn? Part 1
  • The Fact of Fiction – The Five Doctors a detailed examination of the 20th Anniversary adventure
  • The Watcher’s Guide to Anniversaries
  • The Watcher’s 50th Anniversary Quiz
  • Interviews with Matt Smith and David Tennant, Jenna-Louise Coleman (on how Clara coped with three Doctors) and Mary Peach (Enemy of the World)
  • Reviews of Enemy of the World, The Web of Fear, The Complete Seventh Series, and various new releases on the books and audio drama front
  • A nice comic strip John Smith and the Common Men
  • Plus all the usual regular stuff that DWM gives us each and every month.

There are also some nice extras inside, in addition to the magazine. There’s a very nice twelve-card series of collectable art cards featuring all twelve Doctors (Peter Capaldi is in there as well). And we’ve also got a special mini-magazine, a gorgeous little A5 1960s-themed “mini issue” of Doctor Who Magazine (dated November 1964. Only 2d!), with a really nice “Dalek on Westminster Bridge” cover.

This November 50th Anniversary issue of DWM is a real cracker, one of the best, ever. I’d advise all Doctor Who fans to snap up a copy while they still can.

To Be Continued…

Doctor Who: 50 Years in Space & Time (Part 1)

As this month marks the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who, my all-time favourite telefantasy series, I reckon that now is the perfect time to relaunch this blog as a dedicated Doctor Who thingie, rather than the more general telefantasy blog of its previous regeneration.

I now do all of the more general stuff over on my main Tales of Time & Space blog on wordpress.com, so I’ve cleared out all previous posts from this one (they can be reposted in some form on Tales of Time & Space at some point in the future), and I’m starting from scratch here with Doctor Who-only posts.

This coming Saturday (and I get a real thrill out of the fact that the 23rd November actually does fall on a Saturday this year) marks the 50th Anniversary of the very first episode of An Unearthly Child (aka The Tribe of Gum – I still refuse to refer to the overall story by that name), which first aired on BBC1 at 5.15pm on Saturday 23rd November, 1963. I’ll make sure to be sitting in front of the telly at 5.15pm on Saturday with my DVD box-set of The Beginning, plus a little drinkie or two, ready to mark the anniversary of the exact moment when the very first ever episode of Doctor Who exploded upon an unsuspecting world. Actually, it’s more like “sneaked by unnoticed”, due to the widespread furore surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy the day before, but “exploded upon” sounds much more dramatic, doesn’t it?

There has obviously been quite a bit of activity on television to celebrate the lead-up to the anniversary. Aside from the almost compulsory annual Children in Need silliness, we’ve had, most notably: the fun The Science of Doctor Who special on BBC2 (Thursday 14th November, at 9.00pm), hosted by the seemingly ever-present and absolutely brilliant Professor Brian Cox (with a guest appearance by the Doctor himself, Matt Smith); Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited (Watch, Saturday 16th November at 2pm); a three-part Doctor Who: Monsters and Villains Weekend documentary (BBC3, Friday/Saturday 15th/16th November at 8pm, and Sunday 17th November at 7.30pm); and the bumper two-hour The Ultimate Guide to Doctor Who (BBC3, Monday 18th November, 8pm-10pm).

That leaves the two biggies still to come. Every Doctor Who fan on Planet Earth is chomping at the bit, waiting for the 50th Anniversary Special, The Day of the Doctor (BBC1, Saturday 23rd November, 7.50pm). Obviously I’m as eager as anyone else to see The Day of the Doctor, but, as far as I’m concerned, the true highlight of the entire anniversary celebrations is An Adventure in Space and Time, which airs tonight on BBC2, from 9pm-10.30pm.

I’ve been waiting for months for this one, and I consider An Adventure in Space and Time to be potentially the most important Doctor Who production of recent years. It promises to be something truly special and unique, and I haven’t been this excited about any Doctor Who-related programme since the unsurpassed Philip Hinchcliffe era of Tom Baker’s run on the classic series.

And just for good measure, after An Adventure in Space and Time ends, you can hop channels over to BBC4 at 10.30pm, where they’re airing all four episodes of An Unearthly Child. This is gonna be the best Thursday night’s television viewing in years!

To Be Continued…