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July 6th, 2008

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08:57 pm
Yes, we've had ourselves a finale and it's all over but the crying. BUT WHO'S GOING TO CRY THE MOST? Find out TONIGHT as we watch a spoiler-filled

Brought to you by Nu-Hand, the revolutionary plot device which allows you to circumvent canon whenever you feel like it!

I will say right now those first five minutes of Night of a Thousand Companions were some of the corniest corn I've ever corned. Seen. Actually, combined with the last five in the previous episode -- the slow-motion Love Run, OH NOS LOOK OUT PCHEW PCHEW PCHEW, and then the bit where Tennant goes all Highlander on us (HE IS IMMORTAL! HE HAS INSIDE HIM BLOOD OF KINGS!) just built up the cheese that eventually oozed out of the coppiest-outtest deus ex machina I've seen in a long time, and it came in three teeth-gnashingly rotten parts:

1. "Oh, I just used my AMAZING REGENERATIVE POWERS to heal myself, but I didn't WANT to change my body!"
Gnash! go the teeth. Time Lords aren't supposed to dictate the terms of their regeneration, no matter how cute and cheeky they are by nature about breaking the rules. I mean, what good are these story rules if you're not going to follow them?

Ok, sure, Romana got to pick out a few bodies before she settled on Lalla Ward's (and good on her for that pick) but her regeneration was purely voluntary. Ten, well, he was too busy having CGI shoot out of his head and hands to have a say in the matter. (Besides, there's another theory that says Romana could choose what she looked like cause she was a girl, and maybe girls get an infinite number of regenerations unlike the guys do. What do you say to that, Sergeant Retcon?)

2. "...so I healed myself and redirected the rest of the powers to my convenient Hand-In-A-Jar! Brilliant! Molto bene! I'm so clever! Et cetera!"
Gnash! Gnash! So the CGI shooting out of Ten's hands was Concentrated Regeneration Power and all he had to do was point it at the jar and transfer it? Good god, it's fortunate for us he did, because what would've happened if he'd just let the regeneration go and flail his arms all about? Holy cats, he could have hit all his TARDIS pals with the beams, or maybe crossed the streams, or... my!

3. (the sound of TINY WINDCHIMES as the Doctor blows the leftover Regeneration Pixie Dust off the Hand-In-A-Jar)
Okay, Russell T. Davies, you can fuck right off now. Don't let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya.

The arbitrariness of the entire thing just irked me. I honestly can't deny the regeneration itself was important; it's crucial to the story's resolution and all, but the events leading up to and following it were so contrived it hurt. It would've been best treated as the event which merely served as the appropriate stopping point between the two episodes, but to build it up as a true cliffhanger, well, made it seem even less sincere. It wasn't a "oh nos, what will happen?" cliffhanger; we know what happens when the Doctor regenerates. He lies down and is surrounded by nifty special effects, and then hey presto he's all new. This cliffhanger, then, relied on speculation outside the actual narrative. We were meant to think "Wait, David Tennant is being written out now? I didn't hear he was going! Who is going to replace him?" And when a show relies on meta-cliffhangers to keep people glued to the set, my god, we're all in trouble.

On the other hand, we always do have to end on a cliffhanger, don't we? Why didn't we then use the part where we have to wonder if Rose will ever talk normally again?

I think I'm just most bugged about the "I can alter my regeneration willy-nilly!" bit, and have been trying to come up with non-contrived ways which could've allowed the Magic Pixie Dust to transfer to Hand-In-A-Jar without Ten doing it cos he's so clever and all. I could see TARDIS intervention, perhaps, or Donna reaching out and grabbing him in the middle (has any human ever actually been in physical contact with the Doctor during the regen? Not usually; they just let him lie there and do his thang) but anything but Roger Rabbit's "I could only do it when it was funny!" kind of reasoning. Anything!

It soured me for a while, but not for too long, because I eventually grew happy with the episode because of the following good bits:

You can either argue it was historically appropriate or overexplaining; I'd go for the former and chalk it up to clever staging. You can't quite accuse RTD of overexplaining the Nazi angle; Terry Nation had always conceived the Daleks as a Nazi analogue, and both the Daleks and the Nazis did tend to go about all shouty-like, getting their orders from one main guy in charge (with a severe cult of personality) and talking on about their species superiority and how everybody else who was inferior was gonna perish. Davros has always been this insanely cold-blooded bad-ass murderer figurehead with insane schemes to rule all. If you didn't see the parallel before now, you probably wouldn't have been edified by Martha's watching the Daleks float on by hollering EXTERMINEREN! or however they were hollering it. I thought it was great; of course the Daleks are gonna holler in other peoples' languages when they're busy taking over their respective countries and you don't have the TARDIS nearby for translation.

