The Weekly Checkup: Doctor Who/Torchwood News and Views – October 8, 2011

After taking a week off, I am completely recharged and ready to get back to writing the best Doctor Who Column in the universe! Lots to cover this week including reviewing the terrific season finale, so let’s get right to it!


Doctor Who Continues to Dominate Online Viewing

Doctor Who News said that:

Doctor Who took four of the five top places in the list of most accessed programmes on the BBC iPlayer for September.

Top of the list was the Tom MacRae episode, The Girl Who Waited, which had 1.16 million requests up until the end of the month.

Second was Mark Gatiss’s Night Terrors with 1.11 million. Outnumbered Episode 1 sneaked into third place with The God Complex and Closing Time coming 4th and 5th respectively.

Let’s Kill Hitler, which topped the August charts, also managed 16th in the September ones.

Skitch Commentary: This may sound like a huge digression, but bear with me here. I am a huge fan of Michael Lewis’s writing. I do find it annoying that they keep making movies out of small sections of his books, but that is not important right now. You might have seen commercials for Money Ball, which was basically the story of how mid market baseball teams like Oakland started looking at the game in a different way and finding massive success. It is a terrific read, and I leaned a lot from it.

How is that relevant to Doctor Who?

It never fails to amaze me how things like “Itunes, Iplayer, and other online viewing” seem to be discounted in favor of “ratings.” Personally, I consider the ratings system to be horribly flawed, with a select portion of the population being chose to represent the entire country. I highly doubt anyone being counted in the ratings systems watchs the exact same shows in the exact same way as me and my family. One of my favorite stats was that week after week, Tivo reported that Enterprise was the most Tivo’d show on the air. But because people weren’t watching it the night it aired, it did not count towards the number of people watching the show. Personally, I consider this an archaic and dead model. Doctor Who is a show that has tremendous online presense, in addition to a large number of people who watch it at a later time. Impossible Astronaut was certified as the “most recorded show in British history.”

I really think that if someone wants to take a serious look at how successful shows are, they need to factor in a lot more than just ratings. I guarantee there aren’t too many other shows that do the mechandise numbers of Doctor Who, or can be sold on as many markets, and yet British Tabloids love trumpeting if the ratings drop even .1 point. It’s an absurd, broken system.


Doctor Who Confidential Comes to an End!

Doctor Who News is reporting that:

The producer of the behind-the-scenes documentary series Doctor Who Confidential, Zoe Rushton, has confirmed on Twitter that the show will no longer be produced by the BBC. The final edition of the show will be broadcast this coming Saturday at 8:35pm on BBC3 (with Rushton clarifying that previously reported production for a Christmas edition is no longer occuring).

Reasons for the show’s cancellation have been cited by the Guardian newspaper as being financial in nature, with the BBC having to engage in several cost-cutting exercises to meet its tighter budget. Part of this initiative has been a ‘re-alignment’ of programming on BBC3, with controller Zai Bennett commenting at last month’s Edinburgh International Television Festival that “it’s about focusing my budget on 9pm and 10pm; those are the time slots that count. Budgets are tight, so we have to be sensible with the money we have.” Further details about BBC3 changes are expected to be outlined by the Director General, Mark Thompson on 6th October.

The BBC Press Office confirmed to us that: The Doctor Who spin-off series, Doctor Who Confidential, has been a great show for BBC Three over the years, but our priority now is to build on original British commissions, unique to the channel.

Skitch Commentary: I have only seen bits and pieces of Doctor Who Confidential over the year, but they have always been very well put together and provide great insight to the making of Doctor Who. I am definitely sad to see it go. There is an online petition trying to save it: Click here . It sure beats the dozens of reality shows that choke British and American television.


Doctor Who: The Gunpowder Plot

New Trailer is up for the next Doctor Who PC adventure game:

Looks really cool. I have not gotten around to playing any of these games yet, but they do seem to be very well made, and apparently pretty successful as this is the second “season” of them.


Doctor Who References Continue to Pop Up Everywhere

There seem to be some Doctor Who fans working at NBC! In the new show Free Agents, we got:

(Click on Link to Hulu and head to around 4:25 for the joke).

And on Community we got:

I love that Community even managed to have a Dalek homage!

And I have no idea if this one was intentional or not, but in the DC Comic Hawk and Dove #1, Hawk’s dad lives on 16 Bannerman Road:

Sarah Jane Smith lives at 13 Bannerman Road in the Sarah Jane Adventures. Again, this could just be a weird coincidence, but I am inclined to think it’s another Doctor Who reference.

