Monday, 20 November 2017

BOOK OF LISTS: RANKING THE MASTERS - PART 1

Well, we've reached the end of another year and it's time to observe a tradition. For the next month or so, I will be listing a preference of some sort that I have for Doctor Who. In previous years, I have listed my Top Ten Favorite Who Stories and I've ranked my Doctors From Worst to Best. This year, I'm going to look at his arch rival and list his incarnations from least favorite to most. 

It was a tricky choice. I started tinkering with the idea of top ten companions. I even worked on something about favorite seasons of the show. But that multi-incarnation team-up in World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls just had me thinking too heavily about how much I've enjoyed the Master's many varied interpretations. In the end, I decided this needed to be my end-of-year list of preference. I hope it sparks as much discussion as my other lists have.  



THE RULES

As usual, we need to set a few stipulations. It will be most important to note that we can't number the incarnations like we have the Doctor. Mainly because we're really not sure of that numbering. For the most part, the incarnations will be indicated by the actor who has played them. Although, one or two of them will go by specific names and/or nicknames.

I would also like to note that, just like my list of Doctors last year, the writing of the character affects my appreciation as much as the portrayal. In the case of, at least, one very popular incarnation - the lack of variety in the plots of several stories that we saw him in will have a strong bearing on his ranking. You'll see what I mean when you get there.


EXCEPTIONS TO THE RULE

There are certain incarnations who have just received too little screentime and, therefore, can't be accurately appraised. So they won't be included in this list. These include Gordon Tipple's Master - who we only see for the briefest of instances at the beginning of The 96 Telemovie before he is vaporized (in a weird bike helmet, no less!). The "Baby Master" that we first see in the flashback sequence of Sound of Drums also won't get any mention beyond this particular sentence. Finally, I also won't be ranking Derek Jacobi, anywhere. Yes, he is in an entire episode. But, most of the time, he's Professor Yana. He only casts off his Chameleon Arch identity and displays his true self for a matter of minutes before he changes to John Simm. Those are some gloriously evil minutes, don't get me wrong. But it's still not enough time to allow him a proper space in this list.

Okay, now that we've eliminated certain portrayals. Let's get into it. We'll start with my least favorite Master. More than likely, he's at the bottom of just-about everyone's list, too.




THE ERIC ROBERTS MASTER

By no means do I wish to disrespect what Eric Roberts did with the role (although, many fans do!). In my opinion, he's actually a pretty solid actor. I may even prefer him over his sister. He's particularly good at playing villains. The whole Expendables movie franchise owes, at least, part of its success to the fact that he was the baddie in the very first installation and did an excellent job in the role.

But one of the biggest problems The 96 Telemovie has is that the Master is only so well-written. And we are accustomed to seeing the character played by someone British. An American in the part is, perhaps, harder to accept than a female Doctor (which, when you think about it, is really strange!). Inevitably, these obstacles really get in the way of being able to enjoy what Roberts did with his extremely brief stint.

Having said all that, I do think he does quite well with what he's been served. Roberts definitely has a sense of presence and really makes the character chilling. This is an extension of the descent into madness that we've been watching the character take over the last few incarnations. I don't know if Roberts actually watched previous portrayals in order to accomplish this - but he's definitely made the Master that bit more mad as he seeks to stay alive even though he's reached the end of his regeneration cycle. I would even go so far to say that he does a fantastic job with that aspect of the character. The Master is so close to a final end that he's cast off almost all shreds of sanity and is now completely out of control.

In all honesty, I pin very little on Roberts for the lack of success that this incarnation has. The bigger problems lie in the writing. Even then, I would not say that the character was poorly-crafted. It's more that we needed a better way for these two great rivals to battle each other. The Master has tried to steal the Doctor's lives before - but this is a very strangely-contrived way of going about it. Particularly when you're trying to re-introduce a show to a new audience. We needed a simpler telling of the tale. But a strange protoplasmic villain trying to get his nemesis to stare into the heart of a slightly mystical artifact in order to remove his soul and take over his body was not the best way to present this most iconic of characters. And that has a strong bearing on how we appreciate this version of the Master. That, and the simple fact that it is hard to accept an American in the role (again, very strange that this affects me so much!)

Having said all that, the Eric Roberts Master very nearly didn't make the bottom of this list. Up until very recently, there was an incarnation of the Master that I appreciated less than Roberts.

Many fans malign the Eric Roberts Master way more than I do and also have him at the bottom of their list. But, to be truthful, I still think he's pretty good. I do feel Roberts gives us an enjoyable interpretation of the role. He's just not given the best of material to work with.

He is also, without a doubt, the Master who has the most fun with the outfits he puts on!




Okay, that's Part One. We'll keep moving along and sending out new posts every few days as we finish off the year. Some of my other rankings may surprise some of you. 


If you want to read more about the Master - I did a serious exploration of his timeline a short while back. Here are all the posts on it: 

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

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

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

Appendix 1: 
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2017/07/chronlogies-and-timeline-history-of.html

Monday, 13 November 2017

ANALYTICAL: THE PSYCHOLOGY BEHIND MULTI-INCARNATION ENCOUNTERS - OR: HOW TIME LORDS DEAL WITH THEMSELVES'!

We're all dying for that Christmas Special, aren't we? I know I am. Not because we have to say goodbye to Capaldi's Doctor. I'm not looking forward to that, at all! I'm dieing to see how that tease at the end of The Doctor Falls is going to pan out. I can't wait to see what sort of adventure the Twelfth and Original (well, sort of, Original) Doctor will have together.  

Multi-incarnation stories will, more than likely, always be some of my favorite stories. Often, the plots to some of these adventures are fairly threadbare or even somewhat bad. But there is just something about the sheer entertainment value of them that makes me adore them. In all honesty, every third Doctor Who story could involve multiple incarnations and I'd probably be okay with that.

In anticipation of Twice Upon A Time, I've been watching all the multi-incarnation stories that have been done over the years (including the all-too-brief Time Crash - one of the few mini-sodes that I consider canon). I've made a few observations about them that I thought I would share....





DEFINITION:

Before we can get into any kind of analysis, we should probably be certain we're all on the same page regarding what constitutes my definition of a multi-incarnation story. It's a tale involving two or more distinct incarnations actually interacting with each other.

We should be mindful of the exact wording of that definition. For instance: these need to be, properly, separate incarnations. Beings like Cho-Je from Planet of Spiders or the Watcher from Logopolis don't qualify. We know Cho-Je was a projection of some sort rather than the next incarnation crossing over his own timestream. We don't know what the Watcher is - but he was definitely not an incarnation of his own. He merges with the Doctor at the end of the story as he regenerates. Had he been a distinct incarnation, he would have watched the regeneration happen without joining into it. Because he would simply have been from the future witnessing the event.

