Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The First Doctor Part 2

If only Garfield was this.

I'm going through classic Doctor Who Doctor by Doctor highlighting some of the important things.

The Romans

I remember enjoying this one, but present it mostly for varieties sake.  The Romans is another pure historical, but this time the show uses a historical setting as a backdrop for comedic farce instead of serious violent history type things.  The TARDIS grants The Doctor not only the ability to travel anywhere in time or space, but frees The Doctor from fixed genre constraints.  I don’t really watch shows about sex/murder detectives in Miami, but I have a pretty good idea what those kind of shows are all about (solving sex/murder cases in the Greater Miami area.)  Doctor Who on the other hand can be a comedy, action, horror, or whatever else is wants to be.

In this serial it kind-of-sort-of seems like Barbara and Ian are maybe kind of into each other (if you know what I mean.)  It would be only natural for two people from a similar background, forced into life or death situations miles and years from home to fall in love.  And maybe they did, but the issue is never addressed directly or really at all.  I’m all for keeping Doctor Who family friendly, but it was weirder not to talk about.  We’ll get into it more later, but the original series maintained this creepily asexual tone throughout the rest of its 25 year run, at times crossing into dude-that-doesn’t-jackoff-or-use-contractions-when-speaking territory.
Nero is burning Rome, and hilarity ensues

The Web Planet

Speaking of variety, this serial is about as weird as the show ever got.  I didn’t like it that much, but it’s certainly worth mentioning.
Yup, pretty much

The Time Meddler

Remember those beer commercials where two guys would be at a bar arguing whether to watch C-Span or Kung-Fu movies?  Well the joke was that they’d resolve the conflict by hitting the TV with a beer and watching “both,” so like there’d be congressmen karate chopping each other’s heads off and gauging eyes to the delight of all bar the patrons.  The Time Meddler did that for Doctor Who.  It was the first historical with sci-fi elements, which would become the show’s bread and butter over the next fifty years.  The titular Time Meddler is also the second Time Lord in the show’s history after The Doctor.  Thus begins the canon of the Whoniverse.
Other entries include sumo high-diving & fish baseball

The War Machines

Remember how I said that The Doctor was kind of a borderline malevolent asshole when the show started?  Well they’d softened him up throughout the first few seasons, adding things like humour (British misspelling) and empathy to his character.  By this point Ian And Barbara were gone and The Doctor was firmly the main character of his own show.  War Machines was the next big step, the first time the Doctor fought the bad guys just because it was the right thing to do.  From War Machines onward The Doctor is a hero.  I think it’s cool Doctor Who had an organic transition from crotchety, cowardly, selfish old man to hero and not some hero-cycle rubbed in the ground bullshit.  The Doctor’s new role also provided new motivation for the TARDIS crew to stick around once they landed rather than getting captured over and over again.
" the War Machine Keeps turning. Death and Hatred to mankind poisoning their brainwashed minds..."
The Tenth Planet

I’ve never seen this one, and neither has anyone else in a long long time.  Apparently back in the 1970’s VHS tapes were pretty expensive, so the BBC took old tapes of Doctor Who and recorded over them.  For those that grew up in the VHS era: imagine your mom taped over part of your copy of Ghostbusters with LA Law, only the copy she taped over was the master tape so the beginning of Ghostbusters is gone forever and instead we have Jimmy Smits pretending to be a lawyer on every copy in existence.
Of course some things could probably just get taped over.

The Tenth Planet was also the first Cybermen story and the first regeneration story.  When I started watching the classic series in order I was in a hurry to get through the First Doctor, and get to the colour version of the show I remember watching as a kid, but I ended up missing the First Doctor much more than I originally anticipated.

We'll get into it more with the second Doctor and episodes I've actually seen, but the Cybermen used to be creepy as fuck.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The First Doctor Part 1

Not quite a George Washington, not quite a skullet.  Great hair though.

I watched the episodes of the classic series I could easily get my hand on in more or less chronological order.  I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the same approach.  It’s not that the First Doctor’s era is bad, but it’s very different from the show on the telly (British slang!) today, not to mention modern telly-vision.  Also, the episodes frequently descended into members of the Tardis crew getting captured, rescued by the rest of the crew, who themselves get captured.  Fortunately the people originally captured are now free to liberate the recently captured.  I felt dirty padding out a paragraph with that sentence.  The early writers of Doctor Who sometimes felt comfortable stretching that sentence into 2-3 episodes.

Serials of note (Some good, some not as good.  Read the description):

 An Unearthly Child

Doctor Who begins with  history teacher, Barbara Wright, and a science teacher, Ian Chesterton, discussing brilliant, but weird student named Susan Foreman.  They decide to figure out what her game is, so they follow her home to the now familiar police box.  They go inside, and in a real dick move the Doctor decides he can’t let them leave, so he takes them back to 100,000 B.C. and the rest, as they say, is history.