Also, apparently there were some Doctor Who references in Grey’s Anatomy and Criminal Minds this week. Haven’t seen them, but will follow up as soon as I know more.

And while looking this up, I stumbled across this amusing image from Rugrats. Not new, obviously, but awesome:


Doctor Who: Series 6, Episode 12 – “Closing Time” Review
Summary: (thanks to Wikipedia) Nearly two hundred years have passed for the Doctor after leaving Amy and Rory in “The God Complex”; and the Doctor is on a farewell tour as he knows he has one more day in his relative timeline before his death (depicted in “The Impossible Astronaut”), saying goodbye to his past companions. He stops by Craig (“The Lodger”), finding he is living with his girlfriend Sophie, moved into a new home, and now raising their baby, Alfie. Craig, struggling to care for Alfie alone while Sophie is away for the weekend, suspects the Doctor is investigating something alien. As the Doctor leaves, he notices a strange electrical disturbance in the area, and decides to investigate.

Craig, while at a new department store with Alfie, discovers the Doctor working in the toy department. The Doctor reveals that he has traced the electrical disturbances to the store and is using the job to allow him to investigate further, hearing rumours of the disappearance of several store clerks and the sightings of a “silver rat”. The Doctor and Craig enter a lift and find themselves teleported to a Cyberman spacecraft, but the Doctor manages to reverse the teleporter and disables it. As Craig returns home, the Doctor sees Amy and Rory shopping but stays out of their sight.

With Craig’s help, the Doctor enters the store after hours and catches a Cybermat, which has been siphoning small amounts of energy to the spacecraft. The Doctor also encounters a malfunctioning Cyberman in the building’s basement, and is curious how it arrived in the store. At Craig’s house, while the two are distracted, the Cybermat reactivates, but they are able to stop it, and the Doctor reprograms the unit to track down the Cybermen signal.

The Doctor leaves on his own to locate the Cybermen at the store but Craig shortly follows, bringing Alfie along. The Doctor finds the spaceship actually sits below the store, underground, accessed by a tunnel from a changing room. The ship has been slowly siphoning energy from the store’s power lines, reactivating its crew. The Doctor is captured by the Cybermen, who tell him that their ship crashed long ago but, with this new energy, will soon have enough power to convert the human race.

Craig, leaving Alfie with a store clerk, follows the Doctor into the tunnel, and is also captured and placed into a conversion machine. The Doctor reveals his own impending death and urges Craig to fight, but the conversion appears to be complete. Alfie’s cries over the closed-circuit television echo in the ship. Craig, encouraged by the Doctor telling him that this is his chance to be a father, fights and reverses the conversion. The rest of the Cybermen painfully experience the emotions they have repressed from Craig’s struggle, and their circuits start to overload. The Doctor and Craig escape via the teleporter as the ship explodes, the blast contained by the cavern. Craig reunites with Alfie, while the Doctor slips away unseen. Craig returns home to find the Doctor already there, having used time travel to clean the house. The Doctor tells Craig that Alfie now has a much higher opinion of his dad. The Doctor leaves just before Sophie returns.

Nearby, the Doctor tells the TARDIS he knows this is his last trip in her and offers some parting words to a small group of children. In the far future, River Song, recently made a Doctor of Archaeology, reviews eyewitness accounts made by those children when they were adults, and also notes the date and location of the Doctor’s death. She is interrupted by Madame Kovarian and agents of The Silence. Kovarian tells River that she is still theirs, and will be the one to kill the Doctor. Against River’s will, they place her in an augmented astronaut’s suit and submerge her in Lake Silencio to await the Doctor.

Commentary: This episode was pretty much exactly what this season of Doctor Who needed. It was not at all stressful (even the scenes where Craig almost becomes a Cyberman you knew were going to work out), a lot of fun, and the gravitas never felt like it was going to overwhelm you.

I do have to comment about the Cyberman basically being punching bags. I have never really been all that fond of the Cybermen as villains, they are always just second rate Daleks to me, but in their appearances this season, they really have been even less of a threat than usual. I did love seeing the Cybermats again. It was a nice throw back to the Patrick Troughton days, and these Cybermats actually seemed a bit scary at times.

Any scene where the Doctor was talking to Alfie was just great. I have been calling my twin babies Stormageddeon since I saw this episode. It really is an apt name for toddlers. I also loved the whole:

“What does he call me?”

