Sunday, 29 March 2015

THE BOOK OF LISTS: RANKING THE REGENERATIONS

Here's the thing about people who rate the regenerations of our favorite Time Lord: they always seem to just talk about the final story of the Doctor that's on his way out. To me, the first story of the new Doctor constitutes as part of the regenerative process and should also be evaluated. There are notable exceptions, of course, like Time and the Rani or the 96 Telemovie where the regeneration takes place near the beginning of the tale. Or even Night of the Doctor where there is no story that immediately follows it. But, for the most part, a regeneration should be viewed as two stories. Or, if you really want to get technical, the Sixth Doctor doesn't seem to truly settle into his new incarnation til about halfway into Vengeance On Varos. But I won't go to that extreme, here!

Sixth to Seventh - Time and the Rani

People rip on Time and the Rani way more than it deserves. I mean, it still has alot of problems. But I'd take it over a lot of the other Great Stinkers of Who. Sylvester McCoy is great fun to watch and we see, right from the beginning, that he will be a master manipulator. The way he tricks the Rani into destroying her brainiac is a very clever twist.

Sadly, as far regeneration stories go, it's still the weakest. If you know the behind-the-scenes problems that were going on at the time, then you can excuse it a bit. But, ultimately, a weak regeneration story is a weak regeneration story. And you have to take it at face value. Time and the Rani is the worst example of a new actor taking on the role of the Doctor. And, as a swangsong for the Sixth Doctor, it's absolutely terrible.

The actual regeneration sequence makes no real sense. The Doctor falling off an exercise bike - what?! And the visuals are completely laughable. It was nice to have an easter egg in the dvd bonuses that CGIed Colin's face but I'm not sure why they just didn't do the fix up right in the actual episode. Sylvester McCoy in a bad Harpo Marx wig is not the way we should've seen Doctor Six off. But it's what we got. The fact that the ensuing story is, perhaps, the worst example of Bad Who Panto that we've ever seen really cements the fact that we have to admit that the sixth regeneration is a huge disappointment.

Worst regeneration story, yes. But not necessarily a horrible story, overall. It has its problems, but it still deserves a better ranking than it gets in Popular Fan Opinion.

Tenth to Tenth - Stolen Earth/Journey's End

I have tried really hard to like the season finale to Series Four. But there's just so much there that makes me cringe: the RTD companion love-fest that is the entire crux of Stolen Earth, yet another false prediction about a companion dieing, the Daleks being a completely over-used monster, the absolute absurdity of the TARDIS pulling Earth back to its proper place in the Universe ... the list of problems is quite endless. Julian Bleach saves the day a bit with a brilliant Davros portrayal. Otherwise, most of this story is pretty damned bad.

On top of it all, we have another regeneration that doesn't really make much sense. Since when has someone only ever been "nicked" by a full-powered Dalek blast and gone on to live for several more minutes? Any other time that a Dalek has shot to kill and hit its target - that person is dead in seconds. It's almost as silly as the exercise bike accident. The Doctor siphoning off the remaining regeneration energy so that he can keep his appearance the same seems equally ludicrous. It really makes the whole thing seem like a wasted regeneration. The fact that we will later learn that the Doctor is nearer to the end of his regeneration cycle than we realize makes the whole thing seem all the more pointless.

Yes, my jaw hit the floor when the Doctor goes into the regeneration at the end of Stolen Earth. But I knew, within seconds, that RTD would find some silly cop-out at the beginning of the next episode to keep the Tenth Doctor in place. And that's exactly what happened. Utterly disappointing. Only marginally better than what we got in Time and the Rani.


Third to Fourth - Planet of Spiders/Robot

I know this probably ranks higher on a lot of other peoples' lists. But, in my humble opinion, this one belongs near the bottom.

Jon Pertwee six-parters are, for the most part, poorly executed. Planet of Spiders is no exception to the rule. The plodding chase sequence is not the only problem. There are plenty of captures-and-escapes and other such frequently-used methods of padding on display all over the place. The long drawn-out sequence of the Doctor being rendered unconscious and needing to be revived when he first arrives on Metebilis 3 is a great example of this problem. Did we need all that extra runaround? No. Was the actual runaround all that really entertaining? Not in the slightest. If things had been trimmed to four episodes - this would've been such a stronger story. Instead, it just drags a whole lot in places.

Pertwee's final moments, at least, are very stirring as the Doctor faces his fears and moves on. And the whole business with K'anpo is quite brilliant too. But then we move on to Robot: a dreadfully mediocre story that barely has enough plot to fill four episodes. Like McCoy, Tom Baker does lift the story a bit by being so entertainingly erratic. But by the time we get to the homage (or, perhaps, "parody" might be a better word) of King Kong at the end of Episode Four we have to come clean and admit that Robot is just a really bad New Doctor story. I know it's not fair to judge Classic Who by its special effects, but this sequence is just so terrible that it's impossible not to lose all enjoyment of the adventure.

Spiders is weak. Robot is terrible. And that's why I consider this the third-worst of the Doctor's regenerations. Even though the rest of fandom probably ranks it much higher.

Tenth to Eleventh - The End of Time (Parts 1 and 2)/The Eleventh Hour

You'll hear me say this frequently: The End of Time does everything that Logopolis intentionally avoids. It's over-sentimental and weak on plot. It relies purely on us being sad that Tennant is leaving rather than really trying to tell a good story. Wilf being the person who "knocks four times" is about the only redeeming quality to the whole mess.

