"Didn’t I tell you you were gonna wish I killed you? Well, don’t ya?"
- Raylan Givens, “Justified” 5.13
- Raylan Givens, “Justified” 5.13
I wanted to get one idea down in writing on last night’s terrible series finale for “How I Met Your Mother” (spoilers ahead, obviously).
Although I thought the finale was a spectacular failure, completely destroying any goodwill I had left towards this show that went from under appreciated gem to overextended mess, there was one thing that rang true for me.
Despite the title, the show really was all about Ted and Robin. And, as the kids point out to Ted (who for some reason still isn’t Bob Saget), Robin has been the primary focus of the story all along. It makes sense that Ted would keep coming back to Robin when the real purpose of his story is to find out if his kids are okay with him dating her now that their mother has been dead for six years (and fuck you for that, HIMYM writers).
When you have a crush on someone (or in this case, decades-old unresolved feelings), you find yourself bringing up that person much more frequently than you realize. There is no topic of conversation that they can’t be shoehorned into, and you don’t even know you’re doing it. That’s why our crushes are often completely obvious to everyone around us.
And so, in an hour long episode where there were almost no laughs and we saw characters we’d followed for nearly a decade drift apart and be generally unhappy with their lives, only to reconnect at a wedding that didn’t even matter in the grand scheme of things, the one thing that actually worked was the idea that Ted would unconsciously spend the majority of the story of how he met his kids’ mother talking about Robin.
This doesn’t forgive a terrible finale, or the horrible season that preceded it. And it doesn’t justify the fact that the mother had more screen time with most of the other characters than she ever did with Ted, or that her death was completely pointless except as a way to get her out of the way for the Ted and Robin pairing that has been inevitable since the series began. But it does show that the writers knew what they were doing all along (word has it the final scene with the kids was filmed years ago), which actually makes the ending even worse.
Brand new and long awaited. But he’s back. April 21. [adult swim]
Amy: Were you always like this?
The Doctor: Like what?
Amy: A madman. With a time machine.
The Doctor: Oh, no. It took ages until I got the time machine.
The Spectre #52, April 1997, cover by Gary Gianni
I really need to re-read this series. Along with “Starman”, it’s probably the best thing DC Comics produced in the 90s. Besides, with “Animal Man” ending and Azzarello leaving “Wonder Woman”, I’m quickly running out of current titles to read, so I might as well go back to some of those great older series.
Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #8, December 1984, cover by Mike Zeck and John Beatty
I always liked this costume.
This review is going to contain spoilers and profanity, so if you’re bothered by either one just don’t click the “read more” link.
Is the Sixth Doctor the worst incarnation of the Time Lord, or just the most misunderstood? For years I would have said the former, but my recent exploration of the Seventh Doctor’s extended adventures in book and audio form made me decide to give Colin Baker’s prickly egotist a second look. After reading two novels, listening to a trilogy of adventures, and re-watching some of his strongest episodes, I came away with a newfound respect for the Sixth Doctor.
First, some background: Colin Baker inherited the role from Peter Davison, whose very likable Fifth Doctor was the first one I’d watched from beginning to end. Needless to say, I was very attached to the Fifth Doctor and found the transition jarring. I wasn’t the only one. Combined with an aggravating companion, the worst costume imaginable, and some really bad scripts (“The Twin Dilemma” and “Timelash” come to mind), the Sixth Doctor was not well received. The powers that be at the BBC were looking for any excuse to axe the series, and they found it in the Sixth Doctor. The show was put on a lengthy hiatus, only to have its next season of scripts scrapped in favour of one season long arc (“The Trial of a Time Lord”, which was only occasionally entertaining). Then the show was taken off the air again, with Colin Baker fired before it returned in 1987.
All told, Colin Baker only had eleven stories to develop his character (and that’s only if you count “Trial of a Time Lord” as four separate but interconnected stories). He had hoped to play the role for many years, and in all likelihood thought he had several seasons to develop his character. In fact, interviews show the death of Peri was intended to be permanent and mark a turning point for his Doctor. Baker’s firing kept that from happening — at least on television.
Over the years, books and audio plays have explored the Sixth Doctor’s later years. Although he’s seen leaving Gallifrey with Melanie at the end of “Trial”, she’s actually a companion from his future (plucked out of time by the Time Lords). The Doctor must have parted ways with her to ensure their first meeting could occur in his personal future. This gives the Sixth Doctor a period of time where he is traveling alone or with previously unseen companions.
