Sunday 27 June 2010

Pandorica Opens/ The Big Bang

This two part story was fun. It was entertaining. There were plenty of plot twists. However, it still has the feel of a RT Davies season finale. There is the demand for something bigger and better, the inevitable deus ex machina resolution and the resulting irritating 'reset switch.' I may be largely on my own in this disappointment. Most fans really loved this story.

Pandorica Opens was full of surprises and things for fans to chew over. Some aspects of the story bothered me. For instance, the ease with which the Doctor's enemies had come together in alliance and the fact that they had opted for such an elaborate plan. Why not simply find the Doctor and kill him?

There was plenty of emotional drama in both episodes. Perhaps a little too much. We have seen a lot of emotional drama this season and I would rather like to see something a little more subtle and understated. Unfortunately, the fast pacing of the stories leaves little room for that. I must admit when Amy appeared to die at the end of Pandorica Opens, I felt a sense of deja vu. We all knew Rory was coming back, so there was soemthing tedious about seeing Amy die too. Can't we have somebody staying dead for once?

It used to be the case in Doctor Who that you could never interfere in your own timeline. It would be disastrous if you meet yourself in the past. That seems to have been abandoned in The Big Bang. I hope this will not be a permanent change to the way Doctor Who works. A lot of reviewers noticed the obvious nod to Bill and Ted's Bogus Adventure.

My biggest complaint about the story is the cosmic scale. The entire universe is destroyed. The Doctor resolves the problem by creating a second Big Bang. Is there anything he cannot do? If the Doctor can re-create the universe after it has been destroyed there is nothing much left for him to do now. What is going to happen in the next season finale? I suggest, what would be good for the next season finale would be just a plain old fashioned villain with a dastardly plan with a monster or two thrown in. I get weary of the Doctor having to deal with such constant cosmic threats.

Thursday 24 June 2010

Doctor River Song and Self-Marriage

Is it just a coincidence that the Doctor criticised the Church's condemnation of self-marriage in The Time of Angels? Could it be that the Doctor is going to go through a self-marriage?

And would a name change to River Song be part of the ceremony.

There do seem to be just a few clues that River Song is a future incarnation of the Doctor.

By the way, I am going to leave reviewing Pandorica Opens until I have seen the second part.

Thursday 17 June 2010

The Sunmakers

The Fourth Doctor and Leela go to Pluto and instigate a revolution.

I think this is generally an overrated story.

This story is often regarded as a political satire. The problem with the Sunmakers as satire is that the system that is satirised makes no sense and neither does any coherent ideology challenge that system.

The Sunmakers has lots of fun demonising taxation and has the Doctor pouring scorn on taxation (giving no thought as to how essential public services can be paid for without taxation). No doubt right-wing viewers must have all smiled at this. However, true to the show's left-wing tendency it also satirises capitalism and gives us an evil, profit-fixated company. Unfortunately, the synthesis of these two opposing systems makes absolutely no sense.

It would seem that on Pluto everything is owned by the company. Everybody works for the company and the company raises all the taxes. The problem with this is that the taxes are coming from the very wages the company is paying. Why not simply pay all the workers lower wages? The whole tax-gathering operation seems pointlessly inefficent.

On the other hand, it is quite fun seeing the Doctor and instigating a revolution simply by his mere presence. Nevertheless, I think the revolutionary theme was handled better in the rather less well-regarded Happiness Patrol.

A good deal of the humour in this story is very subtle and likely to be missed by many viewers. For instance, corridor P45 and the fact it is set on Pluto (a 'plutocracy').

The acting is a mixed bag. Louise Jameson puts in one of her best performances, on the other hand, some of the guest cast are rather less inspiring. Governor Hage is fun, even if a little over the top. Citizen Cordo is a well created character, a man engulfed in misery who is transformed by meeting the Doctor. The underground dwellers are a little cliched. It also seems quite unlikely that they would change so swiftly from being bandits to committed revolutionaries.

The Collector is maybe just a bit too nasty to be quite convincing. It is interesting to know that really he is a sort of seaweed, but we are disappointed when we don't get to see him in his real form. Likewise, it is intriguing that the Doctor should be taken for an Ajack. Naturally, we want to see what an Ajack looks like.