Fortunately, The Eleventh Hour lifts things up considerably and makes this particular transition of actors far better. I immediately liked Smith way more than Tennant and most of The Eleventh Hour is immensely enjoyable. It does drag ever-so-slightly near the beginning. Perhaps the Doctor trying out his new mouth could've been cut right out. Removing a few other minutes elsewhere in the story so that we could have a standard running time rather than a full hour would've made this episode perfect. But, otherwise, this is a great New Doctor story that saves Tenth to Eleventh from being even lower than Time and the Rani. I love it when Doctor Eleven orders the Atraxi back just to tell them off. I punch the air every time he proclaims: "I'm the Doctor. Basically, run."

Still not sure why the Console Room needs to blow up, though. Aside from the fact that the production team wanted to build a new one, of course!

Seventh to Eighth - The 96 Telemovie

It's always a tricky thing when the Doctor regenerates near the beginning of a story and the previous Doctor doesn't get a proper send-off, but this particular tale almost manages to pull it off.

It's nice that we still get some plot with the Seventh Doctor on display before he must say goodbye. If, for no other reason than the fact that Paul McGann would've looked even more ridiculous in a Sylvester McCoy wig! I will also say that this is, easily, the best of all the regeneration sequences that were ever shot. The crackling lightning effects interspersed with scenes from Frankenstein were just so wonderfully stylistic.

The plot that gets built around this all, of course, is a bit disappointing in places. Particularly since we're not entirely sure how it is that the Eye of Harmony saves the day in the way that it does. A bit more exposition would've been nice. While Paul McGann's one-and-only full episode suffered harsh criticism when it first premiered, opinion on it seems to have mellowed over the years. We seem to have realized that it could've been the beginning of a really special series where, maybe, the balance between British and American influences could've actually worked quite well.

I'd even be willing to admit that Eric Roberts was actually a pretty good Master!


First to Second - The Tenth Planet/Power of the Daleks

And so we begin to explore what I like to call "mid-range regenerations". Regeneration Tales that are strong but not necessarily outstanding. Solid, but not necessarily spectacular.

First to Second is a great example of this. The Tenth Planet, overall, is a pretty decent William Hartnell adventure. Better than most of his stories, in fact. But it is hardly in the range of epic send-offs that most Doctors get at the end of their eras. It's not as bad as some people say, though. I know lots of fans seem unhappy that Hartnell takes the third episode off but I like that he did. It showed just how weak the incarnation was getting. And I think that the whole: "just do nothing and let Mondas blow up" solution is a nice way for things to end. But a lot of fans would've liked the First Doctor to have had a stronger hand in the resolution of the conflict since he was about to bow out.

It's tougher, of course, to judge Power of the Daleks since the entire story has been lost. From what has been pieced together through audio and telesnaps and novelisations - it looks like it was a pretty strong story. Throughton, perhaps, goes a bit too much for the comedy in some places. But Daleks pretending to cooperate with humans until they get their way was a great premise. The fact that they recognize the new Doctor also helps solidify this incarnation's credibility.

Again, a good mid-ranger.

 War Doctor to Ninth - Day of the Doctor/Rose   

Day of the Doctor is a wonderful story. It's also a great anniversary tale. The War Doctor regenerating near the end does seem a bit unnecessary, though. Perhaps even a tad pedantic. Moff is just trying to make sure we get to see all of the Doctor's regenerations.

In some ways, though, I do appreciate that he's being such a completist and it is a nice sentimental moment. The War Doctor doesn't seem to have quite forgotten, yet, that he's actually a pretty good guy. So he dies happy. And I do love that his final line is more a joke than something dramatic.

We must assume Rose follows almost immediately afterwards as Doctor Nine seems to be noticing his face in the mirror for the first time. There are some inconsistencies between the two stories that will never get explained, of course. The biggest one being why the Doctor finally loses "the circle things" between the two episodes! But the two stories do actually gel nicely even though they were shot years from each other. And Rose accomplishes what The 96 Telemovie failed at. It introduces a new Doctor beautifully and re-introduces us to the Doctor Who mythos, in general, in an absolutely splendiforous manner.


Ninth to Tenth - Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways/The Christmas Invasion

Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways is, perhaps, one of the best send-offs we've seen for a Doctor. Which was an important thing to accomplish since this would be the first regeneration in the New Series. We needed to be in awe of the whole thing and Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways accomplishes that magnificiently. It's an especially impressive story since it seems to complete a redemption arc that began in a story we wouldn't see til some six seasons later (how's that for Timey Whimey?!). But it also wraps up several more character arcs that we've been seeing throughout all of Series One. There's a stellar performance from Chris Eccleston and Billie Piper (my eyes still water every time the Doctor's  holographic message appears) and the Daleks are truly at their most menacing as they amass for their attack on Sattelite Five. Some great stuff, really.

But the whole regeneration loses some points as we move on to The Christmas Invasion. A tale that is still stronger than a lot of Christmas episodes (particularly RTD-era Christmas eps), but not all that strong as a New Doctor story. Tennant is left napping for, perhaps, ten to twelve minutes longer than he should be.  We just don't see enough of him to truly cement his presence in the story. Doctor Ten does stand pretty strong once he is strutting about the Sycorax ship, babbling like a fool. But it takes just a bit too long for all that to happen. A killer Christmas tree is also just a bit difficult to swallow. Being able to destroy the Christmas tree with one blast of a sonic screwdriver is even sillier. Is there a "Destroy Killer Christmas Tree" setting on it?  Christmas Invasion marks the beginning of many bad choices that we will see riddling the second season of New Who. Bad choices that take the very excellent Series One finale and turn the whole Ninth to Tenth transition into a mid-ranger rather than something truly fantastic.

