The Blue Box Blog

Emma Lou's adventures in Doctor Who fandom

Archive for December, 2011

Doctor Who “The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe” Review

Posted by emmahyam on December 26, 2011

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE EPISODE AND ALL OTHER CHRISTMAS SPECIALS

The Christmas Special as a concept is stuck in a weird catch 22 position, does it go for a intense, plot driven episode which is very much part of the overarching mythos or does it try a fluffier, more simplistic story?  The Doctor Who Christmas Special, despite only being in its seventh year has become enshrined as “traditional” now in the UK and Steven Moffat’s previous Christmas episode effort definitely favoured being “Christmassy” rather than just another episode that was the norm in RTD’s reign. This years effort was more of the same from Moffat’s preferred Christmas story telling, with “The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe” being a standalone, simplistic tale with and strong emotional core at its heart.

While the story itself was probably too simplistic for its own good, lacking in Moffat’s usual head scratching plot twists and favouring the crowd-pleasing ending of having Alexander Armstrong’s character being saved its emotional center and the outstanding cast carried the day to result in probably the most satisfying Christmas Special to date. It was funny yet heartbreaking without being maudlin, the story worked well and the effects work, particularly the wooden King and Queen, who were eerily effective.

The credit for the episode’s overall success must go to Claire Skinner as Madge Arwell, who was utterly compelling as a heartbroken mother desperately trying to keep Christmas sacred for her children and deal with the grief of cruelly losing her husband to war, she hit every note perfectly, in particular the scene where she is forced to witness her husbands death brought tears to my eyes. The two actors playing her children must also be recognized, I loved Maurice  as Cyril, being very believable as a kid mostly stunned into wide eyed silence. Matt Smith is always so good that these days you take his excellent performances for granted, the scene at the very end where he wipes away an all too human happy tear upon being reunited with The Pond’s was simply beautiful. If I have a complaint about the episode is that it almost seem to go by too quickly, the hour absolutely tore past at breakneck speed, Bill Bailey, Arabella Weir and Paul Bazely seemed to be barely on screen as the three tree harvesters from Androzani Major (a very pleasing shout out for us old hands, along with a lovely reference to the Forest of Cheem) and so it sadly seemed like a waste to cast them at all.

It is surprising, looking back on previous Christmas Specials how important they have been to the larger world of Doctor Who, take for example “The Christmas Invasion”, it establishes David Tennant as The Doctor, sees one of the first glimpses of Torchwood in action and prematurely ends Harriet Jones’ reign as Prime Minister, opening the door to The Master’s eventual take over of the world two seasons later. Even “A Christmas Carol”, on the face of it a fluffy modern interpretation of the classic Dicken’s tale has proven to be immensely important, establishing the eleventh Doctor’s willingness to use time travel to manipulate people to his own benefit and obliquely setting up The Silence, don’t believe me?  Go back and listen to Katherine Jenkins’ song at the end, doesn’t she say Silence a lot? In particular the line “when you’re alone/Silence is all you’ll know” seems pretty haunting in retrospect. So this being said what can we infer is coming for series 7? For me The Doctor’s assertion to Madge that he can’t feel as deeply as she does sticks out for as a possible future plot point, also the episodes underlying theme of motherhood and strength is ripe for further exploration, Amy Pond referring to River Song with a very maternal “shes a good girl!” is full of potential.

In summary, “The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe” was perfect Christmas fare, emotional and beautifully made and for us ubernerds, full of intrigue for the future as the long wait for series 7 begins.

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Top Ten: 10 Mad Fan Theories (That Might Actually Be True)

Posted by emmahyam on December 9, 2011

Doctor Who has been with us now for 48 years and naturally in a show with such a long run somethings just don’t make sense. With thousands of hours of televised adventures, hundreds of novels and audio plays, some considered canonical, some not. Some events enshrined into accepted continuity and then retconned back out, some gaps will appear or indeed things that the fans plain just don’t like will be enforced by the producers. Where they do fan theories will step in to fill the holes, here are my top ten favourites, of course your mileage will vary about how convincing they are, as always please read with caution as there be SPOILERS below…

10) The “Five Peri’s” Theory.

