Wednesday 23 November 2022

Tag! You have The Power of the Doctor

It's been a long time since the last collaboration between Generation Star Wars' John Hood and Taking The Short View's Andrew Lewin. Clearly, it would take something very special indeed to get the band back together after all that time.

So, how about the arrival of a special feature-length episode of Doctor Who marking the 100th anniversary of the BBC, packed full of spectacle and excitement not to mention a legion of familiar faces from the show's long history, and culminating in regeneration and a new Doctor? One that it turns out we really weren't expecting?

Yes, that would probably do it. In fact, it would be rude not to.

So let's buckle up and take a good look at "The Power of the Doctor". Or as the Tenth Doctor of old used to say: "Allons-y!"

Warning: contains spoilers right from the start. So many spoilers, in fact, that even the spoilers contain spoilers. You have been warned, sweetie!

Andrew: So, how was it for you, John?

John: I really enjoyed it! A fun romp down memory lane punctuated by poignant moments and I kept away from social media at a time before Elon Musk bought Twitter.

Andrew: Almost prehistoric! I also managed to stay away from spoilers right up to the time of the broadcast. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to watch it live, and it was impossible to dodge the spoilers that flooded in straight afterwards - not only on social media but TV, radio, and everywhere. It means I knew what happened in the shock final scene at least, long before I got to watch the episode because it was all anyone was talking about.

John: Oh, boy!

Andrew: Was it a shock though? The production team had already been obliged to publicly confirm that David Tennant was returning to the role after he was seen in costume filming on location. The only thing was, he didn't look like the Tenth Doctor used to, so how did this fit into continuity? For months, the idea that Jodie Whittaker would regenerate backwards into Tennant rather than forwards into Ncuti Gatwa had been mooted, albeit played down as much as possible by the producers.

Of course, I was by no means certain that it would happen until it actually happened. But when it did it was no longer a shock, or a surprise, more a case of "Oh, so they ARE doing that, then." What about you, John - did it catch you off-guard? How did you react to the moment when it happened?

John: It didn’t catch me off-guard per se and I punched the air seeing Tennant’s mysterious return to the titular role! What’s going on? However, I lamented not being able to spend more time (no pun intended) with Whittaker’s Doctor! Her tenure was clearly impacted by the pandemic and the series was in a state of flux. But I’m probably getting ahead of myself as this is our first opportunity to talk all things Time Lord in years.

Andrew: I really did like Jodie Whittaker in the role, right from the start. After Peter Capaldi's rather dour incarnation, it was lovely to have a Doctor that was just such a bundle of pure joy, energy and excitement. But I'm not sure the stories she was given really served her as well as they might; it would have been lovely to see her get her teeth into a Russell T Davies script.

John: Yes, that would have been really fun to see or a story penned by former showrunner Steven Moffat.

Andrew: Talking of a state of "Flux" (I saw what you did there!) I revisited last year's six-part mini-series last week in preparation for "The Power of the Doctor". I had been beset by the same work clashes during its original broadcast, which meant I was watching it in fits and starts days after the event. It rather soured my enjoyment not to mention my comprehension of what was going on. I enjoyed it a lot more this time and appreciated its strengths (the top-notch FX, costumes, prosthetics, universally strong performances, direction, the sheer aspiration) while continuing to hate the overall plotting which still made no sense and contained holes a mile wide. (Warning: I'm going to say something similar about "The Power of the Doctor" in a few minutes.)

John: I rather enjoyed "Flux" for all its foibles. Chris Chibnall never lacks for ambition even if it all goes nowhere, infuriating fans. However, Doctor Who isn't unique in this. See Lost, The X-Files, etc. And there were narrative parallels with Marvel Studios’ Loki on Disney+. However, this was totally coincidental.

Andrew: He might not lack ambition, but I do feel he lacks the fundamental understanding of the genre that the creators of those other shows you mention (I was a huge X-Files fan back in the day) possessed, as did his predecessors on Doctor Who. He has some striking ideas but then can't structure them into a coherent, satisfying plot. His dialogue (especially technobabble) is also really poor, and he just can't seem to come up with decent or memorable genre names for aliens or planets (Stenza, Pting, Ranskoor Av Kolos). Those are some of the reasons why I think I've become somewhat disconnected from the series in recent years.