Yes, I used "fantastic" on purpose.


Second to Third - The War Games/Spearhead from Space

Yes, The War Games takes a monumental ten episodes to tell. But, believe it or not, there aren't too many places where it genuinely lags. In fact, the padding that is put into it is, oftentimes, quite compelling (ie: the stuff with David Throughton in it). The last episode is truly monumental, too. When you consider that it took six years before we finally learnt the Doctor's origins, one has to marvel at just how unique of a show Doctor Who is. Yes, The War Games is still longer than it should be - but it carries enough gravitaes to get you to forgive a lot of the extended running time.

Spearhead from Space is also a pretty fun romp that takes some interestingly creepy turns in certain places. Pertwee seems very Troughtonesque in his performance. Which is a very strange sight. This will fade away very quickly as Doctor Who and the Silurians steps in. And he'll be very Third Doctorish from that point, onwards. But Spearhead being such an oddity makes it quite enjoyable. Particularly with the whole thing being shot on film.

Eleventh to Twelfth - Time of the Doctor/Deep Breath

And now we hit the upper stratus of "mid range regenerations". Eleventh turning into Twelfth is told through two very solid tales. Time of the Doctor suffers only from the fact that we have spent three seasons anticipating the answers that it's going to give us. And nothing can quite live up to the expectations that have been heaped onto it. But it is still a very beautiful story that shows off the main character's core values magnificiently. The Doctor doesn't, necessarilly, expect to defeat all the evil in the Universe - but he will fight it to the bitter end. Every life saved counts as a victory. Even if he can't truly win the final war.

Matt Smith also does a wonderful job of aging himself up. We just love him more and more as he becomes that feeble old man that still won't give up. And, all the questions that have been building up throughout his era do, for the most part, get satisfactorily answered.

Deep Breath allows us a fun little romp before the darkness of Doctor Twelve's character really starts to set in. It is, perhaps, pitching itself just a bit too hard to be a movie rather than an episode. But that's its only real flaw. Otherwise, a great New Doctor story. Particularly the chilling ending where we must wonder if the Cyborg jumped or if the Doctor killed him. Great way to get us just a bit scared of what this new incarnation is truly like. In a lot of ways, it's Twin Dilemna done right.

Eighth to War Doctor - Night of the Doctor

Admittedly, part of what makes this regeneration so exciting is the fact that it was so eagerly anticipated.

As smart as it was to have New Who begin with Doctor Nine already in place, there wasn't an Old School Fan out there who didn't feel sorry for poor 'ole Paul McGann. He did an excellent job during the brief time that he held the role and everyone felt he deserved a proper regeneration sequence. In many ways, it almost ate away at us that he didn't get one.

But then, Moff delivers us the ultimate Fiftieth anniversary present. Not only does Night of the Doctor give us what we've been dieing to see - but it helps pave the way for what is to come in Day of the Doctor. So it's not just an anniversary gift - it has relevance.

What makes Night of the Doctor most impressive is that it packs more punch in eight minutes than most regeneration stories accomplish in several hours. It's also great that the webisode goes so much against the grain of the regeneration formulae. Most of the time, the Doctor accomplishes some great triumph just before his current incarnation passes.  He saves the Universe. Or, at least, a planet or two. But Doctor Eight is actually failing, here. He must become something he's never wanted to be and participate in an event he has no wish to be a part of. It's very dark and absolutely riveting.
Paul McGann's time as the Doctor may have been short, but what he does with the role during that brief stint is truly amazing. We've finally gotten the regeneration scene, now let's see a series or two of adventures.

"Physician - heal thyself!" is also a great final line!


Fifth to Sixth - Caves of Androzani/The Twin Dilemna

Caves of Androzani does the same beautiful trick that Night of the Doctor accomplishes. No great triumph for Doctor Five, here, either. Just a man having a really awful day who is trying to save his friend from a grisly fate. It's a great storyline that is punctuated all the more by some very compelling direction. The cliffhanger at the end of Episode Three is one of the greatest moments in the whole history of the show.

But does Caves deserve such a high ranking among the Great Classics? Well, it's still an amazing story, yes. But I feel that the ending unravels a bit. We get the "Supporting Cast Slaughterfest" that has become the hallmark of fourth episodes in Seasons 21 and 22. A cheap way to resolve a plot, as far as I'm concerned. With the exception of Warriors of the Deep (where the whole point was to kill everyone so that it illustrates the horrors of war), whenever this device is used - I always feel the urge to utter: "There should've been another way."

But I'm harping on the negatives too much, here. Caves of Androzani is still sheer brilliance and earns this regeneration the place it has in the rankings.

Having knocked the chip off of Androzani's shoulder, let me also build up Twin Dilemna a bit. By no stretch of the imagination should this be considered the worst Doctor Who story ever (are we really trying to say Creature from the Pit is better than this?!). Colin Baker's first outing is far more solid than Fandom likes to think. Like Robot and Time and the Rani, alot hinges on the performance of the lead. Unlike those two other tales, however, Colin uses more than just silly antics to make himself entertaining. His Doctor is disturbing and wildly unpredictable. Strangling Peri in Part One is one of the most controversial moments in the history of the whole show. And I applaud the production team for taking that sort of risk. It was also awesome to see such a harsh contrast in characterization between the two incarnations. It's great fun as Doctor Six grumbles about the "sweetness" of his previous personae.

