Saturday, 16 September 2017

CHRONOLOGIES AND TIMELINES: A PROBABLE HISTORY OF HOMO REPTILIA (AND/OR SILURIANS AND/OR SEA DEVILS AND/OR EOCENES AND/OR WHATEVER!) -PART 1

So I'm holding back on establishing a timeline for the Cybermen til the Christmas Special rolls around - just in case it has anything to add to the whole Mondasian Cybermen epic that we got for the Series Ten Finale (we did, after all, see the First Doctor during his final moments of The Tenth Planet so they may touch upon Cyber-History a bit more during the Christmas Special). But that doesn't mean I can't work out some other probable histories for other species we've had repeated encounters with.

As the entry title implies, what exactly we should be naming these creatures is a huge debate in itself. For the most part, I shall employ their most frequently-used title: the Silurians. However, there will probably be a sentence or two where I am desperate for a synonym. During those instances, I'll probably use the more accurate, all-encompassing title of Homo Reptilia. The spelling of "reptilia", by the way, could be a legitimate debate too. I'm going to stick with the one I'm using.  



HOMO REPTILIA: WHO'S MOST THREE-DIMENSIONAL MONSTER

Perhaps the most beautiful trait to this particular creature is just how much those who have written them try to ground them in reality. Other non-human species tend to be very much of one mind. Daleks and Cybermen are the best example of this, of course. But even if we look at a race like the Ice Warriors - who start off being nasty but eventually become a force for good - they tend to all be ruthless conquerors during one period and then they're all intergalactic peacekeepers, later (with the exception of a breakaway faction here and there!).

What I'm really trying to say is: quite often, your common Doctor Who monster can lack some depth. This is true of most science fiction, of course. It's just difficult to portray a diverse culture in an alien race. There's only so much time you can spend on such a task before it gets in the way of the story. So we make them a little on the two-dimensional side.

Not so with the Silurians. Malcolm Hulke, the man who composed their first few adventures, was always intent on creating shades of grey in his scripts. He didn't like adventures where the antagonists were blacker than black and the heroes whiter than white. He wanted us to understand why everyone was doing the things they were doing. Whether the actions seemed good or bad  - we could empathize with the people who were committing them. For this reason, most of his stories lacked true villains or even true heroes. Everyone was flawed and everyone was noble.


PART 1: THE EARLY YEARS - IN TERMS OF HISTORY AND TRANSMISSION ORDER

I am realizing, as I write this, that chronicling the timeline of this particular species is going to take a bit longer than I expected. So we'll need to do this in two parts. I promise this won't be like Dalek History, though (this is a link to the first part http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2015/06/chronologies-and-timelines-tymecian.html- the other parts follow immediately afterwards - strap yourself in for a good afternoon of reading, though!). I really will stop after two installments. Unless I have to do an Appendix some time later because some new Silurian stories came out.



ANCIENT HISTORY: WHEN DID IT ALL ACTUALLY TAKE PLACE?!

We're not entirely sure when Homo Reptilia ruled the Earth. The Doctor, himself, even makes errors in estimates. He's calling them Silurians during their first story because he believes that's the era they hail from. In their next story, he claims that they should actually be called Eocenes. But that's also a misnomer. At least if you go by what we've seen of their culture.

Homo Reptilia seem to live in the same Age as the dinosaurs. Which would indicate the Jurassic Period. But they also claim to have been aware of the ape-like species that would eventually become man. Most paleontologists would have you believe that dinos and monkeys did not exist at the same time. Another key event that is mentioned in most Silurian stories is that the moon had not yet arrived in Earth's orbit. This makes determining the time period they lived in even more complicated. Dinosaurs, early humans and a pre-moon Earth are all very difficult to place in the same period.

I would guess that the Silurians dwelt in several pre-historic eras. Their civilization could be that ancient. Having them as creatures that roamed the Earth for a few million years would enable them to really devote some time to evolving into such an advanced species. So my guess would be that they were at a very primitive stage until sometime around the Jurassic Age. That's when they really started become technologically sophisticated. They probably experienced a major setback when the space freighter from Earth's future wiped out the dinosaurs. From there, I would guess they set up an early-warning system that spotted the moon as it was approaching the Earth. The moon's approach took place sometime after early homo-sapiens arrived on the scene. According to modern science, the moon formed far sooner than homo-sapiens did. But we just have to assume that history did not flow in quite the same fashion in the Whoniverse as it does in ours (considering the moon in their reality is actually the egg of a giant space dragon - that's not too big of a leap!). This is, probably, the best way to get it all to work cohesively.


KEY POINTS ABOUT SILURIANS WHILE THEY RULED THE EARTH.

Probably the biggest thing we should take stock of regarding this species is that, just like humanity, they have several different races. At this point, we have seen four of them. No proper names have been assigned to the different categories so we'll give them very simple ones. There are Two-Eyed Silurians, Three-Eyed Telekinetic Silurians, Three-Eyed Non-Telekinetic Silurians and, of course, Sea Devils. All these different races all seem to bow to one supreme governing force: The Triad. A group of three specially-selected members of their society that govern the entire civilization. At the time of The Approaching Cataclysm, at least one member was a Three-Eyed Non-Telekinetic Silurian named Icthar.

Other knowledge that we've gathered about their society is that they seem to have blended biology and technology very closely together. Much like Ice Warriors. But not quite to the extreme that the Axons or the Zygons have taken things. Still it does look like much of their electronic devices were grown as much as they were built.

Siluirans also seem to have become fairly competent geneticists. When the dinosaurs were around they did seem to alter some of them (the T-Rex in Doctor Who and the Silurians seems to have unusually long arms and they can actually control its actions, to some extent). Besides tampering with dinosaurs, they also created their own specialized reptilian beasts. The Myrka would be the best example we've seen, thus far, of an original creation.

Like any civilization, they've faced a natural disaster or two that nearly wiped them out. Not just the approaching moon - but they also had to deal with a breed of creatures that they named The Red Leech. Which may have been a by-product of their own chemical experiments. We do see in, at least, one story that they are also quite comfortable with bio-chemical warfare (the Silurian Scientist hands a virus over to the Young Silurian in Doctor Who and the Silurians - almost like it's an everyday thing). Potentially, the Red Leech was actually something they created in an experiment gone wrong.  
We should probably also note that the Silurians did achieve space travel. At least one group of Two-Eyed Silurians created a large colony ship to avoid a disaster.


THE FIRST RE-AWAKENING

As has been explained in several Silurian stories, something went wrong with their hibernation chambers (surprise, surprise - this never happens in Doctor Who!). It could be a simple fact that they actually constructed some sort of detection equipment to register the effects of The Approaching Cataclysm. Since the actual disaster never happened - this may have confused the detection instrumentation. Which, in turn, caused the Resuscitation Program to never kick in.

As humanity evolves, we keep stumbling upon some of their hibernation chambers and accidentally waking them up. Thanks to the non-linear nature of the program, the first time we see this happening is not truly the first instance of an accidental revivification. Strictly as the chronometer flies, the first time we wake up a group of Silurians would have been the hibernation chamber that Madame Vastra was in. Which means that, technically, the Paternoster Gang Adventures are the earliest Silurian stories. By the way Vastra, Jenny and Strax interact with the Doctor each times he meets them, we can also assume that the adventures we've witnessed all happen in chronological order. This isn't some River Song thing again - where their encounters are out of sequence. So we can just list the Paternoster Gang stories in the order they were transmitted and that is also the order in which they occurred.

A Good Man Goes To War (at least, the opening scene where the Doctor picks up Vastra)
The Snowmen
The Crimson Horror
The Name of the Doctor 
Deep Breath

We are lucky enough to even get dates assigned to certain stories in the subtitles. The Doctor arrives in London in 1888 to gather Vastra and Jenny for his oncoming battle with the Silence in A Good Man Goes to War. The Name of the Doctor uses the same convention and is given a date of 1893. A few deductions can be made about the dates of stories between these two watermarks. The flashback to Doctor Simeon as a child in The Snowmen, for instance, is given a date of 1842. The Doctor states in a later scene that the snowman started talking to Young Simeon fifty years ago. So we can then guess that the adventure, itself, is taking place in 1892. In some cases, we don't even need to make deductions. In The Crimson Horror, the Doctor just, flat-out, tells Clara that it's 1893 as they emerge from the TARDIS

Unfortunately, we are only given scant details of how Madame Vastra was re-awakened. A bit of throwaway dialogue in A Good Man Goes To War provides us with the vaguest of back-stories. Apparently, some human tunnel-diggers of some sort inadvertently de-activated the hibernation units in the survival chamber that a group of Two-Eyed Silurians were sleeping in. Everyone else but Vastra was killed. It would seem the humans caused the deaths by accident but Vastra still tried to wreak vengeance upon them. The Doctor arrived on the scene and managed to stop the slaughter. He even managed to settle Vastra down and convince her to live among humanity peacefully. That's the story I've pieced together from the dialogue, at least. Truthfully, it's highly subjective and you could devise any number of different narratives from what we were given. But this is the one I choose to believe in.

