Sunday, 30 December 2012

Countdown to Doctor Who at 50: The Eleventh Doctor

As we are now just a DAY away from entering the year of Doctor Who's anniversary, now seems the perfect time to come to our finale stop in our year-long countdown to the big event as we take a look at the very cool Eleventh Doctor. Geronimo!


The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.
                                                          The Doctor (Matt Smith)

After fifty years and ten previous lead actors in the role you'd be forgiven for thinking that surely each and every avenue the character of the Doctor can be taken down has been explored. However,  Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor proves that a new Doctor can carry everything that's gone before him and still add something of his own. Mr Smith is a man so endearing in the role that he has done what many would have thought impossible (after the unanimous popularity of David Tennant) and convinced new and old Doctor Who fans alike that he might just be the best Doctor yet, as proved in recent polls. The wonderful thing here is that his adventures are still unfolding and his character could go anywhere. All we know for sure is that, for the foreseeable future, Matt Smith is the Doctor!

The Eleventh Doctor is an immediate contrast from his previous two incarnations. While they preferred contemporary fashions such as leather jackets, slim suits and converse trainers, this Doctor clearly shows his alien roots in his apparel; a tweed jacket, braces and a vehement belief that bow ties (and assorted head gear) 'are cool!' This reflects his personality as well as this Doctor is more alien in every way. He is a complete genius, with a lightning mind that he likes to engage every instant - he particularly hates waiting around - which often causes him to babble a lot as he tries to keep up with it. He has also lost much of his predecessor's social abilities - as seen when acting very nervous around women attracted to him and a mistaken belief that he should kiss people when meeting them. However, the Eleventh Doctor, of course, possesses boundless kindness and also a great wisdom gained from his long, long life. Beneath his young-yet-old face this incarnation truly feels the oldest of all the Doctors as he seems to have such a sadness in his hearts. In a similar vane to the Tenth Doctor, the Eleventh Doctor started life as a freer light-hearted soul before becoming more sombre and perhaps harder as he suffered great blows. In 'The Snowmen', for example, the Doctor had apparently retired from world-saving after the loss of his two best friends...

As the Doctor himself said, Leadworth residents Amy Pond and Rory Williams 'were the first faces this face saw' - he met the pair shortly after regenerating when he had to stop the Atraxi from destroying the Earth while also tracking down the snake-like Prisoner Zero. However, the trio's friendship was a very unusual one - even compared to previous companions. Meeting Amy as a child - thanks to a TARDIS timing malfunction - the Doctor left Amy waiting for a whole fourteen years before she properly travelled with him, and soon after her fiancee Rory. As a couple in the TARDIS, Amy and Rory were unique as Doctor Who companions as they had an ordinary, proper life alongside their adventures. They got married, had a kid (let's not go there now) and temporarily separated (blub) before their lifelong relationship with the Doctor was cut short by Weeping Angels and they were sent back in time to live the remainder of the lives in 1930s New York. But the glorious Ponds will be forever 'seared onto (the Doctor's) hearts.'

Overall, unlike the other Doctors on this list, we can't judge the legacy the Eleventh Doctor will have but what we certainly do know is the current effect he is having; being a key part in steering the show to new highs as it sails in rude health into its 50th year. And its thanks to Matt Smith, David Tennant, Christopher Eccleston, Paul McGann, Sylvester McCoy, Colin Baker, Peter Davison, Tom Baker, Jon Pertwee, Patrick Troughton and William Hartnell, that Doctor Who has reached this milestone - and, who knows, might well see another fifty years. If only we had a TARDIS to go see...

The Ones to Watch

Vincent and the Doctor

The Doctor and Amy have to rescue 'the greatest artist who ever lived' Vincent Van Gogh in this corker from Richard 'Blackadder' Curtis. Simply an incredibly touching tale of loneliness and depression that is equally accessible to adults and children alike.

The Wedding of River Song

The enigmatic River Song's story and that of the Doctor's apparent death comes to a close as the entirety of time starts to collapse! A barmy series finale that ties up a few loose ends and creates several new ones; an episode that totally encapsulates Steven Moffat's take on the show.  

The Angels Take Manhattan

As the Weeping Angels close in on the Ponds in New York, it seems this could be his and the Ponds' final adventure. Superbly acted and finely scripted, this is an a heartbreaking end to the story of Amelia Pond and Rory Williams.

P.S. Happy new year, everyone!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Doctor Whos of Christmas Past

It's that time of year again. Where the Children glisten and the treetops listen out for sleigh bells. Wait, scratch that, reverse it.
Whatever, it's Christmas and we all know what that means; yes, a new Doctor Who! So while we're all getting very excited for some fab festive fun with the Doctor, the Paternoster Gang and his new pal, Clara (and if you're not please click here for why you should be) let's remind ourselves of Who's previous yuletide outings.