While we can't give Twin Dilemna the status of being a Classic, it's far more solid than most will let on. Its faults lie more in lack of budget than anything else. A lot of the story looks pretty bad because the money for sets and costumes was spent ages ago and there was nothing left by the end of the season. Making the Doctor an anti-hero who doesn't get along so well with a companion who first knew him in a previous incarnation were some bold choices.  Personally, I think they actually paid off and took the show in some interesting new directions.

I love this particular regeneration. It nearly wins top ranking. But there is one that is just a little bit better...

Fourth to Fifth - Logopolis/Castrovalva

 The most perfect of regeneration stories. There is beauty and sadness and hope running through all eight of these episodes. The dialogue is poetic. The visuals are lyrical. The acting and direction is second-to-none. Seriously, this is how every regeneration should be portrayed.

Logopolis is a fitting farewell to Tom Baker. While he's far from being my favourite Doctor, I can't deny his legacy. He put in seven years and was immensely popular. He needed a proper send-off. Logopolis accomplishes that with great dignity and scope. The incidental music in this story is some of the best that's ever been created. The "funeral atmosphere" that everyone goes on about gets conveyed the most clearly through that music. Even after endless viewings, certain sequences still give me chills because of the haunting melodies that play in the background as they elapse.

Tom's performance in his last story is also crucial to the tone of this tale. Some complain about how restrained he seems throughout Season 18 but, after the travesty that was Season 17, it was exactly what his performance needed. This rings particularly true as we reach the end of his era. We needed him sombre rather than taking the piss out of things the way he had been for the last little while. His acting is pitch-perfect as he lay on the grass below the Pharos Project. And the use of the Watcher throughout the entire story becomes breath-taking as he finally merges with the Doctor at the end.
But it doesn't end there. As we flow into Peter Davison's debut, we see that Castrovalva is an equally-strong story (good writing from Christopher H. Bidmead is definitely a key ingredient, here). Davison's stumbling about in TARDIS corridors pretending to be different incarnations and confusing the names of companions is a delight to watch every time. He is the first actor to also be a fan of the series and you can see the love he's putting into it.

As things move on to the planet Castrovalva, we must marvel at the delicacy of the whole society that exists there. Hunters who don't really hunt well. Gossipy women and frivolous men. And a dark and sinister librarian who we're all certain must be the Master in disguise. Oops. He isn't. In fact, he's the hero of the day. And he even goes out on an awesome line.

There is little within these two remarkable adventures that I can complain about. The passing of the baton from one lead actor to the other is done with such care that it really is a shining example to any other production team looking to accomplish such a task. This truly is the benchmark, guys. It doesn't get any better...

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

ANALYTICAL:

            ROB’LL FIX IT – A STUDY IN FIXED POINTS IN TIME


            The 2009 series of Specials features a story entitled: Waters of Mars.  An episode considered, by the standards of many viewers, to be an absolute Classic piece of Who.  There were, of course, many contributing factors to the success that is Waters:  inspired direction,  a chilling monster, a great script that came up with an absolutely terrifying concept (a single drop of water turns you into an evil zombie) and, most notably, the Doctor goes just a little bit mad at the end.    But while all these elements made it a great story that even the casual viewer would love, Waters Of Mars does something absolutely wonderful for the "dyed-in-the-wool-watched-every-existing-episode-fifty-times" fan that makes us love it all the more.   And I don't just mean the reference to the Ice Warriors! 
            What really makes the hardcore fanboy and/or fangirl delighted about Waters  is that it finally provides us with an All-Important Rule.    A Rule we've probably been waiting to learn properly since the day the TARDIS left Totter's Lane and visited the Tribe of Gum.   It answered that great question that nags every Who-fan:
            Just how much is a time traveller allowed to tamper with history?
            Cause, let's face it, no matter where the Doctor goes - he's travelling in history.    Sure, there have been a fair share of historicals and pseudo-historicals throughout the show's tenure in which the TARDIS crew go into Earth's past and get into all kinds of trouble.   But, ultimately, no matter where he goes - the Doctor is meddling with someone's past.  There will always be people living in the future that will be affected by any actions the Doctor takes.    Even if he visits our own personal future.   Say, the Doctor drops in on London on June 4th, 2505 A.D.    Well, from June 5th, 2505 A.D. onward, that visit is now part of London's history.   Which means that anything the Doctor does every time he steps across the threshold of that old battered Police Box could have radical effects on the Web of Time.   Every trip he makes stands a chance of altering the course of history.   Even - as it is paradoxically referred to - Future History.  
            But then Waters Of Mars finally gives us a clear idea of things.   After hearing little "teases" of time travel rules ("You can't re-write history - not one line!" or "The Web of Time is a delicate thread of coincidences that It can't be tampered with.  Unless, like me, you're a Time Lord") Waters lays it out for us nice and clear.    Quite simply, if you're a time traveler mucking about like the Doctor does, you're pretty safe to tamper with history, most of the time.    Time, as they say, is in a state flux at most points that a time traveler arrives at.  You can change things for the better or worse and Time will adjust itself to the alteration.    But, every once in a while, you can arrive at these nasty little things called Fixed Points.    These are special little events that occur in that crazy Causal Nexus that cannot, under any conditions, be tampered with    They must take place exactly the way they're meant to.    And if you do try to alter them in any way, then the Universe will implode.   Or, possibly, explode.   Basically, something big and nasty will occur.     And it will all be your time-meddling fault.
            In the case of Waters Of Mars, the Fixed Point that the Doctor arrives at is the destruction of Bowie Base One on the surface of Mars on November 21st, 2059.    This is an event that must happen exactly the way it does.     As much as he may want to save the crew of the Base, he knows he cannot.    He must leave things to happen the way "Future History" has declared.    Of course, we all know the Doctor decides to break the Laws of Time and change things, after all.   But that's not, so much, the point of this article's focus.   What is most interesting about this wonderful Tale of Martian Danger and Intrigue is the actual nature of a Fixed Point in Time.    Because we know that the Doctor has visited, at least, three of them in recent times: the destruction of Bowie Base One on Mars, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in Rome and his own "death" at Lake Silencio in Utah .    But, surely, we don't think those are the only three occasions that the TARDIS has brought our favorite Time Lord to such a time period?   There must have been other moments in the show where the Doctor showed up in such a spot, mustn't there?   Could they have been moments where he just decided to be less verbal about the importance of these events happening properly or didn't bother to explain to his companions what a Fixed Point is?       
            Basically, has the Doctor visited other Fixed Points in Time?   If so, what might those occasions have been? 
            To properly answer such questions - we must, first, determine the traits of a Fixed Point.   Essentially, we need to figure out the characteristics of an event that is meant to be Fixed and see what makes it different from other events.  From there, we can look through the Doctor's past and see other adventures he's been involved with that also have those traits or characteristics.   If the details match up, we can safely guess that, more than likely, those events were Fixed Points, too.  
            So if we begin by looking at the stories in which the Doctor has openly claimed that he is involved with a Fixed Point, we can actually see that there are several "common threads" that run through all of them.    Let's try to break them down:

1)   A Fixed Point is well-documented and/or "famous":

            In the case of all three of our "Fixed Point Tales", the events are well-known and well-remembered by a variety of people.      Fires of Pompeii is probably the best example of this - as it is based in reality.   It uses an actual famous historical event as its setting.    But Waters of Mars and the death of the Doctor as witnessed in both Impossible Astronaut and The Wedding of River Song have garnered a sort of "fictional celebrity status" within the mythology of the show, itself.    When the Doctor arrives on Bowie Base One, he immediately goes on about how famous the expedition was and the "press clippings" that the story constantly cuts to re-enforce that idea.   While it is an event that is meant to happen in our future - it is, without a doubt, an event of great notoriety that will be remembered by a huge number of people in later generations.    It will, quite simply, "live on in time".    In much the same way as the great volcanic eruption in Pompeii did.  While all kinds of other events in the past are forgotten - these two won't be.   The same can very much be said about the Doctor's Death.  Obviously, the Doctor didn't know much about it, himself.    As such information would be kept from him as much as possible.   But this is not the case with other species in the Universe.   This is best evidenced when we first run across the Teselecta in Let's Kill Hitler.   The event is very well-documented by them.   To the point where poor old River Song is now a highly-sought-after target for these time travelling policemen.    But they are just one of several organisations that seem to know about how famous this moment in time is.    So, even though this information has been kept from the Doctor as much as possible, it's still well-known in several other corners of the Universe.
            With this idea in mind, we can safely guess that most of the more famous happenings in Earth's history that the Doctor has visited are probably Fixed Points.   Stories like The Romans, The Mythmakers or even The Visitation all deal with well-known historical events (respectively, the Destruction of Rome, the Fall of Troy and the Great Fire of London).   Whereas other stories like The Time Warrior, Ghostlight or Tooth and Claw are, more than likely, not Fixed Points.    While these are stories that also take place in history, nothing particularly noteworthy seems to happen in them.   The Fall of Irongron, the Betrayal of Gabriel Chase or Queen Victoria's Scrape with the Werewolf are not adventures that are highly referred-to in our history books!    So the necessity of those events happening the way they do doesn't seem particularly important.   Which tends to disqualify them as Fixed Points.   
            If we try to peer into Future History using this trait as a guideline, we can guess that The Dalek Invasion of Earth was, most likely, a story that is a Fixed Point - as it is referred to over and over again in several other stories.    More than likely, both Tomb of the Cybermen and Revenge of the Cybermen deal with Fixed Points.    As the re-awakening of the Cybermen on Telos gets talked about a fair amount in other stories, too.   As does the Defeat of the Cybermen in the Intergalactic Wars.   Sadly, however, famous moments in Future History is not something that gets discussed much in Who.    So it's tough to determine other future events that might be Fixed Points by using this criteria, alone.    Fortunately, there are other traits that we can go by.  
Such as:   

2)   A Fixed Point often introduces huge change or upheaval.

