“Doctor Who” – Ten for 10

Galloping hot on the heels of Doctor Who’s fiftieth anniversary (well, relatively given the programme’s history), Doctor Who celebrated another anniversary.  On 26th March 2005 at 7:00 pm, a beloved British classic returned to the television with a new Doctor along with an independent and go-getting companion and his iconic TARDIS disguised as a London Metropolitan Police Box.

I didn’t know what to expect, but as soon as that new realisation of Ron Grainer and Delia Derbyshire’s magical hit the screen, I sat forwards in my chair and the hair stood up on the back of my neck as I was transported back to the programme I loved as a child.

To celebrate “New Who’s” tenth birthday, I decided to do a “Ten for 10” – my ten personal favourite moments since the programme came back in 2005.  Now, they’re not a definitive top ten, but a run down of ten moments which made me fall in love with the programme again and continues to get me tuning in.  (Oh, and get some tissues ready as there could be tears).

 

Right from the off, this version of Doctor Who was going to be pacey and full of action and this scene from the first episode sums this attitude up perfectly as the Doctor grabs Rose, and in some respects the viewer, by the hand into his universe of adventures.

Billie Piper manages to embody Rose’s, and the viewers’, disorientation as she is rescued from the Nestene Consciousness’ Auton footsoldiers, whilst Christopher Eccleston moves the Doctor away from anything we’ve seen before by delivering a Doctor full of attitude and swagger.

9. “School Reunion” (2006) – “Hello Sarah Jane”

The year is 2006 and nearly thirty years after his last regular adventure, the Tenth Doctor meets an old friend in the form of Sarah Jane Smith, wonderfully portrayed by the great Elisabeth Sladen.

As a fan of the original series, Sarah Jane was one of the first companions I remember regularly watching and like the Tenth Doctor himself, you can’t help but feel a comfy glow of familiarity when Lis returns in the role which delighted children not only in the 70s, but in the 21st century thanks to return appearances on Doctor Who and through her own highly successful spin-off series, The Sarah Jane Adventures.  Alongside this, you get the the Doctor still showing some of the trauma over the loss of the Time Lords which reverberates into the story’s conclusion with Sarah Jane’s wise counsel that the Doctor has to deal with loss like everyone else has to, Sarah Jane and Rose being bitchy to one another and Mickey playfully giving the Doctor hell with the “Mrs and the Ex” remark.

8. “The Empty Child” (2005) – “Are You My Mummy?”

Steven Moffat is the master of making the ordinary scary – the Weeping Angels that can only move when you’re not looking at them, the creatures from “Listen” that hide underneath your bed or the Vashta Nerada who exist in the shadows and eat you alive, but this is the “monster” that was the most terrifying of his creations for me – a young boy killed on a bomb site and resurrected thanks to alien technology who has only one thought – to find his mummy and be reunited with her.

On the one hand, you get the emotional pull of this boy wanting to find his mummy whilst the plague that he is “Patient Zero” of is turning people into creatures just like him.  And then, you get the cliffhanger.

After the disappointing cliffhanger in the Slitheen two-parter, this story really shows how to do a Doctor Who cliffhanger with the Doctor, Rose and Jack surrounded by the “Gas Mask zombies” and seemingly no way out.

With the prospect of more two part stories with cliffhangers in Series Nine, I hope the production team can get back to edge of the seat cliffhangers like this story.

7. “Utopia” (2007) – “I… Am… The Master”/”The Master Reborn”

It had been teased, it had been “spoiled”, but one thing was certain – you can’t keep a bad Time Lord down.  Eleven years earlier, Eric Roberts was the Master in the BBC/Fox/Universal television movie and was seen disappearing into the Eye of Harmony.  At the end of Series Three, the clues that had been peppered during Series Two and Three came to fruition on the planet Malcassairo with the Doctor, Martha Jones and a hitch-hiking Captain Jack meeting the seemingly sweet natured Professor Yana – only to find out that he is, in truth, the Doctor’s former childhood friend and nemesis.

Sir Derek Jacobi was delightful and, for want of a better phrase, sweet in his role of Yana, but once he changes from Yana to the Master, Jacobi perfectly embodies the villainy and malevolence the embodies all the actors who have previously portrayed the role… only to be shot be his assistant Chantho which led to his regeneration to the wonderfully hyperactive and villainous portrayal by John Simm leading to the “Year of Hell” arc of the last two episodes of Series Three, “The Sound Of Drums” and “Last Of The Time Lords”.

