Monday, April 29, 2013

A Work of Heart

Librarian in the TARDIS, Review 2.01

Title: The Evil of the Daleks
Team TARDIS: Second Doctor, Jamie, Victoria (joins)
Adversaries: The Daleks, Theodore Maxtible
Originally Aired: May 20-July 1, 1967
Number of Episodes: 7 (only Episode 2 survives)

I chose to review “The Evil of the Daleks” for several reasons.  Because there’s only one episode out of seven still in existence, it’s one of the lesser-known of the Patrick Troughton era.  That being said, it may be one of the better-known of the missing stories - one that frequently gets recommended to those seeking to venture into the realm of so-called “Lost in Time” stories. The brilliant writing, the character development, the introduction of a new companion, the in-story-time-travel-sans-TARDIS and the hilarity of imagining Daleks playing like they’re trains (it makes sense in context) all make for a memorable narrative.

The topic of missing Doctor Who episodes is well-documented and has been discussed in interviews and documentaries and forums ad nauseum, so I won’t go into it much here (if you are not familiar with the topic, Wikipedia has a pretty good rundown of it).  There are some magnificent gems worth searching out, which is why the hunt for missing episodes is such a popular subject for discussion (to be fair, there are a few stinkers still missing, but those are rare - it seems that The Greater Cosmos decided that they only wanted the best stories wiped, just to screw around with us). I could easily have chosen to review any of the Troughton-era stories that exist in full, but a big component of this blogging project is to pay respect to as many aspects of Doctor Who as I can and I felt it would be a shame not to give the lost stories their due (also, it's kind of fun to listen to Doctor Who stories in the car and count it as having "watched" them because they were originally televised - and before anyone asks, yes, I did watch the surviving Episode 2 on the "Lost in Time" DVD).

“The Evil of the Daleks” starts out where the previous story, “The Faceless Ones” (also mostly missing), left off.  The Doctor and Jamie are still at the airport, having just said goodbye to Ben and Polly, but they are thrown into another adventure almost immediately when it turns out someone has pilfered the TARDIS.  Elsewhere, a man named Waterfield is in his office, consulting with the driver who took the TARDIS and led the Doctor to investigate a thoroughly 1960s coffee bar (complete with modern music in the background).

Something immensely fun about Doctor Who having been around for so long is that I can watch (okay, listen to) “The Evil of the Daleks” in 2013 and not be bothered by how “dated” it is.  To me, it’s just the Doctor and Jamie traveling back in time to 1966.  And even to viewers in 1967 - there’s an element of “They aren't in my modern times, but it’s time travel - I’m okay with this!”  Especially when you have the Doctor traveling with a companion originally from the 1700s (who catches on very quickly), “modern times” takes on a more fluid definition.

Speaking of Jamie - this is the first story where he truly gets to shine.  Previous to “The Evil of the Daleks,” he was more or less window dressing - someone for Ben and Polly to look out for like he was their baby brother.  But now that Team TARDIS is less a Sailor and an Duchess, the young Highlander gets to show the Doctor (and everyone else) that he does have something to contribute and he can take care of himself and those around him.  Jamie has a natural, easy-going, lovable nature I can’t help but be drawn to.  And that on its own might have been enough to make him an enjoyable character.  But it is in his first story as a proactive character that he truly earns my respect and a spot on my personal list of All-Time Favorite Companions (As an aside - Steven Taylor has a similar moment at the end of "The Massacre" that is just heartwrenching if you don't know it's coming).

Episode 3 is where this starts happening and it’s almost jarring to see this unfold (culminating in a bit of a confrontation between Jamie and the Doctor in Episode 5), especially if you’re used to the Jamie and Doctor friendship of the later Troughton-era.  As far as Jamie knows, Maxtible and Waterfield are no-good, dirty rotten scoundrels who have murdered people and stolen the TARDIS.  When he sees the Doctor cozying up to these guys, Jamie’s had it.  He calls the Doctor out on the carpet for this BS - not in a malicious way, but in such a way that says “Nobody’s given me a straight answer and I don’t want to be a doormat!”  It’s there that you realize that Jamie is not going to be a rubber-stamp-yes-man of a companion (and when it comes down to it - completely forgetting the Doctor Who stereotypes and media-perpetuated-perceptions - has the Doctor really had any of those?)

Jamie, to me, is the companion with heart.  Lots of companions have brains and are accomplished intellectually and that’s great, but there’s something about a companion who is loyal, courageous, honorable and kind.  That’s not to say Jamie isn’t smart, but it’s a different kind of smart from the Doctor or astrophysicist Zoe.  Jamie’s intelligence and instinct is vital to his character - he’s a fast learner and can quickly adapt to his strange new life traveling through time and space, though he never forgets his sense of bravery and honor instilled in him as a piper for Clan McLaren at Culloden.

All of this is why the Doctor volunteers Jamie (without Jamie’s consent, mind you - there could be an entire discussion of the ethics of that) to provide the Daleks with “The Human Factor” - some unknown element that humans have that the Daleks don’t that the Daleks believe will help them become Supreme Masters of the Universe! (um... again).  In collaboration with Maxtible and Waterfield, the Doctor sets Jamie up to go on a rescue mission to save Victoria Waterfield, who has been kidnapped by the Daleks and is held prisoner.  With the help of the mute servant, Kemel, Jamie saves the lovely Miss Waterfield (and my shipping goggles come back out to play).  Somehow during this excursion, the Doctor has isolated the Human Factor that Jamie displays and implants it into three brand-new Daleks.  And, oh Dear Reader, such a merchandise opportunity was born!  If Fisher-Price could get a hold of the rights to it, that is.

These three Daleks (named Alpha, Beta and Omega by the Doctor) exhibit all the intellectual maturity of the preschoolers who come to my storytimes at the library.  They want to play.  They want friends.  They sing their new names in a sweet little scene that makes me want to teach the “Alpha, Beta, Omega!” chant to the next group of three-year-olds I come in contact with (I wonder if the Dalek action figures from this story had an option to sing that song, because that would be amazing).  And then they start pushing a wheeled-desk chair around like they’re playing some strange game of Four Square.  But these Daleks mature rapidly and develop the ability to ask questions - something very much in opposition to Dalek culture.  Later, the Human-Factor-Daleks are targeted by the Emperor Dalek for destruction - but the Doctor appeals to their nature to fight for themselves and against the oppressive Dalek regime, eventually destroying the entire Dalek Empire “forever” (or, at least until Terry Nation needs a paycheck again).

This story has so many delightful and remarkable moments in it that would be wonderful to watch and it’s a shame that it doesn't exist (print that line out and keep it handy the next time you’re listening to a missing story audio or watching a recon).  I think “delight” and “remarkable” can fairly well sum-up the Troughton era and it’s clear why his Doctor remains a favorite of so many people - both people who watched his stories brand new and the newer fans who discovered his stories later (such as a certain fellow by the name of Matt Smith you may have heard of).

Heart, innocence and joy - some of the greatest hallmarks of Doctor Who.

Next Time, on Librarian in the TARDIS -

Previously -

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Echoes of the Past - Review of "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS"


I'm going to go around the block and catch my breath, but for now - enjoy this rather fabulous fan video of ... well... the TARDIS's Greatest Hits (or something - look, it came up on Facebook this week and it's just really really cool) before delving into my Spoiler-Filled Review of "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" (yes, this is one American who can handle the British spelling - just to get that out of the way).


Short, Knee-Jerk Reaction of This Episode:

Simon Slowly Smiles photo 6zvxie.gif

Longer, More Rehearsed and Thought-Out Version:

For a long time, fans have been wishing and hoping for an episode that took place inside the TARDIS, just to see all the cool stuff that only gets hinted at in running from place to place.  Writers for the show have just as often said "Well, you need to have some kind of conflict and a TARDIS Interior episode really doesn't give you that opportunity."  And I was inclined to agree - after all, the TARDIS is Home Base.  It's where the Doctor and companions can zip back to in times of the utmost danger and laugh about very nearly getting eaten by some super-scary alien creature or being the main feature on "The Real Human Sacrifices of the Aztec Empire" (rewatched "The Aztecs" this week - seems like something they'd do. Probably).  Anyway - the TARDIS is where you are safest when traveling with the Doctor.