            Admittedly, this idea is based more on logic than examples from the series.   Although we could say that all three stories that have identified themselves' as being Fixed Point Events do introduce a certain degree of social, economic or political upheaval - it is more in terms of the idea that they were all major tragedies that affected a lot of people.   No doubt, those people affected made different decisions than they would've had they not been struck by the tragedy.   Which, in turn, initiated great changes.  
               One might be inclined to think  that most occasions where, say, a government is toppled is probably a Fixed Point.   Or an economy is ruined.   Or a civilization is wiped out.  Or anything where a sizeable population undergoes a radical transformation for the better or worst.  Huge events like these are probably meant to happen at a specific moment and in a specific way.    Which would, by definition, make them Fixed Points.
            With this in mind, a lot of revolutions and uprisings that the Doctor has been responsible for were, quite likely, Fixed Points.    Even a "clunker" story like Timelash was, more than likely, a Fixed Point.   At the beginning of the story, Karfel is being oppressed by an evil dictator using a weak democratic council as his puppets.    By the end, the survivors of the council have prevailed and the dictator has been deposed.  Obviously, a radically new system of government is about to be instituted and things are going to be run very differently on Karfel.  It would seem logical that an event that introduces such a major social change is meant to happen.  
            And, more than likely, had to happen at that specific time.   If the Borad had been deposed any later, Karfel would've been wiped out by the Bandrels.    Nor could the event have happened any sooner.   Enough Karfelons had to be outraged by the Borad's tyranny before they would act against him.  
            So the revolution on Karfel had to happen exactly when it did and the way it did.    Which leads one to believe, more through logical reasoning than examples from the "established Fixed Point stories", that this is an important trait for this type of space/time event.   This would mean that other stories dealing with rebellions overthrowing dictators are, more than likely, Fixed Points, too.   The Sunmakers, The Happiness Patrol and even Vengeance On Varos (which takes place in the same season as Timelash) are highly likely to be Fixed Points.
            While revolutions are often the greatest agents of social change, there are other tales that the Doctor has become embroiled in that don't involve "good rebels overthrowing evil tyrants" but still greatly change a civilisation by the time he's left it.   One of the earliest stories of this type would be The Keys Of Marinus.   Admittedly, it's not too different from the usual good rebels vs. evil dictator formulae.    It's simply the reverse, actually.  In this case, the rebels are evil and the rulers are good.    But one would guess that Marinus will probably become a very different society now that the Voord have been crushed and the Conscience of Marinus destroyed (not to mention that we already heard a revolution occuring off-camera when those nasty brain-monsters got smashed up by Barbara!).   So, as the story concludes, a great amount of social change occurs without the Doctor having to actually find some underground force working against a corrupt regime.    Making Keys an excellent example of a possible Fixed Point that presents a major shift in the way a society works that doesn't have to involve an actual legitimate revolution of any sort.   
            Another historical event that brings about huge changes but doesn't involve revolution or rebellion would be any time a major war ends.    We've seen from our own history that both the World Wars of the Twentieth Century thoroughly altered political, cultural and economical landscapes at their conclusion.    Again, if we take this idea that huge changes are probably Fixed Points, then we can logically guess that a story like The Armageddon Factor might be one.   Or Genesis of the Daleks.   In both adventures, a gigantic war reaches its end before the final credits roll.   So both of these stories could qualify as Fixed Points since, no doubt, the societies affected by these wars will now be radically different from what they were before the wars began (interesting to note, of course, that Guardians and Time Lords were also meddling with these events - maybe the Doctor trying to change a Fixed Point in Waters of Mars isn't such a crazy notion, after all!).
            Other events that can also introduce huge social change might be the curing of major plagues (so the Doctor's untelevised visit to Draconia might be a Fixed Point) or assassinations of major political figures (the Doctor's face in the crowd during Kenedy's Death).     
            Again, however, it should be noted that this supposition is based more on logical deduction than reference to the three stories that all openly identify themselves' as Fixed Points.    So, of the three Fixed Points characteristics that are being discussed in this post, this one should be taken with the biggest grain of salt as it is the most difficult to legitimately substantiate using established facts from the show, itself.   Still, it seems highly probable that any time a civilization goes through a sudden and radical transformation, this is probably a Fixed Point in Time and is meant to happen exactly the way it does.    Even if the Doctor is helping the event along - he is merely assisting History in executing itself correctly and not actually interfering with a Fixed Point like he does in Waters of Mars.  

3)  Fixed points tend to set up a crucial series of causes and effects.

            This is best illustrated in the speech the Doctor delivers to Adelaide Brookes in Waters of Mars as they're reviewing maintenance logs.    Where he explains that her granddaughter will be inspired by the sacrifice Grandma makes on Bowie Base One and become an astronaut, herself.   An astronaut that will cross the boundaries of space to a greater extent than any other astronaut has.    And someone else further down in her lineage will also do something great for the sake of space exploration.   And so on ...
            The Doctor's "death" has a similiar effect.    Although, in this case, it will prevent a string of causes and effects from happening regarding how Silence will finally Fall ("On the Fields of Tranzilore at the Fall of the Eleventh, a Question will be asked".    Or, at least, this is what Dorium’s head explains to the Doctor in Wedding of River Song).   Again, we see a whole chain of events that are meant to ensue.    We can even see this, to some extent, with Fires of Pompeii.  An entirely new word is invented.   Power within the Roman Empire has also shifted.    The way future settlements were established even changed ("If a mountain's rumbling violently - Don't build a city by it!").    This string of future circumstances isn't all that heavilly discussed in any of Fire's dialogue.   But we know through history, itself, that this happens.   
            In some ways, this idea is similiar to our second point, of course.  Point Two discusses the idea that a major change occurs after a Fixed Point.   But it is a single major change that stands by itself.  Point Three takes things a step further by saying that a whole series of ongoing changes will occur.   One event causes another to happen.   Which will then spark another event.   And that event that was sparked causes another event.   And that event causes .... well, you get the picture.   
            Again, that bit in Waters of Mars exemplifies this idea the best.    But we can see that all three Fixed Point Stories support this idea. 
            Where have we seen a similar effect in Classic Who?   Well, the absolute best example of this would actually be the Davros stories.    His betrayal at the end of Genesis of the Daleks sparks a whole series of important developments that, very much, seem to fall back on each other but, ultimately, lead us down the path to a full scale Dalek Civil War and the destruction of Skaro in Remembrance of the Daleks.     Many fans even like to hypothesize that the events in Remembrance were the first shots fired in what would become the Time Wars between Gallifrey and the Daleks.    That's a whole series of causes and effects that depend on that crucial moment in a bunker on Skaro where a mad Kaled scientist learns that his creations have outgrown him.   His execution is pivotal in setting off this whole chain of events that lead us through one of the most epic ongoing storylines in the whole show's history.    Imagine if that one fateful moment had not happened the way it did.    Davros might never have taken a valid interest in time travel  (after all, he only sought the powers of the Time Lords so that he could wipe out a rebel faction of Daleks that were refusing to obey him) and the Time Wars might never have happened.  Really, you can't find a better example of a series of causes and effects than this!    

