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BBC BS August 4, 2017

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Referencing my previous post about how lame Doctor Who has become in recent seasons, the following illustrates very well one of the primary problems I’ve been having with the series over the past couple of years:

Something is Broken in the UK Intellectual Sphere – Nassim Nicholas Taleb

That article doesn’t talk about Doctor Who at all, but it does discuss issues with a BBC educational cartoon about the Roman Period in Britain. Doctor Who has been displaying the exact same variety of politically motivated historical revisionism (i.e. lying to people to further a particular narrative) as that documentary, by pretending that there were just all sorts of black people in Britain, at all points in history, as far as I can tell, and the excuse given by these idiots is, “There were Africans in the Roman legions, you racist Nazi!”

Taleb does a good job of giving that line of “reasoning” the exact skewering it deserves.

The British Empire was possibly the greatest empire the world has ever known, with only the Romans rivaling them for that title (and that rivalry being based only on how you define a great empire). It took a great People to form that empire. What has happened to that People, the British? Their nation today is a sorry shadow of its former self that can’t even be bothered to protect its own daughters from being raped and prostituted by foreigners. Something similar is happening in Germany, too. Were the souls of these nations utterly destroyed in World War II, leaving only a withered husk of the spirit that made these Peoples great? Will the British (and the Germans) somehow pull their shit together, rediscover their identities, and, more to the point, the value of those identities, before it’s too late? People at the BBC are actively engaging in lying about the history of Britain in an effort to redefine what “Britain” even means, and they appear to be succeeding. By doing so, they are contributing to the demise of Britain. I think it’s a huge tragedy in the making and it saddens my heart to see it happening.

Well, this is getting political and I had never intended this to be a political blog. So I will shut up about this particular point now.

I did go back and refinish the one partial episode that I had originally attempted to watch before throwing my hands up in frustration the other day. It was, truly, an exercise in sub-mediocrity, even if all the problematic political content had been removed or corrected.

However, I did notice something positive about it, which I’ve noticed a few times before in this season. It’s a subtle thing, hard to pin down precisely, but it intrigues me enough that I will probably go through the bother of watching the last two episodes. Somehow, once in a while, this season of Doctor Who manages to evoke the feel of the classic series in a way that the previous nine seasons never did. So, in that one sense, this season is the best of the series so far. Peter Capaldi’s Doctor is part of it, as is “Bill.” Part of it is also the interplay between the two of them. Part of it is that Capaldi is older than the previous three guys. But it’s not just character stuff. There have been several times this year when I’ve felt almost like I was watching an episode of the classic series, perhaps one from the Pertwee/early Tom Baker period, or perhaps late-period McCoy. Hopefully there will be more of that in the last two episodes! And, hopefully, the level of politically motivated stupidity won’t be too arduous to bear.

Doctor Who, Season 10 July 31, 2017

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I want to post a few remarks on Season 10 of Doctor Who, which I got around to watching recently. Why? Because, with Season 10, the BBC has accomplished something truly remarkable: They have managed to create a sequence of episodes which so effectively plumb the depths of stupidity, lameness and sheer boringness that my skills with the English language are simply inadequate to describe how awful they are. Season 10 is even worse than Season 9, which I didn’t think was possible!

In fact, for the first time ever, I’ve decided that I am just not going to bother finishing the season. Not only that, but I’ve learned from experience that once I reach this level of frustration with a franchise, that’s it, I’m done with all of it. This happened before with Star Trek when the idiots at Paramount turned it over to that unbelievable hack J.J. Abrams, and  with Star Wars, when George Lucas proved to the whole world what a tone-deaf dipshit he is with the second trilogy. Being a fan of these fictional universes requires a person to actually care about what happens there, and that becomes impossible once a certain minimal level of quality is lost.

Does Season 10 of Doctor Who have any redeeming qualities at all, based on the 9 1/4 episodes that I watched before throwing up my hands in disgust? Well, yes. This new companion, this girl who calls herself “Bill,” is actually better than I expected. Granted, that isn’t saying much these days. But, to be specific, she’s reasonably likeable as a character, at least in circumstances where she’s not reciting social justice talking points or pretending to be 25 times smarter than she actually is, etc., and she’s a distinct improvement over the last one, that girl whose name I can’t even be bothered to look up–you know, the cutey pie with the adorable chipmunk cheeks who turned out to be the most annoying companion since the 1980’s. “Bill” is an improvement over her because she’s only infuriatingly annoying part of the time.