Whether this is truly the very "First Re-Awakening" of the Silurians is difficult to determine. It could be that earlier revivifications have happened - we just haven't seen the adventures involving them, yet.


A BIT MORE ABOUT VASTRA...

Because we're only provided with limited information to explain it, we can't be sure of the exact date of Vastra's re-awakening. Again, we are given a date of 1888 when the Doctor comes for her assistance in the Battle of Demon's Run. We can assume she lived in London for quite a few years before that. She would've needed that time to establish herself. By the time we do see her in 1888, she's a woman of property with an ongoing professional relationship with the upper echelons of the police force. She has also had time to fall in love with and marry Jenny. I estimate that it's been, at the very least, a good decade since she's been re-awakened. Possibly more. Unfortunately, there is no concrete evidence to ascertain any of this. Still, I'm going to say that the first Re-Awakening of a Silurian hibernation chamber that we've seen on the show took place some time around 1878.

Living among humans has probably significantly changed Vastra. Particularly since she has developed an intimate relationship with one of them. So some of the behavior we see her exhibiting is probably not typical of her people. Eating human flesh, for instance, is probably not something most Silurians have indulged in. I prefer to think this is a taste that she has very specifically developed on her own.


THE FIRST RE-AWAKENING THAT WE SEE

We can't say, for sure, what has become of Vastra by the time we reach the events of Doctor Who and the Silurians. We don't know the lifespan of her species.  Even if she can live that long - she may have met some untimely end.

Or, for all we know, she is still kicking around in the late 20th Century but is maintaining a certain level of secrecy. The Doctor may have even explained that he has no recollection of meeting her during the many 20th Century adventures that he experienced in his past so she might intentionally be keeping to the shadows.

Assigning a specific date for Doctor Who and the Silurians (if you pedantics don't mind: I may just refer to it as The Silurians - just to keep it easier) can be a bit difficult. It opens up the complicated dating the UNIT stories debate that I'd rather not delve into, right now. So I'm just going to say that The Silurians takes place in 1970. If you want to argue that date - wait til I actually tackle it in an essay specifically about when the UNIT stories take place (should I ever have the courage to write such an essay!).

We get the vaguest impression that the Doctor has met the Silurians before when he first talks to one in Doctor Quinn's cottage. "You're a Silurian, aren't you?"seems to imply some sort of familiarity. He could have made deductions about these creatures based on the notes he found in Quinn's office. Or he may have even read the same "Secret Files of the Time Lords" that the Master claims to have gotten his hands on during The Sea Devils.

Or it could just be that there was an untelevised adventure during his first or second incarnation where he encountered them. I would guess it was another one of those tales that took place in the notorious Season 6b that many of us fans love to believe in (I discuss this in several different essays - this one addresses it the most directly: https://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2015/06/fixing-continuity-glitches-double.html). I like to believe that he has dealt with them once before. But that the encounter was fleeting, at best. And it was probably with a different race. This is why he's not entirely sure of who he's talking to in Quinn's cottage.



A BIT MORE ABOUT THREE-EYED TELEKINETICS....

The Doctor meets Three-Eyed Telekinetic Silurians for the one and only time in The Silurians. During this particular encounter, we learn a fair amount about them.

That third eye in the forehead seems capable of doing all sorts of things for them. Most frequently, we see it being used as a weapon. But it also seems capable of controlling various types of technology and can even work as a bit of an energy source. Oddly enough, it isn't used much for the simple moving of objects - the task we most often see telekinesis being employed for.

This particular breed of Homo-Reptilia has a weird effect on humans. Some people, when feeling their presence nearby, revert back to primitive caveman behavior. I would suggest that has something to do with the fact that this branch of Silurians have advanced mental powers. Perhaps they send out some sort of telepathic signal to humans that can have adverse effects on them.

The Silurians also demonstrates a very interesting trait in their culture. For all their advancements, there is still a very barbaric side to them. The Young Silurian seems to usurp the Old Silurian through simple trial by combat (and he even appears to cheat). Had this happened in human culture, of course, he would not have been allowed to lead. In fact, he would've probably been considered a criminal and been arrested for murder. Whereas the other Silurians seem to accept him as their leader with little or no protest (the Scientist does put up the slightest resistance but quickly submits when he is threatened by the Young Silurian). It would seem that the Silurian culture accepts a certain level of brute force to determine social order. We see evidence of this in other stories but this is where it is most blatant. Even Vastra shows signs of extreme savagery. But, since she is atypical to her culture, we couldn't be certain if this was an accurate depiction of her people. We also can't be entirely sure if the Silurians truly base their leadership on a survival of the fittest basis. They were in a pretty extreme situation at the time - so they might be more accepting of such measures.

Whatever the case, the Doctor will soon be encountering another race of Homo Reptilia who definitely lean more on the violent side of things. But that's for Part Two....



Okay then, that's enough for now. As I mentioned earlier, Silurian History seems more elaborate than I first anticipated so we'll continue this later.

In Part Two, we'll meet the Sea Devils for the first time. We'll also look at the exploits of Homo Reptilia in the Twenty-First Century. We'll even try to determine if there's much hope for the Silurians in the far-distance future....













Thursday, 31 August 2017

ANALYTICAL: COMPANION RETROSPECTIVES 2: ACE - PART 2

In the first half of our Ace Chronicles, we looked at how the character was gradually formed during her first four stories. We saw her passion for justice tempered by a strong sense of mercy. Her hatred of insincerity and love for the Outsider. We also saw her wreck a lot of Daleks and Cybermen and set off some pretty cool explosions. 

Now that the character is, more or less, fully formed. Let's look at the mission the Doctor seems to be preparing her for as the Classic Series reaches its end....



THE TUTELAGE BEGINS...

Up until her creation, we've never seen a character that was crafted quite the way Ace was. Which is part of her appeal. She truly is unique among all the companions. Layers were added to her slowly but surely. At the same time, we could enjoy all her gimmicks. In some stories, the gimmicks were even pushed to the forefront and the character development was downplayed. But this was never taken too far.

Because of this, Ace was always appreciated on multiple levels. We enjoyed watching her grow emotionally as much as we loved seeing her blow things up. We would have been just fine with regular doses of action and character growth but Andrew Cartmel decides to take Ace even further. As Ace's personality becomes fully formed, the Doctor seems to be developing a plan for her. He is training Ace for something. Guiding her in certain directions so that she may complete some sort of masterplan for him. What is it, exactly? We never find out. The show ends before this particular arc can be completed. But it is still a great arc to watch. The Doctor becomes more brooding and manipulative as Ace grows in confidence and trusts her instincts more deeply.

Some would say that this training that the Doctor is putting Ace through doesn't truly begin til several episodes into Season 26. I prefer to believe that we see the first hints of it as Season 25 broadcasts its final story.



GREATEST SHOW IN THE GALAXY - THE NEXUS POINT

One of the strongest points I'm trying to make in this particular essay is that Ace goes through two crucial journeys during her travels. The first is an effort to "find herself". To, essentially, figure out what she's really about. In so doing, of course, we also learn who Ace is. Dragonfire sees her as a fairly two-dimensional character who's a lot of fun. We see only the merest hint in that particular story that there's more to her than that. Those hints are developed to their fullest extent in Season 25. We, then, embark upon Phase Two of Ace Development: the Doctor's Secret Mission for Her.

Many would argue that Greatest Show in the Galaxy is the final piece of the puzzle in fully fleshing out Ace's identity. We see the last of her Core Traits that I discussed so thoroughly in Part 1 rise to the surface. It's displayed right at the beginning of Episode One where the Junkmail Bot taunts her. Ace is the type of person who needs to face her fears and conquer them. It's for this reason that she decides to go to the Psychic Circus: she needs to defeat her fear of clowns.

Once on Segonax, several more of those Core Traits are put on display. Ace's love for the social outcast is shown off in the friendship she instantly makes with Mags. Part of the reason she finds clowns so creepy is because they represent that artificial happiness she hates so much. She shows great tenderness to Bellboy as he shares his misery with her. And, of course, she wants to right whatever wrong is going on within the Psychic Circus. All the core traits seem to have assembled in one story so that Ace is truly fleshed out. Greatest Show is the ultimate conclusion to the First Stage of Ace's Journey.  

But let's take a closer look at that new Core Trait revealed in the finale of Season 25. We see that Ace is the type of person who must always face her fears. But was she always like that? Only a story earlier, she is admitting to the Doctor that things are getting too scary for her and she wants out. The Doctor almost seems to manipulate her into staying in the battle. Could Ace's fear in Silver Nemesis have alerted the Doctor to a potential roadblock in his process of mentoring her into whatever it is he wants her to be?

There is just the vaguest hint at the end of Greatest Show in the Galaxy that the Doctor may have gone to Segonax on purpose. That he knew the Gods of Ragnarok had installed themselves' there and he was going to take them down. In much the same way that all the other stories of Season 25 were "pro-active". The Doctor didn't stumble into this adventure as he used to - he went there for a reason. I believe he had several motives for his Segonax visit. Yes, he needed to defeat the evil that dwelt there - but he also needed to present Ace with a fear for her to beat. The scene where he offers to just throw the Junkmail Bot away and continue on to somewhere else feels just as manipulative as the scene in Silver Nemesis where he suggests Ace return to the TARDIS. He knows this will goad Ace into doing the exact opposite of what he's suggesting.

