Tuesday, 25 June 2019

BOOK OF LISTS: TOP 5 TWO-TIMERS - NUMBER FOUR

Counting down the five best characters who have made two appearances on the show. This one goes back to those very early days...

SOMEONE FROM 60s WHO: 

With half of his footage purged, the fact that I still like this character so much speaks volumes about his effectiveness. Professor Edward Travers is a great recurring character who deserves all the kudos he gets. He is very fondly remembered by fans who were around when the episodes were originally transmitted. But what exists in telesnaps and audio and actual episodes that are still intact is enough to get us younger fans to agree with all the fuss. He's half-decently written (particularly in Web of Fear), but the quality of Jack Watling's performance is what really gets him to work so well.

Watling seems obviously happy to be working with his daughter on a major TV show. This seems to get him to really turn on the charm for Travers. He's so good in the role that we have to see him again. And in that return appearance, Watling does a great job of giving us a much older version of the character we first saw. Which, to me, is one of the greatest appeals of Travers. The age jump does come across as very convincing. We sincerely believe this is the same man 40 years later.


FIRST APPEARANCE - MAKING PROBLEMS

We must truly marvel at Watling in The Abominable Snowmen. Truthfully, he's not given much. I do sincerely believe that writers Haisman and Lincoln recognized that 6 episodes was a lot to fill for a plot that was just about Yeti and a Tibetan monastery. They needed to bring in some extra conflict to pad things out. Along comes Travers - conveniently on a Yeti hunt just as the TARDIS arrives. He immediately mistakes the Doctor for murdering his friend and gets the Time Lord incarcerated by the monks. Which immediately slows down the first two episodes as we deal with the unraveling of the whole case of mistaken identity. Once that's resolved, Travers creates more complications as he sneaks out of the monastery in Episode Three. Giving the story more padding.

And yet, even though he is blatantly put into the story to help with a plotting issue, Watling is still able to put a lot of meat on the bones. That sequence in Episode One where he torments the Doctor in his cell is a great example of the man's acting chops. Even with the scene now only existing in pictures and audio, Watling really delivers a very emotional moment that shines through in his voice and the limited expressions we see of him. He is a man at wit's end. And, even though he's creating problems in the Doctor's life, we feel sorry for him. In less capable hands, the speech he gives about the ridicule he's received for believing in the Yeti might not have made us so attached to him. And, if we hadn't grown so attached to him, there might not have been a second appearance. It's Watlings ability to find such moments and give them all their worth that makes us love him so much and want to see more of him.

But we shouldn't pick on the writers too hard. They do build a few things into the character that help us to like him all the more. In Episode Two, Travers offers a sincere apology when he realizes the mistake he's made about the Doctor attacking his friend. Again, Watling pounces on this opportunity and plays it for all it's worth. But Haisman and Lincoln could have easily crafted the scene differently and made Travers less likeable. Travers could have been one of those people that are too proud to apologize but the writers chose not to go that way with him. They didn't just want a plot cypher. They wanted to give him a few layers and endear him to the audience. 


FIRST APPEARANCE - BECOMING USEFUL

As we get into the later episodes of Abominable Snowmen, Travers shifts gears. He goes from plot complication to useful ally. It is that shift in tone with the character that truly makes us like him. Had he just continued being a thorn in the Doctor's side, we would definitely not have craved a return appearance.

Again, he's not given all that much to work with during certain parts. Episode Four sees him just following Yeti while hiding behind rocks. In Episode Five, he's mainly just struggling with memory loss. Yet, once more, Watling does the best with what he's been handed. As Travers and the Doctor sneak out of the monastery at the end of Part Five to get that all-important second reading to locate the source of the Yeti transmissions, note how Watling latches on to the courage his character is showing and plays it for all its worth. 

Finally, Episode Six sees Travers truly swinging into action. He forms his own plot strand for a while as he tries to climb up the mountain to face where he believes the real threat to be. When that fails, he returns to the monastery to try to help the Doctor and passes onto him the one shred of knowledge that will truly enable him to win. He's evolved from plot complication to story resolution. But, along the way, he's bestowed with some considerable charm through Watling's performance. As he notices what appears to be a "real Yeti" in the distance while walking the Doctor and friends back to the TARDIS, we can't help but wish him the best of luck.


THE WEB OF A SECOND APPEARANCE

When Edward Travers returns in Web of Fear, he's a very different man. 40 years or so has made him immensely more entertaining. The moodily-shot opening scene establishes that the heroic adventurer we first met in Abominable Snowmen has turned into quite the eccentric. Watling is totally unafraid to go for the laughs during that scene and it makes an adorable juxtaposition against all the creepy stuff that's meant to be going on at the same time. As we see him again in the first episode, the comedy continues. We love it when he intentionally gives Chorley a soundbyte he knows he can't use.

With all his quirky behavior (and even his eccentric costume) Travers almost begins to rival the Doctor for the coveted position of Most Interesting Character in the Story. He's just great fun to watch. Haisman and Lincoln seem to be almost conscious of that and start sidelining him more and more as the tale continues. At one point, Travers disappears for an entire episode. When he does return, he's the mouthpiece of the Great Intelligence for quite a while. All of this robs Watling of the opportunity to keep charming us the way he did in the earlier episodes.

No matter, though. Watling, once more, grabs on to whatever he can and acts his little heart out. The fact that one of the cliffhangers is Travers in danger as opposed to the Doctor or a companion speaks volumes of the attachment we've formed for him. We sincerely hope that he'll be okay when the Great Intelligence is done using him. It's a relief when he is restored to his normal self.

Once more, the character is given a touch of humility to make him more likeable. In the same way that he sincerely apologizes to the Doctor for the mistake he made in Abominable Snowmen, Travers confesses deep guilt for re-activating a control sphere and causing the whole disaster that beset London. It's a nice moment that gives the cranky old professor a bit more dimension than just the comic relief he was providing in earlier episodes.  Once more, the writing and the performance rounds out the character beautifully.

FINAL VERDICT

Admittedly, a certain amount of narrative expediency may have prompted the return of Travers. Bringing back someone who knew the Doctor during his first battle against the Great Intelligence makes it easier for him to be accepted among the group that is fighting his second attack (which, only later, would we realize is actually his third attack - if you want this statement to make better sense read this: https://robtymec.blogspot.com/2018/09/chronologies-and-timelines-great.html ). But, once more, Travers is not just a plot cypher. Enough is added to the character through writing and performance that he ends up being one of the most loved of all the recurring characters that we've seen in the show.

It is just a little bit sad that we don't get the third appearance of Travers that is implied in The Invasion. It would have been great to see the Good Professor and his daughter one more time (even if it would have eliminated him from this countdown!). But the character does get quite thoroughly examined during his first two tales. Particularly since such a huge gap of time occurs between the two appearances. Thanks to the brilliance of Watling's acting - we can see how the younger heroic man of action becomes the wacky eccentric of later years. In fact, it all seems quite seamless. 



Well, it took me quite some time to get this entry written. My actual career seemed to get in the way of things, again (if only I could just blog about Doctor Who all the days of my life - I would be so much more content!). July slows down considerably for me. I should get the rest of this countdown done during that month. 

Here is the first installment: 
https://robtymec.blogspot.com/2019/06/book-of-lists-top-5-two-timers-number.html

















Monday, 3 June 2019

BOOK OF LISTS: TOP 5 TWO TIMERS - NUMBER FIVE

With a constant theme of the TARDIS going somewhere new and different almost every week, we've been lucky to get a little bit of consistency thrown in now and again. Sometimes, the Doctor returns to a location he's been to before to enjoy a second visit. Like, say, the human/monoid colony ship, or Peladon, or even Satellite Five. 

But I find what makes the series more enjoyable is when he runs into the same character for a second time. There's been some nice returning good guys like Professor Travers or Rigsy. And there's been some very nice baddies, too. Like Lytton (who ended up being a bit of a good guy in the second story) and the Lady Cassandra (who also kind of turned nice toward the end too). I like to refer to characters like these as two-timers. Not because they've double-crossed the Doctor in some way (or, maybe, cheated on him?!). But because we see them twice in the show. 

Lots of interesting stuff has been done with these sort of characters because they were allowed two appearances. I have a special fondness for them. Which is why I felt it was time to do a BOOK OF LISTS where I list my five favorites. 


NUMBER FIVE: SOMEONE FROM THE NEW SERIES

The obvious intention with Craig Owens is comic relief. Both the character and the stories he starred in were meant to be lighter. Episodes with Craig are placed near the end of the season so that we get just a little rest from the intensity that is building up as we near the finale. It's a very smart choice on Moff's part to plot a series that way.

