Sunday 30 September 2012

That Was The Week That Was 30.9.12

And what a week it was... The final heartbreaking journey of Amy and Rory was watched by 5.9 million viewers. Earlier in the week we learned that A Town Called Mercy had gained another 1.8 million time-shifted viewers. I expect last night's episode to garner at least a couple of million more, and that's not counting i-player.
I hadn't planned on a Pond themed week, but it made sense to look back at my favourite moments with them - individually and as a couple.
I have some additional thoughts about the departure, which have come to me since writing my review, but I'll post separately in the next day or so.

Book news this week - two new volumes from BBC Books, which I have looked at already: "A History of the Universe in 100 Objects" and "The Official Doctionary". If you are only going to buy one, it has to be the former.
Also news that "The Angel's Kiss" - which formed the backdrop to last night's story - is going to be released as an e-book. Yowzah!

DVD update: The first release of 2013 is going to be "The Legacy Box". This comprises the incomplete Tom Baker story Shada, and the extended version of the 30th anniversary documentary by Kevin Davies, More Than 30 Years In The TARDIS. If you've never seen it, you're in for treat. It's not just a talking heads / clips documentary. There are some great recreations also, and a chance to see some old friends no longer with us.
The extras for Series 7 Volume 1 have been announced as the complete Pond Life, and the prequels to both Asylum of the Daleks and A Town Called Mercy, which were exclusive to i-Tunes subscribers in the States.
And don't forget, tomorrow morning sees the release of The Ambassadors of Death, fully colourised.

We waited ages for a Rory figure (and now have two). Another figure we've been crying out for is the Brigadier - and here he is. Part of a Three Doctors set with Jo and a Gellguard (looking far better in plastic that it did on the screen). This is a Forbidden Planet exclusive - as usual.

So - 12 weeks until the next episode of Doctor Who. How to fill the void? I have been neglecting my classic series reviews, but they'll be back shortly with The Myth Makers. Many stories offer up opportunities for tangential posts - so expect "When is a companion not a companion?", "Continuity of the Cybermen" and many many more. I generally post about 6 times per week - so keep popping back. You're always welcome.

New York City Blues - An Angels Review

Naturally - don't read until you've watched it. I really, really mean it...

The last adventure of Amy and Rory. Previous recent companions have left us at the end of big brash two-part series finales - Dalek / Cyberman / Toclafane / Master invasions of Earth. Rose, Martha and Donna even managed to all come back after they'd left - in many ways undermining their initial big emotional send-off's. It's never going to be like that for the Ponds. This one is final.
Unlike those previous departures, this was just a single, 45 minute episode - a dark, sombre, and doom-laden 45 minutes.
Everything was setting us up for death - and there was death of sorts. Emphasis on "of sorts". In 2012, Amy and Rory now lie together in a cemetery overlooking New York City - ever such a long way from quiet little Leadworth.
For some reason, early on in the episode, the TARDIS materialises in this very cemetery - so we know there's something significant about it. We're shown - unnoticed by the Doctor and Amy - the gravestone of one Rory Arthur Williams. This helps to add to the doom-laden atmosphere. As is the fact that once Rory is snatched back in time to 1938, everything happens at night. This story is dark visually as well as emotionally.

The tone is set right from the off with a night-time sequence in which rich Mr Grayle (Michael McShane) sends a private detective to investigate an apartment building called Winter Quay. Grayle knows that the statues of New York move when no-one is looking - even if no-one else has noticed. The PI finds a room which is inhabited by his much older self, dying in bed. The later reveal that the building is a form of larder for the Angels adds a new dimension of evil to the characters - no chance of a happy life lived in Hull or anywhere else. You're trapped in the building to live your life over and over again forever.
It looks as if this is to be Rory's fate.
Another new aspect added to the Weeping Angels is that which was hinted at in the closing moments of Blink - that all statues are potential Angels. The giggling cherubs are a particularly twisted idea. The "Angel-ised" Statue of Liberty, I must admit, provided a striking image but you did have to ask yourself (a) why bother? - the ordinary Angels were doing perfectly well by themselves, and (b) it's metal...

