Thursday, November 7, 2013

Go Forward In All Your Beliefs

Librarian in the TARDIS, Epilogue

Well, kidlets. It's been seven months (near enough) since I embarked on the Librarian in the TARDIS blogging project to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who.  I feel like I've only scratched the surface of what there is to dive into with this remarkable franchise. And hopefully there will be more adventures and characters to love and talk about over the next 50 years (man, I can only hope I'm still doing this fandom thing when I'm 78. That'd make me one of the coolest grandma-types ever!)

I didn't want to just leave Librarian in the TARDIS without a proper send-off (because not even Dodo Chaplet deserved those kinds of shenanigans).  And I'm certain that I will add to the tag in the future because, honestly, it's too good to let languish in the annals of the Internet.  It's been good to have a structured formula in which to review Doctor Who stories in various media while also showing some love to some of the unsung gems of the TV show. I said at the outset that I wanted to give some neglected stories a closer look and bring in a fresh perspective from a relatively new fan because some of the Good Old Boys of fandom tend to recycle the same old reviews and opinions over and over again. I mean, in theory, everyone says “It’s okay to disagree” and everyone says they'll play well with others - but when it comes to actually expressing a dissenting opinion... people aren't as nice.

It’s also been good to explore Doctor Who “canon” (I use the term loosely) in other media. I've enjoyed Big Finish for a very long time and I would love to delve into more stories and story arcs as I am able. And reading the novels has simply been a treat. I hope this 50th Anniversary reprint range has done well-enough that BBC Books sees the value in making more of these novels available whether in hardcopy or digital formats because I would love to read more of them.

Just to close a few things out, I have a few “fictitious awards” to hand out. This is probably the most self-serving part of this blogging project, but it was the best way I could think of to really recap and close out this whole thing. So, without further ado, I present -

The Librarian in the TARDIS Awards Show!

(Super-creative naming convention, I know).

Biggest Surprise: How much I loved “Meglos.” This was an entirely new-to-me story and I had no idea if I would like it at all, let alone even “just a little bit.” But I LOVED it! Not just for the return of Jacqueline Hill to Doctor Who (though that in itself was beyond cool), but just how creative and imaginative the story was AND how they made the whole thing work. The writing was really engaging and fun and I absolutely adored the whole thing from start to finish.
Honorable Mention: Bonus Review for “The Enemy of the World.” I’m pretty sure the news of recovered missing episodes was a huge shock to a lot of people (even if you had been suckered-in by all those nutty rumors, the fact that they actually turned out to be true was still a surprise), but the mere fact that I enjoyed the story so much to want to include it in this blogging project was a very nice surprise and one that I was glad to have (and I must thank the boys at Traveling the Vortex for including my “Enemy of the World” review on their website - they’ve been great supporters and friends throughout this entire endeavor and I'm really appreciative of all they've done).
Something That Went Exactly I Way I Planned It: Reviewing the Sixth Doctor’s era. This era, more than any, was the one I had mostly worked out in my head from the start and it didn’t change much as I went along. When you’ve set out to complete something by a certain date and you’ve set a structure for yourself, sticking to a schedule is sheer gold.
The Sixth Doctor Reviewed:
Review 6.01 - Telling Conventional Fan Wisdom(tm) Where to Stick It (TV: Timelash)
Review 6.02 - Hello Doctor. It Is So Very Nice to Meet Me. (Audio: The Wrong Doctors)
Review 6.03 - A Meeting of History and Morality (Audio: Medicinal Purposes)
Review 6.04 - The War Games People Play (Prose: Players)

Review I’m Most Proud Of: “The Curse of Peladon.” Hands-down, this is the one that I think turned out the best. I really got down into the nitty-gritty of the characters and their motivations and a few things that Maybe, Sort Of, Could Have Happened (this being referred to on Tumblr as “Headcanon”). I’d never delved so much into the character of Jo Grant and that story gave me the opportunity to really dissect and take apart what makes her such a good companion for the Third Doctor. Getting into those details is something I enjoy and I think it was evident in my analysis of the review and I was very pleased with how that one turned out.
Honorable Mention: “The Last Post” - same thing with Jo in “The Curse of Peladon,” but with Liz Shaw. We got so little of Liz on TV, but Big Finish gave so much more detail with her character and background and that was a treat to get into.