James Corden was the most brilliant choice for the part. It was a sheer stroke of casting luck.The guy just excels at being funny. Even in the smallest of details. I love how, during his opening scene in The Lodger, he realizes his night with Sophie is off and finds the funniest possible way to throw out a pizza menu. Seriously, watch the scene over. That pizza menu is disposed of in the most hilarious of fashions. That's just how good he is.

Naturally enough, if he can create comedic impact with most insignificant of gestures, the stuff that's really meant to be funny is done with amazing finesse. Corden is obviously a genius at making people laugh. The fact that he would later go on to host one of the most successful late night talk shows, ever, definitely cements this notion. You don't hand someone a show like that unless they know their stuff. Particularly since it's an American show. James Corden might have been well known in Britain, but no one in the States knew much about him when he was appointed host. It was his sheer talent that gained him the job - not so much his celebrity power.

Of course, part of being good at comedy is recognizing the abilities of the people you're playing off of. Matt Smith can be quite the Master of Silliness, himself. Corden takes stock of that and does an excellent job of sparking off of him. Sometimes even playing Straight Man and setting up Smith for some great jokes rather just trying to nail all the punchlines and not giving his co-star much to work with. This is another mark of a truly gifted comedian: knowing when to enjoy the Spotlight and when to offer support to someone else who is in it.

I particularly enjoy the fact that Closing Time really recognizes the strength of this duo and creates multiple opportunities for the Doctor and Craig to just be a double act. The two characters spend a lot more time in two hander scenes during Closing Time than they do in The Lodger. We really get to enjoy just how well the two work together. Take the sequence where they sneak into the shop after close. Had that not been Smith and Corden, there would have probably just been a quick establishing shot of the Doctor and Craig ducking down as George the Security Guard strolls past. Perhaps a snippet of dialogue would have transpired with the Doctor warning Craig to be quiet and then we move on to the next scene. But, because the writer knew who he was writing the dialogue for, he takes full of advantage of the comedy he can mine from them. Craig and the Doctor creeping along behind the counter goes on for quite some time. But we don't notice. Because these two actors are making the best of the jokes they've been given. And we're thoroughly amused by them.



NOT JUST COMEDY

Now, if Craig were there strictly for comic relief, he probably wouldn't have made this list. The real beauty of this character is that both the episodes he's in hinge on the fact that Craig must grow as a character. In The Lodger, he must finally overcome his fear of rejection and confess his love to Sophie. It's particularly brilliant that the story will resolve very badly if he doesn't. I found myself legitimately cheering as the Doctor seems to echo the sentiment of Sebastian the Crab and hollers at Craig:"kiss the girl!". We're not just happy that this crashed time ship is going to stop murdering people, we're equally content that Craig and Sophie - two characters we've only met a mere 40 minutes earlier - are finally falling in love. This says a lot about the acting skills of both performers involved. But, the truth of the matter is, we've fallen so much in love with Craig, ourselves, that we're glad to see him overcome his shyness and win over the woman of his dreams.

Naturally enough, we needed Craig to do something even better in Closing Time. Gareth Roberts seemed very much aware of this as he penned this second tale. He's moved the character along a bit and presented him with an even bigger challenge. He's trying to be a Dad, now. But the fumbling bachelor that was starting to resemble his couch that we saw in his first installment is still present. Craig honestly believes he can't be a good Dad. This becomes the new fear he must overcome. Once more, the climax of the story is contingent on him maturing. It was a great device in The Lodger so I was more-than-happy to see it return. And, because there were much bigger stakes involved, it gave us a great enough sense of variation that it didn't just feel like a re-tread. Craig breaking the spell of the cyber-conditioning to answer the cry of his child was actually quite moving.

Another nice new beat that Roberts adds to the character is the fact that Craig has had some time to think about his first experience with the Doctor. He understands the man better, now. It helps that he and the Doctor did have a brief telepathic communion, of course. But that also adds some extra street cred to the character. After all, we don't see the Doctor do that very often with a supporting character. And we've certainly never seen him do it with head buts!

Craig makes some interesting remarks about just how much he understands his alien friend. Not just the fact that he recognizes the Doctor as being the safest person to be around in a crisis, but it's especially touching when he points out how the Doctor pretends that he doesn't need anyone. It's one thing to understand how someone might be important to you. But it shows real depth of character when you show you've taken the time to figure out how you might help someone you care about. Without thinking, Craig runs off  to help his friend when he needs him most. We absolutely love him for his courage in this moment.

Because of this, Craig's grabbing of a price scanner to use as a bluff against the Cybermen turns out to be more serious than comedic. Which shows yet more deftness of Corden's acting skills. He even knows when to dial his funny down a bit in order to let some drama shine through.

LOVE...

With the serious stuff seemingly over, Closing Time returns to something lighter. The confusion Lynda Baron has about Craig and the Doctor's relationship gets cleared up in a fun little way. Everything seems to be winding down as the Doctor starts giving a better explanation of what we just saw happen (thankyou, Gareth Roberts, for not being afraid of expository dialogue).

During that info-dump, we see one last really endearing trait that Craig possesses. While the Doctor tries to provide some super-sciency reason for why the Cybermen were defeated, Craig corrects him. "It was love." he insists with the sweetest of naivete. The Doctor tries to correct him and realizes the pointlessness of it. Craig is right. It was love.

This is what we adore most of this character. Yes, he's a dork. Yes, he excels at failing most of the time. He might even be a little bit too self-involved, on occasion. But he is also a wonderful idealist. And, when the chips are down, Craig comes through.




And there's some heavy Craig-Love for you. Hope you feel the same for him as I do. 

We'll continue the countdown throughout the month of June. Hopefully, I can get all five of these out before the month is over. I like to keep these in a tidy 30 day package!   




Tuesday, 14 May 2019

UNADULTERATED BOORISH OPINION: WAS IT SO BAD? - THE TSURANGA CONUNDRUM

I wrote my first installment in the WAS IT SO BAD? series a while back. I discussed the frequently-maligned Warriors of the Deep and admitted to the poor plot structure of Episode Three and the utter ridiculousness of foam bulkheads and pantomime Myrkas. But I also pointed out some really great pacing and story flow and a mega-cool ending that symbolized the futility of the Cold War we were living in at the time the story was made. While I'm sure some people still remained unconvinced, I think I managed to prove to most that Warriors of the Deep wasn't really so bad as some of us try to say it is. 

If you've been following this blog for any amount of time, you'll recognize that I sometimes get obsessed about balance. For instance: I try to give a proportionate amount of attention to New Who and Classic Who (Classic Who still gets talked about a bit more than New cause there's still more of it). So if I do a WAS IT SO BAD? essay about a story from the old series, it stands to reason that I must, eventually, talk about something from the modern series, too. Balance is important. 

Since a lot of folks seem to be unhappy with Series 11, I thought it best to look more closely at one of the more heavily detested episodes from that season and discuss it in greater detail. My hopes are that I manage to show off some of its greater strengths that a lot of you seem to be ignoring.   


UTTER DISBELIEF

To be quite honest, I'm not sure why I'm writing a WAS IT SO BAD? about this story. There's nothing I find all that particularly bad about it.

Personally, I try to watch every new episode in a vacuum. This can be quite tricky when you don't actually live in Britain. Inevitably, we don't get to see the latest ep until, at least, a few hours after the Brits do. Which means all kinds of opinions or even spoilers can spring forth on the internet and have a bearing on how the overseas fans will perceive the new story.

Which is why I will go to great lengths to avoid social media until I can see the episode for myself. I want to form my own opinion and not be influenced by what General Fan Consensus has already decided on the matter.

So imagine my surprise when I, at last, looked on various fan pages after Tsuranga Conundrum was done. I thought it was a very solid episode. Very fun with a few interesting twists and the sort of monster that was meant for Doctor Who. Some more interesting developments occur with Ryan and Graham. The Doctor solves the main conflict in a clever way that is very suitable to the character (using one problem to solve another). It was a rather simple story in some ways and it would probably never garner the title of "Classic". But I felt it was still quite strong.

The rest of Fandom doesn't seem to feel that way. The story seems to rank at the bottom of most peoples' lists for how they liked the episodes of Series 11. I can't, for the life of me, figure out why. On my own list, it's quite nearer to the top.


GROWING PAST ITS INFLUENCES

Tsuranga Conundrum draws heavily from two different types of New Who stories. We'll discuss both of those influences in detail and show how well the episode uses the formulae.