The multiple incarnations need to interact with each other, too. This disqualifies a story like Deep Breath - where the Eleventh Doctor calls Clara at the end. Yes, we see two Doctors at once. But they aren't talking to each other. Name of the Doctor is disqualified for similar reasons. Clara travels down the Doctor's timeline and meets him in various versions - but they never meet each other.

With those limitations in mind, the following stories qualify as multi-incarnation adventures:

The Three Doctors
The Five Doctors
The Two Doctors
Time Crash
Day of the Doctor
World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls (it's multi-incarnational because Twelve and One meet at the end but there are also two versions of the Master)




THE PSYCHOLOGY OF IT ALL

The strangest thing that happens when multiple incarnations of the Doctor come together is, of course, all the bickering. Even the Doctor, himself, has remarked how weird it is. In truth, making the Doctor combative with himself was something they wrote into the script of the very first anniversary special and the fans responded well to it. So they decided to keep playing that gag in future scripts of this nature. 

But, just for fun, let's take it a little more seriously. Why does the Doctor fight with himself as much as he does during stories like this? Some might theorize that it's an ego issue. The only thing a genius in the room can't stand is another genius in the room. And, even though that genius is - technically - the same person, the Doctor despises being overshadowed. This does make sense and I do believe this is part of what causes the in-fights. But I also like to think it's a far more complicated situation than that. One that may even make the Doctor seem more humble.

While he is far from being a perfectionist (in most of his incarnations, he lacks the patience and attention to detail that such a neurosis requires) the Doctor is still very progressive in his philosophy of life. He is always trying to evolve and grow. To be a better person than he was the day before. It is a long-standing character trait that we have seen to a lesser or greater extent in every version of the role.

So when he runs into an earlier incarnation, he is reminded of the flaws he still had back then. It's difficult for him to see a rougher version of himself and he tends to become combative with the earlier incarnation. His desire to get a previous self to behave a bit more maturely come across as angry recriminations.

The earlier incarnation, of course, is interpreting this as a sort of high-handedness or arrogance and can't help but get defensive. Particularly since the later incarnation is coming across as a bit of an authority figure in the way he tries to discipline him. And the Doctor has never dealt well with authority figures. He's probably even a bit upset to see that he seems to be turning into something that he hates. So he can't help but rebel.

This is, essentially,what we see playing out in The Three Doctors between Two and Three. But similar models are at play in other multi-incarnation adventures. Ten and Eleven re-create this quite closely in Day of the Doctor. Eleven particularly enjoys picking on himself for being such a womanizer in his previous life. It's not something he liked and wants to admonish himself for it now that he's back to not being so smooth with the ladies. We see the First, Second and Third Doctor all get back into nitpicking each other when they meet at Rassilon's Tomb during The Five Doctors. Two and Six take multi-incarnation bantering to its ultimate height during The Two Doctors. They just don't seem to get along at all in that story.

All of this arguing seems to derive from a similar motive. The Doctor doesn't, necessarily, hate who he once was. But he's not entirely happy with him, either.

The only variance to this dynamic that we've seen so far is the way in which the War Doctor deals with his future selves. He actually feels that he's been regressing as he gets older. He tends to berate his future selves for acting so childish.  But it does come from a very similar motive to other instances like this. The Doctor is always trying to grow. And when he's reminded of how immature he can be - he doesn't deal well with it.



EXCEPTIONS TO THE RULE

There are, of course, instances where we don't see a whole lot of that combativeness between certain incarnations. The First and Fifth Doctor get along quite well in The Five Doctors. They have a brief argument regarding what strategy to take in The Death Zone that reaches a fairly swift conclusion. Otherwise, they're quite nice to each other. The First Doctor even defends Five when Two and Three start being critical of him during their farewells. "It's re-assuring to see my future is in safe hands." he proclaims before departing. Hardly the farewell Six and Two give each other!

This happens in a similar fashion during Time Crash. Ten is utterly delighted to see the fifth version of himself when he appears from nowhere. Five is a bit frustrated with his future self. But only because he believes him to be an annoying fan. Once he understands who the babbling fool in front of him really is, they start getting along.

Both of these instances involve the Fifth Doctor. Who is definitely one of the gentler more agreeable of incarnations. So that might be one factor that contributes to a smoother encounter.

But I also think it might have something to do with how far apart the incarnations are from each other. Bantering usually only happens with incarnations that are closer together. A separation of three or more incarnations tends to make things less volatile.

Again, if we use this Doctor not being happy with himself model, it makes a sort of sense. A person who is heavily into personal growth would have more trouble seeing their more recent past. If I ran into a version of Rob Tymec from only two or three years ago - I'd probably be frustrated to see that I was a much more immature person in my recent past than I had remembered myself to be. But if I met me when I was only ten years old - I would be far more detached and understanding. I was just a kid back then. I'm allowed to be childish at that age. So I probably won't be so harsh with me. Whereas I really wouldn't like to meet me from only a few years back. I'm pretty sure I'd just want to tell myself off for still being such a twit when I should've grown up, by now.

Perhaps it works in a similar way with the Doctor. To go back only an incarnation or two is like a human seeing himself from only two to five years ago. Depending on the human's personality - he's probably not going to like what he sees. But a Time Lord going back three or more incarnations is like a human encountering himself from twenty or so years ago. He's just too far-removed from who he once was and it's not so tough on him, anymore, to see himself behaving so poorly. Essentially, t's easier to forgive a considerably younger version of yourself. With the Doctor, of course, it takes a bigger set of years for him to feel this way. His longevity gives him a greater breadth of vision. So even if there might be a century or two between incarnations that are back-to-back - that's not long enough for him to not be awkward about what he's seeing. But there's probably closer to four centuries between One and Five. So it's easier for them to get along. An even greater number of years exist between Five and Ten.* So it's easy for the Tenth Doctor to just sit back and wax nostalgia with his fifth self. It's all ancient history so it doesn't really bother him.




* it's hard to determine an exact number of years between Five and Ten without a Doctor's Age debate developing. To understand this dilemma better, go to these posts:
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/03/fixing-continuity-glitches-doctors-age.html
and:
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/03/fixing-continuity-glitches-doctors-age_9.html



THE EXCEPTION TO THE EXCEPTION

This theory works well with most instances.  But there is one tale where the idea falls apart. The Two Doctors stars Two and Six. They're a good three incarnations apart. That should put a good span of years between them. And yet, they argue like cats and dogs throughout their entire time together.

Part of the reason this happens is that we are looking at Two at the latest period in his life (he's actually in Season 6b - probably somewhere near its end). Which means he's had, at least, two other multi-incarnation adventures before him. Given that he's doing regular missions for the Time Lords, they may want him to have all his wits about him and have allowed him to recall anything that may have been blotted out in his past. So he may actually even remember both incidents. When he meets Six, he recalls how fun it was to take the piss out of himself in previous adventures and decides to be intentionally rude during this latest encounter with a future self.