When Rory arrives in 1938, he meets daughter River Song, who's come here to investigate numerous time distortions. River will go on to write a pulp novel about these events - and it's that book which provides the background framing for the whole story. Everyone is bound inexorably to what has been written. Before he realises it's their story, the Doctor tears out the last page - he doesn't like endings. We get to see chapter headings such as "Death at Winter Quay" and "Amelia's Final Farewell". Again - all sign-posting potential tragedy.

There are three big stand-out moments in this story - and of course they're all about the Ponds. The first is the roof-top scene where Rory is prepared to kill himself to create the paradox that will release them from this trap. He's going to jump to his death, and he needs Amy to help him. Of course she's never going to let him - not without her.
The second is the later cemetery scene, where we think they've maybe just managed to get out of it. In an ideal world, we wouldn't have known this was going to Arthur Darvill and Karen Gillan's last story - so this false ending would have had a much bigger shock. Once again, Amy won't ever leave Rory.
The third is, of course, the "last page" coda. Yes, they're now dead - but they lived a long and happy life together. It was a very brave way of doing things. Rory just disappears mid sentence. Amy has her hurried  farewell with the Doctor, but the Ponds go on to live, grow old, and die in their eighties off screen - absent apart from that final voice-over.

One thing I'm really not sure about at the moment - and it's all still sinking in, of course - is the reactions of the Doctor and River. Or lack of. Just too muted it seemed to me.
But let's end with thoughts on Amy and Rory. It's very much their story, and that story has now come to a close. It was a lovely touch to tie up that loose end from The Eleventh Hour - little Amelia seeing the TARDIS rematerialise that first morning after meeting the raggedy Doctor, even though that episode had implied that the Doctor didn't come back for many years.
Full circle.

Saturday 29 September 2012

10 Rory Moments

Ten Rory moments I particularly love. It could easily have been twenty.

10. Rory Williams - Dalek Killer (The Big Bang).

The Lone Centurion hasn't been seen for decades. As the stone Dalek bears down on the Doctor, Amy & little Amelia, the museum's night watchman appears. He drops his torch - then he drops his hand. It's Auton Rory - still protecting the Pandorica - come to the rescue.

9. Rory Williams - Vampire Hunter (Vampires of Venice).

A bit of Rory humour and nascent man of action combined. Rory squares off against the vampiric Saturnyne Francesco, armed only with a broom. Not the most successful fight he will ever have - the fiancée has to save him - but he is new to these time travel shenanigans after all.

8. Flooring the Fuhrer (Let's Kill Hitler).

One of Rory's best bits in this episode. He gets to deck one of the most evil men in history. Then he locks him in a cupboard. He'll go on to see his childhood friend revealed to be his daughter and regenerate into a homicidal River Song. As he later says: "It's been that kind of a day...".

7. The Good Man Goes To War (A Good Man Goes To War).

Showing just how far Rory has come. The once bumbling nice guy goes into battle to protect his wife and child.

6. Challenging the Doctor (Vampires of Venice).

After the humorous torch size comparison scene, as they break into the Calvierri school, Rory stands up to the Doctor - accusing him of making people want to follow him into danger. He had earlier confounded the Doctor by not being impressed with the TARDIS interior. This is someone whom the Doctor can't easily sway. He's not going to blindly follow, and the Doctor's ego is dented.

5. Remembering Two Thousand Years (The Day of the Moon).

An all too rare quiet moment with the Doctor as Rory worries about the abducted Amy - and admits that he still holds the memories of two millennia. He vows to get Amy back - even though it might be the Doctor who she's asking to come and rescue her.

4. Daddy Pond (A Good Man Goes To War).

Hard to watch the scene where Rory returns baby melody to her mum with a dry eye yourself. A shameless "awww" moment - but it's pure Rory, and it's why we love him.

