Wearing a Bit Thin

It’s been official since January that Peter Capaldi is leaving Doctor Who, and that his last episode will air at Christmas of this year. More recently it’s been announced that he would be facing the 1966 Cybermen this season — the strange headlamp-and-cloth-face-mask version we saw in their very first appearance, which happened also to be William Hartnell’s very last (consecutive) appearance as the First Doctor. This got me thinking: is it possible that the Twelfth Doctor would go out the way the First Doctor did? It’s the sort of thing a big fan of the show like Capaldi might request, and while he’ll definitely appear in the Christmas special, it could very well be a flashback.

I know, it sounds far-fetched to me too — anticlimactically repetitive, for a start, and convoluted even for Moffat. But it got me thinking about the different ways the Doctors have regenerated, and speculating about what we might expect this time. I thought it might be interesting to compare the enemies involved in regeneration stories, the catalysts that have helped the process along, and the causes of “death.”

As a bonus, I’ll offer a short take on the personality shifts between incarnations, according to my theory (I don’t remember if I came up with it, but I like it) that even within the story the Doctor is subconsciously “recasting” himself to correct any flaws he might perceive in his ending persona (whether we agree that they’re flaws or not) and become the new person he believes he might need to be.

First Doctor

Enemy: The Cybermen
Catalyst: The TARDIS
Cause: Exhaustion
Quote: “This old body of mine is wearing a bit thin.”

Though the early Cybermen were all about draining energy, there’s no explicit indication that they were draining it from the Doctor himself. To all appearances, he’s simply aged his first body as far as it can go, and it’s time to renew it. In the next story, his new self comments that this process is “part of the TARDIS,” suggesting that access to his ship is essential for regeneration to succeed. Indeed, there will be only three regenerations that don’t happen in or near the TARDIS, and all three of them have some other catalyst involved. This is never again explicitly stated, but we could assume that wherever I’ve noted the catalyst as “none,” the TARDIS is still playing that role.

This incarnation could be physically infirm and lacking in warmth; he becomes a younger, more charming man whose signature tactic is to run.

Second Doctor

Enemy: The War Lords
Catalyst: The Time Lords
Cause: Induction
Quote: “The time has come for you to change your appearance, Doctor, and begin your exile.”

So far the Second Doctor has been the only one to have regenerated while in perfect health. He is in a sense executed by the Time Lords for becoming too involved in the affairs of worlds outside Gallifrey. We might imagine this experience to be as traumatic as an execution, but little onscreen suggests it’s physically painful, as opposed to merely emotionally unpleasant. Still, though the enemy of this story is technically the War Lords (themselves an organization or species we might describe as degraded, inverted Time Lords), the Time Lords themselves are the cause of the actual regeneration, and might just as well be considered eleventh-hour antagonists.

Though demonstrably brilliant and capable, this incarnation sometimes found it difficult to command respect at first glance, and was not especially imposing physically. He becomes a more patrician, authoritative Doctor with a mastery of multiple martial arts.

Third Doctor

Enemy: The Giant Spiders of Metebelis III
Catalyst: Cho-Je
Cause: Radiation
Quote: “All the cells of his body have been devastated by the Metebelis crystals, but you forget, he is a Time Lord. I will give the process a little push and the cells will regenerate.”

The same alien radiation emitted by the blue crystals of Metebelis III that caused ordinary spiders from Earth to grow giant in size and intellectual capacity proved deadly in full doses, not just to their monarch the Great One, but also to the Doctor. Earlier in the same story, he takes a nearly-lethal spike of spidery lightning which knocks him almost comatose until Sarah Jane brings him medical equipment from the TARDIS, so he’s already poorly. Though he has his TARDIS nearby for the regeneration, he needs a little extra help from a fellow Time Lord.

While he was much more likely to rebuke authority figures than he’s given credit for, this incarnation developed a respect for human institutions and etiquette that probably constrained him a bit. His next would almost immediately display a detached, anarchic streak and a much healthier sense of humor about himself and the rest of the universe.

Fourth Doctor

Enemy: The Master
Catalyst: The Watcher
Cause: Trauma
Quote: “It’s the end. But the moment has been prepared for.”

One of the most violent regenerations to date, and the only one the Master can be said to be directly involved in. On the beam of a radio telescope, the Fourth Doctor fights the Master, who deliberately tilts the dish so that the Doctor slides off, dangles by a cable, loses his grip, and plunges to the ground. This is a family show, so he’s externally unscathed, but there’s no doubt he’s had it. The TARDIS is a good distance away, but a catalyst is at hand: a sort of plaster-of-Paris-covered mime who merges with him to become the Fifth Doctor. We might think of the Watcher as an autonomous projection of the Doctor, much as Cho-Je was an autonomous projection of the K’anpo Rimpoche, the Doctor’s former teacher. Maybe that’s where the Doctor got the idea to try a less polished version of the same trick. We don’t see clear evidence that summoning the Watcher was a conscious choice, but there’s plenty to suggest the Doctor might be expecting disaster. He’s uncharacteristically somber from the start, intoning gloomily about entropy — and why take a sudden urge to repair the chameleon circuit? Perhaps he knows something terrible is coming, even suspects that the Master may not have died on Traken, and creates the Watcher as a form of insurance? Which means we might also think of the Watcher as a horcrux. But this is 1981, so JK Rowling is only 16, and anyway it’s a little creepy to think of the Doctor as a lich with a phylactery, isn’t it? Still.

This incarnation of the Doctor was getting a little untouchable by the end, a little too sure of himself, a little arrogant perhaps, and maybe that was making him a little hard to be around. Next time, maybe he’d try to be a little more human, a little more approachable, a little more vulnerable. Given his hobbies, maybe not really the best move.

Fifth Doctor

Enemy: Sharaz Jek, Morgus, and all the other would-be profiteers and exploiters of Androzani Minor
Catalyst: none
Cause: Toxaemia
Quote: “Cramp is the second stage. First a rash, then spasms, finally slow paralysis of the thoracic spinal nerve and then TDP. Thermal death point. It’s called Spectrox toxaemia. I’ve seen dozens die from it.”

Toxaemia — blood poisoning brought on by an infection or a toxic substance — is probably the most gruesome regeneration cause we’ve seen so far. First of all, it’s a much more down-and-dirty biological sort of affliction than radiation or the trauma of falling from a great height. But eventually we learn that while the refined form of spectrox (the toxic substance in question) is a life-extending drug probably inspired by Dune‘s melange, its original form is literally bat guano. That is to say, the Doctor and Peri spend the entire story slowly dying because they fell into a pit of bat shit. Can you imagine the Tumblr anguish if they’d done that to David Tennant? Enemy-wise, it’s hard to blame any of the local warlords, venal bureaucrats, gunrunners, and other assorted criminals for this situation; our heroes step in poop before they meet anyone else on the planet and in fact would have died if they hadn’t gotten some crucial advice about the antitoxin. Well, Peri would have died; the Doctor would have survived, and that would have been awkward. Though less whiny.

