Category Archives: Doctor Who

Clara Oswin Oswald

I’ve been pretty critical of Clara Oswin Oswald of late, and I figured it was high time to try and articulate my issues with the character. First, as one of my readers very astutely pointed out, often one’s reaction to a new Doctor Who companion is predicated on how one feels about their immediate predecessor. In my case, it’s quite obvious that I thoroughly enjoyed the Doctor’s previous companions, Amy and Rory. That said, I have tried to give Clara the benefit of the doubt, but I find that as the episodes progress, this is harder to do.

First, I should say that I adore Jenna Louise-Coleman’s characterization of Clara in all of her incarnations. She is charming, quirky and plucky, which are all the necessary ingredients for a good companion. I love her personality, but I am having difficulty with her storyline.

The first problem is how the character was introduced. We have been effectively given three introductions to Clara; first as Oswin, then as Victorian Clara, and finally as the modern Clara. Of the three introduction stories, the first was the strongest, while the last was undoubtedly the weakest. This is not only in terms of the actual episodes, but of the characterization of Clara. When first introduced, Oswin is by her own words, a “screaming genius and a tad bit sexy”, and the way she goes about her day while marooned on the Dalek prison planet makes you want to root for her from the beginning. Victorian Clara’s investigative skills are at the forefront in her episode, and the scene where she follows the Doctor up the ladder to the TARDIS was nothing short of enchanting.

Unfortunately, Modern Clara is not featured in the best light when the Doctor finally finds her. She is initially confused by a simple thing like the internet, and she is placed in a reactionary role. Rather than initiating the adventure, she reacts to a situation that is thrown upon her. She displays none of Oswin’s cleverness until her mind is enhanced by the Great Intelligence, and takes none of the initiative that Victorian Clara displays. This version of Clara is a character who is thus far someone whom things happen to, rather than someone who gets things done.

This is a major difference from most of the modern-era companions. In her debut, Rose is the character who rescues the situation by saving the Doctor from the Autons. Jack proves himself as a man of action from the beginning, and even Martha saves the Doctor from asphyxiating in her first adventure. Amy’s courage is proven both in her scenes as a young girl and an adult, and she also resolves the situation in her second adventure, “The Beast Below”. Mickey, Donna and Rory all start out as reactionary characters who, like Clara, appear to be simply reacting to the adventures around them, but each eventually proves their worth through individual heroics. The current version of Clara has yet to take the kind of heroic action that made us understand why the Doctor chose his companions. Every one of her predecessors proved that they could be a hero in their own right, but Clara has yet to show her mettle in a convincing fashion.

The interesting thing is that her previous incarnations both demonstrated the kind of characteristics that one would expect from a companion. Oswin’s bravery is self-evident, and she saves the Doctor by deleting his identity from the Dalek mainframe. Victorian Clara passes the tests that Madame Vastra and the Doctor have set up, and shows her determination by following the reclusive Time Lord even after he tries to shake her. While it can be argued that all three versions are supposed to be the same character, this particular version of Clara has yet to earn her stripes. Her back story has none of the frustrated longing of Rose, Donna and Amy, nor does she appear to be growing in the manner of Mickey or Rory. She is, thus far, a passenger and an observer, and even when she has helped, it has mostly been a follow-on to what the Doctor has already done. Her sacrifice of the leaf in “The Rings of Akhaten” simply puts the last nail in the coffin; she does not think of a solution, but is simply following the Doctor’s lead. Ditto her assistance in “Cold War”. Her reliance upon the Doctor in her initial confrontation with the Ice Warrior smacks of dependency, and her final words at the climax are again merely a follow-up to what the Doctor has already done.

Personally, it will be very difficult for me to like Clara, despite her charming personality, until she earns her stripes. Until she demonstrates some independent characteristics, challenges the Doctor or even outright disagrees with him, she will come off as weaker than her predecessors. Hopefully her time will come, but until it does, she will not have proven that she deserves to be in the category of “those magnificent companions”.

