Posted in 1st Doctor, 2nd Doctor, Classic Series, News, Opinion

DWW Readers Sound Off on Remaking Missing Doctor Who Classics

Following the immensely positive reaction to BBC Four’s remaking of the lost 1957 Hancock’s Half Hour episode The New Neighbour, which stars Kevin McNally as the Lad Himself, we asked our followers whether they’d ever consider accepting similar remakes of the missing episodes from Doctor Who‘s history.

Stone me!
Stone me!

The reaction was generally positive from fans, with many saying the approach is something they’d be keen to see.

Many readers were keen to see David Bradley, star of 2013’s An Adventure in Space and Time, return to the fold as the First Doctor in particular.

Other’s however weren’t so positive, preferring animation or extra money for the Ongoing Series.

For our own take, we’d love to see remakes of the lost classics but would hope they would remain faithful to the original episodes in terms of both script and set design, should they ever happen. The recent success of the Star Trek franchise, where iconic characters such as William Shatner’s Captain Kirk and Leonard Nimoy’s Mr Spock have been recast has shown appetite is there, but for us they maybe shy too far away from the original source material, the BBC’s recent Lost Sitcoms being far closer to what we’d like to see.

But if it came to having a choice between animation or remakes, it’d be a much more difficult choice to make… why not let us know your thoughts on social media or via the comments?

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Posted in Classic Series, Clips, News, Opinion, Video

The First Doctor: The Grandfather of Them All

The entire first six years of Doctor Who were shot in black-and-white, and upon first glance with the Doctor’s deep, dark black frock coat and shocking white hair he would appear to be just another old man. However, the First Doctor was a colourful character and a man of many contradictions, perhaps more than any other Doctor; the first Doctor was born of mystery and was far from black and white. He appeared old, yet he was young; cantankerous and kind. He appeared to be human yet he was a traveller from an unnamed time and an unnamed place: a wanderer in the fourth dimension. Both he and his young Granddaughter, Susan, had run away, exiles from their own society. Along the way, they would fight alien forces, helped the oppressed and righted wrongs while getting involved in all sorts of historical shenanigans. The inhabitants of the planet Vortis (The Web Planet) vow to speak of the legend that the TARDIS crew leave behind for generations. They also had some near misses, almost wiping out the future remnants of the human race by infecting them with the common cold (The Ark), then helped them find a cure. These actions didn’t match his renegade status. Who was he and why was he running away from his own people?

There are many things that contribute to our sense of identity and one of those is the society we exist in. Here, however, we have a character that has chosen to relinquish all ties with what defines him and cut himself adrift. Free from burden, free from responsibility and alone save for his Granddaughter. At the beginning of The Edge of Destruction, an unconscious Doctor lies on the floor muttering, “I can’t take you back Susan, I can’t…” Over the years, there has been fan speculation whether Susan was even his Granddaughter or whether he had kidnapped her! – Much like he had plucked Ian and Barbara from the normality of their day existence and then spent two years trying to get them back, even though he seemed unable to navigate his own ship. He showed no hesitation at abducting the two teachers if it prevented his Granddaughter leaving. What would he have done if Susan hadn’t threatened to leave, would his actions have been the same? What would the consequences of leaving Susan’s teachers, where they belonged, have been? Nobody would have believed them. The Doctor’s logic seemed as erratic and arbitrary as his dilapidated old time-machine.

First-Doctor-pic-3

In 1983 William’s widow heather gave an interview to Doctor Who Magazine, this brief quote highlights his feelings about the Doctor’s introduction:

“The only thing that I was sorry about when he started was that they made him a rather grumpy old man. He was furious that the schoolmaster and mistress had discovered the TARDIS and got into it, he was absolutely livid and the fact that he took them off on that first trip was really nothing but spite!”

We can also see from his first encounter with the Daleks that he wasn’t above deceit and manipulation. Using the TARDIS’ mercury link as an excuse to stay on the planet Skaro and explore. Another interpretation would be that he lied in the same way a young boy might tell his parents he has done his homework. Displaying a lack of concern for consequences rather than through any malice, indeed, in The Rescue while Ian and Barbara are exploring there is a short scene in the TARDIS where he ponders to himself whether he can convince Ian that he meant to land in their destination. In the same story, he was also able to comfort Vicki in a way Ian and Barbara were unable to – although Barbara shooting Vicki’s pet may have been a contributing factor to their inability to do so. Either way, by this point in the character’s history we can see that he has changed and in many ways is a different person. One of the most significant changes came at the end of The Dalek Invasion of Earth when much to the surprise of Susan he left her behind on Earth. Gone was the man who left Totter’s Junk Yard in 1963 because he couldn’t bear to let his Granddaughter go. Now, he denied her the chance to stay with him but for her own good. The early years of Doctor Who were experimental, and many things were tried and changed.