At the same time, Six is probably the Doctor at his most arrogant (part of the reason why he's my fave). So, even though there's a healthy amount of years between him and Two, he's not going to be happy with who he once was. This latest version of him, as far as he's concerned, is the only one that's good. So he can't help but pick on an inferior model. 



PEACEFUL RESOLUTION

Regardless of all the bantering, there does come a point where the incarnations will start getting along with each other. Once more, The Three Doctors sets this template. While imprisoned in a doorless cell in the Singularity Point during Part Three, Jo Grant gets Doctors Two and Three to finally get along with each other. They even apologize for their rude behavior and go about concentrating on summoning a door so that they may escape. For the rest of the story, they cooperate fairly well.

Such trends continue in most adventures of this nature. The farewell scene during The Five Doctors takes on a more cozy atmosphere after One talks about his sense of re-assurance. Five and Ten also have a very kind farewell in Time Crash. And there is much kinship going as we reach the end of Day of the Doctor. The War Doctor starts developing some real respect for the men he will become. Ten and Eleven then break into the Time War to help the War Doctor make the most difficult decision of his lives. Then, finally, there is a heartfelt farewell in the Undergallery.

Once more, The Two Doctors is the exception to the rule. At best, the Second Doctor pays Sixie the slightest of compliments for his trick with the briode nebulizer. Otherwise, it's pretty much banter all the way between these two.

But, again, if we try to look at this from a psychological standpoint: these "warm fuzzy moments" could represent something deeper. Could this be a sense of closure for the Doctor? By finally becoming friendly with past incarnations, is this him coming to terms with his own past? Yes, he's happy he's not the man he was, but he is still proud of him. No matter what era he hails from, he was a man who was trying his best to do the right thing. In the end, the Doctor can be satisfied with that. And he shows his approval by dropping the arguments and being kind to himself. Frequently, in doing that, he starts operating far more efficiently. He comes up with plans for defeating Omega or even figures out a way of saving Gallifrey in the Time Wars. Only when he's at peace with the man he was is he able to find victory.



THE ANTITHESIS:

Admittedly, I've been ignoring an Elephant in the Room. So far, I've only been discussing the psychology behind multi-incarnational stories as they relate to the Doctor. Part of what prompted me to write on the subject was the tremendously enjoyable multi-incarnation tale that just happened with his arch rival. Why have I been staying away from it?

I felt that, only after a full examination of the Doctor's multi-incarnation adventures, could we properly look at what happens with the Master and Missy. When these two unite, they clearly demonstrate just how much of a polar opposite they are to the Doctor.

Psychopath that he is, the Master is completely in love with himself. We see little or no banter between these two incarnations. In fact, they seem to want to get it on with each other. You don't get much more narcissistic than that!

True to form, though, this self-adoration spirals out of control. Rather than having a warm moment with themselves' like the Doctor does at the end of most of his multi-incarnational exploits, it goes in a complete different direction. The Master becomes so upset with himself/herself that the morphic snake ends up eating its own tail. Both attempt to kill each other.

Because the Master/Missy lack that little bit of humbleness - that ability to be just a bit unhappy with who he/she was - it leads to self-destruction. Truthfully, the conclusion of World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls rounds out the psychological model I'm trying to create quite nicely. The Doctor views his own past in a healthy manner and deals with it properly. Which gives him a happy and fulfilling life. The Master, on the other hand, deals with his past in the most sickly of manners and this creates horrific consequences for him.




Right then, that's all of my over-analytical observations expressed on this matter. The big question is: will Twice Upon A Time adhere to all these ideas? By my estimation, for instance, there's a big enough gap between One and Twelve that there shouldn't be much actual bantering going on. Because of the amount of time between them, they should actually get along quite nicely. 

Will we see this and other patterns like it that I have described in this entry? 

Can't wait to find out....






SPECIAL APPENDIX:

Once more, I was rambling on far too much before getting to my real point. I thought I should take some time analyzing some trends in the story structure of multi-incarnation adventures before discussing the psychology of it all. But it just seemed to get in the way of things so I've cut and pasted it down here as an appendix. If you think such observations might interest you, read on: 


STRUCTURAL ISSUES

Most of your multi-incarnation stories are done to a certain formula. Here are a few recurring elements you will see in most or all of them:


Scoop-ups:

Occasionally, we get a story like The Two Doctors where incarnations just happen to cross paths as they're making their own separate journeys in the TARDIS. But, more times than others, things play out differently. Usually, an external force pulls one or more incarnation from their proper timelines and plops them down in the timestream of the most current incarnation. The Five Doctors exemplifies this best. Borussa uses an old Time Scoop to accomplish this. So I like to call these incidents "scoop-up sequences".

Another Lord President does something similar in The Three Doctors. He orders a technician to scoop up Doctors One and Two and drops them into Three's timeline. The Moment puts a little twist on the device. She re-unites three incarnations by scooping up Eleven and the War Doctor and placing them in Ten's era (the only example of a scoop from the future and the past). Even Time Crash feels more like a scoop. Yes, the story takes place entirely in the TARDIS but it's a technical fault that brings Ten and Five together. They don't just happen to travel in their respective TARDIS to the same point in Time and Space. Five is transported to the future because of a technical problem.

For the most part, multi-incarnation encounters are engineered in some way rather than just happening naturally through TARDIS travel.


Following threads:

Of the stories I've listed, only two stories transpire where we watch the adventure from the perspective of just one incarnation's timeline. Those two stories are The Three Doctors and Time Crash. In Time Crash, the Fifth Doctor appears in Ten's timeline for a bit. They interact for a while and then Five fades away, again. We don't actually see where Five came from, though. Or where he returns to, for that matter. It's all about witnessing things from the context of Ten's timestream. The Three Doctors flows in a very similar fashion. We do have the briefest of Scoop-up Sequences with One and Two. But, otherwise, everything happens within the context of Three's timestream. When the adventure is over, the two previous Doctors disappear back into their own past. Again, we don't really witness where they came from or went to.

Most of the time, however, we spend considerable time watching different incarnations travelling in their own threads before they start encountering each other. The best example of this occurs in The Two Doctors. Six and Two don't finally meet til two-thirds of the story is over. But we watch both of them adventuring separately from each other for quite some time. Essentially, we are witnessing the story from two distinct perspectives until the two Doctors meet near the beginning of Part Three. This is how it works in most stories of this nature. The previous incarnations are still allowed to have backstories. Even in The Five Doctors - where previous incarnations have Scoop-up Moments early on in the plot, we still follow them on their own journeys in the Death Zone before they properly unite and start bantering in Rassilon's Tomb. Day of the Doctor works on a similar premise. We watch War, Ten and Eleven all journey separately from each other for quite some time before the Moment puts them together in one location in Time and Space.