1) Some might dub Tsuranaga a traditional base-under-siege story. I wouldn't quite call it that, though. It does have a lot of those trappings, yes. But I'd be more inclined to call it a small group of futuristic characters in danger tale. It follows a mold first established in Impossible Planet/Satan Pit. A small band of people from somewhere in the distant future are stranded in a life-threatening situation. They're not, necessarily, trying to secure their environment against an outside threat (as is the case with a base-under-siege scenario) but they are trying to keep alive as something is killing them off. Most specifically, it is a very limited number of people dealing with the threat. Which makes the whole story more personal. With only a few people facing the menace, we connect with them more deeply. We get to know them better.

New Who does do base under siege. Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways is the best example of this. And it shows, quite succinctly, the difference between it and small group of futuristic characters in danger. The danger in Impossible Planet/Satan Pit does seem more internal. The menace is breeding in a deep pit below the base but it's still already among the people populating it. They can't really keep it out. It's even possessing some of them. And it is only a small group of people fighting the threat. We become quite familiar with the characters because of this.

Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways involves a large group of people who are, ultimately, trying to keep the Daleks out. The greater-sized cast means we don't get much of a chance to get attached to a whole lot of people. We actually get to know the Anne Droid better than we do some of the human characters!

The difference between these two styles of stories seems quite clear. I might even go so far to say that small group of futuristic characters works better than base-under-siege. Which is why we see this story pattern more often, these days. Other tales that have followed this motif include 42, The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People and Sleep No More. To name a few.

Here is one of Tsuranga Conundrum's greatest strengths: Of all the small group of futuristic characters in danger stories: this set of characters seems the most interesting and distinctive. For the most part, I can't remember what a lot of the characters were like in stories like Impossible Planet/Satan Pit or Rebel Flesh/Almost People. I certainly have a really hard time with recalling anyone from 42. Admittedly, some of them do stand out a bit. Particularly when they're very unusual like, say, the Grunt in Sleep No More. But, in general, it's a pretty generic blend of engineers and techies. They can almost be swapped out with each other. We could pull someone from 42 and exchange them with a character from Impossible/Pit and it wouldn't really interfere with cast dynamics much. A smaller cast does help the audience with connecting to the characters more, but those characters are still fairly indistinct from each other.

Not the case with Tsuranga Conundrum. Yes, it is a more recent story so it's easier to remember them - but I'm pretty sure I will still recall what everyone was like even a few years from now. Each character is very distinctly-drawn. They even have some fairly strong backstories. This is what impresses me the most with this episode. All the characters stand out strongly and make a legitimate impact on the whole adventure. Even the doctor that dies fairly early on in the escape pod is firmly etched in our memories before he's lost. Some of this is due to the performances of the actual actors. Again, Astos is a great example of this. Brett Goldstein recognizes his lack of presence in the overall plot and compensates by giving the role as much gravitas as possible. In the little time he's given, he does a great job of bringing Astos to life for us and making him memorable.

But I also think the writing has a strong bearing in this, too. The characters are well-crafted with clearly-defined personalities and even some interesting dynamics that are created between them. The brother/sister/android drama is the best example of this sort of scenario. A good chunk of the storyline is propelled by these three. Their banter and the ultimate peace that they find among each other makes for some great subplot. This trait, alone, sets the story on a higher level for me. I look at how well this supporting cast comes together and find myself baffled by the amount of criticism people seem to have about them.

2) The second type of story structure that Tsuranga borrows from is really only seen in one other New Who story that's been aired, thus far. I suppose if we truly want to give it a label, it might be something like: slightly kitschy futuristic story that we're still meant to take quite seriously. The only other story that I feel really fits this mold is The Girl Who Waited. Yes there are other stories that take place in the future and go for a bit of campiness. There is even one right in the same season (Kerblam). But these stories are played a bit harder for the comedy. Tsuranga and Girl, for the most part, keep it pretty straight but add just a hint of absurdity. In both cases, it's the aesthetics of the monsters that lend to the comedic effect. Both the handbots and the Pting look just a bit cuter and/or sillier than they ought to if they're meant to inspire menace. But, otherwise, we're meant to see the tale as being quite dramatic. Even quite heartfelt, in places.

The other similarity between both stories is set design. There's just a lot of white going on. Like the production team really loved the Organa family's Blockade Runner in Star Wars and want to emulate it as much as possible. It does, to some extent, add ever-so-slightly to the kitschiness of it all, I suppose. But, again, the actors aren't really acknowledging it. They're playing it all as straight as possible. Whereas other stories that have this element to it tend to get done with a bit more of a wink and a nod from the cast. Like some of the stuff in Sylvester McCoy era (Paradise Towers, Happiness Patrol etc...), they're noticing the silly sets and costumes and they're having fun with it. But in both Tsuranga and Girl, they're playing it pretty straight.

Here's the thing: I adored The Girl Who Waited. I loved its overall sensibility. That slight aura of humor that doesn't go too far but still gives us a vibe that the show doesn't take itself too seriously is actually quite sublime. To have another story like Tsuranga Conundrum come along and emulate it just filled my heart with joy. As far as I'm concerned, we need more Who stories like this. Two is not enough.

I particularly love how both tales use the idea of a menace that doesn't really look all that menacing. It somehow makes the whole thing seem scarier and deadlier. Something that can't quite be regarded as dangerous but still is quite deadly creates a very different sort of scary. And, for some reason, I love that breed of frightening.

So, in the case of where Tsuranga Conundrum comes from, I find it supersedes its influences and gives us something thoroughly delightful. It's a story that takes its cue from certain sources from the show's past and improves upon them. That, in my book, is pretty damned good TV.


CHARACTER GROWTH

Aside from evolving beyond its sources, there's a few other things that this episode accomplishes nicely. One of the most valuable contributions it makes is the development of Ryan's character.

Ryan meets a pregnant man who is not ready to have the child he's bearing.He wants to judge him for being willing to put his child up for adoption. To all intents and purposes, he's seeing his father in this character. But, before he can judge too harshly based on his own experiences, he steps back and has this nice talk with Yaz in one of the many gleaming white corridors of the spaceship. He suddenly finds himself understanding why his Dad might have run away and is able to see him as something else than a villain. It's a great moment in the story. And one that can only happen because of the change Chibnall has made in the format. A nice long episode that can run for nearly an hour allows for glorious character moments such as these. And it gives the proper time that is needed for companions to develop and grow.

I much prefer this to the "shoehorning" of moments like these that were done in pre-Chibnall New Who. Things needed to move so quickly in those days. But now the story is given time to breathe a bit. It's in these sort of moments, that some of the best character development is able to occur at a very gorgeous and natural pace. Ryan suddenly finding empathy for his father is one of the stronger examples of these sort of moments. I love that time is taken in this story to give Ryan this scene. It's the sort of stuff we weren't able to see much in the RTD or Moff eras.

In this same vein, we see some great development with the strained relationship between Ryan and Graham. I love that, as the Doctor takes down the Pting and saves the day, Ryan and Graham help deliver a baby. Both threads are treated with equal importance (as well they should be). As the two men work together to help bring new life into the world, the bond between them strengthens. They're still not ready for the fist punch, but they're getting there. It's a beautiful moment that makes Tsuranga into something much more than just a thrilling sci-fi adventure aboard an endangered spaceship. It's a story about people growing and developing. We see this idea echoed in smaller subplots like the brother and sister telling each other some important things that need to be said between them. But it's great that this tale also takes care of some bigger character arcs in the season, too.


A FEW OTHER STRONG POINTS

1) Pacing:

This is another really outstanding trait of Tsuranga Conundrum. It hits the ground running and just keeps moving at a really nice speed. The TARDIS crew getting blown up by a mine the Doctor can't defuse in time is a great way to grab our attention. Sending them to a spaceship with advanced enough technology to save them from such a fate keeps us interested. We then get a clever way to introduce us to the other characters on the ship. The Doctor trying to barge her way out not only gets us to meet the supporting cast but also establishes the main location of the story in a fun way, too.

And then, along comes the Pting. Once our cute-but-deadly central plot conflict is introduced, the story really swings into gear and keeps a great pace. Even that previously mentioned character moment with Yaz and Ryan that I love so much is kept economical so as not to interfere with the overall speed of things. The whole tale is a race against time as the Doctor must stop the Pting from tearing the ship apart and the stop the ship, itself, from blowing up.

2) Resolution

The actual method the Doctor uses to resolve the main conflicts of the story is brilliant. It's not so much the traditional "using the enemy's own energy against itself" technique, Instead, it's using two problems to cancel each other out. A very clever way to save the day.  I'd even go so far to say that it's one of, if not, the best endings to an episode for that season. The prayer group in the very last scene is also quite touching. Particularly as it re-enforces the Doctor's whole idea that there is always hope in any situation. The speech she delivers earlier to Mabil on the subject is also one of the stronger monologues of the season.


