The Weekly Checkup: Doctor Who/Torchwood News and Views – September 24, 2011

I’ve had a tough week, so this week’s column is gonna be a little short, hope you don’t mind.

Update on this year’s Christmas Episode

Doctor Who News is reporting that the BBC has leaked a little bit of information about this year’s Christmas special:

Filming returned to Bute Esplanade at Cardiff Bay, a place which had seen the TARDIS crew previously disturbing the neighbourhood on 1st March, and only broadcast that very evening as Amy and Rory’s new home in The God Complex.

Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill were attendance at their ‘home’ (with the current Doctor Faustus actor commenting on Twitter on losing his beard!). Matt Smith was also on location, with the trusty TARDIS parked up across the street from the house.

Christmas decorations adorned the street, and filming involved the Doctor turning up on the doorstep; snow was also being provided for the short scene which is believed to be set during New Year celebrations.

In addition, Doctor Who News, added the follow information about the guest stars and the plot:

Outnumbered star Claire Skinner will be joining the Doctor Who team for the 2011 Christmas Special. Skinner, who was spotted last week filming for the special, will play a super-mum, Madge Arwell, in the story set in the middle of winter during World War II.

Showrunner Steven Moffat promises the episode will be the ‘most Christmassy ever’ with a chase through a ‘Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe’ type forest, complete with an ice villain. The story sees the Doctor acting as the caretaker of a creepy old house in Dorset before embarking on an adventure with Madge and her two children Lily and Cyril.

Moffat said how much he enjoyed writing the Christmas special for Matt Smith:

The Doctor at Christmas – nothing is more fun to write. Maybe because it’s so his kind of day – everything’s bright and shiny, everybody’s having a laugh, and nobody minds if you wear a really stupid hat. Of all the Doctors, Matt Smith’s is the one that was born for this time of year – so it’s the best news possible that he’s heading back down the chimney.

Joining Skinner will be comedian and presenter Alexander Armstrong (who also plays Mr Smith in The Sarah Jane Adventures), Fast Show veteran Arabella Weir, and comedian Bill Bailey, who said on Twitter: Tour done, wine is on,thanks to all who came along-back to Blighty to film Doctor Who Christmas Special..Onward!

Skitch Commentary: Seems like Rory and Amy will be back in time for Christmas. Just like last year, it seems like they will have a much smaller role in the Christmas Special. This really worked well last year, so I am hoping this year’s special will also be as good. Basing it on The Lion, The Witch, And the Wardrobe is a huge selling point for me, that was one of my favorite books growing up! I suspect like last year’s twist on Christmas Carol it will definitely be original.

Doctor Who is a British series, so I don’t really recognize any of the guest stars (though I do know Alexander Armstrong’s voice from The Sarah Jane Adventures).

And we still have no idea what is the situation with the next season of Doctor Who. Rumor have been all over the place. This could be the only Doctor Who we have for a while. But as always, I will keep an eye on the news and keep everyone updated.

Joe Hill is a Doctor Who Fan!!!

I follow Joe Hill’s website regularly. Between 21st Century Ghosts, Heart-Shaped Box, Horns, and Locke And Key, he has quickly become one of my favorite writers. In addition to being a great writer, he genuinely seems like a cool guy. Anyone who preordered Locke and Key Volume 4 from his local book store, Joe Hill personally signed and drew in it.

On his website he mentioned:

Anyone who follows me on Twitter already knows about my obsession with a certain madman who lives in a big blue box.

For newbies, Doctor Who is supposedly a science fiction story about a time-and-space crossing hero who frequently befriends humans and takes them on bizarro adventures, into the past, the future, and the unknown. I say “supposedly,” because really Doctor Who is a series of tragic horror stories, where nothing is scarier than the Doctor falling in love with you. The series, of course, is old enough to be a grandfather (it does, in fact, have several grandchildren, most notably Torchwood), but early on in this century it was rebooted, and has been the smartest, edgiest, funniest, and most charming science fiction show on TV ever since. It’s also one of the very best written – I would argue that Neil Gaiman’s episode from last season is one of the finest single hours of any SF show in history. Where to start? Completists should go back to Season One, when the Doctor was played by Christopher Eccleston, but those who want to leap right into the action will be just fine starting with Season Five.