Technical Glitches:

Getting various incarnations into the same timestream is a complicated process that seems to have side-effects. In both The Three and Five Doctors, certain incarnations become stranded in the time vortex rather than properly joining with other versions of themselves'. There can be memory issues, too. The timelines become so tangled that earlier incarnations can't retain what happened.

These technicalities really occur, of course, to make the story-telling more easy and to compensate for casting problems. But it also does make the whole idea of a Time Lord crossing their own timestream seem like something very difficult.

It does seem like if it's only two incarnations interacting that the side effects are less likely. The whole crux of Time Crash is that Ten remembers what Five experienced when they met. Six only forgets what happened to him in his second incarnation because a drug was administered to Two that affects the memory. Otherwise, he would've probably recalled everything, too. And we're pretty sure Missy lied to her previous incarnation in World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls. She actually remembered everything. However, as we get to the stories where three or more incarnations converge, these problems start to occur.  Certain incarnations get trapped in the Time Vortex and memory lapses start affecting everyone.


Okay, now I'm truly done. Thanks if you actually read this far!!!












Sunday, 22 October 2017

FIXING CONTINUITY GLITCHES: QUICK FIXES 5

With Silurian History properly sorted out, I am tempted to do another Unsung Classics piece. But I continue to fear that this site will just become another one of those Doctor Who blogs that are purely about opinion. So, as much as it behooves me to not balance things out with a review of a Classic Series episode that I think hasn't been celebrated as well as it should, I'm going to - instead - discuss a few minor continuity issues and try to get them to work. 

Occasionally, I just pick a few random seasons to re-watch and enjoy them for a bit. Recently, I did that with Seasons Five to Eight. An era that many fans consider to be quite "Golden". I definitely felt that about Season Seven (one of my favorite seasons in the whole history of the show) and quite a bit of the Troughton stuff, in general. But I stopped around Season Eight because I really start disliking the formula that starts kicking in around that time. However, I did find a few continuity issues that I felt I should address and try to fix. 




WHY AREN'T THINGS LOOKING THE WAY THEY DID IN ENEMY OF THE WORLD?

The Enemy of the World tries to present a version of the near future from the vantage-point of the mid-60s. Various clues and references seem to indicate that the story is taking place sometime around 2017 (or, quite possibly, 2018 - at the latest). The predictions that they try to make regarding fashion, technology and even geo-politics are quite amusing and gives an extra entertainment value to the story now that we are actually living in that time.

The big problem, of course, is how do we justify Enemy of the World now that it is that date and things look nothing like the way they do in the story. Women are not running around in plastic dresses and security guards don't have big radio antenna sticking out of their helmets. So, what happened?

We could use the usual argument that Doctor Who takes place in a universe that is slightly different from our own and that's why things look different. However, that particular trick won't work, this time. We can assume that contemporary Earth-bound stories in Series Ten are meant to be taking place in 2017. We didn't see any plastic dresses or antenna helmets in those stories. In fact, we saw a reality that looks - pretty much - the way our reality looks (we don't have any destroyed Monk monuments - otherwise, both versions of 2017 look the same). How does Enemy of the World fit in, then?

I think we justify the existence of this story by accepting the idea that the Doctor's many visits to Earth during the late 20th Century/early 21st Century have ripple effects. That, without even meaning to, his frequent visits make tiny alterations to the timeline and change the evolution of human society during this era. Other times, of course, he even makes big alterations. He topples Harriet Jones, for instance, when she was meant to serve multiple terms as Prime Minister. These minor and major alterations take larger, more noticeable effects when he re-visits these periods later in his life.

So, when the Doctor visits 2017 in his second incarnation - this is the way reality is meant to look. But, because he keeps coming back to Earth and making minor or major alterations both intentionally and unintentionally, he changes the course of human evolution. So that when he starts hanging around 2017 in his twelfth incarnation it looks the way it does, now. His many visits between those two incarnations have altered the timeline so that things look radically different by the time he visits 2017 in Series 10.

This explanation makes the best sense to me. I would imagine that, though he's altered the timelines, certain patterns still remain. For instance, it would be awesome if we saw a story that takes place on contemporary Earth in Series 11 that mentions "The Salamander Scandal". This way, we know that Enemy of the World still happens in some sort of way. The show doesn't have to dwell on it, of course. It can be quickly mentioned in a conversation or heard in a news broadcast on a television in the background. A throwaway reference would make a tonne of us hardcores very happy. Like seeing the Macra in Gridlock!



LANGUAGE, PLEASE...

At long last, in the first few minutes of End of the World, a popular fan theory is confirmed. The Doctor reveals to Rose that the TARDIS is able to translate all languages and make everyone understandable to everyone else (the Doctor, sort of, made a similar revelation in Masque of Mandragora but he goes into better detail, here). This is a great continuity point to finally have cleared up but it does, at the same time, present a bit of a sore point. There are moments in the Classic Series where languages don't seem to be translating properly. Quite a few of them occur in the era I was watching.

Towards the end of The War Games, we see the Resistance having a hard time speaking to a French soldier they've recently converted. This shouldn't be a problem if the TARDIS has a translation circuit. We see things like this happen a few more times after the Doctor regenerates. He has to build an actual translation device to understand the captured alien ambassadors in Ambassadors of Death. In Mind of Evil, he has to use several Asian dialects to communicate effectively with various characters. At one point, he even admits he's a bit rusty at his Hokkien. If the translation circuit were working properly, he should not feel like he's fumbling. His words should be coming out smoothly. He is obviously making an effort, here, to speak a language he hasn't used in a while. Rather than just having what he's said instantly changed into the appropriate language by the TARDIS.

The Time Lords sent the Doctor into his exile with his TARDIS - but disabled it. They also wiped some of his memory. The things they did to his vehicle and mental faculties interfered with the translation software. Particularly since the Doctor indicates that it's a sort of telepathic link that enables the whole process. Perhaps altering his memories broke the link. This gets the language issues he's having in his exile to make sense, now.

But what of the French soldier in The War Games that no one can talk to properly? This happens before the Time Lords actually get their hands on the Doctor. So how do we explain that one?

As I just said, things were done to the TARDIS to restrict its movement after the Doctor's exile was imposed. Those alterations meddled with the translation device. When you do things to a time machine - the effects can, sometimes, ripple backwards in time. So the translation circuit still goes a bit faulty even before the exile because side effects can work that way when meddling with time travel equipment. All those SIDRATs that we see in The War Games may have had an influence, too. The presence of so many other interdimensional crafts may have exacerbated the problem. So, most of the time, the translation issue only happens after the exile begins. But it can ripple back a bit, too.

There are, of course, instances outside of this particular era where the translation circuit also seems to be failing (Tegan talking to the Aboriginal in Four to Doomsday, for example). I would label them as moments where the translation device was just having some troubles that day. Perhaps - because it was disabled for so long during the exile - it plays up, now and again.