After the revelation of Peri’s fate in “Trial of a Timelord” what subsequently happens to her has become somewhat of a mystery with various novels and audio plays either trying to entirely retcon the bizarre decision to marry her off to Yrcanos or have her leave him and somehow get back to Earth. The recent audio play “Peri and the Piscon Paradox” has proposed the idea that there are no fewer than five versions of poor old Peri in existence due to the Time Lords interference in her personal time line, one who was killed in “Mindwarp”, one who married Yrcanos, an older version who only remembers the events of “Planet of Fire” and two others of which nothing is known.

9) The War Chief is a prior regeneration of the Master.

The War Chief is a powerful renegade Time Lord, during the events of “The War Games” he conspires with a very powerful alien race bringing his knowledge of time travel and hypnosis to the table, sound familiar? In terms of personality The War Chief certainly could be the Master, hes arrogant, ambitious, lusts for power and exhibits a fondness for elaborate facial hair. The idea that The War Chief is in fact an earlier incarnation of the Master certainly hold some weight on this basis, the idea first came about when “The Doctor Who Role Playing Game” claimed that The Meddling Monk, The War Chief and The Master were all different incarnations of the same Time Lord. This idea has been accepted as unofficial canon and then contradicted in equal measure with some novels using it as an established fact and some directly stating that this is not the case.

8 ) The Doctor was being metaphorical when he said he was half-human.

This idea originated in fan circles in reaction to the Eighth Doctor’s statement that he was “half human on his mothers side” in the TV Movie. The TV Movie aka “The Enemy Within” presented many problems with canon to say the least but The Doctor coming out with this ‘revelation’ lead to fandom nearly imploding with rage. The implications of The Doctor not being entirely Time Lord were massive, how did he regenerate? How was he brought up Gallifrey if he was partially human? Who on Earth was his mother? The questions raised seemed endless, however a way out presented itself by dismissing the statement as being entirely factious. The Doctor, especially in his later incarnations, is a pretty sarcastic and the king of the wind up and as such the remark can be interpreted as affectionate or a joke. Just as the Eleventh Doctor’s remark to Clyde in The Sarah Jane Adventures episode “Death of the Doctor” that he can regenerate 507 times has been filed under “disregard as joke” by fandom so has The Doctor’s claim to half-humanity.

7) Time Lords only gain their second heart after their first regeneration.

When the first Doctor claims to Ian Chesterton that he is not from Earth, the long suffering science teacher puts his ear to the Doctors chest… and hears nothing unusual, the Doctor must only have one heart beating. We know from the third doctor that having two hearts is the norm for Time Lords, his medical tests during “Spearhead From Space” confirm it and many times since then it has been explicitly stated or shown, after all the seventh Doctor is killed because of Grace’s misunderstanding of his binary hearts. So something must change between the first and third Doctors, the most popular explanation is that a Time Lord only gains a second heart once they’ve regenerated for the first time.

6) Claire Bloom’s character in “The End of Time” is The Doctor’s mother.

The mystery of who exactly Claire Bloom’s character is in “The End of Time” will probably never be resolved on screen and as such the wild speculation as to her precise identity began almost as soon as the credits rolled on the episode. The most popular explanation amongst fans is that she is The Doctor’s mother, in his book “The Writers Tale” Russell T Davies stated that this was his thinking behind the character but he left it deliberately ambiguous. The tenth Doctor’s reaction to her certainly backs up the hypothesis but now RTD has left the series and he did not give an in-episode explanation she could be given any number of alternative identities. Other popular alternative identities include Romana, Susan, Susan’s mother (i.e. The Doctor’s biological daughter), Jenny or even Chancellor Flavia the former Time Lord President.

