Monday, 9 December 2013
Are you as confused as I am about all this business of Matt Smith being the 13th Doctor?
First of all, let me say that I don't participate in any on-line forums. That way madness lies. There are some corners of the internet that have bred the most terrible things... etc.
I therefore don't know what others have to say on the matter. All I know is that Moffat says he's the 13th Doctor, and the regeneration limit will be broached (and breached) in the Christmas Special.
Of course, semantics will come into it. 13th incarnation of the Doctor, or there have been 12 regenerations? If the latter, then the regenerations have indeed been used up and the Doctor doesn't have any more. Not content with having the 50th anniversary land on his watch, and sorting out the Time War, Moffat is determined to crack the regenerations limit debate as well. (Mind you, he has left the hunt for Gallifrey and the potential for a female / ethnic minority Doctor for future showrunners).
As for the number of Doctors there have been, the answer is - indubitably - 12. Smith is the 12th. John Hurt became the 9th and moved his successors along one place. (Don't bother with the Brain of Morbius thing - that's been well and truly put to bed).
How many regenerations have there been? 12 also.
1. Hartnell to Troughton. 2. Troughton to Pertwee. 3. Pertwee to Baker T. 4. Baker T to Davison. 5. Davison to Baker C. 6. Baker C to McCoy. 7. McCoy to McGann. 8. McGann to Hurt. 9. Hurt to Eccleston. 10. Eccleston to Tennant. 11. Tennant to 10.5. 12. Tennant to Smith...
Yes, the only way this works is that Tennant used up two regenerations. Personally I would never have counted the creation of 10.5. The Doctor stopped the regeneration, siphoning off the energy into his hand, creating the half human version of himself. So not a regeneration, in my view.
Whatever way you look at it, it means that Moffat is wrong and that Smith is still only the 12th Doctor - but he doesn't have any more regenerations left, so does indeed become the last under the old Gallifreyan rules. (It also means that the Valeyard comes into being between Smith and Capaldi).
In which the Doctor is summoned back to Gallifrey by nightmare visions in which he appears to assassinate the President of the High Council of Time Lords. In the visions, he sees a ceremony taking place in the Panopticon - the great council chamber of the Capitol - and the elderly President is shot down. He sees himself holding a rifle and apparently firing the fatal shot.
The TARDIS materialises on the day that the President is about to retire and name his successor. The Doctor evades capture by Castellan Spandrell - head of security - and his Chancellery Guards, as he plots a means of warning the authorities about his vision - which he takes to be a premonition. He is inadvertently aided by Chancellor Goth, who orders the TARDIS to be transported to the museum - with the Doctor still hidden aboard. Goth is leader of the Prydonian Chapter of Time Lords - the Doctor's own chapter. He is widely expected to be the new President. The Doctor steals the robes of the Gold Usher from the museum, then those of an elderly Prydonian. In this guise, he is able to enter the Panopticon and mingle with the crowd. He meets Commentator Runcible - an old school acquaintance - who is covering the ceremony for state television. Runcible loses contact with his cameraman up on the high gallery, and the Doctor looks up to see the barrel of a staser rifle pointing down. He rushes upstairs only to find the gun abandoned. Spotting an assassin in the crowd surrounding the President he tries to shoot them - but the shot goes wide and the President is killed. It is assumed the Doctor is the assassin and he is arrested.
The Doctor is put on trial - Goth eager to see justice run its course before the Presidential election. Cardinal Borusa is opposed to this. Once the Doctor's tutor at the Academy, he would rather see cautious deliberation. The Doctor surprises everyone by announcing his own candidacy for the Presidency. As a candidate, he has legal immunity until after the election. Spandrell suspects there may be some truth in the Doctor's story and agrees to help him investigate. First of all, the Doctor's rifle shot is found high up on the wall. The sights of his weapon had been fixed. Then, the camera recording is stolen and Runcible murdered. The Doctor realises that the visions were somehow beamed into his mind from the Matrix - a computer which holds all the mental energy of deceased Time Lords. This helps the Time Lords predict future events. They did not see the assassination however. Someone must have intercepted this information and directed it at the Doctor. They would need access to his biological data print to do this over such a huge distance. Spandrell and the Doctor enlist the help of Co-ordinator Engin to look into this. Who could have accessed the Matrix and obtained the data print? Who would also want to frame him for murder? He realises that his old enemy, the Master, is behind all this.
The Doctor decides the answers lie inside the Matrix. He will join his mind with it. In a nightmare world created and controlled by the Master, the Doctor must combat the real assassin - Chancellor Goth. He eventually defeats him. The Master is traced to the lowermost levels of the Capitol. He is dead. The body is skeletal, his regenerations long exhausted. A dying Goth is also found. He confesses that he found the Master near death on the planet Tersusrus, and smuggled him back to Gallifrey. He had learned that he was not going to be named President, and so entered into this scheme to kill him before he could name another - and frame the Doctor into the bargain. The Doctor is troubled. The Master appears to have killed himself - something he simply would not do. It turns out that it he has really used a drug that feigns death. His true scheme is to steal the energy of the Eye of Harmony - the captured Black Hole from which the Time Lords derive their power. This should provide him with new regenerative energy. His tampering with the Eye - a huge black monolith hidden under the Panopticon - will destroy the planet. The Doctor manages to stop him, and the Master appears to fall to his death down a fissure which opens up in the floor as the Capitol is rocked by tremors.