A change of mood is the closest you can get to actually being a different person and the first Doctor has plenty of those; he was often unpredictable and changeable, quite literally. In the third season serial The Celestial Toymaker, Michael Gough’s character (The Toymaker) makes The Doctor invisible, much to the surprise of his young companions Steven and Dodo. Using pre-recordings of Hartnell’s voice and a hand double, for most of the filming of the story, there had been plans to bring back a new actor in Hartnell’s place as the first Doctor. Neither the action of replacing Hartnell or the new actor materialised, with the decision having been vetoed by the BBC’s head of serials Gerald Savory with Hartnell returning and producer John Wiles departing in protest. This, however, was very much a stay of execution for Hartnell and his Doctor. The sole surviving piece of footage from Hartnell’s departure story is a clip of one of the most important scenes in the programs long and illustrious history. Broadcast on the 29th of October 1966, history was created when something previously unimaginable happened, right before the eyes of the nation. In a swirl of light, William Hartnell metamorphosed into Patrick Troughton and that instant the first Doctor was gone, but his effect on the program was far from over all over.

Hartnell returned one last time for the tenth-anniversary story The Three Doctors, albeit in little more than a cameo role due to ill health. While the first Doctor graced our screens one more time for the twentieth-anniversary special, The Five Doctors. Hartnell even had a small contribution to make to the fiftieth-anniversary when Doctor Who researcher and member of the BBC’s Restoration Team Richard Bignell discovered a previously thought missing interview with the actor in 2009. This was eventually announced and released in 2013 on The Tenth Planet DVD as a special feature. At one point the interviewer asks Hartnell: “You’re actually quite a grumpy man. Why do you think that people like the Doctor so much?” To which the actor responded, “…they find me a cross between the Wizard of Oz and Father Christmas”. Not only that, though, Hartnell was also fondly remembered Mark Gatiss’s An Adventure in Time and Space. In fact, for many it was the highlight of the fiftieth anniversary. A window in time leading back to the events of fifty years previous.

The modern age is sleek and minimalism is the height of fashion for many. Often you hear people asked to sum things up in a single sentence, or perhaps even a single word. If asked to sum up Hartnell’s Doctor a word that most people would leap for is difficult, but to do so would be reductionist and deny us greater insight into his character and the character of the actor who played him.

The first Doctor (The original you might say) was the most contradictory and fallible. His many faults and whims, rather than repelling, made him endlessly fascinating and relatable. He could be erratic and almost cruel at times, yet he was the flawed hero who at times needed the moral guidance of two school teachers and his young granddaughter. For reasons unknown, he was in exile from his own people, and still he craved the company of those close to him. He fought for the oppressed and tried to right wrongs wherever and whenever he found them. As a new and truly unique alien character he was the catalyst for innovation in the form or regeneration and became an anchor for fifty-two years of British science fiction history.

This piece by Steve Traves is part of our ongoing William Hartnell month, where we focus on all aspects of the First Doctor throughout January. Submissions for articles, videos, opinion, reviews, retrospectives or whatever ideas you have for the month can be sent to editor@doctorwhoworldwide.com.

Posted in Classic Series, News, Opinion

DWW Readers Select Favourite Classic Season One Story, Introducing “Classic Notes”

Doctor Who Worldwide readers have selected their favourite story from the classic Season One, and the result is maybe unsurprising.

Terry Nation’s The Daleks comfortably won the day with 53% of the vote in the final round, the other stories from the Season having already been eliminated in the previous round.

The Daleks (also known as The Mutants and The Dead Planet) was the second story of the season and the introduced the Daleks to the show, alongside both the Thals and the planet Skaro. The seven part serial was directed by Christopher Barry and Richard Martin.

In honour of The Daleks victory, we shall be watching the serial in it’s entirety this coming Saturday from 2pm UK, 9am ET and Tweeting our live thoughts. Join us with your comments and we’ll put together the best from Facebook and Twitter as part of a new feature inspired by BBC America’s Doctor’s Notes – Classic Notes.

Posted in News, Ongoing Series, Opinion

Hot Topic: We Asked Our Readers if Steven Moffat’s Work Has Sexist Overtones… Here’s What You Said

In light of yet more accusations of misogyny in Steven Moffat’s work, this time as part of the reaction to Sherlock‘s The Abominable Bride, we asked our readers if they believed that The Moff’s writing showed a sexist streak, the results were overwhelming.

70% of all respondents did not believe that Steven’s work shows sexist overtones, over a two third majority.

The accusation of sexism in Moffat’s work is nothing new in Doctor Who circles, Moffat having defending himself strongly against the accusation in the past.

Speaking to Wales Online in 2012, Moffat said:

“I think it’s one thing to criticise a programme and another thing to invent motives out of amateur psychology for the writer and then accuse him of having those feelings. I’m certainly not a sexist, a misogynist and it was wrong. It’s not true and in terms of the character Sherlock Holmes, it is interesting. He has been referred to as being a bit misogynist. He’s not; the fact is one of the lovely threads of the original Sherlock Holmes is whatever he says, he cannot abide anyone being cruel to women – he actually becomes incensed and full of rage.”

The Abominable Bride was broadcast on New Year's Day on BBC One
The Abominable Bride was broadcast on New Year’s Day on BBC One

And more recently just this past November, the Grand Moff spoke out in relation to accusations against Doctor Who:

“It’s a complicated issue. I never quite know how to respond. The general point being made by these people is correct. We need better female role models on screen. Maybe this is my dimwittery but I do not understand why Doctor Who of all shows is singled out as misogynist. I’m sure I’m to the left of a lot of my detractors.”

