Monday, August 18, 2014

The Doctor Trilogy Week: The Name of the Doctor & BIG CHANGES (in caps)

Hey, guys, I've been wanting to do this for months now. I, unlike most of my compatriots in the 22 age range, was not introduced to Doctor Who through the revival, nor the original, nor the tv movie, nor any of the expanded universe of books, comics, or radio shows. 

No, I was introduced to the innocuous Blue Telephone Box by a rather random source. 

What the f*** is that? 
During the original Fallout the Time Lord's infamous TARDIS made a special appearance, and as a thirteen year old, I had no idea what the hell it was. It was a serious case of ask and ye shall receive twenty-five years of syndicated television and one shitty TV movie.

Now, I'm not a hipster, but seeing as this was my introduction, I'm obviously better than you. 

Or at least the scum that've made the show famous under a certain Stephen Moffat's watch. Y'see, the show is coming back on the twenty third, and in order to properly rip it a new one, I'm working to set up a totally cool, cool-cool-cool weekly addition (Would you like to know more?).

But till then, I decided to refresh my memory by watching "The Name of the Doctor," "The Day of the Doctor," and, "The Time of the Doctor." You can tell Moffat's straining on these titles. Obviously he poured all his quality writing into the episodes. Or so you'd think. But Moffat is one of those mixed bag writers. There's something we talk about as young actors in class, the 'bag of tricks'. A moderate actor gets by on these-- maybe they're inherently charming, or funny, but they're diversions. Moffat is like that. He's witty and clever (but by no means genius, and moreoften than not, the wittiness and the cleverness just seems like a misdirection from looking to critically at the stories). 

So, for months now I've been saving myself to write an editorial on this. Something with a click-baitey title. If you have any ideas, leave them in the comments below. So to kick off Doctor Who weeks (I can hear some of my fans running for the hills from here in this dingy basement I whole up in.)

Most Idiotic Review

" ... we were barrelled into the main course: a dizzying adventure, packed full of satisfyingly clever – but crucially for head writer Steven Moffat, who tends to over-complicate, not too clever – ideas ....  This climactic episode was ... momentous, moving and thrilling, yet somehow still found time to be very funny in flashes (mainly thanks to the highly quotable Strax)." — Michael Hogan (The Telegraph)

I'll get my main complaint out of the way on this one. There's no real plot in this episode. They contrive a way to drag the doctor to Trenzalore, they contrive a way into his tomb, they contrive a way into his timestream, and they contrive a way for Clara, the Impossible Girl, to rescue him. Conceptually I like the episode. On paper, it should work, but ... Moffat has a tendency to do this. He pushes off reveals for so long, that when it comes time to explain them, you get an entire episode interspersed with witticisms and  rushed exposition. 

For a series known for doing needless two-part episodes (let's face it, some of the two-parters in Doctor Who are kind of padded), it's frustrating when the climactic episodes feel like a series of 'oh gotta explain that'.

Most Accurate Review

“'The Name of the Doctor' is not a good episode of television, but it is a fascinating episode of Doctor Who ... (Great tip for spec script writers: If you have to open your script with an explanatory voice-over then end it by literally writing out the important stuff on the screen, you need to rework your script. Also what is wrong with you?!?)” Chris Lough ( 

This has been one of my major beefs with Moffat for sometime. He's conceptually clever. He's good with dialogue. He is not good at the stuff that comes in between. Structurally he's a mess, and while he's got a firm grasp of dialogue, his mastery of characterization swings wildly from lacking to insulting ... like being Ding-Dong Ditched by your girlfriend. Sure you wanna see her but not like that!

What I Say

I hate Moffat, and I'll try to unpack my opinions on the subject more thoroughly than that. There just might be a lot of profanity involved. 

Plot — Lady Vastra (after learning "The Doctor has a secret he will take to his grave. It has been discovered," from a guy we don’t know and will never see again) wrangles together the rest of the Three Stooges, and Clara and River Song who have some romantic tension over who the Doctor likes more. Knowing Moffat's regards for his female characters? The Three stooges are captured by the not-so-threatening Whisper Men, and the Great Intelligence, a curmudgeonly British guy with a stiff-upper lip (I might give Marvel a hard time for sidelining their villains, but this guy is ridiculous) tells them the Doctor has to go to Trenzalore.

After, Clara and the Doctor share a nice scene. It's very sincere, and Matt Smith displays a masterful level of restraint in his acting. To alter Asimov’s quote, "It pays to be subtle, especially if you have a reputation for being obvious," just as the exact opposite. We also get some clever concepts here. "When you are a time traveler there is one place you must never go. One place in all of space and time you must never, ever find yourself .... Trenzalore is where I'm buried." I personally got very excited for the show to go to such a dark place as the protagonist's future grave.