There are lots of corridors in this story. Thankfully, some of them are large enough to look less like a t.v. set than some other Doctor Who corridors.

I think the killing of Governor Hage is a little unfortunate. There is nothing to suggest that the revolutionaries are going too far in their use of violence.

For all its faults, The Sunmakers does at least compare favourably with The Invisible Enemy and Underworld, though it really makes one wish one was watching Horror of Fang Rock or Image of the Fendahl.

Sunday 13 June 2010

The Lodger

The Doctor rents a room.

When the Doctor is separated from Amy, he tends to become more proactive, which seems to be rare in the current season. The problem with this story is that he is not proactive enough. Any Doctor that we have previously seen would have gone to the upstairs room immediately to investigate regardless of any danger. It seems that this obvious course is avoided to allow space for more comic elements.

It is fun to see the Doctor sharing an house with an 'ordinary bloke' and entering normal interactions. Having the Doctor join and soccer team and show himself to be a brilliant player seemed gratuitous. I think Moffat stuck that in to spite us sports-hating Doctor Who fans. I am sure a million of us feel a sense of betrayal. There is no reason why the Doctor should not be brilliant at football, after all he seems to be able to do anything, though it just does not quite seem 'Doctorish.' When you get the Doctor doing lots of 'unDoctorish things', it weakens the character. Perhaps one of the best moments of the show was the Seventh Doctor's clumsy dancing in Delta and the Bannermen. Perhaps the football scene reminded me of the Third Doctor embarassing the Brigadier by showing of his perfect knowledge of Chinese.

Craig's desire to see the Doctor leave is an interesting and very understandeable reaction. The Doctor could easily come across as just too wonderful. He is so much better at everything than you could ever be. How can you exist on an equal level to somebody like that?

Craig and Sophie's relationship just does not quite seem convicing. From the beginning they seem just too close and intimate, too perfect a couple for them to be stuck in the 'just friend's stage.'

The Doctor's imparting information to Craig by headbutting him seemed really stupid and annoying. We have never the Doctor do that before, so it seems odd he should try it now.

I am bothered by the Doctor's comments to Sophie about how she could do anything she wants. The truth is that we cannot all go out and explore the universe. We are limited by the circumstances in which we are placed. The Doctor has seen enough injustice, oppression and poverty to know this. To have the Doctor naievely suggesting that we can all go out and be adventurers weakens the progressive political message of Doctor Who.

Wednesday 9 June 2010

A Guide to Lovecraftian Themes in Doctor Who

H.P. Lovecraft (1880-1937) was an American writer who wrote short horror and science fiction stories, mostly for magazines. He was pretty obscure in his day, but has gathered a large cult following. He is best known for a loose canon of connected stories known as the Cthulhu Mythos.

I got into Lovecraft a few years ago. While I read his books, I felt a strange feeling of de ja vu. I realised that they reminded me of various Doctor Who stories. This lead me to return to my childhood enthusiasm for Doctor Who.

I don't know how familiar the writers of Doctor Who were with Lovecraft's work, but there is often a striking familiarity of theme between Doctor Who and Lovecraft's horrific fiction.

The New Adventure novels made very explicit references to the Cthulhu mythos, even going so far as to identify particular beings in the Whoniverse as equivalents of the Old Ones, the alien deities in Lovecraft's universe. According to the novel, Millennial Rites, the Old Ones are the Time Lord's of the universe that existed before the current universe and posess incredible power.

In this post, I will list the Lovecraftian themes in each Doctor Who story.

The Daleks

Mythos themes: Slimy Tentacled Horrors, Lost Civilizations, Unearthly Cities

Lost alien civilizations are the key theme of Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness. He also liked describing strange, ethereal cities. The Daleks features the unearthly metal city of the Daleks.

We only get a brief glimpse of the creature within the Dalek's metal casings, but it is clearly a typically Lovecraftian Slimy Tentacled Horror.

The Keys of Marinus

Mythos themes: Slimy Tentacled Horrors

The TARDIS crew enter a city controlled by tentacled brains.

The Web Planet

Mythos themes: Slimy Tentacled Horrors, Godlike/ Demonic Entities, Lost Civilizations

The animus is identified as the Old One, Lloigor in the New Adventure, All Consuming Fire. It posesses incredible power and is a Slimy Tentacled Horror.

The Menoptera have abandoned Vortis, giving us a Lost Civilization.

The Chase

Mythos themes: Slimy Tentacled Horrors, Unearthly Cities, Aquatic Beings

Aridus is populated by creatures that used to be aquatic when it was covered in oceans. These include Slimy Tentacled Horrors.

The Mechanoids live in a strange, ethereal city made of metal.

The Time Meddler

Mythos themes: Cosmic Insignificance

An important element in Lovecraft's writing is the notion that mankind is insignificant in its place within the cosmos and powerless before a range of unknowable cosmic powers.

The Dalek's Masterplan

Mythos themes: Godlike/ Demonic Entities, Mythology

Katarina considers the Doctor to be a god within her mythology. She calls the Dalek's 'evil ones'. When the ancient Egyptian soldiers encounter the Daleks, they describe them as 'evil gods.'

The Celestial Toymaker

Mythos themes: Godlike/ Demonic Entities

The Celestial Toymaker posesses godlike powers.

The Tenth Planet

Mythos themes: Lost Civilizations, Cosmic Insignificance

The entire earth is threatened by the return of the planet Mondas and its Cyberman inhabitants.

Mondas was known on earth in the distant past.

The Underwater Menace

Mythos themes: Aquatic Beings, Mythology, Lost Civilzations

Features the mythical lost city of Atlantis. It also features humans that have been turned into fish people that are rather like Lovecraft's Deep Ones.

The Macra Terror

Lovecraft's story The Whisperer in Darkness featured unseen crablike creatures that could disguise themselves as humans. The Macra Terror features a colony controlled by unseen (for most of the story) crablike creatures that hide behind a human image.

The Tomb of the Cybermen

Mythos themes: Lost Civilizations, Ancient Evil

The evil of the Cybermen is buried in a lost tomb on Telos.

The Abominable Snowman/ Web of Fear

Mythos themes: Godlike/ Demonic Entities

The alien entity, the Great Intelligence is identified in All Consuming Fire as the Old One Yog-Sothoth, mentioned in many of Lovecraft's works.

The Ice Warriors

Mythos themes: Reptilians, Lost Civilizations

Like the Elder Things of At the Mountains of Madness, the reptilian Ice Warriors have been buried under ice for a long time.

The Dominators

Mythos themes: Cosmic Insignificance

The Dominators want to turn Dulkiss into a source of fuel, caring nothing for its inhabitants.

The Krotons

Mythos themes: Godlike/ Demonic entities, Cosmic Insignificance

The humanoid Gond regard the alien Krotons as gods, or at least something close to that status. The Gond are simply slaves and pawns for the Krotons.

Spearhead From Space/ Terror of the Autons

Mythos themes: Slimy Tentacled Horrors, Godlike/ Demonic Entities, Cosmic Insignificance

The earth is threatened by terrible forces from outer space, namely the Nestenes (and the Master in Terror of the Autons).

The Nestenes are identified in All Consuming Fire as the children of Shub Niggurath, an Old One from the Cthulhu Mythos. When the Nestene appears in material form it is a tentacled creature.

Doctor Who and the Silurians

Mythos themes: Reptilians, Lost Civilizations, Cosmic Insignificance

Lovecraft describes a lost city of intelligent reptiles in The Nameless City. In this story, the Doctor encounters a lost reptilian civilization from prehistoric times.

Humanity is threatened by the revelation that it is not the first intelligent life-form to inhabit the earth.

The Ambassadors of Death

Mythos themes: Cosmic Insignificance

The earth is threatened by a largely unseen and mysterious alien race.

The Claws of Axos

Mythos themes: Slimy Tentacled Horrors, Godlike/ Demonic Entities, Cosmic Insignificance

A strange alien race nearly destroys the earth.

Although the powerful Axos creatures are Slimy Tentacled Horrors, they masquerade as angelic beings.

