Saturday, 31 December 2016

BOOK OF LISTS: DOCTORS - FROM WORST TO BEST - PART 5

At last, we're in the Top Three. Not only have I been greatly impressed by the number of views this series has received (700 hits in 30 days!) but I'm even more amazed by the exceedingly low number of death threats I've received by placing David Tennant, Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker so low on the list! Let's see, now, what I have to say about the somewhat unusual choices that made it to the top...


THE TOP THREE:

As a younger lad, I cared more about Popular Fan Consensus and almost tried to fight how much I enjoyed two of three incarnations that I've ranked, here. Really, I did. I, literally, gave extra repeated viewings to Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker in hopes that it would get me to like them better. These were the Doctors that everyone was saying were the best and I wanted to fit in with what Fandom was saying. But, in the end, I just couldn't understand what all the fuss was about. These other less-appreciated Doctors just seemed so much more interesting to me.

The other fellow that's made it into the Top Three is a New Series Doctor that does not fit the mold at all of the two Classic Series Doctors that I love most. But there's just something about the performance he gave that made me fall madly in love with his Doctor. And the fact that he just seemed so unlikely for the role but still ended up being truly magnificent.

All right, let's get on with it....


3: THE FIRST DOCTOR

Yup, he fluffed a tonne of lines, He was also very difficult to get along with. He was even, by some accounts, a bit of a racist. But there is just something about William Hartnell's performance that I completely love.

Many of us already know his background: an actor who had become horrifically tired of the way he was being typecast, he saw the role of the Doctor as a way to finally break free of that. He seized the proverbial Bull by the Horns and gave that part everything he had. And that does translate into the performance he gives on the screen. His failing health and the grueling shooting schedule are the reasons why we see flaws in what he's doing. But the truth of the matter is, he is making every line he delivers count. Every mannerism and inflection is done with the most deliberate of care and precision. Truly, there is no one who throws himself into the role more.

I think what I love the most about this Doctor is the fact that we are watching the character being constructed before our very eyes. Neither Hartnell nor the various writers know exactly what they're doing with the character. There's all kinds of experimentation going on as we, slowly but surely, find out what the Doctor is truly about. No, we won't learn his proper origins til a few years later - but we learn far more important things in this era. We learn what the character stands for and what he believes in and I find all that very exciting to watch.

It's equally interesting watching the actual stories go through much the same process. Just as with Hartnell's performance, there's lots of stumbling going on as the writers are attempting to figure out what constitutes a proper Doctor Who story. Again, we witness all kinds of interesting experimentation. The show even attempts to be a legitimate comedy for a handful of stories. I find the whole evolutionary process fascinating. So much so, that I will often watch what remains of this era in sequential order from beginning to end.

There are so many beautiful firsts that happen during this period. During Episode Two of Dalek Invasion of Earth, for instance, we watch the Doctor get up in the face of a Dalek after it emerges from the Thames. For some reason, the scene feels so much more poignant than it should. And we suddenly realize: "This is the first time we are watching the Doctor confront a recurring foe." It happens so many more times in future stories, of course. And such scenes are handled in all kinds of interesting ways. But we are watching it for the first time, here. Every time I watch that moment, it gives me just a little bit of a shiver. The fact that we would see the first companion leave only a few episodes later makes things even more brilliant. Pivotal cornerstones to the show's foundation appear on a regular basis throughout this period. In my opinion, it makes for fantastic viewing.

As we near the end of the era, a very definite formula seems to be coming together. We know how a basic adventure is going to work. Even more beautiful, though, is the fact that the show remembers on a regular basis to go outside its own mold. And that happens because the production teams during the earliest years loved to take chances. Audiences remembered that and responded well to it. So future producers often kept that tradition in place.

Finally, there are also just so many beautiful nuances that Hartnell brought to the part. His expressiveness with his hands. That sudden ferocity that he could unleash when he got his back up. That air of authority that he always commanded whether speaking dialogue or just standing in the background. I especially love that some of his stumbling was actually intentional. When he portrays the Abbot of Amboise in The Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve, all those little dialogue improvisations that seemed like he was grasping for lines actually disappear.

For a sci-fi series that, during its infancy, sometimes resembled Plan 9 From Outer Space, Hartnell brought all kinds of care and attention to the part he played. Which set a precedent for all future casting in the role. William Hartnell's shoes were not easy ones to fill. And that's a huge contribution to what makes the show so great, these days.

It all began with the First Doctor. And it started beautifully....


2. THE ELEVENTH DOCTOR

Oh, the angry protests that resonated through Fandom when it was announced that Matt Smith would be the next Doctor! Pretty Boy David Tennant had been a big hit but we definitely did not want the Doctor to keep being this young, dashing hero who was nice on the eyes. It was okay for one incarnation - but let's bring back an older Doctor, now. Moff was even promising that this was exactly what he wanted to do. But what did we get, instead? Someone who was actually younger than Tennant!

I have to admit, even I was a bit disappointed in the casting choice when I first head about it. But I thought: "Let's give this Matt Smith fellow a chance, at least." And I was so glad I did.

It's as Moff said: he may look young but there is an old soul in those eyes. Which gave us such an interestingly nuanced performance. Yes, Doctor Eleven runs around like some ridiculous man-boy, but we can always sense that ancient being that he really is lurking behind all the shenanigans. We see that dynamic going on right in his first story. For most of Eleventh Hour, he's a pretty big prattling fool. But then we get to that "Basically, run!" moment and we see that he's got all the gravitas than any other actor who has played the role possesses. Age will have no real bearing when the Doctor truly needs to be the Doctor.

Some have remarked that Ten and Eleven are very similar in personality . Both are very over-eager fanboys. Getting excited about all sorts of people and things that most folks don't really give two craps about. Look at how Tennant responds when he snogs Madame De Pompadour. Or how Smith is reacting to the 80s hotel at the beginning of God Complex. They're like young male nerds at a comic con.

But if you've been following this whole series, you'll see that Doctor Ten ranked very low on my list. So why is it that a Doctor who is so similar in character is doing so well?

The answer is quite simple. Where Tenant zigged Smith chose to zag. Both of these Doctors are, quintessentially, young. But where Ten seems to focus on the melodrama or "angstyness" of youth, Eleven delves, instead, into its exuberance. He is naive - but in all the right ways. He has a zest for life and tries to believe in the best in everyone. Like Ten, he must still deal with disappointments. Because he is young, he only deals so well with them. But he doesn't have to go so over-the-top with it. He is petulant for a moment and then moves on. Much of his angst is, in fact, purposely comical. To me, that is such a better approach if you're going to make the Doctor young again.

There is a clear example of this right in his second story. The Doctor has reached that point with Amy where he feels the need to share with her what happened in the Time Wars. There's a bit of a sad speech where he gets a bit down and then he's done and resumes working on some equipment immediately in front of him. His tone actually sounds quite a bit like Troughton when he tells Victoria that his family "mostly sleeps in his mind". Which is a great way to deliver this sort of dialogue. It shows that the Doctor is hurt by what's happened but he's getting on with his life. He's dealing with the present but still letting his past affect him a bit.

Compare that to all the drama that takes place in a similar situation between the Doctor and Martha in Gridlock. It's made into a much bigger deal. So much so, that I find the whole survivor guilt stuff is now becoming counter-productive to the effectiveness of telling a good story. I am so glad that Doctor Eleven, pretty well, jettisons this sort of stuff. He brings the Doctor back to being an adventurer who's recently gone through something very difficult. Rather than someone who seems to need to wallow, forever, in his past. Again and again, we see choices like this being made in the structuring of the character. To me, Smith takes what Tennant was trying to do but gets it right.

In terms of the quality of his stories: much of it is second-to-none. Yeah, we had a Curse of the Black Spot or two - but every era does. In some of my other rantings in this blog, I actually like to compare Moff's period to Hinchcliffe/Holmes era. I know others may not agree with this. But I do think Doctors Eleven and Twelve have gotten some top-notch stories with only the occasional minor dud. Even the weaker episodes still have much to admire.

I think Eleven was the perfect Doctor to have around as the 50th anniversary approached. In so many ways, he nailed exactly what the character was meant to be. A hint of modern sensibilities but also old-fashioned in all the right ways. I love that he's back to being socially-awkward around women, for instance. It just works so much better for the character. The Doctor is the type of person who should get horrifically upset when accused of having a "snog booth". It's great to see him pulling that hissy fit. Most other men, these days, would be agreeing that it was one and would try to get a girl like Clara to try it out with them. But Doctor Eleven, instead, is outraged by the implication. It's nice to see him just a bit traditional in his values, like that. Not too much, but a bit. This is the sort of Doctor we needed to have around when such a huge benchmark was being celebrated. One of my favorite aspects of Day of the Doctor is the way he mocks Ten so much for being the womanizer he was. Or the way he becomes almost apologetic to the War Doctor during Ten's nuptials with Queen Elizabeth the First. The Classic Series Doctor has definitely returned in Smith's interpretation. And that's wonderful to see.

And then, finally, Eleven must depart. I've seen about eight regenerations "in real-time", now. Some of the earliest Doctors I had to watch retrospectively. But, for the most part, I've watched the Doctor pass at the time the actor was actually leaving the show. Which means that I've taken a full journey with that incarnation and am now seeing them off. I find this a far more emotional experience. But watching a Doctor leave, for the most part, hasn't been too brutal for me. A new one is on his way and there will be all kinds of fun with discovering what he'll be like.

But I really felt myself going through some serious grieving when Smith undid that bow tie for the final time. I had gotten so much more attached to this incarnation than I have others. I think this is where I truly felt just how strong my Eleven-Love had become. It really hurt to see him go. As brilliant as Capaldi has been in the role, losing Smith was a truly unsettling experience that took a while for me to overcome. So much so, that I really adore the cameo he does in Deep Breath. We got just a little bit more of Eleven before we had to truly say goodbye.


1. THE SIXTH DOCTOR:

Ironically, the man who hates lists like these makes it to the top of mine.

I still remember the first time I watched Twin Dilemma. I was a teenager living in Canada (for a better idea of my background, read my First anniversary post  http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/03/first-anniversary-special-something.html). New episodes that were being shown in Britain often took, at least, a few months before they made their way to any of the TV stations in my area. I was also plugged in to several fan clubs that printed up and sent out fanzines on a regular basis. Many of those fanzines discussed episodes I had not seen yet - the authors lived in parts of the world that got their Who faster than I did.

The reviews of Twin Dilemma were all the same: worst Doctor Who story in the history of bad Doctor Who stories. To this day, it sits at the bottom of the regular fan polls that Doctor Who Magazine takes. We just haven't stopped maligning it since the day it was broadcast.

When the story finally reached my eyes, I could see a lot of what the critics were saying. It definitely looked horrifically cheap. Even worse, it seemed a bit too light on plot to sustain the four episodes. But, beyond that, I really didn't have much trouble with it. In fact, I rather enjoyed it.

A lot of what makes Twin Dilemma so fun is Colin's performance. All the manic turns he takes throughout the four episodes are portrayed with great relish and gusto. For me, it was an utter delight to watch. He really makes up for some of the problems the tale is having.  I also greatly enjoy the way his character is initially crafted. I know it upset a lot of fans - but I love that we're really not sure about this Doctor when we first meet him. Is this a legitimate regeneration that's gone wrong? Will the Doctor always be this absolutely horrible person? Is he really going to keep wearing that coat?!

I even love that we're not entirely sure by the end of the story that he is actually improving. He is still incredibly tetchy and a bit unstable. After five regenerations, we had gotten pretty used to the whole process. I think it was great that this story really shakes things up again and shows us just how radical the whole change can be.

Of course, if we studied things a bit, we know that this was the beginning of what was meant to be a three-season arch of character progression. The Doctor was meant to be a bit like Thomas Covenant. Very unlikeable at the beginning. But, as things progress, we slowly fall in love with him. This is the reason why I tend to favor "arrogant Doctors" - the character is given somewhere to go. Twelfth, First and even, to some extent, Ninth all start as old cranks who end up having hearts of gold hidden underneath. But it only tends to come out after a while. It adds a very nice extra layer to the story-telling. And there was no greater attention paid to that layer than in the Sixth Doctor's era. I deeply loved that.  I thought it was great that he started as more of an anti-hero than a hero. That we would slowly see him develop his softer side. This is probably the trait I enjoy most about this incarnation.

There seems to be a sort of Bandwagon that Fandom jumped on with poor 'Ole Sixie. It started with a few outspoken fans proclaiming Twin Dilemma to be awful and everyone else just going along with it rather than giving the story a fair try. The yule and cry continued with Season 22. It was all too violent and the Doctor wasn't Doctorish enough. Again, everyone just started regurgitating this ad nauseam. No one seemed to really be looking at the genuine content and forming opinions for themselves. By the time Trial of a Time Lord made it to the screens, Fandom seemed impossible to satisfy, anymore. The Sixth Doctor had been swept up in a tide of a negative opinion that he didn't deserve. It bothers me, to this day, that this period of the show is often discussed as being the show at its all-time lowest point.

There are certain negative points that get made about the Sixth Doctor over and over. Just as I did when I reviewed Vengeance on Varos(http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/01/book-of-lists-top-ten-who-stories-3.html), I'm going to address some of those points head-on:

1. The Stories Are Weak: Well, as we already know, there's one Sixth Doctor story that definitely disagrees with this idea (in my opinion, at least). But is Vengeance on Varos the only masterpiece among a pile of rubbish? Certainly not! Revelation of the Daleks is also quite brilliant and I think Ultimate Foe is legitimately epic. Attack of the Cybermen, Mark of the Rani, The Two Doctors and the other three stories of Trial of a Time Lord are all very solid. They may have a "tree won't hurt you" moment here and there but, overall, they're quite good. You know, like most Doctor Who stories from any era.

Yes, we do end up with stories like Twin Dilemma and Timelash being a bit more problematic. But, again, every era of the show has stories like these. I'm not sure why these common flaws that happened previously suddenly get so over-scrutinized when Colin takes the helm. It's all quite silly. Story-wise, this is as strong  a period as any other in the show. I would even say that I appreciate it better than a lot of other eras. Mainly because it took a lot of chances that Who had seldom or never taken before.

I even hate that back-handed compliments that some fans give: "Colin was a good Doctor - he just had to work with bad stories". Personally, I think these stories were just fine. It's actually great to hear so many new fans who weren't even alive in the 80s going back to watch the Sixth Doctor stories and asking: "What was the problem?!".


2. The Outfit Made it Impossible to Appreciate Him: The costume was meant to represent the Doctor's personality: loud and garish. In that sense, it accomplished the task perfectly. I suppose, in some ways, this is purely a matter of opinion and I can only refute it so much. But other incarnations have made some pretty outrageous fashion choices (I actually know new fans who have a similar sentiment towards Four's scarf - believe it or not!).

Yes, no one made as bold a fashion choice as Six did. But it was the 80s! I felt he got away with it. Hell, who am I kidding? I actually really love the outfit. Particularly the coat. Of all the Doctor's apparel, the Sixth Doctor's coat is the one item of clothing that I would actually love to own, myself. Considering I have actually no desire to ever by a cosplayer of any sorts - that says something!


Those are two of the biggest objections to Doctor Six that I feel hold no real water. There's some minor stuff that I won't bother with.

I will admit, my love for the underdog is part of my motivation, here. It's almost like all this unfounded objection towards Six got me to love him that bit more. But, beyond that, this is an excellently-crafted character who had a very fascinating run of stories. I will even be pretentious enough to say that a lot of people just didn't get this era of the show. It was trying something bold and different. But, perhaps, viewing audiences just weren't quite ready for it at the time.

The ultimate tragedy, of course, is that all the plans that were being made with the Sixth Doctor's character arch never saw their full fruition. He was cut off after only two seasons and all we're left with is: "Carrot juice! Carrot juice! Carrot juice!"

Personally, I would have loved to have seen him beat Tom Baker's record. But, alas, this was not to be...


The other installments: 

The Bottom: 
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/11/book-of-lists-doctors-from-worst-to.html

Blink and You'll Miss Them: 
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/11/book-of-lists-doctors-from-worst-to_28.html

Lower Mid-Rangers: 
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/12/book-of-lists-doctor-from-worst-to-best.html

Upper Mid-Rangers: 
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/12/book-of-lists-doctors-from-worst-to.html










Tuesday, 20 December 2016

BOOK OF LISTS: DOCTORS - FROM WORST TO BEST - PART FOUR

Moving into the Upper Mid-Rangers. Again, we'll only tackle two more....

UPPER MID-RANGERS:

Once more, I'll stress that there is very little difference in my levels of appreciation, here. I do think the mid-rangers - upper or lower - are all excellent Doctors. Their eras were all very solid and I don't have a whole lot of problems with them. They don't quite appeal to me as much as they do my Final Top Three but I'm still very impressed with them.



5. THE SECOND DOCTOR

In my last post, I spoke of how difficult it must have been for Peter Davison to take over from Tom Baker. Well, Davison had nothin' on poor Patrick Troughton. Even McGann and Eccleston - who had the weight of the show's revival resting on their shoulders - didn't feel the sort of pressure Troughton must've been under.

The Second Doctor had to introduce the concept of regeneration to the audience for the first time. Up until that fateful moment at the end of Tenth Planet, no one knew that the Doctor could suddenly be played by a new lead. It was an idea the production team had only come up with themselves' in the few months before it was introduced on the show. So, suddenly, a new performer had to be accepted by the fans. If he wasn't, the show would die out by the end of the season.

Just as with Davison, the more marketable move would've been to make the transition as smooth as possible. Have the Second Doctor perform in a similar manner to the First. Perhaps even have him imitate him. So that the audience sees him as the same man with just a different face.