Overall though, stick a fork in it: Doctor Who is done. I’d remark that I don’t even know why they are bothering to continue after this season, except that I do know, and so should you, right? Hint: Entertaining people is most definitely not the reason.

I’ve heard that some people actually liked Season 10. If you are one of these people…well, please just go away. :)

Doctor Who (2005 series): Ratings and averages for the first eight seasons May 15, 2015

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A while back I made a disparaging comment about recent Doctor Who episodes, and when I went back later and read those remarks again, I realized it might be a good idea to double-check what I said.  However, in order to do that adequately, I realized it would also be a good idea to re-watch the entire Doctor Who 2005 series, from beginning to end.   So that’s what I’ve been doing over the past few months.  I’ve finished season 8, and only have one Christmas special to watch after this writing.

In an attempt to bestow a hopefully useful level of objectivity on this, I decided early on to use a special rating scale that I devised for my iTunes library over 10 years ago.  You may be aware that iTunes has a built-in 5-star rating scale, but after using that for about a year I realized that five stars wasn’t enough.  There were a number of five-star songs which were clearly better than the rest, as if they deserved an additional star.  They “broke the rating system,” so to speak.  I realized I could use the “grouping” column in iTunes to mark each one of them as a “6-star song,” and adapt my existing smart filters to act as if the extra “star” was just as real as a normal iTunes rating.  Over the years this has worked surprisingly well, and, to date, my iTunes library contains a total of 130 songs with this improvised 6-star rating (out of a total of 3055 songs).

When I decided to re-evaluate all the 2005 series Doctor Who episodes, I decided a similar setup would be useful for that as well:  The normal part of the scale would be a simple 5-point system, with the 5 point rating meaning “excellent.”  The six-point rating would be reserved for episodes so outstanding that they “broke” the normal scale, but they would still act like any other number in terms of calculating averages.  I could then come up with a score for each season, and for each Doctor.

So, without further ado, here are the season ratings:

  • season 1: 4.08
  • season 2: 3.77
  • season 3: 3.62
  • season 4: 3.77
  • season 5: 3.46
  • season 6: 3.23
  • season 7: 2.92
  • season 8: 2.36

The theoretical maximum average would be 6.00, however that would never happen in practice, since the six point rating is only used in exceptional circumstances.  That means an average score above 4.00 is really very high.

Some additional remarks need to be made.  First, I do not include ANY of the following in the seasonal averages: Christmas specials, David Tennant’s four farewell specials at the end of his tenure, and Matt Smith’s two series-anniversary specials at the end of his.  None of those have any effect on the seasonal ratings, not even The Snowmen, which occurred midway through season 7.  All of these specials do, however, affect the overall ratings for the four Doctors:

  • Eccleston: 4.08
  • Tennant: 3.66
  • Smith: 3.39
  • Capaldi: 2.67 (with one story to go)

I didn’t start out with the aim of having Eccleston come out on top.  In fact, I went into this with a strong bias against the early seasons simply because I find Russell T. Davies’ histrionic production style to be so annoying.  But, after the re-watch, I have to admit that the man is a very talented writer, and season 1 is overall the best of the eight so far. Eccleston is quite excellent as well—I sometimes wonder what might have been if he had stuck around for a second season. Then again, we would have been deprived of the David Tennant/Billie Piper interaction which proved so fruitful in season two.

I don’t think the four Doctor ratings are entirely fair to the actors.  Capaldi, in particular, has only had one season so far, which happened to be the worst season in the history of the series. Smith’s last season was almost as bad—in fact, the second half of his last season featured the worst continuous run of episodes in the series’ history. Is it Capaldi or Smith’s fault that the series is currently plagued by mediocre (or worse) writing?  Does the fact that Eccleston’s single season happened to coincide with some of the best stories in the history of the show mean that he was also “the best” of the four?  My answer to that is “no” in both cases.