I'm not even going to deal with the salvage crew because they were a plot device - pure and simple.  They got this party started and they were dispatched - not quite as fast as I would have liked, but they were gotten rid of quick enough (there were moments when I was all "Really? We have to deal with your issues? THERE IS A TARDIS TO EXPLORE, DAMMIT!!")  This story is about the Doctor, Clara and the TARDIS.  Anything else is uninteresting periphery and I ignore it.

So - ever since I was little, I have this little "Happy Bouncy Seal Clap of Glee" that I do whenever something really, really, really excites me.  I will never post a picture or video of me doing this because it looks absolutely freaky in picture format (to me it does, anyway). It's kind of a mix of this -

Girl in Hat and Mittens Yell photo tumblr_lebq6dizca1qb6nwt.gif

 and this -

Risotto! Risotto! photo oooooohyayayay.gif

Now that you have that image in your head (sort of), this episode got the "Happy Bouncy Seal Clap of Glee" A LOT!  These are just a few things that got my motor running:

- The Library
- The History of the Time War - IN BOOK FORMAT! AND CLARA READ IT!! *dies* (I almost don't care that we didn't get to see it - Clara did! Except... well, I'll come back to that).
- The Swimming Pool
- And that one bit where the console room played lines from the past of Doctors and companions talking about the TARDIS - yeah, I had to play that one back twice (and I nearly fell out of my chair because - OMG YAY!!)
     - Question - Who all was speaking during that little montage?  I picked out the Third, Fifth and Ninth Doctors, plus lines from Susan and Ian from "An Unearthly Child" - but I know there were more that went way too quick for me to get a fix on. Someone will have a list, but for now I'll just be gleeing over what I heard.
- And what were those jars of Gallifreyan Thought Juice saying?  I didn't even hear anything coherent, but something about that made me go fangirl-nuts on that.

I have to mention a missed opportunity, though - and maybe it was just a matter of schedules and logistics and boring crap like that.  But I expected to see past console rooms like they did in "The Doctor's Wife."  And since they built the set of the console room from the 1960s for An Adventure in Time and Space, why couldn't they have Clara pop by and go - oh, hey, past desktop! and subsequently send everyone heads spinning like crazy?  Well - I guess they would have had to make it fit into the "Danger! Danger!" atmosphere of this episode and it would have been sad to bring in the Old School TARDIS just to wreck the place (it hurt just seeing the current console room and corridor beat to pieces like they were.  Poor, poor Sexy).

Burned-up zombies.  While I was taking notes, I had occasion to wonder what those things were and why they were in the TARDIS.  Being such a diligent note-taker, I wrote down the theories I had while I watched to see if they would be correct.  And here's what I came up with:

Mind you, this is only page 1
The "Earthshock" theory was total crack, as was the Master (hey, he got sucked into the Eye of Harmony - it could have been plausible!) - but I threw down the Clara theory because, why the hell not?  And when the scanner said the burned-up-zombie-thing was Clara, my head just about exploded. Because I had been given so many great and wonderful little happy nuggets in this episode (even though everyone was thisclose to dying) that I almost couldn't take anymore.  And when I wrote down "Echoes of the past" - thinking of the flashback-audio-clips - I had no idea how appropriate that would become by the end of the episode.

(I am also amazed how cool my handwriting looks when I'm writing fast).

So - the Elephant in the Room (as it were) - the Doctor told Clara that he'd seen her die before and her reaction to that news.  And then... she forgets.  By virtue of the Big Friendly Button.  You know, people whine and bitch about the Deus Ex Machina-type plot resolutions, but I liked this one.  Mostly because it was lampshaded to hell and back.  If it had been a bunch of timey-wimey mumbo-jumbo, that would have been a little much.  But the TARDIS had to regain it's status as a place of safety and security, otherwise we'd never be able trust the old girl again.  And to make it an actual Reset Button (that gets delivered by future!Doctor coming through a crack in the wall) - Clever Writer (see also: I See What You Did There)

(Either that, or Steve Thompson is the World's 2nd Biggest Troll. Steven Moffat is the 1st).

Of course, I wasn't entirely thrilled that Clara had to forget everything she'd learned and seen during her adventure (see also: Jamie McCrimmon, Zoe Heriot, Donna Noble - though those are more extreme cases. Still not thrilled about it) - but you can't love everything (and I guess I have to have a few things to bitch about or I wouldn't be a true Whovian).  But since there was some mention of the Doctor's name and his secrets and all that mysterious Time-Lordy-type-stuff, I figure that it's just some set-up for the finale and the 50th Anniversary Special (since we were promised the finale would lead into the 50th).  With that in mind, I'm okay with it.

All in all, it was an enjoyable episode with a few minor annoyances that I am more than capable of ignoring.  I got the fan-service TARDIS interior story that I wanted and it was a joyous thing.  I can't ask for anything more.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go rewatch the episode and pause to drool over that library.
Drooling Rainbow photo i5nnsg.jpg


Programming Note: Minus a few formatting and editing things, I do have my next post for Librarian in the TARDIS ready to go but life has been a beast this week so I've had to delay getting it actually posted. It should be up within the new couple of days - possibly tomorrow. Look forward to it!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Desert Poetry

I've been home to the ranch for a few days and I had my camera out tonight.  Some of the pictures I took gave me some poem ideas, so hopefully these sound good.

Starting Fires, Starting Over

Something very soothing about striking a match
and letting it drop

on gathered piles of memory

Times when pencil scratchings afforded the most comfort
When the slice of spoken words
Or the dagger of harsh looks
Only ever covered by my blanket of silence

On the remains of such times
Graying photographs, yellowing yearbooks
Bleeding ink on glossy pages
Conveying insincere sincerity

Crumpled birthday cards, written in a cheery hand
Cannot cover cardboard boxes soaking in the rain
I still haven't gotten the smell out of that blanket

The match takes it all

Into the peace of the night sky
Peace broken by the cat mewling at my feet
Glowing eyes watching the smoke rise
Leaving only piles of clean ash

The smoke refreshes my life
The fire blinks out
the dry dead memories
leaving room for piles of good things.



The sun set hours ago, but my skyline still glows.
Broken mountains - shapes carved by history
Untouched by time

One lone telephone pole reminds me
Home is not far
  warm bed
  clean shower
  good food
  electric lights

One lone star reminds me
I will leave soon
   for the city
   where stars
   don't shine
   but freeways do

I came back days ago, and my desert is still
Repaired heart - a soul mended by time
Ready to go create my history

That's what I've got for tonight. Hope you enjoyed - these were just rough, off-the-cuff lines, so if you have any feedback, I wouldn't mind hearing it.  It's been a while since I tried to write this kind of poetry and I'm out of practice.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Oh, Facebook. You Know Me So Well.

Remember a week or so ago when I wrote up my Librarian in the TARDIS review of "The Rocket Men?" And how a substantial portion of that review was fangirling over and shipping Barbara and Ian? Well, one of the Facebook pages I follow later obliged with this little gem and the serendipity was too wonderful and I had to post it here. I've been grinning like a complete idiot ever since.

(The Facebook page in question is Doctor Who and the TARDIS - The Classic Years, if you're interested)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Recycled Christie Cardboard IN SPACE!! (tastes like recycled cardboard too)

Librarian in the TARDIS, Review 1.03 

Title: Ten Little Aliens
Author: Steven Cole
Team TARDIS: First Doctor, Ben, Polly
Adversary: The Ten-Strong
Original Release Date: June 2002
Range and Number: Past Doctor Adventures #54

Synopsis (from Goodreads) -
Deep in the heart of a hollowed-out moon the First Doctor finds a chilling secret: ten alien corpses, frozen in time at the moment of their death. They are the empire's most wanted terrorists, and their discovery could end a war devastating the galaxy. But is the same force that killed them still lurking in the dark? And what are its plans for the people of Earth?

My Review:
So far, I've enjoyed this blogging project.  In the interest of full disclosure - I went ahead a little bit and already have the first two posts for the Second Doctor's era written up and ready to go (minus a little bit of copy editing and formatting) and I'm halfway through listening to the audio adventure I selected for the Third Doctor.  Seeking out the lesser-attended-to Doctor Who stories has been a treat and a joy and I can't wait to share my thoughts on those stories with my loyal readers (all seven of you).

