Friday, 8 August 2014


Welcome to Part Two as we prepare for Doctor Who Deep Breath...

In this second part, we’ll be looking at Time and the Rani through The Eleventh Hour. As we all know, Doctor Who has several different sub-categories of storytelling available: Pseudo-historical, Base Under Siege, Alien Invasion, Whodunit – you get the picture. These are just a handful of dozens, but there is one kind of story that is probably the most significant and only comes around once per Doctor. The new Doctor’s first story is vital as it can capture thousands of new fans, or alienate millions. Because of this, it is exceedingly important to get the first one right.

Catch up on the first part with TALKING ‘BOUT A (POST) REGENERATION – PART ONE

“And I’m suffering from post-regeneration amnesia…as far as I can remember.” – Seventh Doctor

This is a tricky one ladies and gentlemen. Colin Baker was approached to return to Doctor Who to shoot the regeneration scene, maybe even an episode where at the end of it, he would’ve regenerated. Unfortunately, Baker declined, so the cause of the regeneration wasn’t shown, merely the effect. Although various writers have tried to explain the Doctor’s sixth regeneration, there are several events that seem to chain towards the “bump on the head” regeneration Colin’s Doctor is famous for. Spiral Scratch tries to explain that the Doctor was weakened from his fight with the Lamprey when the Rani hi-jacked his TARDIS and forced him to make an emergency landing where he suffered a “bang to the head.”

Before he was the Chessmaster, he was the clown. Before he talked his opponents into submission, the Seventh Doctor played the fool (quite literally). This story had an even tougher task than its predecessor. While The Twin Dilemma had the loud, brash and entertaining Colin Baker, not to mention the eye candy of Nicola Bryant, this story had Sylvester McCoy bouncing (and falling) around like a moron and probably the most annoying companion in history – Mel Bush. Throw in some fan alienation thanks to the previous two rocky seasons of Doctor Who and you have a story that had to par at least The Eleventh Hour just to be called average at best. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen here. While McCoy proves his acting prowess in this story, his portrayal of the Time Lord actually makes him look like a fool, without the multi-colored coat. Mel gets little to no character development, but exercises her voice enough to crack your television screen.

The villain for this story is the Rani, a character who proved quite successful in her breakout story alongside Colin Baker and Anthony Ainley. Established as an immoral scientist only interested in her unethical experiments, the writers appeared to ignore all the backstory awarded to her and pen the Rani as a female knockoff of the Master who wanted to utilize something called Strange Matter in order to control evolution. Sounds like something the Master would do right? What makes the aforementioned atrocity even more – well atrocious – is the fact the writers for this story are the same ones who first created the Rani – Pip and Jane Baker.

“I know who I am. I – am – the – Doctor!” – Eighth Doctor

The Doctor’s TARDIS made an emergency landing in 1999, where he became caught up in a gang war and suffered minor injuries. Taken to hospital, Grace Holloway, a surgeon unfamiliar with Time Lord Anatomy, ignored the Doctor’s warnings and accidentally damaged his circulatory system. The anesthesia numbed the Doctor and he was pronounced ‘dead’. His regeneration would not start until a few hours later when the drugs in his system had dissipated.

The TV Movie had a lot to do and not much time to do it in. Instead of focusing only on the new Doctor, it had to kill off the previous incumbent, namely Sylvester McCoy. The Seventh Doctor’s death was yet another example of cruel irony. One would’ve expected the cleverest, most dangerous Doctor of them all to die defeating some ancient feral being with phenomenal cosmic powers awakened from the dawn of time right…only that didn’t happen. 

Because of the ten to twenty minutes setting up the Doctor’s regeneration, the new Doctor didn’t have enough time, when compared to the scale of the story, to save the day and find a whole identity all at the same time. The Doctor suffered from amnesia for most of this story, not a new side-effect of regeneration, but it was utilized extremely well here. The human doctor and the alien doctor could now interact as equals, both trying to solve the mystery of the man with two hearts. McGann puts in a memorable performance, highlighting his Doctor’s key characteristics, namely his love of earthlings, his human side and exhibiting several odd turns that is tradition in Doctor Who and most importantly, his attention deficit disorder.

I must say that I love Grace Holloway! She is terrific in this story. She is also a new twist as she is the first companion not to be carried over and instead meets the Doctor similar to a traditional Companion Intro story. Some might argue that the Third Doctor also had one of these turns, but the Brigadier had already met the Second and was quite suspicious of the Third, so in a sense, he was carried over to a new Doctor which blocked out Liz Shaw’s suspicions. Grace Holloway, in this story, proves herself to be, at first very skeptical that the man she killed on the operating table is in fact the same man she snogged in the latter half of the story, but once again that is treated as realistically as possible. The fact that she is a doctor, a scientist of medicine, and needs lots of convincing is how Post-Regeneration Stories are meant to be treated as without going overboard or underselling it.

The story format combines Race Against Time with a heavily character driven plot for both the Doctor and Grace. Grace Holloway even more so as the surgeon is having a bit of a life crisis. The villain for this story is the Master, who is played as an over-the-top, melodramatic, egocentrically sadist, hell-bent on stealing the Doctor’s remaining lives. The Master has featured in previous Post-Regeneration stories, so his addition wasn’t new and even mucks up the story in some parts.