Do you agree with the 70% who voted in support of Steven? or do you disagree? make sure you let us know via Twitter or Facebook.

Posted in News, Ongoing Series, Opinion

We Asked DWW Readers Who They’d Like To See as Next Showrunner… Here’s The Result

With the ongoing speculation over the future of Steven Moffat as Doctor Who head writer and executive producer, we asked our readers who their choice for the next showrunner would be.

Given four choices, the most common names linked with the role, our readers voted for Mark Gatiss as their choice to take over the role when The Moff lays down his Doctor Who pen.

Yes we know there’s only one “l” in Neil!

Gatiss was under heavy challenge from Toby Whithouse, receiving 40% and 37% respectfully, while the tipped Chris Chibnall received 16% of the vote.

Gatiss as Mycroft Holmes in Sherlock's The Abominable Bride
Gatiss as Mycroft Holmes in Sherlock’s The Abominable Bride

Mark Gatiss has been associated with Doctor Who for nearly 25 years, having published his first Doctor Who novel Nightshade in 1992, most recently contributing Sleep No More to Series 9. He has worked alongside Steven Moffat extensively over recent years as the co-creator of the immensely popular Sherlock.

Speaking in 2014, Gatiss said he didn’t think about taking over the role in the future:

“I don’t think about this… To be honest with you, I’m very happy and very busy doing what I’m doing. Almost a little too busy actually.”

What do our readers think? do you agree Mark would be best to take over? or do you have somebody else in mind? let us know!

Posted in News, Ongoing Series, Opinion

The DWW Awards 2015: Capaldi Voted Favourite Ever Doctor, More

The first ever Doctor Who Worldwide reader awards have been held, with well over three thousand votes cast across six categories, including favourite episode from Series 9, best actor and actress and all time favourite Doctor.

Carried out via Twitter, there were some surprising (and some not so surprising) results.

Favourite Series 9 Episode

Winner: Heaven Sent

After initial polls to whittle down the contenders to three final entrants, Heaven Sent romped home with 63% of the vote.

Favourite Series 9 Actor

Winner: Peter Capaldi

A result that was never really in doubt, leading man Peter Capaldi trounced even his nearest competitor with ease.

Favourite Series 9 Actress

Winner: Jenna Coleman

Despite a brave challenge from Michelle Gomez, former Clara actress Jenna Coleman was declared your favourite actress from Series 9, winning 45% of the vote.

Favourite Series 9 Writer

Winner: Steven Moffat

Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss advanced to the final after winning their respective first round polls, but it was the head honcho who came through, winning with some comfort on 79% of the vote.

Favourite Series 9 Director

Winner: Rachel Talalay

Another poll where there was little contest, Rachel Talalay defeating Hettie MacDonald with 79% of the vote in the final round of our favourite director poll, having directed both Heaven Sent and Hell Bent.

The Obligatory Favourite Ever Doctor Poll

Winner: Peter Capaldi

It was close and well fought, but Peter Capaldi won out to be declared our readers favourite ever Doctor!

Tom Baker expectedly won the favourite 1960s/1970s Doctor poll

And Peter Davison romped home with 42% of the vote to win in the 1980s/1990s category

But it was the post-2005 ongoing series category that saw the fiercest competition, with David Tennant winning until an hour before polls closed, Peter Capaldi coming from behind to snatch the victory with 38% of the vote

Peter would go on to defeat both Tom Baker and Peter Davison to be declared the overall winner and your favourite Doctor of all time!

Congratulations to all our winners and a big thank you to all our readers who took part, voted, shared and made the contest a lot of fun! Here’s to a new yearly tradition!

Posted in News, Ongoing Series, Opinion

The Husbands of River Song: Media Reaction

We’ve collected together some of the various reviews of yesterday’s The Husbands of River Song across the news and genre orientated media and present them below.

Our Review

“The idea that River and the Doctor’s final night together lasts 24 years could signify that there are many more adventures in store for them (and not surprisingly there are plenty of calls for River Song to be the next companion), but more plausibly, just as in the case of Clara it is another example of the stalled ending. I have a hunch that in the return of Ramone and Nardole, Steven Moffat is satirising himself, or more correctly the disingenuous image of him amongst some vocal critics. Sometimes endings are good.

Which brings us onto the perplexing end caption. After “And they both lived happily ever after,” is followed by “And they both lived happily,” we might have expected the sequence to end with “And they both lived.” But instead the final caption reads simply “Happily.” Once again it could be viewed as a subverting of what has become a stock trademark of the current showrunner’s era. The ending in this instance is not life or the escaping or undoing of death, but the happiness of a past moment.

In recent years the spin off worlds from Doctor Who has proliferated thanks to the incredible imagination of the fan base and the output of Big Finish in particular, and once again there are possible nods to this wider Doctor Whouniverse – the madcap scenes with the head in the bag wouldn’t be at all out of place in an Iris Wildthyme adventure and River Song’s reference to her second wife might be of interest to fans of another archaeologist, Bernice Summerfield. Speaking of Big Finish, if this is to be River Song’s final televised outings, fans of the character ought to check out their excellent new range, The Diary Of River Song, which fills out all those blank pages between the stories we’ve seen on screen.”