 The Christmas Invasion

Story: As the Doctor recovers from his recent regeneration, the Earth has to face the threat of the skeletal Sycroax without his help. Will he wake in time to save the world? And, more importantly, what will he be like?
Thoughts: Who's first Christmas special and still one of its best. It ingeniously makes us wait a whole forty minutes for our first proper meeting with this new Doctor  - which allows us to follow Billie Piper's Rose as she has to adjust to the change and fill the Doctor's role herself. With extra kudos for being a proper sci-fi story while also thoroughly Christmassy, this one's a ball!
Christmas Rating: 4 Christmas Puddings!

The Runaway Bride

Story: The Doctor suddenly finds himself with a new companion - mouth bride-to-be Donna - who somehow ends up in the TARDIS rather than the alter. However, it seems something much bigger is happening this Christmas - something creepy-crawly...
Thoughts: A fun Christmas romp that well fits a day when everyone wants a jolly old time. Looking back now, its interesting to see Catherine Tate as someone quite different from the more rounded Donna from Series Four.
Christmas Rating: 3 Christmas Puddings!

Voyage of the Damned

Story: Taking a trip on an ill-fated starliner called the Titanic, the Doctor - accompanied by ambitious waitress Astrid - has to save the crashed ship's passengers from the deadly Host. With the ship threatening to destroy the Earth, just how many can the Doctor save this Christmas?
Thoughts: Essentially a Doctor Who disaster movie starring Kylie Minogue, 'Voyage' could have gone very wrong but thankfully its great fun. Aside from Kylie, the ensemble casts each get a chunk of the action and you find yourself playing the 'oh, I hope they (don't) die' game.
Christmas Rating: 3 Christmas Puddings!

The Next Doctor

Story: During a Dickensian Christmas, the Doctor has a shock as he meets - the Doctor!
While coming to terms with his apparent future self, he also has a truck-load of Cybermen accompanied by the sinister yet seductive Miss Hartigan. Surely two Doctors combined can stop the Rise of the Cyberking?
Thoughts: A total blast from start to finish, this is Davies' second-best Chrimble special. Initially feeling cheated by the reveal about Jackson Lake, I now have a great liking for David Morrisey's turn as the flamboyant would-be
Doctor. Plus, a Victorian Christmas is always good.
Christmas Rating: 4 Christmas Puddings!

The End of Time (Parts One and  Two)

Story: When the end of time itself is predicted, the Doctor is drawn into a battle that encompasses the whole of the human race, his greatest enemy and the return of something he had thought forever lost. This time the Doctor can't win. This is the Doctor's final battle
Thoughts: As epic in terms of storytelling as Doctor Who has ever been, this is a grand, rather melancholy exit for David Tennant's Doctor that must have the most characters and places ever featured in a single Doctor Who story. On the downside, its not all that Christmassy.
Christmas Rating: 3 Christmas Puddings!

A Christmas Carol

Story: To save a honeymooning Amy and Rory from crashing to the surface of a planet celebrating Christmas (that has flying fish!), the Doctor must teach the miserly Kazran Sardick the meaning of Christmas and to be a better person. Can the Doctor play the Ghost of Christmas Past well enough to save his best friends - and the heart of Mr Sardick?
Thoughts: My personal favourite Who Christmas special. Its also one of my favourite adaptations of Dickens' novel. Michael Gambon is terrific as Sardick, making the change in his character thoroughly believable, Matt Smith proves himself once again an absolute star while Steven Moffat delivers one of his best ever scripts. Excellent Christmas entertainment.
Christmas Rating: 5 Christmas Puddings!

The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe

Story: 1941, Madge Arwell and her children are evacuated to the country for Christmas where they encounter a quirky gentlemen with a blue box that houses another world inside. This winter wonderland is not as harmless as it once seems, however, as acid rain and the menacing Wooden King and Queen demonstrate...
Thoughts: Evoking CS Lewis' perennial children's classic The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is an excellent idea from Moffat for a Who Christmas special - and he certainly pulls it off. Claire Skinner is fab as, I suppose, the stand-in companion while its all a light-hearted runaround with a tender centre (in the form of the loss of Madge's husband). Perfect for Christmas Day!
Christmas Rating: 4 Christmas Puddings!

And there we have it. As a Doctor Who fan I find it rather wonderful that Doctor Who is so wrapped up in the Christmas season that its a constant fixture of festive telly. After filling up on huge dinners, millions gather round their sets to watch a Doctor Who specially tailored for this time of year. And, as this guide shows, they're guaranteed something special.

Before we go, as if you could forget, remember to tune into BBC One at 5.15pm on Christmas Day for the Doctor's latest Christmas adventure; the year is 1892 and the Doctor has given up on the world - just as snowmen come to live all over London. 'Tomorrow snow will fall and so shall mankind!'