“Not mom.”

“And everyone else?”

“Peasants.”

If you have ever had a baby shoot you a dismissive look, you know this is true.

The cameos by Amy and Rory were great, though I did think Amy advertising a perfume line with the tag line saying “The Girl Who Waited” was definitely a little much. I do wish we got to see a little more about what happened to the Doctor in the 200 years, but I guess that is what novels and comics are for. The two hundred years does seem a little arbitray though, but that really is just a petty gripe.

All in all, this was definitely one of the best episodes of what has proven to be the best season of Doctor Who yet. The slow down in pacing and the increase in humor were much needed. I did think it was a little odd that it didn’t address the fact the Silence was trying to build a TARDIS in Craig’s attic in “The Lodger,” but that is just a small concern.  When an episode of Doctor Who does so much right, harping on the small details they get wrong is silly.


Doctor Who: Series 6, Episode 13 – “The Wedding of River Song“ Review
Summary: (thanks to Wikipedia) The Doctor, aware of his death at the fixed point of time on 22 April 2011 at Lake Silencio, attempts to track down the Silence to learn why he must die. He encounters the Teselecta shapeshifting robot and its miniaturised crew who are currently posing as one of the members of the Silence; through them, the Doctor is led to the living head of Dorium Maldovar, one of the Doctor’s allies taken by the Order of the Headless Monks. Dorium reveals that the Silence is dedicated to avert the Doctor’s “terrifying” future. On the fields of Trenzelor, at the fall of the Eleventh, a question will be asked – one that must never be answered. And Silence must fall when the question is asked. The Doctor continues to refuse to go to Lake Silencio until he discovers his old friend, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, has passed away. The Doctor then accepts his fate. To avoid crossing his own time stream, he gives the Teselecta crew the envelopes to deliver to Amy, Rory, River Song, Canton Everett Delaware III, and a younger version of himself, inviting them to witness his death.

As shown in “The Impossible Astronaut”, the Doctor joins his friends at Lake Silencio and then approaches the astronaut, now known to be a younger version of River Song trained to kill the Doctor by the Silence and Madame Kovarian. River does not want to kill him but is unable to fight the suit’s control. The Doctor shows her her future self, sentenced to Stormcage prison for killing him, as evidence that her killing him is inevitable and that he forgives her for it. River, in the astronaut suit, surprises the Doctor by draining the suit’s weapons systems and averting his death, despite his warning against interfering with a fixed point. Time becomes “stuck”, and all of Earth’s history begins to happen all at once, fixed at 5:02 p.m. on 22 April 2011.

In a time-confused London, Winston Churchill takes the Doctor, his “soothsayer”, out from his locked cell to ask him about the stuck time. The Doctor explains the preceding events, but notices they have lost track of time and tally marks are appearing on his arms, indicating the presence of the Silence. After they observe a nest overhead, they are rescued by Amy and an a number of her soldiers. Due to the effects of the crack in her bedroom, Amy is cognisant of the altered timeline, though she has failed to notice that her trusted captain is Rory. Amy takes the Doctor to “Area 52”, a hollowed-out pyramid among the Giza Necropolis, where they have captured over a hundred Silence and Madame Kovarian. River is also there, aware her actions have frozen time and refusing to allow the Doctor to touch her, an event that would cause time to become unstuck. They all wear “eyedrives”—eye patches identical to the one worn by Madame Kovarian that function as external memories, thus enabling them to remember the Silence.

They soon come to realise that this was a trap arranged by Kovarian, as the Silence begin to escape confinement and overload the eyedrives, torturing their users. The Doctor and River escape to the top of the pyramid while Amy and Rory fight off a wave of Silence and Amy realises who Rory is. Madame Kovarian discovers her own eyedrive is being overloaded; she dislodges it, but Amy forces it back in place with the intention of killing her, explaining that this is revenge for her taking Melody away. Amy and Rory regroup with River and the Doctor. River tries to convince the Doctor that this frozen timeline is acceptable and that he does not have to die, but the Doctor explains that all of reality will soon break down. The Doctor marries River on the spot, whispers something in her ear, declaring that he had just told her his name. He then requests that River allow him to prevent the universe’s destruction. The two kiss, allowing reality to return to normal. At Lake Silencio, River kills the Doctor.