John: Star Wars had Porgs; Doctor Who had Pting. I’d suggest the long breaks between series haven't helped and evokes memories of Colin Baker's ill-fated tenure, which culminated in me, briefly, departing the TARDIS in favour of MTV and hormonally-charged teenage distractions. I may have said too much.

Andrew: Or indeed, not enough! I'd also moved on by the time Colin Baker took over. I was at university in York with many other (entirely academic) distractions of my own, and where Doctor Who simply wasn't very cool. We were all too busy watching Neighbours in the common room. (The 80s were very weird times.) Ironically, while I was at York, I went to see a stage production of Ira Levin's Deathtrap at the Theatre Royal in which the lead role was taken by none other than Colin Baker. He was actually very good indeed.

John: That’s such a cool coincidence. What did you make of seeing the Doctor’s previous incarnations? Again, this wasn’t spoiled at all for me. I had to rewatch scenes as it was overwhelmingly emotional on so many levels. I wondered what our late friend and fellow Whovian, Stephen Miles, would have made of it all... And it was 45 years ago that I awoke from a coma, in a children’s hospital, having undergone a ‘forced regeneration’ of my own.

Andrew: Something that can't help but make 'regeneration' feel real and uniquely personal for you, I'm sure. Hard if not impossible for someone who hasn't been through something comparable to even begin to understand - except through the medium of Doctor Who. It would have been lovely to have been able to catch up with Stephen and chat about all this; I'm sure he would have loved it.

John: I couldn’t agree with you more. I remember when Stephen DM’d me to say that I was printed in the pages of Doctor Who Magazine (DWM) and his unbound enthusiasm for all things timey-wimey was utterly infectious.

Andrew: Truly was. I think if he were still with us, he would have managed to talk me out of a lot of the more grumpy nitpicks I'm making here about the show.

John: Without a scintilla of doubt.

Andrew: Hang on, that was your cue to say "you're not being grumpy at all"! But yes, Stephen was always so positive and enthusiastic about all things Who. I'm sure he would have found all the silver linings and talked me around.

John: Talking of silver linings, I’m sure Stephen would have loved Ashad (Patrick O'Kane). The David Banks Cyberleader of this era.

Andrew: I thought the return of Ashad in "The Power of the Doctor" was very odd. So it was a clone of the original that the Master (Sacha Dhawan) killed? But then had to be part-cyber converted and disfigured again? And for what reason? Any mini-Cyberman would have been enough to infiltrate UNIT. Just the first of many plotting problems we're going to be talking about, I suspect.

John: Akin to George Lucas ‘killing off’ Darth Maul in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and then bringing him back for Star Wars: The Clone Wars and more. Because reasons.

Andrew: Was Lucas even behind Darth Maul's return in Clone Wars? I thought it was out of his hands by then. But yes, in many ways you're right: I remember watching Maul's demise in Phantom Muddle and thinking, "Well, that was a damn silly thing to do to one of the few new characters who showed any real promise for the future.”

John: Yes, George Lucas created The Clone Wars for the Cartoon Network.

Andrew: I stand corrected. It just feels odd to me that Lucas would give the okay to such a volte-face after making the character's death such a huge moment in the film.

John: Because toys. But all cynicism aside. The Clone Wars was excellent and further Star Wars spin-offs have subsequently enriched the franchise.

Andrew: But to return to your question about the previous incarnations: even though I was over 24 hours late to the party, I hadn't picked up any significant spoilers about who else was in the episode - although I could tell the spoilers were out there and poised to overwhelm me at any moment if I didn't get around to watching it on catch-up ASAP. We knew about Tegan (Janet Fielding) and Ace (Sophie Aldred) coming back of course after the trailer at Easter, and I thought the production team were very clever in using the excitement about this to deflect any speculation as to whether there might be anything else concealed behind it.

John: It was an ingenious sleight of hand and I never even considered we’d see any previous incarnations given the 60th anniversary looming large.

Andrew: I certainly wasn't expecting what transpired. And the reunion was very cleverly executed to cover for the fact that they all look rather different from how they used to. Except for Paul McGann, who looks younger every time I see him - I suspect he truly is a Time Lord (and the same applies to Tennant). The scenes between Ace and Sylvester McCoy, and Tegan and Peter Davison, together with mentions of Adric when Tegan faced down the Cybermen were indeed rather overwhelming with emotional significance and triggered an avalanche of memories.