Something That Changed My Mind: This wasn’t one particular review, but in the course of revisiting the Fourth Doctor’s stories, I was surprised how much my opinion of Tom Baker’s Doctor. I never actually hated his Doctor, but I just never really understood why he is considered by so many to be the bestest best Doctor in the history of EVAH! I just put it down to simple longevity and childhood nostalgia as being the reasons people liked him so much, but that didn’t mean I had to like him. But I also didn’t want to just sit here and be all “You fanboys’ tired old opinions are stupid, let me fix them for you” because that makes me no better than those who trot out Conventional Fan Wisdom(tm) as The Only True And Final Word And Anyone Who Thinks Otherwise Is An Idiot. In the spirit of revisiting and rethinking old opinions, I decided some of my own negative perceptions needed to be revisited as well. And I am glad that I gave the Fourth Doctor another chance because he is quite good. I’m starting to see the appeal. Does that mean it’s something that appeals to me personally? Not really. Four still isn’t my Doctor. But I can see how he would be someone else’s. And that’s surprising enough.

(I still think it’s stupid that everyone loses their crap over “The Talons of Weng-Chiang,” though).
The Fourth Doctor Reviewed:
Review 4.01 - Fill My Eyes With That Double Vision (TV: The Android Invasion)
Review 4.02 - Haven't I Seen You Somewhere Before? (TV: Meglos)
Review 4.03 - So Much Cooler Online (Audio: Babblesphere)
Review 4.04 - Well... That Was... a Book. Yup. Definitely a Book (Novel: Festival of Death)

Biggest Disappointment: “Ten Little Aliens.” I’m sorry - there just have to be better First Doctor novels that they could have chosen for the reprint range. I kind of feel like they expect that people don’t care for the First Doctor, so they just pulled whatever random story they could grab off the shelf and that’s what they did. It’s not representative of the First Doctor’s era and it’s just not a very good story. Not a great start to the set - but I guess they figure people would go for the Fourth Doctor or the Tenth Doctor books first and maybe work their way around (or skip the First Doctor entirely? If that’s the case - that’s a shame).

The Review I Wanted To Write For A Long Time and Finally Got To Do It: “Warriors of the Deep.” Simply because every time I heard some elitist literati fanboy goob deride and run down this story as “The beginning of the end for Classic Who,” I wanted to reach through my iPod or the computer screen and slap them silly. Because all they ever looked at was the surface problems of the effects or props or sets (which, there are many - I will not deny that), but they never gave the story any credit at all! In many ways, this review was a year or two in the making and I finally got to say my piece - and even have a link to give to people when they started in on the story. “Oh, you and everyone you know thinks ‘Warriors of the Deep’ is a steaming pile of garbage and deserves to be crapped on further? Here, read a dissenting opinion.”

Now, I don’t imagine for one second that I’ll change many minds with this (other than Vortex Glenn, who has a really nice write-up on his blog about the story: Warriors Revisited), but it’s like Jack Sparrow shooting the undead zombie monkey in “Pirates of the Caribbean.” It may not do any good for anyone else, but it does worlds of good for Jack.

Favorite Team TARDIS: Everyone in “The Light at the End.” There. Made that one easy on myself. MOVING ON!

The Review I Want to Revisit (and probably will later): “The Keys of Marinus.” I’ve watched this story a few more times since I first wrote that review and there are a lot of little details that I didn’t mention the first go-around (to be fair, that was the first one I wrote and I was still figuring out my format). I want to give this one “The Curse of Peladon” treatment and really dive deep into the story and characters and maybe fill in a few gaps with some fun little Headcanon moments.

The Doctor’s Era I Most Want to Revisit (Not Necessarily Review): I’ve already kind of been doing it on my own, but I’ve become absolutely enamored with the First Doctor’s era. I partially lay the credit/blame on Katie and Claire, two sisters who run the First Doctor-era- themed Unwilling Adventurer on Tumblr. Some of their analyses and reviews have really got me thinking more about the stories of the First Doctor’s era and how much more depth there is to be found. They don’t just talk about TV stories, but also delve into audios and novels, some of which I’ve listened to or read, but their descriptions make me want to read and listen to more (if I only had an unlimited amount of money - and if some of those novels were actually, you know, available). I just feel like there’s a wealth of interpretations to be made here, something that I think a lot of people miss when they dismiss the First Doctor as just that cranky old Doctor that wasn’t really the Doctor because they were still figuring out how the show was supposed to be (which, I think is a ridiculous statement to make, given that William Hartnell wasn’t “The First Doctor” at the time. He was the only Doctor). Anyway - yay First Doctor!
The First Doctor Reviewed:
Review 1.01 - The Call to Adventure (TV: The Keys of Marinus)
Review 1.02 - I Think It's Gonna Be A Long, Long Time (Audio: The Rocket Men)
Review 1.03 - Recycled Christie Cardboard IN SPACE! (Novel: Ten Little Aliens)

Story Arc I Most Want to Revisit: I created this category purely for the purposes of listing the Hex story arc as one I want to really delve into. I reviewed “The Harvest,” which saw Hex joining the Seventh Doctor and Ace on their travels and I have listened to a few other Big Finish audios that tie into Hex’s backstory, but I haven’t gotten to the point where everything comes together in one great big picturesque storyline. I really enjoyed Hex in “The Harvest” and I want to see more of what’s in store for him. Also, for whatever reason, the addition of Hex made me enjoy Seven and Ace that much more. I really like that combination for Team TARDIS.