We learn that Trenzalore is a massive battlefield graveyard, and the vivid image of the Tardis having grown to monumental size in the aftermath of the destruction. The Doctor say, "When a TARDIS is dying, sometimes the dimension dams start breaking down. They used to call it a size leak. All the bigger-on-the-inside starts leaking to the outside. It grows. When I say that's the TARDIS I don't mean it looks like the TARDIS, I mean it actually is the TARDIS. My TARDIS from the future. What else would they bury me in?"

This is a great line. Until you think about it. Then you might remember way back when, during "The Parting of the Ways" when Christopher Eccleston's 9th Doctor said, "So this is what you should do: let the TARDIS die. Just let this old box gather dust. No one can open it, no one will even notice it. Let it become a strange little thing standing on a street corner. And over the years, the world will move on, and the box will be buried."

Right ....
 "... no one will even notice it."
Amidst all of this the writers finally decide to confront the Impossible Girl arc, which was on hold for most of the 7th series. Just yesterday, on Talks at Google I watched George R.R. Martin say, “It's always the question, when do you reveal something, how long do you draw it out? The books are full of little puzzles and enigmas and reversals, and how do you place those? You don't want to give it away too soon, but if you stretch it out too long everybody's going to guess it anyway, so at what point is that? I kind of like having the puzzles and you need to keep at least some of the puzzles till the end, but then again you can't keep them all till the end otherwise or you end with this final chapter that's just one guy endlessly talking about, 'Well there's this and then there's this and the explanation for this is this,' and it's a very boring and not very good chapter." Moffat could stand to learn a bit from Martin. Considering how reserved he is with information, one might start to think the 11th Doctor doesn’t respect his companions.

Inside the tomb, we get the next bit of odd Doctor Who lore. Apparently when a Time Lord dies, they release a energy field that is a personal 'Time Tunnel.' So death on Gallifrey? ... take some LSD, throw on Dark Side of the Moon, and hit the graveyard. Why didn’t the Master unleash an energy field when he died in the 10th Doctor's arms? Why isn’t Gallifrey littered with them during “The Day of the Doctor”? Because Moffat isn't as good at this as he might think. Sure you’re in a dying time machine that could achieve the same narrative ends, but what do I know?

So the Great Intelligence enters the time tunnel and scatters himself all across the Doctor's timeline, turning every victory into defeat. But fortunately Clara makes the noble sacrifice that has dominated her characterization for ... ten episodes (had to go check), and leaps in to right the wrongs (sure, the Three Stooges who "cared for [him] during the dark times" just stand there and watch). So the Doctor is restored. and shares one of the episode's other nice, effective moments with River Song, and says goodbye. It is a dignified sendoff considering the best he could come up with to save her was locking her consciousness in a virtual reality computer system. The Doctor is now the equivalent of the machines in the Matrix.

So the Doctor leaps in after and we get at least one more nice scene. Clara is trapped in the Doctor's time-stream, which is collapsing. She sees all of the Doctor's other incarnations, including, John Hurt, who is introduced as, the Doctor. 

The ending I'll give credit where due, is effective, and got me seriously hyped for the 50th. My problems  stemmed from rewatching the episode and realizing, for as much riffing as I could do ... there wasn't much of a plot ... which characterizes the majority of The Doctor Trilogy.

Characters — I'll be brief here, since my last section is longer than some of my blogs. It took me a long time to warm up to the 11th Doctor. Loved Matt Smith. Hated the 11th Doctor. Thought he was written eccentric for eccentricity's sake. Wasn't until Neil Gaiman's episode I felt like I started understanding who Matt Smith's Doctor was. This is one of the 11th's more candid episodes, and on that note it works. In the 50th, we see more of that. In the Time of the Doctor ... not so much, but I'll get to that. 

Clara is ... a tool. Not like a bro douchebag tool. Just a tool for the writers to use. She's not quite as bad as Amy in my opinion, and she has some, again, candid moments that I truly enjoyed. I like that, at best, the romantic aspect of her relationship with the Doctor is conjecture, as it always struck me as just very friendly. I have had those relationships with the opposite sex before after all. They are possible. One of my big gripes, and just a personal one, is having Clara appear to William Hartnell's Doctor and say, "Steal this one. The navigation system’s knackered but you’ll have much more fun." What does that mean for the line, "I wanted to see the universe, so I stole a Time Lord and I ran away. And you were the only one mad enough," from 'The Doctor's Wife'?

The rest? Eh. I was never a fan of River Song, but it was nice to see her get a nice curtain call, so to speak. The Three Stooges are at least consistently written, even if they don't interest me. 

Spectacle — Not much to say here either. It was cool to see even glimpses of the previous Doctors. We get a few nice shots of Trenzalore, but that's about it on the Spectacle. The Time-Steam is not dissimilar to a lightning effect I did in 2008 on a Trial copy of Adobe Aftereffects. The concepts are pretty spectacular. A Time Traveler must confront his future grave, but I still feel like the execution fell far short of the possibilities. 

 Aforementioned Big Changes

I'm starting a webseries. Yay! Would you like to know more? Movie Mutts Promo 1

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