3. The Boy Who Waited (The Big Bang).

The ultimate act of love and devotion. He could jump in the TARDIS and travel forward to the present day in a matter of moments - but he refuses to leave Amy unprotected in the Pandorica. He elects to take the long road, even though it will take two thousand years, and the legend of the Lone Centurion is born.

2. "You're turning me into you!" (The Girl Who Waited).

So many good scenes for Rory in this, but I thought I'd go with this one. It harks back to that scene in the Vampires of Venice I've mentioned above. We know that Rory isn't afraid to challenge the Doctor and tell him exactly what he thinks of him and his actions. A furious Rory questions whether he really wants to travel with him any more.

1. "Would you like me to repeat the question?" (A Good Man Goes To War).

It could only be, really. Such a genius moment. We think that it's the Doctor flitting through the Cybership, with his sonic screwdriver - and then Roman Rory walks in and faces off against a squad of Cybermen, apparently all alone in the middle of the 12th Cyberfleet. Brilliant visuals and music add to the scene. Long after Rory has gone, we will always remember this sequence.

"The Official Doctionary"

Hot on the heels of "A History of the Universe in 100 Objects" comes the other new BBC book "The Official Doctionary". It is of slighter fare than the other volume - both literally and figuratively. It's 176 pages and aimed very much at the younger fans.
The text is light and chatty in tone, with each entry being only a couple of sentences long. Whilst the classic series is covered, the emphasis is much more on the post 2005 stories.
Don't expect a straightforward A to Z. Within each letter there are alphabetical sub-lists.
There is a bit of educational material also - a lengthy look at the Solar System for instance.
It is well illustrated photographically, though you will probably have seen most of the images before.
If you bought the "100 Scariest Monsters" book last year, you'll have an idea what this volume is about. At only £9.99 (about £3.00 cheaper on on-line retail sites) it's still worth adding to your collection. We need something to fill the "Brilliant Book..." void this autumn.

Friday 28 September 2012

"A History of the Universe in 100 Objects" - Review

I don't usually do merchandise reviews, but I thought I would just say how pleasantly surprised I am with the new BBC book "A History of the Universe in 100 Objects" which arrived through the mail today. Each of the 100 chapters covers one item from the entire history of the programme, but each then runs off into all manner of interesting tangents.
For the Tenth Doctor's severed hand, for instance, we move onto a list of significant "hand moments" in the programme - from Davros reaching out to self-destruct the Daleks in Genesis to getting his good one shot off in Revelation, plus the Hand of Fear, Noah's bubble-wrapped hand, "Is that finger loaded?", "Please do not throw hands at me" and many more.
Guy Crayford's Eye Patch leads to eye drives, the Brigade Leader and the pirate Captain's electronic implant.
In short, the book covers a huge amount for its 256 pages. I'd reckon the bulk of it relates to the original series.

Each section is illustrated with a gorgeous painting by the programme's concept artist Peter McKinistry. The one for the Skarasen is an exceptional image. You'll also find that Yeti image that got everyone excited a year or two ago, but most images have never been published before. There's a wealth of photographs as well - mostly screen captures illustrating all those little tangents.
The authors are James Goss and Steve Tribe.
I bought mine new from a well known on-line retailer (think Jo Grant), for almost half the cover price, even allowing for P&P.
It's a book I'd strongly recommend.
I've also ordered "The Doctionary". I'll let you know my thoughts on that when I get it.

10 Moments With The Ponds

It's part of the DNA of the programme that characters get split up in order to create sub-plots and increased jeopardy. There is no exception to this rule for the Ponds. Even when trapped together in the TARDIS in The Doctor's Wife, for instance, House contrives to split them up. In the dolls house, Amy suddenly gets turned into a Peg Doll. These are 10 moments I like which they share.

10. Finding Rory (The Wedding of River Song).

After searching for Rory, Amy suddenly realises he's been under her nose the whole time, as the loyal Captain Williams. An idealised sketch of him has led her astray. They're reunited once again. I've also chosen the ending to this episode mainly because Amy manages to explain the history of River Song and the plot arcs of series 5 and 6 to Rory in just a couple of lines.