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Geeksquirrel’s Nutty Review: The Angels Take Manhattan

We all knew this was coming. More than that, given what we knew about the Angels, we all kind of suspected how it would end. But like so many things in life, how you get there is really what’s important. For once, the departure of companions was touching, suspenseful and integral to the story itself. This episode was one of the best written of the series, and given the fact that we’re talking about fifty years of writing here, that’s quite an amazing feat.

It’s been common knowledge that Amy and Rory’s departure would take place in a story involving the Weeping Angels. These time displacing beings are some of the scariest monsters conceived for Doctor Who, but given their ability to shift people backwards in time, it didn’t take much to figure out what the final fate of the Doctor’s beloved companions would be. But what makes this episode special is the getting there. Both Arthur Darvil and Karen Gillan turn in tour-de-force performances. Darvil is especially effective as the brave but still very human Rory, while Gillan touches on every part of her character’s existence…from wife, to mother, to best friend. Matt Smith conveys the gut-wrenching anguish of the Doctor with incredible gravitas. Of all of the characters, Alex Kingston’s River Song is probably the weakest, but even that is still a fantastic performance. River brings context and comfort to the Doctor, reminding him of his need to move on, even as she hints at the pain of being his wife often inflicts upon her.

The script contains some of the best dialogue in the series, giving all of the actors something worthwhile to use for their performances. Even the camera direction is brilliant in places, with the actors staged in ways that lend even more emotion to their scenes. Of all the departures we’ve seen in this show, the farewell of the Ponds is perhaps the best episode in every category.

The Angels Take Manhattan gets Five Acorns out of Five!


Geeksquirrel’s Nutty Review: Doctor Who: A Town Called Mercy.

It’s kind of sad when the best thing you can say about an episode is that at least it’s better than the last time they were in the Old West.  Granted, it would not have taken much for that to happen, but the disappointment of “A Town Called Mercy” lies in its valiant but failed attempt at being something more than an average episode.  The show tries to create an interesting moral dilemma to show that the Doctor has once again grown rough around the edges in the absence of his companions, but in the end, an all-too-neat and almost consequence-free ending serves to undermine what might have been a great episode.

Team TARDIS finds themselves in the Old West, faced with a town blockaded by what appears to be a cyborg bounty hunter.  The hunter is searching for an alien doctor, no, not our Doctor for a change, but Kahler Jex, a man responsible for creating the cyborgs via a series of hideous experiments.  Jex is hiding out in the town, having crashed there and offered his more benign services to the primitive townsfolk.  Upon finding out about Jex’s past, the Doctor angrily throws him outside the town’s boundary to be killed by the cyborg.  The town marshal intervenes and is fatally wounded, passing his badge and the responsibility to keep Jex alive to the Doctor.

The Doctor is thus confronted with the moral dilemma of protecting a man he despises; a man who has done horrible things, but also a person who according to the marshal remains a good man at heart.  Along the way we get some interesting pieces of dialogue, from the inevitable comparison to the Doctor’s role in the Time War, to an eminently quotable last sentence from the Marshal (played brilliantly by an underused Ben Browder).

The failure in this story lies in the resolution, which is in the end taken out of the Doctor’s hands.  Jex elects to commit suicide rather than face his attacker, deciding that the cyborg should not carry the weight of even one more death on his hands.  Jex is played by Adrian Scarborough, who attempts to balance the unrepentant war criminal with the one who seeks redemption.  Scarborough gives a memorable performance, but in the end his character leans a bit too close to the light, becoming a man who is indeed worthy of redemption in the end.  The fact that Jex makes the decision for the Doctor undermines all of the questions raised in the story, for in doing so, he absolves the Doctor of any guilt.  The story would have been much more poignant if the Doctor had been forced to make a decision and live with it.

This episode does raise some interesting questions about the Doctor and his dual roles as hero and destroyer of worlds.  There are also some wonderful homage’s to the classic Western, including the oft-repeated gag of the undertaker measuring a man for his coffin.  In the end, however, the story fails to achieve the kind of heights that other morally ambiguous episodes have reached.  Had the creative team decided to push the questions even further and take more risks with the story, then the episode might have found a place among the very best Doctor Who episodes.  Choosing to play it safe, however, leaves us with an episode that feels unfulfilled.
“A Town Called Mercy” gets a (marginal) Three Acorns Out of Five!

