Wednesday, 9 August 2017

ANALYTICAL: COMPANION RETROSPECTIVES 2: ACE - PART 1

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

PART 1: FORMING THE CHARACTER

ACE - DOROTHY WHO?

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

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

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

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

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

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


STARTING POINT

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

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


SEASON 25: A DEEPER ACE

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

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

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

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


VITAL CORE TRAITS - REMEMBRANCE OF THE DALEKS


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VITAL CORE TRAITS - HAPPINESS PATROL

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

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

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

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


SILVER NEMESIS - A STEP BACK

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

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

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


THE NEXT PHASE OF ACE

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

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




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



















Sunday, 30 July 2017

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

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

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

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



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

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

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


MAKING MATCHES THAT DON'T REALLY MATCH

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

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

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

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


A MORE RECENT EXAMPLE

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

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

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

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

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


JUST HOW MANY DIFFERENCES THERE REALLY ARE

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

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

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

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


CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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



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






Thursday, 20 July 2017

UNADULTERATED BOORISH OPINION: A FEMALE DOCTOR

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

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

So, here goes:.



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

OBJECTIONS I FIND OBJECTIONABLE

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

1) The Beeb is just trying to be PC

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

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

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

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


2) It's all just stunt casting

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


WHAT DOES ROB REALLY THINK?

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

The truth is: I'm pretty neutral.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


FINAL CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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

In my opinion, at least.





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

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




FOOTNOTE: THE HISTORY OF A FEMALE DOCTOR

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 6 July 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



THE MASTER DOESN'T REALLY NEED A TIMELINE

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

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


THE AMENDMENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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



FROM END OF TIME TO WORLD ENOUGH AND TIME 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


WHEN MASTER MEETS MISSY

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

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

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

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

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


WHAT HAPPENED WITH THOSE DALEKS? 

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

I'm such a coward, sometimes!

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

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

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

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


ONE LAST BIT OF SPECULATION

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

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

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

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

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

The Master will live on...  

...Or, at least, that's my guess.  



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
























Wednesday, 14 June 2017

CHRONOLOGIES AND TIMELINES: A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ICE WARRIORS - APPENDIX A

So, Empress of Mars came out this week. I greatly enjoyed it. Not just because I felt it was a strong story, but also because we finally got a story where we see the Ice Warriors on their own home planet. We learnt all kinds interesting things about their culture and history that other stories only lightly touched upon. 

As I actually said at the end of my essay on the Ice Warrior Timeline, this new episode was going to prompt an appendix (a similar thing happened when we got a Dalek story in Series 9). This new installment in the Great Martian Saga actually requires me to revise some of what I've previously written. I'm also going to help solve a potential continuity glitch that the story has created. 

But first, you should probably take a look at my previous essay regarding Ice Warrior History. Here it is: 

http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2017/02/chronologies-and-timelines-brief.html


STORY ORDER

Before this latest episode, it is my belief that the Ice Warriors stories happened in the following order:

Cold War
Seeds of Death
The Ice Warriors
Curse of Peladon
Monster of Peladon

In some cases, specific dates or timescales were cited in the stories to make this chronology easier to establish. Admittedly, though, there's also a fair amount of guesswork involved.

So where does our newest tale fit in with all this? Well, they made it easy for us. The Doctor explicitly states that it is 1881 when they arrive on Mars to investigate the "God Save the Queen" message. With this knowledge, we can now place Empress of Mars as being the first story in our timeline. Taking place about a century before Cold War.

That part was easy. But some waters have gotten muddied, here. Events transpire in this episode that flatly contradict some of the theories I put forward in my last Ice Warrior essay. Also, Seeds of Death becomes a trickier story to get to fit in. So we'll start with some revision and then tackle the continuity problem.



AFTER THE SECOND GREAT CATACLYSM

After Skaldak's failed expedition, I felt there was a need to introduce a disaster into Martian culture. Otherwise, their astronaut program would've continued developing and they would've become a space-faring race far sooner than I felt they should. I needed to halt their evolution for a bit so I decided that the War of the Osirians took a tremendous toll on the planet. The inhabitants of Mars had to focus on re-building their society for a millennia or two before they re-embarked on exploring the Universe. Eventually, however, they start building spaceships again. At this point Varga is sent off on an early mission. Like Skaldak, he never returns. These expeditions continue, however, and Mars does develop a spacefleet. A ship from that fleet will pick up Skaldak at the end of the events of Cold War. This all made good sense at the time.

However, we learn in Empress of Mars that the entire race went into mass hibernation. And that they slept for about 5 000 years. This requires me to legitimately change my theories of what happened between Skaldak's departure from Mars and his discovery by humans in the 1980s.

I still say that the Osirians came along and devastated the planet shortly after Skaldak disappeared. But now I believe the devastation wasn't quite as catastrophic. Perhaps only a century or so went by before the Martians would re-embark upon the space exploration program. They send up Varga and he doesn't return.


SOME SERIOUS REVISION

We now have to toss out some of my more substantial ideas about Martian evolution during this era. I believed that, even after the loss of Varga, they became successful with their astronaut program and created a substantial spacefleet. The Honorable Faction go out into the galaxy while the Less Honorable favor staying on the homeworld. Eventually, the Honorable will pick up Skaldak when he sends out his distress beacon from Earth. They continue expanding out into the Universe and discovering new planets to colonize. The Less Honorable will try to invade the Earth in the late 21st Century. Everything seems to flow well with this theory in place.

But now we have to change that. Information stated in Empress of Mars makes it difficult for this timeline work. So, let's pretend all that I said in that particular part of my essay didn't happen.

Perhaps, after Varga's failure, a few more ships go out into the cosmos and they also don't come back.The Martians had been hoping to flee their doomed world by finding new planets to colonize but they were just having too much trouble with their spaceship technology. They needed to come up with an alternative solution. Their biosphere could not support the full population for much longer.

So they opt for mass hibernation. The population puts itself into suspended animation. Several hibernation centers are established throughout the planet. They are referred to as "Hives". Significant leaders are put in charge of the Hives with a set of special controls that are built right into their hibernation unit. The whole hibernator/control unit vaguely resembles a tomb. The largest of all the Hives is looked after by the Ice Queen, herself. A leader we have only recently learnt about. But she seems even more important than the Ice Lords.

Occasionally, small groups of technicians and warriors are set to re-awaken and work on space faring technology. Launches occur from time-to-time but the astronauts never return. Until this problem can be solved - most of Mars will sleep.



ALWAYS PROBLEMS WITH MASS HIBERNATION

If there's one thing we've learnt in the Doctor Who Universe, it's that trying to get a large group of people to stay cryogenicaly sealed never seems to go well. The Silurians had endless problems with it. The Andromedans also make a mess of things during their Ravalox Strategem. Even the humans on Nerva Beacon experienced technical issues.  The Cybermen, at least, don't even try to have a specific "wake up time" in mind on Telos. They're just waiting for nosy humans to do the job for them. Once they do start waking up, though, there's a lot of problems with Rogue Cybermen. The only time it ever seemed to work half decently was when Davros or the Daleks did it. Even then, the Doctor appears to have permanently frozen the Daleks on Spiridon. And Davros' plan on Necros only goes as well as it does because he was converting the sleepers into Daleks or food!

Naturally enough, the Martian Hives malfunction too. They end up oversleeping. We don't know exactly how long they had intended to stay in hibernation, but the Ice Queen definitely seems upset when Friday tells her they've been hibernating for 5 000 years.

I pre-suppose that Friday was supposed to be part of a team that would occasionally re-awaken to work on space travel. He was in a special chamber near the surface of the planet. The team goes in and out of hibernation on a regular basis because they are working with certain natural resources that are exhaustible and need periods of time in which they are not being used so they can replenish themselves'.   Sometime during the 1880s, the malfunctioning hibernation equipment not only causes the space exploration team to oversleep - it kills the bulk of them. Friday is the only one that revives. He knows he must inform his Queen of these developments so they can make a proper decision on how to handle the malfunctions. But he can't reach her on his own. She is buried too deep within the planet.

Friday takes note that the population on Earth is starting to develop sufficient technology that they may actually be of help to him. At the very least, they can provide him with a workforce to dig into the crust of the planet. So he builds a small spacecraft that gets him to Earth. The ship only functions so well and crashes. But a small group of humans assist Friday in rebuilding it and he takes them back to Mars to help him unearth the rest of the Hive.


A CONTINUITY PROBLEM PRESENTS ITSELF

From this point, the events of Empress of Mars ensue. We all squeal with delight as Ysanne Churchman returns to voice the Alpha Centauran that contacts the Martians near the end of the story. Is this the same Alpha Centauri that we will see in the Peladon stories? We can't say for sure. The species may have a crazy-long lifespan.