I think Greatest Show in the Galaxy accomplishes two things at once with Ace's character. It finishes her slow development that we've been enjoying throughout the season. But it also embarks upon Arc B for Ace. It's the Doctor's first blatant attempt to tutor her and move her along on the Ultimate Plan that he seems to have for her. As I said at the end of Part 1 of this essay, this is a "hinge story" between the two character arcs for Ace. One story ends and a new one begins. The character is now moving in a new direction. But not before all the key points of her first journey are cemented in.

I firmly believe that Ace's tutelage begins here.




BATTLEFIELD - ANOTHER STEP BACK

And, once more, we revert back to an Ace that is, for the most part, fun. Battlefield is a high adventure that makes full use of Ace's functionalism as a woman of action. One can easily see this as she blows up a fair amount of things throughout the story. Ace using a lot of pyrotechnics is usually a good sign that this will be more about her gimmicks than character development.

Still, Ace's personality isn't completely thrown to the wayside. We do see a Core Trait on display when she instantly befriends Shou Yuing - another outsider. And the nature of my beloved Ace Moments are also taking on a new tone. It's not just pure action that gets us to sometimes punch the air for her. Ace Moments are becoming more emotional this season. Battlefield, for me, possesses a few of these sequences. Ace rising out of the water with Excalibur is a sheer delight that is more about comedy than action. And when she stops herself in mid-sentence from saying a racist profanity and breaks Morgaine's spell by hugging Shou Yuing - that qualifies as an outstanding Ace Moment for me. We are thrilled with her for very different reasons than killing Cybermen and Daleks. And we love the way Morgaine remarks: "They breed their children strong, here...." 

Still, Battlefield is more about having a good time with Ace. Which was needed. A much heavier psychological journey is about to begin...


GHOST LIGHT - THE FIRST TEST

Many believe this is where Ace's tutelage truly begins. In some ways, they are right. We definitely get a sense that the Doctor is putting her through a series of adventures that will make her a stronger person. The next three stories that we see have very specific intents behind them.

What impresses me most about Ace's mentorship, is the way Sophie Aldred pulls back on the performance. The gimmicks and the street slang are still there - but they're not played up as much as they usually are. Ace seems to be taking things more seriously in these next few stories.

Right from the TARDIS' materialization in Ghostlight, Ace is informed she is being put through an initiative test. Rather than being told where and when they are, he's asking her to figure it out on her own. And it's definitely being played out like some sort of contest as Ace feels the Doctor should be penalized for bad parking.

As the story progresses, the Doctor is urging Ace more and more to figure out what is so special about the house they're visiting. He needs her to discern this to pass her first test. It would seem he is still alarmed by her panic attack in Silver Nemesis and needs her to truly conquer her fears. Overcoming creepy clowns in Greatest Show in the Galaxy was not enough. He needs to truly see that Ace will not be held back by the things that frighten her. It is interesting to note how he makes the same offer in Part Three that he did in Nemesis - he gives her the option to return to the TARDIS. Ace refuses. This seems to almost satisfy the Doctor. She's passed her first test.


THE CURSE OF FENRIC - THE NEXT STEP

And so, Ace embarks upon her second test. This one is probably the most difficult. Since her very first story, we've been hearing about Ace's estrangement with her mother. We might even call it one of her Core Traits (I was tempted to discuss in Part 1 of this essay but I was rambling on enough!). In Fenric, she must face her hatred of her mother and forgive her. Ghostlight was about Ace defeating her fear. Now, she must let go of past resentments.

How intentional this test was is difficult to tell. The Doctor goes to the British base in the 1940s that has the Ultima Machine to finally battle Fenric. He knew Ace was being used as a Wolf of Fenric - did he also know that her mother would be there and that she would be forced to forgive her? In this incarnation, he could be just that dubious. Whatever the case, Ace passes the test beautifully.

Fenric also shows off, quite clearly, the restraint Aldred is showing in the role now that she is being put through her tutelage. Ace gets several of her more notorious gimmicks in this story (cool stuff in the rucksack, blowing things up with Nitro 9). But she handles them differently, more calmly. Compare her exuberance as she blows up Arthur's ship in Battlefield versus how she acts with explosives, here. Ace is definitely transitioning and the actress playing her acknowledges it by tweaking her interpretation accordingly.

Of course, Curse of Fenric also has some of my favorite Ace Moments of all. Again, they're not action-based. There's a nice comedic moment where she comments on the way Millington's chess set is booby-trapped. And then there's some great dramatic moments. The way she cries out: "Mom! I'm sorry!" in front of the firing squad. Her choosing to seduce the guard to distract him is another moment I greatly relish. It really shows how much she's grown. She doesn't need to chuck explosives at her problems, anymore - or club them with a baseball bat. She can actually use social skills, now. She's far from being the "emotional cripple" the Doctor must call her to break her faith in him. She's a fully fleshed out three dimensional person.

Of course, her greatest Ace Moment is the last few minutes of the story. Where she truly passes her test and comes to terms with the fact that she loves her mom - regardless of who she is. Diving into the water and facing the undercurrents is a beautiful symbolism to the whole moment. One might even say this is the best scene a companion has ever gotten.


SURVIVAL - CUT OFF TOO SOON

It's hard to determine, exactly, what is the test in this story. The Doctor keeps trying to get Ace to reconcile herself to her past. In this instance, he seems to be getting her to conquer her own sense of nostalgia. Nothing stays the same and your memories can be cherished but they can't dominate you. It's a simpler test. But then, after the brutality she faced in the last story - perhaps it's time to go a little easier on her.

There also seems to be a whole test of Ace trying to control the more savage elements of her character. To cage the beast she has within her. But this one probably wasn't intentional on the Doctor's part. He couldn't know they would end up on planet of the Cheetah People and that she would be contaminated. Nonetheless, Ace's refusal to fight at the most crucial of moments in Part Three certainly shows that she passes this challenge, too. It might even be one last good Ace Moment before the show must end.

And so, the Doctor and Ace stroll off for more adventures as we enjoy a voiced-over monologue. Sadly, we won't get to see any of them.


THE ACE THAT COULD HAVE BEEN...

According to Andrew Cartmel, himself: Ace was being put through all this mentoring so that the Doctor could take her to Gallifrey during Season 27 and enter her into the Time Lord Academy. How exactly a human can become a Time Lord is not certain. But this could creep into another essay I have in mind.

The failure to complete this arc is painful, of course. Almost as difficult for me to process as the fact that the Sixth Doctor was cut off before his character growth reached its full potential. These are the true consequences of all the behind-the-scenes drama that went on in the late 80s: some great stories were never finished.

Somehow, Ace disappears from the Doctor's side during those "Wilderness Years". It does pop up, from time-to-time, in fan forums that the New Series should let us know in some way what became of her. Some have said she should get a special story of her own where the Doctor adventures with her for an episode or two. Others would just be happy if a little throwaway dialogue was inserted in a script to mention what she's doing, these days. But, more than likely, how Ace left will remain a mystery.

But the time she did spend in the TARDIS was certainly some of the best material the show ever produced.  And we can always treasure that....



Well, that's it for this Companion Retrospective. I did mention earlier that Ace just might be the best companion of them all. Did I mean it? Perhaps this might be my latest End-of-Year List!

Want to read my other Companion Retrospective in Clara Oswald? Here's Part One: 

http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/09/analytical-companion-retrospective.html

And Part Two: 

http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/09/analytical-companion-retrospective_27.html









Wednesday, 9 August 2017

ANALYTICAL: COMPANION RETROSPECTIVES 2: ACE - PART 1

My Companion Retrospective on Clara Oswald seemed somewhat well-received so I thought I would do another. This time, we're looking at the companion that was there as the Classic Series bowed out. Quite possibly, one of the best companions of them all. 

PART 1: FORMING THE CHARACTER

ACE - DOROTHY WHO?

It is highly ironic that we never truly learn Ace's last name (the "McShane" is a rumor, at best and was never stated in any on-air dialogue). While her full name might be a mystery, there is probably no companion that we get to know better. So many layers of Ace are revealed before that fateful final walk together in Survival. I would even be bold enough to say that she is the most three-dimensional companion in the entire New or Classic Series.

She is also what I like to call a functional companion. It is the job of every companion to be the window that the audience sees through, To occasionally ask: "What is it, Doctor?" so that he can give a required info-dump now and again. But some companions prove to be a bit more useful than that. Some can actually skillfully carry certain elements of the plot so that the Doctor can sit back and not have to work quite so hard at everything. Companions that come from advanced societies such as Romana or Captain Jack could operate various types of alien technology that, normally, only the Doctor would be able to handle. Such characters could enable the Doctor to be stranded aboard the TARDIS while Crinothian spaceships needed to be repaired or let him go on a pleasant date with a Slytheen while extrapolators needed to be installed. Characters with such skill levels can fulfill greater functions in the story so I give them that functional companion nickname.