CONCLUSION

I could go on, here. There are plenty of other things I could bring up about the episode that I think make it very strong. But I think I've heaped enough praise to make my point. When I employed this style of analysis on Warriors of the Deep, I was quick to admit its flaws. But, quite honestly, I'm not finding a lot of flaws to Tsuranga Conundrum. Do I regard it as an absolute classic? Of course not. It's a nice strong middle-of-the-season story that delivers all its meant to. And then some.

Like so much of the other criticism I've seen leveled at Series 11, I'm just not sure what the problem is....



There we go, Balance re-dressed. Other WAS IT SO BAD? essays will, no doubt, get written in the future. We'll continue to dip into New and Old Who as we do. 

Want to read the first one? Here it is: 
https://robtymec.blogspot.com/2018/09/unadulterated-boorish-opinion-was-it.html

















Saturday, 27 April 2019

CHRONOLOGIES AND TIMELINES: DAVROS THROUGH THE AGES - PART 3: DAVROS STILL TRIES TO CONTROL THE DALEKS

Slowly but surely,we're getting through those Davros Stories. We're not-so-much trying to arrange his tales in a proper chronological order as we are trying to get certain inconsistencies in those adventures to work. Technically, this is more of a FIXING CONTINUITY GLITCHES exercise. But, since we're going through all of his stories as we do it, it feels like a CHRONOLOGIES AND TIMELINES essay, instead. 

Anyhow, let's pick things back up at the end of Revelation of the Daleks. 


A DALEK CIVIL WAR

And so, as the catacombs on Necros are destroyed, Davros gets hauled off by a group of darker-liveried Daleks to be brought back to Skaro to stand trial for treason against the Dalek Race. One gets the impression his punishment will be harsher than another 90 years in cryogenic suspension.

And yet, somehow, a sentence is never given. When next we see the Daleks, a civil war is going on. The white-liveried Daleks are fighting the dark-liveried Daleks. And, in a surprise twist, Davros has discarded the final vestiges of his humanity and become the Emperor for the White Daleks.

How exactly did all these changes occur?

I suppose we could accuse Andrew Cartmel of being as lazy as his predecessor. But, really, this isn't too hard of a leap to make. We've seen the Daleks engage in civil war, before (although, if we go by my timeline, that civil war occurs after this one - still, the audience has seen this sort of thing before and can easily accept it). We also know Davros is getting pretty good at getting the Daleks to obey him, these days. So you've got several factors, here, that make it easy to work out a probable sequence of events that would lead to what we see in Remembrance of the Daleks.

My guess is that Davros was returned to Skaro. The Daleks have now built a massive city over the underground bunker that once contained them. He is put on trial and delivers an impassioned speech about his rightful place in the Dalek chain of command. This sows the first seeds of dissent. The Daleks don't just start following him right away, but some become hesitant to exterminate him. A debate ensues about what should be done with their creator.

This is all the time Davros needs. We have seen that he possesses a special injector that causes anyone he uses it on to become totally obedient to him. While the Daleks argue, he manages to convert the chemical compound within the injector into a sort of airborne virus. It begins seeping through the ventilation system of the city. Daleks come in contact with it and transform into complete slaves to Davros. Daleks in more distant sections of the city start witnessing the effects and manage to seal themselves off before the gas can reach them. This is how the rift is initially caused. Daleks loyal to Davros protect him and drive away the ones that believe him to be a traitor.

It doesn't take long for Davros to send a force to Necros to unearth the army he had been building there.Those Daleks on Skaro that he affected with his mind control serum have their livery changed to match those from Necros.  His army on Necros is awakened and return to Skaro. Davros now has the sheer weight of numbers on his side. He decides he is the rightful leader of the Dalek Empire.

Those Daleks who refuse to follow Davros are lesser in number and are, therefore, declared Renegades. There are enough of them to have a small spacefleet. They have also appointed one of their kind to be the Supreme Dalek and changed his livery to black.

Shortly thereafter, the Doctor intentionally leaks some information about the Hand of Omega to the Imperial Daleks. Hungry for power, Davros sends a mothership back in time to Earth in 1963. Somehow, the Renegade Daleks manage to steal that knowledge, though. Using a time controller, they also go back in time to retrieve the stellar manipulator.

Remembrance of the Daleks happens around now.



INTO NEW WHO

As the totally awesome Remembrance of the Daleks concludes (my second-favorite Doctor Who story, ever - read it about it right here: https://robtymec.blogspot.com/2016/01/book-of-lists-top-ten-who-stories-2.html), we are not given a Davros Cliffhanger, this time. We very clearly see him escaping the horrible fate he brought upon himself. Things are left wide open so that he can menace the Doctor again in a future story.

There is a tonne of irony that this gesture creates. Firstly, the show appears to end a season later. So it looks as though the return appearance that Ben Aaronivitch sets up is never going to happen. But when the show does finally return - how things were left in the Classic Series with Davros creates complications. We'll try to fix those problems in just a few short paragraphs.

We should mention that sometime around this period in Davros' timeline he receives a visit from a model of Dalek he's never seen before. They have a strange bronze livery and seem to suddenly like nuts and bolts. These odd new Daleks claim to be from the future. They explain to Davros that the Children of Skaro have begun an ultimate battle with the Lords of Time and that he is needed in the war effort. Deciding there's not much left of his empire, anyway, he accepts the call of duty.

The Daleks transport Davros back to the future and he assists them in the Time Wars. Details of this notorious cosmic event are still sketchy, at best. But we do know that Davros eventually flies a ship that he's using into some strange being known as the Nightmare Child and is presumed to be dead. Somehow, he survives the experience. My guess is the Nightmare Child decides that killing Davros is not cruel enough. Instead, the Kaled scientist is sent back into the "normal universe"and is timelocked out of the war. This would hurt Davros far worse than the end of his existence. To not be allowed to help his creation in their greatest moment of peril would be a fate far worse than death for him.

Left in isolation somewhere in deep space, Davros sets himself to work on building a new Dalek empire. The ship he used to fly into the Nightmare Child has a lab on board. Using cells from his own body, he begins to construct a new army of Daleks. This army will eventually grow to the point that they can develop a new sort of super weapon that will truly make the Daleks the masters of all of time and space. It takes a while, but Davros does eventually set up the events of Stolen Earth/Journey's End.


THE NEW WHO DAVROS CONUNDRUM (INSTEAD OF THE TSURANGA)

Because Davros has literally surrendered so much of his own flesh to make a new Dalek army, his life support system triggers another artificial tissue regeneration. Which causes, of course, another change in appearance. But the amount of  his cells that have been used for Dalek-making causes the regeneration to take some time. Even by Stolen Earth/Journey's End, there are chunks of him still missing.

There are, however, other discrepancies in Davros' appearance that need addressing. In Remembrance of the Daleks, he appears to be nothing more than a head mounted inside the casing of an Emperor Dalek. But during his reveal in Stolen Earth, he's gotten his torso and arm back. He also appears to have a mechanical hand. Basically, we seem to be ignoring what happened to him in Remembrance. He's gone back to what he would look like after Revelation of the Daleks if he had just gotten his hand replaced from having it shot off by Orcini. 

Has Remembrance of the Daleks been, somehow, purged from the timelines? A freak side effect of the Time Wars, perhaps? Or did the production team just think: "A Dalek Emperor Davros would be really convoluted to explain to a new audience!?

It's obviously that last point but let's see if we can find some way to explain why Davros is the way he is in New Who:

Between Revelation and Remembrance, Davros secures a Dalek Empire on Skaro. Once he's settled in, he gets his hand replaced mechanically. He remembers how much he's enjoyed having a spare head as a decoy so he manufactures another one. He goes much further with the misdirection this time, though. Hiding himself somewhere beneath the Dalek City in a sort of panic room, Davros places the cloned head in the casing of an Emperor Dalek. The decoy becomes a sort of figurehead leader for his army. The real Davros can monitor everything through him and deliver instructions to him through a secret communication system (perhaps, even, a telepathic link?). It's a perfect arrangement. Actual Davros stays safe in a bunker while Decoy Davros wanders around taking all the real risks.

We don't know, for sure, what happens to the Emperor Dalek version of Davros after it escapes the Hand of Omega. My guess is Davros engages some sort of self-destruct protocol he built into the casing just before he leaves for the Time Wars. Or, perhaps, that spare head is still wandering around the Universe and will return, someday, in a super-contrived continuity-nightmare of a story where it battles with the real Davros for supremacy over the Dalek Race. Jest all you want at such a prospect. But we did just recently have an adventure where the Doctor went back to the beginning of the Cyvermen, met two versions of the Master and then regenerated with his first incarnation. If stories like that can be written, Davros fighting his own head isn't beyond us! 