WHY GIVE THE DOCTOR HIS TARDIS DURING HIS EXILE?

This one is a bit baffling. It's almost like throwing someone in a prison cell but then giving them the key (or throwing an Osirian in a pyramid but providing him with all the means he needs to escape it). Why would the Time Lords let the Doctor keep his TARDIS when he's meant to be exiled to Earth?!

One might say they needed something to transport him from Gallifrey to Earth and that the TARDIS was as good as anything. But we see a Time Lord arrive on Earth in Terror of the Autons without the use of any sort of capsule. He just materializes out of thin air. So a TARDIS was hardly necessary to make such a trip. It doesn't help that we see time scoops and time rings in future stories that would have done the same trick and would not have, necessarily, provided the Doctor with a means of escape. To make matters worse, he is getting pretty close to escaping his exile in The Time Monster. That TARDIS is just-about working properly as he tails the Master to Atlantis.

So are the Time Lords just not all that bright?! The Doctor has stood out from his society because he is so much more imaginative than the average Time Lord. Which would indicate that his people might be lacking in certain intellectual attributes. But, surely, they can't be this dim!

My guess would be that the Time Lords already had plans for the Doctor. That his exile would only be so firmly written in stone and that they would need him from time-to-time to undertake secret missions for them. He does exactly this in, at least, three televised stories (Colony In Space, Curse of Peladon and The Mutants) so that seems to back up the idea pretty good, right there.

If you subscribe to the idea of Season 6b, then you believe he was undertaking missions for the Time Lords before the exile was finally invoked (The Two Doctors). So the Time Lords were using the Doctor to accomplish their dirty work for them even before his exile. If something was going on in the affairs of lesser civilizations that they felt needed their intervention - the Doctor was their "go-to guy". He would keep it quiet for them, too. Particularly during Season 6b. The Doctor being given his freedom after his trial is meant to be kept a secret from most of the eyes of Gallifrey. If the Doctor doesn't accomplish these missions, the organization of Time Lords that were using him (most likely the Celestial Intervention Agency) would probably make this fact public and he'll, at last, have to serve his exile.

How, exactly, the main population of Time Lords found out about what the Doctor was up to during Season 6b - we'll never know. But, no doubt, the Time Lords that were sending him on these secret missions  knew they could still use him after he was caught and properly sentenced. Any little bit of freedom they could offer him he would take. Even if it meant he was still dealing with their messes. So giving the Doctor his TARDIS during his exile now makes perfect sense. More than likely, the CIA were able to make some sort of political deal with the Tribunal in charge of carrying out the Doctor's sentence. They insisted that the Doctor was sent to Earth in his TARDIS. The time capsule would be disabled and the Doctor's memories of his ability to pilot it would also be wiped (perhaps, along with certain other memories that might implicate the CIA in things that they didn't want to be called out on). With his TARDIS, the Doctor could still be used at any time to accomplish missions for them. This way, he could still be useful to them.

So the Doctor being sent to his exile on Earth in his TARDIS foreshadows the fact that the exile was not meant to be too strictly enforced. He was still going to be a pawn for the CIA...



A few more plot holes fixed. Hope you enjoyed my silly fan theories. 

Like the Quick Fixes? There's four others for you to enjoy, if you so desire. Here are the Links:

Quick Fix 1: 
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2015/08/fixing-continuity-glitches-quick-fixes.html

Quick Fix 2:
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/02/fixing-continuity-glitches-quick-fixes-2.html

Quick Fix 3:
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2017/01/fixing-continuity-glitches-quick-fixes-3.html

Quick Fix 4:
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2017/05/fixing-continuity-glitches-quick-fixes.html


























Sunday, 8 October 2017

CHRONOLOGIES AND TIMELINES: SILURIAN HISTORY - PART 2

After a quick break to look at an Unsung Classic, we resume our regularly-scheduled blog entry! 



During Part One, we looked at most of the Re-Awakenings that occurred during the Twentieth Century. We have just one more to examine. Then we need to speculate a bit before properly moving into the Twenty-First Century.

From a chronological standpoint, the adventures of Lady Vastra constitute the very first Re-Awakening that we've seen in the series. But if we go according to transmission order, it's Doctor Who and the Silurians, first. Which means that the initial foundations of Silurian society were established in the 1970s 7-Parter. The next transmitted story, The Sea Devils, is the next phase in their history . Both in terms of transmission and linear continuity. It also adds some interesting new dimensions to their culture.




THE NATURE OF SEA DEVILS

Only a year or two after the tragedy at the Derbyshire caves, the Doctor experiences his next encounter with Homo-Reptilia. We speculated in Part One that he may have met Silurians prior to Wenley Moor but the adventure was not televised. From what we can gather, though, the species he encounters in The Sea Devils is entirely new to him. He seems to be expecting the three-eyed version that he met previously and is quite surprised by the appearance of their aquatic cousins.

While I have noted some savage qualities to the Silurians, their brutality doesn't seem to compare to what we see in the Sea Devils. In many ways, they come across more as traditional Doctor Who Monsters. Like Daleks, they just seem to be out to harm anyone who isn't the same species as they are. Only the leader of the group that Re-Awakened near the island the Master was imprisoned on will consider the Doctor's plea for peace. The rest seem dead-set on hurting humanity in any way they can.

We will see warrior classes among the Silurians, themselves, in a future story. But the viciousness of the Sea Devils in this story and Warriors of the Deep suggests to me that the aquatic species is an actual warrior race. The battle armor they wear in Warriors certainly re-enforces this idea. But even the fishnet version in this story seems to move in a very militaristic fashion. Particularly when you consider their blind obedience to the Sea Devil Leader. The Silurians had very flexible policies on how to handle authority whereas the Sea Devils follow orders without question. Which indicates we are witnessing an army at work in The Sea Devils rather than a group of civilians trying to handle a volatile situation like we did in The Silurians. Since we don't see any Sea Devils in either of their stories that don't seem to be made for fighting, I am prone to believe that their sole purpose is to engage in battle. They are bred exclusively for the purpose of war.




THE NOTORIOUS UNSEEN STORY

Before we move on to the next televised story that fits into our timeline, we have to delve into the idea of an adventure that must have happened even though we never saw it on our screens. In order to get some of the continuity to work in Warriors of the Deep, we have to believe that the Doctor dealt specifically with Silurians at some point after The Sea Devils. It may have been another incident during his exile or it could have even occurred during his fourth incarnation (it couldn't have happened during his fifth since Icthar doesn't recognize the Fifth Doctor).

During this unseen story, the Doctor encountered several things that he recognizes again during Warriors of the Deep. He gets well-acquainted with Silurian warfare since he immediately knows what their battle cruisers look like. He's also met a Myrka, at least, one time before he battles one in Sea Base Four.

