Saturday, December 26, 2009

Doctor Who - The Nightmare Before Christmas

DOCTOR WHO: THE END OF TIME
NIGHTMARES REIGN

Feels like pain running down my vein
And I don't see anyting but you
No it's true

Feel my bones moving to the phone
Sweating at the very thought of you
Yes I do

My eyes are bright, my throat is tight
Never felt this way before we met
Won't forget!

And I can't remember where I saw your face
And I can't remember how you know my name
I can't remember where we said goodbye
I'd leave you if I could
But it feels so good...
I'd leave you if I could
But it feels so good!

Doctor, you're the only one!
Doctor, you're the only way I know!
Doctor, it's so much fun!
I'd leave you if I could
But it feels so good now!


Well, here we are at the end of the road. The trouble with these epic two-parters is that I'm incredibly bad at reviewing them. I mean, my review of The Stolen Earth, for example, was just a sodding synopsis with some rather heavy sarcasm jammed into it. But how can I review a story when only seeing part one? And this is, for once, a part one. Of two. Yes. RTD's finally brave enough to take the plunge after five years, or specifically twelve months of media manipulation. This time, he's remotely confident people will tune in EVEN THOUGH the dreaded "part two" will appear in the credits. I can only assume Phil Ford has been a good influence on him, since The Sarah Jane Adventures have survived three consecutive years of asking people to tune in next time for the conclusion and NOT instantly been cancelled. Even Torchwood managed it, albeit for a week.

Just think, if RTD had had the guts we would have been spared all those tedious arguments about naming stories - and, seriously, I believe Moffat will not back down on this momentous occasion as the man himself considers his "extra" titles of The Doctor Dances and Forest of the Dead actually quite crap. As, indeed, do I. Let's face it, if The Empty Child or Silence in the Library were REALLY any good, people would not have tried to bluff the public they were one-parters, would they?

And, for the record, a story's full and official title is the one that's first announced so it's
Aliens of London
The Empty Child
The Parting of the Ways
The Rise of the Cybermen
The Satan Pit
Army of Ghosts
Daleks in Manhattan
Human Nature
The Sontaran Stratagem
Silence in the Library
Journey's End


Not ones I myself would have chosen, but it's the rule. RTD said so.

But rather than summarize events in my usual pseudo-satirical manner, I shall, instead, take a leaf out of the apparently defunct I, Who franchise (can we really blame him for giving up in 2005? Hell, he's probably still working on that year, there's so much material to review from Big Finish alone...)


NOTHING BAR BIG FEKKIN SPOILERS AHEAD


TARDIS CREW
The Tenth Doctor and Wilfred "Forged from Pure Awesome in the fires of Mount Coolio" Mott, with guest appearance by Donna "Flippin" Noble.

TRAVEL LOG
The Ood-Sphere in 4226, London in the days leading up to Christmas, 2010.

CHRONOLOGY
According to the Doctor, it's a huge amount of time after The Waters of Mars so we can cram in all the spin-off comic strips, annuals audiobooks and that bloody awful BBC Ident (Rusty, when TV Comic look mature and sophisticated in comparison to your work, it's time to get up and get the hell out of BBC Wales). Personally, I believe this occurs not long after the previous story, and the Doctor is talking bullshit to Ood-Sigma so he doesn't look like a complete loser.

STORY SUMMARY
As a Discworld-style gravelly-voiced narrator notes, Wilfred Mott is having LSD flashbacks of the Master sucking his trousers and laughing. Meanwhile (relatively speaking), the Doctor finally accepts Ood Sigma's summons to the Ood-Sphere, a hundred years after his previous visit with Donna. Ood Sigma reveals every Ood is suffering nightmares of the Master returning to life and the Ood Elder concludes these are all symptoms of the encroaching apocalypse...

On Earth, Lucy Saxon is confronted by the new governor of her prison - who is leader of a doomsday cult set up by the Master to ressurect him. Before the process is complete, Lucy manages to corrupt the potions and the newborn Master explodes with enough force to level the prison. But, as always, he survives, albeit more deranged than ever before and barely able to complete a sentence. Fleeing and hiding, the Master lies in wait for the Doctor to hunt him down. Before the Doctor can, though, he is intercepted by Wilf and his groupies. The Doctor finally confronts the fact he is doomed and tells all to Wilf, before going to confront the Master one last time - and immediately has nine colours of crap kicked out of him, but for the first time realizes that the drumming in the Master's head is not merely a sign of insanity. But suddenly a squad of armed soldiers attack and kidnap the Master, leaving the Doctor for dead.