"Killing Ground", the first book I read, features one of these companions. Introduced in an earlier novel (which I skipped due to abysmal reviews online), Grant Markham is not the traditional companion. He isn’t adventurous or heroic, and the Doctor doesn’t like him very much. In fact, the only reason the Doctor took on Grant as a companion was to change his normal pattern of behaviour and hopefully avoid becoming the Valeyard (the personification of his dark side).
That being said, Grant isn’t so bad. “Killing Ground” has him and the Doctor separated for much of the narrative, and as part of the resistance on a planet invaded by the Cybermen he does his best to help out (in a nice touch, Grant worries that he attracts trouble and thinks that the Doctor must have had a quiet life before they met). And because Grant’s past is directly tied to the events of “Killing Ground”, it isn’t a situation where you could just replace him with Peri or Mel from the show.
The real stars of this book are the Cybermen. It’s been a long time since the Doctor’s second oldest enemies were scary, but Steve Lyons nails just what makes them so terrifying by giving readers a close look at the conversion process and what happens to the mind of a human being as they become a Cyberman.
As for the Doctor, his depiction here isn’t that different from the television version. He’s still pompous, sarcastic, and unpleasant to his companion. But given that this story takes place shortly after “Trial of a Time Lord”, that isn’t too surprising. And there are moments, especially in one sequence towards the end, where you can see the Doctor’s nobility shining through his harsh persona. So while “Killing Ground” might not offer a dramatic shift in the Sixth Doctor’s portrayal, you can definitely see the beginnings of a new approach to the character.
While I was reading “Killing Ground”, I started listening to a trilogy of Sixth Doctor Big Finish audio plays. These take place later in the Doctor’s life, which is evident in Colin Baker’s much less abrasive performance. It helps that the first story, “City of Spires”, reunites the Doctor with one of his favourite past companions: Jamie McCrimmon.
Older and hardened by battle, this Jamie has no memory of the Doctor — not even their first adventure together (which was the only one not erased by the Time Lords at the end of “The War Games”). This puts the Doctor in the position of having to prove himself to one of his oldest friends all over again, as well as providing a good hook for their continuing adventures throughout the trilogy as the Doctor hopes to discover who tampered with Jamie’s memory.
"City of Spires" is a strong introductory story, and the rest of the trilogy is entertaining. "Wreck of the Titans" keeps listeners guessing, and its cliffhanger ending is fantastic. "Legend of the Cybermen" is good, but there are certain plot elements that didn’t really work for me. These are tied too closely to the twist ending of "Wreck of the Titan" for me to say more without spoiling both stories, but my issues with them are more a question of taste than anything actually wrong with the story.
The Doctor presented in these stories is very different from the one seen on the show. He can still be verbose and full of himself, he is no longer prone angry outbursts or acts of violence. During “Wreck of the Titan”, he expresses genuine heartbreak when he believes Jamie is dead, blaming himself for once again pulling the highlander into his dangerous adventures simply because he wanted things to be they way they were in the old days. The final scene in “Legend of the Cybermen” is a sad one, and it’s hard to imagine the televised Sixth Doctor pulling off the tone.
The other Sixth Doctor novel I read was “Millennial Rites”, which takes place closer to the end of this incarnation. This was one of the first “Doctor Who” books I ever saw in a store, and I remember wondering why anyone would want to read a book featuring the Sixth Doctor and Mel. Had I read it all of those years ago, I might have had a slightly different opinion of both characters.
Don’t get me wrong, Mel is still pretty annoying. But, unlike on the show, she actually has a purpose in “Millennial Rites”. The reason the Doctor takes the TARDIS to London on New Year’s Eve in 1999 is so Mel can attend a school reunion, and her background as a computer programmer factors heavily into the plot. Mel’s unseen first adventure with the Doctor is referenced, as is their eventual meeting with the Vervoids (which the Doctor seems to consider a mile marker on his journey towards becoming the Valeyard).
The first half of the book is a sort of sequel to “The Web Of Fear” and involves an older Anne Travers trying to prevent the Great Intelligence from returning to Earth. Meanwhile, a computer mogul named Ashley Chapel has made contact with another alien consciousness in hopes of remaking the world. These forces collide, transforming London into a fantasy world ruled by magic — one that can only be undone by a being known as the Dark One.
