Saturday, November 30, 2013

Doctor Who at 50: The Sword of Orion

CD cover and link to Big Finish

While the Big Finish Audios have frequently played with the boundaries of the traditional Doctor Who story, both in order to better serve the audio medium and experiment with storytelling in general, they're still aiming for the same basic giddy thrill that the TV show inspires. "The Sword of Orion" gives us a traditional Cyberman story, a siege by a relentless force of silver giants with overtones of cosmic war that are never fully defined. The story has a few rough patches, which might be explained by excessive adherence to tradition, but the results are suitably atmospheric, and it's good to see McGann's Doctor face off against some classic villains.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Doctor Who at 50: The Day of the Doctor

Day of the Doctor poster

Wrestling fans have a term called "marking out". A "mark", historically, was someone who thought pro wrestling was real and unscripted. Nowadays everyone knows how things are set up (except for the kids), and those of us who still watch do so without any illusions. But once in a great while, things are so well put together and so convincingly played that some instinctive part of you forgets it's all a show. For a brief period you are the mark.

"The Day of the Doctor" got me to mark out just a bit, and because of that I can't be as objective as I'd like in reviewing it. Part of it is that the 50th anniversary special did something I had kind of been hoping the series would do, so I have to separate out my fannish satisfaction at seeing things go The Way They Ought To. But it is rare for something to work so well that I stop thinking about how well it's working and start thinking about whether the good guys will win this time. "Day of the Doctor" accomplishes something special, and it's worth looking into how.

Needless to say there will be spoilers.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Doctor Who At 50: The Dalek Invasion of Earth (1964)

Dalek Invasion of Earth DVD cover

Doctor Who survived because of the Daleks. True, it reinvented itself many times over and insinuated itself as a British institution, but before any of that, the only reason the show made it past year one is that audiences went crazy over a bunch of genocidal salt shakers. When the show's second season began, a sequel to "The Daleks" was inevitable, but Terry Nation commendably improves on his own work to deliver one of the best stories of William Hartnell's run, a postapocalyptic epic which cements the Daleks as classic villains.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Doctor Who at 50: Storm Warning

Storm Warning cover and Big Finish link

One sour note in Doctor Who's long history is that Paul McGann's star turn as the Eighth Doctor in the 1996 TV movie was essentially a one-off (at least until very recently)- when the show finally did return, it was nine years later and time for a new Doctor.  Even the film's harshest critics tended to have nothing but praise for McGann's performance, and it took the fellows at Big Finish to let us see (or hear) what he was capable of in the long term. Storm Warning marked McGann's debut with the BF audio series, and it's still one of the best jumping on points they have, an adventure that not only tells a thrilling story and introduces a new companion, but shows off just what a Doctor Who story can be without the constraints of a visual effects budget.