This incarnation wasn’t a total wimp, but he was in a lot of situations where he could have benefited from being just a little tougher. Maybe after an adventure in which he was nearly shot to death by a firing squad and had to crash-land a ship and crawl into an airless cave to milk a queen bat, his dying self thought back to that dashing but ruthless Gallifreyan Commander Maxil and wished he’d been a little more like that….

Sixth Doctor

Enemy: The Rani
Catalyst: none
Cause: Trauma
Quote: “Yes, it exploded and threw you to the floor. Me, too. Knocked us both cold. When I came round you looked like this.”

It’s not entirely clear what causes the Sixth Doctor to regenerate. The relevant quote here is from the Rani, an amoral Time Lord disguised as the Doctor’s companion Mel. The “it” that “exploded” is an experiment that the Rani is making up as an explanation for an amnesiac Doctor. We know that in truth she’s brought down the TARDIS herself with some sort of energy bolts that knocked it out of the vortex, with the aim of getting the Doctor to help her complete her latest science project. So whatever the energy bolts are, they weren’t supposed to hurt him or cause him to regenerate, and after all they leave Mel unconscious but unconcussed. So we have to assume that either some part of the TARDIS does explode and injure him severely and Mel superficially, or — as goes the usual wisdom — he happened to hit his head hard enough to “kill” him. Perhaps the Rani’s energy bolts happened to catch him off-balance on his exercise bike.

This incarnation was abrasive, conceited, pretentious, and often downright nasty and abusive. This made it easy to overlook that — after his regeneration settled down — he was also protective, noble, outgoing, literate, and unafraid to get his hands dirty. There wasn’t a subtle bone in his body, and maybe that’s what drove him toward a regeneration that, like his first, brought him a personality with charm, a smooth tongue, and a deceptively unthreatening appearance.

Seventh Doctor

Enemy: The Master, a trigger-happy street gang, and San Francisco surgical procedures just before the year 2000
Catalyst: A thunderstorm?
Cause: Trauma
Quote: “And here we have an electro-physiology being performed by one of our senior cardiologists, Doctor Holloway, who will insert a micro-surgical probe into the patient’s artery, then search out the short-circuiting part causing the fibrillation, and just so that you know your money is being well spent, we’ll blast it with lasers.”

In which the famously ten-steps-ahead chess-playing master strategist Doctor dashes out of the TARDIS without checking a single scanner or instrument, right into a random San Francisco gangland shooting. Adding injury to insult, the bullets aren’t quite enough to kill him — instead, he is operated on by his companion-to-be, who skipped Alien Physiology in med school, and so has no idea how Time Lord physiology differs from the humans she’s used to. Rather than saving him, her procedure finishes him off. No wonder people are afraid of hospitals. Here the Master mainly just benefits from the situation rather than causing it. This is perhaps the first of the delayed regenerations, though rather than walking around and casually chatting with his former companions as has become customary since 2005, the Doctor is apparently dead for hours. The TARDIS isn’t nearby to help, and maybe this is partly why it takes so long. It’s not clear whether the coincidental thunderstorm plays any catalytic role, or if it’s just a clumsy Frankenstein allusion.

This incarnation, though perhaps resembling your most huggable uncle, was probably not going to have the chance to smooch too many mildly attractive incompetent surgeons. Maybe subconsciously he felt it was time to try being youthful and handsome and spontaneous again.

Eighth Doctor

Enemy: The Daleks
Catalyst: A magic potion!
Cause: Trauma
Quote: “Our elixir can trigger your regeneration, bring you back. Time Lord science is elevated here on Karn. The change doesn’t have to be random. Fat or thin, young or old, man or woman?”

Though the Daleks don’t make an appearance here, they’re the antagonist in the Time War, and even if the Time Lords are equally to blame, it’s clear what side the Doctor ends up taking. Like the Fourth Doctor, the Eighth has crashed to the ground hard and is all messed up inside. The TARDIS is somewhere in the wreckage, but we don’t know how far — maybe even farther away than it was in “Logopolis.” Fortunately the Sisterhood of Karn — a planet that might be the most crashed-on in the whole galaxy — have some potions ready to go, and they’ve been tight with the Time Lords for ages so they know what they’re doing.

No mystery at all what transition the Doctor mulls here. He gets to make a conscious choice to become a fighter, not a lover. Why that fighter is in the form of John Hurt and not, say, Tom Hardy or Daniel Craig or the Rock is a little mysterious; even Christopher Eccleston seems like more of a “fighter,” and of course we know it very nearly was him after all. But maybe there’s only so far the Doctor can go in the direction of badassedness, which is why he’s not the Warrior but the War Doctor.

War Doctor

Enemy: The Daleks
Catalyst: none
Cause: Exhaustion
Quote: “Oh yes, of course. I suppose it makes sense. Wearing a bit thin. I hope the ears are a bit less conspicuous this time.”

Here again, no Daleks are shooting at him, but what must have been centuries (as much as one can reckon time in the midst of a Time War) of fighting them must have been what wore him out. Still, he isn’t quite expecting to regenerate, but once it starts he acts as though it were an obvious next step. The line “wearing a bit thin” of course echoes his first regeneration, supporting the idea that the cause in both cases is the same: a “natural” death of “old age.” Part of what “makes sense” is that now the war is over and he no longer needs to be the War Doctor. Interestingly, if this had been Eccleston, there would have been no regeneration scene.

This incarnation had a heavy burden, and we have to assume he didn’t have a lot of time to explore the universe, flip through tabloids, visit past Earth history, or eat chips. He also had started to be a different kind of Doctor — younger, more dashing, less intellectual, more emotional, and maybe he wanted to get back on that track. Or maybe after so long looking like he didn’t belong in any particular time or place, he thought it might be good to be the kind of man who could blend in on the streets of 21st century London and just relax.

Ninth Doctor

Enemy: The Daleks
Catalyst: none
Cause: Radiation
Quote: “I absorbed all the energy of the Time Vortex, and no one’s meant to do that. Every cell in my body’s dying.”

Radiation hasn’t taken out a Doctor since 1974, so it’s due to come back into fashion. It’s a nice clean cause of death, invisible and almost magic. The idea that the Doctor can kiss it out of someone else like he’s sucking venom from a rattlesnake bite is a little far-fetched, but this is Doctor Who, so why not. The language he uses here is almost certainly a deliberate reference to that previous regeneration.

Again, the Ninth Doctor isn’t bad-looking, but right now he’s Rose’s fun uncle, and if he’s going to fall in love with her — which he does, come on, of course he does — he’ll need to be Casanova, but with better hair.