John: As you know, Adric wasn't a companion I much cared for until that fateful moment in "Earthshock". [Shoosh: classic spoilers, sweetie! - Ed] Whilst I've never listened to McGann's Big Finish adventures, it always feels like we've seen his televised adventures but they're lost to time.

Andrew: And thanks to the "Night of the Doctor" minisode, we now know that all those Big Finish plays are canon. Personally, I've only listened to the McGann audio adventures that have been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra. But if you only ever try one, go for "The Chimes of Midnight" by Robert Shearman. It's superb, although more like a Sapphire and Steel story than a regular Doctor Who.

John: Thanks for the tip. “Alexa, open BBC Sounds...”

Andrew: Not sure it's still on there. I was actually so impressed, I ended up buying the CD. As for Adric, I liked him mainly because he was a mathematician and that was my favourite subject at school at the time, and indeed what I went on to study at university a few years later. Plus he was the same age as me and a whiny, sulky teenage brat prone to tantrums ... Actually, nope, no idea why I identified with him at all now I come to think of it. Let's move quickly on.

John: Do I start calling you Adric from now on?

Andrew: Not unless you want me to do something very anti-social with my gold star for mathematical excellence!

John: Excellent! Oh...

Andrew: You mentioned the forced regeneration. Could you help me out understanding any aspect of this part of the script? It made no sense to me, just an excuse to get Sacha Dhawan dressed up in all the Doctor's past costumes. And don't get me wrong, that was great fun. He's such a fantastic, dynamic presence. But it really was all over the place as far as I was concerned. You?

John: The forced regeneration was bonkers but brilliantly bonkers! On a par with the Timeless Child arc, which was abandoned even though I, like many fans, had assumed it would be addressed during the cosmic train heist at the beginning of the centenary special. Chibnall bouncing ideas all over time and space and then... Moving on.

Andrew: I find that problematic, to be honest - both here and with the Timeless Child and all over "Flux", which seemed like it was constructed from a load of ideas for a full ten-part run that had to be crushed up in a blender when COVID-19 forced it to become a shorter mini-series instead, leaving promising bits and pieces on show, but few of them satisfactorily integrated or properly paying off.

John: Alas, most productions were similarly affected.

Andrew: Without question. And I'm the first to applaud the production team for what they achieved in "Flux" under such circumstances. It was the script that had some very noticeable missteps as far as I was concerned, and I had the same problem with "The Power of the Doctor".

For example, with the aforementioned forced regeneration: what a palaver! We know from canon that you can 'force' a regeneration just by bumping your head too hard on the TARDIS console, so why go to the lengths the Master did here? To take over the Doctor's regenerations? How is that distinguishable in practice from his own? The repercussions of this didn't seem to have been thought through or developed and fleshed out to any degree. It did provide the hook for the Doctor's near-death experience and seeing her past lives (and incarnations) flash before her eyes, but surely there were simpler ways of setting that up?

John: The Doctor’s near-death experience would have deeply resonated with anyone facing a similar situation (myself included).

Andrew: The most interesting aspect was actually what the experience did not to the Doctor, but to the Master - the sudden vulnerability, neediness and lack of assurance mixed with flashes of the old psychopath we know and love to loath. His "Don't let me go back to being me" was perfectly tragic. But otherwise, it came down to him riffling through the TARDIS wardrobe and doing a bit of Jodie cosplay and saying "I'm the Doctor" to a galactic news cam. Not exactly a very convincing "Master's Dalek Plan" (loved that gag) in any respect. Although as many people pointed out on social media, Dhawan really rocked Jodie's ear jewellery.

John: I've never worn ear jewellery, but could be tempted.

Andrew: Photos if you do, or it didn't happen!

John: Selfies will be all over the socials.

Andrew: While the socials last, anyway.

John: Don’t mention the Mastodon in the room!

Andrew: And then there was the cosmic train heist at the start that you mentioned, which was pretty pointless except for getting things started with an incoherent bang. While well-executed, I suspect that rather than hooking the audience and drawing them in as presumably intended it more likely resulted in a lot of baffled casual viewers changing channels. And then the Qurunx was a plot device made incarnate, and the cyberised planet played almost no role of significance, and even the Daleks and Cybermen themselves were marginalised to the point of being mere background decoration.