Once more, the production team decides to be artists. The Second Doctor is nothing like his predecessor. He's his own unique character who even goes so far as to play on the doubts of his two companions who are wondering if he's the same person as the man they just saw collapse before them on the TARDIS floor. Truthfully, the show could not have taken a bolder route in the change of its core format. And, once more, I fall in love with Doctor Who all the more for doing this.

Much like the other Upper Mid-Ranger that I will be listing after him, Troughton is off to a rough start. He pushes the comedy a little too hard and has to reign it in a bit before really settling into the role properly. But we are still so glad that he's allowed to play the role in his own way. The interpretation that he gives to the character is wonderful. Hartnell made sure to give layers to his Doctor, but Doctor Two goes even further. Every moment that he's on camera, we can see our new Doctor giving his One-Hundred-and-Ten Percent. Trying to make every line count as a contribution to the overall character he's brought to life. It's quite amazing to watch, really. Not just in those moments where he must appear larger-than-life. But also in those more subtle moments.

The scene where he speaks to Victoria about his family in Tomb of the Cybermen is often cited as an excellent insight into the character's "softer side". And I have to agree with Fandom on this point (a rare occasion, I'll admit). We've seen the Second Doctor running around like a mad lark. We've also seen him command authority, be mysterious and even show a hint of danger now and again. But, suddenly, he becomes delicate. But he does it in a way that is unique to his own character. It's done quite masterfully. And, by the end of the scene, we really do see that the portrayal is as three-dimensional as his predecessor or any other performer who will follow him. Fandom does love to go on about the sheer brilliance of Tom Baker - but they should really be talking about Troughton more (not to say that they don't talk about him at all - just that he should get more attention than he does).

Perhaps my favorite trait of Doctor Two is the way he loves to wrong-foot his enemy. His Cosmic Hobo image causes him to appear very unassuming or even a bit incompetent. In several stories, his foes brush him aside - thinking him completely harmless. Only to be defeated by him a short while later because he was purposely appearing meek so that they would underestimate him. We see, perhaps, one of the best examples of this when he makes his return appearance in The Three Doctors. The whole time the Second Doctor is confronting Omega, he plays the mad Time Lord like a fiddle. Pushing his buttons by babbling on about pipes and other such nonsense. Even his own third incarnation isn't entirely sure what he's up to, sometimes. Only in a brief aside between Two and Three do we see that he's completely in control of the entire situation. He's toying with the stellar engineer to see if there's a weakness to exploit. I love the approach that he uses when combating evil. It's a great image for the character: an impish bumbler who suddenly turns dangerous when you least expect it.

The Second Doctor not only passed the greatest challenge a new Doctor has ever faced. But he brought a radical change to the direction of the character. And he did it amazingly!



4. THE SEVENTH DOCTOR

Another actor who faced a lot of challenges as he first stepped into the role. The Sixth Doctor's final season ended in a behind-the-scenes nightmare which had a tremendous effect on how Doctor Seven entered the world. So much so, that many site Sylvester McCoy's first season as being the worst in the show's history (aside from the abysmal Dragonfire, I don't think it's actually that bad. In fact, I'd take it over Season 17 any day!). This created a very shaky start for what would be the last Doctor of the Classic Series.

But then we hit Season 25. Andrew Cartmel, the new script editor, is through with whatever teething problems he had during his first season and is now firing on all cylinders. He's bringing in great writers who are creating stories so sophisticated that TV still hasn't quite caught up with some of the conventions they used. This continues into Season 26 - causing the show to finish off on such a high note of creative brilliance that it's shameful we never got to see Season 27 (the story notes that have been shared indicated that it would've probably been a pretty awesome season. Still not sure how Ace was going to become a Time Lord but I'm confident it would've been handled well). As sad as it is that Doctor Who is over - it definitely went out with style. And we owe a lot of that to the awesomeness that is Doctor Seven.

His most predominant trait, of course, is his deviousness. In this body, the Doctor seems to be staring into the abyss - and the abyss, of course, is staring back into him. He's using a similar ruse to his second incarnation: a clownish exterior that can become formidable when it needs to. But he's taking the strategy so much further. And becoming so much darker because of it.

We actually see the first hints of this in Season 24. The Doctor seems to almost enjoy being deceptive. We see this, to some extent, in every story. He tricks the Rani into blowing up her own Brainiac. He uses a false rule from the Manual to escape from the guards of Paradise Towers. Gavrok and the Bannermen follow a whole series of false clues that lead them into a bee attack. He even lies to Mel about his real intentions for visiting Svartos. It's all there if you look for it.

But in his second season, all that becomes amplified. Doctor Seven becomes the Cosmic Chess Player and starts luring his greatest foes into massive acts of self-destruction. He is now pro-active. Rarely does he just stumble into misadventures like he used to. Now he's going to places where he knows there are problems and, already, has a plan in place to fix things. But the plan always involves deceit and manipulation. He's turning just a little bit into some of the villains he's berated over the years. He feels his ends are starting to justify his means. It's a great new "edge" to bring to the character that refreshes the whole way we look at our favorite hero.

There's also a lot to be said for some of the beautiful arcs that run through the Seventh Doctor's era. There's the Tutelage of Ace and Fenric's Sinister Plot. And the mysterious Cartmel Masterplan that, sadly, never sees its completion. All great little storylines that weave through the plots of Seasons 25 and 26. Adding extra dimension to some already well-layered adventures. This really is Doctor Who in one of its finest hours. Scenes like Fenric revealing that he's been interfering in the Doctor's journeys since Ace first dropped into his life just make things all the more magnificent. The sort of stuff fans just eat up.

In earlier drafts of the script for the 96 Telemovie, the Seventh Doctor was meant to make only the briefest of appearances. But as the polishing process progressed, the role was expanded. RTD was right in the opinion he expressed when Rose premiered. He had said starting the 96 Telemovie with a different lead in place may have created confusion for people approaching the show for the first time. Nonetheless, it was still nice to see Sylvester McCoy get a good amount of screentime before handing the baton over to McGann.

Doctor Seven, in his last appearance, seems to be a man more at peace with himself. Maybe, during those wilderness years, he has mended his ways and lost his desire to manipulate people and situations to achieve a greater good. He's just a straightforward adventurer, again. We can't say for sure, of course. But we do get that vaguest of impressions that this could be the case. The fact that he plays completely into the Master's plans rather than come up with some complex counterplot that indicates he knew, all along, what his enemy was up to tends to indicate that his scheming days are behind him.

I'd like to think that an arc was completed regarding the Seventh Doctor, himself. And we see but a glimpse of it just before he bows out to his successor.



Okay, if you've done the basic math, you know which three incarnations are still left. But what positions did they rank in? Tune in to find out....


Previous Installments: 

The Bottom:
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/11/book-of-lists-doctors-from-worst-to.html

Blink And You'll Miss Them:
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/11/book-of-lists-doctors-from-worst-to_28.html

Lower Mid-Rangers: 
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/12/book-of-lists-doctor-from-worst-to-best.html




Wednesday, 7 December 2016

BOOK OF LISTS: DOCTORS - FROM WORST TO BEST - PART 3

All righty, then. We've plowed through 7 incarnations, so far. Time to slow things down a bit. Only two more incarnations will get covered, today. But which ones? 


THE MID-RANGERS

Here is where we will be splitting hairs. The Doctors that sit in the middle of my range of appreciation are sooo close to each other in their rankings. I would even say that they can bump up or down this list depending on my mood for the day. But I committed to a specific placement of them when I decided to do these posts and I'm going to stick to it. But, in all honesty, these guys can easily fluctuate.


THE LOWER MID-RANGERS

While these two sit a bit lower than the other two that I will discuss in my next post, I really don't respect them less. The mid-rangers are all exceptional Doctors and Lower should definitely not be looked down upon in any sort of way.




7. THE TWELFTH DOCTOR

It's almost not fair to be ranking him, yet. His era isn't complete. For all we know, his next season (or more) might have such incredible things happen to him that it bumps him up to first place. But, at this moment, this is where he stands.

The announcement that Peter Capaldi would be playing the next Doctor brought me immediate joy. Two young, handsome Doctors in a row was just a bit distressing. It wasn't upsetting me as much as it was some other fans, but I was starting to think that the Doctor would always be a pretty boy from hereon in. I could live with that and understood that this might be the formula the show would need to stick to in order for it to remain "accessible".

But then, lo and behold, Peter Capaldi gets cast. He's the same age as Hartnell was when he got the role. Immediately, my hopes begin to soar. Doctor Who is going to feel a lot more like it did in the Old Days. Capaldi is even saying he wants to adapt JNT's "no hanky panky on the TARDIS" ideals.

Things are looking up...

I become even happier as I start seeing how the role was going to be played (I'm one of those evil fans that found the five scripts and the raw footage from Deep Breath that leaked on the internet - it gave me a wonderful sneak preview!). The Doctor is definitely tetchy in this new incarnation. Like 'Ole Sixie - he's still a champion for justice and always wants to do the right thing. But he doesn't care whether or not he makes friends along the way. In fact, he's downright rude to just-about everyone that crosses his path.

Now, I know Nine had a bit of a mean streak, too. Even Eleven could get a bit sulky and bad-tempered (but Matt Smith often chose for a more comedic interpretation of those moments), but Twelve is the first incarnation in the New Series that is full-on arrogant. And I adore him for that. To me, it's beautiful to see the show not worrying about "ticking boxes", anymore. We're going to have a fun anti-hero for a bit.

The strength of Twelve's stories has really helped. In the Forest of the Night is about the only one that comes close to being any sort of dud (in my opinion, at least). Everything else has, for the most part, been firing on all cylinders. Twelve's era has been New Who at its peak. The stories have been magnificent and Capaldi and Coleman have turned in amazing performances. I'm looking forward to seeing how the next companion fares. I have a feeling that, in Moffat's skillful hands, she'll do just fine.

In the grand tradition of all "arrogant" Doctors - the character gradually softens. This particular process has happened in a very beautiful and organic way with Twelve. Capaldi created a gentler and more comic portrayal in his second season that has genuinely endeared us to his incarnation. The sonic shades and electric guitar have quickly become iconic. He's shifted very nicely from being a "House" Doctor (referring to the popular American series about the extremely obnoxious-but-brilliant medical doctor) that we saw in the first series to the Rock'n'Roll Doctor that we see in the second. It's great fun the way he's hung on a bit to that Matt Smith interpretation of the part. He still can't quite master being cool. He comes a bit closer than Matt's Doctor does - but he's only so good at it.

Who knows for sure what the future will hold for Twelve. I hope he has more than just one more season left in him. Because I am greatly enjoying the adventure he has taken us on.

I hope we see the cue cards a few more times, too. What's written on some of the cards he hasn't actually read aloud are absolutely hilarious!




6. THE FIFTH DOCTOR

What a challenge poor 'ole Peter Davison had to face when he accepted that fateful offer from John Nathan-Turner. To have to follow up the seven year reign of Tom Baker is a task no one would want. Regardless of how low he is ranked on my list, Tom Baker's Doctor is a legend. A status he achieved even before he decided to leave the series. As he prepares to bow out, Doctor Five must follow an act the audience doesn't want to see end. How do you even take on the role of the Doctor when your predecessor is so dearly loved?

You take it on with boldness and courage. Not just in terms of how Davison plays the role - but the way the production team earns so much of my respect for the changes of direction the show takes as Doctor Five kicks in . The more sensible choice as we transition from Fourth to Fifth would be to keep things as similar as possible so that the audience accepts the new lead. But, instead, everyone chooses to be an artist rather than a marketeer. And the three-years that Davison inhabits the role are all the more beautiful because of it.

After nearly twelve years of Pertwee and Tom Baker dominating every scene they're in, it is so amazing to see a Doctor who is, once more, vulnerable. Or, as fandom prefers to describe him, fallible. Doctor Five (aka "Tristan with guts") cares about peoples' feelings again. So much so, that he frequently walks on eggshells to protect the sensibilities of others. He also gets bullied. Mostly by Tegan - but other supporting characters or even his enemies can sometimes push him around. Our Doctors from the 70s would have never exhibited such behavior. And, if you've read the beefs I had with the Doctors of that decade, you can see why I'm so happy with the changes that are implemented with Davison's arrival.

This, of course, is just a few of the deeply radical changes we see made to the character. And I, for one, loved these changes. It was great to see the Doctor suddenly being so sensitive. Particularly since I was such an overemotional artsy-fartsy youth when I was first introduced to him. But the actual change of emphasis in the story-telling is equally impressive. While Christopher Bidmead made some pretty radical alterations in Season 18, the sheer intellectualism that we see in the writing goes to even greater heights when Davison takes over the role. Particularly with the Mara stories in Seasons 19 and 20. The show is still being very cerebral like it was during the Tales of Bidmead, but Doctor Five's stories also remember to engage in some emotional stakes, too. Look at the way Hindle is sympathetic in Kinda as compared to the way insane characters are usually handled in any other period of the Classic Series (they're usually just very unpredictable antagonists). We don't just see a more delicate Doctor in Five - but the actual content is composed in a more sensitive manner, too. I really love the direction the show takes during this stage. There is some very beautiful television that is made with Davison at the helm. Even if some of it still looks a bit cheap in places (refer to giant snake at the end of Kinda!).

While all this high-browed lovey-dovey sensitive stuff is nice - I like that the production team still remembers to give us some straight action, too. We get stories like Earthshock and Resurrection of the Daleks where we actually see the Doctor toting a gun here and there. It's also nice that they make sure the Doctor really does show some serious backbone now and again. It's best exemplified in the way he stands up to his enemies. Not just the famous confrontation with the Cyberleader - but how about the way he tells off Striker in Ep 2 of Enligthenment? Poignant moments like that get us to remember that the Doctor is still down there, somewhere. Ready to rise to the surface whenever he's truly needed. But for the most part, we can enjoy the mild-mannered antics of a slightly awkward British gentleman who likes to tuck his panama hat into his coat pocket.

As it odd is may sound, Doctor Five is not my all-time favorite, but Peter Davison is my favorite actor to have played the part. After four greatly varied interpretations of the role, it seemed there was nowhere else you could take the character. But Davison made all kinds of fascinating choices that brought out such a beautifully-nuanced performance and made us see the Doctor in a whole new light. After his Doctor, actors did tend to base their performances on previous incarnations but with their own twist on them. Five still feels like his very own man. With a fresh new spin on him when it seemed there was nowhere else for the character to go.

Davison, himself, borrows a bit from the Second Doctor - but he takes the Doctor's humanitarian beliefs to their ultimate height. His desire to never harm anyone drives his interpretation in all kinds of new and interesting directions. Particularly when he fails. There is a sincere underlying pain as he proclaims: "There should have been another way." at the end of Warriors of the Deep. Other actors to have played the role would've nailed the line very nicely, don't get me wrong. But Davison says it like he's genuinely hurt. There are similar moments that are even more subtle. Watch his reaction as the Master gets burnt to a crisp in Planet of Fire. It genuinely pains him that his greatest foe has met such an untimely end. It's done quite beautifully.

As beautiful as a stick of celery on a red-piping lapel. Which you'd think would look odd. But, somehow, Davison gets it to work. Just like all the other odd quirks of Doctor Five.




And thus concludes the Lower Mid-Rangers. Upper will be along shortly. Sit tight...




Missed Part One? Here you go: 
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/11/book-of-lists-doctors-from-worst-to.html

And here's Part Two: 
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/11/book-of-lists-doctors-from-worst-to_28.html


















Sunday, 13 November 2016

BOOK OF LISTS: DOCTORS - FROM WORST TO BEST.... PART 1

As we wrapped up 2015, I decided to list my Ten all-time favorite Doctor Who stories. While I try to concentrate on writing legitimate essays on Doctor Who, this little opinion piece seemed to be one of the most popular things I've done on the site. I still see these entries getting hits on a regular basis. 

So I decided to do something similar at the end of this year. This time, I'm going to list my Doctors in order of preference. But I'm going to start on this a bit earlier than I did in 2015 so that things don't drag on until midway through January. I'm also going to "group" my Doctors a bit so I don't have to do fourteen separate entries! 

Hope this is as much of a hit as the Top Ten Who Stories were. 




PART ONE: THE GUYS AT THE BOTTOM

So we're starting with my least favorite Doctors. Which means there aren't going to be a lot of kind words, here. But I do want you to understand that I don't, necessarily, hate these Doctors. I just find them a bit more flawed than some of the other incarnations. Or less to my liking. Ultimately, however, I hold the same opinion as most fans. There is no such thing as a legitimately "bad" Doctor. They are all wonderful in their own right. In my opinion, there has never been a miscasting.

I'm also going to be a bit unfair. Some fans believe how much you like a Doctor should be based purely on the performance of the actor who played him. The quality of the stories that happened during his period as the lead should not reflect on your enjoyment of his interpretation of the role. But I am going to allow my appreciation of the stories to influence my opinion. Because, in the end, I feel that my enjoyment of a particular incarnation of a Doctor shouldn't be based on the actor's performance, alone. Each Doctor is a proper era of the show. So all aspects of that era should be taken into consideration as I form my final judgement.

Finally, some of you may get downright furious with me for my tastes. Especially since some of the Doctors you will see at the bottom of the list are usually near the top on most other fans' lists (which is part of the reason why I don't like them much - I've never been a fan of "popular" things!). So if you are upset with what I have to say about some of these guys - I apologize, in advance.



14: THE TENTH DOCTOR - B

Yup, I'm gonna be that pedantic and list the weird partial regeneration that the Doctor has at the end of Stolen Earth as an incarnation onto himself. Since the Doctor did claim in Time of the Doctor that the regeneration counted as a life he lost, I believe we should see him as that.

