hradzka: (303 british)
I didn't much like "The Pandorica Opens," and I haven't much liked the season of DOCTOR WHO, over all. I think Matt Smith is a fabulous Doctor and Karen Gillan is a magnificent companion, but Steven Moffat has fallen into some of the same problems that the new WHO faced under RTD. Whereas RTD would cover the problems with GRAND EMOTIONAL MOMENTS, Moffat goes for something much less sappy and tries to make the story carry the day, and that's a problem because his stories -- which are, after all, Moffat's strongest point -- are not up to his usual extraordinary standard.

Exhibit A. )
hradzka: (303 british)
Two more episodes of Eleven. "The Beast Below" was decent -- more in line with "The Girl in the Fireplace" than any of Moffat's other episodes, in terms of quality -- and had a nice feel to it; I got the impression it was more about showing off the sensibilities of this season, and of the Moffat years, than anything else. Smith was really solid, and Karen Gillan had a great part, and the guest stars were terrific. The episode was a little dopey, but it felt more like a kids' show than DOCTOR WHO has in recent years, and it was pretty fun.

Mark Gatiss's "Victory of the Daleks," OTOH, was the season's first real clunker. I haven't seen CONFIDENTIAL, but I really wonder about the origins of this script -- if you read DOCTOR WHO: THE WRITER'S TALE, you learn that Gatiss had a WW2 episode a couple of years back for RTD that I think actually got delayed/dropped twice. I wonder if this episode was it, rewritten a couple of times (Davies kept mentioning the British Museum in conjunction with the Gatiss WW2 episode, but it doesn't show up in the show as aired). VotD has a really weird feel to it, like a bunch of scenes got cut for time and others were padded; either they spent all the money on the brief effects sequences, or they decided to cut the episode to the bone and use the money on other episodes. It felt like a throwback to the classic series, in a way, with overlong scenes taking place on literally three or four sets, like Moffat threw Gatiss a "Tomb of the Cybermen" challenge. Smith felt not quite as on as his other episodes, too -- was this the first episode they shot? Browsing the filming spy reports, it seems that way.

I need an Eleven icon, I think.
hradzka: (303 british)
The episode has an increased runtime over the standard, but it doesn't feel bloated in the slightest; it's all meat. A really strong debut for the new cast and crew under showrunner Steven Moffat, with some wonderful character moments, an excellent new Doctor and companion, and just the right level of scope: a story of a globe-spanning threat that plays out entirely in a small English village. If you're thinking "Hey, Jon Pertwee did that kind of thing all the time," that's exactly right. The new series goes back to basics while staying refreshingly new, and borrows from the best of the classic and RTD-era series while bringing in a few new gimmicks.

Spoilers. )
hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (Default)
I went and rewatched "Tooth & Claw," which new Doctor Matt Smith ranks as his favorite of the new DOCTOR WHO episodes. On one hand, it's still pretty crud; it's one of those episodes where pretty much nothing happens until suddenly everything happens at once and people spend the rest of the episode frantically running around, with no real dramatic choices or thrillingly human moments anywhere. If I were eight, I'd have freaking loved it; in my thirties, I laugh at the ridiculous kung fu monk opener, and then get seriously bored for about half an hour. RTD apparently likes it a lot, but I honestly can't see why.

I can, however, see why Matt Smith likes it: because you really see David Tennant's performance taking form. In contrast to Christopher Eccleston, who had the character *nailed* from the get-go, David Tennant took a little time to pin down his Doctor. You can see it in "The Christmas Invasion" and in several of his first year on the show; he's just a bit off from from what he wound up becoming. He feels younger and goofier, with different posture and different gestures. But there's a scene where he has to *think,* to go into a frenzied bit of brainwork, and when he does all of a sudden this unformed, awkward character vanishes and David Tennant's Tenth Doctor is fully-formed and there, feeling like the Doctor in a way that Tennant's other scenes in the show often don't. It's an amazing thing to watch, and I bet that scene is why Smith went so strongly for the episode during his crash course: you can literally see what does and doesn't feel like the Doctor, so it's a great guide for an actor looking to play that part. For me as a fan, that scene shows the strengths and weaknesses of Tennant's performance; Tennant's Doctor is at his most Doctorish when he's flailing almost out of control, keeping things just on the edge of panic. As performance, that translates to Tennant talking fast, motormouthing, then GETTING LOUD, then going back to motormouth. That's part of why I still find Christopher Eccleston's Ninth Doctor superior to Tennant's tenth: Eccleston played the part with a lot more subtlety and variation, and he had a more interesting sort of forcefulness.

Smith seems to be leaning more toward the Tennant side of things, but he'll doubtless put a new spin on it and I'm looking forward to seeing his interpretation. Is it Saturday yet?
hradzka: (303 british)
I can't believe that Matt Smith is making his debut as the Eleventh Doctor this weekend. Man. That's surreal.