In my real-life, big-kid career, I am a librarian (as evidenced by the title of this blogging project - thank you Captain Obvious).  It is part of my job to read as many books as time permits and evaluate them on certain criteria.  To be truthful, I'm a little more aggressive in my book reviewing habits.  It just comes with the territory.  I have so many to read and if I start something I don't like, I have no problem with putting it aside and going on to something else.  In a few cases, I almost take offense to a book that I don't like.  It's weird, but I'm almost like "How dare you be so horrible and waste my time!" (completely bizarre, I know).  Whereas with my TV, movie, and audio story reviewing, I am much more in fangirl-flail mode because... actually, I don't know if there is a "because" for that stuff.  I do get into some nitty-gritty in terms of story and characters - just probably not as deeply as I do with the printed word.  I guess it's because I actually have to pay attention to books because I'm probably going to have to tell somebody about this at some point and it would be nice to be able to at least act like I know what I'm talking about.  

When I decided to include novels in my review project, it was mostly so I would finally force myself to sit down and choose some Doctor Who books to read.  I've enjoyed the books based on New Who that I've read (even "The Story of Martha" - it wasn't that bad.  Someone just needs to come along and finish it, that's all).  But I hadn't read any books based around the Classic Doctors and I thought that was a crying shame.  But between Target Novelizations and Past Doctor Adventures and Eighth Doctor Adventures and New Adventures and who-knows-what-else is out there - it's hard to know where to start off with it.  Rather than randomly draw book titles out of a hat and try to track down a bunch of stuff that, in all likelihood, is out of print, I decided I would read the 50th Anniversary reprints that I was probably going to buy anyway and call it good.  These stories were specifically chosen for this commemorative year, so they all should be pretty decent, right?

Well... not exactly.  And it pains me that it's the first one I tackled that I absolutely did not care for.

The first thing that really got my hackles up was how long it took for Team TARDIS to show up.  The first chapter or so (and these are long chapters) was focused on these ten... soldiers? Explorers? Miners? (Ben called them "Space Marines" at one point, which was a good a description as any for what I had to work with). I never got the feel for them.  And they are all pretty much cardboard copies of each other.  There is very little to distinguish one of these characters from another.  I don't even know whether they're male or female since they all refer to each other by their last names.  The most character description I got was a list of records that look like they came from some sort of personnel file.  This list was partway through chapter two (I think) and included physical descriptions, rank and experience of each character.  But something was included at the end of each record and the way this was present grated on my nerves - the last question looks like it was posed to the person whose file this was.  The question was something along the lines of "What do you think of the Shirr?" (the Shirr being the aliens on this planet/moon/asteroid/thing/I-don't-even-care-anymore).  And every single question was answered pretty much the same way - "the Shirr are evil, sub-human, deadly creatures that don't deserve to live." Granted, there was some variation in the wording of these answers in an attempt at giving these people personality, but already I just don't give a flying squirrel in a coconut tree about them.  Not a great introduction to the characters that are supposed to be the one-off supporting cast that makes the Doctor and his companions look good.

By the time we get a scene with Team TARDIS - this time, with the rather interesting combination of the First Doctor, Ben and Polly - I am begging for characters in this story that I can latch onto and love.  Luckily, I've recently been discovering some of Ben and Polly's stories for the first time and they are quite the lovely pair (and I gladly bring out the shipping goggles for this and no, there is no shame).  Sadly, the very first scene with Team TARDIS is woefully short (but oh so welcome) and we're back to The Land of Tough-Guy Cardboard Cutouts.  This whole thing reminded me of the time I tried to watch Battlestar Galactica and I just couldn't be bothered to care about any of those snarky, cynical, overly-dramatic bastards.  Truly, I wanted to go back and read more about Polly’s daffodil-yellow spacesuit because that sounds lovely (probably wouldn't look so lovely, but anything can be good if left to the imagination).

One of the biggest challenges with writing Doctor Who is that - apart from the central Team TARDIS - your cast of characters changes with each story.  Oh, there are some that have some reusability (Jack Harkness, River Song, Winston Churchill, Dorium Maldovar - and here I realize those are all Steven Moffat creations or at least from the Moffat era of Who), but for the most part you have to create a whole new cast of characters for the Doctor and company to interact with.  And you also have to present them in such a way that the audience cares about them too - whether they become the Doctor’s allies or if they are up to no good.  Sometimes this works (I’m still hoping for a reappearance of Liz X) and sometimes it doesn’t (the entire Ganger crew can be safely locked in the cupboard somewhere and completely forgotten about).

Further into the book (say, about chapter ten) things start to get interesting.  Stone statues reminiscent of Weeping Angels begin terrorizing the group (they actually are referred to as angels).  Polly and Ben wonder why they don’t just get into the TARDIS and leave - which is a fun little nugget to have the companions wonder, since fans have been wondering that off and on for years (Answer: Because then there wouldn’t be a story. Duh).

When the military crew start disappearing/dying, that’s when the characterization starts taking hold.  They aren’t the cardboard cutouts that we started out with, but they've only upgraded to colorful posterboard. Marshal Haunt, for example, has a whole backstory that we only get when she’s on her deathbed - except she didn't really die, but I didn't realize that until much later when she's suddenly barking orders at somebody and I'm thrown for a complete and utter loop on that one. Frog gets some character development - and the rest of the crew drop their tough-guy demeanors and starts to be a bit more... sympathetic, maybe?  Still not enough to make me like them at all - it’s a matter of “Too Little, Too Late.”

The Doctor isn’t given enough “screen time” (as it were) to have much of an impact for me. He comes in now and again to remind the reader that he’s still there and this is still a Doctor Who story (sort of like the early William Hartnell years).  This bugs me a great deal and I’ll tell you why - by the time Ben and Polly have joined Team TARDIS, the First Doctor is a more proactive presence in the TV stories (ironic since this is supposed to be around the time Hartnell’s health was starting to fail).  Had his companions been Ian, Barbara and Susan (or even Vicki) in this story, I would have justified his limited presence in the story because those companions tended to get a larger piece of the action.  Quite frankly, the Doctor was a bit of a coward early on.  But something happens to the Doctor somewhere around “The Time Meddler” and he starts becoming more like the heroic and curious Doctor that we’re familiar with today. So, to have him be this detached and irascible and, quite frankly, absent character in a story that’s supposed to be set close to his regeneration into Patrick Troughton... yeah, it’s a little off-putting.

(Listen to “The Smugglers” or watch “The War Machines” - you’ll know what I’m talking about).

Thank goodness for Ben and Polly because they save this story from being complete crap and helped me limp through to the end.  They bring some humanity into the situation when the soldiers are either being all “RAWR! Let’s kill the alien bastards!” or “OH NOES the aliens infected me and now I have to crawl in a hole and die! *emo-angst*” (seriously - can we get ANY kind of balance with these people?)  But Ben and Polly are there to give the reader at least two characters that don't read like military stereotypes in a James Cameron film.  They both want to get out of this situation and are doing everything they can to solve this mystery.  Just like any tried-and-true companions of the Doctor would do.  It's sort of like when you watch a Doctor Who episode and you can tell the one-off cast just isn't clicking and it seems like some don't even want to be there, but the Doctor and the companions are giving it all they've got (this happens a lot in Classic Who - especially in the 1980s, which is a decade of Who that I have a lot of affection for).  It seems a lot like literary!Ben and literary!Polly are giving it every last effort they can muster, but these other people can't be bothered - just give them their paychecks and let them go.

Around chapter 13 is where I was starting to think this story was going to pull itself out of the mire and make something of itself.  There were some nuggets of character-development going on, the plot was thickening, the Doctor was allowed to have a presence and figure things out, Ben and Polly were carrying the action and carrying it well.  I thought "Oh good, I can finish this - no problem."  (Also - the First Doctor is given a line very reminiscent of “reverse the polarity.”  The exact line is “A simple matter of reversing certain polarities.”  It was a nice little call-forward that I really liked.  So there is that for you).

And then... the story became "Choose Your Own Adventure."  And it was at this point that I went "OH HELL NO!!"