The 2009 Specials are, in my opinion, one of the lowest points in the New Series. And they make up the bulk of Tenth Doctor b's tenure. Add to it the fact that he is born in what I believe to be the worst Season Finale of the entire history of the show and it gets even harder to appreciate him. But it doesn't stop there, his second adventure is what I consider to be the worst story in all of the New Series. So, from a story standpoint, he's already doomed.

Aside from Water of Mars, I'm not particularly fond of any of the stories that feature Tenth Doctor b. If you bother to go back to my Ranking the Regenerations List (http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2015/03/the-book-of-lists-ranking-regenarations.html) you'll even see that I'm not even all that fond of his final parting. It's difficult to get into a story that runs out of plot and blows fifteen minutes of its running time with farewell scene after farewell scene.

But while I said the quality of the stories would influence my opinion, I should also point out that I have quite a bit of trouble with Tennant's performance during this period. There is just too much angst going on, here. Yes, it is mitigated in some circumstances. Donna getting her memory taken away is brutally depressing and all his sadness at the conclusion of Journey's End is more-than-justified. But then we seem to need a "moment of angst" in every story that follows. Even in Planet of the Dead - what was considered to be the romp of the Specials - the Doctor has to get all moody when the Lady de Souza asks to become a companion.

"Okay, okay - we get it!" I want to say, "You're the Lonely God. You've made that quite clear!"

By the time we reach The End of Time, Doctor Ten b is such a whiny mess that I'm really not that interested in him, anymore. The Doctor is meant to be strong and brave but still have a soft side that stops him from behaving as some square-jawed action hero like Captain Kirk or Rambo. But now, he seems to have nothing but a soft side. I know many fans still get misty-eyed as they think of his departure. But I, for one, was glad to see him go.


13: THE THIRD DOCTOR

This one, I assume, is going to get me in some serious trouble with a certain segment of fandom. Third Doctor fans are fiercely loyal and feel that no criticism should ever be leveled at him. His era is perfect. No one is allowed to say otherwise.

Personally, I think a certain amount of nostalgia clouds their vision. You will find that most Third Doctor fans were kids when he was playing the Doctor. It's not quite so easy to remain objective when you're impressionable. Whereas I was a pretty jaded teenager when I started watching his stories and I did find myself often wondering what all the fuss was about.

Before I get too vicious, Let me say that I actually adored Season 7. One of the best seasons in the history of the whole show. Sure, a few of those Seven-Parters dragged a bit in places, but the stories were still quite awesome (particularly Inferno). The Doctor, in this season, was a cantankerous anti-establishment character. Similar, in many ways, to his first incarnation. But he also showed some interesting layers. Who can forget that moment where he humors General Carrington at the end of Ambassadors of Death?

But then, we enter Season 8. From that point, onward, much of his era is a lot of formula-driven fluff (yes, I know, that's a very harsh thing to say - start mailing your pipe-bombs). The UNIT family now works to the detriment of the show. There are so many "character moments" that come up between the Doctor and the various prominent members of this para-military group that are so similar in tone that they almost bleed into each other and become a blur. This is especially evident in the character of the Brigadier. In Season 7, Alistair Stewart also shows a lot of depth of character. But in later seasons, he's mainly just the butt of the Doctor's jokes. Whenever the Doctor feels the need to denigrate the military mentality, it's done through mocking someone who is meant to be his best friend. It becomes a very tired trope very quickly. Along with so much else that happens in the Doctor's Earth-bound stories. When his exile is finally revoked, things do improve a bit. But he keeps coming back to Earth on a regular basis to annoy us with more paint-by-numbers storytelling.

Then there's those six-parters.... so many of them! And most of them do not have enough plot in them to sustain all six episodes. So there's an endless array of captures-and-escapes and silly car chases to fill in the gaps. I'm not sure why so much praise goes into the writing for this period. Yup, we get some social messages delivered. But they frequently hit you over the head with them - there's little or no subtlety. And no one seems to come up with ideas that can really fill up those six parters. Which, again, causes me to use that nasty "fluff" word.

Again, it can't all be about criticizing the stories. I do have some problems with Pertwee's performance. During Season 7, it's a different story. He's unsure of himself as an actor and takes some interesting risks with the role. But then things spiral downward after Season 8. More and more, I find he gets too comfortable with the role and really starts to walk through his performances, sometimes. He seems to have a certain set of reactions that get used too frequently and he doesn't seem to ever want to add anything new to the part. I do feel that, on occasion, his limitations do show through a bit too much.

There is also a problem I have, in general, with lead actors in 70s Who that I'd like to discuss but I think I've said enough, here. I can rant about this when I get to a certain other actor.



12. THE TENTH DOCTOR

It stands to reason that if Doctor Ten B didn't do well in this than this incarnation will probably get a low rank, too. While the Doctor is less angsty during his three "proper" seasons, the Lonely God still gets a little overplayed and becomes tedious from time-to-time. Especially in Series Three where he takes way more time than any fan could want to get over Rose leaving him.

I also have a hard time with the Doctor being such a casanova in this incarnation (pun completely intended). I'm not one of those super-stringent Classic Series Fan who thinks the Doctor should never be allowed to have a love life, but I still tend to favor a Doctor who is far more interested in science and fighting injustice than he is in girls. Doctor Ten just seemed to be trying too hard to get laid, sometimes.

Like Pertwee, I also just find Tennant a tad too limited as an actor (a very brutal thing to say, I know - particularly since I'm an actor, myself, and would hate to hear someone to say that about me). With Pertwee, I found him to be lazy and could have just expanded the role better if he had wanted to. He had the ability. But, sadly, I must be meaner to David. I really just don't think he has the best of ranges. This becomes especially evident as you start seeing him in other roles. He seems to deliver the same performance over and over with only the slightest of variance. In Jessica Jones, for example, he just seems like a more mean-spirited version of the Tenth Doctor.

It didn't help that Doctor Ten was off to the most shaky of starts. I did feel The Christmas Invasion was really well done for an introductory tale but then we go in to Series Two. The quality of some of the stories in this season is very questionable. New Earth does a tonne of damage to him, especially. Not just because the ending is a bit on the implausible side, but some very bad choices are made about how this new Doctor is presented. The super-indulgent opening sequence of the Tenth Doctor approaching the TARDIS console to make his first trip sets a bad tone. The hissy fit he has with the cat nuns also sits very poorly with me. In some ways, it seems like they're trying to imitate the moral outrage the Fifth Doctor has in Earthshock. The big difference, however, is that we have spent almost an entire season with Doctor Five before that scene occurs. That moment sits well because of the time it takes for it to finally happen. It comes way too fast with Doctor Ten and he comes across more as sanctimonious rather than heroic and brave. It really ends up coloring this fresh new Doctor very poorly and makes it difficult for me to genuinely like him (yes, there are plenty of anti-heroic Doctors out there - but it's a deliberate choice. This is a Doctor that becomes unlikeable because of a mistake in the crafting of him - there's a big difference).

With RTD being such a big fan of the Pertwee Era, we also get a number of stories that have a paint-by-numbers feel to them, too. Things are just a bit too formulaic during good chunks of the Tenth Doctor's reign. That always has a big impact on the way I enjoy a Doctor.



11. THE FOURTH DOCTOR

"What?!" Stereotypical Fan is proclaiming, "Tom Baker ranks this low on your list?! How can you?! The man is a genius! A legend! He's the greatest Doctor, ever!" 

I can never deny the contribution the man has made to the show. He is an icon - no doubt, there. He is also, in many ways, one of the most brilliant actors to walk the face of the Earth. I won't argue that, either.

But, as I have said on way-too-many occasions: the Fourth Doctor is over-rated.

My biggest beef is that his character does lack a lot of consistency. Tom is a very instinctual actor - that's part of what makes his performances so charismatic. So much of what he does feels so genuine because it's a choice that he really is making in that very moment. And we, as an audience, see that and appreciate it. But instincts aren't always correct. We do see any number of poor choices make it onto the screen.We still love the spontaneity of that poor choice. But it's a poor choice, nonetheless. It also means that the overall performance of the character is based purely on the mood Tom was in on the day of shooting. Until Season 18 - where the production team fought tooth-and-nail to keep him more consistent - Doctor Four seems to be all over the place. In some ways, that is the actual character. He's very mercurial. I get that. But, in other ways, it just seems like poor planning on the lead actor's part. Like he's just being a little too laissez faire about the whole thing.

He also suffers the same problem as Pertwee in that he stays in the role for a bit longer than he should have. There are definitely stories where he seems to be taking the role for granted a bit too much. Whereas Pertwee seems to walk through the performance during these moments, Baker seems genuinely frustrated with things and just starts taking the piss out of everything. It's uncomfortable to watch, at times.

The other problem that seems to occur with longer-serving Doctors is that the show seems to become too much about them. They get all the best scenes and best dialogue all the time. Oftentimes, at the expense of supporting cast. There are moments where it feels more like I'm watching The Tom Baker Show rather than watching Doctor Who. A lot of fans seem to enjoy this - but I find it a bit too indulgent.