The most amazing thing about the first serial is how little it has in common with the modern series or indeed the rest of the classic series.  For one thing the Doctor is a selfish asshole, not the hero we’ve come to expect.  More to the point the Doctor isn’t even the main character; the whole thing is from Barbara and Ian’s point of view, and not just in a clever Moffat-y “get to-know-the-new-Doctor” sort of way.  Although the show firmly became The Doctor’s by the end of the first Doctor’s run, most of the early serials focus on the companions. 

It’s also noteworthy that the aforementioned Susan Foreman is The Doctor’s granddaughter?  This would seem to imply that The Doctor also has at least one child, and by extension The Doctor has also fucked.  None of this has ever been touched on again in the classic series or the new.  I only bring it up because it’s weird as shit.
The Doctor's granddaughter
The Daleks

This serial is sort of a generic “monster of the week” affair, but the monster in this case happened to be the iconic Dalaks.  While the plot is most notable for being the very first “monster of the week” Doctor Who story the design of the Daleks was an instant success, and Dalekmania took the UK by storm.  As important as the Daleks are to the show’s mythos, they’re even more important as the show’s first big hit.  Instead of being “that sci-fi show”  Doctor Who became “that sci-fi show with the Daleks.”  Other than the debut of the Daleks this story is just kind of meh.
This picture is awesome
The Aztecs *available on Netflix*

Doctor Who originally began with an educational agenda (hence the two schoolteachers.) Part of the original idea is that Doctor Who would travel to historical places and sciencey sci-fi places to teach kids about history and…Daleks I guess.  The historical serials were straight-up history with no sci-fi elements, save time travel, thrown in. You don’t have to worry about talking space-pumpkins or werewolves in Aztec times because there were goddamned Aztecs there practicing human sacrifice.  Serials of this type eventually went the way of the Aztec’s themselves, but I still think there’s room on the show for a little realistic culture shock horror.  Also, The Doctor kind-of, sort-of has a girlfriend in this episode, which is about as close as he comes to having a girlfriend until the new series.  This serial also establishes that you can’t change history, an antecedent to the fixed point nonsense of the current series 
Barbara as an Aztec God.  If someone asks if you/re a God you say yes.

1st Doctor Part Deux coming right up.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Classic Doctor Who: Intro to the Classic Series

Well it’s finally happened; that weird British sci-fi show I used to watch on PBS in preschool and early grammar school has become a pop-culture phenomenon.  Doctor Who is bigger on both sides of the pond than it’s ever been before.  Time was, people didn’t even know to make fun of me for watching Doctor Who, because they had no idea what the hell it was. Nowadays, there’s more Doctor Who merchandise for sale at the mall than Duck Dynasty or maybe even The Big Bang Theory.
If this game is about murdering the cast to The Big Bang Theory I will definitely buy it
Since the series’ rebirth I’ve heard a number of Nu-Whovians express interest in the classic series.  As someone who has seen nearly every episode I thought I could provide some unique insight to those looking to either watch old Doctor Who or just read about it a little bit.  Also , it just gives me an excuse to talk about Doctor Who, my favorite thing to talk about other than women of Doctor Who.
Nicola Bryant: Classic series, classic babe
A few things you should keep in mind before attempting to watch the classic series:

1. Each story in the classic series was aired as a serial

In their original transmission the episodes were about half as long as those of the new series, and while there was the occasional two-parter, most serials were 4 to 6 parts with some as long as twelve parts.  Basically, I’m saying you shouldn’t try to just sit down and watch any of these as a 2hr+ movie.  Each episode has its own arc and (sometimes retarded) cliffhanger ending, which seems kind of weird back to back.  The Doctor is drowning!  Now he’s not.   Some stuff happens.  Now he’s falling off a cliff!  Etc.  Plot holes and pacing issues between episodes also become much more apparent when watched back to back, as opposed to their original weekly viewings in a pre-VHS/DVR/digital streaming/bittorrent era.
The series didn't start receiving commercial home video release until 1983, but it also still does?  Who the fuck is buying VHS in 2014?
2. Low Production Values

Remember how a lot of special effects in the Eccleston era kind of sucked?  Well imagine if your high school drama department was trying to recreate those same effects.  If you don’t have a healthy suspension-of-disbelief you might want to avoid the classic series entirely.
The Myrka is a low-point, even by Classic Dr.Who standards, but still...Look at that fucking thing.
3.  Some serials are really fucking bad.

Fear Her is certainly one of the weaker episodes of the new series, but you don’t know what bad TV is until you see The Twin Dilemma, Warriors of the Deep, or Vern Troyer eating a bunch of mice.  The last one didn’t happen on the show, but it would’ve been bad TV regardless.    
"Double your pleasure."

My plan is to go through the original series Doctor by Doctor and highlight some of the important episodes, some of the good episodes (not always the same thing), and some of the things I just happened to like about each Doctor and his companion AND tie it all back to the new series. 
Speaking of the new series...