Skitch Commentary: I actually don’t do much with Twitter, just seems odd to me, but I was thrilled to know that Joe Hill was a Doctor Who fan. And if you like good fiction, I really suggest you check him out. At the very least, 21st Century Ghosts is a book of short stories, and it just might be the best collection of short stories I have ever read.

Doctor Who Reference in Mister Terrific #1

Most of you probably know my other job around here is comic reviewer and news finder. When I was reviewing Mister Terrific last week, I stumbled across this awesome panel:

I thought that was pretty awesome. BTW, Mister Terrific was a great read. That is now two things I have told you to buy this week. Sorry if you were expecting a column and not the Skitch Shopping Channel. I really need to start getting commissions…

Doctor Who Reference in Community?

While I am working on this column I don’t have all the details yet, but someone mentioned to me that Community had a Doctor Who reference last night. I don’t watch the show, but I know my sister DVR’d it, so I am waiting for her to watch it and get back to me.

Doctor Who: Series 6, Episode 11 – The God Complex “Review



Summary: (thanks to Tardis Index File) Lucy Hayward roams the corridors of a hotel, writing about a monster and how it has made all of her former companions ‘praise him’ after they find their rooms. She starts to praise him and the Creature kills her. The Doctor, Amy and Rory arrive in the hotel and the Doctor begins to investigate, sure that they are somewhere fascinating.

Rory shows him a picture of a Sontaran on the wall and others of a Judoon Captain, a member of the Catkind . and Lucy Hayward. They ring the front desk bell and almost gets hit with a chair leg brandished by Rita, who is quickly followed by Howie and Gibbis, a cowardly, mole-like alien from Tivoli. The Doctor takes a liking to Rita, noting how clever she is and joking with Amy that he’s firing her for Rita.

Rita says that each room contains ‘a bad dream’. When the Doctor takes them to the TARDIS, it is gone.There is someone else, a man named Joe they tied up because he was acting unstable. They take the Doctor to Joe’s room, which is full of ventriloquist’s dummies. Joe tells him that everyone here has a room, even the Doctor.

While searching for the missing TARDIS or an exit, Howie finds his room. It holds attractive girls who mock him for being nerdy and stuttering. The Doctor pulls him out and they look for somewhere else to hide as a roaring beast nears. Rita and a captive Joe enter a room. This contains Rita’s father, a doctor who berates her on her grades. Amy, Howie, and Gibbis enter a room full of Weeping Angels. The Doctor arrives and tells Amy to face her fear; the angels aren’t real.

Joe frees himself and runs out. The creature, described as an alien Minotaur, senses Joe’s presence and kills him. Later, seeing Gibbis’ reaction to the Angels, Amy realises that it wasn’t her room, but his. The Angels were the only creatures to invade Tivoli to kill rather than conquer the inhabitants. Gibbis unnerves Amy by telling her that her room was still out there.

The Doctor devises a plan to confront the Minotaur by using a speaker broadcasting Howie’s voice to trap the Minotaur in the same room as the Doctor. The Doctor talks to the Minotaur, who explains that the hotel is a prison that has trapped it for eons,. It wishes for an end but the prison keeps it alive. It doesn’t want to kill; it is running on instinct alone.

Meanwhile, terrified of the Minotaur, Gibbis lets Howie go. The Minotaur escapes and kill him. Amy finds her room; Rita pulls her away from it before she can go in. Rita and the Doctor bond privately. He offers to take her through time and space once they escape. However she has been hiding her own devotions to the Minotaur and separates herself from the survivors to avoid putting them in danger when the Minotaur comes for her.

The Doctor is distraught and full of rage after Rita dies, knocking over objects on the front desk and screaming. The Doctor realises that only after people fall back on their faiths when confronted by fear are they killed by the Minotaur.