Some time later, Amy and Rory are visited by River, shortly after the events of “Flesh and Stone” in River’s timeline. When Amy explains that she had recently witnessed the Doctor’s death and regrets killing Kovarian, River reveals that the Doctor lied when he said he told her his name, instead saying “Look into my eye”. The Doctor had in fact enlisted the Teselecta to masquerade as him at Lake Silenco, with the Doctor and his TARDIS miniaturised inside it ever since. The three celebrate the news that the Doctor is still alive. Elsewhere, the Doctor takes Dorium’s head back to where it was stored; the Doctor explains that his perceived death will enable him to be forgotten. As the Doctor leaves, Dorium warns him that the question still awaits him, and calls it after him: “Doctor Who?”

Commentary: Up front, I have to say that I thought this was a brilliant episode. Moffat really does some terrific finales. I also like that both of his finales so far have ended pretty uplifting. With Russel T Davies, we had Doctor Dies, Rose was Lost, Martha leaves because her family is messed up, Donna loses her memories, Doctor Dies. With Stephen Moffat we have had two happy endings, both with weddings!

I have seen a lot of commentators whining that Stephen Moffat lied about the Doctor being really dead. Those people really have some issues. Part of the fun to me was always “how did the Doctor get out of this?” I never expected him to die. I hear the same thing with the claims of DEM in some of the season finales….like people really expect the world to end. Maybe the end was a little easy, but it worked really well, just like how the Doctor escaped the Pandorica last season worked really well. To me, this kind of thing is what makes a great Doctor Who episode, and Moffat gets that.

I hate to be one of those know-it-all columnists, but while watching the recap for this episode, I realized what the question had to be even before the episode started. The two clues that hit me were, “It is the first question” and “Been in front of you the whole time” (I am paraphrasing). It just made perfect sense. I don’t know if this is true, but I have seen someone comment that the first time the question was asked in Doctor Who was in the episode “The Cave of Skulls.” That definitely gives a nice parallel here if it’s true.

My favorite part of this episode was that it really should get the show back on track a little. The Doctor seems to be returning to his roots some, getting away from being such a universe-saving hero. This was hinted at a lot during the season. The Mad Man in a box is back!  I wonder if Amy and Rory will be coming along for the ride next season.  I certainly hope so.

Thinking about it, the whole “reputation of the Doctor” has been a major plot point in quite a few of Moffat’s episodes. Even before he was the show runner, in “Silence In the Library” he comments to the Vashta Nerada “we’re in a library, look me up.”

And in “The Eleventh Hour”:

And in “The Pandorica Opens”:

The idea that the Doctor’s reputation is much bigger than himself is a great one, but at some point, it starts to hang too much on the show. It will be nice to get back to the Doctor operating a little more in the shadows.

I did think the scene with River getting the Doctor to see that everyone in the universe would miss him if he died was a little much, but since it really didn’t play into the finale, it ended up just being an odd distraction. The wedding scene was rather beautiful, especially after seeing Rory and Amy get to be bad asses again. I did think that Amy killing Kovarian was disturbing, but at the same time, I definitely understand her motivation there.

I thought the tribute to Nicholas Courtney was fitting, though the fact Brig died in a retirement home and not in action did make me a little sad. It also seemed to suggest that the “fourth” envelope the Doctor ended up giving to Delaware was supposed to go to Brig, which was a really nice touch. That said, I am still hoping to see Delaware get more adventures with the Doctor!

Other fun things about this episode were seeing the time mashups that River created by disturbing a fixed point in time, LIVE CHESS (who knew chess could be such a rough game), and Amy pining over Rory even though in this alternate time line she didn’t know him. It was a very sweet scene, in my opinion. I also loved that Amy and River were sitting around swapping stories in the end. It really reminded me of the relationship between my own mom and sister now that she’s grown up. That really was a nice touch by Moffat.

And now the unbearable wait til next season. Yeah, yeah, I know we get a Christmas Special but I still am going to be without Doctor Who for way too long!!


Companion Poll Results Next Week

With the season finale this week, I decided to hold off on the results of the companion poll until next week (I expect some lean weeks newswise). I’ve already gotten a bunch of great responses, and hope to see more this week (especially if I can get my lazy wife and sister to add their answers).


Request for Help

A close friend and mentor passed away last week from cancer. In honor of him, I am participating in a American Cancer Society walk next Sunday. It would go a lot way to help if you could donate to this worthy cause. Click over to Making Strides 2011. You don’t need to donate much, hell, even 5 dollars goes a long way.

See you all next time!

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