 


Geeksquirrel’s Nutty Review: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

With a title like that, did anyone really expect much more than what we got?  This was a terribly fun episode filled with cool moments but lacking in substance and occasionally logic.  The Doctor is still traveling on his own, but still drops in to scoop up the Ponds for an adventure.  This time, however, the Doctor has brought in a gang of assistants in the form of Amy, Rory, a big game hunter named Riddell, Queen Nefertiti of Egypt and last but not least, Rory’s dad, Arthur Weasley. 

Several well known guest stars appear in this episode.  In addition to Mark Williams as Rory’s Dad, we get David Bradley; yet another Harry Potter alumnus who plays a cold and calculating villain named Soloman.  We also get Rupert Graves, aka Inspector LeStrade of “Sherlock” fame, as Riddell the hunter.  There’s also a bunch of dinosaurs.

The story itself is pretty silly and merely an excuse for some occasionally funny character moments.  Both Amy and Rory get to do cool stuff, with Riddell and “Neffi” not always succeeding to make an impression among the crowded cast.  Rory’s dad fares the best among them, although even his moments come across as rushed amid the chaotic action.  The trouble with so many good actors vying for attention is that not everyone gets to shine, and character moments between Rory and his dad are sacrificed in favor of dinosaur/robot chase sequences.  Still, the senior Mr. Williams does a good job of expressing both the wonder and confusion of his son’s travel habits, and the end of the episode features a lovely quiet scene where involving watching the Earth while enjoying a sandwich and a cuppa.

One interesting development in the episode is the Doctor’s dispatching of the villain.  Soloman is a greedy mass murdering, kidnapping thief who deserves his punishment, but it has been a very long time since the Doctor has been this ruthless, and one can’t help but wonder how that bodes for the future.

“Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” gets Three Acorns out of Five!


Geek Squirrel’s Nutty Review: Asylum of the Daleks

After a very long absence, the time-traveling Time Lord has returned to our homes like that quirky, weird house guest who sometimes makes your life complicated, but never, ever boring.  Last week we were treated to a series of shorts featuring the Doctor’s companions, who, much like the fans, have tried to establish a normal existence in the absence of the Doctor.  And again, like the fans, Amy and Rory’s Doctor-lite existence is punctuated by a few sudden appearances that serve to both stun and confuse them.  It’s much like getting all those sudden news flashes over the past year….you know, the announcement of the new companion, Matt Smith carrying the torch, the Doctor Who tribute that never materialized during the Olympics, the sneaky TARDIS sound during the opening ceremonies…all of those little appearances that just made you want to crave more.

Sadly, Pond Life is not all sunshine and crickets.  Despite the brief addition of their very own Ood (designation Ood Alfred), Amy and Rory appear to be on the outs, and by the last mini-episode they have apparently split up.  The Doctor, returning home like a child back from summer vacation, begins to suspect that all is not well with mummy and daddy-in-law.  Such is the state of affairs when the curtain rises on the Asylum.

There’s brief prequel where the Doctor receives a message from what appears to be a Headless Monk.  The monk communicates in a dream, forcing the Doctor to accept a mission to Skaro, the ancient home of the Daleks. It is there that he encounters a distraught woman who attempts to convince him to rescue her daughter from a Dalek prison camp.  Well surprise, apparently the Daleks have taken a page out of the cyberman/borg playbook, and have started to convert human beings into their mindless agents.  Two more Dalekborgs kidnap Amy and Rory on the same day they finalize their divorce, and just like that, we are swept into the Parliament of the Daleks.

It seems the Doctor’s oldest enemies have a bit of a problem.  Their storage planet of defective models has been breached by a starliner, and since even Daleks won’t fight crazy, they have collected their most deadly adversary and intend to shoot him at the planet so he can turn off the force field that surrounds it, so the Daleks can blast it Death Star style and end their problem.

But wait, there’s more…it seems the sole survivor is a plucky young lass named Oswin, played by *SURPRISE* Jenna Louise Coleman.  Remember that new companion they announced?  Remember that?  Well be prepared to have your mind blown people, because the Grand Moffat has it targeted with a laser set to OMG!!!!

The remainder of the story is filled with action, suspense, and Daleks of every make and model.  Each of the main cast members gets to shine, especially Rory Williams, who survives on his own for several minutes and even gets a bit of flirt action from his eventual successor.  For her part, Oswin displays a confident charm and intelligence that makes you want to root for her from the get-go.

Regrettably, the biggest problem of the episode lies in the circumstances of Amy and Rory’s divorce.  The split between the two is the most traumatic event in the lead-up to the new series, but it is patched up in a few minutes thanks to yet another clever psychological trick by the Doctor.  Amy’s reasons for dumping Rory are based on her experiences at Demon’s Run, which were not only a violation of her body but have also resulted in sterility.  Her inability to have another child, and most likely her feelings of unworthiness, were the reasons for the split.  These are huge problems, and yet they are resolved within a few minutes, completely defusing what could otherwise have been a source of tension throughout the remainder of the series.  In the real world, marital problems are not so easily solved, and having the Doctor come in and fix everything is akin to wish fulfillment.  One could imagine a child of a broken marriage hoping that the Doctor would come and fix his parents, but the real world is never that easy.

Be that as it may, the first episode has definitely accomplished a great deal.  It has, for the first time in a long while, made the Daleks scary again, if only for this one instance.  The idea of faulty, deranged Daleks running around in tunnels, accompanied by human husks that have been turned into their servants, makes for some scary moments.   In the end, however, the human/Dalek hybrids are no more than a different form of cyberman or borg, with the same underlying fear.  The only difference is that rather than being turned into a mindless automaton, their victims retain a level of cold, emotionless personality, unable to remember the things the loved the most.    The biggest and best surprise is Jenna Louise Coleman, who not only manages to prove herself as a worthy successor to Amy and Rory, but whose introduction has given fans a bigger mystery to solve than the identity of River Song.

“Asylum of the Daleks” gets 4 acorns out of 5!


In Which Rory Continues to be Awesome.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xkQkPo7KRU

So there’s the trailer for the last half season of Doctor Who as it premiered at Comic Con.  Lots of  WTF moments there…the Doctor in his tux, Amy Pond going all Samurai on what looks like Marvin the Paranoid Android from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  Then there’s River Song with an eye patch looking very much like Madam Kovarian.  Some monsters, cybermen, a big ugly minotaur kind of thing, some quality time between the Doctor and Craig Owens and then…and then…

Rory.  Punches.  Hitler.

Click on the .gif for more Rory Punch Out Action!

Perhaps it’s appropriate that Captain America is also out this weekend.  Sure, Captain America did punch out Hitler in a 1940’s comic cover:

Thud

And here’s one of Superman:

GUUUURKK!

….and Daredevil…..

POW!!!!

…and a freakin’ ninja turtle

CHOK!!!!

….and uh….yeah…..

<insert gay porn soundtrack here. Or My Sharona>

The thing is a lot of people have been depicted punching out the worst evil of the 20th century, but you know what?  Rory Williams is just some bloke from Leadworth.  Sure he’s defied death, been plastic and been resurrected more times than bell bottoms, but at his core he’s just an average guy.  I mean, he wasn’t even wearing his Lone Centurion outfit!  No costume, no superpowers, not even a shoe and a BDSM fetish.

Just a punch in a face from your average bloke to the guy who most deserves it.  Awesomeness.


What it Feels Like to Start a Meme

Note: This blog contains spoilers concerning the recent season of Doctor Who…go watch it on your DVR then come back. Trust me it will be funnier that way.

It’s odd how sometimes you succeed without really intending to.  I’ve been kicking around the internet as long as almost anyone and I’ve always wondered how these things get started.  You know, the Dancing Hamsters, the LOLcats, the crasher squirrel….all of those innocent gags that snowball into trends that are followed by thousands of people.  Well it seems that my time has come…

Doctor Who fans are very familiar with the character of Rory Williams:

…an unassuming and slightly geeky fellow who worked as a nurse in the peaceful town of Leadworth in the UK.  Rory dated a quirky sparkplug of a girl named Amy Pond, who as a child had an imaginary friend called the Raggedy Doctor.  Having been smitten with Amy from a young age, Rory would join her make-believe games involving the Raggedy Doctor and his time-traveling blue box, even dressing as her imaginary friend to entertain her.  Ah, the things we do for love.