            Now that we’ve established the three qualifiers for a Fixed Point – let me note an important disqualifier. I know I have sited quite a few stories as being possible Fixed Points and you might even be thinking: “I thought Fixed Points were rare. He seems to be insinuating every other story is one!”. So let me make a few things clear:
            Firstly, I hope you’ve noticed how often I’ve used terms like “could be” or “possibly” when referencing stories that weren’t clearly identified as Fixed Points. Because the Doctor doesn’t say things like: “We’re on Karfel during the fall of the Borad. We need to be careful. This is a Fixed Point” I won’t claim that Timelash is definitely a Fixed Point. Even though it meets a lot of the criteria for one. So a lot of what I’ve just claimed is more of an insinuation rather than a statement of fact. If, in the dialogue of some future episode, the Doctor mentions the importance of his sixth incarnation’s visit to Karfel to the fate of the Causal Nexus then I’ll definitely put that special stamp on Timelash. Otherwise, I can give it a rating of “possible Fixed Point” and nothing more. The same goes with any other story that I’ve alleged to be a Fixed Point in time.
            The other thing we need to take serious note of is that wonderful speech the Doctor delivered in Kill The Moon - the idea of “blurry points”. These are moments in time that tend to contain all the key ingredients of a Fixed Point but are, in fact, the exact opposite. Yes, the event is famous. Yes, it’s a major upheaval. Yes, it has far-reaching consequences. But he still can’t say, for sure, that the whole thing is meant to happen. Things could go either way in that moment and Time will just compensate for whichever outcome.
In the case of Kill the Moon, humanity is presented with two choices: destroy the creature incubating in their satellite or let it hatch. The Doctor claims humanity is allowed to make either choice without damaging the Web of Time. The universe will continue to function the way it’s meant to regardless of which choice is made. If the premise of Kill the Moon was a Fixed Point, the Doctor would’ve insisted on a single course of action. Things would’ve needed to happen a certain way or there’s going to be big trouble. Instead, he identifies the whole event as being “blurry”. He’s not sure which way it should go. That either outcome is, in the greater cosmic scheme of things, acceptable.
With this notion in mind, we can take any event in the show’s history that hasn’t been clearly sited as a Fixed Point and dismiss it as being a “blurry point” - if we should so desire to. It doesn’t matter how well it stands up to the points I’ve made. It could, in fact, meet those standards even better than the tales that have been identified as Fixed Points. But unless the Doctor, in all his Time Lord Wisdom, attaches the label to it – then we can just stamp a great big “blurry point” label on it and move on. Yes the event is significant but its outcome is only so important. The Universe and the Web of Time will continue without a problem regardless of what decision gets made that day.

Having said all that – we can’t complete this little diatribe without mentioning good ‘ole Captain Jack. In Utopia, the Doctor clearly labels him as a Fixed Point in time. And yet, there’s nothing that Captain Jack seems to have done that really gives him that qualification. At least, according to the premises I’ve set forth in this essay. Captain Jack doesn’t appear to be a well-known historical occurrence. Nor does he cause major upheaval. Nor are there an extended string of consequences that emanate from him. So what’s going on here? How is Jack a Fixed Point?
Here’s how I rationalize it: Rose Tyler stared into the Heart of the TARDIS and had the entire Time Space Vortex going through her. During that time, of course, she has god-like powers. She is able to bend Time to her will. So she doesn’t actually make Jack a Fixed Point but does bestow upon him the powers of one. Captain Jack Harkness must happen. Which means he must remain alive. At least, that’s how the Universe now recognizes him. His continued existence is an absolute necessity to the proper functioning of the Web of Time. So this is why he is now immortal.
With this in mind, we might even be able to see why he might have become the Face of Boe. Jack might’ve radically changed his biology on purpose so that he would, eventually, become unrecognizeable to Time and the Universe. In so doing, he loses his status as a Fixed Point and can finally die.
A bit of a stretch, I know. I’m more inclined to believe he didn’t actually become the Face of Boe. But, it’s an interesting idea!
           
So, there are some basic rules governing the ideas of Fixed Points. Keeping them in mind, have fun re-watching the series and coming up with your own private notions of where you think you might see a Fixed Point happening. It’s a fun way to make the show fresh on repeat viewings.
And so, Rob Tymec’s first Doctor Who Essay is posted. A most important event that could cause major upheaval and long-reaching consequences.
Perhaps, you’re seeing a Fixed Point in action even as you read this…




           

            

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Doin' It With Style...

What a "punny" guy I am!  A posting entitled: "Doin' It With Style" because it will explain the styles of writing that I will be using on this blogsite. Man, do the laughs never end?!