In fact, I rather like Peter Capaldi and am looking forward to what he comes up with in season 9, while keeping my fingers crossed that the writers will grow a brain or two between them.  I also liked Christopher Eccleston quite a lot, but not to any degree more than the others.  Overall, I think we have been incredibly lucky to have four such talents playing the role, and if the series appears to be falling flat of late, it’s due to the writers and to the completely ridiculous political climate that television is a part of nowadays.  (That, however, is a whole other subject.)

Getting back to the original topic, the very best episodes, those that “broke the scale” and rated at 6 points, are:

  • The Parting of the Ways (113)
  • The Girl in the Fireplace (204)
  • Doomsday (213)
  • Blink (310)
  • The Time of the Doctor (special)

(Numbers in parentheses are episode numbers, where applicable.)

We have one in the first season, two in the second, one in the third, and then a long, long dry spell.  With the exception of the 50th anniversary special, there have been none of these top-drawer episodes in seasons 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8.

The listing of 5-point episodes is a bit longer.  Remember, these legitimately qualify as “excellent” or “outstanding”:

  • The Unquiet Dead (103)
  • Father’s Day (108)
  • The Empty Child (109)
  • The Doctor Dances (110)
  • Bad Wolf (112)
  • The Christmas Invasion (special)
  • School Reunion (203)
  • Army of Ghosts (212)
  • The Shakespeare Code (302)
  • Gridlock (303)
  • The Family of Blood (309)
  • The Fires of Pompeii (402)
  • Forest of the Dead (409)
  • Turn Left (411)
  • The Stolen Earth (412)
  • The Eleventh Hour (501)
  • Vincent and the Doctor (510)
  • A Christmas Carol (special)
  • The Impossible Astronaut (601)
  • The Doctor’s Wife (604)
  • The Angels Take Manhattan (705)
  • The Rings of Akhaten (707)
  • The Day of the Doctor (special)
  • Listen (804)

Tallying that up we get five in season 1, which is the best of any season.  If you also include the one 6-point episode in season 1, that comes to six total, which is the best proportion of excellent episodes of any season by far.  After that, we have two in season 2, three in season 3, four in season 4 (unfortunately, this pattern didn’t maintain itself), two in season 5, two in season 6, two in season 7 and one in season 8. Plus three in the specials.

I’m not going to separate out all the 4-point and 3-point episodes because there are just too many of them.

This next part should be fun:  The list of BAD episodes.  First, the worst of the worst, those receiving the ignominious 1-point rating.  In the vernacular, this rating means “epic fail” or “steaming pile,” depending on your preference.  There are (thankfully) not very many of these:

  • Fear Her (211)
  • The Lazarus Experiment (306)
  • Night Terrors (609)
  • Cold War (708)
  • Kill the Moon (807)
  • Dark Water (811)

Only five overall, but I see a definite clustering in the more recent seasons, with none at all in seasons 1, 4 and 5. More ominously, note that two of these turkeys fall in season 8, and fully 66% of them in seasons 6, 7 and 8.  Yowch.

The 2-point episodes are unfortunately far more numerous, especially in more recent seasons. These are bad enough to merit punishment or derision, but fall short of utter failure:

  • Last of the Time Lords (313)
  • Journey’s End (413)
  • The End of Time, Part 1 (special)
  • Vampires of Venice (506)
  • Cold Blood (509)
  • The Lodger (511)
  • The Rebel Flesh (605)
  • The Almost People (606)
  • A Town Called Mercy (703)
  • Hide (709)
  • Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS (710)
  • The Crimson Horror (711)
  • Nightmare in Silver (712)
  • Into the Dalek (802)
  • Robot of Sherwood (803)
  • Time Heist (805)
  • In the Forest of the Night (810)

There is one more episode to re-watch, so this or the 1 point list may yet be revised.