Biggest Cheat: There were several, but I think this goes to "The Forever Trap," which was the audio story I reviewed for the Tenth Doctor's era. This review was planned from the beginning, even though I wanted to get in as much Big Finish as I could.  But then I got to New Who and realized... "Crap - Big Finish doesn't do New Who stories! (they don't have the license!)" But then I remembered I had this little pseudo-Companion Chronicle/audiobook and decided it would be fitting to review that (and I love it a lot. So there's that).

Favorite Song Used In a Review Post: I enjoy making use of music and videos in my reviews, but the one I thought worked the best was "Double Vision" by Foreigner in my review for "The Android Invasion." That was a meeting of serendipity, I don't mind saying (thank you, iTunes Shuffle!)

And, finally, here are my own personal "winners" for my favorite stories our of everything I reviewed -

Favorite TV Story I Reviewed: "The End of the World" by Russell T Davies. This is the story that drew me into Doctor Who and kept me coming back for more and a HUGE reason I'm sitting here writing these reviews and celebrating this anniversary year.

Favorite Audio Story I Reviewed:  "The Rocket Men" by John Dorney (he's written some other really, really good Big Finish stories too - go look them up). I'll be honest, this has been kind of a recent thing for me, but I simply adore the First Doctor's era. And I love, love, love, love Ian and Barbara to pieces! They're both fantastic characters individually, but put them together and they are just dynamite! (enough that I overuse italics and exclamation points when talking about them). I shipped them the first time I saw their stories (because, seriously - how can you not?) and I loved that there was an officially-licensed story that just had fun with that relationship. And William Russell's performance in that story is simply fantastic and I loved every minute of it.
Honorable Mention: If I'm completely honest, I very nearly gave this to "The Forbidden Time" by David Lock. I love the Companion Chronicles range and I love it when they have more than one companion in the story. Really makes me excited for the new Early Adventures range Big Finish has planned for next year. Plus, Anneke Wills and Frazer Hines are great on their own, but they are so much fun together!
Favorite Novel I Reviewed: "Fear of the Dark" by Trevor Baxendale. Simply for being a fantastic Fifth Doctor story and one that I won't forget in a hurry. I liked this one so much that, in addition to my initial eBook purchase, I also bought the paperback hardcopy to sit on my bookshelf next to "Beautiful Chaos," which is another favorite novel of mine.

[Short PS - Hey! BBC Books! If you’re reading this, could you please reprint all those Classic Doctor novels and novelizations? Or at least make them available as eBooks? There are plenty of fans who’d pay good money for that stuff! We’re waiting!! (I do have to give them credit for producing audiobook versions of the Target Novelizations, though).]

And, finally - finally!

Favorite Story I Reviewed Regardless of Media: “The Wrong Doctors.” For all my insistence that reviewing the Sixth Doctor’s era went off exactly as I planned (and it did), when I decided to review two Tom Baker TV stories, I thought it fair that I do the same for Colin Baker’s audio stories. So, I chose “The Wrong Doctors” to go along with “Medicinal Purposes” because it was a recent release and I already owned it - I just hadn’t listened to it yet. But it was so much fun and I loved it to bits and Colin Baker is so great in the audios and I could listen to his Doctor read the phonebook (I’m certain that some fun jokes would come about for that). Plus, it gave Mel some much-needed character and backstory and I will never argue with that.

And now - because this is what award shows do - for the final celebratory musical number:

I hope some of what I've had to say has given my readers a new perspective and maybe helped you look at these stories in new and interesting ways. And maybe we had some fun along the way.

Don’t think that Librarian in the TARDIS is going away anytime soon. I’ll still write reviews of Doctor Who stories under that tag and with the same format (it makes writing reviews easier if I have the synopsis, etc. from the outset). I also have a few more surprises in the works for the next couple of weeks before the 50th Anniversary actually airs, so don’t go away!

Previously, on Librarian in the TARDIS -
Review 11.2 - The Weather Outside is Frightful

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