The Time Monster

Mythos themes: Mythology, Lost Civilizations, Godlike/ Demonic Entities

Features the lost civilization of Atlantis and a being from Greek mythology called Kronos.

The Daemons

Mythos themes: Godlike/ Demonic Entities, Mythology, Ancient Evil, Strange Cults

Doctor Who does not get more Lovecraftian than this story. Azal is a demonic and godlike being from the ancient past. He is identified with various mythological beings. He is worshipped by Satanic cults.

The Sea Devils

Mythos themes: Aquatic Beings, Lost Civilizations, Reptilians

Another lost reptilian civilization from earth's prehistoric past. This lot are from under the sea.

The Three Doctors

Mythos themes: Godlike/ Demonic Entities, Slimy Tentacled Horrors

Omega, once a Time Lord wields godlike power in his antimatter realm. His Gel Guards remind me of the Shoggoths in At the Mountains of Madness.

The Time Warrior

Mythos themes: Cosmic Insignificance

The people of the Medieval England is unaware of its place within a vast panorama of intergalactic warfare.

Planet of the Spiders

Mythos themes: Strange Cults, Godlike/ Demonic Entities

A strange Buddhist cult summons up strange demonic spiders from another time and planet. The queen of these spiders is called the Great One and posesses godlike power.

Terror of the Zygons

Mythos themes: Slimy Tentacled Horrors, Aquatic Beings, Mythology, Ancient Evil

The presence Zygons have affected the mythology of the Loch Ness area. They are slimy aquatic creatures and can disguise themselves as humans, like the Migo in Lovecraft's Whisperer in Darkness.

Planet of Evil

Mythos themes: Godlike/ Demonic Entities, Cosmic Insignificance

Features demonic beings from an antimatter universe. Material from the antimatter universe has the potential to destroy the matter universe.

Pyramids of Mars

Mythos themes: Godlike/ Demonic Beings, Strange Cults, Mythology, Ancient Evil, Cosmic Insignificance

A very Lovecraftian story. Sutekh is an alien who posesses godlike powers. He regards humans as worthless and intends to destroy all life on earth. He and his fellow Osirians have entered Egyptian mythology. Sutekh is worshipped by some humans.

The Brain of Morbius

Mythos themes: Ancient Evil, Strange Cults

Morbius is an evil Time Lord from ancient Gallifrey. He has a cult-like following.

Seeds of Doom

Mythos themes: Ancient Evil, Slimy Tentacled Beings

Like the Elder Things of At the Mountains of Madness, the Krynoid is buried under ice. This story is influenced by The Thing, by John Campbell, which was probably inspired by Lovecraft's antarctic tale.

Lovecraft had some vegetable monsters, his Migo are fungus creatures (despite also being crab-like) and his Elder Things have vegetable qualities.

The Masque of Mandragora

Mythos themes: Godlike/ Demonic Entities, Strange Cults, Mythology, Cosmic Insignificance

The Mandragora Helix is a strange alient intelligence that takes over the cult of the ancient god Demnos.

Human science in this story is shown to be utterly ignorant of the bizarre wonders of the Whoniverse.

The Hand of Fear

Mythos themes: Ancient Evil, Lost Civilizations

The alien Eldrad of Kastria survived only as an apparently fossilised hand; buried for long ages on earth.

The civilization of Kastria has been completely destroyed some time in the past.

Horror of Fang Rock

Mythos themes: Slimy Tentacled Horrors, Cosmic Insignificance

The jellyfishlike Rutan is typically Lovecraftian in appearance.

The earth is in danger of getting caught in the crossfire of the ancient Rutan-Sontaran conflict.

Image of the Fendahl

Mythos themes: Godlike/ Demonic Entities, Ancient Evil, Slimy Tentacled Horrors, Strange Cults, Lost Civilizations, Cosmic Insignificance

Another very Lovecraftian story. The Fendahl gestalt creature is almost a kind of god of death. It is worshipped by a secret cult. The planet of Fendahl was destroyed by the Time Lords in the distant past. The Fendahl played some role in the evolution of humanity.

The Ribos Operation

Mythos themes: Godlike/ Demonic Entities, Cosmic Insignificance

The Doctor is given a quest by the godlike White Guardian and is warned to beware of his opposite number, the Black Guardian.

The people of Ribos are utterly ignorant of the vastness of the cosmos.

The Pirate Planet

Mythos themes: Cosmic Insignificance

Whole worlds and their populations have been consumed by the pirate planet Xanak.

The Stones of Blood

Mythos themes: Godlike/ Demonic Entities, Mythology, Strange Cults

The alien Cessair of Diplos impersonated a goddess from Celtic mythology. She is worshipped by a Druidic cult.

The Power of Kroll

Mythos themes: Mythology, Slimy Tentacled Horrors, Strange Cults

The giant squid, Kroll, worshipped by the Delta Magnan natives reminds me a lot of Cthulhu.

City of Death

Mythos themes: Cosmic Insignificance, Mythology, Ancient Evil

The alien Jaggaroth created life on earth by accident, very much like the Elder Things of At the Mountains of Madness. The Jaggaroth appears to have entered Egyptian mythology.

The Creature from the Pit

Mythos themes: Slimy Tentacled Horrors

The creature in the pit appears to be a Slimy Tentacled Horror, though it turns out to be friendly.

Horns of Nimon

Mythos themes: Godlike/ Demonic Entities, Strange Cults

A gang of extradimensional entities moving from planet to planet, starting cults.

Full Circle

Mythos themes: Aquatic Beings, Cosmic Insignificance

The Marshmen are a bit like Lovecraft's Deep Ones. It turns out the Alzarians have evolved from the Marshmen. I can hear echoes of Shadow Over Innsmouth.

State of Decay

Mythos themes: Ancient Evil, Godlike/ Demonic Entities, Strange Cults

A cult of vampires worshipping the Ancient One, an evil creature that threatened the Time Lords in their dark time.

Kinda/ Snakedance

Mythos themes: Godlike/ Demonic Entities, Mythology

Features a demonic being called the Mara. In Snakedance, this is shown to play a role in the mythology of the planet Manussa.


Mythos themes: Godlike/ Demonic Entities

Features godlike beings called Eternals.

Twin Dilemma

Mythos themes: Slimy Tentacled Horrors, Godlike/ Demonic Entities, Mythology

The slug-like Gastropods were sent by the gods, according to the mythology of Joconda.

Remembrance of the Daleks/ Silver Nemesis

Mythos themes: Cosmic Insignificance

The earh is caught up in vast cosmic events.

Greatest Show in the Galaxy

Mythos themes: Godlike/ Demonic Entities

The Gods of Ragnarok are identified as Old Ones in All-Consuming Fire. The Doctor has fought them across time and space (perhaps he means the Old Ones in general). Perhaps the Celestial Toymaker is one. The novel Conundrum states that the Land of Fiction in the Mind Robber was created by the Gods of Ragnarok.


Mythos themes: Mythology, Godlike/ Demonic Entities, Cosmic Insignificance

The earth is caught up in events from beyond this universe. The Arthurian legends are of extra-dimensional origin. Morgaine summons up a demon, The Destroyer, who eats worlds.

Curse of Fenric

Mythos themes: Ancient Evil, Godlike/ Demonic Entities, Cosmic Insignificance

The evil god Fenric is identified as the Mythos deity Hastur in All-Consuming Fire.

Ace finds out that major events in her life have been manipulated by Fenric.

Tuesday 8 June 2010

The Pirate Planet

Continuing with their quest for the Key to Time, the Fourth Doctor and Romana 1 arrive on a mysterious planet.

The Ribos Operation is followed by another good story.

Despite a huge amount of technobabble, this story is fantastically scripted. It will surprise nobody that writer Douglas Adams opted for an extremely comic vibe, making it one of the most hilarious Doctor Who stories.

There are some minor things to complain about. The ending is a little confusing. The Mentiads are disappointingly dull (as are the inhabitants of Xanak). I am puzzled as to why the climate of Xanak does not change and become more like that of Callufraz. It is also irritating that the guards are hopeless marksmen, while the good characters always hit their targets. Nevertheless, the huge sense of fun makes up for all these faults. This is one of the most fun Dr. Who stories ever.