Soon after the Doctor departs, Spandrell and Engin see an old grandfather clock dematerialise from the museum. The Master has survived...
This four part adventure was written by Robert Holmes, and broadcast between 30th October and 20th November, 1976. The director is David Maloney.
It is significant for many reasons, and at the time, was highly controversial. Certain sections of fandom hated the way that the Time Lords were portrayed (chief amongst them Jan Vincent-Rudzki, the head of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society). The complaint was that the omnipotent god-like beings seen in the series up to this point were now shown to be just like us - with all our human physical and emotional frailties. There were arthritic old men, devious killers and manipulative politicians. Prisoners were tortured. The truth could be adjusted to make it more palatable to the public. There is a shadowy intelligence group who operate outside the law (see below). The Doctor thinks Gallifreyan technology is obsolete rubbish.
The argument that Holmes has demystified the Time Lords does not quite bear examination. Vincent-Rudzki seemed to be basing his criticisms purely on their brief appearance in Part 10 of The War Games.
Thereafter, they are seen to be absolute hypocrites. They don't agree with interference in the affairs of others, but are happy to use the Doctor to do just that. (In this story, we learn that it is the Celestial Intervention Agency who employ the Doctor on these missions). They are also happy to break their own laws - especially around Time Lords crossing their own timelines.
Holmes' main argument in defence was that, if Time Lord society was so nice, why did the Doctor leave it and not want to go back? It wan't just the lure of the Universe that set him on his travels. He was also turning his back on a corrupt and decadent society. We also had to see the society that was capable of producing someone like the Master (and the Monk, and the War Chief). It is a society that has also executed a previous President (Morbius). And they were prepared to commit genocide with the Daleks - something which will obviously come back to haunt them.
The story is also significant for giving us much Time Lord lore - from Rassilon and the Eye of Harmony to the regenerations limit. Rassilon's Seal is a reused prop from The Revenge of the Cybermen, also designed by Roger Murray-Leach. Oscar winner James Acheson began the costume designs but stepped aside and they were completed by Joan Ellacott. Acheson's iconic Time Lord collars and robes are still in use today.
There is a wonderful guest cast. The late Bernard Horsfall (a Maloney regular) plays Goth, and the dessicated Master is portrayed by operatic singer Peter Pratt (selected for his voice skills as he is under so much costume / mask). Spandrell is George Pravda, in his third Doctor Who appearance. Engin is the marvellous Eric Chitty, who had previously played the apothecary Preslin in The Massacre. Every Borusa will be played by a different actor, but the first is Angus MacKay. MacKay was due to return in The Invasion of Time but proved to be unavailable for filming when production was hit by strike action.
Episode endings are:
- As the President emerges into the Panopticon, the Doctor raises the staser rifle and fires. The President falls to the floor...
- In the Matrix, the Doctor finds his foot trapped between railway points. He hears a train hurtle towards him...
- Goth and the Doctor are fighting to the death. Goth appears to get the upper hand, holding the Doctor down in the water to drown...
- Engin and Spandrell see the Master's slightly regenerated features appear in the face of an old grandfather clock, just before it dematerialises...
As mentioned, a very significant and contentious story. It is often said that this is the only companion-less story of the classic series, but really Spandrell and Engin generally act as surrogate companions, making for a memorable Holmes double act. The mostly Matrix-bound episode three is one of the things this story will always be remembered for.
Things you might like to know:
- There are three Time Lord Chapters mentioned, each with its own colour scheme. The Doctor and Goth belong to the Prydonians (orange and scarlet); the Arcalians (green) and Patrexes (heliotrope). Runcible implies there are others.
- The TARDIS is first referred to as a Type 40 in this story. It was a Mark 1 back in the Hartnell period.
- The story is influenced by political thrillers such as The Parallax View and The Manchurian Candidate, as well as the real life assassinations of JFK (on the very eve of Doctor Who's first broadcast), Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Holmes makes the point explicitly when he names the outfit responsible for the Doctor's frequent missions - and his War Games "trial" - the Celestial Intervention Agency (the CIA).
- The story title has often been slightly ridiculed - aren't all assassins deadly? (A working title was The Dangerous Assassin, which would have been even worse...). Robert Holmes did point out that you might get an assassin who isn't very good at their job, however.
- The Matrix causes the Doctor's scarf to appear and disappear...
- Not for the last time, Action Man dolls will be used for the Master's Tissue Compression Eliminator victims.
- The story seems to imply that not all Gallifreyans are Time Lords. It does seem odd that some of the (supposedly omnipotent) beings would hold down fairly menial jobs. Who is Runcible broadcasting to?