Enemy: The Daleks
Catalyst: Donna
Cause: Trauma
Quote: “I’m unique. Never been another like me. Because all that regeneration energy went into the hand. Look at my hand. I love that hand. But then you touched it. Wham! Shush. Instantaneous biological metacrisis. I grew out of you. Still, could be worse.”

I bring up Handy for two reasons only. One, he arguably counts as an actual regeneration, as irritating as that idea is. And two, if we are pursuing this theory that regenerations produce a new incarnation that “corrects” the flaws of the previous one, it’s possible that at this point in time the Tenth Doctor thinks he is flawless.

Okay, three reasons: the quote above is preceded by an even better one, to wit, Donna speculating, “Is that what Time Lords do? Lop a bit off, grow another one? You’re like worms.”

Tenth Doctor

Enemy: The Time Lords
Catalyst: none
Cause: Radiation
Quote: “All the excess radiation gets vented inside there. Vinvocci glass contains it. All five hundred thousand rads, about to flood that thing.”

Technically, the Time Lords are pulling all the strings, though probably some of the blame goes to the Naismiths. Though, really, if I were trying to pin down the root culprit of these regenerations rather than the antagonist du jour, I’d probably have to point to — not Wilf, but the Vinvocci and their completely unsafe, poorly designed radiation death trap technology. What’s wrong with those idiots and their “opening one cabinet locks the other” industrial design? Do they not realize that we just had a radiation regeneration last time (Handy notwithstanding)? While we’re on the subject of the absurd, how is it that the Tenth Doctor can survive a catastrophic fall but the Fourth and the Eighth can’t? He must have decided enough trauma was enough and did some intense body modification as the War Doctor, which might also explain his extraordinary resistance to electricity and extreme temperatures in “Evolution of the Daleks” and “42” respectively.

This incarnation was a bit too romantic — it compromised his judgment, broke his heart, hooked him up with a monarch, and cost him at least one companion who’d hoped for more from him than he could give. Maybe the next him could be slightly goofier, have sillier taste in clothes, and be a little less inclined to get involved with his female companions (historical celebrities would still be on the menu, though). In hindsight, though, he ought to have known this attempt would fail, considering he’d already met his wife.

Eleventh Doctor

Enemy: The Daleks, and any other enemies who haven’t gotten bored and left
Catalyst: The Time Lords
Cause: Exhaustion / induction
Quote: “Yes, I’m dying. You’ve been trying to kill me for centuries, and here I am, dying of old age. If you want something done, do it yourself.”

A bit of a special case, considering it was supposed to be the last one. Old age has, for only the third time in the Doctor’s lives, come to claim him when none of his massed enemies could close the deal, and so it’s what I’m calling exhaustion that kills him. But since the process would not be happening at all without a new regeneration cycle being sent through Amy’s Crack by the Time Lords, like some kind of extension on his cosmic taxes, the regeneration itself could be what I’m calling induced. As with the last few times, dying is now so comfortable for the Doctor that he can stroll around and chat with his companions for as long as he wants to, kind of taking a lot of the drama out of the whole affair and making it feel a bit like an awards show. It’s also the second instance of the “reset,” where any visible wounds or gray hairs or liver spots magically buff away, a bit like sprucing oneself up for that awards show.

This incarnation was still just a bit too dangerously attractive, only this time to slightly older women, self-described “psychopaths” with archaeology degrees or Dalek eyestalks coming out of their heads. Once and for all, maybe he would try to nip this thing in the bud and take it all back to where he began: a no-nonsense older man with a dangerous side, a lack of patience for silly humans, but underneath it all a current of warmth for his favorites of that species. He could come full circle and start it all over again, older and wiser. As long as he could avoid running into any old-school Mondasian Cybermen, maybe he could live forever….

And the awards go to…

Deadliest Enemy: The Daleks

It’s no surprise that the Doctor’s deadliest enemy, in terms of ushering in his regenerations, is his oldest (if you don’t count the primitive Earthlings of “100,000 B.C.”). Though they’ve rarely been the immediate cause of the regenerations (the only exception being Handy, who owes his existence to a would-be extermination bolt), they’ve been heavily involved in the conflicts that have led up to five of them. It’s interesting, however, that the runners-up are the Doctor’s own people: counting the Master and the Rani, Time Lords have taken four of the Doctor’s lives, more than they’ve helped to save.

Most Helpful Catalyst: The TARDIS

There should be an asterisk next to this one, since as mentioned above, the idea that regeneration is “part of the TARDIS” is never mentioned again after “Power of the Daleks.” So we can only assume that in the cases where no other catalyst is present, the TARDIS is taking care of the Time Lord it stole. But it’s a reasonable assumption for five regenerations and a stated fact for a sixth. The Time Lords themselves take a silver medal again, helping with four regenerations, if we count the Watcher (who, after all, “was the Doctor all the time” if Nyssa’s intuition is to be trusted).

Most Common Cause: Trauma

This is the biggest surprise of this exercise for me. I’d expected one of the more family-friendly causes of death to win out. If you group exhaustion, induction, and good old invisible radiation together, I suppose they still do, but individually they split the vote such that traumatic deaths — falling, being shot, and massive head injuries — squeak into first place with five (thanks once again to Handy). This suggests it’s entirely possible that the Twelfth Doctor might end up having something pretty scary and awful happen to him after all…though surely not at Christmas.

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The IMAGE was found at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/doctorwho/entries/adff0629-5ce5-4a0e-b81a-69693d489745

Checking in

So yeah. It’s been a while.

I’ve been watching loads of things, but not much that’s inspired me to take the time to write a full entry. Here are a few I remember offhand.

Accatone: Eh. Even in Italian I can tell the acting can’t have been that great.

Chi-raq: Terrific. I wouldn’t have thought you could really pull off a modernized Lysistrata, much less transplant it to Chicago’s gang wars, but it works like crazy. Larger-than-life movie musical show-stoppers shift seamlessly to raw, emotional confrontations, really moving even when they’re rendered in rhyming verse. I’m coming late to Spike Lee but I’m glad I did.

Dollhouse: 3 or 4 episodes in. I’m enjoying it.

Downton Abbey: Not as pointless as I’d expected, though it still seems like a bit of a relic. I’m amazed a show like this can still get made.

Man of Steel: The first hour or so is really remarkable. After that it starts falling apart rapidly, with what seem like random cuts, fuzzy motivations, miscastings, and interminable, confusing fight sequences. Still not quite as bad as people said it was.

Oedipus Rex: The Pasolini version. Bizarre and remarkable, but desolate and almost pre-human.

Only Lovers Left Alive: I would have loved this small-scale vampire movie when I was in college, and I love it now for different reasons, but I’m not sure I would have been into it during the years intervening. I might have more to say about this later, but for now, two fangs up.