I am NOT a fan of CYOA - I'm just not.  If I knew that was coming, I would have chosen another First Doctor story to review.  I hate it that much.  CYOA stuff always annoyed me because I don’t like jumping around a book as I’m reading it.  It was never a favorite of mine and here you’ve thrown it right in the middle of a perfectly straightforward (albeit confusing as hell) linear narrative.  If it wasn’t for the fact I’d promised to read all of these in their entirety for this project, I’d have said “Screw this!” and gone on to “Dreams of Empire.”  It was that off-putting.

I’m hoping that this is all a product of this being the first book from the Past Doctor Adventures line I’ve read and I need to get used to the way these stories are structured and told.  I’ve read books based on New Who and enjoyed them to varying degrees - never outright hating any, though. Just some are better than others - sort of like how I deal with my Who in general (which I have discussed from time to time on this blog).  I'm sure there are books in the this line that are good - I just need to find them.

Bottom Line: I’ve heard mixed opinions on the New Adventures novels - some people love the books and some people hate them and some people don’t care either way.  So far, I’m not terribly impressed.  I hate to be a Debbie Downer because there is very little Doctor Who that draws my ire, but this one did it.  This story was a disappointment.  Not even the wonderful combination of Ben and Polly could save this one, even though they tried.  And that’s too bad. I want to love these stories because they were specifically chosen for this special commemorative line of books and I kind of figured The Powers That Be would choose quality stories - but they failed miserably with this one (hey, if I don’t like something, I’m not going to pretend that I did).  I might even have to put this down to the levels of “Love and Monsters” bad because - ugh. No. Just... no.

And the Agatha Christie references in the book and chapter titles made zero sense.  That's all you need to know about that.

(Geez, that was a horrible start to the novels I'm reviewing.  Please, please, please let "Dreams of Empire" be better!")

Next Time on Librarian in the TARDIS -

Previously -

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Only Mystery Worth Solving - Review of "Hide"

Spoilers for "Hide" underneath the only video I could conceivably have put here -

Didn't take many notes for this one.  Not because I don't have thoughts for it, but because I was so enthralled by the story that I didn't want to stop and scribble things down.  This entire story works so well together that I can't really take it piece by piece and talk about it in details.

This starts out as a typical ghost story - but this is Doctor Who and we can't stick with your typical anything in any genre.  There has to be a perfectly logical explanation for the paranormal screwiness that's going on here.  Well, perfectly logical to an alien that lives and breathes time and space.  For the rest of us humans, it sounds like so much made-up gobbledegook.  But the Doctor's a Time Lord. They invented time travel - or near enough to it.  I'm willing to take his word at face value.  In this instance, anyway.

The plot was pretty straightforward for this one - strange ghosty-type things happening at some haunted mansion in the country. The Doctor figures out the mystery of the ghost, turns out to be a pocket universe timey-and-spacey thing, he gets some help from a psychic girl and the Eye of Harmony and things are peachy.  But what makes this story so good and so powerful is the smaller ideas woven throughout the story.  Here are a few that stood out to me -

1 - I've had this one cross my mind before, but Clara actually spells it out in this episode.  When the Doctor is time traveling in the same geographical spot and they see the Earth from beginning to end, it affects Clara and she calls the Doctor out on it, saying that because he can move through time, she is essentially dead to him.  But also, she hasn't been born yet (as evidenced by the Doctor following her parents from their first meeting to Clara's mother's death).  Yet, what do we constantly hear from the Doctor about humans?  Humans are special, they're important, they have so much potential, he'll take humans on their worst days over some other species' very best days (that was clear back from "The Power of Three," wasn't it?)  So, while humans by and large are basically children compared to the Doctor, he sees possibilities for us - both in terms of humanity as a whole and with specific individuals.  The Time Lords never understood that because they were the pompous elites of the galaxy that couldn't be bothered with lesser beings until those lesser beings infringed on their pompous elitism (usually by means of the Doctor or some other renegade Time Lord doing things that proper pompous elite Time Lords don't do).

2 - A little bit of very accidental meta for the whole of Doctor Who - the girl who plays Emma (and her name escapes me and I'm too lazy to look it up right now) is also playing Verity Lambert in the docudrama An Adventure in Time and Space, which is the big special about the beginnings of Doctor Who.  This whole time, I could not get that out of my head because I'd seen pictures of the filming and to me, this lady is Verity (even when she's playing a totally different character - she looks remarkably like Verity Lambert in 1963).  So, when Emma is talking to Clara about everything ending, but in reality not everything ends, I had this flash in my mind that one of the creators of Doctor Who is speaking to the newest companion about endings and beginnings.  I'd have to go back and watch the scene again, but it was a very striking image for me.  I'm pretty sure that was unintentional, since I'm sure she was cast as Emma before they even started talking about An Adventure in Time and Space - but it's just one of those serendipitous things that seem to follow Doctor Who in pretty much all of its history (I have a list that I need to write down of everything that's happened to Doctor Who that, if things had gone any other way, we would not be having this 50th anniversary year.  Honestly, this show was born and bred from serendipity).

3 - There were so many good one-liners in this episode!  Some were silly ("Doctor what?" - makes a nice change from the usual gag) and some were a bit more profound ("Experience makes liars of us all."  "The music room is the heart of the house."  "I may be a teeny-tiny bit afraid, but I'm still a grown-up")  Something that Neil Cross does well, just from seeing the two episodes he's written this season, is puts all this great emotion into a pretty straightforward story.  I did not get any of these wonderful ideas and feelings from "Cold War" last week, even though they were meant to be there.  But from "The Rings of Akhaten" and "Hide" - there are just some very beautiful and brilliant ideas.  And they don't even need to dwell on them - they're just there for the viewer to pick up and relate to.  Personally, I hope Moffat keeps Neil Cross in the writer rotation because he is brilliant.

4 - Because I'm a total girl and I like to keep my shipper goggles handy, I bought into all the love stories in this.  Even the one at the end between the two creatures who'd been torn apart by the anomaly of the pocket universe.  It was cute.  Not as cute as Emma and Alec, but still... I like the idea (maybe that would be a fun one to focus on more in another story - has Doctor Who ever done a story where lovers are separated by time and the Doctor helps them come back together?  I know it's been done in other places, but I'm trying to think if the Doctor's ever had to deal with that. On second thought, maybe not... the fanboys would throw a fit.  Feelings are icky, after all).

5 - The TARDIS still doesn't like Clara!  I don't recall the TARDIS ever showing overt hostility to a companion like this before! (okay, maybe Jack - but that was easily explained).  Also - Emma tells Clara not to trust the Doctor, that he has a sliver of ice in his heart.  That's a very strange description of Eleven because I'm pretty sure he's been portrayed as a trustworthy guy since "The Eleventh Hour."  He might not be entirely truthful about certain things, but he's the guy that fights the Weeping Angels and takes on Daleks with a jammie dodger and gives epic, badass speeches to killer parasite suns and whole fleets of monsters.  Nothing's going to get you as long as Eleven's around because he's going to kick ass and take names before the day is out - and he is still your best friend.  So, yeah... this is new territory and it'll be interesting to see where it goes from here.

That's all I can think of for "Hide."  Fantastic story, lovely characters, brilliant writing - love for everything.

Next Week - "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" (yes, I'm going to make an effort at spelling it the British way) looks like it's going to either be fantastic beyond belief, or it is going to be an exercise in missed opportunities.  I have avoided watching any pre-released clips because I want to see everything on first viewing (though I'm okay with the "Next Time" trailers and such), so I have no idea.  As always, I reserve judgment until I see the episode.

(To be fair - I very rarely hate anything related to Doctor Who.  I've discovered this while I've been borrowing some black and white stories on DVD from the library and watching them and I found out that there are actually people who hate "The Space Museum," which is one that I quite enjoyed.  That sort of shocked me, even though these kinds of things really shouldn't.  Honestly, my love of Doctor Who ranges from "LOVE LOVE LOVE!!" to "Eh, it was okay" and everything in between.  I never really take out hate and malice toward a Doctor Who story.  Even "Love and Monsters" - which is arguably my least favorite story - I just shrug and move on with my life).