Full Review


News Press

The Guardian

“Yet again Doctor Who (BBC1) proved it has the measure of a proper holiday special. There was snow, a Christmas dinner of sorts and, yes, a headless robot charging around the galaxy in search of its head, played by a funny, pompous Greg Davies, but also depth, warmth and comedy, with Alex Kingston reprising her ongoing role as the Doctor’s time-travelling wife, River Song. Considering they had never met – at least in this regenerated incarnation – there was real chemistry between Peter Capaldi and Kingston. Watching the Doctor pretending to be in awe of the Tardis’s unique proportions (it’s bigger on the inside!) was a treat, a joke broad enough to work for both Who-obsessives and families who only visit the Doctor once a year. They discussed mortality, love, belonging, and what it means to be nostalgic for the past while worrying about the future: a jumble of Christmas emotions wrapped under alien skies.”

Full Christmas Day Review


LA Times

If “The Husbands of River Song” is less Christmasy than most of the previous specials, it is a splendid gift to fans nonetheless. River has provided one of the longest and most tantalizing threads of the series — the Doctor has had many companions but only one real partner with abilities and knowledge to match his own. Their relationship has always been a push-me-pull-you of sacrifice and salvation amid all manner of chaotic plotlines. To see them deal solely with each other is a treat, especially given Capaldi and Kingston’s very adult chemistry.

Full Review


The Mirror

“Here, egged on by a Matt Lucas cameo and Alex Kingston he cracks gags and at times literally falls around laughing, in a clear move away from the sadness of losing his companion Clara at the end of the last series.

There is also a bit of romance, Doctor Who almost mocking itself, and perhaps crucially given its timeslot of 5.15pm, nothing too scary.

A big clue into what happens comes from Moffat who teases: “We’re about to stand with the Doctor and see what River is like when she doesn’t know he’s looking.”

Alex Kingston’s return has been eagerly awaited by Whovians, but for any drama fans her addition to this episode is a wonderful thing.”

Full Advance Review


Genre

Den of Geek

“I did like the deliberate lighter tone here, and as I’ve said more than once, I also like it when Doctor Who takes a turn to keep us on our toes. Yet I guess for me this one didn’t turn enough, that it was more some tasty turkey sandwiches than the main dish itself. The balance seemed slightly uneven, and I think I’d rather the consistently daft tone had been kept up, rather than the loud action sequences crashing in, and the latest on-screen ending to the River and Doctor story.

There’s a big caveat to that, of course, in that if you’re heavily invested in the River/Doctor storyline still, then The Husbands Of River Song had much to offer. But I still felt that the ground had been trodden, if not seen, before.

Production values? Definitely worth a mention. They’re as uniformly high as we tend to take for granted on Doctor Who. Returning director Douglas Mackinnon keeps things interesting and pacey, and the episode also showcases effects work that really demonstrates just how far Doctor Who, visually has come.
But still: this is a decent, rather than spectacular sign off for what’s been a very strong year for Doctor Who. A bit of a muddle, with one absolute stand-out moment of nerdy joy. Oh, and Peter Capaldi. He’s welcome in our house any Christmas he likes.

Roll on series 10. It’s been quite a year for Who, and the thought of at least 12 more Capaldi-headlined episodes is negating the need for me to make a Christmas list…”

Full Review


Nerdiest

“There were lots of great little moments—like the Doctor having both his sonic sunglasses and his new sonic screwdriver (take THAT sunglasses haters)—and the Doctor getting to finally say the “it’s bigger on the inside” speech the way he’s always thought it ought to be said. Stuff like that made the straightforward story a lot more fun.

It’s Christmas. It’s fun. Doctor Who makes us laugh and tugs at our heartstrings. The only real sad thing is now we’re probably going to have to wait nine more months until we get any new episodes. Bah Humbug.”

Full Review


SFX/Gamesrader

“The second half of the story amps up the glam heist caper elements while liberally channeling Douglas Adams. “I’ll have the chef prepare you immediately,” says maitre d’ Flemming (a sardonic turn by Rowan Polonski, wonderfully expressive beneath the blue prosthetics), a line that feels like it’s cueing up the Dish of the Day in the Restaurant At The End Of The Universe. The sight of Hydroflax’s lumbering exo-skeleton stomping into the posh dining room is a memorably incongruous one but this whole starship sequence feels a little too close to 2007 Christmas special “Voyage Of The Damned”, tuxedo-clad alien lifeforms and all. Once again you wish the story could explore its world a little more – the idea of a cruise ship populated by the scum of the universe is a tantalising one and could power an entire episode on its own.

Finally we reach the long-awaited destination of the Singing Towers of Darillium. It’s here, at last, that the story has a welcome chance to breathe, to expose a soul beneath all the brash, frantic larks of the last hour. Capaldi and Kingston play this tonal shift beautifully and while the story denies us a final kiss, the lovely visual of the towers at sunset, with their promise of a 24 year night, wraps up the timeline-twisting River Song saga on a genuinely heartfelt note. “You can’t expect a monolith to love you back,” says River. But sometimes you can see the cracks in the granite.”

