The Bi-Weekly Checkup: Doctor Who News and Views – December 31, 2011

7 Foot Tall Lego Dalek

In the Daily Mail, there was an article featuring the Addis family and their rather festive Christmas Dalek:

Apparently, this took them 100,000 Lego blocks and 200 hours. From the website, it seems like they do massive Lego constructs every year for the holidays, but none of them are nearly as dangerous as this one. EXTERMINATE RUDOLPH!

Daleks used to help stop prejudice

In other Dalek news, I saw this article about Sunderland College:

A DALEK was among the many visitors to a week-long campaign aimed at exterminating prejudice and inequalities.

The replica of the Dr Who character dropped in to each of Sunderland College’s five campuses as part of a roadshow of activities across Equality and Diversity Week.

“We were trying to think of a creative way of explaining diversity and engaging with the students,” said Joe Leggett, director of learning support at the college.

“In Dr Who, the Daleks have a very hierarchical society, with prejudices within their ranks based on their colour.”

Each day the Dalek and roadshow visited a different campus, with representatives from key charities and agencies holding events and talking to students about their activities.

Skitch Commentary: Joe Leggett’s comments about Daleks only scratches the surface of why this is so appropriate. Yes, Daleks (especially in the new paradigm) tend to be caste-oriented based on their color, but at the same time Daleks were created as analogs to Nazis! Their first appearance has them trying to wipe out the entire Thal race, and the Daleks have always considered themselves the “Master Race.” In the episode “Dalek,” one of their number would rather die than deal with the fact he might have been infected with human emotion from Rose Tyler.

Still, I do think it’s cool that Daleks are so much a part of pop culture that they can be used to help spread a positive message. Darth Vader needs to start doing Public Service Announcements about ashtma.

Cyberman In Town to Promote Doctor Who Convention

Since I gave the Daleks some love this week, seemed only fair to give the Cyberman some attention. I am nothing if not fair and balanced when it comes to alien villains.

According to The Kent News, to promote the Big Blue Box convention, a Cyberman dropped in to the box office to help promore sales.

Unfortunately, this promotion went badly when the Cyberman ended up converting several dozen potential customers into fellow Cybermen. I hate when that happens.

Doctor Who: The Phantom Menace

This video popped up on my News 360 feed on my tablet, so I had to share it. I especially love the footage they spliced together of Tom Baker with David Tennant. I was a huge Star Wars fan growing up, and I actually like the prequels quite a bit (well, Phantom Menace and Revenge of the Sith), so I thought this was a lot of fun

The Doctor, The Widow, and the Wardrobe Review

Summary (Thanks to Tardis Index File: At the conclusion of one of his adventures, the Doctor crashes in England just before the Second World War. He’s wearing a collision suit with the helmet on backwards and his face is obscured. His kindly rescuer, a woman named Madge Arwell, helps him find the TARDIS. In thanks, he tells her to call on him whenever she needs help. All she has to do is make a wish.

A few years down the road, Madge’s pilot husband, Reg Arwell, dies when his plane goes down. She doesn’t tell their children, fearing it will ruin their Christmas. Madge makes her silent wish and bundles up the kids for a trip to Uncle Digby’s country estate, where the Doctor is the caretaker. He’s spiffed up the place with all kinds of wonderful toys and hammocks and gizmos to delight the kiddies. One of the treats is a wrapped gift box that leads to a distant planet and a forest of natural Christmas trees. Madge’s son Cyril crawls through the box before he’s supposed to and finds himself trapped by people made of wood.

The Doctor and Cyril’s sister Lily go looking for him and then Madge goes looking for them. While the Doctor and Lily encounter the tree people, Madge meets three Harvest Rangers and learns these Androzani Trees are about to be converted into a fuel source. This involves melting them with acid rain. The trees are aware of this and eager to escape. This is why they’ve lured Cyril to them, but they realize he is too weak to carry their life force off the planet. To the Doctor’s chagrin, he is also too weak. Lily, they decide, is strong, but too young.

Cue Madge’s entrance, as she manages to drive a giant robot and find her offspring. Madge is just the vehicle — or “mother ship” as the Doctor puts it — the trees need. She carries them off to the time vortex and then gets everyone else back to Earth under the Doctor’s supervision. He tells her to wish super-duper hard for home, but she inadvertently brings up an image of her husband about to crash to his fiery death. Her children realise she’s been keeping a secret from them, but lo and behold, she’s also somehow guided her husband’s plane safely home, as well. Everybody lives!

Madge realizes the Doctor is the spaceman she helped years earlier. With her encouragement, the Doctor pops in on Rory and Amy for a Christmas visit in 2013, two years after he last saw them. There are hugs and happy tears as the Doctor closes the Ponds’ door, joining them for Christmas dinner.

Review:  One quick comment before I get started. The actor who played Reg Arwell (Alexander Armstrong) is also the voice of Mister Smith from The Sarah Jane Adventures. I just thought that was pretty cool.

Also, name dropping the planet Androzani was a nice touch. I know Caves of Androzani is a very popular episode of Doctor Who. I haven’t seen it yet, but in a poll of Doctor Who Magazine fans it was ranked even higher than Blink, so that says a lot about how much fans like that one.

Doctor Who Christmas specials are always kind of tricky. They tend to attract audiences who might not normally watch Doctor Who, so at times they feel ridiculously over the top. Voyage of the Damned in particular felt more like a big budget action movie than a normal episode of Doctor Who. This episode started with a big of a Star Wars homage (appropriate since last year’s started with a Star Trek homage), and I definitely was worried that this whole episode would end up to be a huge spectacle. But as always, Steven Moffat manages to put a lot of heart into the story.

One thing that was particularly unique about this episode was that there really wasn’t a true villain. Yeah, I guess I can make the argument for the faceless corporation that ended up destroying the planet of the tree people, but the episode was more a race against time than the Doctor fighting corporate greed.  The walking trees were really well crafted characters.

This episode didn’t lay the Narnia homage on too heavy, and that worked very well.   I wonder what classic story Moffat is going to borrow from next year.

The episode had some strong heartfelt moments, but didn’t overdue it. Well, okay the very end with Amy and Rory. I hate to say it, but I really am ready for them to move on. I like Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill quite a bit, but I really think their story is truly over.

I also really liked the Halo-like soldiers, who ended up being idiots. I ended up laughing out loud several times during their scenes.

One last thing of note, and I’ve said this many times this season, any scene with Matt Smith and children is always great. He really shines in those moments!

Well, that is the last Weekly Checkup of 2011. We still don’t know exactly what the status of Doctor Who is for next year, but I promise that you will find continue to find all the news with all of my rambling opinions next year. See you then!

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