Characters capable of effectively handling action sequences are another type of functional companion. They take care of some of the more dangerous elements of an adventure and allow the Doctor to indulge in other activities when the fists start to swing. Most of the males that traveled with his first two incarnations were frequently required to get into all the scraps . The First and Second Doctors could just stick to the sciencey stuff and villain tell-offs while Ian, Steven, Ben or Jamie did the dirty work. It was only when the Doctor started messing about with Venuisan aiki-do that the men of action were no longer really required. Even Harry Sullivan being brought in during Season 11 wasn't all that badly needed for fighting, after all.

But a few seasons later, we were first introduced to the concept of a woman of action when Leela came on to the scene. The Doctor berated the savage for her reliance on violence - but she could also come in quite handy in a tight spot. Once more, she could fulfill a useful function in a story while the Doctor could go about dealing with mad computers, maniacal time travelers who were accepted as Chinese gods and other such things.

The next time we got to enjoy a companion of this nature, it was also a female character. Leela played with knives and Janis Thorns, but when Ace came along - it was Nitro 9 and the occasional baseball bat. I'll throw around even more superlatives by claiming that Ace was the ultimate "functional action companion" the show ever had. Leela probably had the highest death-count but Ace took out some of the most brutal of foes. Not only did she kick Cyberman and Dalek butt - but she even blew up a whole Cybership all on her own. Not too many companions can make those sort of boasts. It's usually only the Doctor who comes out of those sorts of scraps in one piece.

This is why I love Ace so much. She is responsible for some of the best action sequences the show has ever put together ("Ace Moments" - as I like to call them). But the actual development of the character was an equally high priority. We take an amazing emotional journey with her. But we also love it when blows stuff up with her Nitro 9 or kills the Doctor's mortal enemies with slingshots and baseball bats.


STARTING POINT

In some ways, Ace suffers a similar problem in her introduction that Clara has to deal with when we first meet her. It's more about gimmicks than character. With Clara, it was a plot gimmick. A mystery to solve that overtook the actual crafting of her personality in her earlier days. Whereas, in the case of Ace, the gimmick lies in what she does. The street slang. The attitude. The rucksack full of handy stuff. And, of course, the explosives. Her character traits seem to almost overwhelm the character, itself. An attempt is made in Dragonfire to give her a bit more dimension. That moment in Episode Three where she and Mel stop for a coffee break. Ace reveals her true name and discusses how she doesn't feel like she's meant to be on Earth. How she's meant to see the stars. It does give the character a bit more depth, yes. But the scene, itself, seems very forced. Almost like it was shoe-horned in. So it's only so effective in getting Ace to grow beyond her gimmicks.

But as the Doctor bids adieu to Mel and accepts Ace as the new companion (provided she goes by the rules, of course), we still feel a sense of promise. If nothing else, Ace does have a lot of cool gimmicks that we can enjoy in future stories. Really, it's hard not to like a companion who blows stuff up for fun. As the next season starts up, however, Ace's personality becomes far more interesting than any can of Nitro-Nine can hope to be.


SEASON 25: A DEEPER ACE

Many fans like to speculate that a few years have passed between Seasons 24 and 25. In some ways, it makes sense. Both Ace and Doctor Seven seem to have grown a bit. I'm more inclined to believe that they've had an adventure that has caused them to mature quickly. You can read about that silly theory here:

http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2015/10/chronologies-and-timelines-history-of.html

It's towards the end of the essay if you're that curious.

Whatever happened, when the Doctor and Ace stroll out onto the streets of London in 1963, they are both different. Particularly the Doctor. He's a darker man. But Ace seems a bit more subdued, too. Her "gimmicks" are still in place but they don't seem quite as in-your-face as they were in Dragonfire. Because of this, we can really get to know her properly. As Season 25 progresses, we see who Ace is and what she stands for. These core traits slowly emerge as the stories of the season move on.


VITAL CORE TRAITS - REMEMBRANCE OF THE DALEKS


The early episodes of Remembrance of the Daleks show us a few of Ace's more superficial traits. Right from that first shot, we see a sort of "likeable arrogance" to her. She strolls through the streets of London in 1963 with the most obnoxious of anachronisms and she doesn't care. She wants to listen to 80s Rock on her ghetto blaster and the timelines don't mean a thing to her. This should make us, as an audience, find her a bit distasteful. But, instead, it amuses us. We like the way she thumbs her nose at the rules. We will see Ace misbehave like this over and over in the next two seasons. And we always enjoy it.

Another superficial trait that manifests itself quite quickly is how Ace understands her functionalism and accepts it. She's in charge of handling the rough stuff while the Doctor goes about with the intellectual affairs. She's no dummy, of course. She'll help solve the various puzzles and riddles that the plot will present. But she also knows she's meant to protect the Doctor from any potential dangers out there. "Who else is going to watch your back?!" - she protests in Episode Two of Remembrance when the Doctor won't allow her to tag along. That one line shows a clear understanding of her role. She represents the Doctor's muscle in the story. Years before Joss Whedon was being celebrated for crafting violent teenage girls that handled all the serious action in a story, Doctor Who was doing it with style and aplomb.

As the story evolves in the later episodes, Ace's most vital core character trait is prominently displayed. She has a very strong sense of right or wrong. Most companions join the Doctor to see the Universe - but Ace is with him, moreso, to help him in his crusades. It's important to her to be a part of the battle against evil. This is why she gets angry, over and over, when he doesn't fully explain to her what's going on. She can't make a difference with him if she's not totally aware of the situation. She has a strong drive to always do what's right. Most companions that have traveled with the Doctor have highly-developed morals. But this is even stronger in Ace. She fights for justice just as strongly as he does.

The relationship she has with Mike in this story throws that trait into sharp relief. When Ace, at last, learns that her love interest has been a bit of a double agent, Mike hopes that Ace's feelings for him can be exploited and he can use her to help cover for him. But Ace's integrity comes to the forefront. Whatever she may have felt for him is immediately kicked to the wayside. Mike is a double agent and she's furious about it. He was not one of the good guys, after all. Ace wants no part of him, now.

While Ace can be this tough and righteous woman, Remembrance also makes sure to show us that there is much room in her heart for compassion, too. A little girl that has been shooting lightning bolts around a livingroom in an attempt to kill her suddenly has a complete emotional breakdown. If Ace were truly the hard woman that she portrays, she would have just let that girl sob from a safe distance. But, instead, she immediately races forward and holds the girl in her arms. Her soft side is quick to come forward when needed. She will care as quickly as she will fight.

Integrity and mercy. These are Ace's two strongest points. We will see them over and over in all of her tales. But Remembrance of the Daleks establishes them firmly. Dragonfire may have even hinted at them - but Remembrance makes them clear.

Of course, we can't talk about this story without also pointing out that it is the first time we see one of those awesome Ace Moments: an action sequence so well-executed that we will, forever, punch the air anytime we watch it. That lovely moment in Coal Hill at the end of Episode Two where Ace starts taking out Daleks with her cosmic baseball bat is nothing short of splendiforous. "Who you calling small?!" is the most perfect of dialogue, too. Again, it shows us that "likeable arrogance". It's also, pretty much, the coolest thing you could say to a deadly universal conqueror just before you hand him his ass on a platter!


VITAL CORE TRAITS - HAPPINESS PATROL

Happiness Patrol still remains a huge "vote-splitter" among fandom. Its camp sensibilities cause fans to absolutely love or hate it. But, whatever you feel about the story (I love it, by the way) it does continue to add layers to Ace's personality.

Within the first few minutes, we see another important trait emerge. Ace comments on the "lift music" that is playing all over the place. How it's too saccharine for her tastes. This would be another vital core trait that presents itself again and again throughout the next two seasons. Ace requires sincerity. The moment you start acting under any kind of false pretense - she begins to dislike you. Terra Alpha, with its overabundance of primal colors, bad lift music and laws on public happiness all become something she must take down. She can't stand the fakeness of it all.

Another core trait that surfaces prominently in this particular tale is Ace's love for the Outsider. During the heartfelt moment with Mel in Dragonfire, she confesses that she felt like she was meant to be in space. That she didn't fit anywhere on Earth. This seems to give her a strong sense of empathy for anyone who seems to be rejected by their peers.  Anytime Ace sees someone else who doesn't seem to fit in - she takes to them. She'll stick up for them and even defend them to the best of her abilities. We see this happen for the first time when she meets Susan Q - a member of the Happiness Patrol who seems incapable of staying happy. Ace can't resist forming a deep bond with her and the two become best of friends over a very short period of time. Standing together in solidarity and proud of the fact that they will not assimilate into the corrupt regime they are trapped in.

It helps, of course, that most fans of sci-fi feel like outsiders, too. So when we see someone who almost seems to favor the square peg, we can't help but fall in love with her all the more.


SILVER NEMESIS - A STEP BACK

Season 25 progresses and we reach Silver Nemesis, next. After a few really strong stories that develop Ace well, we revert back to Dragonfire for a bit. It's more about gimmicks than character. But that's okay, in some ways. Ace is, by this point, almost fully-formed. We definitely see the complexity of her and understand most of her layers. There's not much more to add to her - so getting back to basics with Ace is actually welcome.