Full Review


IGN

“Of course, what’s happened by the end of this episode is the story set up in River’s first appearance (way back in the David Tennant era) has come (seemingly) full circle. In “Forest of the Dead,” Tennant’s Tenth Doctor used River’s sonic screwdriver to upload her mind to a computer after she died. Ten spoke of his future self then — “Why? Why would I give her my screwdriver?” — and now Twelve, with the hindsight of having already lived through these moments, is the future version of the Doctor who actually gives River the sonic.

Aside from filling in the loop of that particular thread from an episode that aired way back in 2008, it also very cleverly ties into where the Doctor is now emotionally and what he has just dealt with in Season 9 with the loss of Clara. Whereas he fought against all hope to save Clara from death, here there seems to be an acceptance that even he must give into these things. It’s been said before that River and the Doctor spent their last night together at the Singing Towers of Darillium, and here they are, doing just that, in the very beautiful coda to this episode. River fears this is the case, but the Doctor knows it must be. He may be sad, driven to tears even, but he accepts that this is how it shall be.”

Full Review


Mashable

“The episode began on one of those far-future human planets the Doctor discovers so often that they’re barely a surprise any more. A planet where Christmas is celebrated, where there just happens to be snow falling at the right time, and where the inhabitants all dress in Dickensian garb with just a touch of steampunk.

River and her entourage show up to drag the Doctor, unidentified as such and somehow confused with a surgeon, to extract a diamond that has been shot into the head of her husband, King Hydroflax. This is River Song we’re talking about, of course, so all is not as it appears, and she has plenty of tricks up her sleeve — along with a sonic trowel.”

Full Review

Posted in News, Ongoing Series, Opinion

Hot Topic: We Asked Our Followers If They’d Be Happy With a Female Doctor, Here’s the Results

Following Alex Kingston’s comments on the Doctor possibly regenerating into a woman, we asked our followers whether they’d accept a woman in the lead Doctor Who role, here’s what happened.

With 254 votes cast, those not in favour win it by 58% of the vote to 42% in favour.

Some of the comments we received included:

River Song actress Alex Kingston placed herself in the no camp earlier this week, saying:

“I can’t imagine the Doctor being a different gender. Too many men have played that role, I would imagine, if anything, the Doctor might be of different race than gender. Essentially, if one goes back historically, it’s really been a little boys’ show and girls have been brought onto it… Certainly, when I was a child, I loved it as well but, and I hope women don’t hate me for this, I do think the Doctor has to be a guy actually. It’d be very interesting for River if it was a woman.”

dw-s9-christmas-riversong

She was joined in her rejection of the idea by Missy actress Michelle Gomez who suggested the change would be too much for now back in June:

“I just can’t see past Peter Capaldi’s Doctor right now. I guess maybe one day they could try that but it feels like switching gender with The Master is change enough for now. We Whovians are a loyal bunch and 
don’t like too much change. I feel like I’ve rocked the boat enough for now, let’s not 
sink the whole bloody ship.”

Steven Moffat meanwhile said in March that he doesn’t feel that the show would lose a role model if the character’s gender was changed:

“There’s an aspect to it where you could say that if you made the Doctor female you’d lose a fairly unique rare role model, I’m not sure if I’m completely persuaded by that argument purely because I don’t think the Doctor is the role model of Doctor Who. He isn’t. Because you can’t really base yourself on the Doctor. He’s off the spectrum, barking mad, from space and has lots of mysterious abilities that we do not. How do you base yourself on that? The role model is actually the other character, his best friend, the person who deals with this out of control, overgrown schoolboy racing around the universe being rather too imperious and too interfering for his own good.”

And in August, the Grand Moff stated that the time hasn’t been right in the past, yet believes he’s made it possible:

“I think it would have been a disaster if we’d cast a female Doctor when David [Tennant] left. I believe. Disaster. Possible, this time. I think I should get a little more credit for being the only person who’s made it possible. [Laughs.] It wasn’t part of the fiction of the show until I wrote it. And I keep establishing it. But I think when that day comes — whatever showrunner that is — then the BBC will say, “Tell me how this is definitely going to work.” Because, I tell you, there are two venomous packs here. A lot of people in the middle, sensible enough to say, “If it’s good, I’ll like it; if it’s not good, I won’t like it.”

Steven finally summed everything up, pointing out the complexity of the argument and the fact there’s no vacancy to fill:

“It’s a long and complicated argument and there’s no vacancy in Doctor Who and given the way Peter is talking about it I don’t think there will be for a very long while.”

It is a debate that look’s set to run and run, but for now let’s all continue enjoying the sublime performances of Peter Capaldi, both this Christmas and hopefully for many years and series’ to come.

Posted in Classic Series, News, Ongoing Series, Opinion

Out of Time? Would the stories of today have saved Classic Who?

“Excuse me, would it prove impossible for you to refrain from voiding your bowels, while I endeavour to save the planet?”

The Sixth Doctor, in all his flamboyant glory, stands brow furrowed and hands imperiously on hips as he lectures the flatulent MP, beneath whose skin lurks the very creature responsible for the crisis.

No? Well how about this one; the Kandy Man, busy concocting a new batch of Fondant Surprise in his Kandy Kitchen, only to be confronted by a cocky, Northerner with a battered leather jacket and Doc Martins, calling him ‘Bertie’ before lemonade-ing his feet to the floor.