Pushing Daisies: So goofy, almost too cute, but really fun. Looking forward to watching the rest.

Star Trek: 4 episodes in, I think? The same themes recurring: perfect harmony disrupted by the wildness of our emotions and desires and failings. Humans elevated to near-omnipotence, needing to be brought down. It’s starting to get repetitive, but I’m sure it’ll branch out soon.

The Twilight Zone: Feels truly ancient now, more than half a century later. Still highly watchable.

I also wanted to comment that a while back I had occasion to throw on “The Doctor’s Wife” and was shocked at how unmoved I was. I still think it’s brilliant, but I just couldn’t get invested in anything that was happening or care about any of the characters. I don’t know if that’s Neil Gaiman’s fault so much as that I’m finding Moffat’s Who oddly difficult to rewatch right now, particularly the Matt Smith era. Maybe it’s just that, as with the Eccleston era, watching it feels a bit like watching a “lame duck” Doctor; knowing Eccleston was already gone prevented me from getting too invested in his Doctor, while knowing Capaldi’s the current guy makes the Smith era feel oddly sealed off. And yet I don’t have the same reaction to going back and watching Tennant. Very weird. Of course, the Doctor I feel most like watching right now is Pertwee, so go figure.

The Time of the Doctor

This Christmas, the time of one of my favorite Doctors drew to a slightly disappointing close, with a potentially moving elegy buried beneath an avalanche of eh. But let’s have one more go at picking apart yet another overstuffed Moffat finale, five minutes at a time, and see if we can focus on the good bits.

0:00 – 5:00
Handles is, of course, one of the good bits. We’ve had a cuddly Sontaran and a cuddly Silurian, so naturally now we have to have a cuddly Cyberman (still waiting on the cuddly Dalek, unless you count Oswin). He talks and thinks like K9, which is quite welcome.

This opening was actually quite promising, full of the jokey stuff Moffat does best. “How those Cyber-evenings must fly.” “It’s a roller coaster, this phone call.” “Yeah, I [invented a boyfriend] once. And there’s no easy way to get rid of an android.” Brilliant.

Later we’ll discover that the message is from the Time Lords. So why can’t the Doctor translate it? Why, for that matter, can’t he recognize Dalek or Cyberman ships when he sees them?

And this is still my favorite title sequence of the new series. Maybe ever.

5:01 – 10:00
This bit about the Doctor being naked to go to church is almost funny, but not quite. You can just hear Moffat thinking, “I’m going to have a much harder time doing this joke with Capaldi naked, so I’d better pull the trigger on it now.” It feels a little desperate, but at least it leads to a reprise of the joke in “The End of Time” where elderly women fancy the Doctor.

Cooking a baby in the TARDIS led to a pseudo-Time Lady who was eventually turned into the Doctor’s assassin, so hey, why should cooking a turkey be any less safe, right?

Interesting that where RTD had space-cops (the Shadow Proclamation), Moffat has a space-church-army (the Papal Mainframe).

There’s a theory floating about that Tasha Lem is supposed to be River Song, but the scene just before the ten-minute mark suggests that either she’s never met this Doctor before (hence predating the Alex Kingston version) or her relationship with him is such that he believes she’s never met this Doctor before (hence…I have no idea). I’m calling: no relation.

10:01 – 15:00
Love the spitting-out-the-wine bit one more time.

Love this bit with the Silence, too. They haven’t been my favorite monsters, but this is a nice use of sound and editing to make this one super-creepy. The Angels…a little less super-creepy, but nice attempt.

15:01 – 20:00
It’s quite a good wig, isn’t it? Some more very good quips, well-written by Moffat, well-delivered by Smith. I love the idea of the town where no one can lie, and I love the people he meets who explain it to him.

Interesting that this crack has been haunting the Eleventh Doctor since his incarnation. I missed it the first time round, but this is apparently what was in his room in “The God Complex.” Is it the crack he was afraid of, or the people on the other side? Presumably the former, since at the time he thought those people destroyed, but it’s interesting to have some sort of answer to the question.

The Doctor “nicked [the Seal of the High Council of Gallifrey] off the Master, in the Death Zone” in “The Five Doctors,” all the way back in 1983. There’s your pub quiz sorted.

20:01 – 25:00
The repetition of “Doctor who?” never fails to sound embarrassing. I really hope this is the last time we have to hear it.

25:01 – 30:00
I quite like the idea of immobilizing Weeping Angels with mirrors. It’s surprising we haven’t seen it before now. Why is the wooden Cyberman infringing Dalek copyright on verbs ending in “-ate”?

And why is the Doctor aging? Is it something that happens to him only when he’s been away from the TARDIS, experiencing consecutive time for long periods? He got through 300 years leading up to “The Impossible Astronaut” with barely a laugh line, so there must be something different here.

“Cool is not cool!”

30:01 – 35:00
Here’s the heart of the episode: “a town that needs me to stick around.” This is something that this incarnation of the Doctor in particular has been averse to. In “Vincent and the Doctor” he’s appalled by time passing very slowly in the right order; in “The Power of Three” he can barely sit on a couch thirty seconds waiting for a cube to hatch. I never got the sense that he was waiting to be needed, or waiting to find somewhere to settle down. But maybe for some people that’s how it is; settling down is what happens when they’re thinking that any minute the TARDIS is going to come back. And after a while, they feel as though it’s where they were always meant to be.

And here’s the regeneration limit made official for the new series: it’s 13 lives and out, just like in the classic series, and yes, both John Hurt and Rose’s human Doctor count.

35:01 – 40:00
I don’t really understand why you’d want to forget that you’d confessed. Seems more likely you’d want your confessor to forget what you’d told them. But now we know who blew up the TARDIS, and why there are so many different takes on “silence will fall”: religious sectarianism. Same as it ever was.

And the Daleks know who the Doctor is again. Looks like we got about as much mileage out of the “forgetting the Doctor” setup as we did out of the candy-colored Daleks (i.e. none). How did they kill Tasha several times? Even if she were River Song (talking about herself — “they engineered a psychopath to kill you”), didn’t she shed all her regenerations in “Let’s Kill Hitler”? Is she another Time Lord, and if so, who is she and where did she come from?

40:01 – 45:00
And if she’s not River Song, what does the line “you’ve been fighting the psychopath inside you all your life” refer to? Does the Doctor just have a thing for psychopathic women? Clara seems to think so.

45:01 – 50:00
I like this moment, where Clara’s gran declines to tell the funny anecdote about the pigeon and tells the touching story instead, just after saying how she prefers the crackers with jokes to the ones with poems. It’s contradictory and quite beautiful.