For a bit, Ace is just the tough-talking street kid with some legitimate firepower to back her up that we saw when we first met her. In this state we are able to really focus on some awesome "Ace moments". Blowing up the Cyber-shuttle with her rucksack is one of them. But it's pretty quick. Taking out a bunch of Cybermen with gold coins and a slingshot is a longer much more enjoyable moment. Yes, the Cybermen seem almost too vulnerable to gold, now. Yes, their aim also seems pretty awful. But this is still a great sequence. Particularly as she makes her way up to the gantry. That scene is, pretty much, Ace at her absolute coolest. As she stands in the cross-hairs of three Cybermen with only one gold coin left, we can't help but marvel at how much of a bad-ass she is. Faced with an almost inevitable death, she simply yells back: "Who will live and who gets it?!" . Ace's bravery has never shone brighter. The fact that she comes up with a clever way out of the whole thing gets us to love her all the more.

And yet, like Dragonfire, Silver Nemesis still makes sure to give us a bit of vulnerability. As they stroll through the forest in Episode Two, Ace suddenly feels overwhelmed. Ever-so-briefly, she admits to the Doctor that she wants to back out of all this. The Doctor seems to be almost manipulating her as he offers to let her return to the TARDIS. Like he knows that the offer will re-galvanize her courage. It works as Ace suddenly remembers her place in the story. As always, she needs to guard the Doctor's back. Considering she will soon be placed in the deadliest of situations and still manage to fight her way out, it's nice to actually see that she gets a bit scared of all the huge things that, sometimes, go on around her. Unlike the coffee break in Dragonfire, this scene is quite effective.


THE NEXT PHASE OF ACE

As Silver Nemesis concludes, we are now quite familiar with Ace. There are a few nuances that still need to be brought out, but it's also time to do something more with character. Many claim that the Tutelage of Ace is an arch that only gets embarked upon in Season 26. I say that Greatest Show in the Galaxy is the actual starting point. If anything, it acts as the "hinge" for the turn Ace is about to take in her life. It still fleshes out one or two more vital core traits but it also shows the Doctor beginning to very succinctly mold her into something.

We'll take a better look at that in the second half of this essay




And so, the Celebration of Ace will continue in a later installment. This half was meant to cover the development of the character. But now that she's just-about fully formed, we'll focus in on the very specific mission she seems to be on throughout the rest of the show. The Tutelage of Ace shall be our focus in Part Two....



















Sunday, 30 July 2017

UNADULTERATED BOORISH OPINION: THE SILLINESS OF GENERAL FAN CONSENSUS - PART 1

Here is a special series under the BOORISH OPINION category that I'm going to greatly enjoy writing. It's a pretty well-known fact among my fan friends that I like to think for myself. That, regardless of how the rest of fandom feels about a certain matter, if I see things differently - then I am very vocal about it. Some even refer to me as the Great Contrarian. 

What fandom probably doesn't want to know is that a lot of the general opinions that I hear from them I find to be poorly thought through. If they had just stopped to ponder how they see things a little bit longer they would have realized their point was feeble. Unfortunately, they stated the first idea that came to their minds. Other fans who also didn't want to think things through a bit agreed with it. And, suddenly, we have a weak idea that is being accepted by many as something valid. Thanks to the internet, an opinion that hasn't been properly considered can spread like wildfire and become part of Popular Fan Consensus within a very short period of time.

So, every now and again, I am going to write something like this that tackles an issue that many fans hold to be a Sacred Truth but I feel has actually been ill-considered. I will also try to address certain trends that I see in the critical thinking of General Fan Consensus that seem to appear over and over. In fact, I'm going to look at one of these trends, right now: 



THE SILLINESS OF GENERAL FAN CONSENSUS:
PART 1: "SEEING PATTERNS IN THINGS THAT AREN'T THERE"

Oh, how right the Eighth Doctor was as he watched the inaccurate news broadcast in the 96 Telemovie. We humans seem to be experts at finding and believing in the fictitious elements of any situation.  While ignoring a simple truth that seems to be presenting itself quite clearly in front of us.

Fans of a cult series seem to be even worse for this. We pick something apart and claim to see things that weren't there at all. But we're certain we've found something and we have to share it with everyone. Amazingly enough, other fans seem to pick up on it, too. Before you know it, a widely-held belief has developed. And everyone is perpetuating it without really stopping to think about what they're saying.


MAKING MATCHES THAT DON'T REALLY MATCH

The "Seeing Patterns In Things That Aren't There" phenomenon breaks down even more. Fans participate in this process in many different ways. The one I want to focus in on for this particular essay is the "It's Just Like Something Else But It Isn't, Really" Observation.

Every now and again, a new episode has a story element in it that causes it to ever-so-vaguely resemble another tale of some sort. Sometimes, it's a previous Doctor Who story. Sometimes, it's something else entirely. But, because of this ever-so-vague resemblance, fans start crying "Re-tread!" or "Rip-off!" or something to that effect. Basically, the writer is horrible because they completely stole their plot from another source.

One of my favorite examples of this in recent years was when The Shakespeare Code came out. Certain fans swore that it was just Harry Potter all over again. Yes, it did reference Harry Potter twice - but, otherwise, that's pretty much where the similarities ended. These were witches, not wizards. Yes, they cast spells - but in a totally different way than the characters in Potter did. Potter characters tended to utter weird "latinesque" phrases when summoning their powers. Whereas the witches spoke in verse. We even, eventually, see that the Doctor debunks the Magic in Shakespeare Code by pointing out that it is still actually a science. Whereas Potter swears to its bitter end that magic is real. None of the major characters in Shakespeare Code are kids. Nor does the story take place anywhere near a school.

And yet, fans swore it was a total Potter rip-off. Because both stories seem to use magic as part of its central premise. Using that same logic, we can claim that people and cats are exactly the same because they both drink water. Yup, people and cats have a few things in common (more than just the fact that we both drink water, actually). But I would still say that a cat is very different from a human being. But, apparently, fans can greatly dislike logic or common sense. If they want to complain about something being unoriginal - they will jump all over it. It takes only the vaguest of similarities to incense them.


A MORE RECENT EXAMPLE

Okay, so now let's get to the most recent example of the "It's Just Like Something Else But Isn't" Observation that I've seen occur. This is what finally sparked me off and made me decide to write this. I'm just going to say it right away in a poignant single-sentence paragraph:

The Monks and the Silence are not completely the same thing.  

As we reached the end of Series Ten's mid-season 3-parter, I kept hearing people saying over and over in fan forums: "Moffat is running out of ideas! The Monks and the Silence are identical to each other!" Even personal friends who enjoy the show were making this claim in conversations. I really couldn't believe how little thought people were putting in to this observation. It was like they were just looking for a quick easy complaint. It seemed as if they were trying look insightful without actually having to employ a whole lot of thought.

So, let's get the important point out of the way: it's not like there are absolutely no similarities between the Monks and the Silence. Yup, both races claim to be influencing humanity throughout their entire history. I get it. That's definitely something they share in common. Just like Harry Potter and Shakespeare Code both have magic. Just like cats and humans both drink water. But that's, pretty much, where the similarities end.

Fandom would have you believe differently, of course. That Moffat can't come up with new aliens anymore so he's doing a re-tread. Let's take a closer look at this notion, then.


JUST HOW MANY DIFFERENCES THERE REALLY ARE

Okay, let's start with timescales. That's where we'll find our first major difference. While the Silence gets mentioned all over the place in Series Five, we don't meet any members of the movement til the beginning of Series Six. At first, all we're meeting are the Priests that delete themselves' from human memory the moment you turn your back on them. These creatures claim right in The Impossible Astronaut (the very first episode we see them) that they've been working this secret agenda throughout the course of human history. It's their biggest bragging right, really. In the end, it becomes the source of their undoing.

The Monks, however, don't start making this claim til their final episode. Before then, the agenda they're working is the exact reverse principle of the Silence's plan. They're more concerned about our future and what sort of role they can play in it. It's only after dominion has been surrendered to them that this whole new false history has been inserted into the human consciousness that asserts that the Monks have been with us all this time.

Which leads us to our next crucial difference between Monks and Silence. The Silence are quite happy to admit that they've been up to no good while they were meddling with our past. That their agenda has been one that advances them but exploits us. Again, it's the exact opposite with the Monks. They're saying that they've been with us the whole time but it's been to help us grow and evolve. That, in fact, their whole influence on us has come from a completely selfless motive. That they just want to do some good in our lives.

And now we reach the most crucial of differences between our two alien species. The one that I find really makes a fan sound dumb when they say things like: "Oh my God! The Monks and the Silence are totally the same!" When the Silence claim that they've been guiding us along throughout our entire history - they're actually telling the truth. Whereas the Monks were completely lying. They had only recently invaded us and then created a false past that we were collectively believing in. See the huge, gigantic difference there, kids? Silence - really did it. Monks - didn't. I don't think you can create a larger difference, really.