5) The Third Doctor has a prisoner tattoo

In the third Doctor’s first episode “Spearhead From Space” we are treated to the sight of the Doctor getting out of the shower, while he holding a towel a tattoo of a cobra can be seen on his right forearm (see picture above) in reality the tattoo was Jon Pertwee’s which he got during his days in the navy. No explanation was ever given on screen but the novel “Christmas on a Rational Planet” and fandom at large theorised that it was a criminal brand given to him by the Time Lords and that once they rescinded his exile they stopped it appearing on his next regeneration. A possible interesting (but quite tangential) moment in “The Doctor’s Wife” that could lend the theory further credence is that The Doctor’s fellow Time Lord The Corsair wears a tattoo on all his/her regenerations, a Oroborus, a snake eatings its own tail. When The Doctor discovers it on Auntie the tattoo is on the left arm, is it possible that The Corsair was also a criminal and first given that mark by the Time Lords?

4) The fifth Doctor is the final incarnation of the original Doctor. The Sixth Doctor is a reincarnation, and the beginning of a new 13 body lifecycle.

In the episode “The Brain of Morbius” The Doctor challenges the renegade Time Lord Morbius to an ancient, dangerous Time Lord challenge, a Mind Bending Contest (see picture above). They square up at the machine and The Doctor’s previous incarnations flash up on a screen, the third, the second, the first… and then an unfamiliar face flashes up, then another and another as Morbius screams “back! Back through your past!” Eight in all flash by. If all those faces were previous Doctors then that means that the person who we all thought was the fourth Doctor is actually the twelfth! When the fifth Doctor (or should that be thirteenth?) regenerates he says “it feels different this time” and then transforms into the sixth Doctor… or begins a brand new lifecycle and is in fact the first Doctor… again. This theory has also been used to explain the sixth Doctor’s unhinged behavior and total confusion. This theory has been utterly debunked by virtually every other piece of Doctor Who canon, “The Brain of Morbius” was written some time before the 13 regeneration limit was established and the series (especially post 2005) has gone to great pains to establish that The Doctor we are watching is either the ninth, tenth or eleventh and that William Hartnell was the very first Doctor. The faces that we see in the mind bending machine have been explained away as being previous faces of Morbius and that he was just ranting when he said “how long have you lived?”… or was he?

3) The Time War was the cause of the 8th Doctor regenerating into the 9th.

This is an idea that has now been generally accepted into the canon, the tenth Doctor implies in “Journey’s End” that the ninth Doctor was “born into battle”, its easy to imagine the eighth Doctor sacrificing himself to time lock the Daleks and Time Lords and leaving an emotionally scarred, newly regenerated ninth Doctor to walk away. This is one of the theories that will probably be an accepted albeit unstated part of the canon until we get an alternative presented on screen.

2) Series 6b

This is the big one, the granddaddy of all fan theories, first raised by Paul Cornell, writer of Doctor Who novels, audio plays and episodes for the new series. It explains continuity discrepancies in the Second Doctor’s life as it expands on televised Doctor Who canon and places new adventures for the Second Doctor between The War Games and the first appearance of the Third Doctor at the start of Spearhead from Space. There are two continuity errors in “The Two Doctors” which can only explained by the existence of a series 6b where The Doctor was working for the Time Lords, firstly why the second Doctor and Jamie look visibly older and secondly why the Doctor had a remote controlled TARDIS which no other Doctor has had before or since. Despite series 6b being a neat explanation it also raises plenty of problems on its own if accepted as part of official canon.

1) The “Take 5” Theory.

This theory proposes that every incarnation of the Doctor is most like the incarnation that came five changes previously, so the sixth Doctor is like the first Doctor, the seventh is like the second, the eighth is like the third and so on. On the face of it this theory makes quite a lot of sense, for instance the seventh Doctor is a mysterious trickster of short stature who people constantly underestimate, quite like the second doctor. The theory seems especially convincing in the case of the tenth and fifth Doctors, just watch “Time Crash” which is essentially ten minute long proof of this theory in action! Unfortunately this theory hits a major roadblock in the fourth and ninth Doctors as the ninth Doctor could not be further removed from the fourth Doctor if you tried, I await the twelfth incarnation of the Doctor with baited breath, if only to see if they’re anything like the seventh Doctor…

Have you got any strange theories? What do you think of these ones? Let me know in the comments!

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