Saturday, April 13, 2013

I Smell Like I Sound - Review of "Cold War"

Spoilers for "Cold War" after some classic tunes from the 1980s (after a while, '80s music sort of grows on you) -

Okay, fanboys - listen up! Everything about "Cold War" is the exact opposite of "The Rings of Ahkaten" last week.  The theme, the action, the pacing, the plot, the setting, the characters - everything is different.  And there's a Classic Who monster thrown in the mix for good measure. So, I say this will all the love and goodwill in my heart - no being butthurt and whiny this week, mmmkay? (hopefully the wise words from Two-Minute Time Lord guest podcaster Kyle Anderson will have rung true to listening ears).  Though given the childish behavior exhibited by some of you this past week (I won't name names), I reserve the right to pick on you throughout this post. You've earned it.

Well, folks, the 80s are officially history.  Even though Doctor Who has (ostensibly) done stories set in the '80s before, those were stories actually filmed in the 1980s and treated as present-day. This may be the first time that well-known historical events from that decade were actually treated as history (yes, "Father's Day" was set in 1987, but the only historical element of that story was the hair and clothes, so it's doesn't quite count as a historical piece).  It didn't make me feel old, personally, because I was six when the Soviet Union collapsed and don't remember a damn thing about it (though I have read some about the time period since then).  Maybe I'll feel more of an "I was there!" connection when we get a '90s historical story, but not for the '80s.

(Side Note: "Sinking Soviet submarine" is redundant.  Everything the Soviet Union had was shit. That's why it doesn't exist as a country anymore).

I started to lose count how many other Doctor Who stories I could see echoes of in this episode - "Warriors of the Deep," "Dalek," "The Waters of Mars," "The Hungry Earth," just to name a few.  Funnily enough, no Ice Warrior stories, though I have seen a few in my time (guess they didn't make much of an impact on me when I saw them).  But this story does make me intrigued to see more of the Ice Warriors (which may possibly happen now that we've been treated to the sight of an Ice Warrior spaceship).  My hope is that "Cold War" does for the Ice Warriors what "Dalek" did for the Daleks because they are cool creatures - even if I still don't quite get the whole fanboy-glee over them yet, but there's still time for that (now if the Mara showed up, I'd be bouncing off the walls).

I'm trying to decide how I feel about the pacing of "Cold War."  On the one hand, by the time it was over I didn't feel like it had been forty minutes.  On the other hand, I distinctly remember feeling a bit like "Okay, where are we going with this?" around the 24:37 mark. I hesitate to say I was bored, because I wasn't.  But it felt like the plot wasn't as engaging as it could have been.  I certainly wasn't on the edge of my seat like last week and I didn't really feel like I wanted to rush in and watch it again immediately.

I did love the part with Clara going in to talk with the Ice Warrior.  I loved how she continues to be confident and her own person, yet she is still getting the hang of encountering alien races (witness her slightly-awkward giving of the Ice Warrior salute).  I wish she'd been able to talk to the Ice Warrior herself, though.  Even though it would smack of Rose talking to the Dalek in Van Statten's bunker, it would have been nice to get her to have a bit of a heart-to-heart with the Grand Marshall Skaldak (love that name, by the way).

While I'm on the subject of our new friend - I LOVED the Ice Warrior design.  Both the armor and the reptilian-scaly-red-eyed CGI thing.  The armor is a nice call-back to the Ice Warriors of yore, but with a sleeker element.  But the Ice Warrior outside the armor?  That did give me chills.  It's sort of like seeing the Dalek unfold its casing in "Dalek" right before it self-destructs.  I like that we didn't see the whole thing - just those creepy, clawed hands at first and then it's face.  Now that I think of it, that might have been deliberate, since the Ice Warrior was described as being reptilian - don't want to confuse it with a Silurian, right?

The TARDIS Translation Circuit Returns! Even though the TARDIS had conveniently buggered off and even though there was no mention of it last week.  Now, if I know my fellow Whovians, that is sure to get the fanboys riled up again, even if it's just over stupid inconsistencies (Consistency? Continuity? In Doctor Who? Are you nuts??)

While I can't give "Cold War" the giddy and soft-hearted praise that I gave "The Rings of Ahkaten" last week, this was an enjoyable story with some great elements and storytelling.  You can't have feelings and lovely characters and pretty songs every week (as was proven by fanboys all but marching on the offices of BBC Wales with torches and pitchforks - maybe Moffat was right to quit Twitter), but it was a good showing with very little to complain about.  Not sure how much Clara's going to enjoy traveling to the South Pole in a leaky Soviet tub, but time-and-space travel can't be all glamorous, now can it?

Friday, April 12, 2013

I Think It's Gonna Be a Long, Long Time

Librarian in the TARDIS, Review 1.02

Title: The Rocket Men
Written by: John Dorney
Team TARDIS: First Doctor, Ian (narrates), Barbara, Vicki
Adversaries: Ashman, the Rocket Men
Release Date: August 2011
Range and Number: Companion Chronicles 6.02

Okay, Whovian boys and girls - I have a teeny-tiny confession to make.

I am a shipper.

I know, I know - you're thinking of those 15-year-old girls on Tumblr photoshopping Ten and Rose into all sorts of, shall we say, compromising positions or poorly-written slash-fic about Captain Jack, Sabalom Glitz and a mango (don't ask me how I know of these things - it scares me too).  But I come from a more sweeter brand of shipper.  The kind that appreciates a sprinkling of warm-fuzzies living harmonious alongside the requisite "Yeah, man! Let's blow crap up!" in her speculative fiction.  Admittedly, some people don't.  Their reaction is "Feelings are icky!"  That is perfectly fine.  But that doesn't stop me from going "Awwww..." when two characters share A Moment, no matter how brief.

That being said - is there anyone out there doubting that Ian and Barbara are an Item?  It may not be exactly canon, but it's darn near to it*.  I figured it out somewhere between "The Reign of Terror" and "Planet of Giants" (Sue beat me by four stories - she figured it out in "The Keys of Marinus," so more power to her).  While I have many reasons why I enjoyed "The Rocket Men," the exploration of Ian and Barbara's relationship may be my number one reason why I liked this story so much.

(I think I just scared away all the fanboys *evil cackle*)

Anyway - I’m getting off-subject here (I listen to Traveling the Vortex. They tangent. A lot. It rubs off on me. I have an excuse). “The Rocket Men” is from Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles line, so it’s a little different than the main range. The stories are shorter and they only involve two people - one of the Doctor’s companions telling the story and one other voice as supporting cast (though this pattern doesn’t hold true for all of them. There are a few with two companions and one that I know of - “Peri and the Piscon Paradox” - actually features the Sixth Doctor as the supporting character). Personally, I like the Companion Chronicles because it gives Big Finish a chance to create stories taking place in eras of Doctor Who where the actor who played the Doctor has passed on, but their companions’ actors are still around. And they do some really clever stuff (would we expect anything different from Big Finish? Nope, not at all).

“The Rocket Men” is the story of the First Doctor taking Ian, Barbara and Vicki to the resort plant of Jobis for a short holiday from running away from monsters and tyrants and all manner of baddies. Of course, this being Doctor Who, something bad has to happen. That something bad takes the form of a bunch of intergalactic pirates flying around on trademark rocket packs invading the resort and looking for the Doctor (who, conveniently enough, has gone off somewhere to collaborate with some other scientist doing science-y things. Hey, the guy’s on holiday. That’s what he does).

There are a fair number of stories in Doctor Who that involve the Doctor taking his companions on a vacation of sorts (“Midnight” did it for TV, “Vampires of Venice” was supposed to be this, and there are a few other Big Finish audios and novels that use this trope as well). But the way this audio starts out with Ian (as played by William Russell, who’s falls into the character of Ian, even years later) talking about “When do you know?” in a very thoughtful and meaningful way that clues you into the fact that this is not going to be a typical death-defying adventure - though there certainly is plenty of death-defying to go around.

The action begins with a group of hostages - Ian, Barbara and Vicki among them - being menaced by a bunch of space pirates led by the slimy Ashman. The Rocket Men (so called because of the rocket packs they fly around on) are looking for the Doctor and they know he's checked into the resort with three other people and they're looking for the Doctor's companions. However, the narrative doesn't stay linear. It keeps flashing back to when they first arrived on Jobis, showing how much fun and relaxing the trip started out. It's meant to be jarring - showing that, yes, traveling with the Doctor can be fun and amazing and life-changing, but it's risky too.

You'd think the narrative jumps would be jarring, but they're written in such a way that the story almost drifts between the relaxation and mortal peril. This is especially evident in the scene where Ian is diving after Barbara after Ashman throws her out off the observation deck above the planet - sort of like a "life flash before your eyes" thing.