CONCLUSION

That last glaring difference, of course, means that the Doctor must also dispatch these two enemies in an entirely different manner. Because the Silence really had been ruling us throughout our entire history, the Doctor had to use that against them and wake up the humans to their secret oppressors so that they would declare war against them. In the case of the Monks, he just had to dispel their illusion. So even the way in which the two races are defeated are different from each other.

Again, I will admit: there is one core similarity between the Monks and the Silence. That can't be denied. But it doesn't make them complete copies of each other. If that were the case, then the Silence is actually a total rip-off of the Jagaroth. And the Jagaroth is a total rip-off of the Daemons. Since all of these species claim to have been meddling with humanity's development since the Dawn of their Creation.

Fans, I think, need to remind themselves' that science fiction has certain tropes that get re-used from time-to-time (which is the whole essence of a trope, really). If fun and original things can be done with that trope then there is no harm in dipping again from that particular well. I believe that was the case with the storyline that gets created in The Lie of the Land. If you don't feel that was achieved - I'm okay with that. But please don't claim the Silence and the Monks were identical. That's lazy critical thinking. See the difference, there?

I hope you do. And I hope that the next time a trope gets re-explored in the series - you see the difference then, too (unless, of course, it is a legitimate re-hash). Rather than just screaming "Re-tread!" because of a few minor similarities. It's quite annoying when you do that. And it makes you seem quite dim.



Well, that was a fun rant. I'll steer away from opinion pieces for a bit. Particularly since I did just pick on fandom. And fandom is meant to be my actual audience! Mustn't bite the hand that feeds you too hard! 






Thursday, 20 July 2017

UNADULTERATED BOORISH OPINION: A FEMALE DOCTOR

Our darling internet is on fire, right now, by a certain casting choice Chris Chibnall finally announced. In some ways, I actually think this is great. It's given my favorite program lots of attention and also created some interesting discussion and debate. As usual, some fans are making fools of themselves' - but that's nothing new!

Of course, I have my own opinion on the matter. As a rule, I've only offered it if it's been asked for. But there is a certain advantage to being the author of a well-read blog. On certain occassions, you can express your blowhard ideas to an audience who might find them interesting even though they weren't solicited.

So, here goes:.



As the Beeb naturally expected, a certain amount of yule and cry occurred after the announcement that Jodie Whittaker would be the Thirteenth Doctor. While I have heard some legitimately convincing arguments about why the Doctor should never be a woman, there are a few opinions that I feel compelled to utterly dismiss. They're just so outrageous that someone needs to shoot them down.

OBJECTIONS I FIND OBJECTIONABLE

There's really only two theories circulating that, in my opinion, really need to be addressed:

1) The Beeb is just trying to be PC

Certainly, there are still some imbalances within the British television industry and Doctor Who, itself, that need to be re-dressed. Moffat has discussed these problems within his own era. We've seen him, for instance, make a conscious effort to commission more female writers to provide us with new episodes. In this sense, I think a bit of political correctness is required. There's still just a little bit too much of a "boys' club" going on in television and conscious efforts to change that are genuinely needed to make the business a fairer practice.

But some fans would have you believe that this latest bit of casting was done purely on that merit. That Jodie Whittaker did not receive the role because she deserves it but because the BBC just wants to make itself look like its practices are always fair and equitable. That they are social justice warriors rather than a TV station that's trying to produce quality entertainment. And that, because this is their intent, the quality of the show will now drop dramatically.

I find this opinion difficult to swallow. This sort of decision-making is just far too impractical for many reasons. Which is not to say, of course, that the BBC never makes poor choices. Let's remember, they did cancel Doctor Who, once! But I do think that this is just too ridiculous of a motivation for them to have. They just couldn't be that stupid.

The BBC treat Doctor Who as a flagship program. They want to see good ratings. Anyone with half a brain can see that casting a woman as the Doctor will lose a heavy segment of viewers. It might gain some new ones, too - but that's still a big risk they're taking. I can't see the BBC being that counter-intuitive. To want to appear PC but take that kind of chance with one of their highest-grossing and most expensive programs doesn't make sense. There has to be more to this decision than just the desire to look good to the Left. The Left won't give them the ratings they need.


2) It's all just stunt casting

This one seems even sillier. There are fans that seem to believe that Jodie Whittaker got the role simply as a "gimmick" or a way to grab attention. That we're, essentially, observing a piece of stunt casting.

I am actually hearing mention of Beryl Reid in this sort of discussion. Fans are comparing Jodie to her. Beryl Reid is, of course, the most notorious stunt casting in the entire history of the show. She was hired to play the captain of a space freighter in one of my favorite stories. If ever there was someone who was most unlikely to play a space captain, it was Beryl Reid. But such an unlikely casting got attention and, apparently, lots of people tuned in to see if she could pull it off. Which is, of course, the whole point of stunt casting!

While such a ploy might work with a supporting character like the one Beryl played, you can't pull this same stunt off with the protoganist of a show. An audience will only put up with a certain level of stunt casting. A cameo or a support is small enough to make us curious. But anything bigger than that and we just naturally assume that the show will be ruined. You can only go so far with this trick. And even the most open-minded of fans will offer consumer resistance. The BBC are smart enough to know this. They are not going to stunt cast a lead in one of their most popular shows.


I think what bothers me the most with both of these theories is that they imply that Whittaker did not earn the role. That she was cast for political reasons. Or simply to create hype. I can't imagine how insulting it must be for her to hear this kind of stuff. I know I'd be offended if I were in her place.


IF YOU OBJECT TO JODIE DOES THAT MAKE YOU A SEXIST?

Having berated fandom a bit for some of the stuff they've said, let me defend them where they deserve it. If you don't think Jodie Whittaker should be the next Doctor, I don't believe that this, necessarily, makes you a sexist. I have heard some concerns about this casting choice that I might even consider legitimate.

The biggest one being that some of you have seen her in other stuff and have disliked her performances in those shows/movies. So you don't think she'll do well in this role, either. I can't really argue with that. It's your own opinion, really. Personally, I've seen her in other roles and greatly enjoyed her performance. But if she's not to your liking - I can't help that.

Besides tastes in acting styles, there are a few other opinions against a female Doctor that are floating around that I also find have some credence.  But I will add that there are many more opinions that I hear that sound like thinly veiled sexism. That some of you really can't accept a woman as the Doctor simply because she's a woman. But you don't want to say that because you know how that will make you look. So you've come up with some weak theory to disguise your true beliefs.

But I do hate that some people are implying that not accepting Jodie Whittaker as the new Doctor instantly makes you a sexist. That line of thinking is almost as oppressive as sexism, itself.

There is already a satirical video circulating the internet that was posted to my Wall. It's meant to be a fake ad for a helpline that assists people who are having a hard time accepting a female Doctor. The person working the helpline is female and she keeps rolling her eyes as men are calling her with concerns that are blatantly sexist ("She better only be making 79 cents on every dollar Capaldi was making!"). The video was a bit amusing but it bothered me more than anything. I took it upon myself (for what it was worth) to point out in the comments that there is an abundance of female fans who disagree with the casting decision. Do they all hail from repressive cultures that have brainwashed them into believing that women are second class citizens? Or could it be possible that someone can object to Jodie Whittaker being the Doctor and not be a complete chauvinist pig?


WHAT DOES ROB REALLY THINK?

Okay, as usual, I've beat around the bush and dealt with some side issues before getting to my real point: what is my actual opinion on Jodie Whittaker being cast as the next Doctor? Am I elated over the fact that my favorite show has become even more progressive? Or furious that the image of an iconic character is being too harshly altered? Or somewhere between the two extremes?

The truth is: I'm pretty neutral.

I will confess: changing the Doctor's gender is a bit hard to accept. Mainly because he has been male for 36 seasons. But I do think they can get it to work and that it can even be very fun and exciting if they do it right. But I really have to see Doctor Thirteen in action before I can say much. And that's really my strongest point in this whole essay: how can we really pass any kind of judgment on a woman as the Doctor until we see some episodes?

I do think the gender issue needs to be addressed head-on from time-to-time. When the Doctor first regenerates into a woman - there should, perhaps, be some conscious adjustment. Not a lot, but some. This would only be realistic. You can't walk around in a male body for over 2 000 years and transition into a female without having a few problems with it. As the Doctor makes those compensations - the audience does, too.

Whenever the Doctor visits a place in Time and Space where women's rights are still being violated she should need to have to deal with that, too. She doesn't need to change the thinking of the whole society but she should change the minds of a few key characters who might be trying to restrict her. These characters might think she's incapable of doing anything useful because she's a woman and the Doctor's sheer brilliance proves to them that they need to open their minds. Something similar to Martha going through the bones of the hand when Nurse Redfern can't believe she's studying to be a doctor because she's black.

But, aside from those scenarios, the Doctor really shouldn't give a damn about the fact that she's now a woman. She should just go on with being the Doctor. And that's the only way I think the change will really work. It can't always be about the Doctor being a woman - but it can't be ingnored, either. The formula needs to sit somewhere in the middle.

And I wouldn't be surprised if someone as skilled as Chris Chibnall knew that.