The next morning, Christmas Day, Wilf gets a copy of Joshua Naismith's book Fighting the Future from Donna, who has no idea why she bought it him such a present. During the Queen's speech, Wilf recieves a vision of a woman who tells him he must take up arms and must not mention this to the Doctor, a course of action that might yet save him. Moments later the Doctor arrives, needing Wilf to help him track down the Master. The Doctor realizes that Donna's subsconscious has sensed the End of Time somehow and bought Wilf Naismith's book as a clue to help: Naismith is part of the unfolding cataclysm.

Naismith is the one who has kidnapped the Master, believing that he is the only man to complete reparation of "the Immortality Gate" - an archway designed to regenerate the living tissue of those within. However, Naismith is unaware that the Gate is actually designed to treat entire planetary populations simultaneously, and by the time the Doctor and Wilf discover the truth from some alien scientists working with Naismith, the Master has sabotaged the Gate. The Gate activates and every human being on the planet bar Wilf (who is sheilded in the Gate control chamber) and Donna (who isn't entirely human) are transformed into perfect copies of the Master, while the real Master completes his ressurection. With the human race gone and Donna's mental block starting to falter, the Master is triumphant.

But this is all irrelevant...

"And so it came to pass, on Christmas Day, that the Human Race did cease to exist. But even then, the Master had no concept of his greater role in events, for this was far more than humanity's end! This day was the day upon which the whole of creation would change forever! This was the day the Time Lords returned - for Gallifrey; for victory; for the End of Time itself!"

MEMORABLE MOMENTS
Wilf spotting the TARDIS in a stained glass window in a cathedral. The Ood-Elder tossing aside his extra brain. The Master going skeletal as he notes the irony that he, the master of disguise, keeps getting recognized as Harold Saxon - and is later seen, hiding in a warehouse, gnawing on a human bone. The Doctor thinks "Donna Noble-Temple" would sound like tourist spot. The first appearance of the Narrator. The Master is left speechless when the Doctor asks for his help. The Master's Hannibal Lector treatment. Barack Obama's cameo. The final scene.

SEX AND SPIRITS
The Doctor muses his recent marriage "was a mistake". Mrs. Trefusis conspires to force Lucy to rub up against her as she leaves her cell. Lucy and the Master were so close she's covered in his biodata, even after years in jail. Kinky. The Master is reborn stark naked. Naismith refers to himself in the third person as "Daddy", which is plain wrong no matter who you're saying it to. Minnie has screwed someone in a police box. One of Naismith's tech's has a very naughty expression on her face as she prepares to open the Gate. Wilf is seemingly the only member of the Silver Cloak NOT determined to shag the Doctor and indeed Minnie sets out to make Captain Jack Harkness look like an assexual prude. Wilf describes Donna's marriage to Shaun as "making do" to which the Doctor replies, "aren't we all?" Naismith's daughter is visibly turned on by the Master in bondage, though the Master's lustful expression is more down to a desire to eat her flesh than get up to any sexy stuff. Sylvia gets a Christmas card of a male bodybuilder wearing nothing but a Santa outfit which even she describes as "rude". The two techs sneak off together... but because they're aliens rather than oversexed Torchwood operatives, which makes a change.

ASS-WHUPPINGS
The Doctor's egomania takes a massive metaphorical kicking from Ood Sigma, whose silent treatment breaks though his general displays of displacement assholedom and makes him confront how fucking serious things are. The Master skips away as a firestorm levels a prison, and intends worse for the rest of the "disgusting Human disgRace". The Master draws the Doctor out by whacking an empty drum with the four-knock beat four times and then screams mindlessly at him before flying away. The Doctor's resolve cracking when Wilf muses he is likely to die soon and pleading with him, "Don't you dare!" and he actually breaks down in tears of what he did to Adelaide on Mars. The confrontation in the warehouse. Sylvia watches as the Doctor takes Wilf with him in the TARDIS on the grounds neither want to stay with her.

TV/NOVEL/AUDIO TIE-INS
There are flashbacks to The Sound of the Drums and The Last of the Time Lords as the Doctor remembers his last encounter with the Master and Lucy, and Donna has visions of Davros, the Rachnoss, the Pyroviles, the Vespiform and others as her memory starts to return.

In an impressive failure of communication, this makes this the second adventure the Tenth Doctor has experienced called The End of Time. The closest equivalent are two TV Comic strips for the Third Doctor called The Metal-Eaters. I won't go into that "Mutants Daleks" business though.