Oh - and after Ian rescues Barbara and she's going to be perfectly safe? Ashman shows up for a mid-air hand-to-hand dogfight. And it is fantastic! (sheesh - my high school chemistry teacher was never this badass. Mostly he was an ass. That's another story).

I started out this post talking about shipping and how I enjoy a little bit of romantic fluff in my sci-fi. Well, "The Rocket Men" certainly has it's share of fluff and then some. Though, it seems a little strange to call this "fluff," since it fits so seamlessly into the action. It's all Ian's stream-of-consciousness thoughts - one minute he'll be thinking "Wow, this planet's pretty neat" or "Crap, we're in trouble now" and the next minute he's all "I really like Barbara" (it's much more elegantly written than that, but you get the picture - when the shipper goggles come out to play, I tend to get quite silly).

(And it turns out that the Doctor's a bit of a shipper too. The fact that even the "old and grumpy" First Doctor has to give Ian a bit of a nudge at the end gave me all kinds of joyful-fangirl-happy giggles).

The best part is a bit at the end where Ian reflects on how much he and Barbara have been through in their travels and it was fun to hear my own thoughts and theories voiced in this story. I don't think it's possible for anyone to share something so extraordinary and dangerous with someone else without coming away with at least some affection for the other person. Ian and Barbara come from similar backgrounds, they were both kidnapped by the Doctor, they more or less stuck with each other through the beginning of their travels, it was some time before they really trusted the Doctor and Susan, and they left the TARDIS together. Who else are you going to talk to about your adventures when you get home? Fans can write and speculate about this stuff all they want, but it's nice to see it acknowledged in some way by official media. Even more sweet is when the characters themselves give voice to it (which is why I would much rather ship characters that are plausible within canon and leave Jack, Glitz and the mango firmly in the domain of Tumblr). It's probably silly to get all giddy about this story (after all people DIE!), but I do. And the whole thing makes me quite happy.

On that note - should I post the song? It has absolutely nothing to do with my post, but I've been humming it all day while I've worked on this, so I think you all should be infected with the earworm as well. Enjoy.


*I take that back - at the end of the Sarah Jane Adventures episode "Death of the Doctor," Sarah Jane lists off a bunch of the Doctor's past companions and she specifically mentions that Ian and Barbara are married. So, yeah, RTD took care of that for us - HOORAY!

Next Time on Librarian in the TARDIS -
Review 1.03 - A Doctor Who novel influenced by the writing of Agatha Christie.

Previously -
Review 1.01 - A Call to Adventure

Thursday, April 11, 2013

An Open Letter to Barnes and Noble, Re: eBook Prices

Dear Barnes and Noble,

Over the years, I have been a loyal customer.  I have enjoyed your selection of books and other media both in the physical bookstore and online.  In fact, I applaud your foresight in maintaining your own online presence instead of going the route Borders did of partnering with Amazon, which ultimately led to their demise.  For many years, I have enjoyed the discounts afforded through your B&N Membership program and I would shop at Barnes and Noble the way some women shop for clothes or shoes.

When I was in the market for an eReader, it was an easy choice to go with the Nook.  I wanted the eInk screen because I spend plenty of time in front of backlit digital displays for work and school and my eyes need a break.  At the time I was comparing models, Amazon was extremely persnickety about the files allowed on the Kindle while the Nook was much more accepting of eBook files outside of what B&N offered.  I was drawn to the fact that I could load PDF and ePub files downloaded from other sources (such as my syllabi for the classes I was taking in graduate school at the time). Of course, I was happy to purchase for Nook books through B&N, but it's nice to have options.  Also - should my Nook have problems, the thought of going into a Barnes and Noble store and talking to an actual person appealed to me greatly (I have not had issues with my Nook, which is certainly a major point in the Nook's favor).

Since then, I talked to plenty of people who are die-hard Kindle and Amazon people who frequently cited the higher prices of Nook books and various advantages of shopping solely at Amazon (the Amazon Prime service being high on the list of the "Yay! Amazon!" camp) as reasons why Barnes and Noble, quite frankly, sucked (their words, not mine).  I turned around to defend the Barnes and Noble model, citing that you can't get the cozy bookstore feel from a website that connects you to an impersonal warehouse out somewhere in the boonies.  I like being able to browse through the shelves of a store or a library (the same people crowing about the ease of these digital downloads also tout the idea that the traditional library is dying.  As a librarian, I can assure everyone that this is far from the case).

However, recent events have forced me to re-evaluate some of my entertainment media purchasing practices.

The latest of these is the eBook pricing of the novels being re-released under the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary reprints.  Like a good consumer, I like to compare prices.  Yes, usually the Barnes and Noble prices are slightly higher than Amazon, but I figured that the difference in price is worth supporting a business that keeps with the traditional bookstore model in addition to selling online (and the price difference usually no more than a dollar anyway).  Except this time - the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary reprint line is eleven books all prices separately.  I want to buy all of them, but I also have to budget my expenses carefully when considering such large purchases.

So, when I see this is the Nook price -
Same price for each individual book in the series.
And this is the Kindle price -
For the mathmatically challenged, that is a difference of $5.75  - which adds up when this is the case for a series of 11 books.  FYI - The price on Apple's iBooks for the same title is exactly the same as Amazon's.
... I have to wonder, does Barnes and Noble, really want to keep my business?  What, are people not buying enough $4 muffins from your in-store Starbucks?  If you guys are going to jack up prices needlessly (and it is needless, seeing as Apple's iBooks lists the same prices as Amazon), I will happily take my money over to Amazon.  In truth, I let my B&N Membership lapse and have already gone with Amazon Prime because it combines the services of Netflix and a B&N Membership for a hell of a lot less than what I was paying when I had both separately.  Plus, since the time I was initially in the market for an e-reader, the Kindle has become much more flexible in what types of files they allow on the device.  Not to mention that I have an iPhone now and love the variety of apps available to me, so I could very well be persuaded to get an iPad and do all my digital reading using Nook, Kindle, Adobe, Bluefire, OverDrive and whatever other reader apps there are out there (and still check my Facebook and Twitter feeds) all from the same device.  Honestly - how many separate electronic devices do I need?

Maybe I'm just late to the party, but I'm starting to see what the Amazon-only people were crowing about for all that time.  If these astronomical differences in prices are going to continue, I don't think the "cozy bookstore" thing is going to keep me coming back to B&N and I certainly won't be able to defend you guys to my friends and co-workers.  Besides, I can get the same sort of coziness at my local library where the books, DVDs and browsing experience are completely free! Another reason I am not worried for traditional libraries even though I'm becoming less and less confident in the brick-and-mortar bookstore.

Beyond that - who says I even have to leave my house for the cozy-bookish lifestyle?

Sincerely yours,

Chrissy Johnson
Salt Lake City, Utah
April 11, 2013

ETA: Including a screengrab of the price of the same book on the Apple iBooks Store - just so you know that it's not just Amazon drastically lowering the price -

Still $3.99 - same as on

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Call to Adventure

Librarian in the TARDIS, Review 1.01

Title: The Keys of Marinus
Written by: Terry Nation
Team TARDIS: First Doctor, Susan, Ian, Barbara
Adversaries: Yartek, the Voords
Originally Aired: April 11-May 16, 1964
Number of Episodes: 6

Terry ****ing Nation!

(Thanks to Sue Perryman, I will never again see Terry Nation's name without getting a severe case of the giggles. That’s not a bad thing - it keeps life interesting).

For Mr. Nation's first jab at a non-Dalek Doctor Who story, this isn't too bad. The first time I watched this was during my incredibly naïve attempt to watch all of Classic Who from the very beginning after watching all of New Who (what can I say? I was young and stupid and thought this was the natural thing to do. It's not like I had an expert guiding my actions. Considering how I bumbled through it, it's lucky I love Classic Who as much as I do). This is "Team TARDIS Goes A-Questing," which my inner mythology and fantasy geek gobbled right up. It's straight out of Joseph Campbell (who I hear is some guy who plagiarized George Lucas).