Of course it turns out that Amy’s imaginary friend isn’t imaginary at all, but rather the latest incarnation of the Doctor, the last of the Time Lords, the Oncoming Storm, protector of the Earth, etc.  The Doctor takes Amy on as his latest traveling companion, and eventually Rory gets pulled into the action. While not as comfortable as his girlfriend is with the whole space/time-travel/alien monster fighting thing, Rory eventually grows into his role, and goes from a somewhat cowardly and insecure fellow into, well…a total badass.

Rory’s badassness credits include: getting killed and revived almost as many times as the Doctor (but without the benefit of that nifty regeneration trick), being erased from history but still managing to come back in the form of an artificial duplicate living as a Roman Centurion (yeah it’s Doctor Who, dude, stuff like that happens), killing a cyberman with a gladius, shooting a Dalek in the face (well, the eyestock), and guarding the box that Amy was imprisoned in for two thousand years.  Ah, the things we do for love.

Rory hits the heights of badassery when his new wife Amy and their daughter are kidnapped.  He confronts a group of cybermen who are withholding information abut his family’s whereabouts (again dressed in a Centurion outfit) and (with help from the Doctor) he blows up their whole fleet to make a point.

Cool Guys Don't Look At Explosions

Did I mention he also fathered a part Time Lord child with his wife while she was dressed up as a policewoman, while they were traveling through the Time Vortex in a time machine that refers to him as “the pretty one”….in a bunk bed? (Dude, it’s Doctor Who, try to keep up!)

All of which of course led my geeksquirrely mind to conclude that Rory Williams is in fact the Next Chuck Norris.

While I know this has been done before with other characters (Jack Bauer and Neville Longbottom for example), I felt I had enough material to do a few jokes along this line, so I went to the Internet Movie Database message board for Doctor Who and threw a few of them out there.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0436992/board/thread/183802399?p=1

As you can see by the number of posts I was not the only one who thought this was a good idea.  The responses were so favorable that I decided to create a Facebook fan page to see what would happen:

http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Rory-Williams-is-the-New-Chuck-Norris/206862529349188

Yeah…3000+likes and enough traffic to make Amazon.Com look twice.  Pretty impressive for a bunch of re-worked Chuck Norris jokes about a secondary character in a British Sci-Fi show.  The icing on the cake however was the recognition of the meme by a member of the Doctor Who production team…as a matter of fact the Producer and show runner himself, Steven Moffat.  Mr. Moffat re-tweeted this .gif file that was cobbled together with jokes from the two websites, a good number of which were written by yours truly.

(Click on the Gif to see the slide show)

To this day I have no idea who made the .gif, but I wish to offer my sincere thanks for getting Mr. Moffat’s attention.

So that’s how I gained my smidge of internet fame.  I have to confess that I am totally flabbergasted by what has happened.  True, it is unlikely that I will gain anything other than the satisfaction of contributing to the Doctor Who fan community.  But I can honestly say that this is probably the coolest online thing I’ve ever done, at least in terms of how many people I’ve entertained with my writing.  It’s hard to describe how it feels to know that there are thousands of people out there who have gotten a laugh out of your posts.  The fact that so many have contributed jokes of their own is equally staggering, and I am especially indebted to my fellow Rory Rousers out there, especially one Donnie_Darkerr who comes up with just as many gags as I do.  So yeah, grateful, pleased, happy, a little proud and still a tad flabbergasted.

I guess the only thing now is what to do next.  Should I invest in a website? T-shirts? Coffee mugs?  Are such things possible?  I don’t know.  Maybe someday I will go to a convention and see my words on someone’s t-shirt.  Maybe I should get a t-shirt myself….hmm.

So this is me…the first raindrop, the first pebble in the avalanche, the first flake in the snowball….and I’m feeling very cozy surrounded by fellow fans with the same sense of humor.  Thanks to everyone who writes, reads, and laughs along with me.

P.S. Rory Williams doesn’t blog…he rewrites history itself.