Then, of course, there's that dark period where Tom Baker really does just take the comedy too far. Season 17 seems more like a parody of Doctor Who than the actual thing. Horns of Nimon and Creature From the Pit come across as High Farce rather than any kind of proper science fiction story of any sort. And Tom Baker seems to be at the center of all this - making silly faces wherever he can and re-writing scripts so that they can have as many bad jokes in them, as possible.

"But Season 17 had some of the highest ratings the show ever experienced!" Stereotypical Fan is always quick to point out.

Which just saddens me. So many people saw the show at such a low point and came out with the worst possible impression of it.

And a lot of that was due to Tom's over-indulgence.




Okay then, that gets the ugly stuff out of the way. Again, I want to emphasize that I don't think these Doctors are terrible. I know I didn't say many good things about them but it's because I'm trying to give myself somewhere to go as I start talking about the Doctors I like more. My reviews will become warmer and warmer as we get closer to the top of the list. 

Hope I haven't ruffled too many feathers. 




Oh yeah, here's the first of my Top Ten Fave Who Stories - just in case you've never read them: 

http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2015/12/book-of-lists-top-ten-who-stories-10.html








Wednesday, 19 October 2016

CHRONOLOGIES AND TIMELINES: THE MASTER - PART 3

In Part 3 of our little dissertation, we look at the Master's exploits after the Classic Series ends...
            



ALWAYS DRESSING FOR THE OCCASION

As Survival concludes, the Master is in some pretty sorry shape. Like the Doctor, he seems to have fled the planet of the Cheetah People before its imminent destruction.   Where he went, for sure, we can't say. More than likely, he found his way back to his TARDIS. But even if he did, he's not doing well.  
            
Not only is he inhabiting a Trakenite body, but said body is now infected with the virus of the Cheetah People. He is a Time Lord consciousness trapped in a multi-species form, with the savagery of the Cheetah People constantly striving to absorb his will. None of this would be making someone like the Master too pleased with his current state of affairs. 
            
Once more, the Master looks upon the physical condition of his greatest rival with some degree of envy. Still only in his seventh incarnation, the Doctor has many more lives the Master could burn through if he could just steal away his body. He's tried it once, already, why not make another attempt?  
            
But before he can look that far down the road, he has to take care of an immediate problem. His current incarnation is a Trakenite/Time Lord/Cheetah People battlefield. The problem needs to be rectified.   
            
Setting himself to work in an advanced laboratory, (possibly in his own TARDIS, possibly somewhere else) the Master creates a unique form of protoplasm (sometimes known as a "morphant") that he can store his consciousness in. Once he has sealed all his memory, intelligence and personality into the strange slimy material, he is capable of seeking out and invading the bodies of other sentient beings with it. Upon entering a body, he can completely decimate whatever soul was previously inhabiting it and take full possession of it within a matter of seconds. The body he has taken over can even use the protoplasm for various forms of attack. An opponent can be paralyzed and killed when a large amount of the slime is sprayed on them. A small quantity can create a mind control bond. This new way of inhabiting bodies works excellently - but there is one drawback: the body that the protoplasm invades burns itself out fairly quickly and a new carrier must be found within a matter of days.  
            
Still, this allows the Master to be free of the Anthony Ainley incarnation until he can seek out a more permanent solution. He abducts a suitable humanoid body (possibly, a character being played by Gordon Tipple whom we see being atomized by the Daleks at the beginning of the 96 Telemovie - or, maybe, he goes through a few other people before he reaches him).  He, then, transfers himself from Trakenite/Cheetah Person body into the goo and invades the humanoid he kidnapped.   
            
Now he can move on to bigger plans. His morphant form can invade and take over the bodies of lesser species - but the will of the Time Lord can fight this process. If he just jumps into the Doctor and tries to control him, this will not work. The Doctor will reject him. Remembering how directly tapping the Eye Of Harmony helped him out in Deadly Assassin, the Master devises a method to partially access the collapsed Black Hole's energy through the connection all TARDISes have with it. Under the proper conditions, he can use that link to the Eye of Harmony to scoop out the Doctor's soul from his body and put his own in. From there, of course, he can use his rival's remaining incarnations and extend his lifespan significantly.   
            
His final key to the plan is to lure the Doctor into the trap. Taking advantage of the mounting hostilities between the Daleks and the Time Lords, he arranges to be put on  trial on Skaro for the many crimes he has committed. One gets the impression this was a plot made between the Daleks and the Master to bring the Doctor to an end once and for all.That the trial, itself, is bogus and was created strictly as part of a bigger plan. Whether this is true or not, the current body that the Master is inhabiting is sentenced to execution at the end of the court case.  One of the many assets of this special protoplasm that the Master has created for himself is that it is near-indestructible. So a bit of it remains even after the body is atomized. It will slowly regenerate itself and eventually become a decent-sized mass that can be shaped by the Master's will to resemble scary snakes.  The Master requests, at his execution, that the Doctor bring his remains back to Gallifrey.  Even as the Doctor seals those remains into a special container aboard his TARDIS, the morphant is growing in size and breaks its way back out a short while later.  From there, the events of the 96 Telemovie ensue....  

            
THE WAR MASTER

As the the 96 Telemovie concludes, we get another cliffhanger, of sorts. The Master appears to get sucked into the link that the Doctor's TARDIS has with the Eye Of Harmony (In the story, itself, it's always just referred to as the Eye of Harmony.  In truth, of course, it's a physical manifestation of the connection a TARDIS has with the Eye Of Harmony - but that is far too big of a mouthful!). Bruce the Ambulance Driver, the body the Master was currently inhabiting, seems to blow up into pieces as he is absorbed into the Eye.  But we've already seen evidence that traces of the protoplasm will survive atomization.   Only, in this case, they are probably floating around in some sort of nul-space that exists between the Doctor's TARDIS and its Power Source at the heart of Gallifrey (causing some indigestion, of course).   
            
The Master seems to be really done for, this time.   Yes, his essence has survived, but it has no hope of escaping back into our reality. 
            
Perhaps the Master does find some way out of this and clashes with the Eighth Doctor a few more times.  Somehow, there is a final fateful confrontation in which the Master's protoplasm is well and truly destroyed.  But as the Time Wars ensue and the Doctor refuses to fight in them, the Time Lords are in need of a skillful and resourceful General to run their campaigns.  So they find some way to resurrect the Master and give him a whole new regeneration cycle (the promise was made one time before in The Five Doctors and we've seen the Doctor get the same reward in Time of the Doctor).  This may be the resurrection that is described in the phone call between the two Time Lord enemies that we bear witness to in Sound of Drums
            
It's just as possible, too, that the Master never escaped from the Eye Of Harmony.   That, throughout the Eighth Doctor era, he's just stuck there.    But when the Time Wars begin and the Doctor won't fight in them, the protoplasmic Master is extracted from the link the Doctor's TARDIS has with the Eye of Harmony and the Master is put into a specially-created body for him that has a whole new regeneration cycle.  This could also be viewed as a resurrection, of sorts, and would also suit the description the Master gives in the Sound of Drums phone conversation.  
            
Either way, the Master is back in action and he's got another thirteen bodies to play with.    But he has to fulfill a bargain with the people who have granted him this new lease on life and fight in the Time Wars.  
            
Of course, the Master only honors the deal for as long as it suits him.   
            
As the events of the Time Wars seem to grow out of control and it really looks like the Daleks might just win, the Master decides to flee for his life.    After watching an Emperor Dalek take over something known as a Cruciform, he hatches a scheme to escape from the battle.   Travelling to the end of the Universe in his TARDIS, he uses a Chamelon Arch to disguise himself as a human. As he is doing that, he also induces a regeneration. This may be his first regeneration in his new cycle - it may be that he has used several, already.    We can't say for sure.   But the Master does seem to have some control over what he will become.   He purposely turns himself into a young child who is found by humanity on the coast of The Silver Devastation (whatever that is!).   The only thing he had on him was the fob watch containing his Time Lord essence.   For many years, he lives out the life of Professor Yana - a brilliant but under-appreciated human who is trying to find the mythical land of Utopia.   A place that will, apparently, be safe for humanity as the Universe implodes once and for all.   Because of the perception filter placed on the fob watch, he never feels an inclination to actually open it and restore his memory.
            
All of this seems to occur while the Doctor is in his Eighth Incarnation and is refusing to fight in the Time Wars.   He seems totally ignorant of the fact that the Master had been resurrected to fight for the Time Lords.   So, before that fateful crash on Karn where the Doctor takes on the form of the War Doctor, all these events with the Master took place.   As the Doctor finally joins the fight in his "secret incarnation", the Master has already disappeared from the Face of the Universe.  So the Time Lords keep the knowledge of the Master's involvement in the Time Wars a secret.   No doubt, even as the War Doctor, he would be infuriated to discover how his arch-nemesis had been brought back to life and used in such a dubious manner.          
            