6. “Dalek” (2005) – Nine meets the “Metaltron”

Whilst the new series was being prepared, there were rumours that the Daleks weren’t going to be a part of the return due to rights issues and the Toclafane, who appeared in “The Sound Of Drums”/”Last Of The Time Lords”, were going to be the big bads for Series One.

Thank goodness that the BBC and the estate of Terry Nation managed to work things out as we got a new chapter in the Doctor’s mythos which pitched him against his most formidable foe… and a fantastic episode which re-introduced a single Dalek facing a scared Doctor in a scene reminiscent of “Silence Of The Lambs”.  Who would have thought that a monster created in 1963 could inspire so much fear thanks to the performances by Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor and Nicholas Briggs and his voice modulator wizardry as the last Dalek… who wasn’t, as we found out later in the series, really the last Dalek?

5. “The End Of Time – Part Two” (2010) – “I Don’t Want To Go”

If you’re a Whovian and your heart, or hearts, isn’t moved by this scene, then you must be a Dalek.

David well and truly wore his fanboy heart on his sleeve in his portrayal of the Doctor over four years and this scene summed his love for the show perfectly as he seemingly speaks to the audience to say that not only does the Tenth Doctor not want to go (something that’s touched upon in Matt Smith’s final episode), but that David didn’t want to leave the role he loved so much.

4. “An Adventure In Space And Time” (2013) – Matt Smith’s cameo

Yes, I cheated with this one, but I wanted to include this as one of my ten moments as Mark Gatiss scripts this surprise at the end of the anniversary docudrama with Matt Smith acknowledging David Bradley in the role of his real-life predecessor, William Hartnell.

After the emotional scene between Bradley and Lesley Manville as Hartnell’s wife, Heather, where he admits that he doesn’t want to leave the part, it’s good to see this brief coda to show not only Hartnell handing over to Troughton, but the legacy that both men left to Matt and beyond.

3. “The Day Of The Doctor” (2013) – “No Sir, ALL THIRTEEN!”

I was fortunate enough to see “The Day Of The Doctor” at the cinema along with a studio full of Whovians.  The episode enough is special enough bringing together Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt, but this scene manages not only to tie up the “Time War” arc of “New Who”‘s history, but then tops it off with twelve… wait, THIRTEEN Doctors banding together to save not only Gallifrey, but the Doctor’s very soul by hiding his home planet away rather than burning it.

2. “Flatline” (2014) – “The Man Who Stops The Monsters”

A surprising choice, perhaps, but this is THE moment that cemented Peter Capaldi into my mind as the Doctor… and made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.

From my childhood, the Doctor has always represented safety and the man you can rely on when the monsters came, but Capaldi’s Doctor felt a little unreliable for the majority of Series Eight and somebody who was almost scary as the monsters he fought.  This speech, however, signified everything that the Doctor should be – a man reluctant to take arms against the enemy unless absolutely necessary, but who is willing to draw a line in the sand and defend his adopted home, but the words alone don’t sell it.  Peter Capaldi’s fierce delivery more than effectively sells the script and, in my eyes, the twelfth Doctor is truly born.

1. “Vincent And The Doctor” (2010) – Vincent visits the Musee D’Orsay

It’s no surprise that I picked this as my favourite moment as it’s probably my favourite regular episode since 2005.  A perfect combination of fantastic writing by Richard Curtis, the right song (“Chances” by Athlete) and pitch perfect performances by Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Tony Curran and an uncredited cameo by Bill Nighy.

Given what we know about happened to the real Vincent Van Gogh, it was both delightful and heart-breaking to witness Amy’s attempts to help Vincent realise that his work is beloved and lives on into the 21st century and a lovely touch by Curran when he apologises about his beard after kissing Nighy’s Dr Black.

 

So, those are my personal 10 for Ten.  Do you agree with any of them or do you have any moments or memories that embody “New Who” since it came back in 2005?

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Disney Classics Challenge: Fantasia

I’m so sorry it took so long to write this blog. As you might know I got sick a weeks ago, and it was the kind of sick that made me want to sit on the couch with a blanket watching Disney movies all day. Then I got better, and I was busy with the real-life stuff I couldn’t do when I was sick. Then I got sick again, but this time it was the kind of sick that made me unmotivated for absolutely everything except for staying in bed grunting for aspirins.