Which means, of course, that I think things will be very exciting with Jodie Whittaker piloting the TARDIS. They might not always be perfect. But when has Doctor Who always been perfect? I just hope that, when the show does misfire, that we don't get a gang of idiots proclaiming: "See! I told you it wouldn't work! It's because she's a chick!".

Unfortunately, we probably will. That's just the way certain segments of Fandom can be.


FINAL CONCLUSION

So, ultimately, my feelings on the matter are largely positive - with a hint of trepidation. Which is how I feel whenever the Doctor regenerates. There is always the slightest fear that this new actor might finally be a mistake. And I think that's just a natural thing to go through during such a large change.

I will go so far as to admit that I'm a bit more concerned than usual because the change is greater than normal. Not sure if that makes me a sexist. I experienced a similar sentiment when they announced Matt Smith as the next Doctor because he was much younger than normal. Which means I might also be ageist. Or I just recognize that a greater risk is being taken and that might make me a little more nervous than normal about something I'm always a bit nervous about.

But, overall, I can get behind all this. This is something the show has been preparing us for (read my footnotes) and I certainly feel ready for it. I also think it can represent some very interesting new directions that the whole program can move in.

But I really can't say much more than that til I see some eps. And I really think it's a bit ridiculous that some fans have decided to pass such harsh judgement without actually seeing Whittaker take on the role, yet. In all honesty, it's a pretty foolish stance to take.

In my opinion, at least.





So, that's my Unadulterated Boorish Opinion on the matter. Hope you like it.

When I first started writing this, I decided to chronicle just how long it's been since the idea of a female Doctor was first introduced to the audience. I realized I was "beating around the bush" even more than usual and that I needed to get to my point faster. So I cut and pasted it down to a footnote. You can have a look at it if you want to hear even more of my jaded opinions!




FOOTNOTE: THE HISTORY OF A FEMALE DOCTOR

I do find it fascinating that some people seem a bit shocked that such a casting decision has been made. In terms of continuity, the show has made a conscious effort in its last few seasons to clearly establish that Time Lords can change genders when they regenerate. It started with a piece of dialogue in The Doctor's Wife and moved on to a surprise revelation about Missy in Series 8. Finally, we actually saw a gender switching regeneration happen right before our very eyes during Hell Bent. Just to make sure we were well-and-truly braced for it, the Doctor had one more discussion about it with Bill in the penultimate episode of Series 10.

So the actual content of the show has done its very best in the last few years to brace us for this. It's been very clearly established within the mythos of the actual program that if our male protagonist suddenly stops being male - no one should be shocked.

But it's not just in the writing. Behind the scenes, Doctor Who production teams have been bracing us for this since the early 80s. Admittedly, it started off as a bit of a prank. As the story goes, Tom Baker and Jon Nathan Turner were on their way to a press conference to announce that the Fourth Doctor's era was about to reach its conclusion. Baker, lover of controversy that he is, suggested to JNT that he allude to the public that he might be considering a woman for the role. An uproar ensued and the 80s showrunner got the media fireworks he so frequently relished (if you don't know it, look up the story about where the name "The Doctor's Wife" came from - it's a fantastic example of JNT's love of stirring the pot!). Although this was more of a stunt than something the producer was legitimately considering, it still did set the whole "Should the Doctor Ever Be a Woman?!" Debate into motion. From this point onward, every time a regeneration was due in the Classic Series, at least a bit of speculation would ensue about whether the next incarnation would be a man or a woman.

For the 96 Telemovie and the first series or two of New Who, the casting of the Doctor was never in doubt: it would always be a man. But, even as Tennant announced he would depart, those Chinese Whispers seemed to start up again. The possibility of a female Doctor was being discussed by the media and in fan forums.

But, if you really want to be accurate, this didn't truly start with Baker and JNT on their way to a press conference. It can be traced all the way back to the first time regeneration was introduced to the program. Fans are digging up quotes from Patrick Troughton and Sidney Newman claiming that they think the character should be played by an actress in some future incarnation.

Truth be told, this is something the show has spent a long time preparing its audience for. So if anyone is truly surprised by this - you've been living under a rock

Thursday, 6 July 2017

CHRONLOGIES AND TIMELINES: A HISTORY OF THE MASTER - APPENDIX A

Series 10 has reached its end. It was definitely a good one and I'm sad to see it's over. Like everyone else, it's going to be absolute murder waiting for the Christmas Special. 

This season featured some lovely stories with recurring villains and/or monsters. We saw a great episode with the Ice Warriors. And, of course, we got that amazing Double Master story that included the Mondasian Cybermen. Even the Dalek cameo in The Pilot was nice. 

Empress of Mars ended up contradicting some stuff I had written about when I tried to piece together a history for the Ice Warriors. I immediately, composed an Appendix to correct things. World Enough and Time /The Doctor Falls also presented some problems with a timeline I tried to create with the Master. So now I'm going to take a shot at fixing that. 

If you'd like to see what I've written about the Master, already - here are the links to my first stab at establishing his history:

Part 1: Early Days..
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/10/chronologies-and-timelines-master-part-1.html

Part 2: The Great Cliffhangers
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/10/chronologies-and-timelines-history-of.html

Part 3: New Who Master
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/10/chronologies-and-timelines-master-part-3.html



THE MASTER DOESN'T REALLY NEED A TIMELINE

Just in case you don't bother to read the previous installments, I just want to re-state that I know the Master doesn't really need a timeline. He and the Doctor both adhere (more or less) to Gallifreyan Mean Time. This isn't like River Song - they're not meeting out of sequence. As Time Lords, they're actually required to always clash against each other in chronological order (again, more or less). My bigger mission with this particular series was to fill in certain gaps in the Master's timeline. Things have occurred off-camera in his/her life that are only vaguely alluded to in the dialogue of certain episodes. I wanted to expand on some of those ideas and explore them more deeply. I, very specifically, also wanted to address some of those end-of-story cliffhangers that took place in the 80s that were never properly answered. That was more the point of this endeavor, than anything. To try to solve some mysteries in his past - not so much to try to arrange it in a proper flow.

Word Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls, for all its brilliance, has created one or two direct contradictions to things I stated in my third installment of the Master's timeline. It also presented a few "shady areas" in the Master/Missy's past that I think need some light shed on them. Please don't get me wrong, by the way. I'm not complaining about this story. Moff can contradict me all he wants if he's going to create tales as magnificent as this. I'm just going to be the pedantic nerd that I am and try to fix these discrepancies. I'm not going to lie - I'm actually happy this has happened. It's given something to keep my little geek brain occupied.


THE AMENDMENT

Okay, first things first. In the third part of the Master's timeline, I try to explain how John Simms' Master survived The End of Time and became Missy. Man, I was trying to sound so smart when I did. I just thought I was the biggest genius in the world with the most incredible observation skills.

Turns out I was totally wrong. Again, just in case you didn't go back and read my original entry, here's what I wrote:

THE SOLUTION:  The Master is in trouble, here, in three different ways. First off, his screwed up resurrection is causing him to die. Next, Rassilon is trying to kill him with a Torchwood glove. And, finally, he's trapped in the Time Lock that has been placed on the Time Wars. So we have to find solutions for all three of these problems. Problems One and Two can be resolved quite easily. The Master keeps shooting his lifeforce into Rassilon and Rassilon keeps gloving the Master until the two of them take so much damage that they both induce a regeneration (the fact that the next time we see them they're both in a new incarnation helps to support this). Both are now too weak and vulnerable from the regeneration to keep fighting. Other Time Lords step in and break up the fight. Realizing he's going to be stranded forevermore in The Time Wars, the Master (or Missy, as she is now going to start referring to herself, as) needs to find a quick way out. She manages to find it by breaking through the Gallifrey Falls No More painting (perhaps he learnt about it during his brief period as the Minister of Defense or the Prime Minister). That weird hand that a bunch of fans point out as Clara emerges from the painting is, in fact, Missy escaping back into our Universe. 

I've got some serious yolk on my face, now, of course. This isn't what happened at all. As we embark upon the second part of the Series 10 Finale, the Doctor goes to the trouble of asking the Simms Master how he escaped from Gallifrey. The solution was much more simple than that contrived nonsense I came up with. 

Turns out that the Time Lords just cured him of his problem with his draining lifeforce. Then, when Gallifrey returned to our Universe, they just told him to get lost. So he did.  

Well, don't I look pretty foolish, now?!  

In my defense, this does tie in nicely with some of the stuff I wrote about Gallifrey returning to our Universe. Since I seem to be in the mood to post links, here's what I wrote on that matter: 


What's Going On With Gallifrey? - Part 1:
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/07/fixing-continuity-glitches-whats-going.html

What's Going On With Gallifrey? - Part 2:
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/07/fixing-continuity-glitches-whats-going_24.html


Hopefully, I look a bit less foolish if you should bother read the links. I sound quite clever, again, in those entries. I don't think anyone making the show will go all that specifically into detail about the Return of Gallifrey in some future story and that the theories I express in those links will end up getting contradicted. But, who knows? Someday, I may have to write an Appendix on this too! 