Ok, so I’m mixing up my New Who with my Classic, but is that such a wild idea? And more to the point, how would stories like Aliens of London or the Happiness Patrol go down if produced in each other’s eras?

In some cases the answer seems obvious; if the Slitheen had graced our screens in 1985, you’d likely still hear the cries of indignant rage to this day. An abundance of Raxacoricofallapatorian flatulence would have served only to mask (in the eyes of the BBC and a sizeable chunk of fandom) the ear splitting sound of a barrel being scraped. Colin Baker, while no doubt giving his usual wonderful performance, would have found his efforts glossed over with condemnations of the casual horror of the Monsters of the Week actually skinning their victims and wearing their flesh as suits, and still more remarks about that sodding coat. A story that found praise in 2005 would have been dismissed as simultaneously trading on cheap laughs and morbid violence twenty years earlier.

1x04-Aliens-of-London-doctor-who-17447879-1600-900

Likewise The Happiness Patrol, a story criticised in its day for its, perhaps, less than subtle satire and confectionary based villainy, would have likely been trumpeted as a victorious testament to the Good Doctor’s rebirth in 2005. True, the production values would have been better and it’s easy to imagine that Chris Eccleston’s Time War tarnished, guilt ridden Ninth Doctor would have added an extra layer to the lesson on sadness he imparts to (maybe just a little less obvious?) Helen A. But that said, is drowning people in fondant and a baddie made from sweets any more or less clownish than a robot Trinny and Susannah and lethal versions of the Weakest Link?

You see, as much as I understand there will be huge differences in what audiences are looking for and will accept over two decades, and putting aside the obvious difference in budgeting and production quality, I just can’t help thinking that Doctor Who in the late eighties just couldn’t do right for doing wrong, and that the fans of the era were as much to blame as the short sighted executives at the Beeb in that proving to be the case. Ok, I know things are done much more smoothly these days; the writing is sharper, there is linking narrative, character development and a thousand other pointers that suggest the programme makers have actually paid attention to what they established the preceding week. Too often in the past, good stories were hampered by mis-direction, sloppy writing and the like, but even when it did things well it found itself castigated, and only a very few things escaped the sweeping brush of critical damnation.

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Vengeance on Varos? Too violent. Paradise Towers? It has cannibalistic grannies (won’t someone please think of the children?), and don’t let’s even get started on the Twin Dilemma. I mean, who on earth would accept the arrival of a manically unstable, aggressive Doctor who goes around insulting all and sundry, terrifies his companion and appears genuinely capable of murder in an otherwise forgettable story? Erm, well, we did actually, a few months back in Deep Breath, along with several million other people. Put Peter Capaldi in a nauseating coat and yellow strides and his introduction in series 8 was everything the Sixth Doctor’s was meant to be. In both cases, we have a bold decision by a Production team to radically change the character the audience has come to love. No longer the affable, approachable if slightly odd young man, now the Doctor is older, mean as you like, sure of his intellectual superiority over everyone around him and unafraid to show it and yes, for the first time in years, we are unsure as to exactly what lengths this man will go to and we get the distinct impression that so is he and that he is scared of the uncertainty. Brave stuff, by both teams, but the bravery only seemed to pay off in 2014, benefitting no doubt from the altogether more complete writing and the singular lack of sequins. While both Baker and Capaldi deserve praise for the way they approached their debuts, the left field characterisation of the 12th Doctor had 2014 audiences licking their lips in anticipation of further adventures, relishing the new layer this tweak added to the drama. The prevalent attitude of 1985 though seemed to be a yearning for more of the same and semi despair that the new Doctor wasn’t exactly the same as the last one, leading fans to loudly condemn the changes and BBC elitists to stroke their chins in ponderous disdain and start drawing up plans for Eldorado.

And I think that is my main point; it all comes down to timing. In my own humble view, series 1 of the re-launch is still the best that New Who has brought us; the stories were compact, tight, solid and damn entertaining. But even if we could transfer each of those stories into Season 22, I doubt it would have made any difference; Doctor Who was by that time such a neglected jewel in the BBC’s crown that it could have been written by Orwell and starred Lawrence Olivier and the execs still wouldn’t have batted an eyelid. But if we went the other way and gave, for example, Timelash, the 2005 treatment – drop the campy acting, give the companion something to do other than being tied to a pole and threatened with a prosthetic phallus – just basically tightened things up, then the only sound louder than the cheer of the audience would be those same execs hammering their calculators.

The last years of Classic Who are tragically overlooked, with Colin and Sylvester’s contributions too often dismissed, or viewed as the also rans by people who think anything that came after Tom was sacrilege. Yes, it brought us some great stories, fondly remembered by fans, but after ten years of New Who, one can’t help but wonder what Remembrance of the Daleks or The Curse of Fenric might look like today; good stories done brilliantly. But equally, the comparison works the other way; stories that struggle to make the grade, like New Earth for example or quite a lot of Series 6 (just throwing an idea around, please be gentle with me), are saved by a moment of inspired writing, a minute of majestic direction or a breath taking special effect. Plant those stories instead in the Baker/McCoy eras and all of a sudden you have howls of fan anguish and evidence of Doctor Who’s terminal decline. So maybe there’s a lesson there, for fans of both eras, to just sit back, enjoy and judge the story we watch at its purest level; not get hung up judging them as the reason for the hiatus or reasons for the Beeb’s dip in confidence between Series’ 4 and 5. After all, every episode gives us this character we adore, it’s just that some were done better than others – whether we like it, or not.

