Tuesday, December 7, 2010

200 Moments: The Seventh Doctor!


Time and the Rani
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: The Rani connects the Doctor's mind to the Giant Brain... but is forced to immediately release him when he picks a fight with the other minds in the gestalt.
WHY: It doesn't matter if the lines about "schizophrenia" are wrong or the fact that every single genius seems to be played by Orac or Zen. What matters is, as Mel points out, the Doctor's personality, his gut instinct to stir things up, cause trouble bring down the government! He can't stop the Rani sucking out his brain but no amount of electrodes, wigs or drugs can make him play nicely, follow the rules, not show off to all the others and get everyone sulking. Any clever alien could use their vast mental powers to fight a giant brain, but only the Doctor could do it simply by being himself - and if that doesn't prove the Scotsman with the umbrella isn't the same man Colin Baker played, then what does?

Paradise Towers
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: His facade exposed, Mel leaves Pex to be teased by the Blue Kangs for his cowardice.
WHY: Everyone's been picked on in their lives at some point or another. Everyone knows what Pex is feeling as he gets left behind while the Kangs sing "Scaredy Cat! Scaredy Cat!" at him, made all the worse because he is a coward. Not a Vila Restal "no way am I taking risks" coward, but someone that almost faints at the first sign of peril and hides in the corner shivering if there's the chance of danger. At first it seems the height of creulty for Mel abandoning him like that, but Pex isn't even brave enough to run after her to ask for a second chance. He doesn't go psycho and beat the shit out of the Kangs, Rorsarch-style, either. He's trapped in his place in this society, Paradise Towers in miniature. So when he does break free of his behavior, of course the world would change forever...

Delta and the Bannermen
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: Gavrok kills the Tollmaster.
WHY: It's one of the nastiest deaths the show's done. The poor Tollmaster, a geeky pen-pusher that likes to party but is clearly rubbish at it, has suddenly found himself surrounded by psychopaths with machine guns. He's terrified, properly scared, literally shaking with fear. There's no noble attempts to be brave, but nor is he stupid enough to try and trick the bad guys. He does all the sensible things, tells Gavrok absolutely everything he can, and even the evil Bannerman leader knows the Tollmaster isn't lying or tricking them. So what does Gavrok do? Shoot the poor guy RIGHT THROUGH THE SPINE, so the Tollmaster lets out an incredibly long scream of agony and hasn't even hit the deck by the time the Bannermen are gone. That's a shocking sadism mixed with the most simple and effective of bullying, and even the lovely comedy characters can die in hideous pain...

THE GOLDEN MOMENT: Kane eulogizes to his statue of his lost love.
WHY: "It should have been I who was shot resisting arrest, not you!" sighs the frosty criminal of his gangland girlfriend Xana. Yet it's not long before we discover the criminal report saying Xana shot herself rather than be captured. Suddenly Kane seems more pathetic, deluded, yet much more real than Gavrok, Kroagnon or the Rani - unable to accept Xana took the coward's way out, he's idolized her as a mythic figure, refusing to accept the truth. And when he finally accepts he's outlived everyone he wanted revenge on, what's the very first thing Kane does? He kills himself, there and then. Just like Xana.

Remembrance of the Daleks
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: The Doctor single-handedly storms a Dalek shuttle.
WHY: In the last story, the Doctor could barely walk on ice in a straight line and his morale-boosting chats almost always ended up with people killing themselves. Yet here, when his entire plan has turned to crap, improvises with a speed and skill never before shown - the Doctor of Season 24 could never have even lassoed a tow-line to the spaceship properly, let alone kick his way through the roof, ninja-style tumble into the ship, hot wire the flight console and kill the Dalek with some Christmas lights. Hell, simply getting the dialogue right for that scene would have been a big ask. This scene is the turning point, as the Seventh Doctor goes from Crouching Moron to Hidden Badass...

The Happiness Patrol
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: The Happiness Patrol arrive to massacre the Doctor and the rebels, when they unleash their secret weapon.
WHY: "I'm not upset," the Doctor announces upon arriving on Terra Alpha, "I'm angry!" On a world where it's a crime to be miserable, folk end up so depressed they don't care when they finally get 'disappeared'. But the Doctor is the first person to use Helen A's rules against them. All the drones start laughing, cheering, singing... and so cannot be executed. However, the disappointed Happiness Patrol itself are now public enemies and a mini-civil-war takes place while the Doctor, Ace and pals laugh with deliberate fakeness. But then, what other kind of laughter can be found on this planet?

Silver Nemesis
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: The Doctor must choose whether to surrender Nemesis to Lady Peinforte or the Cybermen. Peinforte threatens to reveal the Doctor's secrets, and the Doctor calls her bluff.
WHY: Lady Peinforte is completely and utterly insane, and she wasn't exactly a brilliant picture of normality beforehand. Who knows what utter bollocks the Nemesis statue could have fobbed her off with? A 13th century witch might consider dark secrets very different to what others would. So it doesn't matter what she was going to blab to the Cybermen ('He's half-human from his mother's side, teamed up with Rassilon and Omega and is actually GOD! BWAHAHAHAHAHA!'), but for the first time we're asked to wonder if the Doctor is all he seems to be. A face-changing time traveler or something more? No answers would ever be made but the very IDEA that the Doctor has a secret he might prize higher than his friends or the human race is a very potent one - and as the Doctor stares impassively at Peinforte, you can't help but wonder what such a thing could possibly be...