John: The cyber planet reminded me of a neutered Death Star!

Andrew: Neutered? Which bits did you notice that had been chopped off?! It certainly looked cool, but just didn't really contribute anything beyond that. Likewise, it felt like the Cybermen and the Daleks were only there because it was a centenary special and you can't have one of those without the show's top two monsters.

John: Trimmings to the Master’s main course.

Andrew: Well put! I bet the Sontarans were pouting about not getting a party invite. Ace getting to work on one of the Daleks with her baseball bat was a great moment, but Tegan defeating all the Cybermen by cross-wiring something in UNIT's basement stretched credulity. Did no one even think of reversing the polarity of the neutron flow, for heaven's sake?!

John: That would have been a fun in-joke for what’s ostensibly a Three or Five Doctors for the selfie generation.

Andrew: Well it certainly wouldn't be the first time in the NuWho era. And it's not like the special wasn't already packed to the brim with as much nostalgia and in-jokes as possible. Too much? Or is it fully justified given the fact it was a centenary celebration for the BBC?

John: A blue box of delights overflowing with timey-wimey treats.

Andrew: Away from that, it too often felt like Chibnall had an idea and stuck it in without any thought of context or where it's going. For example: why was the Master disguised as Rasputin? Or was he actually the real Rasputin? And why bother with any of that anyway? Was it really just for the moment when Dhawan got to dance to Boney M? Don't get me wrong, I laughed like a drain at that (and again, I loved Dhawan in this and every other scene he was in) but it was totally gratuitous and unnecessary and actually tied the story up in knots as it tried to bounce between 1916 and 2022. (Apparently, another scene set in Tunguska in 1908 was cut - X-Files fans will know why that's significant.) Most of all it felt like Chibnall was trying a do-over of the classic scene from 2007 when John Simm's similarly bonkers Master danced like a loon to the Scissor Sisters - only, RTD made that feel like an organic moment in the plot, rather than everything up to that point being a set-up for the gag.

John: A self-referential adventure through space and time.

Andrew: And on that self-referential note, there were other direct riffs on previous stories going on as well - the moment when six companions are at the TARDIS console was a direct lift from "Journey's End" only this one didn't have nearly the emotional impact and payoff that RTD's original scene did.

That, for me, is the problem with Chibnall's time as showrunner in a nutshell. To his credit, he tried a lot of different things like "Rosa" and the talking frog; but when he took inspiration from aspects of previous stories he did so without the inherent understanding of how to fit them in and make them work as well as they had done the first time. Too often he ended up taking refuge in an empty but fast-moving spectacle and breathless action and technobabble to paper over the cracks, hoping the audience didn't notice the flaws underneath.

John: Forgot Poundland Kermit made a cameo!

Andrew: Yes, we know all too well that it's not easy being green... But seriously, tell me I'm wrong and why I'm being deeply unfair!

John: When the Thirteenth Doctor's adventures first started, there was a lot of talk suggesting a pivot towards Quantum Leap! Personally, I didn't mind as the adventures of Dr Sam Beckett took over when Doctor Who ended on television in 1989.

Andrew: Really? I don't recall any chatter about that sort of makeover for the show at the time (clearly I wasn't paying attention). I find that weird: why junk the utterly unique format of a show that's been a success for just shy of 60 years to replace it with a clone of a long-gone short-lived US series from the early 90s? No insult intended to Quantum Leap, but still. TV executives are weird - and on the whole apparently rather dumb!

John: Judging by the lukewarm reaction to the recent Quantum Leap reboot, perhaps it wouldn’t have been such a good idea after all! What I will say, is Jodie’s first year as the titular Time Lord was the first I’ve watched with my dad since the Tom Baker era so it will hold a special place in the televisual firmament.

Andrew: I wasn't sure how the Quantum Leap reboot had gone, to be honest. It's been given a second run, hasn't it? Or did I dream that?

It's lovely you had Jodie's first run to share with your dad. Although I still think that the pair of you would enjoy sitting down and sharing David Tennant's series 3 and 4 even more. They were great times in my book. Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) was very underrated, while Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) vies with Sarah-Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) as the all-time best companion. I can't wait to see her back - and how they do it!

John: Sarah-Jane Smith and Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) are my all-time favourite companions. The latter was immortalised in a LEGO Ideas set, which Stephen proudly shared photographs of on socials.