Obviously there is an increasing quantity of crap episodes in the more recent seasons, compared to not a single bad episode in season 1, only one really stinky episode in season 2, two bad ones in season 3, only one in season 4, plus another in Tennant’s string of four farewell specials.  Season 6, on the other hand, showed a marked uptick with three baddies, and then the shite really hit the fan in season 7 with six bad episodes.  That’s as many bad episodes as there were great episodes in season 1.  What’s really notable, though, is that five of the six are clustered in the second half of that split season, with no less than five crap episodes in a row. Wow. It’s a wonder I made it through that season at all.  Luckily, The Name of the Doctor was a very good 4-point episode, otherwise I might have given up.

Then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, season 8 turns out to be even worse!  Six bad episodes again, but this time two of them are 1-pointers. They’re also spread around the season more evenly, leading to a more general impression of crappiness.  There is no significant clumping of non-bad episodes in season 8 the way there was in the first half of season 7.  So, I hope you will pardon my French, but seriously: WTF?

Lastly, here are all of the episode ratings. Please keep in mind that a rating of 3 is perfectly respectable, covering the range from “average” to “good”:

Season 1                                 4.08
101    Rose                                 3
102    The End of the World                 4
103    The Unquiet Dead                     5
104    Aliens of London                     3
105    World War Three                      3

106    Dalek                                3
107    The Long Game                        3
108    Father's Day                         5
109    The Empty Child                      5
110    The Doctor Dances                    5

111    Boom Town                            3
112    Bad Wolf                             5
113    The Parting of the Ways              6

       The Christmas Invasion               5

Season 2                                 3.77
201    New Earth                            3
202    Tooth and Claw                       3
203    School Reunion                       5
204    The Girl in the Fireplace            6
205    Rise of the Cybermen                 3

206    The Age of Steel                     4
207    The Idiot's Lantern                  3
208    The Impossible Planet                3
209    The Satan Pit                        3
210    Love & Monsters                      4

211    Fear Her                             1
212    Army of Ghosts                       5
213    Doomsday                             6

       The Runaway Bride                    3

Season 3                                 3.62
301    Smith and Jones                      3
302    The Shakespeare Code                 5
303    Gridlock                             5
304    Daleks in Manhatten                  3
305    Evolution of the Daleks              3

306    The Lazarus Experiment               1
307    42                                   3
308    Human Nature                         4
309    The Family of Blood                  5
310    Blink                                6

311    Utopia                               4
312    The Sound of Drums                   3
313    Last of the Time Lords               2

       Voyage of the Damned                 3

Season 4                                 3.77
401    Partners in Crime                    4
402    The Fires of Pompeii                 5
403    Planet of the Ood                    3
404    The Sontaran Strategem               3
405    The Poison Sky                       3

406    The Doctor's Daughter                3
407    The Unicorn and the Wasp             3
408    Silence in the Library               4
409    Forest of the Dead                   5
410    Midnight                             4

411    Turn Left                            5
412    The Stolen Earth                     5
413    Journey's End                        2

       The Next Doctor                      4

       Planet of the Dead                   3
       The Waters of Mars                   3
       The End of Time, Part 1              2
       The End of Time, Part 2              4

Season 5                                 3.46
501    The Eleventh Hour                    5
502    The Beast Below                      4
503    Victory of the Daleks                3
504    The Time of Angels                   4
505    Flesh and Stone                      4

506    Vampires of Venice                   2
507    Amy's Choice                         3
508    The Hungry Earth                     3
509    Cold Blood                           2
510    Vincent and the Doctor               5

511    The Lodger                           2
512    The Pandorica Opens                  4
513    The Big Bang                         4

       A Christmas Carol                    5

Season 6                                 3.23
601    The Impossible Astronaut             5
602    Day of the Moon                      4
603    The Curse of the Black Spot          4
604    The Doctor's Wife                    5
605    The Rebel Flesh                      2

606    The Almost People                    2
607    A Good Man Goes to War               3
608    Let's Kill Hitler                    3
609    Night Terrors                        1
610    The Girl Who Waited                  4

611    The God Complex                      3
612    Closing Time                         3
613    The Wedding of River Song            3

       The Doctor, The Widow & The Wardrobe 4

Season 7                                 2.92
701    Asylum of the Daleks                 3
702    Dinosaurs on a Spaceship             4
703    A Town Called Mercy                  2
704    The Power of Three                   3
705    The Angels Take Manhattan            5