FROM END OF TIME TO WORLD ENOUGH AND TIME 

Okay, my retraction has been posted. Now we need to move on to a shady area that could probably use a bit more light. What exactly might have happened to lead the Master to the colony ship that was heading to Mondas? 

I'm guessing that, once the Master left a Restored Gallifrey, he went messing about in the Universe again and caused a bit of trouble. He didn't just go straight to the Mondasian colony ship, he probably hatched an evil scheme or two in other parts of Time and Space first. Even though the Doctor wasn't around to stop him, whatever sinister plans he concocted had failed. 

The Master got to thinking: if he was really going to take over the Universe, he needed an army. Preferably one that was already good at conquest. He remembered the alliances he had formed with the Daleks over the years and realized he had been on the right track. But he needed to make sure his allies were more loyal to him. He decided that he should probably go back into the past of whoever was going to join him in his cause and arrange things so that they were completely obedient to him. 

Meddling with the Daleks' history was too dangerous of a venture. With their mastery over time, they would probably know this was being done to them and make restitution before their past could be properly altered. The Master may have even discovered that the Doctor had already gone back to their point of origin. Working around whatever his rival had done to their Genesis was going to be too complicated of a matter. So, instead, he went to the second-best race of galactic conquerors. He delved into the past of the Cybermen. 

After a bit of homework, our favorite evil Renegade Time Lord was amazed to discover that the Cybermen didn't actually begin on the Planet Mondas. But, rather, on a colony ship that was bound for Mondas. He was even more intrigued by the fact that said colony ship became stranded at the threshold of a Black Hole. This, he had just had to check out.

As he approached the colony ship in his TARDIS, the Master immediately picked up on the time dilation that was going on. Sure, he could arrive at the top of the ship where time was flowing at one speed. But things looked far more interesting at the ship's thrusters - where time was moving at a different pace. A whole colony, already, seemed to be growing there. That must be where the Cybermen would eventually evolve.  

In this particular incarnation, he loved to be bold. So he materialized at the bottom of the ship. The time dilation blew out his dematerialization circuit - stranding himself there. No matter, he had work to do. He needed to establish himself as the leader of this fledgling colony and persuade them to start converting themselves' into Cybermen. As their leader, he would be in control of Cyber-army once it was complete. A perfect strategy. 

Except, of course, that the colony eventually rejected his leadership. The Master had to take on a disguise and find a new way to manipulate the people into mass-conversion. He becomes an eccentric worker at a hospital and manages to carry out his plans from there.

SPECIAL NOTE: We do still need to get Gallifreyan Mean Time to work a bit, here. The Twelfth Doctor makes it clear that he hasn't met the Simms Master until that fateful moment at the end of World Enough And Time. The Eleventh Doctor was around for quite some time - particularly after he chooses to defend Trenzalore.  Their timelines need to line up, at least, a bit. So, let's say the Master spent nearly a thousand years in the colony ship. Considering it's in a weird time zone of its own, the idea can vaguely work.

SUPER SPECIAL NOTE: Having said that, Gallifreyan Mean Time is still being broken a bit when the Twelfth Doctor meets the Simms Master. But it's also being broken because the Master and Missy are meeting each other. So, really, anything goes in a moment like this. However, once the Master regenerates into Missy, her timeline synchs up properly with the Doctor's as we start watching Series 8. Which is why I say the Master spent so much time in the colony ship. It gets Gallifreyan Mean Time to work properly again once the Master regenerates and escapes the colony ship 

SUPER DUPER SPECIAL NOTE: There is much about this Mondasian colony ship that needs deeper investigation. The biggest question being: how do the Cybermen on the ship eventually become the Cybermen we see in The Tenth Planet? I have a feeling we might get some of these answers in the Christmas Special. So, for now, I will leave this alone. Someday soon, however, expect me to finally do a CHRONOLOGIES AND TIMELINES about the Cybermen. 


WHEN MASTER MEETS MISSY

At this point, of course, the events of World Enough And Time/The Doctor Falls takes place (within context of the Simms Master's timeline, at least). There is one curious question that doesn't get a particularly satisfying answer. How does the Master know he's looking at his future incarnation? 

My guess is he heard some rumors about Missy during his exploits after Gallifrey but before the colony ship. Perhaps even talked to a person or two who had met him in his next body, already and given him a description of some sort. Maybe even shown him a picture or two. This sort of thing can happen when you time travel - particularly if you run into a person that is not a Time Lord and is, therefore, not bound by Gallifreyan Mean Time.   

The other thing I'd like to note about this encounter is that I'm pretty sure Missy was completely lying when she said she couldn't remember details from her multi-incarnation encounter. Claiming that their timelines are too tangled for her to retain things only happens when it's more than two incarnations that run into each other. As far I'm concerned, she recalls everything. This is certainly implied in the final confrontation at the lift entrance. She is quite clear to her previous incarnation on how he will perish - which indicates that she knew, all along, how things were going to play out.

If this is the case, it actually helps to get some continuity to make really good sense. After the botched attempt at controlling Mondasian Cybermen, the Master regenerates into Missy and embarks on a second attempt to build a Cyber-army. This is one of her own creation. He's also seen into his own future and knows that, as a woman, she will become closer to the Doctor. She will, eventually, choose to stand at his side. So she starts that process by offering her army to the Doctor once it's been assembled. He, of course, refuses and Danny Pink sacrifices himself to wipe the army out. 

After that second failed attempt, the Master/Missy abandons trying to recruit the Cybermen to his/her cause. Missy's desire, however, to befriend her greatest enemy continues. She'll try to rescue him a short while later when he chooses to visit a dying Davros on Skaro. 


WHAT HAPPENED WITH THOSE DALEKS? 

And so we come to another gap that needs filling. I'm going to speculate on how Missy makes it from Magician's Apprentice/Witch's Familiar to the Vault we see in Series 10. Truth be told, I'm going to remain purposely vague. I'm now fearful that, if I become too specific, the show will eventually present a full account of her adventures during this time and wildly contradict me. 

I'm such a coward, sometimes!

Still, this whole essay becomes pretty useless if I don't come up with some sort of theory. So here goes: when Missy proclaims: "I've just had a very clever idea!", it's something that will fix the damage the Doctor has just done to the Dalek City. With various models of Daleks surrounding her and ready to fire, Missy strikes a bargain. She will save the Skarosian mutants if they let her live. Perhaps she even donates some regeneration energy to reverse-engineer the whole problem. 

While there was probably some deception on both sides, everyone ends up honoring their end of the deal. Missy saves the Daleks and the Daleks let her live. During the twenty-four years that the Doctor spends with River Song, his arch-rival probably gets up to quite a bit of no good. We get the impression that she still interacts with the Daleks from time-to-time. That they are on good terms and, occasionally, work together. She seems to have almost gotten a bit "gossipy" with them. 

Eventually, however, Missy's sins catch up with her. We're not sure exactly how - but she is brought to the planet Camathon. There, she will be executed for the crimes she has committed against the Universe. Her remains will then be placed in a special vault for a thousand years. As part of the ritual, she must killed by one of her own kind. The Doctor is summoned to perform the task. 

In the end, the Doctor can't do it. But he still places her in the Vault in hopes that her imprisonment will lead to her redemption. Series Ten, basically, leads Missy through that final process that she will see the end result of when she was still in her previous incarnation. She will actually choose to become a good person. 


ONE LAST BIT OF SPECULATION

And so, once more, we're current. We've filled in some gaps and made the appropriate amendments and my chronology of the Master makes some kind of sense, again. Not much, but some! 

After the embarrassment of my "Look! I figured out how the Master escaped Gallifrey!" incident, dare I try to speculate on how the evil Renegade Time Lord will escape his/her latest horrible fate? This one is as nasty as the end of Planet of Fire. The Master/Missy may have made his/her final Great Curtain Call. There seems no real way out of this one. I really shouldn't try to guess at how she might have dodged this latest bullet. That would be the most foolish of ventures. I'd be an absolute idiot to touch this one. 

Who am I kidding?! I have to try to show off how clever I am. Even if it may blow up in my face at a later date.

I've already indicated that Missy is lying to her earlier incarnation when she says she doesn't remember much of anything regarding her encounter with him. That, in fact, she recalls every detail. She told this lie for various reasons. The biggest one being that if the Simms Master knew her memory wasn't as faulty as she claimed, he would have been more thorough in dispatching her. He would have realized that, if his next incarnation did remember everything, she would've have known he was going to shoot her with the lazer screwdriver and made proper preparations. 

So I say that Missy knew what was coming and was wearing some sort of high-tech bullet-proof vest and/or personal force field that absorbed the bulk of the blast. She still needed the whole thing to look convincing so she made sure her defenses weren't too strong. The Master would need to see some damage being done or he wouldn't be fooled. Of course, the wounds that she will receive from the attack will precipitate a regeneration that she will only induce after her earlier incarnation has taken off in the lift. 

The Master will live on...  

...Or, at least, that's my guess.  



And with that, I am done my Appendixes until more new episodes get made. I'm going to veer away from Chronologies And Timelines for a bit and explore some other topics. Hope we all make it to the Christmas Special without losing our sanity. It's going to be a difficult wait...