Whatever the case, it would appear as though the Martian Golden Age is about to begin. The Ice Warriors will finally be able to leave Mars and explore the galaxy. The moment they make contact with Alpha Centauri will lead to the Martians we see several thousand years later in Curse and Monster of Peladon.

The Ice Warriors' problems with space travel will, more than likely, be solved by the generosity of the Alpha Centaurans. They will help them to build a fleet that will get them off Mars. This links in nicely with Cold War, too. A ship from that fleet just happens to be nearby a century later and will receive Skaldak's message from Earth and come rescue him. All the continuity ducks seem to be lining up nicely in a row.

Except for one problem: if the Ice Warriors are being helped off Mars by the Alpha Centaurans, why do they attempt to invade the Earth in Seeds of Death? It's explicitly stated that they are attacking from Mars. Almost two centuries earlier, a mass evacuation seems about to take place at the end of Empress of Mars. So why would the Ice Warriors suddenly be attacking from Mars again?


A CONTINUITY SOLUTION PRESENTS ITSELF

To fix this, we need to go back to my theory on the two Ice Warrior factions: the Honorable and Less Honorable. These two groups have hated each other forever and have probably even fought quite a few times over the years. I'm going to even pre-suppose that the Honorable schism is considerably larger than the Less Honorable. The Less Honorable has only stayed intact because they always fight dirty. The Honorable survive the underhanded tactics employed against them because they are substantially larger in number and can sustain high casualties.

It would stand to reason that these two factions would set up separate Hives from each other. The Ice Queen's behavior would seem to indicate that she is in charge of the Honorable Martians. So it is an Honorable Hive that is re-awakened in Empress Of Mars. Chances are there are a few other Honorable Hives strewn about on the planet. And then, elsewhere, we can find some Less Honorable Hives.

As mass evacuation ensues, the Honorable Faction decide not to revive their rivals (no doubt, all the hibernation chambers had problems and everyone overslept). As dishonorable as such an action may seem, they decided to just let the Less Honorable Faction fend for itself.They will wake up when they wake up (if they wake up at all) and handle their problem of still being stuck on Mars in whatever way they chose to.

The Less Honorable Ice Warriors do revive several years later and are shocked to find that their enemy is gone. They have Mars to themselves' - for what it's worth. They do develop a fleet of their own but it's only good for short-range travel. They need to colonize a nearby planet soon. Mars is dying.

So they direct their attention to Earth. It will be a very suitable planet for them to take over. They just need to wipe out the humans that are infesting it. A scheme is hatched by Lord Slaar involving biological warfare.

From here, Seeds of Death can proceed with no problem.

You're welcome.



Okay then, the Appendix is becoming almost as long as the original essay - so I'll wrap things up. No doubt, how Empress of Mars fits into my own timeline has been eating away at you, too. Right? That's why I delivered this essay as quickly as I could. You can sleep, now. 








Friday, 26 May 2017

FIXING CONTINUITY GLITCHES - QUICK FIXES 4: SERIES 8 SPECIAL

In an effort to brace myself for the departure of Doctor Twelve, I cracked open the DVDs I have from his era. I even purposely re-watched Time of the Doctor just to observe his first few seconds of life at the end of the story. 

At the time of writing this, I just wrapped up Series 8. I couldn't help but notice a couple of plotholes that end up presenting themselves' over the course of the twelve episodes. I thought I'd take a shot at trying to explain some of them. 



WHAT HAPPENED TO ORSON?

This is probably the biggest one of the season. Listen is all about travelling up and down the timeline of Danny Pink to discover things about his past and future. As we get to the latter part of the episode, it's heavily implied that Danny and Clara will get together and have kids. Those kids will, in turn, have kids of their own. After a few more generations, one of those descendants will be Orson Pink -an astronaut in a time travel experiment that the Doctor and Clara will rescue when he's caught in the far-flung future.

All this is quite pretty until we get to the end of Series 8 and discover that Danny Pink dies. A season later, Clara also passes on (sort of). So how can they have descendants when both are dead without actually procreating before they went?

The simplest answer would be that this is another branch of the Pink family. That Danny and Clara never have kids but some other people with the last name Pink, do. This theory only holds together so well, though. Orson definitely looks to be related to Danny but Danny grew up an orphan. There seemed no indication that he had siblings or any sort of immediate family that he knew about. The heirloom that Orson has kept shoots down the idea even more. Why would he have it unless he was directly descended from Danny Pink?

