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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. :)