Daleks, Time Lords & Limp Lettuce

Underwhelmed Face

Underwhelmed Face

“Totally underwhelming”.

There, I’ve said it. Don’t hate me. But that’s what I think about the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special. Let’s be honest, The Day of the Doctor was a bit like eating a salad with no vinaigrette – it was a bit lacklustre. And it’s a shame because it all started off so well…

Dumpa-de-dum, Dumpa-de-dum, Dumpa-de-dum, Diddley-dum…

First of all, we were treated to the original opening titles – the very same ones that introduced Doctor Who to world back in 1963. It was wonderful to see those iconic swirling patterns in all their black-and-white beauty flickering across the screen.

Likewise, hearing Ron Grainer’s eerie masterpiece made me do a little bit of a geek wee – that pulsing electronic baseline and swooping organ-like melody still stands the test of time 50 years on. It’s my all-time favourite TV theme tune, piping Juliet Bravo and Treasure Hunt to the post.

More nods to the past then followed with a knowing wink given to die-hard fans by way of references to the junkyard at Totter’s Lane and the Coal Hill School (both of which featured in the show’s first-ever episode, An Unearthly Child).

Gripping Stuff

We were then catapulted across the stars to the Doctor’s home-world. Here we got to see the oft-quoted Time War between the daleks and the Time Lords. And credit where credit’s due – the invasion of Gallifrey was spectacular. The shots of the dalek fleet pounding Arcadia and the Capitol were a veritable feast of pyrotechnics and CGI wizardry.

Let’s not forget the superb dialogue in the Time Lord high command which injected a real sense of foreboding, desperation and urgency – the likes of which I haven’t felt since I visited the Churchill Cabinet War Rooms in London.

The trailer really did showcase all the best bits…

Not So Hot

However, from there on in it all went a bit pear-shaped. What followed was about 30 minutes of padding which went something like this…

  •   Supposed light relief courtesy of an asthmatic boffin in comedy glasses and, for some strange reason, Tom Baker’s scarf
  • Lots of running around the bowels of a rather studio-looking art gallery 
  • Redundant appearances from old foes the Zygons who, let’s be honest, were far more menacing back in 1975
  • A distinctly wooden and Welsh-sounding portrayal of Elizabeth I which frankly should be consigned to the far reaches of Barry Island, never to be seen again

Perks Up Again

Fast-forward through all this fluff and you get to some good stuff towards the end of the episode. We discover that John Hurt (who out-acted Tennant and Smith with just a raise of an eyebrow) is actually the 9th Doctor, which I’m guessing means we need to shunt Messieurs Ecclestone, Tennant, Smith and Capaldi back a digit each. Plus we get to see all the incarnations of the Doctor come together to save Gallifrey via some rather cool computer trickery.

Would You Like A Jelly Baby?

One thing I’m sure most fans will be waxing lyrical about is the appearance of Tom Baker. While I appreciate this nod to the classic series, the cameo kind of left me cold. After all, my Doctor was Peter Davison and so I didn’t really feel the connection.

Feel the Peter Davison love...

Feel the Peter Davison love…

On A Level With American Life

In short, The Day of the Doctor is no Caves of Androzani, no Talons Weng Chiang, no Blink. It had its moments but in general felt a little bit flat. It reminded me how I felt when Madonna released her American Life album – I was desperate to like it but just couldn’t, try as I might. Testament to this is the fact I’m really not that bothered about watching The Day of the Doctor again on catch-up. Normally I would have seen it about five times by now.

Happy Birthday To Ya!

But it’s not all doom and gloom. The fact that Doctor Who is still going strong at 50 is one hell of an achievement. So, despite the rather limp lettuce outing ce soir, let’s raise a glass to everyone’s favourite time-travelling hero.

Happy birthday Doctor Who – here’s to the next 50!

(And hopefully some better scriptwriting)

PS: Did anyone see the embarrassment that was the Afterparty on BBC Three this evening? Stephan Moffat‘s face on the live link with One Direction in LA kind of said it all.

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Capaldi, Copycats & (Tenuous) Exasperdating

My geeky Dr Who T-shirts

My geeky Dr Who T-shirts

Well thank Gallifrey for that! After weeks of speculation (which even included Dame Helen Mirren being thrown into the mix) the identity of the new Doctor Who has finally been revealed.

Tah-dah!