Another theory might be that we have not seen the full story of Clara and Danny. Clara has been extracted from just before her death and is now travelling around with Me in a stolen TARDIS. Perhaps she finds some way to finally get Danny back and they have a family. Again, the idea only works so well. It is difficult to believe that a woman who no longer has a pulse would still be capable of becoming pregnant.

The most likely explanation is that Orson Pink is now an aborted timeline. The Doctor did say he'd shut off the TARDIS' safeguards. Perhaps this enabled the ship to explore possible futures rather than true ones. Particularly since she was being steered through the telepathic circuits. When Clara plugged herself into the console, she was going to marry Danny and have kids. So the TARDIS followed that eventuality. But as her and Danny's timelines actually progressed, things took a more tragic turn. There would be no Orson Pink, after all. Another astronaut would be recruited for the mission because the Pink family line was cut off when Danny died.

So the future Clara saw during Listen only existed during that particular moment. The TARDIS doesn't usually travel through time in such a manner. But with safeguards off and telepathic circuits in control, these things can happen.


ANNABEL? WHAT?!

I will be the first to admit, In the Forest of the Night is far from being one of my favorite Doctor Who stories. Most of fandom seems to agree with the sentiment. One of its biggest problems, of course, is the sudden re-appearance of Maebh's sister, Annabel, at the end of the episode. Annabel had gone missing but is, suddenly, returned to Maebh and her mother. Apparently, she'd been hiding behind some bushes the whole time!

How does this happen?

Much of In the Forest of the Night is highly subjective and not a lot of clear answers are given about anything. The bit with Annabel, however, is a bit too unexplained. So let's see if we can come up with something.

The story seems to imply that there has been an ancient race or energy or intelligence that has existed on the Earth since the dawn of its creation. This race protects the Earth from certain natural disasters from time-to-time. In the case of extreme solar flares, it can cause trees to rapidly grow and use the oxygen those trees produce to deflect the harmful rays of the sun. My guess is that the race can control energy to such an extent that they can use it to re-form matter. Hence, their ability to produce and remove forests at a moment's notice.

Since Maebh helped out significantly during the whole crisis, the ancient race decides to reward her. They see that her greatest desire is to get her sister back. So they re-create Annabel. The original was probably abducted and met some kind of untimely end. The body was never found. But the copy is probably instilled with the memories Annabel had up to the moment where she was taken. She re-joins her family and they pick up where they left off.

And everyone lives happily ever after....


WHAT CAME FIRST? THE GIANT SPACE CHICKEN OR THE MOON EGG?

This one seemed to almost outrage fans. They seemed convinced in Kill the Moon that it was an impossibility of physics and/or biology that a giant alien can suddenly leave behind a new egg in its place immediately after it has just hatched from its own egg.

I'm not entirely sure why this is so upsetting as it doesn't seem particularly impossible to me. This is an alien we're talking about so its life-cycle can be very different from ours. I do see the explanation given in the episode as a bit of an over-simplification. I've come up with something a bit more specific. My science might still be just as wonky - so I apologize in advance if it still offends you.

I'd like to think that, as the creature was nearing its hatching, a sort of mitosis occurred. A second much younger creature was formed from it and started gestating in the egg with it. When it was time for the older space-chicken to finally emerge into the Universe, it broke through its shell but then quickly re-wove it around the younger embryo so it could continue to gestate (Erato was seen to do something similar in Creature from the Pit to create a spaceship for himself).

Of course, as this younger embryo in the re-sealed egg nears maturity, it will go through a similar process. The mitosis will happen inside the egg again and the mature creature will hastily re-assemble the shell after it hatches to keep the younger embryo alive. This just how the species survives in this particular alien race.

That's how I see it, at least. It seems slightly more plausible, this way.


That's my take on some of the bigger problems of Series 8. It would like to emphasize that, even with the plotholes, I think the season is particularly brilliant. I've been very happy with the Twelfth Doctor era and I will be very upset to see him go. I'm also quite sad that Moff is leaving, too. Chris Chibnall has some big shoes to fill...