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

After Midnight or How I Met David Tennant

Firstly, I do apologise profusely for the absence of any new posts in the past few days but, have no fear, during the run-up to Christmas this week I'll make up for it. I have an excuse though, I've been at my first convention.

As a long-time Doctor Who fan (it doesn't really need saying, does it?), I adored David Tennant and Billie Piper in their roles as the Tenth Doctor and Rose Tyler - and so was really quite excited when I had the chance to meet them by accompanying a friend to Midnight, a Doctor Who and Torchwood weekend celebration event run by Starfury Conventions.  It's always a worry when you meet people you've looked up too (especially those you looked up to when you were young) and they turn out to not be that nice. Thankfully, David and Billie were both lovely.

Despite the seemingly endless lines of people waiting to meet them (I queued up twice for each, one autograph and one photo), they were both welcoming; smiling and giving you a 'thank you' - David even shook my hand. What a nice man. Its a bit nerve-racking actually, when waiting to meet such icons of your childhood (I'm slightly flattering myself as I was twelve when they were on screen together) but their friendly nature helped dispel the wariness and made it an even more special occasion and a memory to cherish.

However, even though meeting David and Billie was lots of fun, there was lots of other individuals attending the event who were also fantastic to meet.
As the programme shows above, Torchwood's Eve 'Gwen Cooper' Myles and Gareth 'Ianto Jones' David-Lloyd were also there. Again, both were very friendly at the signings and turned out to be hilarious and more than a little rude in the question-and-answer talk sessions over the weekend. Their friendship that must have seen them through many days on set shone out as they reacted off the audience and each other as they chatted about a variety of subjects from Ianto's death (Gareth making a lot of humour from a moment that once traumatised hundreds of fans), the future of Torchwood and, ahem, John Barrowman's unmentionables.

The names don't stop there though as a number of previously-unmentioned guests turned out to be at the event. Comics writer Tony Lee, Doctor Who novelist James Swallow, Blon Fel Fotch Passemeer-Day Slitheen herself Annette Badland, Who, SJA and Torchwood writer Phil Ford, all-round Doctor Who person Gary Russel, Commander Strax in the flesh Dan Starkey, THE Dalek operator Barnaby Edwards AND Sarah Jane's own Anjli Mohindra were all also there. While all were warm and cheery throughout, I have particular fond memories of Anjli being very lovely at her talk (alone on stage and handling it brilliantly) and giving out skittles to the attendees at the signings. Also, I had an in-depth conversation with Barnaby about 'Asylum of the Daleks', how to recognise him on screen and the new TARDIS. Although I sadly missed it, he was also apparently a bit dapper on the Saturday night party.

I had a whale of a time this weekend. Even with the massive amount of queueing and waiting around, Midnight had a great, relaxed atmosphere. As well as the friendly demeanours of the guests this was also to do with the other convention-goers who were all sociable, excited and made each other feel involved. I imagine the whole time could have been very different and less all-round fun if everyone was shut-off and cynical. Thank you, Doctor Who fans!

Overall, I really enjoyed my first convention. It was a hilarious, entertaining surreal weekend but now I'm back and ready to blog. So keep your eyes peeled - expect the next post at ... sometime soon, when the bell tolls .... sometime. Having met a Time Lord, you'd expect me to know these things.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Meet Silas and Smedley

Hello all of you out there in blogger-land, I thought I'd let you know I've created a new blog...

The Assembled Experiences of Silas and Smedley is a blog dedicated to short fiction I've written that features two original characters; the mysterious Victorian gentlemen, Silas and his loyal companion, Dr Smedley. Yes, they are in part a pastiche of Holmes and Watson but, I hope, they also stand up by themselves. From inside their big spooky country home, the two friends often encounter some supernatural occurence that leads to suspenseful (and often humorous) consequences.

The blog so far has seven posts up and so is still in its early stages but I hope to update it fairly regularly when I feel its time for a new story for my intrepid adventurers.

For more information, I'll let Dr Smedley speak to you himself in this message from the 'About' page of the blog;

Dear reader,

Many thanks for visiting this, the treasure trove of sensation, suspense and scares that is the assembled experiences of my dear friend, the enigmatic Silas and my good self, Dr James J Smedley, formerly of her Majesty's army.
A long time ago, for you, I gathered my notes on the times I shared in the company of Silas and secured them in the vaults of a high-security bank to be opened a hundred years into the future and shared with the world - for I felt sure that the world of the 21st century would be ready for the tales that I collected.
And now my wish has been fulfilled. Here you will find regularly delivered tales of our encounters in which we often found ourselves with the weird yet wonderful in this world . Of course, some adventures are just too much for the public to handle at any time - alas, the strange case of the Miniature Elephant of Java and its like will have to stay between myself and the estimable character of Silas for the rest of time.

Yours sincerly,

Dr Smedley

If this interests you please pop over and have a look. And perhaps leave a comment; I'd love to hear your thoughts.
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