The set-up is straightforward enough - the TARDIS lands on an alien planet, Our Intrepid Heroes go out for a looksie, Susan tries to go wading in a pool full of acid (as you do) and gets the bejeebus scared out of her. It's when the inevitable meeting of/imprisoning by the local alien race happens that you figure out that this is not going to be your typical Hartnell-era visit to a new planet.

I think what appeals to me the most about this story is how unlike Classic Who it is. I don’t mean this as a dig against Classic Who, by any means (come on - think of who you’re talking to!) I mean that it can be fun to change things up every once in a while - do something new and innovative and see where it takes you. Each episode of “Keys” is a self-contained piece of the larger story arc with its own settings and characters. Because of this, the story moves fast in a way that Doctor Who really hadn't done to that point. I know next to nothing about British television outside of Who, but I wonder if this was revolutionary for its time or if this was just a normal Saturday night on the telly for the average viewer. For me, I was excited to get something that had to be open and shut in 25 minutes or less because the next episode was going to be completely different and there wasn't time to dink around with last week's unresolved problems.

If I did have a complaint about this, it's that the plot of Ian being framed for murder is sort of a strange one to use in the middle of this story (could this be considered The Abyss of the Hero's Journey? It spans one-and-a-half episodes, so it could very well be).  Up to that point, we've had wandering around an alien wasteland, exploring a sadistic jungle, and freezing to death in a blizzard. After all that, "Law and Order: Marinus" seems a little weak sauce. However, I cannot complain about the reappearance of the Doctor, after giving William Hartnell a well-deserved two-episode holiday after filming almost nonstop since the series began. This absence of the Doctor gave me several reasons to be giddy - (A) More Ian and Barbara being awesome (and awesomely cute - more on that next time) and (B) It's the first instance of Doctor-lite (before there was actually a name for it. Great Moments in Doctor Who History, indeed!) and (C) When Hartnell comes back from holiday, it is with an infectious energy and enthusiasm that allows me to forgive the "Who Framed Ian Chesterton?" murder mystery. Everything is going to be just fine because the Doctor is on the case!

Something in this story that I love about this particular Team TARDIS (that isn’t shipping - I told you, that’s for next time!) is how great of a character Barbara is. I always enjoy her interactions and her big-sister-mentor type relationship with Susan (and later, Vicki). I think this appeals to me in particular because I do have younger sisters myself and I’d like to think I’d take care of them in a similar situation (oh, who am I kidding - they’d probably annoy me the whole time and I’d lock them in the Zero Room when the Doctor wasn’t looking). When Barbara gets the phone call that Susan has been kidnapped and the kidnapper demands that the Doctor stops investigating the murders, Barbara has enough presence of mind not to give in and simply takes matters into her own hands and rescues Susan before Kala (the kidnapper who also committed the murders that Ian’s taking the fall for - it’s a long story, just watch the thing) can do anything about it. It’s a really cool bit of writing, especially since the Doctor has been handling pretty much everything in this situation to this point and Barbara’s heroics come almost out of nowhere, but it works wonderfully for her character.

In the end, it doesn't much matter that ol'-What's-His-Face that sent Team TARDIS out to retrieve the Keys snuffs it because the Voord showed up almost as soon as Arbitan (that's the guy's name!) is left alone with his thoughts. For some fans, this is an unacceptable waste of plot and characters, but for me the story was never really about Arbitan. He was there to give the Doctor and his companions a mission in this story and they accomplished it in true Hero's Journey fashion.  They all still get to be heroic and magnificent and that's all I care about.

Also - "The Keys of Marinus" provides a template for the Season 16 "The Key to Time" story arc (and, by extension, "The Key 2 Time" trilogy produced by Big Finish. It stars the Fifth Doctor. Of COURSE I would point that one out), which is a great classic in its own right. While "An Unearthly Child" and "The Daleks" certainly broke the mold of television for their time and the rest of Doctor Who owes much to those early stories, it's evident that the rest of the first season was already proving to be something later showrunners and writers could look back on and mine for brilliant ideas to make their own.

Besides, who doesn't enjoy a good questing tale once in a while?

Next Time on Librarian in the TARDIS-
Review 1.02 - I Think It's Gonna Be a Long, Long Time

Previously -
Review 1.X - The Project Begins

Librarian in the TARDIS - The Project Begins

Everywhere I look, I see various projects - official and unofficial - leading up to the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who. Adventures with the Wife in Space recently achieved their goal of watching all episodes of Classic Who. Tansy Rayner Roberts has her WHO-50 blogging project going. Big Finish has "The Light at the End" coming out in November. Traveling the Vortex is doing their monthly retrospectives on each Doctor, along with some other extra surprises to celebrate. Steven from Radio Free Skaro has promised to finish The Chronic Hysteresis by November 23, 2013.  The BBC and all its subsidiaries have tons and tons of books and videos and merchandise - not to mention "The Doctors Revisited" specials on BBC America.  That doesn't even begin cover the myriad of other things, to numerous to recount here.

So, where does that leave a relative-newbie with her fingers in all kind of Classic and New Who in all kinds of media wishing to pay tribute to this show that she loves as much as the I-Watched-It-On-My-Local-PBS-Station-In-The-80s fan?

I don't want to review all the Doctor Who stories in order because (A) It's been done to death and (B) I don't have time (believe me - if all I had to do in life was watch Doctor Who all day every day and still have money for food and fuel and living space, I would be all over that). I had ideas for a music video, but my cheapo movie-creating software doesn't love me. And I'm not starting a podcast (just… no. I can't handle that).

This idea sort of came to me while I was catching up with Wife in Space, so I'm crediting the Perryman household with this, in part. I noticed that Sue (the eponymous Wife) had her opinions about Doctor Who and not all of them conformed to Conventional Fan Wisdom™ and I absolutely LOVED that. This made me reflect on stories that I loved that fandom as a whole hated and ones I didn't care for that fandom fawns over ("The Talons of Weng-Chiang," for a start). Even more recently, my glowing review of "The Rings of Akhaten" broke off sharply from Convention Fan Wisdom™ who largely said that the episode was "boring" (I could make a jab about the various substances fandom may be using lately, but that's a cheap shot, so I won't). I considered taking Doctor Who stories in which my opinion parted ways with CFW™ and say why I felt that way. But, upon further reflection, that would take too long and it's too subjective (not all fans hate "Silver Nemesis," after all. Just the loudest ones).

Also, BBC Books is re-releasing several books from the New Adventures line (and one Target Novelization). Well, this is a no-brainer - (bookworm, librarian - hello!) And I love, love, LOVE Big Finish - though I don't review it often enough. Somewhere along the line, the idea for the Librarian in the TARDIS Blogging Project coalesced and become a Real Idea.

(The name for the project came from the fact that, well, I'm a librarian.  And libraries aren't just about books - we also have movies and music and audios and other forms of media.  It seemed fitting).

So, here's what I'm going to do - For each Doctor, I am going to take one televised story that I don't think gets enough love or attention and review it. I will also review the BBC re-releases of the New-Adventures-plus-one-Target-book line when they come out. And, if that wasn't enough, I'm going to choose a Big Finish audio for each Doctor and review it (with the earlier Doctors, this will mean reviewing stories from the Companion Chronicles line and obviously New Who Doctors aren't going to have any, so I'll substitute something else there). I don't know how regular this will go, but I imagine it'll take me through the summer and into the fall.

The whole point of this is not to rehash the same assessments that CFW™ has given us over and over again, but rather to look at some other stories that are part of the family - for better or worse - and give them their due. Besides - it's all Doctor Who and it all contributed to getting the good Doctor to his 50th birthday and it all deserves some recognition.

(Hello ambition! I'm glad to see you here again!)

Next Time, on Librarian in the TARDIS -
Review 1.01 - The Call to Adventure

ETA: This will be separate from my current tradition of reviewing New Who stories as they air.  I just wanted something a little different to mark this very special year for Doctor Who.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Souls Made of Stories - Review of "The Rings of Akhaten"

Takes on a bit more meaning now, doesn't it?
Spoilers for "The Rings of Akhaten" below the poem (Happy Poetry Month, by the way).

“If you want me again look for me under your bootsoles.
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good help to you nevertheless
And filter and fiber your blood.
Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop some where waiting for you”
 ― Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

This will be an episode of Doctor Who that I will keep going back to over and over again.