Posted in News, Ongoing Series, Opinion

War and the Doctor: A Response to This Week’s World Socialist Web Site Article.

Note: This piece is in response to Bryan Dyne and Christine Schofelt’s article for the World Socialist Website under the title “Doctor Who turns toward militarism.” We reported on the article Here and you can read the full text of the article Here

During the transmission of Series 8 a number of threads and Tweets were popping up online from those disgruntled at the new Doctor’s apparent anti-soldier stance. Those unhappy with such a perceived stance argued that whilst Tennant made the odd annoying quip about the military, Capaldi’s Doctor ups the anti by refusing to have a soldier as a companion and by his open hostility towards Danny Pink.

And yet this week The World Socialist Website, makes the counter allegation. The article makes the bold assertion that Steven Moffat has gradually turned the show into a pro-militaristic, pro-imperialistic piece of propaganda. To strengthen their case, the editors of the piece suggest that the Russell T. Davies era of the show was with a few exceptions anti-war.

If there an agenda, whether pro or anti war, how is it possible for two such contrasting opinions to coexist? Let’s examine the evidence.

Shortly before its transmission in December 2005, Russell T. Davies openly admitted that David Tennant’s opening story The Christmas Invasion would contain an explicit critique of the military. Speaking to a BBC news he asserted “It’s Christmas Day, a day of peace. There is absolutely an anti-war message because that’s what I think.” As it turned out, that message was hardly a pacifist one. Instead in one scene the UK prime-minister Harriet Jones sets herself apart from the US president, preferring a diplomatic approach to counter the threat of alien invasion. “He is not my boss and he is certainly not turning it into a war.” But by the end of the story and much to the Doctor’s chagrin, she takes the surprising option to blow up the Sycorax ship.

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Harriet Jones receives her comeuppance from the Doctor when he sets into motion the chain of events leading to her downfall. The message is clear – the power of words can be greater than the power of the sword (A timely maxim to be reminded of after recent horrific events in Paris). And yet when Jones returns to die a martyrs death, there is no contrition or repentance for her previous decision, instead the viewer is moved towards a more sympathetic portrait of a leader who claims to have had no choice in the circumstances (The Stolen Earth). Jones is a hero regardless of the military decision she made, and the Doctor’s judgemental action is called into question. The revived series frequently breaks with the past by not always casting the Doctor by default as the one in the right. Here is an example of the viewer being given the option to side either way.

One of the stories that the socialist website cites as an example of the anti-military stance of the Russell T. Davies era was written by Steven Moffat, but the article chooses not to mention that inconvenient fact. In The Doctor Dances Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor transforms an arms warehouse into a banana plant. It is a theme of Steven Moffat that he will repeatedly return to in series five onwards. In Victory Of The Daleks the Eleventh Doctor uses a jammy dodger instead of a real weapon, several times Moffat’s episodes draw attention to the Doctor’s weapon of choice being a screwdriver and not a gun much to the amusement of his opponents.

The Tenth Doctor in School Reunion concedes he no longer has mercy and the Krillitines are wiped out. In The Family Of Blood he exacts some pretty horrendous punishments on the family. By contrast the Eleventh Doctor in his opening story scares away the Atraxi with nothing but the power of the tongue, instilling fear with his rhetoric. On another occasion, when he is tempted to lead a war criminal to his death (A Town Called Mercy), he is talked out of it by Amy who points out “this isn’t how we roll”. The Doctor like his Tenth persona in School Reunion has again had enough of being merciful. He reflects upon how his mercy has caused untold suffering to others, and yet Moffat stops short of having him go through with it. It is very easy to find examples of the Doctor showing himself to be more of a force for peace under Moffat than he was under Russell T. Davies.

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Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor is the good man who goes to war – or is he? There is some ambiguity about whether or not that accolade applies to the Doctor or Rory. Amy is insistent that she will be rescued, but the man she has placed her trust in is in fact her husband. Later the song, A Good Man Goes To War clarifies that it is the Doctor who is also in view, but the words are filled with pathos. A far cry from glorifying any act of war, it presents the good man as a tragic hero who has paradoxically lost love and so much more in the process of winning:

“Demons Run when a good man goes to war. Night will fall and drown the sun, when a good man goes to war. Friendships die and true love lies, night will fall and the dark will rise when a good man goes to war. Demons run, but count the cost. The battle’s won but the child is lost.” Not only is Melody Pond literally lost by the end of the episode, but the goodness of the Doctor has been compromised. It is a very modern message – that there are no winners in war. The Doctor’s light has turned to darkness.”

The WSWS article refers to the Doctor amassing an army to rescue Amy, but overlooks one crucial fact. The Doctor’s army is made up of those who owe him a favour. Among the unlikely alliance is a Sontaran, bred for war, who the Doctor has made a nurse, a saviour of lives. The Doctor has the power and inclination to break the military conditioning even of a member of an alien species. Shortly after the poem is read O/S Rory tries to invigorate the dying Strax by reminding him that he is a warrior. Strax simply replies “I am a nurse” It is a reminder to Rory that he has made the reverse move from being a nurse to the Centurion. Like the Doctor he too is a tragic hero.