Andrew: Coleman is undoubtedly a great actor, very charismatic, and it's her talent alone that salvaged Clara from the "impossible girl' train wreck that Moffat made of the character. Sorry - I interrupted.

John: As we’ve conjectured previously, Matt Smith’s exit nixed that plot line.

Dad did see a few of Tennant’s specials and is a big fan. However, Doctor Who returned to television during a familial crisis and tragedy in the wake of an NHS never event. There was little opportunity to see the series together. That said, maybe it’s time to fire up BBC iPlayer...

Andrew: They're all on there I think. And you have plenty of time before the next new episodes. So get to it!

John: Geronimo!

Andrew: I think the reason why I rate those so highly is because RTD had such an understanding of combining high-concept SF with down-to-earth domestic believability. He could shift tone and mix farce and terror in a heartbeat, whereas Moffat was more intellectual and interested in timey-wimey complexities, and framed Doctor Who as a fairy tale in a way that never worked quite so well for me.

John: Moffat’s Grimm fairy tale in space resonated more with me.

Andrew: Most recently it just feels like Chibnall simply doesn't really like working in the genre at all, if I'm honest. But it’s not just a problem with how Chibnall handles science fiction concepts. "The Power of the Doctor" also displays basic poor Scripting 101. For example, Vinder (Jacob Anderson) just happens to literally drop out of the sky onto the cyber planet at just the right moment. Talk about cosmic contrivances, Batman! Even though several years had passed, he's still carrying the communicator that the Doctor gave him when they met originally - and not only that, it's still charged! Whereas I barely remember to take my mobile with me when I pop out to the local shops.

John: Perhaps you’d be better off with an Apple Watch? Other brands are available.

Andrew: Don't confuse me with all your technobabble! Don't you still need the mobile on hand for an Apple Watch to work? Or has that changed in recent updates? But there you go, seducing me off-topic with all your Apple adulation!

John: Well, my head is usually in the iCloud+!

Andrew: So true. (There - that's what you get for not objecting to the earlier "grumpy" description!)

For me, the biggest scripting faux pas of the lot was the one that literally everyone commented on: Graham (Bradley Walsh) turning up out of the blue, totally unexplained, entirely unprepared in a random volcanic cavern deep underground halfway around the world. To quote the Tenth Doctor: "What? What?! WHAT?!?" At least the script didn't even try to explain how that made any sense and just made a joke of it.

John: Apologies for interjecting. Dad was a fan of Graham. Please, go on.

Andrew: I think we all were (and are). He was able to shine through despite a very overcrowded TARDIS during Jodie's first two years.

That said - and egregious though the "Graham in a crater" moment undoubtedly was - I'm actually minded to go easy on Chibnall for that one. It's clear that the production team was having to work very hard to cope with fast-changing cast availability, and I'm guessing Walsh suddenly came up with a couple of free days in his schedule and Chibnall gratefully snapped them up, given that Graham was such a big part of the early Whittaker years. (It does rather underline the absence of Ryan, but Tosin Cole is doing all manner of shows and pilots in Hollywood and was obviously far too busy to pop in for five minutes.)

John: Tosin was conspicuous by his absence. Even Coleman was able to film a green screen cameo for Peter Capaldi’s swan song.

Andrew: And she was busy being the Queen (Victoria) at the time if I recall correctly.

John: Yes, and filming other successful series too.

Andrew: She's definitely an overachiever. Kind of like her former co-star, Matt Smith, who is busy hanging out with dragons these days.

John: Smith is delightfully dangerous as Daemon Targaryen in House of the Dragon.

Andrew: Sounds like you approve of his new post-Doctor career!

John: Very much so! Smith was excellent in The Crown as a younger Prince Philip, which neatly reconnects him to his former companion Coleman in terms of portraying the monarchy in prestige dramas.

Andrew: Haven't seen The Crown so I guess we'd better stick to "The Power of the Doctor" for now. The aforementioned availability issues probably also explain why Dan (John Bishop) is bundled out of the door of the TARDIS so early. It reminded me of the old classic series where a companion would suddenly decide to leave the Doctor in the last few minutes of a story on some tenuous pretext because the actor's contract had expired. (Susan being locked out and abandoned in a war-ravaged dystopia by her grandfather because she had been getting a little flirty around a local resistance fighter being the first of many such abrupt exits.)