He also seems to have gotten involved in Silurian politics during this particular adventure. By Warriors, he is aware of the existence of the Silurian Triad. He appears to have had some interaction with one of its members. A Silurian named Icthar. More than likely, he met all of them, though. Apparently, Tragedy struck the Triad since the Fifth Doctor believes them to be dead.

Actual dialogue in Warriors of the Deep refers to two previous experiences that the Silurians had with humans. This would lead one to believe they are referring to Doctor Who and the Silurian and The Sea Devils. But since neither of those stories deal with Myrkas, battle cruisers or the Triad - we have to believe that an unseen story took place and that this branch of Silurians are unaware of the Re-Awakening of Sea Devils that took place during the Doctor's exile. So when they talk about these two earlier incidents, they are talking about The Silurians and this unseen adventure.

It's entirely possible that they never heard about the business at Wenley Moor Power Station, either. There may have actually been two two untelevised adventures involving the Silurian Triad. And that these are the two past incidents that they refer to throughout Warriors of the Deep.

Fans will, sometimes, point out that the Missing Adventure novel: The Scales of Injustice does an excellent job of filling out this continuity issue. But, if we go back to the "rules" I've laid down in my very second entry, (https://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2015/03/doin-it-with-style.html) we'll see that I don't consider the novelizations to be canon. Instead, we can just use our imaginations to envision what exactly happened in the unseen story(ies). As long as those visions involve battle cruisers, Myrkas and Icthar with his Triad getting killed - then they work!




WELCOME TO THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY!

We can't say, for sure, whether the unseen adventure(s) took place in the 20th or 21st century. We only know it took place prior to 2084. I like to think late 20th Century, myself.

Which means that, according to dates given, the next televised adventure is Hungry Earth/Cold Blood. As the Doctor emerges from the TARDIS with the Ponds, he informs them that it is 2020. In my opinion, this is our first Re-Awakening that happens in the 21st Century.

We are dealing, once more, with Two-Eyed Silurians. We also see hints of savagery, again. When Malohkeh and Restac clash - there is a fair amount of physical posturing. Restac does, eventually, murder Malohkeh. But it is done in secret. So we don't know if there would have been legal consequences to her actions had they become public. Like the usurping of the Old Silurian in Derbyshire, this could all be acceptable behavior in Homo Reptilian culture. It really does seem like the Doctor's claim that they are a peace-loving race might be something of an exaggeration!

This, of course, is the first time we see a special defense that this branch of Silurians possess. Aside from blasters that look very similar to the ones the Sea Devils use, their tongues can also be used as a weapon. They can extend to great lengths and possess a limited quantity of lethal venom. The tongue can be used as a sort of long-range stinger than can actually kill an enemy. They can only manage one successful attack per day, however. It takes sometime for their tongues to "re-load".

Vastra also has this ability. But we only saw her use it once. Perhaps, because she wishes to blend more with human society, she's reluctant to do something that would make her seem so "freakish". Instead, she prefers wielding swords.

This branch of Silurians also like to wear special masks that enhance certain senses for them and can feed them data concerning the environment around them.

All in all, the two-eyed Silurians seem far more deadly than a lot of other versions that we've seen of this species.




THE RETURN OF THE COLD WAR

As we move on into the Twenty-First Century, Humanity discovers a new way to destroy itself: the proton missile. It is a unique weapon that destroys life but leaves structures intact. At this point, there is still some form of national division - but countries seem to be referred to as Power Blocs. All the Blocs get their hands on this technology and a new sort of military deadlock begins. One that resembles the same sort of scenario we had with nuclear weapons during the Twentieth Century.

A group of Three-Eyed Non-Telekinetic Silurians see this political landscape as their ultimate opportunity to eradicate the apes that have overrun their planet. They are led by Icthar - last surviving member of the Triad. The Doctor has, of course, met this group of Silurians in a previously unseen adventure (or, quite possibly, two unseen adventures).

A date of 2084 is given in the dialogue of Warriors of the Deep. If the unseen adventure(s) in question took place in the late 20th Century, we can't say for sure what this group of Silurians have been up to all this time. Perhaps they went back into hibernation or they could have been hiding out somewhere throughout most of the 21st Century - waiting for the right moment to try to take their planet back. It's difficult to ascertain with the information we're given in the story.

The Three-Eyed Non-Telekinetic Silurian doesn't have much in the way of natural defenses. But it has grown a protective shell that is, at least, a bit resistant to attacks. They are definitely the most vulnerable of all the branches we've seen. There also seems to be a slight variation in the Sea Devils of this story. They don't seem to possess the long fins that the stringy Sea Devils had around their heads and necks. Possibly, the fins are concealed beneath their armor.

Warriors of the Deep gives us a pretty bleak ending for Homo Reptilia. The Triad is now wiped out and the entire attack force seems to have died from the toxic effects of hexachromite gas. The fact that the story takes place so late in their timeline doesn't offer any encouragement, either. A genuine Silurian tale taking place in the 22nd Century or later might offer some encouragement. But, with things the way they are right now, this does look like the final end for the species.




HOPE FOR THE FUTURE....

The closest we get to a Silurian story that takes place any later than Warriors of the Deep would be Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. A date of 2367 is given in the subtitles near the beginning of the story. The colony ship the Silurians sent off way back in their ancient days is finally returning to Earth. While the ship is full of dinosaurs, the Silurians that were on board the ship were all killed off by Solomon. Once more, it's hard to be confident that Homo Reptilia survives beyond the 21st Century.

But the Doctor does set the timer on the hibernation units for the colony he found in Hungry Earth/Cold Blood to re-awaken the population in a 1 000 years' time. So a batch of Two-Eyed Silurians should be re-emerging somewhere around 3020. Humanity, by this point, will have colony worlds all over the place. Could it be that they give one of those planets to the Silurian race and their civilization begins to prosper again?

There are three cameos that the Silurians make in New Who that help support this fact:

The first is the Season Finale of Series Five. We see a Silurian or two standing among The Alliance Against the Doctor as he's sealed inside the Box of Pandorica. It's my theory that this group of aliens all hail from the distant future and that the Daleks created a sort of temporal bridgehead to bring them back to Stone Henge in the Second Century. If that is the case, then this could be members of a successful Silurian colony from the future. However, it's just as possible that this was a group of Homo Reptilia that might have been active in 102 AD. That they Re-Awakened in and around that era rather than being transported from another time period. So The Pandorica Opens only offers so much evidence that the Silurians have survived past 2084.

Their next cameo is in A Good Man Goes to War - where they help secure Demon's Run. We see quite the occupation force appear once the Doctor has tricked the humans into disarming themselves'. It's difficult to get a clear idea of when, exactly, this story takes place. But it could be sometime after the 30th Century has begun and these Silurians hail from the Re-Awakening that the Doctor scheduled in Cold Blood. But we do see the Doctor picking up the Lady Vastra in the late 1800s - so it's possible he picked up the attack squad from somewhere in the past, too. Again, the evidence in this story is only so conclusive.