Tom Baker is in his element in this story, ever the comedian, yet still fierce in his confrontation with the Captain. Mary Tamm is as cool and delightfully aloof as she was in her debut. She works effectively as the Doctor's companion. Her posh girl status is reinforced by the revelation that she was given an air car for her 70th birhday.

Doctor Who is full of ranting villains, and they can get tiresome, but the ranting of the Captain is simply glorious. He rages, bullies, intimidates and utters curses about a 'sky demon'. The Doctor sums him up brilliantly:

"What is it you're really up to, eh? What do you want? You don't want to take over the universe do you? No. You wouldn't know what to do with it beyond shout at it."

Yet he is also deeply sentimental. He is deeply upset over the death of the metallic parrot, his 'only friend.' He also grieves over hte death of Mr. Fibuli, who he had mercilessly bullied and threatened with death. The Captain also turns out to be a lot cleverer than he appears.

Doctor Who villains are often paired with a lieutenant which makes for superb double acts like Davros and Nider and Irongron and Bloodaxe. The Captain is paired up with the hilariously camp Mr. Fibuli. While Mr. Fibuli attracts our sympathy as a victim of the Captain's bullying, he reveals his cruel streak when he smiles with glee when the Doctor is apparently made to walk the plank.

While Queen Xanxia is not the most impressive performance in the story, her role is used highly effectively, with her appearance as the nurse increasingly becoming prominent as the story progresses.

The set for the Captain's HQ is very impressive.

The Pirate Planet is a very entertaining story.

Sunday 6 June 2010

Vincent and the Doctor

The Doctor and Amy meet Vincent Van Gogh and an invisible monster.

This is not an historical Doctor Who story, it is an episode about an historical character. As it is all focused on one character, there is not a huge room for much of a plot or for other characters and this is reflected in the quality of the story.

Before you get halfway through this story, you know what is going to happen. The Doctor and Amy meet Vincent Van Gogh, they will confront a monster, Vincent Van Gogh will be saved and as you might guess, they show him his future greatness. Not much room there for an interesting story. No room for us to see the Doctor dealing with an impossible situation and interacting with a range of characters. With the one-story episode format, it is inevitable that you get pithy stories like this. Maybe on some level this works, but it does not feel like classic Doctor Who. Particularly irritating was the Doctor's inability to defeat the monster. It weakens his character too much.

Although the scene with Van Gogh being taken to the art museum to see his own work being celebrated was quite moving, it was all horribly sentimental. It seems that Van Gogh brings out everybody's sentimental side.

I find it difficult to see Van Gogh as the greatest artist ever, as this story seems to advocate. I think a good deal of the enthusiasm for Van Gogh is rather infantile. He is an artist who appeals to the juvenile tastes of the times.

Tony Curran does a decent enough job of portraying the tortured artist. Its nice to see Doctor Who dealing with mental illness in a sensitive way.

I am a little bothered by the Doctor's conclusion that the face in the picture must be 'evil.' Since when has the Doctor put so much stock on appearances? The monster is one of the better monsters of the new series. I am just bothered that the Doctor could not come up with a way to foil it.

Thursday 3 June 2010

The Android Invasion

The Kraal are planning to invade earth using androids and/or a deadly virus.

This is my least favorite story of the Tom Baker era. Give me Creature from the Pit, Underworld or even The Invisible Enemy. This story is just rubbish.

I found this so tedious to watch. It has some really lazy, generic storywriting.

There is simply no decent plot. So much of this story makes no sense. What is the point of the fake English village? Why do the Kraal build androids when they could just drop the virus and let that kill off humanity? How could Crayford possibly be fooled into thinking he is missing an eye? What about the Kraal invasion fleet?

The Kraal look decent enough visually, but they are typically boring militaristic types. There is some nice location work in the English countryside and Milton Johns at least puts in a decent performance as Crayford.

It is nice to see Ian Marter again as Harry Sullivan, but this just reminds the viewer how heavily this story draws on Terror of the Zygons.

The Phillip Hinchcliffe years were simply not as good as some fans make out.