ANOTHER UNSOLVED CLIFFHANGER

Once again, the 80s Davros Story tradition continues as Journey's End reaches its conclusion. Davros remains in the Crucible even though the Doctor tries to urge him into the TARDIS. He curses angrily at the Doctor as his control center comes tumbling down around him. With no choice left, the Doctor leaves him there. Presumably to die.

This was not the case, however. A few seasons later, Davros makes his return in Magician's Apprentice/Witch's Familiar. He's on Skaro, now (or, more appropriately, New Skaro). He's built up another army and realizes he's finally in the proper place in the Doctor's timeline to torment the Time Lord about abandoning him as child in the handmine field.

No mention is given on how he made it from a crumbling Crucible to a city on Skaro (yes, I wrote that sentence that way to enjoy the alliteration). So we need to fill in a few gaps:

It's my guess that Davros totally stole Dalek Caan's emergency temporal shift gear when no one was looking. While he didn't like the fact that his batch of Daleks in Stolen/End turns on him, he chooses not to shift out while he's kept prisoner in the basement. Only if his plans for universal destruction somehow fail will he take that option. So, when that finally does happen, he ducks out before getting blown up.

He has pre-programmed the emergency temporal shift equipment to take him to New Skaro where he knows some remnants of the Daleks still linger. There's some Kaled mutants wandering about and some ruined casings lying around - but that's enough for Davros to re-build an army. He sets himself to work. He also manages to genetically re-engineer a colony of Skarosian snakes to work as a hive mind together. They are obedient to him and will protect him at all costs.

It's my guess that Davros found Daleks that were blindly obedient to him like they were in various 80s stories were a bit too inefficient. Which is why he bestows a sense of free will in them again in New Who. But when they keep him as a pet in the Crucible, he takes out a few precautions on Skaro.

He remembers what the Doctor told him about mercy way back in his childhood and gives this latest batch of Daleks just a bit of that emotion in their programming. Hopefully, this will make them nicer to him. Particularly as he's starting to get real old to the point where his life support system can no longer sustain him. He will need the lifeforce of his new army to keep him alive. As an extra precaution, however, he also installs a personal force field around himself. You can never be too careful. 


AFTERWORD

Again, we get a bit of a Ben Aaronivitch treatment, here. It's very obvious Davros is still alive as Witch's Apprentice concludes. We've even learnt that Missy seems to have saved the Daleks from their revolting sewers. We're not sure, how - but perhaps it will be explained in a forthcoming Davros story. As, no doubt, there will be another one sometime in the future.

I am still hoping he has to fight his own head!




Okay, another CHRONOLOGIES AND TIMELINES in the can. I'll try to keep 'em coming for as long as I can. You guys indicate by the high number of hits that they get that you seem to really like them. 

Here's the other two parts in case you've missed them:    

Part 1
https://robtymec.blogspot.com/2019/04/chronologies-and-timelines-davros.html

Part 2
https://robtymec.blogspot.com/2019/04/chronologies-and-timelines-personal.html


Also, you may want to check out this particular part in my Dalek History essay. It explains New Skaro a bit better: 
https://robtymec.blogspot.com/2015/07/chronologies-and-timelines-episode.html


Also, also: give this Appendix a read. It goes into a bit more detail about Davros' activities on New Skaro: 
https://robtymec.blogspot.com/2015/11/chronologies-and-time-lines-history-of.html









Friday, 19 April 2019

CHRONOLOGIES AND TIMELINES: THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVROS - PART 2: DAVROS TRYING TO RUN THE DALEKS

And so we embark upon the second installment of the Davros Series. This one will probably have the most embellishment since there are some fairly large inconsistencies that need taking care of.



THE FOUR DAVROSES (NOT SURE ON THAT PLURALIZATION)   

As Davros re-emerges into the Waking World in Destiny of the Daleks, he seems a changed man. A legitimately changed man, in fact. His appearance seems different and his voice has definitely changed. How did this happen? 

One of the first things Davros does when he wakes is explain how he survived his fate (something we don't get much of in his other stories), His life support system sent him into a sort of suspended animation as it initiated synthetic tissue regeneration for various organs. I think the life support system also regenerated some of his external tissue that may have been damaged. Including his face and his vocal chords. Thus causing the change in appearance and voice. This would occur on a few more occasions throughout his life. As we reach those points, of course, we'll try to provide explanations for why the synthetic tissue regeneration happened.


DAVROS GETS MORE WORLDLY

And so, the events of Destiny of the Daleks take place. The Doctor seals the Kaled Scientist in a solid block of ice and sends him off to Earth to have him tried for his crimes against humanity. We are somewhere in the 27th or 28th Century, by this point. Earth will have had several skirmishes with the Daleks. They would be eager to get their hands on the man who created these atrocities. His Daleks would be responsible for the loss of millions of human lives.

The Trial of Davros was probably a very high-profile affair. Humanity was made well aware of the deadly potential of this war criminal. Drastic actions would be taken to ensure that he could do nothing to further enhance the deadliness of his creations. At the same time, humanity would not just execute the man. That would be sinking to his level.

Since he had been brought to them in cryo-sleep, Davros' judges decided that would be part of his imprisonment. To just put such a genius in a cell somewhere would not be enough. He would, over time, break out. But to also freeze him would definitely keep him properly incapacitated.

And yet, this wasn't the usual form of cryogenic suspension. Not all body functions would be completely in stasis. Earth authorities wanted Davros to, eventually, age to death. So his hibernation system received special programming. He would remain immobile but still be able to grow older. To get this to work, however, also meant he would need to remain conscious the whole time. Again, a certain degree of mercy was shown. Davros was implanted with a special chip that would enable him to access a sort of intergalactic internet (similar to the one Dorium had in Wedding of River Song). This would keep him entertained as he withered away.

Naturally enough, Davros used his brilliance to access all kinds of secret files. Within these files he found all sorts of interesting information about the Doctor and the Time Lords, in general. At the same time, his life support system was still able to initiate synthetic tissue regeneration as his body aged. Even under heavy cryogenics, the process was still possible.

This gets certain inconsistencies to make a bit better sense when Davros re-awakens in Resurrection of the Daleks. He is far more knowledgeable about the Ways of the Universe than he was in Destiny of the Daleks. This is because of the special chip he was given by Earth Authorities that allowed him intergalactic internet access.  The chip also kept him from going utterly mad from being conscious during his 90 year prison sentence (to be held in cryogenic suspension for so long but still be, technically, awake would have driven even a mind as dedicated as Davros' completely insane). Also, Davros has another change in appearance and voice when his freedom is restored. This is because he was still able to age while he was frozen but his life support system was able to fight against the process.


ANOTHER DOOZY OF A CLIFFHANGER

Between Resurrection and Revelation of the Daleks lies another glaring example of what I like to call the Sheer Laziness of Eric Saward. The script editor at the time these stories were made was notorious for not resolving cliffhangers that were created for certain recurring villains at the end of stories. His greatest atrocity, of course, was never providing an answer for how the Master survived being burnt to a crisp at the end of Planet of Fire. But how he handled Davros' nasty fate at the end of Resurrection was nearly as bad. It's especially shameful that he is the author of both Resurrection and Revelation and still couldn't be bothered to put in the appropriate level of effort to explain things. Am I being too mean to Eric Saward? Perhaps. But he did have the audacity to claim that My Colin was a bad Doctor so it's hard not to be bitter with him!

In Eric's defense, he doesn't totally ignore the corner he painted Davros into at the end of Resurrection. When the Sixth Doctor finally encounters him on Necros, he takes the trouble to ask the Kaled scientist how he survived an exploding spaceship. Davros does explain that he hopped into an escape pod before the vessel blew up. That seems like a fairly competent handling of the whole thing, right?

There's just one problem: Saward completely ignores the fact that Davros doesn't appear to quite make it to the escape pod he has prepared for himself at the end of Resurrection of the Daleks. A few moments prior to his attempt to leave, he released the Movellan virus into the artificial atmosphere of the ship he's on. This successfully kills the Daleks that have been sent to exterminate him. Davros thinks he will be immune to the airborne poison - but he's wrong. In his last scene in the story, we see his own Dalek casing starting to spew toothpaste in the same way that the Daleks do when they're affected by the disease. He screams hopelessly as his body seems to go into a sort of paralysis.

Of course, Eric does get away with a bit of dramatic irony. The Doctor does not know Davros was affected by the Movellan virus so he doesn't require an explanation for how he escaped it. But this does still leave the audience a bit dissatisfied. We saw what happened to him at the end of Resurrection but we're never given an answer for how he escaped his fate.