Enjoying "Quick Fixes"? Here's another one: The original, you might say!
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2015/08/fixing-continuity-glitches-quick-fixes.html

Friday, 19 May 2017

ANALYTICAL: MISSIONS FOR THE TIME LORDS

At the time of writing this, the Doctor undertaking missions for his people is strictly a Classic Series Thing. It could be entirely possible that we will see this phenomenon taking place at some point in the New Series - but it hasn't happened, yet. It doesn't help that, during most of the New Who Era, the Time Lords were believed to be extinct. It's hard to receive missions from a civilization that you think has been destroyed! But now that they seem to have returned to our Universe - the Time Lords may start dispatching him again. In fact, it's entirely possible that whatever is in that mysterious Vault might have something to do with a favor that Gallifrey needs him to do. We'll find out soon enough, of course. But, at this point, when we speak of Time Lord Missions - it will relate to stories strictly from the Classic Series. 


PROTOCOLS AND MOTIVES

With the exception of a few flashback sequences, the whole of the Doctor Who series concerns adventures that have transpired since the Doctor left his home planet and became a renegade. For the first six seasons, he appears to be flying completely under the radar of his people. When they do finally catch up with him - the Doctor is given his freedom at a price. Even during his exile on Earth, he is allowed some travelling privileges if he's willing to accomplish certain tasks on their behalf. After his full mobility is restored in The Three Doctors, the High Council (or, perhaps, the CIA - it's difficult to ascertain) continue to give the Doctor missions. A bargain seems to have been struck after the First Omega Crisis where he is allowed to break one of the greatest laws of his people but only if they can use him from time to time for their own purposes. We see him accomplish a few missions for the Time Lords during his Fourth Incarnation and one more time during his Sixth.

From the viewpoint of the audience, these missions for the Time Lords appear to start for the Third Doctor and carry through to the Sixth. The Fifth Doctor never seems to have to do any jobs for them and the work seems to finally completely peter out during his seventh incarnation. But, if we look a bit deeper, we see that this special arrangement between the Doctor and his people extends much further than first realized.

Another important point that I will try to raise is that these missions all seem to have a certain pattern to them. The Time Lords go about recruiting the Doctor in a certain manner and only engage him for very specific reasons. Essentially, his missions all have a certain set of protocols and motives within them. We'll break all of this down into very specific categories as the pretentious essay progresses. But first, let us define what a mission for the Time Lords actually is:


DEFINITION:

As usual, one of the best ways to define my point is to state what it isn't (if that makes any sense!). There are any number of occasions where the Doctor interacts with Time Lords and even goes about trying to accomplish something with them - but this does not constitute a specific mission given to him. In Deadly Assassin, for instance, the Doctor decides he must discover who the true killer of the former Lord President is. But it is a mission he chooses to undertake rather than one that is handed to him. That scene in Terror of the Autons where a Time Lord meets with him briefly on the radio tower to tell him that the Master is at work on Earth, very much, feels like he's being assigned a mission. But, technically, he's just receiving a warning. There's a difference.

To be more specific: a mission from the Time Lords is when the Doctor goes out on an adventure that his people want him to have. Certain things will be accomplished in that adventure that will advance an agenda of some sort for the inhabitants of Gallifrey. Oftentimes, (but not always) the Doctor is actually being told that he's on a mission. That he's doing some sort of handiwork for them.

As he points out in The Two Doctors, using a renegade to accomplish such tasks allows the Time Lords to maintain their stance of non-intervention. If the Doctor's true identity is ever discovered, his people will deny that they even sent him. Officially, he's there quite unofficially.


THE FIRST MISSION: ODD MAN OUT

Okay, now that we have the definition in place - let's get into some serious analysis. As I have already stated, these missions seem to follow a very specific set of patterns. The one exception to this pattern is the very first mission that he undertakes.

To all intents and purposes, the very first mission the Doctor is given seems to take place in Colony In Space. It is only in later stories that we learn there were other adventures where the Doctor was working on the Time Lords' behalf. We need to take a bit more of a retro-active stance to truly identify his first mission.

Strictly as the chronometer flies, the Doctor's first true mission for the Time Lords takes place way back in his first incarnation. At the behest of the Lord President, the First Doctor is brought forward in his own timeline to help his second and third incarnation deal with a Black Hole that is draining all power on Gallifrey. It's safe to say, then, that the next time the Doctor is sent on a mission for the Time Lords would be in his second incarnation. I would guess that it would happen sometime before the conclusion of Season 6. Again, the recruitment process is done in the same way. He's plucked from the proper place in his timestream and brought forward to assist his third incarnation.

When both incarnations are brought back to their proper location in time and space, it is most likely that they forget the whole incident. It may be that the Time Lords erased their memory or it may be because this just naturally happens when too many versions of the same person start meeting up (as is mentioned in Day of the Doctor). Whatever the case, the Doctor's first true mission for the Time Lords will only be remembered after it has happened to the Third Doctor.

It is interesting to note that the High Council explain to the Master during The Five Doctors that they could not find the Doctor in any of his incarnations. It seems likely that the whole trouble with the Death Zone was going to be another mission for the Doctor. That, because power on Gallifrey was being drained again, they might have been observing similar protocols to the ones they had used during the First Omega Crisis. They may have been considering using multiple incarnations of the Doctor to solve the problem, again. Otherwise, why would they look into locating all of the different versions of him? Silly postulation, of course. But still entirely possible.

For more silly postulation about memory issues during The Three Doctors, check out this entry:
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2015/06/fixing-continuity-glitches-double.html



AFTER THE THREE DOCTORS

So, if we keep things linear in a weird retro-active manner, the next mission the Doctor goes on that we are able to see is in The Two Doctors. Most fans see this adventure as taking place in what is commonly referred to as Season 6b. This is believed to be a series of adventures that were, hitherto, unseen by the audience until Season 20. The basic premise is that the Second Doctor was snatched away from his trial during The War Games just before he could regenerate. He was secretly granted his freedom to travel in his TARDIS - provided he would occasionally perform secret missions for his people. It's a theory fandom came up with so that certain continuity glitches that occur in The Two and Five Doctors will make sense. I know it's a bit weird to have to look at continuity in such a weird wibbly wobbly manner - but it's something that the show does from time-to-time. Just look at what happened during the 50th Anniversary when we were asked to accept a whole new incarnation that we never knew existed! Doctor Who just likes to re-write it's own history now and again.

For all the confusion it creates, The Two Doctors does follow the patterns that all other Time Lord missions move along. So, from this point onwards, anytime the Time Lords enlist the Doctor's aid - we will see a certain level of consistency to how things operate.

Just so we're clear, here are all the stories that fit into this pattern:

The Two Doctors
Colony In Space
Curse of Peladon
The Mutants
Genesis of the Daleks
Brain of Morbius
Attack of the Cybermen


PROTOCOLS:

The first pattern we'll point out is how the Doctor is actually recruited to perform these missions. Aside from the weird way in which he is plucked out of his timestream in The Three Doctors, the Time Lords always seem to respect Gallifreyan Mean Time. They approach the Doctor in the most current position of his timeline and enlist his aid. The actual recruitment, however, occurs in one of two distinct manners:

Overt:

We see this approach in The Two Doctors, Genesis of the Daleks and, to a large extent, The Mutants. The Time Lords make it very clear to the Doctor that the next adventure he is about to have is on their behalf. The best example of this is in Genesis of the Daleks - where a Time Lord briefly appears to the Doctor to explain to him that they want him to interfere with the early development of his greatest foe. The Doctor is under no illusion that this is not some random landing that he's having - the Time Lords are revealing to him that they have guided him to this point and they specifically want him to accomplish something for them. It's made even more clear that the Doctor is on a mission in Genesis because he doesn't even get to take his TARDIS there. The transmat beam he was travelling along was intercepted and he's brought to Skaro. It could not be made any clearer that he's working for his people in this story.

In the other two stories I've listed, the recruitment process is still overt. The Doctor still knows he's doing a job for the Time Lords. But it's not quite as clearly implied. At the beginning of The Two Doctors, we assume he's just had a similar confrontation to the one we saw in Genesis of the Daleks - it just didn't happen onscreen. But from the dialogue he has with Jamie, we can see that he knows he's undertaking a mission. So we assume a Time Lord communicated directly with him in some sort of manner to tell him what he had to do.

In The Mutants, a pod appears to the Doctor from out of nowhere. The Doctor immediately recognizes its purpose and knows he's about to embark on another mission for the Time Lords. This is why I consider this another Overt dispatch. He's been made clearly aware of the purpose of his next journey. The fact that he knows what the pod represents indicates to me that he has dealt with them before. Perhaps he's been assigned these pods during an unseen adventure or two in Season 6b. 

Covert

This is the most frequently-used method for assigning the Doctor his missions. Right in the first few minutes of Colony In Space, we see a group of Time Lords discussing the need to employ the Doctor to stop the Master on Uxarieus. But they suspect the Doctor is too bitter from his exile and is unlikely to cooperate if they approach him directly about it. They just choose to manipulate the situation so the Doctor believes he's arriving at his next destination by his own free will. In some cases, like Curse of Peladon or Attack of the Cybermen, the Doctor works out the truth as the adventure proceeds.

During Brain of Morbius, he immediately suspects his people are interfering with his travels. He does, later, admit to Maren that he's not entirely sure that it wasn't just a technical fault that landed him on Karn. But, from other clues that we see, this probably was a mission from the Time Lords.

Although it's never stated onscreen, we do guess that the Doctor works out that Colony In Space was a Time Lord mission. When he sees that his TARDIS no longer works once the Master has been thwarted, he probably puts Two and Two together. Which is probably what helps him make the educated guess that he leaps to at the end Curse of Peladon. He now recognizes the pattern of Covert Recruitment since he's seen it done to him once before. This may also be why his next few missions are Overt. The Time Lords realize he won't fall for their tricks, anymore.



MOTIVES:

The reasons why the Time Lords decide to use the Doctor to break The Laws of Non-Intervention also follow some pretty distinct patterns. Once more, The Three Doctors is the one exception to the rule. The Black Hole that Omega is using seems to be a threat that really only affects Gallifrey (Omega does start talking about destroying the Universe in later episodes but the Time Lords aren't, necessarily aware of this). Aside from this one story, the Time Lords always enlist the Doctor's help for one of three reasons:

Massive Threat To The Universe

In terms of the Doctor's personal timeline, this one was displayed for the first time in The Two Doctors. The Doctor is sent to Dastari to discuss the suspension of the Kartz and Reimer time experiments. The Time Lords are sure that this particular branch of time travel technology will punch a very dangerous hole in the Universe and, quite possibly, snuff it out of existence.

In terms of how we've been watching the show, the first time we see this motive being employed is in Genesis of the Daleks. The Time Lords foresee a time when the Daleks will succeed in controlling the entire Universe. So they send the Doctor to the Dawn of their Creation to alter this timeline.

Finally, the damage the Cybermen would do to the timelines by preventing the destruction of Mondas in Attack of the Cybermen would be catastrophic. He is covertly maneuvered into preventing the catastrophe


Cleaning Up Their Messes

This problem occurs a few times with the Time Lords. While the Doctor chose to leave Gallifrey for benevolent reasons, other defectors didn't have the noblest of intentions. Sometimes, these evil renegades develop a plan so nasty that the Doctor's course must be specifically diverted to deal with them.

Colony In Space is the first time we see this. The Master has stolen some secret information that the Time Lords were safeguarding about a Doomsday Weapon on the planet Uxareius. Should he actually get his hands on the weapon, it could prove devastating for all civilizations in the Universe. So they temporarily free the Doctor from his Exile to deal with it.

The other time we see this motive is in Brain of Morbius. Certain that the former Lord President has survived his execution on Karn, the Time Lords re-direct the Doctor's TARDIS to take him there and deal with it.

Intergalactic Politics

This one is, perhaps, the most mysterious of all the motives. Every now and again, the Time Lords seem to see certain political moves that need to be made to keep the Universe the way they want it to be. We have no idea, exactly, why these things must happen the way they do. We just know that it's important to the Time Lords that they occur.

For whatever reason, the Time Lords deemed it necessary for the planet Peladon to join the Intergalactic Federation (Curse of Peladon). Just as they needed the Solonians to truly break free of the exploitation of the Earth Empire (The Mutants). We can hypothesize all we want for why these changes needed to be instituted, but we'll never know for sure.


OTHER MISSIONS?

Of course, these are the stories where it was made clear to us that the Doctor was being dispatched by his people to handle certain problems. But we know that the Time Lords can be very covert in the way they manipulate his travels.

Ever noticed how it seems almost too coincidental that the Doctor shows up at certain places and certain times to right certain wrongs? Could it be that there have been other missions that he has been sent on where the Time Lords were manipulating him so deftly that even he couldn't tell?

They might just be the only race in the Universe who could outwit him to the point where they could use him without him knowing. And they understand better than most how moral of a creature he is. They don't need to tell him to interfere and influence things for the better. They just need to plop him down in the proper environment and he'll initiate the necessary changes without any prompting. Perhaps my definition can be broadened. Perhaps the Doctor has been on far more missions for his people than any of us can know.

Points to ponder...