- There are a lot of odd, but uncomplicated, Time Lord names. We have to assume that the Doctor's real name is similar.
- It is unclear from this story which incarnation of the Master the Delgado one actually was. Is this a later incarnation, or that one - dying and decomposing?
- The regenerations limit debate is, we're told, finally going to be resolved in Time of the Doctor. Might it have something to do with the fact that Borusa offers the Master a whole new regeneration cycle in The Five Doctors...?
Sunday, 8 December 2013
Have just read that Sheila Reid will be returning to Doctor Who in the role of Clara's grandmother (in Time of the Doctor). Sheila played one half of the "Greek Chorus" of Arak and Etta in Vengeance on Varos (she was Etta, of course).
These days she is best know as the formidable Madge - the Davros of comedy series Benidorm.
A batch of new photographs from Time of the Doctor released yesterday. The Christmas double issue of Radio Times features the episode, but doesn't offer any new information. Some of the images are intriguing - especially what appears to be a wooden Cyberman. The Clerics are also back - as expected if this story is supposed to tie up the Silence arc. The Doctor appears to have gone all Harry Potter, with his cape and that Dalek eye-stalk being waved around like a wand.
Thursday saw the latest DW figurines being sent out to subscribers - Issue 8 featuring the Tenth Doctor from School Reunion, and Issue 9 having an excellent Skaldak figure (Cold War). If you signed up to the special releases, you will also have received an Eleventh Doctor TARDIS. This is a full 149mm tall and sturdily constructed.
The accompanying magazine is more than double the page count of the regular issues, and of much higher quality. There was also news on the Emperor Dalek which was one of the free gifts for subscribers. It has been delayed but should be sent out alongside the Silent and Rassilon in January.
Forbidden Planet are advertising a War Doctor figure from Character Options - due in the shops in February next year. There is a Moment box - and you can swap the head for that of the the Eighth Doctor.
One last thing to mention is the lack of news about The Moonbase DVD. It has only ever been advertised on the US version of Amazon. The last issue of DWM said it was due out on 20th January - so I am surprised we haven't seen a cover yet, or had it listed on amazon.co.uk and other on-line retail sites.
Looking forward to the week ahead, Wednesday 11th December sees the publication of the next issue of SFX, with the latest DWM following the day after.
Thursday, 5 December 2013
Very sorry to hear that actor Barry Jackson has passed away today at the age of 75. He appeared three times in Doctor Who, the first occasion being when he played the mute assassin Ascarius in The Romans.
He's famously beaten up by the First Doctor. All in a day's work for someone who used to be a stunt performer - under the name Jack Barry.
Jackson returned to the series the following year as ill-fated Space Security agent Jeff Garvey in Mission To The Unknown (appearing first in the closing seconds of The Myth Makers).
His biggest role was as the comedic dodgy Time Lord Drax in The Armageddon Factor.
In the UK he is best known for his long-running role as Police pathologist George Bullard in the highly popular detective series Midsomer Murders.
Christmas Day sees the third consecutive story to have "Doctor" in its title - specifically Something of the Doctor. (We also had the minisode Night of the Doctor between The Name... and The Day...).
Having "Doctor" in the story title is a relatively new thing - and Steven Moffat uses it most. Back in the earliest days of the classic series, no story featured the Doctor in the title, though a couple of individual Hartnell episodes used it - The Death of Doctor Who (The Chase) and A Holiday for the Doctor (The Gunfighters).
There was a slight aberration early in the Pertwee period, when The Silurians had the full on screen title of Doctor Who And The Silurians. This was a production error and never intended.
From The Three Doctors onwards, all multi-Doctor stories use the same title structure - Three, Five and Two.
During the RTD era, the Doctor gets his first title mention with The Doctor Dances - penned, of course, by Moffat. Not an overall story title, but the new two parters don't have one.
The first time the Doctor features in a full story title of the new series is 2008's The Doctor's Daughter. After that, there is only The Next Doctor.
Once Moffat takes over we get Vincent and the Doctor, The Doctor's Wife and The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe - followed by this current run of stories.
Of course, that run might not end at Christmas. The Doctor might get mentioned in the title of Peter Capaldi's first story ( I have heard that this is going to be a two parter, however) - though I suspect some play on the number twelve is more likely.
Tuesday, 3 December 2013
It has just been announced that The Time of the Doctor is going to be shown exactly opposite the festive edition of ITV's long-running soap (and what is consistently the most popular UK TV programme) Coronation Street.
Now, the last time they went head to head, Corrie beat the Time Lord hands down. But that was another era. With The Day of the Doctor beating even the London Olympics on the BBC i-player this week - and record viewing figures on television across the globe (and the US cinema outing beating big budget movies), it will be interesting to see how this battle pans out.
It may be that people choose to wait and see TTOTD on catch-up platforms also, and overnights for Who are not great.
The obvious thing to do, if you are a fan of both programmes, is watch Who as broadcast and record Corrie. Then you can fast forward those annoyingly inane adverts. Sorted.