Yay! Yay for K-9! Good dog! It was good to see you just appear from out of nowhere, help Mr. Smith with the TARDIS stuff and then help keep Luke safe! I'm so sorry the new people with the doggy license are turning you into a CGI Aibo, even though I know your remote controls always make you difficult to operate on set. But frankly, since every other companion-type who'd been instrumental in helping the Doctor out over these past few years had shown up (well besides the dead ones, even though we got the Academy Awards montage of them without even enough time to clap for our favorites) I was kinda expecting we'd get the tin dog. Hooray for expectations met!

Oh, Adam doesn't count in this list of companions because A. he's an idiot, B. he's from the not-too-distant future, C. he's an idiot and D. he's an idiot with a ill-gotten computer implant in his head that opens up every time he watches The Addams Family.

You gotta admire his spunk. Destroy all non-Dalek matter in the universe and rule what's left? Now that's a whole new level of genocide, though I don't think he thought his cunning plan all the way through. I mean, if he destroys all the matter in the universe but his own, then there's not much else he can go take over the next time he feels bored and megalomaniacal. That's bound to cause some problems. I can imagine him down in his little dungeon creating planets out of LEGO and then ordering the Daleks to take them over, only one of them runs over the city and snaps the green board in half and now it's useless, and Davros gets all pissy and sulks for the rest of the day because THAT WAS THE LAST LEGO GREEN BOARD IN EXISTENCE.

Still, major points for having the stones (evil stones, but stones nonetheless) to try and pull off a plan such as this, and major points to Rusty for staying true to Davros' character. Yes, we'll let Rusty make his own villains camp and ludicrous, make them fart, make them horrible punsters, make them rub their hands together in that "oh, de-lish-us" fashion when contemplating their evil plans, whatever. We'll even give him a pass for including the Master in this group as hell, he's a Time Lord, he must occasionally regenerate into a metrosexual, right? But no matter how far RTD went with the other baddies, even he knew that when it came to Davros, he better leave well enough alone. So we get the ruthless killer, the grotesque and bitter misanthrope teeming with anger and hatred, hell, we get Davros and anything else would've been a complete insult. The closest we got to silly was the Daleks all whizzing about once their controls were co-opted, and a few reaction shots, ha! ha! let's watch the funny Daleks now! but it was over quickly and mercifully enough and it didn't make Davros out to be a fool. And that's good enough for me.

IV. "Oi!" "Oi!"
I kept saying this over the course of this season. I really didn't like Catherine Tate in The Runaway Bride but somewhere between that special and this season, the creative team sat down and went "okay, Tate's better than we thought at this, let's de-annoyify her by 75% and change some other parameters while we're at it" and what do you know, she came up with probably the best companion yet if only because her rapport with David Tennant on-screen was just that good. The scene where New Doctor (now with one-half the Time Lord of Regular Doctor!) realizes he's melded (ew) with Donna, and the echoing, and the playing off each other, yeah, that was probably the best scene of the entire episode. Just some lovely rapid-fire back-and-forth, and both sides held their own so well.

It's a shame, then, that RTD saw fit to kick Donna to the curb so harshly. Even if it turns out to be that oh hey, don't worry, she's coming back, that ring is probably the key, whatever, it still is harshly manipulative to take a good companion and kick her in the head. I mean, the whole thing goes like this:
DONNA: Why me? I'm not special! I'm only a temp! (repeat 20x)
DOCTOR: No, don't you see? You're the most important person in the universe right now! You're not a nobody! Oh, wait, yes, you are. Sorry bout that.
DONNA: I like gossiping with the girls!
Of course this can't be anything but a setup for a return eventually. Even so, the whole "Doctor says goodbye for one last time" conceit was slightly illogical. Look at it this way:
DOCTOR: All right. I've had to go and wipe your daughter's memory so that she won't remember she's sharing her brain with half a Time Lord brain. Out of sight, out of mind, all that rot. If I were my seventh incarnation, I would have said "Out of sight, out of time."
WILFRED: I don't understand why you're doing this but since you fly around in a big blue box, I'll take your word for it that it's for her own good.
DOCTOR: It is. If she were ever to have any reminder of her life with me, any whatsoever, she'd instantly remember everything and then her brain would explode. And she'd be real mad at me.
MOM NOBLE: So she's never to have any reminder of her past adventures with you, ever?
DOCTOR: None! If she does, I'll only have you lot to blame!
DONNA (entering, noticing the DOCTOR): Oh hey.
All right, maybe it's not as dramatic as that, but I'd have thought that if Donna were to never have any reminders at all of her running with the Doctor, then something like, oh, say, the sight of his face would be trigger enough. I guess not. But oh you humans, you better keep your traps shut or else her blood and explodified brains are on YOUR hands!

Another season down and on we go to the Christmas special, sooner or later. I'm going back now to watch the first Sylvester McCoy season. It's got some of the cheesiest, wackiest serials: Paradise Towers and Delta and the Bannermen are just absolutely nuts, and McCoy played the Doctor in a zany way (he wouldn't turn dark until Ace came aboard) and so I want to see how well I'll tolerate it and if I'll chalk up the cheese to "oh well, it was 1987" or "oh well, I was a kid when they aired" or what. Gain some historical perspective and all that.