Interestingly enough, the best proof that the Silurians are prospering in the future is the most subtle. You'll only catch it if you're keeping a keen eye. Time of the Doctor definitely takes place in the far flung future. More than likely, sometime after 3020. Christmas is a simple human colony and the Papal Mainframe is meant to be how churches are run in the distant future. This is not some alien species that merely looks human that are more advanced than us and exist within our current time frame. Like say, the species that fly past Earth in the Spaceship Titanic on Christmas Eve in the early 21st Century. The people we see in this story are originally from Earth - somewhere further down the road in its evolution.

Anyhow, watch the opening scene where all the spaceships have responded to Gallifrey's signal carefully. In among the various familiar-looking vessels that hover above the planet Christmas is on is the same type of craft we see in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. We know this to be a ship of Silurian craftsmanship. If Time of the Doctor takes place in Humanity's future and Silurians can show up in a ship that doesn't seem to have any time travel capabilities - then this would indicate that Homo Reptilia is doing fine somewhere past the events of the Sea Base Four Tragedy. As subtle as the visual reference is - it's the best proof we have.



So it does seem fairly certain that Humanity and Homo Reptilia will, someday, see past their differences. Again, I think it's most likely that the colony the Doctor set to re-awaken sometime around 3020 will just be given one of the more arid colony worlds that humans have acquired. Once settled on this world -  they begin to thrive, once more. We see, at least, hints of this idea in the cameos they've made. Perhaps, one day, we'll get a story that confirms this properly. In the meantime, I like to believe there's a happy ending for the Silurians. Rather than the very tragic conclusion we see in what constitutes their last story in the timeline. In my heart of hearts, I believe that we did, indeed, find another way.



So, that concludes our Probably History of the Silurians. There was a lot of speculation that I needed to go into for this one so it definitely merited being a two-parter. 

Of all the recurring aliens that present themselves' in Doctor Who reality, I look forward to a future appearance from these guys the most. Silurian stories tend to be the richest since they are a far more three-dimensional species than your Standard Doctor Who Monster.

I also hope, of course, that we'll see a story that shows the Silurians found a better future than dying out in a human military base on a seabed. I would love to see a story that shows a happy ending for them.





Did you miss Part One of Silurian History? Here's an easy link to it: 

https://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2017/09/chronologies-and-timelines-probable.html











Wednesday, 27 September 2017

UNADULTERATED BOORISH OPINION: UNSUNG CLASSICS - PART 3

"Wait a minute!", you may be saying to yourself, "Weren't we in the middle of chronicling Silurian History?! What's going on here?!" 

Work has been really busy - that's what's going on, here. While I have arranged all the Silurian stories in proper chronological order, I still like to watch them all just to ensure that they line up properly before I start writing my essay. I wanted to stay away from opinion pieces but they're quick and easy to write. So, we're going to slip one or two of them in again while I work on Part 2 of Silurian History. 

My Unsung Classics Series did seem to get a lot of good feedback so I've decided to look at another New Series story that deserves more respect than it gets. Here's a quick cut-and-paste from Part One just to refresh your memory about how this particular brand of essay works. If your remember reading it, just skip to the good stuff!


UNSUNG CLASSICS:

The stories fandom, sometimes, label as "Classic" can seriously boggle me. Genesis of the Daleks, for instance, is a story that works far better in theory than it does in actual execution (far too many captures and escapes - even by Classic Who Standards!). I've never understood all the fuss about Talons of Weng Chiang, either. I mean, it's a fun story - for the most part (that dumbwaiter sequence is four minutes of my life I'll never get back!). But I certainly don't think it's this amazing piece of television that so many other fans believe it to be. I know it's to be viewed contextually, but it's still pretty hard to get over the fact that they've cast a white person as an Asian. It's a bit like that discomfort you feel when you see old footage of actors performing in blackface. It's awkward.

What confounds me even more is the fact that there are some excellent stories that fandom seems to completely overlook. In some cases, minor quibbles have been found with them ("Kinda is an incredible exploration into the human psyche and an extravaganza of rich subtext - but I don't like it cause the snake looks fake!"). Or, for whatever reason, they just don't seem to resonate with the audience. Even though, to all intents and purposes, they're as well-constructed (or even better) than "classics" like Genesis of the Daleks or Talons of Weng Chiang.

My Unsung Classics Series will explore these stories. I'll not only look at what it is about them that I think makes them so great - I'll also try to figure out why they didn't go over as well as they should have. I'll probably also stun you a bit with what I consider to be a great story. Try not to be too shocked. Remember: The Sixth Doctor is my favorite - so I'm bound to have some weird views!



SERIES TEN AND ITS HIDDEN GEM

At the time of writing this, Series Ten concluded a short while ago. Overall, it's been very well-received by hardcore fans and the casual viewer. Quite simply, the season contains some very solid stories.

Even though it's very recent (things, such as these, should be allowed to age), World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls is being labeled by many as a Classic. It's hard not give it that sort of title. On top of being a well-put-together tale, we've got Mondasian Cybermen and a double-Master reunion. And a teaser at the end makes Christmas feel like it's a million years away. Those kind of elements make it near-impossible to not totally fall in love with it.

But if we are willing to attach such labels to something so new, then I say we've missed a story earlier in the season that also deserves to be called a Classic. Oxygen, if you'll pardon the pun, really took my breath away. To me, it stands out just as well as the season finale.



PART THREE: OXYGEN

Like many other stories in the Capaldi era, Oxygen gets its lead actor to do a sort of opening narration that seems like the breaking of the Fourth Wall but isn't (or in the case of Before the Flood it just breaks the Fourth Wall). In this instance, the Doctor's sinister voice-over about the dangers of space turns into a lecture in his class. It's a clever use of the device that signposts what Oxygen does best: be clever. It's a somewhat simple story that presents itself in the smartest way possible. This, quite often, is my favorite style of Doctor Who adventure. A supremely complex plot can be fun but it is not necessary. A simple idea dressed up in a way that makes it sparkle as brightly as possible brings me far more joy. If you look at my Top Ten Stories list (http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2015/12/book-of-lists-top-ten-who-stories-10.html - start here and keep following) it includes stories like Ark In Space and Earthshock. Both have pretty simple premises (Ark: "We need to get off this space station before the Wyyrn eat us" Earthshock: "We need to stop the Cybermen from blowing up the Earth"). Oxygen takes a similar tact with its "We need to escape the zombies on this space station" premise. But it does so with great style and aplomb.