A POSSIBLE EXPLANATION TO THE DOOZY OF A CLIFFHANGER

Here's what I think happened: there are enough genetic variations between Davros and his Daleks that  the Movellan virus won't kill him as quickly as it does his creations..It's also quite possible that his life support system starts combating the effects of the virus as well as it can. Which slows down the process all-the-more. Davros does go into a temporary paralysis in his lab but manages to fight past it. He regains mobility in time to get into his escape pod and leave the spaceship before Stein blows it up. 

The Movellan virus, however, will soon take his life if he doesn't figure out a cure for it.

The escape pod lands on a nearby civilized world. Probably an actual Earth colony. But it has been 90 years since his trial so no one really remembers who he is. They just see a sick man and decide to help him. Davros quickly explains that if they can get him into the proper facilities, he can help himself.

The Kaled Scientist decides to be realistic: he might not survive the disease. He needs to take extra steps to ensure that he lives on in some form. Now in a nice high-tech lab that the humans on the colony world have provided for him, Davros manages to find a few cells in his body that have still not been ravaged by the Movellan virus. Or, perhaps, he manages to clean just a few cells of the disease. Either way, he uses those cells to clone himself. Not his entire body, just his head. He transplants all of his thoughts and memories into the head and places it in a life-support system of its own. Now sure that he will survive in some way, he goes to work on finding a proper cure for himself.

He finds that cure and even makes an improvement or two on himself. He implants an energy weapon that will allow him to, literally, shoot death rays from his fingers. He decides he likes his spare head and wants to keep it. So he gives it a similar implant so it can defend itself, too.

While all this is going on, the humans that found him in his escape pod have done some background research. They realize who Davros really is. They try to apprehend him to return him to Earth Authorities but Davros and his head fight their way out. They grab a spaceship and leave for parts unknown.

News of Davros' survival quickly spreads. Earth and its associated colonies are quickly reminded of the deadliness of his potential. Davros knows he must hide somewhere. He's done a pretty thorough search of the geo-politics of the cosmos while he was in jail. He's figured out that Necros is a planet no one truly wants to go to. It's the best place to hide. He's also worked out some ideas for those sleepers that no one wants.

He makes his way to Necros and very quickly installs himself as the Great Healer. He places his extra head in the main control center of the catacombs to be used as a decoy against assassination attempts. He begins his plans to end starvation in the galaxy and build a special Dalek army that is obedient only to him. Once he has the resources he needs, he initiates a plan to lure the Doctor to Tranquil Repose so that he may exact his revenge upon him. 

The events of Revelation of the Daleks ensue....




Even though there's still one more Classic Who Davros Story to cover, I've decided this is a good place to stop at for Part Two. I had to provide quite a bit of explanation to compensate for the Sheer Laziness of Eric Saward. 

We'll take a look at how Davros creates the civil war of Remembrance of the Daleks in the next installment. We'll also try to figure out why Davros doesn't look like a Dalek Emperor in the New Series. 

Missed the first part? Here it is: 
https://robtymec.blogspot.com/2019/04/chronologies-and-timelines-davros.html




Sunday, 14 April 2019

CHRONOLOGIES AND TIMELINES: DAVROS THROUGH THE YEARS - PART ONE: EARLY DAYS...

This particular CHRONOLOGIES AND TIMELINES will be similar to the one I did on the Master. In so much that arranging a proper order to episodes involving him is almost entirely unnecessary. With the exception of a few scenes in his most recent story, we have been watching Davros' adventures happen in a completely linear fashion. However, there are things that take place between certain stories that need to be expanded upon to get his televised tales to make better sense. 

So, as I chronicle his various escapades in a way that they don't need to be chronicled, I'll delve into those various "grey areas" in his past and try to get them to make better sense. 





BEFORE WE BEGIN....

It would probably be a good idea to look over my Dalek History essays before you embark upon reading this. It does cover some key points in Davros' past so it will get referenced. Even if you have looked at it before, refreshing your memory of it will help.

Having said that, though, it is a lot to read! If you don't look it over, this essay will still make sense. It will just make better sense if you do.

Here are all five installments:

Part 1:
https://robtymec.blogspot.com/2015/06/chronologies-and-timelines-tymecian.html

Part 2:
https://robtymec.blogspot.com/2015/06/chronologies-and-timelines-part-2-of.html

Part 3:
https://robtymec.blogspot.com/2015/07/chronologies-and-timelines-episode.html

Part 4:
https://robtymec.blogspot.com/2015/07/chronologies-and-timelines-episode-4-of.html

Part 5:
https://robtymec.blogspot.com/2015/07/chronologies-and-timelines-episode-5-of.html

...And an Appendix!
https://robtymec.blogspot.com/2015/11/chronologies-and-time-lines-history-of.html

There have been a few more Dalek appearances since the Appendix. I will probably compile a second one soon. But I think this is enough, for now.



YOUNG DAVROS

Having been born into the Kaled/Thal Thousand Year War means Davros probably didn't have the happiest of childhoods. School was probably more like low-level military training than an actual education. The demand of the war effort would require children to be made battle-ready as quickly as possible, So conditioning would start at a very young age for the children of Skaro. No doubt, Davros was fed all kinds of propaganda as he grew up. Which may help account for the very fascist ideology he would later program into his creation.

More than likely, his high intelligence was noted at a very early age by his educators. Which probably led to some re-direction for him. Rather than being put on a course that would have him thrown onto the Front Line as soon as he could hold a gun competently, Davros was streamlined into a more scientific learning program. His mind would, ultimately, be used to develop better weaponry or other such military applications.

During the days of his youth, Davros became curious and wandered out onto a battlefield where he got lost for a while. His misadventure led him to wandering into a handmine field. A soldier from a nearby patrol did try to help him but fell prey to the trap, himself. Eventually, a stranger wearing odd clothing appeared to him with a strange blue box behind him. He tossed him some sort of sonic device that enabled Davros to hear him better as they spoke from a distance.

When the Kaled youth, at last, revealed his name to his rescuer - the stranger seemed to react to this news in an odd way. He disappeared in a cloud of smoke, leaving Davros alone for a while. He, then, re-appeared in a different spot and used some sort of energy projectile weapon to destroy the handmines around the boy. Clearing the handine field, he walked Davros back to the Kaled City. Telling him of the importance of always maintaining a sense of mercy as they strolled along.

Davros wouldn't figure it out until later, of course. But this was his first encounter with the Doctor.



WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT SONIC SCREWDRIVER FOR ALL THOSE YEARS?

Clearly, the Twelfth Doctor makes sure not to tell Young Davros who he truly is. He knows Davros will encounter him next while he's in his fourth body. When they do meet, the Kaled scientist doesn't say anything to the nature of: "The Doctor? I met a man who called himself by that name when I was but a young lad..." The Doctor knows that meeting with Davros in Genesis of the Daleks constitutes their first official introduction to each other. So the Time Lord makes sure to keep his lips tight as he gets the boy back home.

But the Doctor does let the Kaled child keep his sonic screwdriver. Which does create a bit of a continuity problem. Why does Davros never present the sonic screwdriver any sooner than Magician's Apprentice?

Come to think of it, a bunch of centuries appear to have passed between that day in the handmine field and the encounter between Twelve and Davros in the Dalek City. How does he manage to hold on to the device for so long?

While I was greatly amused by some of the photo-shopping fans did of the sonic screwdriver lying around in various scenes from Davros Stories in the Classic Series, I'll try to come up with something better:

My guess is that Young Davros is intrigued by the sonic screwdriver and hides it away in his room after the Doctor gets him home. As he grows up and joins the Scientific Elite, he keeps the screwdriver as a memento. But he always keeps it hidden in his personal effects, somewhere. Even as Davros moves to the special underground bunker that we see him living in by Genesis of the Daleks, that screwdriver was brought with him and kept locked away in his living quarters.

After the Daleks fire on him at the end of Geneis, that screwdriver is still sitting around in that bunker. When Davros re-awakens in Destiny, he doesn't really get a chance to recover it before he is sent off into space to be imprisoned. Nor would he feel compelled to grab it during that time. He still doesn't really know what it is. In the same way that he doesn't recognize the Fourth Doctor as being the same man he met as a child, the model of sonic screwdriver Four carries doesn't resemble the one Twelve left with him. He hasn't made the connection, yet.

However, while serving his time on the prison ship in Resurrection of the Daleks, Davros starts to really learn about the Doctor and Time Lords, in general (we'll explain how this happens when we get to this point in his timeline, properly). It is here that some doors start opening for him. He figures out that his first encounter with the Doctor was not during Genesis of the Daleks - but earlier. He also works out what that strange memento he kept for all those years actually was.