John: Dodo disappeared without much explanation if memory serves.

Andrew: There were a lot of sudden impromptu disappearances in the 1960s, from Vicki to Ben and Polly to Dodo, and beyond. They didn't get much in the way of character arcs back in the day.

I guess Bishop was already committed to restarting his comedy tour post-pandemic and was only on hand for that cosmic train heist sequence, plus a quick cameo at the end. I suspect his original role in the script might have been somewhat clumsily reallocated to Vinder, whose return was otherwise a bit odd. It all made me appreciate the way Terrence Dicks dealt with the same problem of short-notice cast availability for "The Five Doctors". In his case, Dicks came up with a workable framework for any last minute drop-ins, whereas Chibnall wasn't able to display the same inspiration.

John: There was some suggestion Dan would make the ultimate sacrifice to save the Doctor.

Andrew: No, I don't think that would have worked. Yaz maybe, if they'd wanted to go dark and tragic. But it felt like everyone wanted to keep this Doctor light and bouncy right to the end - hence the playground "Tag, you're it!" sign-off.

I really thought that the 'Companions Anonymous' scene had probably had to be thrown together using clever editing and green screen technology with everyone shot individually and composited back together to create the final scene. I was impressed when I saw the production stills where everyone actually was in the same room together, and joined by Jodie. That was very special. It was also lovely to learn that Janet Fielding got to shoot her scenes face to face with Peter Davison on set, and Sophie Aldred likewise with Sylvester McCoy; it made those reunions much more emotionally powerful than if shot separately.

John: Davison’s voice breaking, when he mentioned Adric, really hit home.

Andrew: There you go! I knew you connected with Adric after all, despite your earlier protestations.

John: The shock of it! Sorry, not sorry.

Andrew: It was the 'Companions Anonymous' meeting which made me realise what it was about "The Power of the Doctor" that was really important and actually worked: it wasn't a story about the Doctor at all. Indeed, many fans have complained that Jodie was somewhat sidelined because of everything else going on, all the spectacle and special guests and that everyone else was given crucial things to do while she herself was relatively passive and even went completely AWOL for a spell. Maybe so, but it meant that rather than being all about her, the special became a celebration of the Doctor's impact and positive influence on her companions and the many others she has come across in her travels, like Kate Stewart (Jemima Redgrave).

John: Ah! Star Wars Celebration! Oops, wrong franchise.

Andrew: The true power of the Doctor is surely the life-long friends she has made, who have reached their full potential because of her. And it's also about how difficult it is to be in the Doctor's shadow nonetheless and how hard is must be to be left behind when their time together is over. It shows them as a remarkable group of people - from Ian Chesterton (William Russell) all the way through to Yaz Khan (Mandeep Gil), who I thought did outstandingly once she was given so much more to do, both here and in the "Flux" mini-series.

John: Couldn’t agree more! It’s a celebration of the series itself, and the fans - us! The friendships made with fellow Whovians and, personally, attending both the 20th and 50th anniversary celebrations are something I will never forget. The former is especially poignant as the fabled Longleat event was oversubscribed and my late mum spoke to a kindly army officer who invited us in as guests of the military (I like to imagine UNIT).

The Doctor and Yaz’s reflective moment sitting atop the TARDIS overlooking Earth was profoundly moving.

Andrew: That was a lovely, beautiful, poetic scene. I think it will lodge in the memory for years to come.

You can argue that the ending even gave Dan a belated character arc after all, since it shows him having moved on from being the nice but aimless and unambitious drifter he started as in "Flux", to now being ready to take control and get on with life. You know he will do something special with it, and be really good at whatever it turns out to be. That was the power of the Doctor's effect on him even in a relatively short stint aboard the TARDIS.

John: Amen to that.

Andrew: Strip away all the garish distractions and horrible plotting and I think when looked at simply as a celebration of the companions rather than of the Doctor, the episode was ultimately surprisingly effective. It turns out that all the guest stars and callbacks weren't just a load of gratuitous fan service, it was the whole point of the story. It's the emotional resonance that makes the special work despite all the script's many problems that I've been grumbling about. Chibnall might have his flaws (I may have mentioned a few) but he can do emotionally intelligent stories really effectively - as indeed he had already proved with the original run of Broadchurch. (The second, ironically, collapsed due to incredibly poor plotting. History repeats itself!)_

John: With all the recent talk of Disney dollars bolstering Doctor Who from 2023 onwards, what did you think of the special effects? Personally, I thought the centenary special looked stunning in 4K UHD on BBC iPlayer for PlayStation 5 (PS5)!