The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: At the Psychic Circus, Ace is cornered by the thing she hates most - clowns...
WHY: Everyone's scared of clowns for some reason. Is it because they always smile at things that aren't funny? Is it because their true faces are always hidden? Is it just because so many serial killers like dressing up as the rubber-nosed white-faced bastards? Either way, Ace's barely-controlled terror of being surrounded by clowns is, if anything, slightly eased when she finds out they are merely clown-shaped robots. And then the Chief Clown is laughing and grinning at her. "Are you a robot too?" she mocks. "No!" the Chief Clown sings, looming over her. He's not an android, or a monster, or have any superpowers at all. But he's still the scariest thing in the circus and the Doctor never meets him. Ace is on her own...

THE GOLDEN MOMENT: The Doctor discovers the Brigadier is still alive.
WHY: Sylvester McCoy may not be the best at anger, but he's very good at grief - left cradling the body of his best friend, shouting miserably at "stupid thick-headed numbskull" who "should have died in bed". "I could have handled it!" the Doctor weeps, only for the Brigadier to crack open one eye. After all the UNIT era, after all those times the Doctor's been last seen caught in a huge explosion or shot by aliens, the Brigadier finally pays the Time Lord back for all the worry and heartache. Capping it off, the resurrected Lethbridge-Stewart announces he can retire now he's finally got one over his scientific advisor...

Ghost Light
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: Ace confronts the Doctor about bringing her to Gabriel Chase.
WHY: Ace isn't scared of anything (seriously, she picks fights with people who have machine guns aimed at her head for calling her "freaky"!) so one can hardly blame the Doctor for being very interested at the tale of a haunted house that terrified her. But, as always, the Doctor's good intentions pave the road to hell. He's so utterly confident Ace will rise to confront her own fears, he doesn't think she might just have a near nervous breakdown. He assumes she's told him everything. The "initiative test" has started on entirely the wrong foot and the Doctor has to try and explain, justify himself even, to Ace. As she points out, the Doctor has things HE hates, and he's unwittingly dumped her in the worst place in the universe before she's ready. It's an intense scene and made all the more important that, in this story of two-hander scenes, only the Doctor and Ace actually talk to each other.

The Curse of Fenric
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: Fenric arrives to inspect his haemavore troops.
WHY: Fenric is the type of villain that's par for the course in Buffy (actually the whole story is a bit Buffyish, with one episode cliffhanger where a cripple rises from a wheelchair being outright copied by Monseuir Whedon). Fenric is pure evil from the dawn of time, capable of speeches that you can believe could burn themselves into rock to warn future generations, and is clearly ready, willing and able to destroy all life on Earth. "When it comes to death," he giggles, "quantity is so much better than quality!" But it's the moments when he's not playing up to the audience that makes him so funny... and so disturbing. Anyone who can look at a horde of blue leech-faced vampires and grimace, "I was expecting something a bit more... well, Aryan," and make cheap shots about British tea when soldiers get their throats slit open in front of him is a new level of wrong. A villain who is almost uncontrollably amused at his own evil deeds is rare in Doctor Who... until it started taking tips from Buffy anyway... "Don't interrupt me when I'm eulogising!"

THE GOLDEN MOMENT: The Doctor is leading a group of survivors through the Cheetah People, only for the humans to panic and a fight to break out...
WHY: "There's one thing more dangerous than being attacked by a cheetah!" screams the Doctor to Ace, "And that's attacking the cheetah! YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT THEY'LL DO TO YOU!!" Having been calm and controlled throughout the story, from confronting the Master to being caught upside down in a man-trap, the Doctor suddenly loses it as the humans he's trying to save succumb to panic and anger - even Ace. The Doctor's not just "bah, humans being nasty" annoyed, he's genuinely scared about what will happen now, and soon we find out just why he's scared of getting into a fight. The Seventh Doctor's lost control of events before, but never this quickly, and never been so blatantly frightened... but he can still trip up Cheetahs with his umbrella and doff his hat at them. I bet Rudyard Kipling wrote about times like this.

Dimensions in Time
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: The Doctor and Ace step out of the TARDIS and find themselves in the wrong place and the wrong time.
WHY: JNT laudably tried to make this story canon - it's got an official production code and everything, with every effort made to make not only this story real but also to remind the folk at home what they've been missing for the last four years. Needless to say, it's a complete failure in absolutely every respect but this sequence manages if nothing else to prove that we were robbed when Season 27 never happened. "Oh to be in China now November's here!" the Doctor cheers as he staggers from the time machine while Ace grumbles about MOTs... just a pity it wasn't the opening scene of a better story... or a better season...

No comments: