Why “The Day of the Doctor” made me forgive Steven Moffat for everything I didn’t like about his version of Doctor Who. Or: Good storytelling and how it can sneak up on you.

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(Spoilery, but not by much.)

So first things first: while I had no history of watching the classic Doctor Who as a young British child (yes, I’m well aware I never was quite such a British child) I flop-hearted nonsensical in love with Russell T. Davies’ reinterpretation of it. I watched it sporadically at first, more eavesdropping on my sister’s viewings than being willing to trust my heart to some wonky British show with latex and silicon aliens.

I guess you could say what I fell in love with, at first, was not the Doctor, but that young, fragile companion of his, Rose Tyler. She

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was fresh-faced and eager, wholeheartedly willing to experience everything and yet tumbling with the knowledge that the universe was so much more than she ever would have imagined.

I loved her.

And of course, the Doctor was wonderful. Funny. Madcap. Full of yearning, but not for anything nameable. And always, always impressive. I thought I would never love another Doctor the way I loved Nine. And then came Ten. And everything expanded and got better and hurt more and made me love it more. As much as I loved Rose Tyler? I wanted to BE Donna Noble. When they were both taken away from me (and of course by me, I mean the Doctor), I was heartsick, heartsick, heartsick. Satisfied in their storylines and loving the show for hurting me that much, but heartsick all the same.

endoftimeBut not as heartsick as when I heard that both David Tennant and Russell T. Davies would be leaving the show. That seemed like too much to bear. In fact, I put off watching Tennant’s last specials for a full year, totally unwilling to move on to Moffat and Matt Smith. I thought that that would be enough time to prepare myself, but I was wrong. Tennant’s last episode destroyed me.

And then there was Matt Smith. And… no one knew what Daleks were? Or any of the media-hey-day bits that Ten had gotten into? No one knew who the Doctor was?

I was thrust into confusion, and then skepticism, and then dislike. But I was a year behind by then, and I was assured by some that Smith would “grow on me.” He did not grow on me. Every episode I watched, rubbed me just a little wrong. Amy and Rory were fun,

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sure, but I felt distant from them. And where oh where was my Doctor?

Naturally, I blamed Steven Moffat, new helm of the show, for everything. I felt as if he wanted to distance himself from Davies’ Doctor Who as much as possible. I could understand that, in a way, but as a fan I also felt kicked in the gut. So, so much of what I’d loved in the show was gone, and Moffat seemed to refuse to even acknowledge Davies’ reign, though  he did reference the classic show what seemed to me a lot more (again, speaking as someone unfamiliar with the classic show, other than a viewing of The Curse of Fatal Death, which doesn’t really count). I saw this distance from the previous season as a slight betrayal to the fans of the more recent incarnation of the show, and as a big mistake on Moffat’s account.

Eleven’s first season of Doctor Who was darker and creepier than I wanted to see, to be frank about it. While I’d been deliciously chilled by Don’t Blink just like everyone, I did not watch Doctor Who to be creeped out. I watched it to feel wonder, celebration of humanity, and hope in the face of everything. Still, I don’t give up on shows easily, and there was just enough of a glimmer of the Doctor I was familiar with to make me wait it out.

karen-gillan-amy-pond-matt-smith-doctor-who-new-costume1Eventually, I’m not sure when or how, Matt Smith did grow on me a little bit. And bit by bit, it seemed like Moffat was willing to embrace the more recent history of Doctor Who. Rose Tyler’s name was even dropped out of the blue. It was great. The last couple of seasons, I admit, have been a lot of fun, and much more like what I fell in love with the show for. It seemed as if Moffat had learned from his earlier mistakes of distancing himself and was finally willing to embrace the feel of the show the way I had always hoped would happen. It didn’t quite make up for things in my heart, but I was happy to look  forward to the future.

And then, “The Day of the Doctor.” And all of my frustration and grievances against Moffat were swept away with two lines of dialogue that turned all of Moffat’s mistakes (or clever, long-held plans? I’m still going to go with mistakes) and swept away everything I hadn’t liked about the Eleventh Doctor.  Those two lines, both spoken by John Hurt’s “lost” Doctor, were these:

“You’re children, both of you” (okay, can’t remember the precise wording on that one)

and

“The one who regrets and the one who forgets.”