I was completely prepared to do the fangirl-flail review of "The Rings of Akhaten."  I mean, after the Doctor said he'd been to Akhaten with his granddaughter, I had to pause the episode for about five minutes while I did this seal-hand-flappy-thing I do when something really excites me (my baby sister does the same thing - that's beside the point).

But I kept watching.  And I realized that "The Rings of Akhaten" is much more than just the Doctor taking his new companion off on grand adventures through time and space.  It's also about discovering who you are, what makes you up, the people that create you along the way - the memories you carry and the things that hold the most value to you.  It's almost to the emotional level of "The Fires of Pompeii" - but in a drastically different way.

The cold open should have been a clue - when Clara's dad talks about how this exact leaf had to grow in that exact place, etc. so he could meet Clara's mum.  Stuff like that resonates with me and I certainly made note of it (maybe to put on a plaque or something one day).

I loved Clara's interaction with Merry Gal-El (quite the Kryptonian name, you think?)  At first, I was annoyed that the Doctor took off and left Clara to her own devices.  But it seems Clara can take care of herself.  She's confident, though not so confident that she doesn't need the Doctor at all (maybe confident isn't the right word - competent?  Yeah. I like that one).  I loved that Clara immediately reached out to a young girl and becomes a sort-of mentor to her.  Maybe it's my own penchant for working with kids, but I love stuff like that - Clara doesn't even think about it.  There's a child in trouble and she immediately tries to help - not just try to find the girl's parents, but also to help her understand her fears and to cope with them.  Granted, I've never had to help a young queen get up the courage to sing a lullaby for a parasitical ball of gas that feeds on soul and memory - but the intent is certainly there.  And it's fitting that she took Mary back to the TARDIS and that's where she told her story about getting lost and what her mother taught her.  Even the image of the blue box alongside the scene of Clara telling a story creates a poignancy that's very meta (and I hope I'm using that term correctly, but with all the speculation that Clara is a physical manifestation of Doctor Who the show/franchise in this anniversary year, it think it's appropriate)

The Doctor teaching (more or less) Clara how things are done on Team TARDIS - "We never walk away."  But sometimes, we run.  Or - the companion runs and is expected to let the Doctor handle it.  Except that the Doctor only takes the very best and the very best would never leave him (or anyone else) behind.

Also - the people of Akhaten giving Clara back her mother's ring.  So many times we have the Doctor being thanked or honored in some way.  But for once - it was the companion who saved everyone and it was the companion who was thanked.

And then... the ending.

I almost don't want to hear any of the podcasters nitpick over this scientific impossibility or that little detail  as they review this episode (though I certainly will listen).  Because this kind of story takes on... a lot of meaning, I think.  Something very different.  Something very special that doesn't come along every day.  I could just chalk it up to Matt Smith's performance because - oh boy - he gave that scene hell and came back 'round to bake it cookies.  I could even give equal - if not more - credit to Jenna-Louise Coleman for her part in that scene because there was a moment where I thought I was actually listening to a female version of the Doctor give her speech.  Moments of memory lost - things that should have been but weren't - an infinity of possibility taken away.

All that from one leaf that should be crumbled up into dust by now, but isn't.  Probably held together by memory and love.

The more I watch Doctor Who, the more I find myself in it.  I don't ever go looking for it.  That's not even why I started watching it in the first place.  I just wanted something entertaining and mindless to enjoy.  And maybe it's how my brain works - maybe I'm predisposed to finding these deep and soul-searching meanings in shows (though for the life of me, I can't think of another one I've done this with).  I know I talk a lot about this, but Doctor Who is something entirely special to me.  Something that I've learned from and has been there for me in times of terrible darkness and times of unadulterated joy.  And the little cynic in my head keeps going "Are you batshit insane?? It's a stupid TV show!!!"  But then, the emotional, sentimental side of me whacks the cynic with a broom and locks it back in the cupboard where it belongs.

Stories define us.  Memories define us.  They define us mere mortals just as much as they define thousand-year-old Time Lords.  They are precious and ought to be treated as such (and they often are).  Sadness, joy, pain, pleasure, love, hate, friendship, enemies, anger, giddiness, confusion, knowledge, birth, death  - all those dichotomies.  They make up the purpose of life and existence and being here.  These are things I've been taught all my life and I feel the truth of that every single day of my life.  To have it communicated in a television show - almost boggles my mind.  But, just like Clara's dad, I also know that there are reasons for the way things happen.  And none of it is coincidence.  You have to grow in exactly the right spot to have exactly the right experiences and meet exactly the right people.

I wish I could give words to what I'm thinking and feeling right now.  I wish there was a way to show how deeply these ideas and emotions run.  But I also know that human language is limited.  Which is probably why music featured so strongly and so beautifully in this episode.  Where words fail, music carries the day.

In the end - Clara's mother's promise to her is something that Clara wants to pay forward to someone else she cares about.  She comes to care about Merry Gal-El through the course of the episode.  But she also cares about the Doctor.  Because the story of the memory of the day Clara got lost at Blackpool Beach is ultimately what ended up saving the day, it seems appropriate to end on this bit of verse from Leaves of Grass -

“I will You, in all, Myself, with promise to never desert you,
To which I sign my name.”
― Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Thursday, April 4, 2013

I Need This Today. You Need This Today.

I'm at work right now, but it's one of Those Days. Since I can't enjoy this, I'm letting you guys enjoy it.  Call it my "When You're Having a Bad Day, Serve Others and You'll Feel Better" thing for today.

(It's Lindsey Stirling. She's awesome).

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Let Zygons Be Zygons

Not the most original subject line, but you try coming up with something on the fly like that.
The BBC has officially announced that Zygons will be featured in the 50th Anniversary Special (filming of which began today).  Also, this announcement has caused my theories regarding the 50th to go crashing unceremoniously out the window (I AM NOT COMPLAINING ABOUT THIS!)

[Speaking of filming, an intrepid set reporter tweeted this photo and it was picked up on Facebook.  While the Facebook page isn't in anyway official, they do make the point that this is Ten's TARDIS and, yes yes there was a deleted scene and Handy!Doctor could possibly have a TARDIS - but that was a deleted scene and it's very unlikely to be acknowledged in an on-screen performance.  So, the Tenth Doctor is the Real Deal - never fear about that.]

First, I thought that there would be more casting announcements involving previous Doctors (Paul McGann being first on my wishlist, but I wouldn't say no to Eccleston or McCoy or anyone else) and they just announced Tennant because his involvement was (almost) a no-brainer.  But photos surfaced yesterday of the readthrough for the special... and, other than David Tennant and Matt Smith, there weren't any other Doctors to be seen.

I kept wondering if this special was just going to feature New Who things, which is fine but felt like a bit of a slight against Classic Who - but then I considered that the Great Intelligence is on tap to play a key role in Series 7 (that's a nod to the Second Doctor's era) and that may very well lead into the 50th. And now we have Zygons (a throwback to the 4th Doctor's era - and if David Tennant requested it, so much the better).

(Before anyone says anything - I know that tweet was a joke. But it's a very good one).

So, here is my theory - which will probably last until lunchtime - rather than getting Classic Doctors for the 50th, they're doing Classic adversaries or companions from each era (I'm throwing companions in there because - why the hell not?).  And since you want to give a nod to more than a handful of Doctors' eras - well, we've got Two, Four, Ten and Eleven covered... so what else can we do?

Going by the type of villains included so far - the Great Intelligence takes over and feeds on people's minds.  Zygons are shapeshifters and can impersonate anyone.  So what else can fit in that vein of psychological thriller-type baddie? (and is a relatively budget-friendly villain to pull off?)

(as portrayed in this freaky-deaky scene from "Kinda" - more info and spoilers here)
Do it, Moff! Do it for the 50th!

(Will it happen? Probably not.  Can a Fivey-fangirl dream? Heck yes she can!)

Seriously, though - the New Series has done Daleks to death.  They've also already incorporated Cybermen, Sontarans and Silurians. Let's do some more villains that are still in the sole realm of Classic Who. Zygons and the Great Intelligence are brilliant.  And I'm sure there is more excitement to come - so what else can we (possibly) expect to look forward to?

Man, theorizing might just be as much fun as actually watching the actual Special later this year.

(It's like the dam broke and we're finally getting a flood of news to mark this year of celebration. Wonder what the next bit of news will bring...)