It is this dimension of the Doctor being a tragic hero that is picked up on in the WSWS article when the writers criticise the show for moving away from threats to humanity and the universe towards internalised threats against the Doctor himself. And yet this move is precisely why he is a completely different kind of hero from both a Superman, who supports and fights for the status quo and a Batman who is a vigilante, fighting violently against or apart from the system. The Doctor does not use physical powers to attack his opponents. A running joke in the Twelfth Doctor’s era is that his frame is slight, he is a matchstick man. A man who fights Robin Hood with a spoon is not military minded. He is the expert at putting himself down and in Time Heist we discover that the person who must hate him the most, the Architect, is of course himself.

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The introspection of Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor is a more honest approach to the repeated denials of his three predecessors, whose anti-military stances are rooted in self loathing for what their predecessor did in the Time War. By asking “Am I a good man?” the Doctor is challenging his own moral code and coming to terms with the reality that he is neither good nor bad. The question is a red herring. The article suggests that for Moffat the Doctor is resigned to the need to commit atrocities. But the ending of Death In Heaven is quite different. He rejects the army that is offered to him. The salute to the Cyber-Brig is not a capitulation. It is a relational gesture, like a handshake – an acknowledgement of an old friend of whom in life he was too busy to regard. It is not an acceptance of military authority.

The imperialist mindset is one that uses control and subjugation as the go to response to opposition, whether from within or without. By contrast The Twelfth Doctor shares the approach of his previous incarnations in only using violence as a last resort. In Flatline his attempts at diplomacy fall on deaf ears and he expresses his frustration at having to label the Boneless and flush them out of this dimension.

Most surprisingly of all the article completely ignores the War Doctor. The introduction of John Hurt as an incarnation which the Doctor seeks to disown provided a real turning point to the direction of the program. The boldest move ever made in a show that has remained conservatively faithful to its roots. This Doctor is prepared to respond to suffering by obliterating both sides of the war, using the weapon of mass destruction, The Moment. But here again it is a last resort and the War Doctor has been in the struggle for many years. His war cry is eschatological, calling for the end game instead of glorying in the acts of war – “No More”. He takes no pleasure in torture, considering himself unworthy of the name The Doctor. His response is emotive, born of the same desire to see an end to suffering, but manifested differently in the twisted ethics of war. War is so anathema to him that in Night Of The Doctor he needed the assistance of the Sisterhood of Karn to manipulate his regeneration. This is the moment of capitulation, not the salute at the end of Series 8. And The Day Of The Doctor is the story of how the Doctor saved himself, and Gallifrey, from the consequences of his decision to take the cup in The Night Of The Doctor.

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Series 8 saw a brief flashback to the War Doctor in the most introspective of episodes, Listen. It also featured the Doctor as a young boy, choosing not to take the career path of becoming a soldier. The broken toy soldier gifted to him by Clara becomes a metaphor for the true hero being one who does not require a gun. Not only does series 8 repeatedly remind us that the Doctor is hostile to the use of weapons (Into The Dalek, Kill The Moon) it goes far deeper by giving an explanation for the Doctor’s attitude, making it part of his essential character, one born out of his childhood and reinforced by his role in and reaction to the Time War.

The bulk of the WSWS article focuses on Death In Heaven as if that episode shows the full extent of a pro-military agenda. The Doctor’s lightbulb moment is this “I really didn’t know. I wasn’t sure. You lose sight sometimes. Thank you! I am not a good man! I am not a bad man. I am not a hero. And I’m definitely not a president. And no, I’m not an officer. Do you know what I am? I am an idiot, with a box and a screwdriver. Just passing through, helping out, learning. I don’t need an army. I never have, because I’ve got them. Always them. Because love, it’s not an emotion. Love is a promise.” It is Danny Pink’s love not as emotion but as commitment that saves the earth. And whilst an army of the dead rises to his command, the objects they will fight against are themselves the unnaturally born Cybermen, of no independent value unlike human enemies of human warfare. These Cybermen have no function other than to destroy. It is the enemy turning upon itself.

And yet the Doctor is faced with the expectation that he will have to kill Missy. That realisation means that even after Danny’s actions, Missy in the Doctor’s mind has still won. Once he shoots her he has been forced to be that bad man. He is let off the hook by the Cyber-Brig’s intervention but there is still a sense in which he has failed. Once again, in this series, perhaps more so under Moffat than any other, the Doctor does not always get it right. He is constantly placed in situations where he is forced to choose and as he says in Mummy On The Orient Express, very often there is no good choice. Ideologically it is hard to deny that the Doctor under both Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat is anti-military. But in a fallen universe where goodness is so often twisted and corrupted, even he is forced to do things that challenge his personal morality, and sometimes emotions get in the way. As a travelling Time Lord, not fully belonging to the civilisations he visits, he is able to maintain a critical distance, to be the idiot – the cynic who speaks and thinks from outside of the box. Danny Pink is right in that respect, such an approach keeps the Doctor’s hands clean whilst forcing others to get dirty. Neither intrinsically good, nor bad, the Doctor nonetheless creates good and bad consequences in others. Sometimes this means war.