Having learnt about Time Lords, however, also means that Davros has discovered the Laws of Time, too. He decides to be responsible with his knowledge of what could be a future event in the Doctor's life and tries to preserve the Time Lines (unlike his younger, more reckless days when he tries to use foreknowledge to his advantage when he finds out the Doctor comes from the future in Genesis). He makes the assumption that he met a version of the Doctor that doesn't exist yet when he was a boy so he makes sure to never mention that encounter until the Doctor is wearing the appropriate face.

He would like that sonic screwdriver back, though. It might be fun to hang it over him a bit when the Doctor has temporally caught up with him. Davros has had plenty of time to work things out. The Doctor he first meets in the handmine field appears to abandon him and only comes back later to save him. More than likely, there will be a time in between those two moments where Davros will be an adult when he meets the Twelfth Doctor. The Time Lord will be carrying a lot of guilt over what he did. How fun might it be to torment him by showing him he still has the sonic screwdriver he gave him when he was a kid?

So when the Daleks bring Davros back to Skaro at the end of Revelation of the Daleks, the Dalek Creator takes the time to go back down into that old bunker and find the sonic screwdriver. We know he has hidden compartments in his chair - we see him using one during Resurrection. He stores the screwdriver in one of those compartments until the appropriate time.

Yeah, photo-shopping the sonic screwdriver into some publicity stills was probably a whole lot easier than that! 


HOW HE MADE IT INTO THE CHAIR

"The memory cheats"  - a favorite saying of 80s producer John Nathan Turner - seems to be at play, here. I was convinced there was some throwaway dialogue in Genesis of the Daleks that tells how Davros ends up in his chair. Either Ronson or Gharman mentions that Davros was working in his laboratory when a stray shell from the Thals manages to go off relatively near to him. He is badly injured but not quite killed. What's left of him is placed in a life support system of his devising (probably originally created for someone else important in Kaled society who was badly injured but not quite killed - I can't see Davros creating such a device after he's been hurt).

I re-watched Genesis several time over and found no dialogue anywhere that gives an account of the incident that causes him to become the hideous being that we see him as in this tale. To the best of my knowledge, any backstory that has been provided for this can only be considered Fan Theory. Terry Nation might have even claimed somewhere that this is how Davros came to be but, as I have said on many occasions, if its not "transmitted dialogue" - it doesn't count.

Having made that claim, I do like to agree with this idea. While it's never properly stated anywhere, it does make the best sense. What other fate could have caused him to lose the lower part of his body and the better part of an arm?

There are even some conspiracy theories that seem to indicate that it was not the Thals that prompted this fate. But, rather, some of Davros' own people who felt threatened by him rigged things to look like the explosion in the lab was an enemy attack. This seems like a pretty cool idea, too. We know such people existed. We see some of them in Genesis of the Daleks. I do believe that Davros had already discovered the ultimate form the Kaleds would take before his lab was attacked. He had probably just begun to develop a Mark I travel machine and had revealed some of the modifications he would make to the mutants he would put in them. Certain Kaled citizens might have become mortified by his plans and tried to assassinate him but attempted to stage it as an act of war. It's an interesting theory. And, since this can all only be hypothesis, I'll accept it. Until, of course, someone actually says in an episode: "This is how Davros ended up in the chair...."   Which, quite honestly, will probably never happen.


A DAMN GOOD LIFE SUPPORT SYSTEM

Being placed in the life support system changed Davros. It made him all the more determined in his mission to ensure the survival of the Kaled race. If it was his own people that tried to kill him, their plans could not have backfired more. Davros became more hell-bent from his "accident".

It may even be possible that his life support system became the basis of his inspiration for the travel machines he was working on. Which would make things even more ironic if the whole thing was a Kaled assassination plot. They wanted to thwart his plans but, instead, put him in the machinery that would enable him to succeed.

As is often the case, Davros likes overkill. The life support system he devises doesn't just keep him alive, it sustains his existence indefinitely. It also makes him impervious to most forms of attack. As is revealed in Destiny of the Daleks, he is not killed by his own creation at the end of Genesis. He is put into a sort of suspended animation until the life support system can synthetically regenerate all the damaged tissue and organs that were diced in the Dalek cross-fire. The Daleks were probably even aware that he was still alive but just threw him into some sort of storage. Just in case his genius was needed again, someday (as, inevitably, it would be).

It's my theory that Davros first awoke from his slumber sometime after the Daleks had left the bunker the Doctor had sealed them in when he had failed in his mission for the Time Lords. The Kaled scientist wandered around the abandoned underground structure for a while but could not find a way out. The Daleks had re-sealed the base after they had emerged from it. Without hope for escape, Davros simply re-activated slumber mode. However, he rigged his life support system to some proximity detectors. If there was suddenly a large amount of movement around him, he would wake back up. No doubt, the movement was being caused by someone who had decided to dig him back up. This is why he regains consciousness the very moment people start crowding around him at the end of Part Two of Destinty of the Daleks.

With Davros back to life, he can go on to cause all kinds of trouble for the Universe.


That's all for Part One of this series. In the next chapter, we'll look at the Terry Molloy stories (I know many of you love Wisher best - but he's my favorite Davros) and sort out some of the unanswered cliffhangers that plague his era. Once we do work out some of those inconsistencies, we'll move on to New Who Davros in Part Three....


























Sunday, 17 March 2019

COMPLETE AND UTTER SILLINESS: WAS THE DOCTOR'S RAINBOW BROLLY A SEMI-SENTIENT SHAPESHIFTER?

So, I was wandering through a shop the other day, looking for something completely unrelated to umbrellas. But then I came across a display full of multi-colored brollies and thought to myself: "I don't have an umbrella, right now. How can I resist one that looks just like my Colin's?!" (Yes, I do refer to him, sometimes, as "my Colin"!) But, even as I bought the item, my fanboy brain kicked in. Was Colin really the first Doctor to sport such an accessory? He certainly wasn't the last. Sylvester continued toting it about with him during his very first adventure. But I was sure that both Tom and Jon had carried a similar brolly with them for a few very brief scenes. 

I decided to find all those scenes and watch them (sometimes, I just have too much time on my hands!). As I did, the goofiest of fan theories started formulating. I decided to have some fun with it. 


SPECIAL NEW CATEGORY!

As some of you may or may not recall, we have reached the fourth anniversary of Pretentious Doctor Who Essays. I can't believe I'm still writing these, either!

It's been one hell of a ride as I force myself to try to spit out, on average, two entries a month. I've enjoyed the discipline this has given me as a writer (I'm still wildly erratic in other aspects of my writing career, though. Oftentimes, putting in more creative effort to find new and exciting reasons for missing my deadlines than I do into the actual manuscripts I'm working on). I have greatly enjoyed all the support I have received from those of you who continue to read this loyally. The many kind comments you have all left me have greatly encouraged me. But even just seeing the number of hits these entries get warms my heart(s) and inspires me to go on spewing my vitriol.

I try to do something special for every anniversary celebration. In the last few years I've been posting a series of articles I was writing for a fanzine that documents my journey through early Who fandom during the 80s in Canada. I've run out of articles in that series so I've decided to start a new category on this occasion. COMPLETE AND UTTER SILLINESS will be about goofy theories I've come up with that I expect no one to take seriously but can still be fun to prove.



THE RAINBOW BROLLY - IT'S TRUE ORIGINS

Doctor Six is, of course, the incarnation most strongly associated with this particular piece of rain gear. It all started with a series of publicity shots they took of Colin Baker shortly after a costume for his Doctor was completed. It was the perfect accessory to the outfit, really. It basically said: "This particular combination of garments isn't quite obnoxiously loud enough - let's add to it!" The umbrella ended up making a few appearances in episodes throughout his all-too-short reign.

But Six is not the only Doctor to sport a brolly in this style. We see several other umbrellas that resemble his in both earlier and later adventures. They don't always perfectly match Sixie's umbrella, though. There are some variations.

A sane rational person would simply say: "Obviously, the Doctor has several different umbrellas lying around that are very similar to each other but not quite the same." That makes sense. It brings the whole argument to a close quite quickly, too. But it's also damned boring and doesn't enable me to write much of an entry on the matter. So I prefer to postulate that the rainbow brolly that we have been seeing throughout the years of the Classic Series is something more than just an object that keeps you dry during bad weather. No, I suggest that this polycromatic nightmare of a fashion accessory is a living being that possesses low-level shapeshifting skills. And I intend to spend the next few paragraphs backing up my claim.


WHERE DID IT ACTUALLY COME FROM?