Sunday night saw the BBC spill the beans as to who will play Doctor No.12 in a slightly spangly – and dare I say it, naff – one-off show. To be honest, Doctor Who Live seemed to have more in common with a brand launch than a casting announcement. And to top it off, it was hosted by that most dedicated and famous of Whovians, erm, Zoe Ball.  But I digress…

Star Appeal

The good news is that Peter Capaldi will be taking the helm of the Tardis when the present incumbent, Matt Smith, bows out on Christmas Day. I’m over the moon with this choice of actor. Anyone who’s seen Capaldi in The Thick Of It as the potty-mouthed spin doctor Malcolm will agree that he’s super-talented. His CV includes a BAFTA and an Oscar scoop.

Copycat Docs

Impressive credentials aside, I like the fact that Capaldi’s an older guy. Since Who’s return to telly in the noughties, there’s been a propensity to plump for younger actors in the lead role. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against younger actors playing the Time Lord – after all, my childhood Doctor was a then fresh-faced Peter Davison – but recent casting choices have, in my opinion, resulted in a blur of twenty-something, overly-similar Doctors. When Matt Smith took over from David Tennant I felt there wasn’t enough ‘difference’ between them. It’s as though the Beeb had found a winning formula by way of Tennant and so ran with it again…

WANTED!
Young and slightly gawky-looking foppish geek.
Must wear Shoreditchy outfits and have quiffy hair.
Love of running around quarries a distinct advantage.
Apply to BBC Drama.

Total Antithesis

I believe you need to have a break with the past to be truly memorable. Peter Davison’s Doc is a case in point. The main reason his incarnation worked so well was because it was so fundamentally different to what had come before. Davison’s portrayal as a preppy older brother stood in complete contrast to Tom Baker’s more bohemian-broody figure. The production team of the day knew that replacing Tom Baker with Tom Baker Mark II just wouldn’t work – instead there needed to be a real rupture. So fingers crossed the powers-that-be have got it right this time around and we’ll get a real shift when Smith regenerates into Capaldi later in the year.

Who’s Who?

Here’s the roll call of actors who’ve played the TV Time Lord over the years – it comes in handy at pub quizzes, let me tell you!

1) William Hartnell (1963-1966)

2) Patrick Troughton (1966-1969)

3) Jon Pertwee (1970-1974)

4) Tom Baker (1974-1981)

5) Peter Davison (1981-1984)

6) Colin Baker (1984-1986)

7) Sylvester McCoy (1987-1989, 1996)

8) Paul McGann (1996)

9) Christopher Ecclestone (2005)

10) David Tennant (2005-2010)

11) Matt Smith (2010-2013)

12) Peter Capaldi (2013 – ?)

Date With The Doctor

In (slightly tenuous) honour of Peter Capaldi’s unveiling as the Doctor, here’s an Exasperdating tale about a rendezvous I had with a real-life doctor…

Exasperdating Logo

Exasperdating | Posh Doc

Age: 27
Height: 5’9
Build: Slim
Hair: Black
Eyes: Blue

Job: Doctor

Doctor! Doctor!

Doctor! Doctor!

I’m munching on a Granny Smith as I pen this installment because, as the old saying goes, ’an apple a day keeps the doctor away’. And trust me, after this encounter, I’m steering well clear of men in white coats.

The Posh Doc wasn’t a one-off date. We’d kind of seen each other for about a month and a half earlier in the year but it had fizzled out. He wasn’t my usual type at all. While looks-wise he ticked all the right boxes – blue eyes, dark hair, a bit of stubble and geek-chic glasses – on the personality front, he was a bit too ‘rah’ for me.

Case in point: he had a nasty habit of saying ‘maaarvellous’ in a terribly high-pitched, horsey-teethed way that only people who’ve gone to private schools seem able to do. Plus he lived in a super-posh flat in an extremely exclusive part of London which I swear mummy and daddy had set him up in. Talking of which, and given that he was a doctor, you would think he’d have kept the gaff a bit cleaner. Frankly, some Cillit Bang wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Anyhow, fast forward six months and, out of the blue, he invites me over for dinner. One fish supper and two bottles of rioja later and we were, well, getting ‘reacquainted’. A couple of days later I dropped him a text to say I’d had fun and would he like to go out for drinks. To which he replied, “I’m a horny drunk. Sorry.” Now, while I may not be a doctor, I think this guy’s self-diagnosis was off the mark. Horny drunk? No, I think he was actually suffering from a nasty affliction called Complete Wankeritis, for which I’m pretty sure there’s no cure.