Here’s Tasha flying the TARDIS. More evidence for the River Song hypothesis. I suppose you could also apply it to Romana, or even the Rani, but who wants to go there? I don’t. Can’t there be more than three women in the universe who can fly TARDISes?

I’ve seen some people complaining about the old age makeup. I think it’s pretty effective, myself.

“Talk very fast, hope something good happens, take the credit. That’s generally how it works.”

50:01 – 55:00
I’m not sure I like the idea of the Time Lords coming back at all — generally I like that Gallifrey is no longer in this universe, since lost is almost as good as destroyed for keeping them from causing trouble by returning and being underwhelming. And I’m really not sure I like Clara praying to them and asking them to help “if you love him.” But maybe they help because they know there’s only one person she would talk about this way, and because they know they’re going to need him, and he’s no use to them dead.

It’s a nicely understated way to reboot him: just a little orange snowball through the crack in the universe, and we’re away. However mixed my feelings about this story might be, I do appreciate its restraint in comparison to, say, “The End of Time.”

55:01 – 60:00
…well, restraint in most respects. Regeneration energy as a weapon of mass destruction is a bit of a stretch, and it was fairly silly back in “The End of Time” when it just acted to demolish the TARDIS interior. But this is a pretty momentous regeneration — the start of a whole new cycle — and the breaking of a few rules is gonna be par for the course.

But at least this Doctor faces death with dignity. Having lived for centuries probably helps you do that; we don’t know how long the Tenth Doctor was around for, but it was probably less than 600-plus years.

Lovely cameo by Amy. One of the nicest moments of the episode. I’m really going to miss him, and now I’m really going to miss her too.

60:01 – 61:06
And in a blink, he’s Peter Capaldi. I would love to say that this was a memorable entrance, but instead it’s a briefer reprise of Matt Smith’s first few moments: a comment about changed body parts (the rather forced “kidneys” bit) and then “we’re crashing.” I would have liked to see something a bit more interesting from a brand new Doctor with a rebooted regeneration cycle, something to make me look forward to the new season, but then I didn’t like Matt Smith until the first five minutes of “The Eleventh Hour” either, so there’s plenty of time.

I liked this episode better the second time around. I didn’t love it, and I wish it had been weighed down less by wrapping up leftover questions (and raising new ones in the form of Tasha Lem), but it did its job, and gave Matt Smith a quietly heroic exit. Perhaps no exit could have done justice to a Doctor this lovable. But everything changes, even if it’s always too soon.


This time tomorrow we’ll know who the Twelfth Doctor is.

I originally commented that I loved this post about how underrated the Sixth Doctor was, but I redacted it because I got to thinking about how this “role model” was primarily known for strangling his female companion within moments of laying eyes on her, and not treating her much better after that. (In fairness, she was hands down the most irritating companion the Doctor has ever had, and I’m counting Dodo Chaplet.)

But then on third thought, I do still see where Jack was coming from. The Sixth Doctor’s televised stories were almost uniformly regrettable, unpleasant, ugly, violent, and charmless (“The Two Doctors” is the only one that brings me any real pleasure, and that’s largely because of the location filming and the performances). And yet real life is often all of those things, and within the long history of Doctor Who it’s almost obligatory that we should have a stretch of time and space that embodies those qualities. And the Sixth Doctor was almost uniquely suited to the situations he encountered. It’s difficult to imagine the other incarnations facing up to the same horrors with any comparable degree of presence. He’s physically imposing, steadfast in his self-belief, unrestrained in his anger, sarcastic and kind in appropriate measure, and occasionally ruthless — and despite all that, often more endearing than his predecessor. He deserved better stories, but his stories deserved him.

The other reason I redacted my comment was that the discussion was veering into Matt Smith-bashing, and I really do think we’re going to be very very lucky to get anyone as good as Smith in the role again. Tom Baker’s my Doctor, and Troughton and Eccleston deserve most of the praise they get, but for my money Matt Smith acted the role with more skill, commitment, range, and overall excellence than anyone else we’ve ever had. Yes, he was marketably cute (not my type, none of them have been, but I get it), and I can see how he wouldn’t have been prickly enough for a Colin Baker fan. His stories weren’t consistent in quality, but he always was.

Initially I was mildly dismayed by Smith’s casting; he seemed too similar to Tennant. But he won me over immediately, just as he did so many fans, and if I hadn’t imprinted in grade school on the Hinchcliffe era, the Eleventh would probably be my Doctor today. It’s possible I’ll be just as charmed by whoever’s next, but it’s hard to imagine, even after experiencing the Tennant/Smith transition. The Eleventh Doctor feels like lightning that probably won’t strike twice.

But who knows? What I do suspect is that we’ll get another Sixth Doctor, in the sense that he’ll* be the right Doctor for the right time. And if so, I’m telling myself even though I’m increasingly nervous, that will be enough.

* Or “she’ll,” but really, who are we kidding?

Fanboy Planet and the next Doctor

The guys at Fanboy Planet, who are generous enough to run my Doctor Who reviews on their site alongside their much more diverse and comprehensive coverage of the world of fannish things, even more generously invited me to join them on their podcast last week:

Fanboy Planet Podcast #310 – It’s All Snits

I had a harder time keeping up with them than I anticipated, and I wasn’t sure how often it would be polite to interrupt my hosts, but I still got to offer some of my thoughts about the more daring directions of the “next Doctor” speculation.

I don’t know if saying “David Tennant was the best Doctor ever” was a deliberate attempt to bait me into an argument, but if so I’m afraid I let the side down. I’m still undecided about whether Matt Smith was the best Doctor ever but he’s easily my favorite of the 21st century incarnations…so far. He will be sorely missed.

I’m only in the first hour or so of the podcast, but if you’re into comics and video games based on them, you should definitely listen to the whole thing.

The Name of the Doctor

Spoilers within. Don’t read until you’ve seen the episode…not that it would make much sense if you hadn’t.

I could tell this was going to be a good one, because I got through about thirty seconds and then had to rewind to the beginning and watch those thirty seconds again. And then I rewound it again, and watched those thirty seconds a third time. And then I got as far as the title sequence before I rewound it and watched that span again.

I never thought of myself as the kind of fan who’d get butterflies in my stomach seeing the subtitle “Gallifrey: a very long time ago” on the screen, or watching an actor rather unconvincingly deliver the line “What kind of idiot. Would want to steal a faulty TARDIS?”, but when you follow that up with a man and a girl who look reasonably like William Hartnell and Carole Ann Ford sneaking up to the TARDIS in question, a pure, unformed cylinder with a door just waiting to find out it’s going to spend its life (all of it, with very occasional exceptions) looking like a police box, guys, you’ve got me. Apparently there are some people who never wanted to see that moment. Those people are nuts.