I wasn’t that interested in the fantasy kingdom story at first, but once it started to delve into the idea that the Doctor (who is obviously the Dark One mentioned in the prophecies) is slowly being transformed into the Valeyard I got more invested. I’ve always considered the Valeyard an interesting one-and-done villain, but I never really thought about the long term potential for the character. Having him out there, not just as a threat like the Master but as a potential future version of the Doctor, could have distinguished the Sixth Doctor era. In “Millennial Rites”, it’s stated plainly that of all the incarnations of the Doctor the Sixth has the most potential to become the Valeyard (there’s also some nice foreshadowing of the Seventh Doctor, with the Valeyard telling the Doctor that to become Time’s Champion he’ll need to be willing to make tough choices, potentially sacrificing his own companions in service of a greater good — an idea the Doctor laughs off as completely implausible).
Reading and listening to all of these stories got me interested in revisiting stories from Colin Baker’s era. I re-watched “Mark of the Rani”, “The Two Doctors”, and “Revelation of the Daleks”, three of his stronger episodes, and found all to be very entertaining. More importantly, I found Colin Baker to be very entertaining. In fact, I’d argue that his version of the character is much more watchable than David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor. After all, what’s so interesting about a handsome, heroic, adventurous lead in a science fiction series? Those are a dime a dozen. But a moody, unpleasant, deeply flawed central character? That’s worth watching.
So don’t write off the Sixth Doctor based on the garish costume and short tenure. He’s a fascinating incarnation of the Doctor, one who wasn’t afraid to be unlikable. I’d like to see a bit of the Sixth Doctor worked into Peter Capaldi’s take.
Will there be cocktails? On the moon.
The moon’ll do!
The cutesy nature of their dynamic is almost as aggravating as the lovey-dovey Rose & Tenth Doctor one.
I really hope the Twelfth Doctor is a bit of a bastard, because this “everybody loves everybody” thing has gotten old.
Yup, that’s the Flash!!!
I’m really glad they’re embracing the costume for the Flash TV show. Sure, it’s a little darker than it has traditionally appeared in the comics, and they’re definitely going for the ‘real world’ look of Ollie’s costume on “Arrow”, but it is still very faithful to the original design.
I’m getting very excited about this show. When I first heard that “The Flash” would spin-off of “Arrow”, I was skeptical. I didn’t think superpowers could work in a world that was more or less based in reality, and I was pretty sure they’d screw up the costume and casting. Fortunately, I was wrong on all three counts. Season 2 of “Arrow” has done a great job of introducing superpowers, Grant Gustin was great in his guest appearance as Barry, and the costume above speaks for itself.
Assuming “The Flash” goes to series, I can’t wait for the first crossover event with “Arrow”.
Mel: That just isn't fair.
The Doctor: The universe rarely is. That's why I'm here.
Anyone familiar with this blog knows I like to create alternate universe “Doctor Who” stories where I switch out the lead actors. Sometimes this involves placing Classic Who Doctors in New Who episodes, sometimes it’s the other way around. Sometimes it’s random, other times there is a theme or plan.
Because Tumblr’s tagging system is unreliable, I thought I’d create a master list of all of the alternate universe “Doctor Who” posts I’ve written so far:
Classic Who Doctors in New Who Stories. This was my first attempt at an AU Who post, and the title is pretty self explanatory — all seven Classic Who Doctors, transplanted into the New Who stories I thought fit them best.
Classic Who Doctors in New Who Revisited. Same concept as the last one, but this time I matched Doctors and seasons of the current show by number (i.e., First Doctor for Series 1, Fourth Doctor for Series 4, etc.).
Classic Who Doctors in Series 7B Stories. Just before “The Name of the Doctor”, I decided to take the preceding seven episodes making up series 7B and recast each one with a different Classic Who Doctor.
New Who Doctors in Classic Stories. This was actually the second AU post I wrote, flipping things around to place the Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Doctors in Classic Who episodes. I wrote one for each of the new show’s first five seasons (plus a bonus episode featuring River Song). I’m not sure why I haven’t done more of these posts featuring New Who Doctors…
Eighth Doctor AU Post. Not really a part of Classic or New Who, the Eighth Doctor had been left out on all of my previous posts. That’s why I wrote this short post placing him in one Classic Who story and one New Who episode.
Eleventh Doctor Lost Season. My most recent post. All featuring the Eleventh Doctor, these reimagined Classic Who stories form a seven episode mini season that would be placed between “A Christmas Carol” and “The Impossible Astronaut”.
I’m not sure where I’ll go next with my AU Who posts. Maybe pair New Who Doctors with Classic companions (or vice versa)? Or another “lost” season concept? And of course once we have a good handle on the personality of the Twelfth Doctor, there will be opportunities to place him in stories of previous eras. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy reading these.