He's doing the promo tour right now, the poor bastard. Honestly, if I worked for the BBC's PR arm, I would send out lists of suggested questions -- not so the talent could stick to a script, but because these interview types *cannot interview.* They ask the same questions over and over, and babble too long, especially the radio guys; if I were Smith, I'd come up with a canned fifteen-to-thirty-second intro that would answer all of their questions, except then the rest of it would be dead airtime because there is no good question at all in the offing. The audience is there for the interviewee, not you, guys; ask them short, provocative questions and let them say interesting things. Which Smith will absolutely do, because he's clumsy as hell with the press and it's a bit fascinating to watch. I can see him being the Daniel Craig of DOCTOR WHO, in that Craig is brilliant in the part but every so often he just opens his mouth and says something from way the hell out in left field that makes lots of longtime James Bond fans tear their hair.

I kind of love Matt Smith for not being a DOCTOR WHO fan. Tennant was -- him getting the part was like if it had been *me* getting the part -- but Smith grew up when it wasn't on, and didn't watch it when it came back, so took a crash course apparently in preparation for his audition. When he's asked about a favorite episode, he comes back with the werewolf one from RTD's second series. Yeah, really, he says his favorite episode is *"Tooth and Claw."* Because he likes werewolves. Folks, I honestly don't think there is anyone on the planet who loves werewolves more than I do, even if you count the nymphomaniacal furries subject to Taylor Lautner's restraining orders, and *I* didn't sit through "Tooth and Claw" more than once. That's like asking somebody for their favorite STAR TREK episode out of all the series and having him come back with, "STAR TREK: VOYAGER's 'Threshold!' You know where Paris went really fast and turned into a giant newt? AWESOME." Either it's BS, or he's completely nuts. Either way, it's surprisingly endearing. Seriously, did he just pick it at random? I almost hope it's the only episode he ever saw.

Or I guess he just really digs werewolves.

I hope somebody asks him about his preparation in more detail some day. Stuff like, "What were you actually looking for when you watched the episodes? Did you picture yourself in them, and think about how you'd have played them? What did you latch onto, what did you find distracting?" That sort of thing. In the meantime, I'm just going to imagine that the only episode the guy ever saw before starting filming was "Tooth and Claw," and that he couldn't pick Patrick Troughton out of a photo line-up. Which is perfectly fine! He's an actor! It's an acting job!

Best of luck to him, and everybody else involved.
hradzka: (303 british)
Part II was better than Part I, but that isn't hard. Read more... )
hradzka: (bitchjerk)
By which I mean "absolutely useless:" here, have a gander at the new DOCTOR WHO logo.

Dunno how I feel yet, but I like the traditionalist layout, which is in keeping with Moffat going back to basics. And the icon is kinda catchy.
hradzka: (303 british)
For years, I've said that two books are indispensible for people interested in television writing: Aristotle's POETICS and David Gerrold's THE WORLD OF STAR TREK. The former is extraordinarily helpful for learning to think about the fundamental framework of dramatic writing; the latter is a *magnificent* dissection of TOS as a series, what worked and what didn't, and thoughts on how to improve it. Gerrold used some of those thoughts later, when he and Roddenberry were developing STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION. It's a brilliant book, and if you're at all interested in the mechanisms of drama I highly recommend it. (In terms of sheer usefulness, I'd actually put Aristotle second to Gerrold. That's how highly I think of THE WORLD OF STAR TREK.)

To those, I'd add, at #3, DOCTOR WHO: THE WRITER'S TALE, by Russell T. Davies and Benjamin Cook. It's an inside look at Davies's and Tennant's last full series of DOCTOR WHO, in the form of emails between Davies and journalist Cook during the preproduction and production of the last Tennant/Davies series. Cook draws Davies out on his process to great effect, and you get a better idea of what it's like to run a TV show out of this than you could ever imagine just sitting around. It's a rough, rough job, and Davies starts out the season blithely saying, yeah, it's wonderful, I'd do this if they weren't paying me, and by the end of it he's about as cheerful as a man on the Bataan Death March. Cook, being a good and helpful friend, quotes Davies's cheerful earlier words back to him on those occasions, causing Davies to hate him with a deep and burning loathing.

The thing has some wonderful insights from Davies about writing. Example: )
hradzka: (303 british)
If you haven't seen it, there's an excellent fan-made comic story, "The 10 Doctors," over at Rich's Comixblog. Really well done, nicely cartoonish art, terrific pacing, writing, and character voices. Best part: the character faces look really different, and you can tell who's supposed to be who before the character says a word. (This must be harder than you'd think, because many artists who do comics professionally fail at this, on an epic level, all the time.)

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