Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Whoniversary: Phantom Who – The 50th Webisodes

I feel a weird sort of pressure writing about the 50th Anniversary special. I already discussed it with the ESW crew at the TimeGate celebration, but I wasn’t entirely comfortable doing it then. I don’t like critiquing a Doctor Who story after a single viewing, but I had no choice in the matter. “The Day of the Doctor” ended at 4:10 and our panel was scheduled at 5:00. That barely left time for me to get from the house to the Holiday Inn, let alone fit in a second viewing. I almost didn’t even have time to stop by the hotel bar and grab a drink.
Oh, and that panel is now LIVE as Episode 55 of Earth Station Who!
I did have the opportunity to watch it again later that night with a ballroom full of Whovians and I have to say it made a big difference. I still had some of the same minor issues, but it was so much more fun watching in that environment with that many people reacting to the same big moments at the same time.
Last night I took the family to the movie theater to watch it again in 3D. I went back and forth over whether or not I really wanted to spend that much money to watch something I had already seen in a format that I have occasionally described as “nothing more than distracting”, but it’s not really about the story in this instance – it’s about the experience. It’s entirely possible that we will never again have the opportunity to see Doctor Who on the big screen; especially in 3D. And – much like Pacific Rim – this is something I want Lil’ Troublemaker to experience. It could be one of those important or at least valued childhood memories.
Before I get to the actual 50th Anniversary special I want to briefly touch on the two webisodes that led up to it – “The Night of the Doctor” and “The Last Day”.
Unfortunately the big surprise of the former was spoiled for me by a thoughtless Facebook post. I can only imagine the nerd chills that would have accompanied a huge gasp if I had been able to experience Paul McGann’s surprise appearance properly. As it was, it was still thrilling to see the Eighth Doctor in action. It was a brief story that managed to be critical in many ways. It revealed definitively where John Hurt’s Doctor fit in, it reintroduced and reinforced the concept that Time Lords can have control over their regenerations, and it brought a new level of infamy to the very term “Time Lord”.
It was a bit odd to see the woman in the story react so negatively to mention of the Time Lords. While the Doctor has always been at the very least mistrustful of them and since the relaunch has mostly viewed them (regretfully) as villains, we have never seen the common citizenry of the universe express much of an opinion. But this was a solid starting point for such a universal opinion and I think it will play strongly in the post-50th Whoniverse.
Paul McGann was wonderful. He looked great and he stepped back into the role of the Doctor comfortably and naturally. Granted, he has been portraying the Time Lord in Big Finish audio productions (as noted by The Oncoming Josh last Friday), but this is the first time he has been onscreen in the role since 1996. The new costume was a great update of the one from the TV movie – still distinctive enough to be the Doctor’s wardrobe, but not as outlandish as his Wild Bill costume.
The Night of the Doctor” was a fantastic treat, but it was also sort of a bummer. McGann was so good that it made me want more. And I don’t think that is likely to happen. While any American drama would be more than happy to launch a spin-off show starring the same main character as the original, I get the feeling that the BBC doesn’t work quite the same way. But I – and many others – would love to see a show about the Eighth Doctor’s adventures. And considering that this webisode made his audio adventures canon, that means the stories are already there. But who knows if Paul McGann would even be interested?
As surprised as I was by the release of the McGann regeneration story, I was even more surprised by “The Last Day”. It was released before I could even recover from the surprise of the other and was story-wise not at all what I was expecting. It was an entirely Doctor-free story about the fall of Arcadia. The day-in-the-life style felt oddly American to me as the narrative followed a… I just realized I have no idea what the heck Gallifrey’s army is called. Or if they were Gallifrey’s army or the Time Lord army.
I know there was a Gallifreyan Chancellery Guard; is this maybe the Gallifreyan Planetary Guard? I dunno. But they were soldiers very reminiscent of Colonial Marines except in uniforms as envisioned by Niles Crane. The story seemed to have three points – to familiarize us with “Sky Trenches” as a means of planetary defense, to once again have a character tell us how terrified we should be of Daleks (as Eccleston did in “Dalek”), and to establish that the consciousness of deceased Time Lords could be downloaded in a method similar to what was seen in the library two-parter (I didn’t attach significance to this one on my own – I think it was fellow ESW host Jennifer that pointed out that might be a big deal).
It was an interesting little story and a neat look at some different inhabitants of the Whoniverse, but it was definitely a bit of a letdown after “The Night of the Doctor”. I was expecting another big surprise (expecting a surprise?) – maybe a brief story about John Hurt’s Doctor. Heck, right up until the end of “The Last Day” I was expecting the War Doctor to show up. So this one was an interesting piece of the story, but hardly impactful. It felt like part 3 of 5.
And with that I realize I have hit my 1,000 word minimum and that I may end up needing to pad this week out a bit. I am expecting one more Guest Post, but as of this writing it has not arrived and I have learned not to depend to strongly upon the writings of others. So come back tomorrow for my review of “The Day of the Doctor” and – perhaps more importantly – The Five(ish) Doctors.
Yes – Needless Things is still in the midst of a Whoniversary!
My original plan had been to take this week off, but there is more Who to be had. So to speak. I had this review, my review of The Day of the Doctor and the associated specials and webisodes, and a very special post from Earth Station Who’s own “Howdy” Mike Gordon. I think there might be a day where nothing goes up due to the fact that I just didn’t have time to write over the weekend, but the Whoniversary will go on for one more week!
We had Guest Posts, Toy Reviews, and more. We had a ton of content with lots of different viewpoints and I think one of the better themed projects we’ve done. Go back through and check everything out and share the ones you like on the social media. And if you’re so inclined, throw a few dollars at the Needless Things family. This is all out of pocket for me, so anything I receive during this time will got to site costs, hosting, and possibly new merchandise if I get really ambitious. Blogger doesn’t facilitate any sort of fundraising, so GO HERE and click the PayPal box to the right.
Also, you can buy the Limited Edition Luchador vs. Owlbear t-shirts here. I can’t say they’re selling fast, but once this style is gone, they’re gone forever. And I do intend on being famous one day, so wouldn’t it be cool to have the first shirt I ever designed?

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