The pre-title teaser does a beautiful job of setting the tone. It lets us know that we are going to be dealing with nasty space zombies. Which is great. How can you not love space zombies, right? But it does something else far more impressive. In a few quick snippets of dialogue, it humanizes the hell out of the two characters we're watching on the space walk. So that when one of them does get zombified, we truly feel the loss. She had just decided she wanted to have children with the man she loves - and now that's never going to happen. Even worse, he never got to know about her decision. None of this was necessary to write into the sequence. We just needed to see space zombies doing their thing. But the fact that the time is taken to have that moment included in the sequence shows us that this story is going to be written with a degree of sensitivity. It's not just going to be a rollicking adventure. We're going to care a bit about these characters who are fighting for their lives.

With the opening credits out of the way, we take a quick trip to the university the Doctor's teaching at to let us now there was no Fourth Wall Breaking going on. Most stories of Series 10 start here and it's a nice piece of familiarity that makes us feel comfortable. The idea of setting the whole season in this location was a good one. It does have just a bit of that UNIT family atmosphere going on.

We don't dawdle at the university, though. We get to the good stuff nice and quick. The first few minutes with the TARDIS arriving on the space station and our three intrepid heroes exploring are glorious. Again, we are taken back to a vibe from the Classic Series. We feel like we're back in all of those lovely stories from the 60s where they spend the best part of the first episode just wandering about and getting to know where they are. They find various things that signpost what's to come later when a real plot starts to develop. But, for now, they're just wandering. The Classic Series would occasionally re-create this device in later stories (Ark In Space and Destiny of the Daleks) and I loved it when they gave us a first episode like that. To see them doing something similar in the New Series was truly impressive. Entertainment seems to be completely geared to people with ADHD, these days. So I must applaud the braveness of this decision. To just let the TARDIS crew meander for a good ten minutes was very bold. It also gets the story to feel very distinctive from a lot of other stuff we've seen in New Who. I hope we see this some more. Not every episode, of course. Just now and again.

And then, finally, we get some more zombie horror. We're also introduced to the surviving crew members. All of whom do a pretty good job of seeming three-dimensional even though some of them aren't going to last too long. It's a nice testament to the writing and the acting when expendable crewmembers can still make a lasting impression.

Bill seeming racist to the blue crewmember (Dahh-Ren - great gag!) is our last little bit of levity in the storyline. Once that's out of the way, the tension in Oxygen kicks into high gear. For the rest of the episode, it is impossible to tear ourselves' away from the action. Problems present themselves' at all the proper moments to keep us engaged. It's executed quite masterfully, really. The writers for The Walking Dead really need to watch this episode. They could learn a few things about how to create effective zombie action.

And then we get to that magnificent airlock scene. Who can forget it? It's one of two great sequences in the episode where we really see just how attached we've gotten to Bill in such a short time. We are utterly horrified by the whole moment. There seems no real hope for her.

The surreal half-conscious effect that is created in the space walk is absolutely gorgeous and gives us another minute or two of beautiful suspense. We have no idea what's going on. But it looks absolutely fabulous and keeps us wondering.

When things do start making sense, again - we find ourselves' completely falling in love with Doctor Twelve. Yes, he was very spiky in his first season but the gradual softening of the character has led us to moments such as these. The Doctor sacrifices his sight to save a friend. The fact that he was so much colder a few seasons ago makes the gesture all the more beautiful. We were sure the heart(s) of gold was still there. And we get to see it in its full glory, here.

Things don't stay too calm for long. The space zombies finally find their way in and the tension picks up, again. And, if the airlock sequence wasn't terrible enough, what happens to Bill in this moment truly horrifies us. There seems no clear way out for her when she gets zombified. It's completely brutal to watch. It also gets us to see, even more, that we've fallen in love with her and don't want to lose her.

The final solution to Oxygen is what propels it into Classic Status. Too often in New Who, we get endings that seem to rely just a bit too heavily on waving the sonic screwdriver about and using some convenient pseudo-science. Oxygen stays away from that and has the Doctor being genuinely clever (he, in fact, loses the sonic screwdriver fairly early on). He susses out what's really happening at about the same time as we do. He understands that corporate greed is the true enemy, here. He then uses his enemy's power against itself in a very smart and down-to-earth way. It really is cleverness that saves the day rather than something that feels a little bit more on the deux ex-machinae side of things. We also get a brilliant speech where the Doctor inspires the remaining crew to sacrifice themselves' heroically. This, to me, is the way a story should end. The Doctor is genuinely brilliant rather than just tech-savvy. Absolutely brilliant stuff.

There's also several truly delicious moments in that climax that really make it pop. The way the Doctor delivers the word: "Expensive!" shows us how he was hatching a scheme the whole time. It halts the zombies in their tracks and changes the whole tide of the story. What a flood of relief that falls over us as he saves Bill, too. And then, finally, we get the sad reunion of the two lovers we saw at the beginning of the story. It's a truly painful moment as he must look into the dead eyes of the woman he loves. As she gives him her air canister to keep him alive, it gets us to wonder if love can even survive beyond death. There is a sense that things have come full circle with the story, now. The lovers are reunited. Not quite in the way either had hoped for, but they are together again. Once more, Oxygen shows us it's not just about space zombies - it's also about the people who are struggling against them.

The denouement is very quick and hopeful. We get a bit of future history as we learn that capitalism is soon to die. And then, we get a wonderful cliffhanger to lead us into a mid-season 3-part epic. The Doctor announcing in black-out that he's still blind is absolutely gorgeous.

I'm hard-pressed to find anything wrong with Oxygen. It's one of those stories that's written so tightly that quarters could bounce off of it for centuries and never cause the slightest dent. It's a shining example of a great Who story that relies purely on the merits of being good in its own right. Our season finale is also magnificent. But, as I mentioned, it has the added bonus of using some elements from past continuity to make it that much more enjoyable. Whereas Oxygen stands up on its own.

Which means it might just be that little bit better...



WHY IT DIDN'T GO OVER AS WELL AS IT SHOULD HAVE:

There are probably several factors that affected how Oxygen was received. First and foremost, it's in the middle of a season of really well-crafted stories. So that makes it that much harder to stand out. We also had a more-than-stellar season finale which really ended up dwarfing anything else that went on during the actual season. Even though I allege that Oxygen might be better than the finale, seeing the First Doctor striding through the blizzard to meet Doctor Twelve will get a fan to forget about everything else that went on this year!

Finally, of course, there's the fact that it is so recent. I mentioned earlier that a Classic does need some time to age (like a fine wine). So, maybe, in the next few years, we'll all stand up and take notice of Oxygen. We'll recognize its absolute brilliance and give it its due credit.





Okay - Part 3 done. Being a lover of narrative symmetry, I'll probably do a Part 4 before I get back to Silurian History. To balance things out even better, I will pick something from the Classic Series that deserves more respect than it gets. 

What story will I pick? I don't even know, yet. But I've got plenty to choose from.

Suggestions are welcome, by the way. Leave them in the Comments if you so desire....











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