Danny Glaze (Shaun Temple) previously played the Fourth Doctor (and rather well it must be said) in the 1980s children's comedy sketch show Your Mother Wouldn't Like It, where he crossed over into Minder and got Terry to protect him from the Daleks, leaving Arthur to be exterminated. This makes him the third person after David Warner and Derek Jacobi to appear in the bona fide TV series after playing the main character elsewhere. Unless you count Nicholas Briggs. Or Mark Gatiss. And why would you?

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT

The Tenth Doctor: Although initially arrogant and slightly contemptuous, the Doctor quietly admits he was loathe to return to the Ood-Sphere after Sigma predicted the Doctor's song would end. He remains aloof and rude, even to Wilf - who finds this new Doctor rather uncomfortable company, leading to quite a few awkward silences. He is very, very shocked to find the Master is alive (presumably because the Master chose to die, and the Doctor went to such lengths to ensure his body STAYED dead this time). Nevertheless, he totally loses his cool when there is even the VAGUEST of implications Donna may be in danger. Even in the vortex, the Doctor can sense the return of the Master and can even "smell" him ala the Family of Blood when he's close enough.

The Doctor notes he has been lucky so far, in that he has managed to regenerate before dying since it is possible to be killed before the process kick-starts. He believes that regenerating "feels" like dying, since "everything I am dies" so "some new man goes sauntering away and I'm dead". Even so, the thought of allowing Donna to burn up upsets him far more than his own demise.

He has more than one brown suit (or can repair the one the Master ruins) and he can spot a disguised alien a mile off.

Wilfred Mott: When Wilf saw military service in Italy, he did not kill anyone (something he is passionate about) as he was apparently too late to make a difference and the war already won. He keeps his wartime belongings (and pistol) in a suitcase under his bed. Though he's never one for churches, he thinks seeing the Doctor would "make his Christmas". He promised the Doctor to never reveal to anyone his knowledge about the Time Lord. He demands the Queen's speech get due respect.
He unsurprisingly knows about the TARDIS's interior (not only did he catch a glimpse in Partners in Crime, he also had lots of time to discuss it with Donna and Rose), but is surprised at how untidy it is.

Donna Noble: Her personality at least is unchanged, but she suffers inexplicable depression (or very explicable depending on who you are). She has found love in the arms of a black guy called Shaun Temple (a "bit of a dreamer" according to Wilf, "but sweet enough"), lives with him in a tiny flat, and intend to get married to in the Spring of 2011. Although they are quite poor, they are happy together and Donna intends that her surname will come AFTER Shaun's, which is surprisingly generous for her. Seeing her fiance and mother turn into clones of the Master is enough to break the memory lock (but not, say, talking to the Doctor or hearing the TARDIS take off so only incredibly wierd alien batshit insanity can affect her... showing that 2010 was a very quiet year, alien chaos wise. But how did she cope during 456 week? Is this yet MORE evidence Torchwood isn't canon?!)

Sylvia Noble: Makes a clear effort to be pleasant around Donna, and is clearly getting on better with her than ever before. Still thinks the clothes from her daughter are crap, though. She is horrified at the Doctor's return (though she DOES try to be polite) for the risk it puts to Donna - she even swallows her pride and pretends to be an idiot so Donna doesn't suspect the thin air she was shouting at was previously occupied by the TARDIS. She seems terrified of the Doctor, unwilling to confront him. Wilf and the Doctor still don't enjoy her company.

The Master: No one apparently twigged who "Harold Saxon" really was, (maybe no one heard the Toclafane call him their Master?) and since his body was stolen by the Doctor and Lucy was off in cuckoo land, no one even twigged he was an alien (between Jack's amnesia drugs, D-notices and of course the Cult of Saxon conspiracy wiping out all witnesses, this isn't entirely unbelievable. Apart from the Joneses not being taken out by a hit squad).

The moment the Doctor learns about the wedding ring surviving, he doesn't doubt for a second that it can somehow be used to bring the Master back (so they've both seemingly watched Flash Gordon).

The reconstituted Master is very different: has a stubbly beard, can also fly and leap with unnatural speed and strength, and can somehow reduce human beings to microwaved skeletons (presumably the ravenous hunger is an attempt to complete the interrupted ressurection). He can also fire bolts of energy from his hands at will, but this seems to cause his body to short-out the more he uses it. More of this in STUFF YOU NEED.

After the events of Season 3, the Master's gone right off humanity as a species after it turned against him and the Toclafane proved useless and has genocide very high on his to do list. He definitely isn't a vegetarian.He makes it clear, as in Sound of the Drums, "Master" isn't any kind of title but his name. He looks distinctly frightened when the Doctor sneaks up on him and the mere thought of his enemy causes him to freak out. He is rather disappointed at how both he and the Doctor have turned out since their promising childhood and simultaneously weeps and screams for joy when someone else hears the drums. He decides that the drums signify someone/something calling him and vows to find out what, but gets sidetracked in wiping out all humanity, as he often does.