There are bigger things afoot. This episode ripples back through the entire history of Doctor Who. The rumor was that this season finale would forever change the way we saw the show, and, whether you like it or not, it does. The impact is, if you follow it to its logical conclusion, at least as powerful and far-reaching as that of “The Doctor’s Wife.”

There’s some really excellent stuff along the way. Some of it concerns the so-called Paternoster Gang. Each of them gets at least one top-flight moment: Strax in his Victorian Fight Club. Jenny’s heartbreaking fear and shame as she’s murdered by Whispermen while in a trance. (It’s my position that she did lock the door, but they got in anyway.) Madame Vastra and her tea service, her derringer disintegrator pistol, but especially that magnificent rejoinder to Strax’s comment about the heart being relatively simple: “I have not found it to be so.” Beautiful. River and just about everything she does, including the word “disgracefully.” Can you imagine if she’d been a full-time companion? She would have wiped the floor with every enemy they encountered, so it would never have worked dramatically, but somewhere in Lucien’s library are shelves and shelves of Doctor/River stories I’d love to read.

And then there’s Richard E. Grant, finally given something to do with his Dr. Simeon character, as the conveniently suicidal-but-taking-you-down-with-me Great Intelligence. He’s quite convincing and quite chilling, and though there seemed something awfully elaborate and out of proportion about this plan, I didn’t feel obligated to poke it for plot holes. That can be left to others who have the knack and the taste for it.

And if Matt Smith shines any more brightly he’s going to go supernova. Here’s the thing: I loved him last week, hamming it up as the Cyberplanner, but in this he was probably relieved to be able to tone it down and play it real. You’ll hear from everyone about the “yes, an ex” scene where you can’t tell just how hard it’s hitting him to hear about River (and I think it’s her, not the secret or the danger, that’s making him cry) until Clara brings the tea over. The one where he kisses River’s apparition is equally terrific. Even a simple “oops” is just perfectly pitched. Magnificent.

Ultimately, of course, we make our way through all these moments in a fairly straightforward plot, a journey to the dark tower of the TARDIS (whose proportions are due to a “size leak,” which is fantastic technobabble because that’s exactly what a technician would call it), and a confrontation with what the Doctor apparently has instead of a corpse: a scintillating dendritic lattice representing and providing access to all the times and places he’s touched, the “scar tissue” from all the surgeries he’s performed on the body of our universe. It’s a remarkable idea, not entirely original (I couldn’t help being reminded of Lawrence Miles’s classic Eighth Doctor novel Alien Bodies, and if Miles’s cheeky Saturday blog post is any indication, neither could he), but with a different spin. If you’ve read this far, you should know what happens: the Great Intelligence enters this wound of splintered time, and cracks into shards where he can attack the Doctor throughout his life, and Clara follows, giving up her own life to save all of the Doctor’s lives and mend everything the Great Intelligence tries to break.

Here is where I must admit Doctor Who has put me on the verge of tears two weeks in a row, and both times it was the second viewing that got me. It’s true we’ve never gotten to know Clara quite as well as I would have liked, but Jenna-Louise Coleman didn’t have to change a thing about her performance to jab me right in the heart at that moment. And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but credit to Murray Gold as well, because I think Clara’s theme might be the best thing he’s ever done.

Earlier this week I raised the topic of mysteries being well- or poorly solved. Clara’s mystery was well-solved, I thought. I don’t feel badly that I got at best three and a half predictions correct about the finale; some of them were clearly going out on a limb, and there’s really no way I could have predicted the origin of the other Claras without the elements introduced here. And I frankly find it more satisfying than my answer (though I don’t discount the possibility that the “spoilers” River mentioned will include learning that the little girl who became CAL was one of the multiple Claras, rather than their origin point). I mentioned “The Doctor’s Wife,” in which we were led to assume that the TARDIS had been taking care of the Doctor as much as he’d been taking care of her; now we learn he’s had a second guardian angel in Clara for all of his lives, someone part of the background who didn’t even know she was doing it, but who was helping him in small ways he sometimes didn’t even notice.

So then there’s the name.

“My name, my real name,” says the Doctor, “that is not the point.” He’s right, of course. What we learn, even though we always knew it, is that the name that counts is the one he chose, “the Doctor.” The title of this episode doesn’t refer to the name of the Doctor. It refers to the name of “The Doctor.” And what we learn is far stranger: that there’s someone with John Hurt’s face with the same birth name as the Doctor, someone just as much the same person as the one with Matt Smith’s face and the one with William Hartnell’s face and one of the people with Colin Baker’s face, and it’s someone the Eleventh Doctor knows about but hasn’t mentioned to anyone. It’s not a lost incarnation, but a disowned one, or perhaps someone who was a renegade from the Doctor just as the Doctor was a renegade from Gallifrey. The setup seemed appalling to me when I heard rumors of it, but in proper context here it’s bold, and fascinating, and utterly maddening because we’re not going to find out exactly what it means until November.

So I’m satisfied, and yet unsatisfied, because now the 50th anniversary episode cannot come soon enough.

A successful finale, then. Dream conference call champagne all round.

Season 7 so far

Here’s the semi-traditional end-of-season ranking, leaving out the finale. It feels weird to include season 7a, since it feels SO different to me now. I can hardly believe how much more I’ve enjoyed the 7b stories than almost anything that’s gone before.

  1. Hide
    It’s picked up some stiff competition, mostly from episodes I’d be more inclined to just throw on casually for fun, but I still found myself moved and thrilled more by this episode than I ever thought possible. It’s not just the plot, it’s everything from acting to cinematography to art direction to sound to conception. It’s in a class of its own.
  2. Nightmare in Silver
    Like “Hide,” this brings a surprisingly fresh flavor to the table that isn’t to everyone’s taste, but suits mine very well. Every eccentric little element felt so well imagined, the larger world so nicely suggested, and most importantly, it was just so much fun. A lot of it shouldn’t have worked, but for me, it did. Not perfect; better.
  3. The Crimson Horror
    I’m as surprised as you are to find this so high up the list. It feels a lot like “Nightmare” in that a lot of the elements just shouldn’t have made me happy, but in concert they added up to a lot of fun. Very little about this story is “classic” when you get down to it, and yet a lot of the pleasure of classic Who is here with none of the draggy stretches.
  4. The Bells of St. John
    On par with “Nightmare” and “Horror,” really, just with a little stronger sense of “been there, done that” in the plot. The character moments really shine, though, and like “Hide,” it just looks gorgeous.
  5. The Power of Three
    This is surprisingly terrific up until they reach the alien ship, and then it’s pretty awful from there on. The first part largely compensates for the second.
  6. The Snowmen
    I didn’t love much of the actual story, but it’s Clara at her very best so far, some good Strax jokes, and, oh, fine, it’s Christmas.
  7. The Rings of Akhaten
    I want to like this so much more than I do. The visuals are so great that I want to see it again right now. The story is such a mess that I don’t really want to hear it again anytime soon. It’s a poser.
  8. Asylum of the Daleks
    I love the Dalek design and I hate most of the Dalek stories, even the good ones. There’s just something about them that turns me off. This is one of the good ones, I think, but when I think about watching it again I just get tired.
  9. The Angels Take Manhattan
    It’s not bad, it’s got its moments, but there’s so much about it that bugs me that I don’t look back on it with a lot of pleasure. The Eleventh Doctor behaves for once in ways that nearly justify the Dream Lord’s loathing of him. And he’s only inhuman, but I hate watching him cry about losing Amy the way I hate watching the Tenth Doctor whine about dying.
  10. Dinosaurs on a Spaceship
    Fun, fun, fun. Not nearly as much fun as the fun in season 7b, though. Feels like it could have been made years ago.
  11. Cold War
    I thought this would rank higher, but honestly, this is one of those diminishing returns stories. There are only two characters I actually like in it, and neither is Russian or Martian. After the twist there really isn’t that much here.
  12. Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS
    A big cruel tease from start to finish. Too much of some things, not nearly enough of others, and ultimately pointless. Not actively unpleasant to watch so much as thoroughly unrewarding.
  13. A Town Called Mercy
    Actively unpleasant to watch. Easily bottom of the list for the season, and probably in my bottom 10 new series episodes overall. I’m not sure I can think of a single thing I liked about it.