The Doctor-defining moment is probably established when the Doctor finally regains his memory and snogs Grace Holloway out of thin air under the fireworks dancing in the sky, bringing an end to the character driven storyline, or at least the Doctor’s side and sets up the Race Against Time angle.

“I have no idea who I am, but you’ve just summed me up.” – Tenth Doctor

The Doctor managed to remove the energy from the Time Vortex out of Rose Tyler and redirected it back into his TARDIS. Even though he only had the energy inside of him for a few moments, it was enough to almost destroy his cellular structure. To fix the damage, he instigated a regeneration to save his life.

RTD probably wanted to call this story Castrovalva: Christmas Edition, but decided that The Christmas Invasion sounded cooler. Don’t believe me, the Doctor sleeps for the majority of the story, while a small group of people do everything they can to help him heal so that he can save the world at the last minute. I think I recognize the plot from somewhere. Hmm…Yes!

This story shares a lot of similarities with Castrovalva, but takes on an Alien Invasion approach as its format. The Doctor in this story suffers from a ‘dramatic’ coma from which he awakes only when it is time to save the day at the very last second. And how does he do it – in a dressing gown with a satsuma and a sword, in a duel for planet earth. The little time the Doctor spends awake in this episode more than makes up for all the time he’s asleep. 

Rose Tyler on the other hand, is absolutely pathetic in this story! My bad, she’s almost completely pathetic in this story. I mean it. I’m sorry Rose lovers, but she breaks down three times during the course of this story. Three times! This serial isn’t even a full hour long. How can someone who was written as such a spectacular character only one episode ago be reduced to this? I know Rose was in love with the Doctor and all, and that it is very human to break down and cry at least once because you’re worried, but three times – in one fictional episode? If you want to add bookmarks to this story, just look for scenes when she’s crying. They’re spread out evenly enough. Besides, didn’t they already make up in the minisode bridging The Parting of Ways and this story? Luckily Mickey and Jackie were there to keep us laughing as their chemistry and dialogue is fantastic – especially Jackie’s! The story, the plot, the execution! They’re all perfect in this one. It’s only Rose who seems to drag it down. That amalgamation speech of hers was clearly set up just to make the new Doctor look even more outstanding compared to her desperate bid to buy time (or something).

This story in general felt like it was more about Rose coming to grips with the Doctor’s regeneration rather than easing us into the new Doctor. The show is still called ‘Doctor’ Who right? You can probably count every second after the Doctor opens the TARDIS doors and steps out to save the day as a Doctor-defining moment. 

“Hello. I’m the Doctor. Basically…run!” – Eleventh Doctor

The Doctor and Wilf defeated the Master and the Time Lords, but afterwards, the Doctor was forced to absorb radiation from a nuclear vault supply in order to spare Wilfred Mott’s life. Unlike previous regenerations, the Doctor was able to hold back the regeneration for a considerable time so that he could see all his companions one last time. This prolonged resistance to regeneration caused a violent explosion when he finally regenerated, that it damaged his TARDIS and forced it to crash and rebuild itself. 

The Eleventh Hour is a true paragon among fans. Right from the get-go, it bounces and darts off in every direction, but manages to do it so whimsically and with such balance that we can’t help but keep watching. It is in some respects a very different regeneration story. This time the Doctor isn’t rendered amnesiac, in a coma or delirious. Instead, he suffers from random spasms of pain and feels drawn to the idea of hitting himself. New side-effects from regeneration now include odd food cravings and walking randomly into trees due to motor functions being test-driven for the first time, though the Doctor actually recovers quite quickly in the sense that he is able to actively take part in the story and not just sit this one out. This is a good thing as it gives us a whole episode to grow on the new Doctor instead of just half. 

Another twist that is very rare in Doctor Who is that a companion isn’t carried over from the previous Doctor. Instead, we’re introduced to the new kid on the block and I mean that literally. Amelia Pond is adorable, her older self is thought-provoking and her boyfriend Rory is adorkable. Having the Doctor meet his latest companion as a child really gave the audience an emotional connection and it played into the story remarkably well as Steven Moffat introduced us to another fear. This time it was adhazegoraphobia, otherwise known as the fear of being forgotten or neglected, which is what the Doctor supposedly did to Amy Pond (from her perspective). This creates tension, which is a huge part of any successful post-regeneration story. Since Amy is not meeting a different Doctor, but the same one, this tension is used as a substitute when she is struggling to come to grips with everything that is happening around her and if the man next to her is really the man she met when she was a child. 

The story takes on the traditional Race Against Time format and has the Doctor and Amy battle Prisoner Zero. The Doctor-defining moment is established in the last minutes when the Doctor chases the Atraxi away…then calls them back and chases them away again. 

I'm going to finish this series with a tip you all should take with you when you're watching Deep Breath. It's a good one and it goes something like this: DON'T expect The Eleventh Hour v2.0! Just don’t. Trust me. I haven't seen the episode - I'm going in blind as well. I’m not saying it will be a bad start-up episode either, I’m saying if you try to measure Deep Breath to The Eleventh Hour’s quintessence, you are going to end up disappointing yourself. It’s the same writer, but different Doctor. Try and remember what happened with The Doctor’s Wife/Nightmare in Silver. Given how brilliant Wife was, people unfairly expected even better from Silver and it ended in a train wreck for a lot of fans. Instead, do what I do and expect an ‘average’ start-up story and be blown away when it turns out to be The Eleventh Hour v2.0. 

Have fun watching!

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