       The Snowmen                          4

706    The Bells of Saint John              3
707    The Rings of Akhaten                 5
708    Cold War                             1
709    Hide                                 2
710    Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS  2

711    The Crimson Horror                   2
712    Nightmare in Silver                  2
713    The Name of the Doctor               4

       The Day of the Doctor                5
       The Time of the Doctor               6

Season 8                                 2.67
801    Deep Breath                          4
802    Into the Dalek                       2
803    Robot of Sherwood                    2
804    Listen                               5
805    Time Heist                           2

806    The Caretaker                        3
807    Kill the Moon                        1
808    Mummy on the Orient Express          3
809    Flatline                             3
810    In the Forest of the Night           2

811    Dark Water                           1
812    Death in Heaven                      4

       Last Christmas                       ?

Well, that was fun! :)

iPads November 1, 2014

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Favorite dialog from the latest Doctor Who episode:

“You have iPads in the afterlife?”

“iPads. We have Steve Jobs!”

That gets a LOL.

Overall, though, I’m probably going to give up on this series.  It’s not about entertainment anymore so much as scoring as many leftist propaganda points as they possibly can.  It’s just tiresome to watch.

Elisabeth Sladen – RIP April 19, 2011

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This is a sad day. Elisabeth Sladen has died.

It’s a total surprise (to me) that this happened.  She was only 63 years old, and had been battling cancer for a while, apparently.

I know I’ve been critical of Russell Davies in the past, but at a time like this, I am not surprised at all that he knows exactly what to say (audio clip and brief article). He was always good at the emotional stuff.

Longer article: Doctor Who actress Elisabeth Sladen dies

Would I have ever become a Doctor Who fan if the very first story I ever watched hadn’t had her as the companion? It was The Seeds of Doom, one of the earlier Tom Baker episodes, wherein some suspicious pods are found in Antarctica, and one of them somehow develops into a giant, killer plant monster. Classic stuff, including the squeaky styrofoam peanuts used as fake “snow” in the Antarctica scenes. I distinctly recall being impressed with how cute and interesting Sarah Jane was. She was certainly a factor in getting me to tune in to my next story. This was back in the days when the stories were appearing every weekend on Wisconsin Public Television. They would edit the four to six episodes of each story into one, luxurious, movie-length program, which was wonderful. The four-episode ones were of ideal length, typically running 90 minutes. The six-episode ones tended to get a bit long, typically around 2 hours and 15 minutes. With no commercials, of course. The best was when they would have Doctor Who marathons, airing several stories in one afternoon. These could stretch for eight hours or more (including pledge breaks). Those were the days. :)

Of course, I ended up seeing many more stories, with many more companions, but Sarah was, at some level, always my favorite. So much so that when my 10th grade English class was tasked with breaking into teams where each team would create a short film, I decided that I was going to do my own Doctor Who story, and of course, Sarah Jane Smith would be the companion. The whole endeavor ended up being a comedy of errors, with two or possibly three of my female classmates playing the role (ever try to schedule high school girls who aren’t really invested in something? It’s a challenge, LOL), but in the end, the effort was enough of a success that the teacher used it in succeeding years as an example. I suppose he might have been using it as an example of how several major things can go wrong without actually destroying the overall project…but still. ;)

Someone posted some still shots from the Planet of Evil story on Usenet, of Elisabeth and co-star Tom Baker. I’m going to repost a couple of them here, in commemoration. I’m pretty sure the second one is an outtake:

Click on the pics for full-size view. They’re wallpaper sized, 16:10 widescreen aspect ratio.

David Tennant calls it quits October 29, 2008

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Huge news:

David Tennant quits as Doctor Who

He’ll be missed, that’s for sure. I wouldn’t count him as my favorite Doctor of all time, but he’s been pretty good in the role. I get annoyed when he talks so fast sometimes. Other than that, he’s been very cool.

He has some appearances left yet, so we’ll all have time to get used to this idea of him leaving. They’re doing another Christmas special, and then the four special episodes in lieu of a regular season next year.