Many of you might be saying (and, by "many": I mean all of you): "Rob! That's insane! Where would  you even find a living umbrella with the ability to shapeshift?! They just don't exist!". But, if we go by what the Doctor once said in The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe, an infinite Universe will eventually produce anything. So there must be sentient shapeshifting umbrellas out there, somewhere.

"But Rob!" you might continue, trying to get me to see the rational side of things, "Even if there were such a thing out there, somewhere - how would the Doctor find it?!" Well, he does have a vehicle that can take him anywhere in time and space. So it wouldn't be that hard.

Nonetheless, I will come up with a suitable backstory to make this all the easier to swallow:

In the Northern regions of the planet Valtoria, there exists special farms that raise formless low-level psychic creatures. These creatures are sold to people who like fashion accessories that are capable of adapting to their various tastes. When you purchase such a creature, it bonds with you. Searching your mind, it assumes the form of the fashion accessory you most desire in that moment. The object that it becomes is now considered its Primary Form. It cannot change too radically from that shape. But it can change a bit. Reading the mind of the being they have bonded with, it will introduce variations in its Primary Form whenever it is needed to.

The Doctor visited one such farm during his second incarnation. Just shortly after his battle against the Krotons - where he lost his favorite brolly. He just happened to have a few Voltarian bucks in the pocket of that battered old frock coat so he bought one of these creatures (we'll call them frotnoks, just to make this all easier). Naturally enough, he wished for the frotnok to become his new umbrella. He just happened to be in a colorful mood that day so something wild and multi-colored manifested itself in the bonding.

Ultimately, the frotnok just ended up making the Second Doctor miss his old brolly all the more. He threw the hapless creature in a closet in the TARDIS and it was forgotten about for some time. The Doctor knew the creature had very low intelligence and wouldn't be bothered by such a gesture. If you toss a frotnok away like that, it just goes into an extended sleep mode til someone comes into contact with it, again. So no harm was done to it. It just took a long nap.


COMING OUT OF THE CLOSET

Some time passed and the Doctor regenerated. His third incarnation certainly had a better nose for fashion, but he didn't care much about umbrellas. So the frotnok still sat in storage for quite some time after the regeneration.

Finally, the Doctor was planning a trip to Florana with his friend Sarah Jane Smith. He thought it might be smart to have a nice sun umbrella to shelter beneath if they needed some shade. He was sure he had one in a closet somewhere...

The frotnok immediately sensed that it was needed and woke up from its long slumber. Its current form wasn't quite what its master needed so it quickly shape-shifted. It grew in size and even added a white trim to itself to make it look more appealing. The Doctor found it and pulled it from storage to use on their trip to the beach. The frotnok enjoyed a merry little spin as the Doctor sang Beside the Seaside to it.

And then, suddenly, everything went wrong. The TARDIS landed on the planet Exxilon and had all its power drained from it. The trip to Florana was cancelled. The frotnok was briefly left in the console room as an adventure against the Daleks ensued. Eventually, it was returned to its closet space. Not to be seen again for some time.


A NEW DOCTOR

Again, the Doctor regenerated. This new incarnation was much more bohemian. He preferred things to look old and weathered.

The frotnok sensed this and made the appropriate shift in tones. Its colors became more subdued. Even though it had been seldom used, it made itself look well-worn. The Doctor came across the frotnok one day while wandering through the TARDIS storage hold and admired its form. He even remembered purchasing it way back in his second incarnation and knew of its abilities.

Which is why the Doctor just tosses the umbrella aside and doesn't bother with it anymore when he sees it's not raining as he's strolling about in Stones of Blood . He actually knows that the umbrella has the ability to sprout small legs and make its way back to the TARDIS all on its own. The TARDIS, also being a low-level telepath, will take pity on the frotnok and let it in once it makes it to her front doors.

As he ages, Doctor Four's tastes change. He becomes a bit more lively. The frotnok, quite naturally, adjusts to those tastes. By Destinty of the Daleks, it has taken on those same bright hues we will see it bearing when the Sixth Doctor puts it into regular use. The Doctor doesn't actually use a brolly in Destiny, though. We only see it perched atop the hatstand in the background in the TARDIS console room.

The frotnok was cast aside again for quite a while as the Doctor went through his next regeneration. The Fifth Doctor seemed more concerned with celery and cricket. He had no time for brollies.


SIX, AT LAST

Finally, the frotnok meets a version of the Doctor it can really hit it off with. Doctor Six delights in being a wild mismatch of colors and patterns and the frotnok is the perfect addition to his image. The two get on famously.

If you actually bother to look for the episodes where the Sixth Doctor is using the frotnok you become a bit surprised. We only see it for a bit at the beginning of Episode One of The Two Doctors. Though it's being used more as a sun umbrella, it doesn't revert to the form it had in Death to the Daleks. It has quite the presence throughout most of Episode One of Mysterious Planet but then gets left behind in the train tunnels of Marble Arch Station as the second episode rolls in.

Did it make its way back to the TARDIS on its own, again? More than likely. We don't see it anywhere when we return to that location at the Part Three cliffhanger and resolution. Yes, one of the underground dwellers could have taken the brolly. After the Doctor shuts down the Blacklight Converter, he finds who took it and gets it back from them. Or he even just goes and gets a new umbrella after this adventure. I know these are far more rational explanations. They just aren't fun. I'd prefer to think that umbrella walked its ass all the way back to the TARDIS again.

While there are only two televised appearances of Six and the frotnok, many more unseen adventures occurred between the two. At last, the frotnok got the love it deserved before it met its untimely end at the hands of that dark and merciless Seventh Doctor.


THE END - BUT THE MOMENT WAS NOT PREPARED FOR

Time and the Rani gives the frotnok more screen time than any other story. A fitting tribute for the creature as it is about to meet its demise.

The frotnok does one more shape shift in its last few hours. It adds a shoulder strap to itself for more easy transportation. It also gets put to great use in this tale. It trips Lakertyans, scares off Tetraps and transports lethal bangles.

It is while serving that last function that it meets its untimely end. For no readily apparent reason, the Doctor leaves the umbrella with Beyus as he guards the Brainiac to make sure no one tries to remove the bangles from it. We often talk of the Seventh Doctor's dark side. It is first put on display here as he ruthlessly leaves behind a living creature to die in an ensuing explosion. Yes, Beyus has chosen to be heroic, here. But did the frotnok make that same choice? Or was it just left behind out of cruelty?

There is, of course, a symbolism to the gesture. In the same way that Doctor Five establishes his presence by tearing apart his predecessor's scarf, Seven emerges by ridding himself of Six's brolly. But when we take into account the true origins of this umbrella, we see that the Doctor is on a dark path in this incarnation right from his very first story. Forget blowing up Skaro in Remembrance of the Daleks, leaving the frotnok to die is his darkest deed.



FINAL THOUGHTS....

Now, I know what you're thinking: this has been a fun little theory but the idea of a shape-shifting telepathic umbrella is completely ludicrous. And I get it. It is pretty hard to swallow. Even if we live in an infinite Universe of infinite potential.

But let me ask you this one simple question:

WHY HAVE WE NEVER SEEN TWO DIFFERENT STYLES OF MULTI-COLORED UMBRELLA AT THE SAME PLACE AT THE SAME TIME?!! 

I mean, if that's the really the case. If the Doctor does possess several different kinds of multi-colored brollies then we should see two or more of them together at once, right? That only makes sense. I mean, even the Doctor meets himself from time-to-time so multi-colored umbrellas doing the same shouldn't be too big of a stretch, right?

But we don't. And that is because I believe the recurring multi-colored umbrella theme happens for a reason throughout the Classic Series. Various production teams have been handing this down to each other like a baton. I can imagine secret discussions between Barry Letts and Philip Hinchcliffe regarding the need to include appearances of the frotnok every so often. And Hinchcliffe having the same talk with Graham Williams. And Williams with JNT...


FINAL FINAL THOUGHTS

Do you remember that moment in The Visitation when the sonic screwdriver gets blown up? What happens to the Doctor when it does? He looks at the wreckage sadly and mutters: "I feel as though I've lost an old friend!" 

Well, go re-watch The Doctor's Wife, now. Notice how Matt Smith uses an even deeper sense of melancholia when he says: "I had an umbrella like you, once."

Now we know why he sounds even more sullen. Unlike the sonic screwdriver, the frotnok was an actual living being. Not just something like a friend, but a legitimate comrade. During that moment in Doctor's Wife, he is mourning.

SPECIAL NOTE: Matt Smith doesn't sound the slightest bit sad when he says that in Doctor's Wife. I know that. But, in my head, he does!






Hope you like the new style of essay. There will be more in the future. I promise. The next time you are having wine, please a raise a toast to my fourth anniversary!