So now I’m better again (kind of, I hope), and I’m finally motivated to write about Fantasia, which I watched 3 weeks ago. Fantasia was released in 1940, the same year as Pinocchio. Mickey Mouse was losing popularity, so Disney made an extra-long Silly Symphony: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. But soon they discovered that production costs grew higher than it could earn, so they decided to add stuff to make it a full-length film. The result is Fantasia.

Fantasia made use of a sound system called Fantasound, a system that made it possible, for the first time ever, to show commercial films in stereophonic sound. However, the length of the film was 120 minutes, and it was believed that this was too long for a general release. In 1940 and 1941, the film was released in a roadshow format: It was shown for a limited time at 13 theaters across the US, you had to reserve your seats and the price was higher than regular releases. The film had a regular release in 1942, 1946, 1956, 1963, and 1969 in mono sound, and it was edited to reduce several times, only to lengthen it again after. It was released in stereo again in 1977. For the releases 1982 and 1985, Disney re-recorded the soundtrack completely. In 1990, the film got restored to its original format. Fantasia was released in VHS in 1991, on DVD together with Fantasia 2000 in 2000 and on DVD and Blu-ray in 2010.

But enough history lessons! What is Fantasia? I’ve never watched Fantasia before, but I heard of it of course. And I must admit that I wasn’t really looking forward to watch a 2-hour movie of psychedelic images and classical music. Did it meet my expectations? Kind of. The word I would use to describe Fantasia is… experimental. As in… what did Disney smoke?-experimental.

We start with the conductor explaining some stuff about classical music, that some pieces have specific stories and some don’t, and that Disney and co. just made some footage that they imagined while listening to the music (this conductor gave a short explanation before every piece btw) The first piece was Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach, accompanied by abstract clouds and random images. I wasn’t looking forward to the next 1 hour and 55 minutes… (Yes, the image underneath is actual footage from the movie).

After a short introduction of the conductor it was time for Nutcracker Suite by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and we saw fairies and fish and flowers. I liked this part because I actually knew the music and I was feeling kind of fever-ish, so I liked the fishies.

Next up was the famous The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. I knew the story because my grandma had all kinds of small Disney booklets with the famous stories, but it was nice to see it in motion and with the actual music.

After that it was time for Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky, which showed the story of the origin of life, starting with primordial soup and ending with the extinction of the Dinosaurs (I missed the comet, but maybe that wasn’t common belief yet in 1940). Up next was an actual pause, where we see the entire orchestra leave and retake their seats. Yes, we are only halfway there.

But now stuff gets really trippy. While listening to The Pastoral Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven, we travel back to the ancient Greece, where we see unicorns (who behave exactly like swans, including the swimming, see, I learned something about unicorns!), we see centaurs picking a mate, which was borderline sexist. But I see clearly that the mermaid scene from Peter Pan drew some inspiration from this! And we see boobs *shocking*. We also see Bacchus the Wine God entering a party with his companions (which was downright racist) and we see Zeus interrupting the party with lightning. Although this part was a bit trippy and some stuff wouldn’t be accepted in the current time, it was one of the more enjoyable parts of the movie, since we see an actual story.

I later found out there was also a scene containing the images underneath, but it was removed from the version that I watched, for obvious reasons…

https://i0.wp.com/static7.businessinsider.com/image/4fbfc9126bb3f78939000007-400-300/19-fantasia-1940-features-a-half-man-half-donkey-centaur-who-is-black.jpg

Up next: Dance of the Hours by Amilcare Ponchielli. The drugs have now fully reached Disney’s brain. Dancing ostriches, dancing hippo’s, dancing elephants (I see some foreshadowing to Dumbo here) and rapist crocodiles. I’ll just let the images explain the rest…

And FINALLY, the last piece: Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky and Ave Maria by Franz Schubert. We see the actual devil raising from a mountain torturing his minions after which he is driven back by passing monks singing the Ave Maria.

So what did I think about Fantasia? It was interesting, but I didn’t like it. The stories and random images couldn’t hold my attention for long, so I was bored pretty quickly. I can imagine that young children may find the music and the images quite fascinating, but then again I don’t see young children sit through this 2 hour movie. Again there is some stuff that would be culturally unacceptable at the current time, which I find interesting, but it also is the reason that this movie didn’t age very well. But what I do like is that this movie covers different views and beliefs on history (scientific, Greek Mythology and Christianity) without really making a statement.

Next up is Dumbo! I’m looking forward to this one!