Russell Davies has promised that Tennant’s final appearances will be “spectacular”, “spectacular” (yes, he said it twice) and “enormous”. Actually, that kind of scares me. I admit I haven’t been too happy with some of what Davies has come up with in recent seasons. His thing is maximization of drama, and hang all other considerations. So, for instance, we end up with that travesty double episode season-ender back in 2007, where the Doctor was shrunk down into a living voodoo doll and all sorts of other ridiculous things happened.

That whole story was just awful, although it did manage to avoid my main beef with what has happened over the past several seasons: Historically, Doctor Who has always kept the teeming masses of Earth sheltered from the direct impact of alien plots and machinations. The Daleks may plan to destroy the earth, for instance, but we never find out about it. This allows us happy fans the delusion that the Doctor is actually out there somewhere, we just don’t know about it because he, and the UNIT people, have been doing such a good job of keeping things out of the public awareness. However, in Russell Davies’ Doctor Who, that is no longer true. In some instances, the general public has become aware of what’s actually been going on. This, sadly, relegates Doctor Who into the less desireable category of “actual fiction.” Any fantasies of us being companions someday, of perhaps running happily towards the TARDIS like Rose Tyler, are forever gone.

Don’t get me wrong: None of us are actually dumb enough to have believed that the Doctor was really real. But there can sometimes be a slight gray area between pure fantasy and reality, where one can temporarily, for one’s own amusement, imagine what might happen if the fantasy wasn’t really a fantasy. One can feel, just for a little while, what it might be like if it was all really happening. This is possible because the tale has respected the boundaries of our own day-to-day realities. We can allow our own reality and the story to meld, just a little bit.

This melding, this little side-trip we take into the fantasy world, it may not even be a conscious thing. But it definitely adds a certain element, giving the fantasy a little extra zing of excitement. That element is now gone from Doctor Who, forever. It was the Slitheen who started it, by the way. You and I, all of us, we know full well that there have never been Slitheen smashing into Big Ben. This puts a permanent wall between our world and the world where the Doctor lives.*

But I digress. David Tennant is leaving, after next year. I wonder who they’ll come up with to replace him? Whoever it is, I find myself hoping the choice isn’t made until after Davies leaves the picture.

The other issue that’s going to have to be dealt with sooner or later is the question of the Doctor’s 12 regenrations. He’s only got three left. (Yes, three, not two. William Hartnell’s Doctor was not regenerated, which makes Patrick Troughton’s second Doctor the first regeneration, and so on. That means Tennant’s Doctor is the 9th regeneration, leaving three more. This is confirmed in “The Five Doctors”, where Peter Davison’s Doctor identifies himself as the fourth regeneration.) Three may seem like plenty, but it’s really not. How are they going to get around this? Does it matter that the Time Lords are no longer in existence? Does the elimination of Gallifrey from the Universe somehow negate the limit on regenerations? Furthermore, didn’t David Tennant’s Doctor already regenerate back into himself or something like that, back at the end of the last season? I admit, I can’t remember all the absurd details of that little farce. But if he did, then maybe that really does leave us with two, which makes the question even more urgent. So, would someone at BBC Wales please start paying attention to this problem? Thanks. :)


*Honestly, there were some pretty big gaps in my viewings of the original series, so perhaps I am wrong about all of this. But for me, at least, that incursion by the Slitheen right near the beginning of Davies’ tenure as producer of the show, that was where the line was crossed.

Box Set Madness, and Cause for Celebration March 25, 2008

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The newest seasons for two great shows are starting up soon: Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who. Yay!

It’s been so long since Galactica has been on that I can’t remember anymore what was happening. Luckily, there’s a recap video located here. Click on “What the frak is going on?” on that page and then twiddle your thumbs while the commercial plays. Note that this covers the entire series, including the mini series. There are also two other videos there, “Revealed” and “Phenomenon.” I’ve watched the latter one only (didn’t have a chance for both yet). It’s good. It’s fun. Joss Whedon is heavily featured. :P So are a lot of other interesting people. Regarding the recap video, I wish they would have concentrated on the previous season, rather than going all the way back to the beginning, but in any case, watching it was enough to refresh my memory at least a little bit.