But in his Tenth Incarnation, now a lonely survivor of the Great Time Wars, the Doctor's attitude is very different.   Along with Martha Jones and Captain Jack Harkness, they run into Professor Yana on the planet Malcassairo and foster an instinct in him to finally open that fob watch of his.   As he does, the Master is released, once more.    However, the Derek Jacobi incarnation of the Master is short-lived and another regeneration is induced shortly after his memories and Time Lord biology are restored.  
            
Again, we have no idea what incarnation that this puts the Master at in his new cycle.    The Simm Master is, at the very least, his third body.   But if his track record in his first regeneration cycle is anything to go by, he probably regenerated a few times while fighting in the Time Wars.   It's difficult to say as we do see times in the Master's life where he seems to take care of an incarnation for a while.   Both the Delgado and the Ainley Masters stuck around for quite some time.   Perhaps he has similar success with the first body the Time Lords gave him after his resurrection.   Then again, perhaps he doesn't and the Simm Master might be a fourth, fifth or even later incarnation.  Who can say, for sure?  


THE CLIFFHANGERS ARE BACK

I must admit, as Last of the Time Lords concluded, I was most intrigued. We seemed to be getting a sort of hybrid version of how stories in the Delgado and Ainley Eras ended. The Master was being left in a fairly horrible and inescapable situation - but we were also being given a teaser that would indicate that he would be back again to fight the Doctor. As we get to Part One of The End of Time, the cliffhanger is resolved satisfactorily. All these new powers that the Master has from his botched resurrection seem a bit weird, but the way RTD carries him from one story to the next was done well. I'm even a bit relieved by it all. I really love my 80s Who, but one of the few things that genuinely irked me about this period of the show was the way we were never given satisfactory answers regarding how the Master escaped his end-of-story cliffhangers. 

Imagine my chagrin, then, as we finish up Series Eight and no explanation is given about how the Master escaped Gallifrey in the Time Wars and came back to our Universe to start building a Cyber-army. So it looks like we have to go back to our Part 2 Format:



The End of Time - Part 2 


THE CLIFFHANGER: There we are, at the big exciting climax. The Doctor must choose between killing The Master or killing Rassilon. Then he sees his Mommy's face (or, at least, that's what RTD claims she is) and makes a better choice. He destroys the whitepoint star and sends the High Council and all of Gallifrey back into Hell. Rassilon, however, has just enough time to take the Doctor out before he goes. But then, the Master steps in and goes toe-to-toe with the single greatest Time Lord in all of history. The two combatants fade away back into the Time Lock. The Master - who already seemed to be dying - definitely seems lost, now. Trapped, forevermore, in the Time Wars with the Lord President of Gallifrey determined to kill him. This one might be just as brutal as the Planet of Fire ending! 


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



MISSY, THUS FAR

For a while, it does seem like the transition between Death In Heaven and The Magician's Apprentice is going to be another Anthony Ainley Cliffhanger. But then, as we reach the beginning of Witch's Familiar, two cliffhangers get explained away in one fell swoop (even the Moff-bashers have to admit - that was a pretty solid piece of writing!). Everything seems to line up pretty good, after this. There is no need for any other things to be nitpicked or given a more lengthy explanation. 

We get a beautiful tease at the end of Witch's Familiar, of course. Missy is in another cliffhanger, of sorts. She's surrounded by multiple Daleks - their gun-sticks trained on her. 

"You know what? I've just had a very clever idea..." she proclaims. 

Who knows what sinister plans she might be concocting with the Universe's greatest menace? Whatever it is, she seems to have formed yet another alliance with the Daleks. 

We'll have to wait and see how things pan out....



All righty, then. All those nasty continuity issues sorted out with the Doctor's greatest enemy.




Missed the first installment? 

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

Here's Part Two: 

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


Like watching me unravel the histories of various major players in the Doctor Who Universe? Here's the first episode of my epic and long-winded History of the Daleks:

http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2015/06/chronologies-and-timelines-tymecian.html




            







Tuesday, 11 October 2016

CHRONOLOGIES AND TIMELINES: A HISTORY OF THE MASTER - PART 2

And so, we continue down the Dark Path of the Doctor's greatest foe. This time, we delve into the 80s Masters....



THE CORPSE MASTER - VERSION 2.0

For the rest of the 70s, the Master disappears from the show.    We know at the end of Deadly Assassin that he's capable of plaguing the Doctor again.   We see his badly super-imposed face on the grandfather clock as it dematerializes on Gallifrey.   And yet, there are no televised signs of the Master until several seasons later in Keeper of Traken.  
            
A major change has occurred between Assassin and Traken.   One that can't be ignored and must, therefore, be explained.  
            
Peter Pratt does not play the Master in Keeper of Traken - Geoffrey Beevers does.   And it's not Beevers behind the same fright mask.   If that were the case, we might be able to overlook the different voice.   But Beevers is done up in make-up.    So the Master really does have a different appearance from the last time we've seen him.  Similar costume, of course - but definitely a different face.  
            
The Doctor mentions at the end of Deadly Assassin that the Master had succeeded in leeching off some considerable energy from the Eye Of Harmony.   That the energy may have been used to, somehow, save him when he fell into the fissure that had been formed in the floor behind him as he was attempting to destroy Gallifrey.  Spandrell and Engin seeing the Master steal off in his TARDIS moments later seems to confirm this theory.
             
I propose that the stolen energy did more than save the Master from a vicious plummet.   That, even after the fall, he still had some energy left over from the Power Source of the Time Lords.   He took that energy and tried to induce another regeneration with it and had partial success.  His body is still not in the best of shape, but it's marginally healthier.    More stable than the one he had before the regeneration attempt, but still only a shadow of the man he once was.   
            
Essentially, this is the 14th incarnation of the Master.   Or, perhaps, a half-incarnation might be more accurate.   He still retains the general appearance of the last Master but is different enough to say that he isn't quite the same body.  
            
Sometime after this partial regeneration, the Beevers Master constructs a whole new TARDIS (some more of that energy he stole from the Eye Of Harmony?  Perhaps he intentionally rationed it because he knew he didn't have enough for a complete regneration: so he used some of it to get a new body and some of it to build a new TARDIS).  Either that, or the Master steals another TARDIS from Gallifrey in an unseen adventure.    Never one to waste a resource, he still held on to the grandfather clock TARDIS that he had been using before.   Parking it in the corner of the console room of his new TARDIS.
            
Tom Baker's Doctor makes no remark about the Master's new appearance when they finally confront each other in Episode Four of Keeper of Traken.   It could be that he just didn't really have the time to make the remark.   Or, perhaps, he's met this version of the Master in an untelevised adventure.    We don't really know.   But we have to acknowledge that this isn't quite the same version of the Master that we saw in Deadly Assassin.   Even the personality is a bit different.   He seems a more mellow and patient character, this time round.   The Pratt Master seemed to be boiling over with rage and full of rash actions.   Whereas this version of the villain is content to sit for years in a calcified Melkur, waiting for his moment to arrange the proper political circumstances to gain Keepership.  I can't see the Pratt Master having the temperment to execute such a plot.   His lack of patience would've gotten the best of him and he would've hatched a scheme that would've taken place much sooner.  
            
The Pratt Master also seemed very ill and close to death.  One more reason why he wouldn't have waited around for so long to execute his plans in Keeper of Traken - he just didn't have the lifespan in him to hang in there!   Whereas the Beevers Master is a stabilised version of the Pratt Master - the deathly illness seems to have passed.   He's still not very physically strong but he's not on the verge of passing away, either.   So he can sit around for long years waiting for the proper moment to become the Keeper of the Traken Union.              
            
So the Beevers Master is a different incarnation of some sort.   But because of the similarities to the Pratt Master, I'd say it was some sort of strange partial regeneration.  

            


THE ANTHONY AINLEY CLIFFHANGERS

            
From Keeper of Traken onwards, the Master becomes a frequent thorn in the Doctor's side, again.   With as many appearances as the Delgado Master, Anthony Ainley's version of the evil Renegade Time Lord plagues the Fifth Doctor heavily and keeps appearing quite regularly during the reigns of the Sixth and Seventh Doctors, too.  The Ainley Master also takes the character arc of a crumbling sanity and a lust for vengeance to an even higher level.    More times than others, his plans for universal domination are put to the side in order to execute vicious plots that will annihilate his greatest foe (Castrovalva, Mark of the Rani, Ultimate Foe).   And when he's not trying to lure the Doctor into some horrible trap, he's unraveling some predicament he's put himself into because his imbalanced psyche is making more and more bad choices (Time Flight, Planet of Fire and Survival).   Only once in a while does the Doctor catch him actually trying to gain power that will help him rule over the cosmos. An undertaking he was almost always up to back in the Perwee Era but never seems to have time for, anymore.  With the stealing of Tremas' body, the Master may have stabilised his physical health - but his mental health seems to be another issue entirely.   
            