Lucy Saxon: The Doctor calls her as the Master's Wife, rather than as an individual, though he considers her an innocent bystander who was corrupted against her will (well, he knew her for a whole year, and he seems to be right that she turned good). Following a secret trial sans jury, Lucy's catatonic defense got her locked up in jail and weeping ever since, presumably for helping assassinate President Winters rather that putting a bullet in the Master (she should have been made an honorary UNIT officer for managing that). She was NOT the one who scooped up the Master's ring, and at least some of her fugue was a bluff, as she knew all about the Cult of Saxon and laid a trap. She is presumably killed in the resulting boom.

Ood-Sigma: He still wears his Ood Operations uniform, even after 100 years. He's as inscrutable as ever, but nevertheless is far less impressed with the Doctor - though whether this is because he knows about Adelaide's death or simply annoyed the Doctor isn't taking things seriously when the universe is about to end, is not clear. He does not join the circle of the Ood Elder.

Joshua Naismith: The Doctor has no idea who he is, so his mental wikipedia clearly isn't reliable any more (if it ever was...). He and his daughter live in a grand mansion with a large staff as well as a bunch of armed troops and white-coated lab technicians. He's a billionaire with fingers in alien collecting pies, and has collected xenotech from the ruins of Canary Wharf. The Master admires him as a ruthless bastard with delusions of philanthropy.

Mrs. Trefusis: As befits a namesack of Vivien Fey, she looks like a lesbian nazi in her late fifties. Henchman to the far more important and unnamed Cult Leader, it was her red fingernails what scooped up the dreaded wedding ring of the Master. She happily sacrifices herself like all the rest of the Cult, even when the Master out and out gloats their deaths are not inevitable and he's only really killing them for the sheer hell of it.

The Woman: A mysterious woman with greying hair, a necklace and a white trouser suit who can manifest in Wilf's consciousness but no one else's. She knows Wilf's history and future events, and seems concerned about the Doctor's welfare. Assuming she's not a pathological liar and really evil. The Doctor seemingly suspects she (or someone/something like her) is involved in this mess.

The Narrator: A poetic sort in a black void who is darkly amused at the idea of the world ending. He's also the leader of a LOT of Time Lords and spits a lot when he gets excited.

ALIEN PLANETS

The Ood-Sphere: Over the last one hundred years, the plateau the TARDIS landed on has been turned into a fairy tale ice city with lots of bridges and icicles. Lighting mainly comes from candles, but maybe it's best not to wonder where they get the wax from.

Gallifrey: The Master's father had estates with pastures of red grass on Mount Perdition, where the Doctor and the Master played as children.

ALIEN RACES
The Ood:Thanks to "time bleeding", they've evolved a hell of a lot in a century, and are now lead by an Ood Elder who has a brain-shaped head along with his secondary brain. They don't have fingernails, and their secondary brains can be dropped in their lap without causing seizures or brain damage - so that explains one nagging problem, like how Oods can do anything requiring two hands. There are male and female Ood, judging from their voices anyway, and they can speak without translator globes (more telepathy?), and send visions into minds of others through physical contact. The Ood are now capable of sending psychic signals through time and space, though they still don't have much of a sense of humor. In their own words, they can see (but not understand) all. Ood Sigma is well over a century old and isn't even going grey in the tentacles, so they're quite long-lived.

The Vinoccini: Distant relatives of Bannakaffalata's people, they are normal sized humanoid but bright green with spikes. Non-hostile, they send a salvage team to Earth to collect the Immortality Gate, and they infiltrate Naismith's base under "shimmers" that make them look human, a process that's very uncomfortable. They're rather naive and gullible.

PLACES TO GO
If we believe what he says, after seeing Ood Sigma the Doctor took a detour via the Phosphorus Carousel of the Great Magellan Gestalt, saved a planet from the Red Carnivorous Maw, named a galaxy Alison, had a failed marriage and earned the wrath of Queen Elizabeth I, picking up a straw hat, flower necklace and sunglasses before finally accepting Ood Sigma's summons.

Broadwell Prison: A very gothic-looking penal establishment, now in need of a new governor after the last two died in very quick succession. They also allow their prisoners to have lipstick and let their hair grow, so it's a lot nicer than, say, Cell Block H. It is levelled when Lucy sabotages the resurrection spell.