That sound you’re hearing? Is my brain bursting with applause. Because with two lines, Moffat justified everything that I had disliked about his first taking on as the head hauncho behind Doctor Who.

Oh, Doctor.

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I’d already been leaning towards this thinking myself, after reading a fan posting I wish I could find right now, about how Ten was so, so human that it hurt him immeasurably, and in response, Eleven more or less drew away from everything about that life and forced it into a drawer to collect dust.

But Moffat went further than that. If Christopher Eccleston had been involved in this special (though it would have had to have gone quite differently) I think that second line may have been “The one who rages, the one who regrets, and the one who forgets.”

Let me explain why I love this so, so much. We understand from this that John Hurt is the “Doctor” (though he doesn’t call himself Doctor) in between Eight and Nine. The one who destroyed Gallifrey. The one the Doctor does not want to remember being. He is the one that becomes Nine—the one Ten alludes to as having been “born of blood and anger and revenge.” As I said, the one who rages. Nine had a tendency towards anger, and was often fed up with humans (“stupid apes”) even though he would defend them to his last breath. If you look at this from the Doctor’s personal timeline, it’s likely he was angry at his own humanity—his ability to be at fault, or rather his inability to save his people in a way he could accept.

But then there was Rose. This young girl who trusted him openly and was fallible and imperfect but was willing to offer mercy when even the Doctor could not. And that humanity the Doctor had been suppressing? All came flooding back in with his new regeneration. Ten was impossibly human. Formed attachments even when he thought he was protecting himself. And was always so, so sorry.

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I had been so mad at Moffat for forgetting about all those people Ten loved, but then Ten lost more people than it was prudent to remember. A love, a best friend, a pseudo-family, a possible wife, even a daughter (though I’m still hoping Genny will show up again). Even his greatest enemy! The weight of all the people Ten lost is astounding. And even after all that, he was afraid of letting it go and changing.

So as Eleven, he forgot. Forgot his deeds on Gallifrey. Forgot Rose Tyler and Jackie Tyler and Martha Jones and Donna Noble and Mickey Smith and Captain Jack and every single person he could. Even forgot his current companions for long stretches of time. Ran further away than he ever had, only to run smack into himself.

And now with Peter Capaldi coming in, it seems as if the Doctor is willing to admit that he IS an adult. That he’s done running away and hiding from everything, done regressing.

Basically, storytelling genius. I won’t even go into how fantastic the uses of Billie Piper and Tom Baker were in the special, or how beautifully the story was resolved and set a new course for the show. That’s been said elsewhere, I’m sure. I still think Moffat made some mistakes when he first took on the show as Executive Producer, but like any really good storyteller, he’s taken those mistakes and put some sense to them, hiding that they were ever mistakes in the first place. There’s a lot to learn there, and I take my hat off to Moffat. I could not have been more pleased or impressed.

What I’m Watching Wednesday: Heroes

I know what you’re thinking… WHY?

But c’mon… Heroes was fun. Even with Milo Ventimiglia, who I couldn’t help but seriously dislike as Jesse on Gilmore Girls. (Yes, I know I’m in the minority there, but I’m a DEAN girl. Sue me.)

Anyhow. I watched Heroes as long as it was fun, really. Actually, I skipped out just before it (I’ve heard) stopped being fun. And by that, I mean I was around just long enough to see Elle:

Kristen Bell playing a psychopath with electric powers. FUN.

But not long enough to see them kill her off. Yes, I know it’s coming… but true to my nature, I’m in denial until I see it. (It took me a year and a half to watch the last two Doctor Who specials with David Tennant. So yeah… It’s difficult for me to let go, sometimes.)

I have to say, Elle Bishop was my favorite thing about Heroes. She made me like Kristen Bell even when I was pissed off at her for messing up Logan and Veronica on Veronica Mars.¹ Elle was delightfully insane, living in a facility from a young age, entrapped there (and employed there) by her own father…

The Mr. hasn’t seen Heroes yet, and he was curious. We’ve recently subscribed to Netflix, and it was right there…

So we’ve been watching. We’re in Season 2 now, and creeping up to the spot where I stopped watching. And I’ve noticed a few things…

1) Mohinder is an idiot. Constantly. Incessantly. I think I didn’t realize this quite so much the first go-around because he’s So. Dang. Hot.

2) I still don’t care for Hiro much. But my love for Ando has not, and is not likely to ever, cease.

3) I’m still sort of annoyed that Zach (Claire’s geeky friend from S1) disappears without any goodbye. It’s sort of okay, because he went on to be John Conner and I LOVED The Sarah Conner Chronicles, but still, lame.

4) West, Claire’s flying boyfriend in S2, is kind of a jerk. He judges and then presses Claire, before he even knows her, to do things she’s not comfortable with. It may not be in a sexual way, but still. Encouraging people to push their boundaries is one thing. Forcing them is not cool.

5) Niki still has the lamest power of all of them. Except for maybe Maya. And at least she’s not as obnoxious as Maya. And I’m still mad they killed off D.L.

6) Milo is still Milo.

Kind of looking forward to seeing what they do with the rest of the series, though, I know there’s a LOT of flip-flopping coming up. Sylar good, Sylar bad, etc… We’ll see.

¹ For those not in the know, it’s been said that Bell’s opinions had some bend with writer Rob Thomas’ storylines) (But really, just some… I was being a little unfair to her, just because she preferred Duncan, who wasn’t exactly nicey-nice in his niceness, if you know what I mean… [/VM rant]

What I’m Watching Wednesday: The Big Bang Theory

Lately I’ve been catching up on the fantastic nerdosity that is The Big Bang Theory. I’ve known from the beginning that I would like this show, but I just never seemed to get a chance to sit down and watch it. In fact, I seem to have been behind on TV since about 2003, so there you go. I have to say, though, that this show has single-handedly renewed my respect for sitcoms—a respect I lost a long time ago, by the way, somewhere circa Dharma & Greg (also a Chuck Lorre show like BBT) and Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place (you know, that show that had Nathan Fillion AND Ryan Reynolds before anybody knew who they were?).

Anyhow… The Big Bang Theory is smart, speed-of-light comedy that doesn’t dumb down its material for its audience. That in and of itself is refreshing, and impressive, considering that the show is based around two theoretical physicists, a space engineer, and……. whatever it is that Raj does.

Recently Jim Parsons won an Emmy for his portrayal of Sheldon Cooper, easily the smartest and most idiosyncratic of the four main characters (there’s really five, including Penny, they’re not-so-bright-but-definitely-pretty neighbor), and I could not be more pleased for Parsons. He really is the highlight of the show, managing to be by turns obnoxious, obsessive-compulsive, condescending, and childlike, but undeniably brilliant all the time.

If you haven’t checked this show out yet, I really encourage you to do so. It is clever, delightfully open in its geekiness, and at times, absolutely sweet. It is undoubtedly one of the best shows on TV right now, and I’m happy to see it not only surviving the ratings battles, but thriving and gaining some well-earned recognition.

And for fun, here’s a fun clip of the show, with Parsons at his very best. If that doesn’t convince you the show is worth watching, I don’t know what will.

A little backstory first, though. Sheldon knows Penny has gotten him a gift and has decided that society dictates he return the gesture, but at the same price-value as Penny’s original gift. Because he doesn’t know what her gift is, he’s decided to buy multiple gift baskets and open her present first, then give her whichever is closest in value. The result is perfection.

Congrats on your win, Jim! This fan is proud of you. 🙂

Tuesday Talk – The Eleventh Doctor

For the first time since the inception of the Doctor Donna, I am actually caught up on Doctor Who. I have to admit, there was a long, long time that I thought I just might never watch the new doctor. I loved Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor, and I love, love, LOVED David Tennant. In fact, it took me nearly a year and a half just to watch the goodbye episodes with David Tennant, because the idea of him leaving as the Doctor just killed me.

What made me more hesitant about moving on to the Eleventh Doctor, though, was the fact that Russell T. Davies had also left the show. He was the executive producer for the first five series, the driving force behind a lot of the episodes and story arcs that I really loved, and it was his vision of Doctor Who that I’d originally fallen in love with. Stephen Moffat took over with the introduction of Matt Smith as the eleventh doctor. Now, I’d definitely loved some of Moffat’s previous episodes… in fact, his episodes had often listed among my favorites in the Doctor Who canon (the 2005 incarnation, I can’t claim a lot of knowledge of the older Doctors).

But still, I wasn’t ready to give up David Tennant. And so, I couldn’t help but see spoilers of what I was missing with the Eleventh Doctor. C’mon… many of my friends are or have been Whovians. And honestly, I didn’t like what I saw. The bits and pieces of what I’d seen were not the Doctor Who that I had come to know and love. When I rewatched the show from the beginning with my husband, though, we decided that we’d go ahead and give Matt Smith a try.

Guess what? I didn’t like him.

Now, I’d been assured from several people that he would “grow on me.” In fact, those were the exact words of three or four different people. Which was a little odd and disturbing in its own way. Like there had been some subliminal message played in the episodes: he’s growing on you… he’s growing on you… he’s growing on you…

Luckily, I did like the new companion, Amy. Most of the time. Tall, pretty redhead with a Scottish accent, what’s not to like, right?

But the show was so different. It felt—no offense meant by this—like a normal British show. It wasn’t the delightfully cheesy thing I had fallen in love with, with cartoonified plastic enemies and bad-guy aliens that blow up under a wash of vinegar. Lost with all of the cheese was, I felt, a lot of heart. The new episodes were darker. The Doctor didn’t seem like he was in love with the human race anymore—he was much more removed and superior to them. He also acted out of character a lot of the time—running and fighting before trying to talk, not getting upset when something that was the last of its kind was destroyed. These things irked me.

The show also did its best to not refer to anything that had happened in any of the previous Eccleston/Tennant episodes. The transformation from Nine to Ten made it clear that while he was a different man, he was the same Doctor. Here he was entirely changed… not even minor characters made it back into the storyline. I would have enjoyed at least seeing someone random… Sally Sparrow, or someone. I mean, I understand that Moffat wanted to separate his show from Davies’, but for me that meant a lot of hacking away at the continuity of it. People didn’t even remember the daleks? Really? That made me sad…

Now, my fiction-fixing brain wants to put reasons to all of this. Maybe the Doctor simply felt too much in his tenth incarnation. Maybe with these strong attachments to people like Rose and Martha and Donna, the Doctor simply wore himself out, and had to retreat into an incarnation that was much milder in his affections… and in his feelings in general. Maybe becoming someone more removed was a matter of self-preservation.

And I have to admit, I do like Matt Smith now. He has his own quirks and is fun to watch. I just don’t really feel like he’s the Doctor. Not my Doctor. I watch the show now, and I enjoy it, but not without a wistfulness for what it was. The show I loved, really loved, is gone. Now there’s a similar-ish show on that I like more or less. Maybe someday I’ll love it again. We’ll see.

A Few Randomosities About Me

First things first – Go over right now and read my new Friday read over at Tales From the Hollow Tree. It’s called Procession, and it’s my favorite short that I’ve written so far.

Secondly – I’ve been watching Doctor Who with my husband… we’ve just started on Series Three. He misses Rose and sort of hates me for making him watch this show… and he’s not fond of Martha Jones yet (I don’t care for her much either, though I love Freema Agyeman).

Thirdly – We also just finished Veronica Mars. He sort of hates me for that one too… says it’s the worst ending he’s ever seen. I liked it better after being away from it for so long… though it did still leave me wanting more.

Fourthly – I’ve just listened to the audio books for both The Secret Garden and A Little Princess on Librivox.org (which I just love). I was so, so impressed with how much I still loved these books, especially the latter. Sara Crewe is one of my favorite characters, ever.

And lastly! I’ve been awarded the Stylish Blogger Award and The Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award by the fabulous Ali Cross.

I’m supposed to give seven random facts about me, and then pass this on to eight other bloggers… I’ll do my best.

SEVEN RANDOM THINGS ABOUT ME-

1) When I was a kid, it took me hours to eat a single orange. I’d eat it pulp by pulp. I had a lot of patience, apparently.

2) I learned how to sew when I was four years old, with a needle, DMC floss, and bubble wrap.

3) I collect middle names. (What’s yours?)

4) I am a really slow reader. Well, in comparison to my mom and my sister, at least. It takes me a week or so to finish a book, if I’m not too busy… but I’m usually too busy.

5) I’m considering going back to school to get a library degree, as soon as I finish my book and start querying agents.

6) This is getting closer and closer, as I’ve passed 50K  recently!

7) I have a new idea for a Middle Grade book. So, so, wonderfully new. Never been excited about writing middle grade before, but this idea is too fabulous to ignore!

Now, as to blogs to tag:

Isabelle Santiago              – Inari Grey                     – Shiny Shiny

Tristi Pinkston                   – Elizabeth Meuller        – Jordan McCollum

Shari Bird

G is for Gilmore Girls

I have a deep and abiding love for Gilmore Girls. I watched this show from day one, and have a special relationship with it, mainly because Rory was my same age, and interested in a lot of similar things (okay, BOOKS) as me.

I was so happy with a teen show about a kid who was actually smart. Not just smart, but intelligent (yes there’s a difference!), driven, and full of aspirations. The show went a little too strong on the small-town aspect sometimes, and did often feel like wrenches were being thrown into the mix just to shake things up… but then again, doesn’t life do that too?

Since Rory was my age, she kind of felt like a fictional foil for me. She made bigger mistakes than me (probably took bigger risks, too) but she was faced with similar situations at similar times… like trying to figure out which college to go to, then later what to do after college. I have to admit that during the campaigning for Obama vs. McCain, my thoughts kept going back to how Rory was supposed to be on Obama’s campaign bus… and I’d feel simultaneously proud of her and lonely for her at the same time.

A little crazy? Yeah. But proof as to what an impression this show made in my life for seven years. I still miss it.

F is for Firefly

In case you are unfamiliar, Firefly was a short-lived TV show that had a movie called Serenity. It was about Captain Mal Reynolds, an ex-sergeant from a war against unifying worlds into one government—sort of like the few that didn’t join the Federation in Star Trek. His side lost, and so Mal became the captain of a little ship called Serenity, named after the valley he fought his last losing battle in. He and his crew—such that they are—take jobs as they come, despite their legal standing, and somehow things have a way of not going as planned.

It’s true, there are few shows, fandoms, or what have you that I love as much as I love Firefly. In fact, in some ways I could almost say that it beats out every other thing I’ve ever fanned over. This isn’t to say that I love it more, necessarily, but that there’s more to it. Firefly has science fiction, an epic, expansive universe, and diverse and fascinating characters. It has romance, humor, real stakes and lots of secrets—still, even though the show and movie are long over.

Now, I’m not your average Firefly fan, a devoted Whedonite (that’s a fanatic for creator Joss Whedon of Buffy and Angel, both of which are shows I’ve never seen). I have been interested in the show since the beginning, since I saw advertisements for it on Fox before it began. I was particularly interested because of Nathan Fillion, who plays Mal Reynolds—I’d been a fan of his since he was the charming fiancé on Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place. (I can also claim having fallen for Ryan Reynolds long before he was on the A List because of this show—do you remember the episode where he tracked Ashley all the way to England—where she wasn’t even, really—just to tell her he loves her, only to find out she has a boyfriend? That’s an overblown sidetrack, but oh man, a little piece of my heart has belonged to that man ever since.)

Ahem.

I never watched the show as it aired. Fox famously played around with the Firefly schedule, changing the time nearly every week and not even showing the episodes in the order they were supposed to play—no wonder it got canceled after only half a season, right?

I didn’t watch the show until just a couple of years ago. And really, I did it for one of the silliest reasons ever. I watched all thirteen episodes and the full-length movie twice in a row (the second time with commentary) in a very short amount of time, all in order to write a compare/contrast between the Serenity crew and the legends of Robin Hood for my Robin Hood class. (Yes, I took an entire course on Robin Hood in college, and it was one of the coolest classes I took in college ever.) I even pitched the idea to my professor before I had seen the show, if you can believe that, just because I’d seen a website somewhere mention that the two stories had vague similarities.

In fact, there were a lot more than I could begin to remember off the top of my head now. Reference to their surroundings by color only (the Green, vs. the Black), refusal to trust someone unwilling to share their actual name, lots of characters that bore similar archtypes to famous merry men, etc.

What started as an idea for a school essay, though, became one of the great fandom loves of my life. If you haven’t dipped yourself into the world of Firefly just yet, I suggest you give it a try. It has a lot of heart, though the movie might break yours, a bit. Did I mention it’s only 13 episodes? Definitely worth the investment of time.

I got an A+ on that essay, by the way. And in that class in general.

Oh, and it’s my birthday. Wish me a happy one! 😉