During this era, a new mystery develops during the gaps between the televised battles of these two Time Lord rivals.   Back when Barry Letts was producing the show, every story involving the Master ended with a, sort of, "live to fight another day" teaser.    The Master might call the Doctor after escaping the explosion of the Thunderbolt missile or wave menacingly from a Navy hovercraft to let him know he was alive and well and would return to fight him again.    But stories involving the Master during the JNT-era always ended with the Master in a seemingly inescapable dastardly fate.   The walls of Castrovalva were closing in on him or a time-accelerated T-Rex was getting ready to devour him.    A very novel way to resolve the story, yes.   But there was one problem with this new formula: We never learned how the Master escaped from the cliffhanger. 
            
He would just simply arrive in his next story and the only explanations we would get were things like: "So you managed to escape Castrovalva, after all" or "I'm indestructible.   The whole universe knows that!".   We would never actually find out the precise details of how he had survived the last peril the Doctor had left him in.   This wasn't too bad when he was stranded on Xeriphas or his Tissue Compressor was used to play havoc with the inner dimensions of his TARDIS.    But when more serious stuff happens to him, it's a bit annoying to not get some satisfying answers.   I can't foresee a special episode in the New Series in which the Master finally sits down and tells the Doctor how he got away from all those nasty scrapes back when he was possessing Tremas' body so all we can do, as fans, is speculate.   Here, in my opinion, are the most likely explanations to the various cliffhangers that happened during the Ainley Master Era: 


Castrovalva:

THE CLIFFHANGER:  There he is, hoisted by his own petards in the most succinct of fashions.   The newly-regenerated Fifth Doctor and his companions manage to escape the recursive occlusion that's been engineered around them, but the Master doesn't quite make it out as the outer doors of Castrovalva close for the final time.  Even worse, the citizens of the fictitious town he has created seem to be tearing him to pieces, too.   This one really looks completely inescapable.  

THE SOLUTION:    We see just a few minutes earlier that the Master does have a device of some sort that enables him to wink Castrovalvans out of existence with the mere pressing of a button.    No doubt, he gets that device out in his struggles with the mob and puts it to good work.   Once he's cleared away the riot, he legs it back to his TARDIS and turns it on full blast.   Using the time machine to burst out of the trap - he manages to break free, this time.   Perhaps, on the first try, he was attempting to escape without damaging his TARDIS.   But, this time, he's thrown caution to the wind.   Better to live with a damaged TARDIS than to die with one fully intact.     And he does wreck his ship in the worst of ways.   The heart of his TARDIS is almost completely extinguished.    Which sets us up, quite neatly, for the problem he's trying to solve in Time Flight.   He used a last remaining bit of TARDIS energy to get him to the Xeraphin temple on pre-historic Earth and then set himself to work on re-vitalizing his TARDIS.  

Time Flight:

THE CLIFFHANGER:  It's just a little unclear what actually does happen at the end of Time Flight.   The Doctor, somehow, materializes his TARDIS just seconds before the Master is meant to land there.   It somehow sends the Master's TARDIS back to Xeriphas where he'll most likely be stranded because the Xeriphans will, somehow, set themselves' free from being the power source of his time vessel.   It's a bit confusing but, basically, the Master is stranded on Xeriphas.   We think.   Sort of....

THE SOLUTION:  We almost get a complete explanation in King's Demons.  No doubt, when the Master does end up on Xeriphas, the beings in the sarcophagus thingy at the heart of his TARDIS manage to free themselves and the renegade Time Lord is trapped there with no means of powering his ship.   But then, he comes across Kamelion.   Apparently, he was left lying around by an unknown alien race that had used the shape-shifter as a tool in a failed invasion of the planet.  We're not exactly sure how a shape-shifter would be useful for such a thing (Kamelion took on the form of various Xeriphan leaders who instructed the people to surrender to the invaders but the commonfolk refused to listen and fought them off?), but the Maser avails himself of the android and uses it as a means to re-fuel his TARDIS.   My guess is, Kamelion takes on the forms of various influential Xeraphin statesmen and convinces the populace that they should give the Master the freedom of mobility again.   If nothing else, it gets him off their world!   Perhaps it was something even more elaborate than that.   Kamelion's impersonations actually, somehow, trick the Xeraphin to go back into the sarcophagus and they become, once more, the power source for the Master's TARDIS.   But, this time, they don't escape.   For all we know, every time we saw the Master's TARDIS after that, the entire race of the Xeraphin was trapped inside of it - acting as petrol!    


The King's Demons:

THE CLIFFHANGER: Like Time Flight, this one is pretty low-level, too.   And, also, a bit unclear.   We're given the impression that the Master's TARDIS isn't going to work very well, anymore, because the Doctor turned on his tissue compressor and left it running in the console room.   This, apparently, was going to do some nasty damage to the infrastructure and make it unsteerable so that the Master would no longer be able to properly execute his masterplan of systematically changing the histories of various important planets and re-molding the political structure of the Universe to suit his purposes.  

THE SOLUTION:  The tissue compressor does do a lot of damage to the Master's TARDIS but he manages to fix the damage and make his TARDIS steerable again (it seems to go exactly where he wants it to go during The Five Doctors  and Planet of Fire and various other subsequent adventures).   However, it would seem that the Doctor's trick with the tissue compressor inspires the Master to experiment with the effectiveness of the weapon.   Which results in the horrible accident that causes him to shrink to the size of a doll and re-enlist Kamelion to aid him in restoring himself to a normal stature.   

Planet of Fire:

THE CLIFFHANGER:   This is the biggie.   Easily, the most intense Master Cliffhanger during the entire Ainley Era.    The Master employs the numismaton gas on Planet Sarn to bring himself back to proper size.   However, he's mistimed things a bit.   The gas reverts to a normal flame before the evil renegade can climb out of the miniaturized room he grew out of.    He is burnt to a total crisp.  

THE SOLUTION:   The most likely solution is provided in the novelization of Mark of the Rani (not sure why Eric Saward didn't include this dialogue in the script!).   Quite simply, the flame reverts back to numismaton gas a few moments after the Doctor departs.   The restorative power of the gas is so potent that it can even bring the Master's charred remains back to life.   My guess is, it was an extremely strong surge of numismaton gas!    

Mark of the Rani:  

THE CLIFFHANGER:   Having tampered with the console of the Rani's TARDIS, the Doctor causes the ship to spiral out of control when his two enemies attempt to dematerialize from the collapsing mineshaft they've landed in.   The act of sabotage also seems to create some random time spillage.   Which accelerates the growth rate of an embriyonic T-Rex that the Rani has been experimenting on.   When last we see the Rani and the Master, they look like they are about to become the lunch of the greatest pre-historic carnivore.   

THE SOLUTION:   This one, I felt, didn't require much thought.   The Master just whips out his tissue-compression-eliminator and puts paid to the beast.   They get the Rani's TARDIS back under control and she eventually brings him back to 19th-century Killingworth where he can pick his TARDIS back up and go out into the Universe, again, to cause a bunch of mischief.   Michief that will eventually lead to an ongoing partnership with Sabalom Glitz and yet another infiltration of the Matrix on Gallifrey.   

The Ultimate Foe:

THE CLIFFHANGER:  After two really vicious end-of-story fates, things became a bit mellow, once more.   Believing to have retrieved a data storage unit containing the earliest archives of Gallifreyan knowledge, the Master uploads it into his TARDIS console.   That nasty Valeyard tricked him, though.   The data unit is actually a limbo-atrophier.   A vicious device that seems to have caused the Master and Glitz to be frozen in time.  

THE SOLUTION:    Again, not a hard one to work out (which frustrates me all the more that lazy script editors couldn't have taken the time to deal with this!).    The Doctor is already providing part of the answer at the end of Trial of a Time Lord.   He requests that the Inquisitor will exercise leniency in the retrieval of Glitz as they clean up the Matrix.    No doubt, the Time Lords do fix up the Matrix and pull the Master's TARDIS out of the mess.   The limbo-atrophier is shut down and an attempt is made by the Time Lords to keep the Master prisoner on Gallifrey.   But, let's be honest, the Master can run circles around the Time Lords.   He was breaking out of his jail cell minutes after they threw him in it.   He retrieved his TARDIS and escaped back into Time and Space.   Eventually, of course, his journeys will lead him to the planet of the Cheetah People.   More than likely, he was brought there by a kitling that was hunting on another planet that the Master was visiting.  This would explain why the Master has no TARDIS to "take him home" when the Doctor arrives there.   


SPECIAL NOTE:            
You will note, of course, that I offered no explanation for what happened to the Master between the The Five Doctors and Planet of Fire.   That's because no explanation is really needed.   This is the one occasion during the Ainley Era when there is no real cliffhanger to be resolved.    Rassilon simply sends the Master back to his TARDIS where he is allowed to resume his travels.    But during those travels, of course, he starts those fateful experiments with his tissue compressor that lead to the events of Planet of Fire.    


Well, that sorts that out. Stay with us as we explore the 96 Telemovie and the various incarnations we've been seeing in the New Series...

Missed Part One? Here's a link: 

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