ORGANIZATIONS
The Cult of Saxon: Seemingly set up for a laugh, the order of devout Master-worshippers was created to resurrect him should he die, using the ring. When time was re-set, they worked out what was happened and Mrs. Trefusis was sent to collect the ring. Their holy bible is a multi-volume work called The Secret Books of Saxon and they're more than happy to sacrifice themselves. (As they've infiltrated a women's prison, the ones we see here are understandably all female, but there could be other members).

President Obama: After presumably getting in power thanks to the Master nuking Winters, he announces at Christmas 2010 he has a cunning plan (AKA the Initiative) to solve the global financial crisis. The folk on the street automatically believe his plan will work, but merely restore the status quo. He never gets to tell anyone what it is.

The Silver Cloak: A network of restless pensioners and their friends and family who are only in it all for a laugh (and possibly some sex). Wilf uses them to locate the Doctor.

Slade: Merry Xmas Everybody is played one last time for a David Tennant Christmas episode. Now THAT is tradition.

STUFF YOU NEED
The TARDIS: The Doctor has adapted it so it beeps like a car alarm and flashes its lantern via the TARDIS key - apparently just as a cheap gag to amuse people. It doesn't make Ood Sigma laugh. He nevertheless needs to UNLOCK the TARDIS with it again to gain access, and can also shift the TARDIS out of phase with time to keep it out of the Master's clutches (a reversal of the trick in The Keeper of Traken).

The Resurrection Shebang: Known and understood by the Doctor without being told. Some blue and purple "elixirs of life", the Master's ring and the catalyst (a biometrical signature which is left on Lucy) can ressurect a Time Lord, but it needs the life essence of seven women to finish it off. It leaves the newborn Master ravenously hungry though (as per The Lazarus Experiment, regenerating can leave you with a blinding apetite). Time Lords (or at least one half-ressurected like the Master) can make themselves achieve incredible physical feats by "burning up life energy" (presumably like the Ninth Doctor stepping through the fans) which is, most disturbingly, the exact same premise of the DWAD story Dark Dreams where a Time Lord can mentally fling aside nuclear missiles by thought alone.

The Immortality Gate: Medical technology salvaged from the ship that crashed into Mount Snowden (where Torchwood got the Magna-Clamps from) which is, even when half-broken and powered down, able to zap away lifelong scars. The device can scan an entire planet and cure an entire species, and is considered well worth salvaging by alien civilizations in 2010.

HISTORY
The Doctor might have become Good Queen Bess's enemy after he briefly got married to her (though it's not clear, he could be talking about River Song for all that matters). There's a legend about a Sainted Physician in a Blue Box arriving at a 13th Century Abbey to smoke out a demon that fell from the sky, but that's probably just a coincidence. In August 1962, Minnie was locked in a police box for misbehaving, but that didn't stop her.

PHENOMENA
The Doctor isn't really surprised that the Ood have mastered such amazing mental powers, but is worried they managed it in such a short space of time. He rightly suspects an outside force is accelerating their development, which is actually a side effect of the universe falling apart.
The drumming stopped when the Master died and it's only a few moments after he's reborn that he hears them again, louder than ever before - and he likes it.
The Doctor finds it deeply suspicious that Wilf keeps oh-so-conveniently stumbling into his life, instantly tracking the Time Lord down with some gossipy pensioners, and without Dalek Khan manipulating history, this IS rather dodgy. Wilf apparently stands "at the Heart of Coincidence", giving him a unique perspective.

TIME TRAVEL
The Doctor notes that interfering with his own timeline in established events would unravel the causal nexus (so this is a different law of time to the one he broke on Mars, though the Doctor actually has learned his lesson).

AT THE END OF THE DAY
"Christmas is cancelled!"
Initially eschewing the apocalyptic conclusion to the previous story, The End of Time makes a change from previous Christmas specials by laying down from the very start dark crap is happening rather than have everyone taken aback that the yuletide festival is being undermined by marauding robots. Barely getting any dialogue in the first half hour, David Tennant nevertheless spends every second making damn sure we'll miss him and even though - tortured by noises in his head and capable of more super powers than the entire Marvel comic franchise - the Master is basically Sylar from Heroes in a hoodie, John Simms manages to show a very different Master from the cheerful psychopath of 2007. Both he and Bernard Cribbens effortlessly merit their place in the opening credits. The only real downer is that we hardly get any material with Donna and a wealth of less-funny-than-it-thinks-it-is comedy horny old gits in a bus. They could have simply repeated the final bit of The Waters of Mars if they needed padding THAT badly...

1 comment:

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