Andrew: I was watching "The Power of the Doctor" in Freeview broadcast high definition, so it's slightly hard to judge. But I did recently get hold of the Blu-Ray version of "Flux" and was actually very impressed - I thought it looked absolutely great. I'm sure "The Power of the Doctor" was just as beautiful. I can't see how they can improve on it further by throwing money at it; indeed, there's the risk of making the show all about the FX and not enough about the story and the characters. I think the show has already veered too far in that direction in recent times if I'm honest.

John: Look at all the shiny spacey things.

Andrew: Gollum and his precious! But that said, the previous special - "Legend of the Sea Devils" - had all the hallmarks of an episode that hadn't been budgeted for. It looked cheap, felt rushed, and the script seemed a good two or three additional drafts from being ready to go before the camera. One of the worst episodes of the modern Doctor Who era in my book. It didn't help that it was a pirate story, which I tend to hate with a passion whenever one shows up. ("The Curse of the Black Spot", I'm looking at you!)

John: I watched the Sea Devils’ Easter escapade during a family holiday in the Derbyshire Dales and didn’t really pay it much attention.

Andrew: It didn't really deserve any, to be honest. So what would you like to see the show do with all that additional Mickey Mouse money, John?

John: That’s the £100 million per series question if rumours are to be believed. I’ve long argued Bad Wolf should co-produce Doctor Who following the excellent His Dark Materials live-action adaptation for the BBC and HBO.

Now, Bad Wolf (owned by Sony) is co-producing RTD’s new era so I’m hoping we’ll see superlative visuals, storytelling and more spin-offs, especially as the returning series showrunner has been on a winning streak with Years and Years and It’s A Sin.

Andrew: I love that they named the production company after the mysterious arc from the first run of the Doctor Who reboot. It shows where all their hearts really lie, doesn't it? They never really fully moved on; and now, they're really back!

John: RTD has already alluded to spin-offs à la the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Of course, he was ahead of the curve with Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures during his first tenure as showrunner.

How about a Dalek series, taking inspiration from TV Century 21, on Disney+? The reprinted comic strips on the back page of Marvel UK’s DWM captured my childhood imagination as I played with Marx and Palitoy Dalek toys!

Andrew: That would be very much down to the Terry Nation estate I think since they license the rights to use the Daleks. The man himself tried that in the 60s in America but it never took off. The trouble is that the Daleks are too limited to headline a whole series and easily become tiresome. Their lack of humanity in any form is a problem; it's why Nation ended up devising Davros as he's a much better dramatic foil. But how about a grim, militaristic story of the Kaled/Thal war, with a young Davros growing up in the domed cities under bombardment, in the style of Andor?

However, Torchwood feels like the obvious first spin-off project. Maybe make it a hub for freelancing former companions, as UNIT was doing with Tegan and Ace? Add Yaz to the line-up, and maybe Martha Jones, and the format is flexible enough to take it anywhere you want.

John: An exciting homecoming for the 60th anniversary.

Andrew: So I've gone at some length about why I feel the recent series hasn't landed so well with me, to say the least. Perhaps the biggest factor is that ever since the Moffat residency, the show has been going over and over the character and background of the Doctor him/herself, culminating most recently with the introduction of the whole Timeless Child extra layer. I just wish they would get back to the days of the madman in the box travelling around the universe, meeting interesting people and having exciting adventures in time and space without the navel-gazing introspection. Back to how they used to do things for almost all of the entire 26 years of the classic series.

What about you? What would you like to see them do with all that cash - and with Tennant and Gatwa - that was missing from the recent Whittaker run?

John: As you’ve already alluded, make it mysterious again. Let the Doctor walk in eternity...

Andrew: I guess we'll just have to wait and see how it turns out. So let's pause for now and reconvene and continue this discussion next year when the three specials arrive. Until then, John?

John: Until then, Andrew! VWORP! VWORP!

The series 13 specials are available here (affiliate link).

Have you seen The Power of the Doctor? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated for spam. Stay on topic and do not embed links. Keep it family-friendly.

Thank you.