Nightmare in Silver

After “The Doctor’s Wife,” a cozy little story about a man and his TARDIS, it was hard to imagine Neil Gaiman’s next script being a Cyberman story. It was even harder not to let my heart sink when “Nightmare in Silver” started out looking like the second remake of “Dalek” in this half-season (the first being “Cold War,” of course). Once again we have the last scion of a monster race thought to be long dead, held captive by humans, biding its time before it escapes and begins to wreak havoc. Fortunately the story blossomed out from there, and the result is a serious contender with “Hide” as my favorite of the season.

The secret’s in the characters. Motley crews like this are a Gaiman specialty. They’re not all equally charming; Angie in particular lays on the sullen teenager act pretty heavily, but Gaiman gives her a few good moments to help make her bearable. Her brother Artie is angelic by comparison, but if you’re allergic to child actors you can take comfort in the fact that both spend a large part of the story effectively unconscious. Then there’s Mr. Webley, who serves mostly as a rather convoluted way of getting the Cybermen into the story but himself gets at least one terrific scene (“he only wants to destroy you…at chess!” is perfectly delivered). But then there’s the punishment platoon, who are just this side of ridiculous and full of charming lines (“is it okay if I hide?” just barely losing out to “but you signed for that!” as my favorite). And of course there’s Porridge, played with perfect pitch by Warwick Davis, perhaps the best thing going in an episode full of treats.

And then there’s the Doctor and Mr. Clever, and this is the point where I’m forced to concede that charming is subjective and it’s a sure thing that some fans found the motley crew unbearably cutesy. Here’s the thing: there are a few scares, but they give way to fun pretty quickly, about the time Matt Smith gets to play Two-Face. It’s over-the-top, because the Cyberplanner version of the Doctor is as bonkers as the Doctor version of the Doctor. But it’s also subtle, in that the two of them sound very much alike, and this seems like an odd choice until you realize that all of the later scenes where Clara isn’t sure which persona she’s talking to wouldn’t work if the Cyberplanner spoke in a monotone or a Bale-Batman rasp. So both of them are funny, and even Mr. Clever is too adorable to really worry about, and if this isn’t your cup of tea, you might be wondering if there’s any real danger left in this show at all.

But it was my cup of tea, and the second time I watched it, even though I still found certain plot elements confusing (how did Porridge end up working as a professional chess player? how did all of these characters end up on the same planet together? what triggered the Cybermen to start reconstituting themselves all of a sudden?), I enjoyed it even more. Porridge beaming up even put a lump in my throat, because I’d had more time to think about what it meant to him, what he was giving up. Being really creeped out or scared by Cybermen suddenly seemed less interesting, less necessary. My understanding is that Gaiman started out aiming for that, and ended up going for fun, and quite right too.

Clara watch:
Clara remains an exceedingly pleasant screen presence, but beyond that and her Jenna-Louise Coleman’s ability to talk as quickly as Matt Smith, it’s still very difficult to pin an actual personality on her. It’s mystifying how swiftly and seamlessly she steps into the role of platoon leader; sure, these are the Bad News Bears of soldiers, but they’re not that incompetent. Her ability to step into any role that’s required of her, and the sense that she’s playing it as a role, like a little girl dressing up in grownup clothes and acting out her favorite books, are perfectly in tune with my take on who she is, and in sync with her barmaid/governess quick-change act in “The Snowmen,” but it makes for a frustratingly opaque character. Beyond her flashes of anger when the kids are threatened and her cute giggle at Porridge’s “handy” joke, she doesn’t display a lot of emotion other than steely resolve. I’m still crossing my fingers that once her secret is revealed, she can relax and be a three-dimensional human being with some depth…assuming she is one at all.

Classic series watch:
If there were any direct references to classic Cybermen stories, they went over my head, other than the word “moonbase” early on (a probable nod to 1967’s “The Moonbase,” the second-ever Cybermen story). However, I have to credit my friend Jeff once again for pointing out the similarities between the Emperor of the Galaxy, on the run from his own people, and the Doctor himself. The scene in which he must trigger the planetary implosion device in order to save everyone, but can’t do so without summoning his people who will force him to take responsibility for fleeing, is strongly reminiscent of the equivalent scene at the end of 1969’s “The War Games.” Therein, the Doctor summons his own people to help him return kidnapped soldiers to their own times, and we meet the Time Lords for the very first time.

The resonance of this moment might not mean much to someone who started with New Who, and knows the Time Lords mostly as a cult of slavering megalomaniacs. But until 1969, the Doctor had been a mysterious prodigal, more given to puttering around the universe helping people than acknowledging his heritage, and since after summoning the Time Lords he was put on trial and forced to regenerate, the self-sacrifice of the act was just about as noble as anything he’d ever done. That’s why imagining the Emperor as a parallel figure to the Doctor, as Jeff suggested, made me choke up the second time through. That, and Davis’s acting, and Gaiman’s writing, and my being a big nerd.

One more classic series nod, almost certainly unintentional: instead of ten years or a hundred years, which I could almost have bought, Gaiman joins a long tradition of adding superfluous zeroes to timespans in Doctor Who (see “Genesis of the Daleks” for just one instance), rendering them almost totally implausible. A thousand years since the Cybermen were defeated, guys, really? And you still have weapons around to fight them that aren’t in a museum somewhere? So much for Moore’s Law!