I also picked up the Battlestar Galactica Season 3 box set last night. :) That will be a lot more helpful in remembering all the various ideas and brainstorms I had last year while watching these episodes for the first time.

However, in the meantime, I’ll turn my attention to Doctor Who.

This show is a lot easier to mentally jump back into, because there’s only about two things to remember: Martha’s gone, and an almost-new companion is scheduled to appear, namely Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) from “The Runaway Bride.” Other than that, the Doctor will continue on his random adventures as before. I’ve heard rumor that the Ood will be making an appearance. This is a coolness. The Ood are interesting, if for no other reason than it’s fun hearing David Tennant say “the Ood.” So I’m looking forward to that.

While I was buying the Galactica box set last night, I decided to really splurge and get the Doctor Who Season Three box set too. This was quite expensive, so I’d been putting off buying it. I had also been dissatisfied enough with the ending of the season that I had considered not buying it at all. But now I have it, and I began watching it last night.

As a warning to people who are on the fence about buying this set, there are ads on the discs at the beginning, at least on the first two (I haven’t had a chance to check all six discs yet). In my humble opinion, this is completely ridiculous. Not only is this clearly a collector’s set, but considering the extremely high price tag, people should not have to put up with advertisements on these discs. Even worse, the ads don’t seem to be confined to just the first disc—there was some additional crapola at the beginning of disc two, not just disc one. This is a very bad sign, for it suggests there will be ads at the beginning of all six discs. Very, very bad. It means every single time I want to watch something from one of these discs, forever, I’ll have to go through the trouble of skipping over these. I shouldn’t have to put up with that. No one should. And let me emphasize one thing: These are not paid advertisements, they are simply ads for other BBC programs available on DVD (at least, as far as I bothered to look). If they had had the sense to stash these in with the other bonus features, I would most likely have gotten curious and watched all of them. Jamming them right in my face at the beginning of the discs is not the way to get me to watch. (And furthermore, maybe if they didn’t charge so much for their DVDs, they wouldn’t have to push them so hard! Ya think????)

However, other than that complaint, it’s a really nice set. The design is superb—similar to that for the first two seasons, but, if anything, even more elaborate and well done. If not for the ads at the beginnings of the discs, I’d call it the finest box set I’ve ever purchased. There was one small flaw in mine. I noticed that one of the pages in the included booklet was collated face-down compared to the others, so the pages of the booklet appear out of order. I could fix this by removing the staples, flipping that page over and reinserting the staples, but I’m half inclined to leave it the way it is. Perhaps this error will make it more valuable, you know? Kind of like that postage stamp with the upside down airplane on it. :)

The first programmatic item on Disc One is, of course, the 2006 Christmas special, The Runaway Bride. I had seen this before, so this was a rewatch. As I did the first time, I really enjoyed the first part (especially the TARDIS chase scene) up until they meet up with the Empress of the Racnoss. That part was less than inspiring, but not as horrifically awful as some of what happened later in season three.

The most interesting aspect of rewatching this was from the standpoint of sussing out how Catherine Tate is going to fare as a new, regular season companion. When I first heard that she had been picked for the role, my reaction was negative. To be perfectly honest, the problem was that I had been hoping so much for Sally Sparrow to be brought back that I would have been disappointed in just about anyone. However, having had time to get used to the fact that my Sally Sparrow fantasy was not going to come true, it became possible to evaluate the Donna Noble companion idea more dispassionately. And, you know what? I think they may have made a pretty good choice with her. She’s a good, strong, assertive character, and she has one trait which I think will work out really well, if the writers remember to exploit it: She’s not afraid to tell the Doctor to shut up when he starts babbling. I’m looking forward to seeing how this works out. I’m also hoping they refrain from having her fall in love with him. Probably they will, since it’s already been done with the previous two companions, and doing it with the third one in a row would be really obviously repetitious, right? ;) So, notwithstanding what happened in the “Voyage of the Damned” Christmas special, I’m hopeful.

Next on the first disc is a Doctor Who Confidential special entitled “Music and Monsters.” This is fun. The special centers on a concert which was presented in the Millenium Hall in Cardiff—that big, odd looking building with all the funny words on it—Torchwood viewers will know which one I mean. There’s quite a lovely concert hall inside it. The event featured music from the new series, all composed by Murray Gold, and performed by a live orchestra, with choir and whatever other additional musicians were needed. There were also special guest appearances by characters from the series, most notably David Tennant himself, and a Dalek. The Dalek is quite amusing, proclaiming in it’s mechanically stentorian voice that the entire facility is now under Dalek control, that the audience must “OBEY!” and so forth. What’s really impressive about this is that Nicholas Briggs, the genius voice actor responsible for the Dalek voices, was not given a script. He pretty much had to make it all up on the spot.

Not only is this concert a lot of fun, it’s a bit incongruous, too. It was actually staged prior to the airing of “The Runaway Bride,” so in terms of the series, the last thing that had happened was Rose’s getting trapped in an alternate universe. Martha hadn’t even shown up yet as a character (although Freema Agyeman is shown sitting in the audience). This means the program as a whole has a bit of emphasis on Rose Tyler, which I like. I still miss Rose. She’s easily my favorite of all the companions, in either series.

Also on this first disc is David Tennant’s Video Diary for “The Runaway Bride.” This is short but amusing. I still like Billie Piper’s Video Diary from the first season box set the best of all of these, mostly for trivial reasons such as the fact that she’s short, so seeing everything through the camera from her perspective is quite a novelty for six-foot-one me, and also because you can hear her chawing on a wad of gum throughout the commentary. This is not only totally hilarious, but gives it an extra bit of authenticity and informality that I really like. Plus, hey. Billie Piper. I’m just a sucker for her, you know?

There is a Freema Agyeman bonus feature on this disc too, wherein she goes around with a camara operator to talk to various set and prop people as they get things set up for an episode. This is pretty interesting, and I’ve got to say, Freema Agyeman is such a hottie and so endearing that this is not difficult to watch at all. Plus, she’s wearing tight jeans. :) The funniest part of this is when she interviews Nicholas Briggs as he rehearses his Dalek lines for an upcoming episode. For a minute, they take a copy of the script and trade roles: Agyeman as a Dalek and Briggs as Martha. The Dalek voice is normally achieved by not only electronically modifying Briggs’ voice, but also through his own efforts, so a person can’t just pick up his microphone, talk into it, and expect to sound like a Dalek. Seeing Agyeman try her hand at this is pretty funny, although she does catch on pretty quickly, getting a much more realistic effect after a few initial tries. She ends up sounding remarkably like a Dalek, albeit with a higher voice.

There are a couple of other bonus features on this first disc, but I decided to skip over those for now, because the segment with Agyeman got me wanting to go right ahead and watch “Smith and Jones” again. I suppose I should rewatch the rest of the season before actually saying this, but screw that—I’m going to go out on a limb right now and say this is likely one of the best Martha Jones episodes of the series. It’s always been a challenge, trying to put into words the gut feeling I began to notice partway through watching this season last year, namely that Martha Jones, as a companion, doesn’t seem to measure up to the standard set by Rose Tyler. A big part of it is simply that Rose is such a tough act to follow. But I always felt there was more to it than that, and especially that the blame did not rest with Freema Agyeman herself. Simply put, I think it was a mistake to have Martha develop a crush on the Doctor, primarily because David Tennant’s Doctor needs a foil, someone to cut him off, to tell him when he’s full of crap, a character with similar forcefulness to his own. Martha could have been like that, I believe, but when they decided to put her into unrequited love with him, that weakened her position considerably. This idea is borne out in a few different ways, most notably by the fact that the best Martha episodes are the ones where her character acts on her own, rather than in concert with the Doctor, and also by her recent apperance on Torchwood, where she seems to be much more in her element. I’m looking forward to her return to Doctor Who this season, to see how things get on when things are different between her and the Doctor. It could prove interesting, especially with there being two companions. That could end up being the best combo yet!

I haven’t even had a chance to crack open the Battlestar Galactica set yet. I figured that set has a lot more episodes, so I could whip through Doctor Who faster. It was a tough decision, figuring out which show to watch first. :)