I was hoping I could just have different categories of entries listed on the blog site so you can just click on the style of entry you wanted to read and all articles of that nature would be lumped together in one group. But there seems to be no way to arrange things that way. So, instead, I will list what style of article I'll be writing at the top of each entry. If any of you technocrats out there know how to re-jig this site so that I can divide my topics into their own special subsections - feel free to let me know how to do it. Otherwise, this is how it will go.

I would like to take a moment, however, to itemize those various styles here and explain them in  better detail. Just so you understand a bit better what I'm up to when I write this category of entry.

So, here goes:

ANALYTICAL:
This will probably be the type of entry only the most hardcore of fans will appreciate. I will be looking at specific themes or premises that the show has presented throughout both the Classic and New Series. Attempts will be made to note consistencies in the way they've been handled (attempts will probably also be made to reconcile the inconsistencies, too!). For instance, I may look at the way Doctor Who has presented pocket universes. Quite obviously, episodes like The Doctor's Wife or the E-Space Trilogy would then be sited. I would then analyze how such stories agree or contradict each other in the rules they've set up regarding pocket universes (ie: why was there no mention of CVEs in Doctor's Wife?). I'll be the first to admit - this will probably be some pretty dry stuff! But I will do my best to keep it interesting and entertaining.

CHRONOLOGIES AND TIMELINES:
Because it's about time travel, Doctor Who works in a non-linear fashion in all kinds of fun ways. Not only do we have stories like Mawdryn Undead or Blink where the action of the story is happening out of order, but we have entire multi-story arcs that are not happening chronologically. And I'm not just talking about the Doctor and River Song. Most of the recurring monsters and/or villains in Who are not meeting the Doctor in a proper linear sequence. The object of this particular category will be to re-arrange stories in a way that makes proper chronological sense.

FIXING CONTINUITY GLITCHES
A favorite pastime of any true geek is to get continuity to gel throughout the entire history of a show they love. Which can be a gigantic task for a Who fan. The show flatly contradicts itself all over the place. This is the sort of problem a long-running series with ever-changing production teams runs into. Each new production team tends to chuck out the last team's vision of how the show should be and creates a vision of its own. This particular style of entry will try to come up with ideas and pet theories on how to get contradictions to, somehow, agree.

THE BOOK OF LISTS
Another thing geeks love to do: listing things in order of preference. Again, something that exists in great abundance for Who fans. There's so many things we can itemize from favorite to least favorite. But the Book of Lists will be more than just listings. Explanations will also be given as to why these things have been arranged in such an order. If I were to list my Doctors in order of preference, for instance, then there would be an explanation for why each Doctor ends up in the ranking he's been given.

So, there you go: our four basic categories. More may come up as I start blogging away. If they do, I will do my best to explain them as they appear.




Oh wait! While I have you here, I would like to mention one more important rule:

All theories that I present  will be based on things that have been explicitly stated in transmitted episodes of the show. I may reference stuff that has been stated in spin-off material but I will only accept information that was stated right on the show as "proper canon". If there's a Big Finish story, for instance, that contradicts something that was said in Episode 3 of Colony In Space. What Malcolm Hulke put into the mouths of his characters in the television story will be what is accepted as "truth".

This applies to everything except the Time Crash and Night of the Doctor webisodes. I accept them as proper canon, too. Mainly because they're so cool!




All right, now I really have properly introduced everything. Let the over-contrived geekery begin!

Saturday, 14 March 2015

A letter of introduction...

Hello ~

Well, the title is pretty self-explanatory. This is a place for the most stuck-up and anal retentive of Who geeks.  The people who have put way more thought into the program than any human being ever should. We've gone to the trouble of reconciling the differences between Dals and Kaleds. We've made a definite decision on who those unidentifiable faces were in the mind-bending match between Morbius and the Doctor. We've found an explanation on how it is that only the Eighth Doctor appears to be half-human.  

Not sure what those last three sentences meant? Then get out now! This won't be a pleasant place for you. Or, if you do stay, be prepared to be blasted by very sad people who are way too into a British cult sci fi show. This is not a Doctor Who site for the faint of heart. I want comments that debate my ideas. That present well-constructed arguments telling me just how wrong I am about the nature of Fixed Points in Time or how I've messed up my chronology of Dalek history. You can even criticize my likes or dislikes of certain elements of the show. I'm looking for some solid arguing by people who know the program inside and out. And if you can prove me wrong in a solid, rational manner - I will love you all the more. But don't be surprised if I fight back with my own empirical knowledge. That's part of the fun!

Are there any rules? Of course - there's always rules! Let's keep the arguments about Doctor Who and not venture into anyone's personal lives. Tell me I'm wrong - but don't tell me I'm a horrible person. Unless, of course, I'm saying some legitimately horrible stuff. Which would be my other rule. Anything posted that is blatantly racist/sexist/homophobic/other-bad-things-like-that will be taken down immediately.

Want to be more than just a commentator? Got some pretentious Doctor Who essays of your own that you'd like to share with the world? Send them to me at robtymec@hotmail.com. I'll post them here and make sure you get the credit. My long-term goal is to let this be a forum for all kinds of hardcore fans to express their preposterous theories in. Let's have fun being the pedantic nitpickers that we are. This is the place to let loose...

PLEASE NOTE: Before proceeding on to any further entries, kindly read the "Doin' It With Style" posting first http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2015/03/doin-it-with-style.html. A few more important introductory points will get covered, there.