Joe was a gambler, who believed in luck; Rita was Muslim; Gibbis believes that his planet is going to be invaded again and Howie was a conspiracy theorist who believed the government controls everything. By breaking their faiths, it converts it into a form it can consume. Rory has remained unaffected because he has no strong faith in anything. That is why the ship has been showing him exits throughout the hotel that the others cannot see. Amy suddenly begins praising the Minotaur. The four of them run to Amy’s room, revealing seven year old Amelia Pond sitting on her suitcase, staring at the stars, waiting for the Doctor.

The Doctor kills the Minotaur by breaking Amy’s faith in himself, her deepest belief. He admits his faults to Amy, how most who come with him die or get hurt. He is not a hero, but a mad man in a box and it is time they see each other for who they are. He is a fallible being, and she is Amy Williams.

With the Minotaur dying, the hotel reveals itself to be a massive holographic ship. By hacking the ship, the Doctor determines that the Minotaur is from a species related to the Nimon. The Minotaur’s kind need people to worship them to survive. Long ago it posed as a god to a race that advanced to the point where they realised what the Minotaur really was. They imprisoned it in an automated ship which fed it by scooping up people with strong faiths, keeping it alive for eons against its will.

As it lies dying, the Minotaur tells the Doctor, “An ancient creature drenched in the blood of the innocent, drifting in space through an endless shifting maze. For such a creature, death would be a gift.” After the Doctor consoles the Minotaur, it reveals with its dying breath, “I wasn’t talking about myself.”

The Doctor uses the TARDIS to drop Gibbis off and takes Rory and Amy back to Earth, giving them a house and Rory’s dream car as a goodbye present. While Rory is inside getting champagne, the Doctor explains that he can’t keep putting them in danger, before departing. Rory comes out and asks where he is going. Amy tells him that the Doctor is saving them.

Commentary: Another episode of Doctor Who that left me emotionally drained by the end. The Doctor is clearly getting ready to die. The scene where he left Rory and Amy on Earth with a new house and car felt like someone punched me in the gut. It was such a powerful moment.

The rest of the episode had a lot of emotional punch as well. The Doctor realizing that Amy’s faith was going to lead to her death pretty much sums up all the bad things that have happened to companions through the show’s long history. I also loved when he described himself as a Mad Man in a Box. As I said last week, to me, that is when the Doctor works best. Not as the most heroic man in the universe, but as a flightly travller who keeps pulling people into his tremendous gravity. The Minotaur’s last words definitely hit the mark.

I also loved that The Minotaur was related to the Nimon. I had just watched the old serial “The Horns of Nimon” a few weeks ago, and this was a great update to that story. The Minotaur and the hotel were a great “villain” and setting. Just like last week, I was on the edge of the seat through most of the episode. I am sort of hoping next week lets us catch our breath before the finale, but since it features the Cyberman, I am pretty sure that there is no chance of that happening.

Gibbis sort of reminded me of a Ferangi with their many battle forms of cringing and cowering. I thought he was a really well thought out character, and he really added to the story. Rita was great too, but that is a character we’ve seen too many times, a great, smart character who would be a great companion…only to get killed off in the episode. I’ve pretty much stopped getting attached to anyone who’s name doesn’t appear in the beginning of an episode, and even then sometimes they don’t make it!

I was sad to see Amy and Rory go, of course. I am pretty sure they will be back for the season finale, and Karen Gillan has said that she will be around next year. But it was still a very powerful moment that truly felt like the only way this episode could have ended.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention two things that people seemed to pick up on in this episode. The Doctor eats an apple, which contradicts comments he made in the Eleventh Hour. And he picks up a Rubik’s Cube, something he said he hated in Night Terrors. Personally, I think people are looking way too deep into things, but if they do end up right, at least I can say I commented on them in the column. The life of a Doctor Who journalist is a strange one.

And by the way, I choose the creepy clown image to represent this episode because that is what you would find in my room. Laugh all you want, clowns freak me out.

Second Reader Participation poll!!!

Next week, I’ll be writing a Companion Piece about my favorite Doctor Who companion. So, as always, I’m opening the floor to the readers. Who’s your favorite companion and why?

See you all next time!

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