(12 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:July 7th, 2008 01:43 am (UTC)
Yeah, what was with Rose's mouth-full-of-marbles all of a sudden? I could hardly understand a word she said the whole time.

Had they mentioned the Time War being "time locked" before? That's a useful explanation for "Why don't you go back and fix it, then?"

MICKEY: So, uh, I've decided I want to go make more money by being on Torchwood, ok? So I'm getting off here.
DOCTOR: Sure thing! B'bye!
[User Picture]
Date:July 7th, 2008 03:40 am (UTC)
Hi, I miss the blindingly obvious.

So mr. "I portray my alternate hardened self by screwing up my face for the whole episode" is joining Torchwood. Bugger.
[User Picture]
Date:July 7th, 2008 10:00 am (UTC)
I don't know for sure, but it seems like the most reasonable explanation for his out-of-the-blue decision to switch universes.
[User Picture]
Date:July 7th, 2008 11:10 am (UTC)
It does. When you mentioned it it seemed really obvious, especially with Martha having just been poached by Jack.

But who will do the Science!
[User Picture]
Date:July 7th, 2008 01:38 pm (UTC)
The "time locked" explanation I think given by the Ninth Doctor early on. I could be wrong on when they've used it, but they've definitely used it before. Something Really Big and Really Terrible happened in that time war. Man.
[User Picture]
Date:July 7th, 2008 03:23 pm (UTC)
In "Father's Day", he said something to the effect of: "Don't you think I want to go back and save my own people from destruction? Well, I can't--it's not allowed!" There wasn't much detail as to why; a plausible implication would be that saving the Time Lords would make Reapers eat the universe.

On the old series, there was an occasional statement to the effect that a "transduction barrier" kept Time Lords from messing with Gallifreyan history itself; fanon, games, etc. often interpreted this to mean that when visiting Gallifrey, they could only visit some "Gallifreyan present" point that advanced in story time. I sometimes figured that this or something analogous had sealed off the Time War from post hoc intervention (and (usually) kept pre-Time War Time Lords from showing up in the new series), perhaps at the Doctor's own contrivance to protect the rest of the universe.

In general, time travel mechanics in Doctor Who falls apart if thought about too closely, so this is probably as far as it's wise to go.
Date:July 7th, 2008 02:42 am (UTC)
No comments on the Bad Wolf Bay scene?
[User Picture]
Date:July 7th, 2008 01:45 pm (UTC)
Those two can stay in the locked-tight-can't-go-there-ever-ever-ever-again parallel universe. Until it becomes convenient to let them out.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:July 7th, 2008 01:16 pm (UTC)
I totally think she hasn't forgotten. I think Donna outwitted him and hid those memories away where he couldn't find them.
[User Picture]
Date:July 7th, 2008 01:36 pm (UTC)
Good point. She definitely did say she was smaaarter than the av-er-age Time Lord, so she may have anticipated the memory-wipe thingo. Here's to hoping and here's to FOBWATCHED DONNA NOBLE
[User Picture]
Date:July 7th, 2008 06:09 pm (UTC)
What I'm hoping for re: Season 24 is to figure out if I'll watch some pretty schlocky stuff from the past and go "Ha ha, it's funny cause it's cheesy" or go "Oh man, it's crap cause it's cheesy." Figure out if I'd have laughed at it or have gone "GRRRRR DARN YOU JNT" all over if I had been watching it in this mindset back then.

Paradise Towers was cringable in many parts (oh those robotic cleaners) but also howlingly hilarious in others, so the howlingly hilarious beat out the cringable. The concept was all right too and the Chief Caretaker's turn at the end always has me in stitches because the actor takes every opportunity to shamble and chew scenery at the same time. "ATTENTION ALL ROBOTIC CLEANERS" was a catchphrase in junior high for a while because of this serial.

Watched part of the first episode of Delta and the Bannermen and had to turn it right off. Probably because I'd just sat through nearly 2 hours already and didn't feel like I could commit to another 3 episodes, but I'd seen enough to remember that yeah, Delta is gonna be painful. But I must see my way through it, I must.

Edited at 2008-07-07 06:10 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
Date:July 7th, 2008 09:40 am (UTC)
The Daleks speaking German was totally awesome, and I love that the producers took the time to get ALL the German right, and almost accent-free to boot.

I agree with your explanation - too many people in Germany, especially the east, don't speak English, and wouldn't have a clue what the Dalek wanted. I didn't see a Nazi parallel there; Daleks speaking with German-accented English, or a Hitler-ish voice maybe.

I'm still waiting for someone to photoshop a Hitler hairdo and 'stache onto a Dalek, though.

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