The Crimson Horror

If the first half of the season was a surprise double-hitter from Chris Chibnall, this second half belongs to Mark Gatiss. “Cold War” wasn’t great, but it was surprisingly good, and “The Crimson Horror” is even better. It’s traditional Doctor Who on many levels, but like “Cold War” it contained at least one brilliant twist I didn’t see coming. I don’t find this one quite as special as “The Bells of St. John” or as compelling and moving as “Hide,” but for sheer entertainment value, this is the one to beat for the half-season.

The twist isn’t that the Doctor doesn’t appear (outside of a dubious image) for nearly 15 minutes of the show with his name on it; this sort of thing has certainly happened in seasons past. It’s that when he does show up, he’s a crimson version of Frankenstein’s monster, arms outstretched, moaning in agony, a victim of the titular red venom. Granted, I can be slow when it comes to these things (both The Crying Game and The Sixth Sense completely took me in), but I didn’t for a second imagine that Ada’s monster would turn out to be him. Smith walks a fine line here, I think; apart from regeneration-inducing traumas past, this is probably the most disturbing thing that’s ever happened to a Doctor, and if Smith had imbued his performance with any more agony, it would have been nightmare material all by itself. It’s a bit of a shame, because even when I was a kid of the age Mary Whitehouse worried so much about, I wanted Doctor Who to scare me. That was the point, the best part.

The old-timey scratchy sepia “film” flashback that follows this sequence is just perfect. I’ve heard it described as too “gimmicky,” but I wouldn’t have changed a thing. These two elements alone—the “preserved and rejected” Doctor, and the flashback sequence—made the episode for me. All the rest of it was just icing on the cake.

Of course, sometimes icing can make you feel a little ill. The Doctor has planted unsolicited smooches on companions past (Rory, for instance, and let’s not forget Martha Jones), but there was something especially uncomfortable about the one he gives Jenny, who’s not only married (then again, so was Rory) but for all we know may be wholly uninterested in men (then again, so was Rory). If it had stopped there it wouldn’t have seemed unforgivable, but when shortly thereafter we also get a boner joke with the sonic screwdriver (no, Radio Free Skaro, Steven was not imagining it)…iiiiiiiit’s just weird.

I had to watch this twice to fully grasp the villainous scheme, but for once it actually seemed to hang together, if you allow for the grotesque little leech baby that’s somehow both the greatest threat the Silurians ever battled and also managed to hang around dormant and undetected for 65 million years (then again, so did the Silurians). Not very subtle here is Gatiss’s recurring theme of troubled kids and unhelpful parents (“The Idiot’s Lantern” and “Night Terrors” before this), but here it’s more over-the-top than heavy-handed or cloying, and if it’s obvious at least it’s got a little nuance. There’s at least a little of her mother in Ada, when she refuses to forgive (“that’s my girl,” croaks the dying harridan) and beats the creeping leech to a pea-green pulp, though you can hardly blame her.

There were plenty of complaints about the lack of female characters in “Cold War” (far fewer about the lack of any characters in “Cold War,” but never mind), and Gatiss makes up for it here, but since one of them is a psychopath, another is an emotional cripple, and the title could by a suspicious and uncharitable mind be taken as a possible misogynistic euphemism, there will still be plenty of fodder for any critic looking for a fight. And as terrific as Jenny is here (I love the scene where she pays a guinea for a diversion), Lady Vastra is as dull as she was in “The Snowmen,” her role primarily consisting of throwing back her veil and making grown men swoon.

I’m in the camp that still finds Strax funny, though I do marvel at how many people seem to think Sontarans were always jokes (if so, that too sailed right over my head as a kid). You already know what you think about the TomTom joke, so you don’t need my opinion. For my money, though, the best line is the one where Mrs. Gillyflower crows, “You know what these are? The wrong hands!” For a moment I thought she was going to say “The right hands!” and we would have gotten her point of view in a more serious vein, but the line as we heard it is just as much fun, because it’s clear she knows exactly how batguano she is and she couldn’t be happier about it. To be honest, neither could I.

Clara watch
No surprise, but we learn that Clara doesn’t know any more than we thought she did about her other lives. Also we learn that she’s the nanny for two kids who are absolute terrors when it comes to Google Image Search.

Jenna-Louise Coleman is just as good in this story as she was in “The Bells of St. John.” If she’d been this good all season I would have been joining in the “best companion so far” chorus too, but the jury’s still out for me. This at least is a good sign for what she’ll be like next season.

Classic series watch
This story is “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” (mad scientist employs prehistoric creatures in a plot to erase humanity and start over with a hand-picked crew to create a new Golden Age) set in “The Talons of Weng-Chiang” (Victorian England around the time of Jack the Ripper). It’s not a bad pedigree, all told.

That “gobby Australian” was of course Tegan Jovanka, who wandered onto the Fourth Doctor’s TARDIS and talked the Fifth Doctor’s ear off in all but two stories. At the end of one season she actually did get back to Heathrow, but got fired and rejoined the TARDIS crew in the first story of the next. The Fifth Doctor did not look pleased about being stuck with her again, but was far too nice to tell her to push off. Considering that in the very next story she unleashed the mind-controlling psychic snake-god-demon she’d been harboring in the recesses of her mind, he probably should have grown a pair and ditched her.

My bets for the finale

It’s time to place your bets for what’s going to happen in the finale! Here are the ten elements and revelations I think “The Name of the Doctor” is going to contain. I haven’t heard any true spoilers for any of these, though in some cases I have heard rumors and speculations that I do believe will come true.

  1. The Doctor will meet River prior to the events of “Silence in the Library.” At this point he’ll give her the sonic screwdriver she’s carrying in that story.
  2. He’ll whisper his name to River, but we (the audience) won’t hear it.
  3. The Great Intelligence will play some role in the story (not a big shock, that).
  4. This will be when the Doctor meets Lorna Bucket (from “A Good Man Goes to War”), in the forests that are the Vashta Nerada’s hunting grounds.
  5. The Vashta Nerada will therefore reappear, and will be the reason for Clara saying “run, you clever boy.”
  6. Clara will die again in this story (“and remember”), but be brought back to life.
  7. Clara will be revealed to be CAL in some sense — perhaps a reincarnation or avatar of sorts, perhaps aided by River in exiting the Library and finding the Doctor.
  8. Clara will not be a construct of the TARDIS, or an aspect of River, or Romana, or the Rani, etc.
  9. If she’s a trap laid by the Great Intelligence, she’s probably a sort of Trojan horse, and will be cleansed of it by the end of the story (perhaps this is why/because she dies and is reborn). I find this theory a little obvious, but it would at least explain why the TARDIS seems to mistrust her.
  10. The episode will be so jam-packed with all this stuff that there’s no possible way it will be truly satisfying.

So there you go! Which of these are you betting on? Which are you betting against?