9. A Life Not Lived (Amy's Choice).

A glimpse of what might have been. It seems that the Dream Lord lifted this mostly from Rory's mind, as he seems much more at ease in this lifestyle than his wife. Sometimes an amateur dramatics group just isn't enough.

8. Living Two Lives (Pond Life).

I could have chosen any moment from this, or parts of The Power of Three. I'm using this as a representative example of what life for the Ponds is like - domesticity accompanied by alien butlers.

7. Flirting With Myself (Space / Time).

A bit of fun for Comic Relief. Again, it illustrates a small moment in their lives - this time aboard the TARDIS. A bit of humour and sexual banter, Amy flirting with herself and Rory getting ideas - then a slap in the face.

6. Eavesdropping (The Day of the Moon).

People who listen at doors might not like what they hear. Or listening in via a subdermal transmitter. Rory is unsure about who Amy was talking about when she was captured by the Silence - him or the Doctor. His confidence and trust are at a low ebb. He eavesdrops and also learns that Amy thought herself pregnant - and didn't tell him. She knows he's listening, however, and when she uses the same unflattering description for him that she had used earlier, he knows that it was him she was referring to all the time - that it was him she wanted to come and rescue her.
5. The Penny Drops (Let's Kill Hitler).

At the start of this episode we got to see the origins of Amy and Rory as a couple - going right back to their school days. I love the moment when we see the penny finally drop and Amy realises he has been carrying a torch for her all this time (and not gay after all) - all prompted by friend Mels (setting up her own creation).

4. A Honeymoon and a Half (The Big Bang).

They could have spent a wet weekend in Blackpool, or taken a package trip to Benidorm, but Amy and Rory elect to take their honeymoon on the TARDIS. What would you rather have - a fortnight on a crowded beach or an Egyptian god running amok on the Orient Express. In space. No contest. If only they knew where it was going to lead...

3. Remembering (The Pandorica Opens).

The moment when Amy starts to remember. Rory's suddenly been reunited with Amy, but she has no idea who he is. He's just one of the "Hot Italians". I love his reaction when she says one of his men gave her a blanket - the jealous "Which one?". Just a lovely scene - which makes what happens next all the more shocking.

2. The TARDIS Door (The Girl Who Waited).

Do I need to say why this is here? Beautiful and heartbreaking.

1. Who Loves Who Most? (Asylum of the Daleks).

Forget Oswin and the massed ranks of Daleks. This is a key moment of this episode and a defining moment in the Ponds' relationship. Their marriage is as good as over and something has been stopping them communicating how they really feel about it. It all comes out as they reveal their true feelings whilst trapped in the Asylum.

Tomorrow - 10 of Rory's finest moments.

Thursday 27 September 2012

Story 19 - Mission To The Unknown

In which Earth's Space Security Service sends a mission to the remote planet Kembel, to investigate the recent sighting of a Dalek spaceship. In command is Marc Cory. His mission has encountered various difficulties - from spaceship damage to crewman Jeff Garvey becoming infected by the thorn of a Varga Plant. These ambulatory creatures are native to Skaro, where they were created by the Daleks. Cory is forced to shoot Garvey dead, as the toxin drives a victim dangerously insane before transforming them into a plant themselves. The third member of the crew - Gordon Lowery - also succumbs and has to be killed. The Daleks find the ship and destroy it. Cory discovers that they have allied themselves with representatives of the six outer galaxies. They are planning to attack and destroy the Solar System. Cory records his findings and is about to launch a message beacon when he is found and exterminated.

This single episode story was written by Terry Nation and broadcast on the 9th of October, 1965. It is significant for being the only story not to include the Doctor, his companions, and the TARDIS. BBC paperwork referred to this episode as Dalek Cutaway - in that it was a brief detour from the Doctor's ongoing adventures. It serves as a prequel of sorts to the massive 12 part Dalek story which was only a few more weeks away. When first broadcast, it would have taken the viewing public by surprise - as would the following episode which suddenly had no sign of the Daleks. The episode is sadly lost, though the soundtrack does exist.

Cory is played by Edward de Souza, Garvey by Barry Jackson (who had played the mute assassin Ascarius in The Romans), and Lowery is Jeremy Young (who had played Kal in the first ever story).
Nation had been influenced by James Bond in creating the SSS - they even claim to be "licensed to kill".
After their rather comedic performance in their last outing (The Chase) the Daleks are back to being intelligent and ruthless. Guest monsters are the Varga Plants, and the alien representatives. Only two of these are named - Malpha and Gearon. Malpha is the white uniformed being with the mottled skin. He was the only credited alien character apart from the Daleks - played by Robert Cartland.

The episode ending is:

  1. Malpha vows to destroy the planets and peoples of the Solar System - beginning with Earth.
A tense, exciting little story in which all the good guys get killed. It is best viewed in the wider context of The Daleks' Master Plan - though it was made by the production team of the previous story (Galaxy 4).
Things you might like to know:
  • This episode marks the swansong for original producer Verity Lambert.
  • I mentioned above that the Daleks were not as dim as the ones in The Chase. There is a rather stupid moment, however, when they decide to broadcast their top secret plans over the base tannoy.
  • William Hartnell gets a credit despite his non-appearance. His agent had struck a deal whereby he was credited on every episode - even those ones in which he didn't appear due to holidays or illness.
The aliens show Verity their script for a new soap opera called Eldorado...

10 Amy Moments

These are some of my favourite Amy moments. Naturally your top ten will be personal to you - depending upon which aspects of the character you like / dislike. I've tended to go for a bit of a mix - especially the emotional moments. You might prefer the sexier ones, or the humorous ones, or the kick-ass ones. It's all in the eye of the beholder... Feel free to use the Comments box to let me know your Amy choices.

10. Gun-toting (The Wedding of River Song).

There had to be at least one kick-ass moment. I had thought about the cutlass rattling in Curse of the Black Spot - but the context of this scene made the difference for me. Captain Williams is about to meet yet another demise, and we think Amy's left. The way she just reappears with a machine gun and mows down the Silents is a bit of a punch the air moment.

9. A Bucketful of Emotion (A Good Man Goes To War).

I could have gone for several scenes from the opening of this episode, but it's the moment that she meets Lorna Bucket that I went  for. She's just had her child taken away from her, and Lorna's wearing the uniform of the enemy, and, by god, she's justified in killing her, but she holds herself back - realising this young woman's intentions are honourable, and that she cares about her, her baby, and the Doctor. It's that quiet, holding back, keeping her grief and anger in check, that I admire.

8. Saving The Doctor From Himself (The Beast Below).

There was some criticism at the time that the Doctor was, yet again, passive to the conclusion of some stories. This goes back to some 9th Doctor / Rose stories. The Doctor thinks he is stuck in a moral dilemma - destroy Starship UK or lobotomise a sentient alien creature. Amy spots the reaction of the Star Whale to the children, and makes Liz 10 take the right decision - proving why the Doctor needs people like us to travel with him, why it was right to take Amy with him.

7. Paisley Boy (Victory of the Daleks).

Similar to number 8 above, regarding the Doctor's passivity - he has failed to stop the robotic Prof. Bracewell blowing up the planet. It's Amy's humanity that saves the day. She connects with him through that girl he used to know and that little Post Office etc.

6. He Taught Her Everything She Knows (Dinosaurs on a Spaceship).

The Doctor's got a gang - so why shouldn't Amy? She takes on the Doctor's role with Neffi and Riddell - even having to put up with a bit of sexual flirtation between the "companions". She demonstrates that she has learned a great deal from the Doctor and uses his sort of logic and leaps of faith to solve several problems.

5. Making the Right Choice (Amy's Choice).

Up until this episode, I have to admit that I was not a big Amy fan. The bedroom scene at the end of Flesh and Stone had been a serious misstep in my view. How could she cheat on her nice fiancé on the eve of their wedding? It's only with the apparent death of Rory that she finally realises that she really loves him and can't live without him. She's a better, different character from this point on, and I certainly started to warm to her.

4. Killing Kovarian (The Wedding of River Song).

It's an alternative Amy - maybe one who does things our Amy wouldn't do - but the "he's not here" bit when she gets her revenge upon the woman who stole her child is another punch the air moment. Let's face it, Kovarian deserves everything she gets. Our Amy remembers it when time gets reset, and does fret about it - so it's not a cold hearted action.

3. For Amy (Vincent and the Doctor).

Amy rushes back into the Musee D'Orsay art gallery in Paris, expecting that she and the Doctor have made a difference. Van Gogh will have gone on to paint many more masterpieces. He hasn't. He died when he did. She's heartbroken at what still happened to that exceptional man. But the Sunflowers painting has a little addition - a dedication "For Amy".

2. Mad About The Boy (The Girl Who Waited).

Quite frankly, I could have chosen this entire episode. It's without doubt Amy's best story. This is one of my favourite bits. Our Amy talks to the older Amy across the years. She finds the way to pierce the older Amy's emotional armour when she starts to talk about that beautiful boy from Leadworth, who tried to do silly things like try to learn the guitar as he was pretending to be in a band. It's the heart of this episode.

1. Show Me Earth. Show Me Home (The Girl Who Waited).

It's the emotional coda to a very emotional story. Just one, very simple, little scene that utterly breaks your heart.

Tomorrow, it's all about when the Ponds get together.

Wednesday 26 September 2012

The Ten Deaths of Rory & Amy

As we count down to the last days of the Ponds, I am going to offer you my personal top ten lists of Amy / Rory moments. But first, let's get the unpleasantness out of the way. Here are the 10 "deaths" of the Ponds.

1. Rory's Leadworth "Dream Death"

Rory's habit of dying starts when he is killed by the Eknodine Mrs Poggit. He's reduced to dust. This proves to be one of the Dream Lord's false experiences. (Amy's Choice).

2. Amy's Leadworth "Dream Death"

Amy finally realises who she really loves and, with Rory apparently dead, can't live without him. She chooses to crash the VW camper van into the cottage - taking the Doctor with her. Another Dream Lord false experience. (Amy's Choice).

3. The Doctor self-destructs the TARDIS.

Amy and Rory die together when the Doctor blows up the ship - again a Dream Lord illusion. (Amy's Choice).

4. Rory's self sacrifice.

In the Silurian city, Rory pushes the Doctor out of the way and is shot by the dying Restac. He dies for real this time - and, to add insult to injury, gets erased from Time and from Amy's memory. (Cold Blood).

5. Auton Rory kills Amy.

Under Nestene influence, the Auton replica Rory is forced to shoot his fiancee dead. (The Pandorica Opens).

6. The Auton Rory gets 'rewritten'.

A "death" of sorts. With the Doctor rewriting the Universe with a second Big Bang, the Auton version of Rory is gone - though his memories remain with the new biological Rory. (The Big Bang).

7. Amy gets shot by Canton Everett Delaware III.

Amy appears to be gunned down in cold blood by the CIA man - but it's all a ruse to fool the Silence. (Day of the Moon).

8. Rory also gets gunned own by Canton.

As with Number 7. (Day of the Moon).

9. Rory drowns.

Only his second "real" death. Knocked overboard in a storm, Rory drowns. He is kept alive by the Siren in the alien spaceship infirmary. In order to move him into the TARDIS, his life support has to be disconnected. He dies, but is resuscitated by Amy. (Curse of the Black Spot).

10. Rory dies of old age.

Trapped in the TARDIS and hunted by House, Rory appears to perish from old age in a matter of minutes. Another false death - House is playing with Amy's mind. (The Doctor's Wife).

Tomorrow - top ten Amy moments.