Sunday, December 15, 2013

Day Three Hundred and Forty-nine - Dr.Who: Series 3, Episodes 9-14, "Yeah, Martha really made this series worthwhile... -ish."

For almost the entire year I was trudging through an episode of Billy Piper's run on Doctor Who every few weeks and it was hell. Sure, things got better when David Tennant took over as The Doctor, but it wasn't until she left and Martha joined that the episodes started to become somewhat enjoyable.

The show must go on, though, if I have any chance of finishing the episodes available on Netflix and today I ploughed through the last six episodes of Freema Agyeman's run as Martha Jones... and they were weirdly decent. For one thing, there is Derek Jacobi, who guests as one of the incarnations of perennial Doctor villain The Master. For another, despite the same old MacGuffiny devices, there are some really interesting themes running through several of these episodes.

Let's start with Human Nature and Family of Blood, a two-parter where The Doctor and Martha are on the run from a mysterious alien force and find refuge in 1913 as a school teacher and housemaid. It seems that someone wants his Time Lord energy and, in order to fool their senses, The Doctor masquerades as a human... and falls in love. Not with Martha though, no matter how much she'd want him to, but with a local era woman, and he doesn't realize that he's The Doctor. Instead he's John Smith, average human teacher.

What's great about these episodes are the mildly subtle nods to the The Great War. It's a little schmaltzy, especially that ending where Martha and The Doctor visit the mildly psychic student who helps them ninety years later, but oddly endearing, too. Plus the moral quandary of whether Martha and The Doctor have the right to kill the John Smith personality in order to save the universe. Oddly good stuff.

Quick shoutout to Thomas Sangster who plays the psychic. Folks might remember him from Game of Thrones or Love, Actually... but I prefer him most as Ferb from Phineas and Ferb.

After that is the introduction of probably one of my favorite Whovian villains of all time, The Weeping Angels. There's nothing scarier, I think, than boogeymen (or women? maybe?) that move when you're not looking. It's a great gimmick, too, even if it isn't all that consistent. I mean, c'mon, the Angels (at least three of them) are looking at each other in the chapel. Still, the gimmick of the DVD Easter Eggs and the conversation across time to companions (one in particular), who aren't even real companions, just one-offs, is pretty fun.

And that's when we get to Derek Jacobi... Shakespearean actor, Brother Cadfael, and all around tremendous actor. He guests as Doctor Yana, an improbable scientist trying to get the last remaining humans to the mythical Utopia... which he manages to do, with the help of The Doctor, but not before all the talk of time travel and TARDISes (and a convenient plot device seeded in previous episodes) stirs the evil within. 

He... is... The Master. 

Unfortunately, Jacobi only plays The Master for that one episode, replaced at the end via regeneration into John Simms (who I've recently been watching in the TREMENDOUSLY compelling BBC drama, Exile) who announces that he IS The Master... and gets trapped in mid-millenial England, becoming the much-hinted Harold Saxon, newly minted Prime Minister of England, who hatches a plan to take over the universe by sacrificing the human race, both prosaic and future-versions via cannibalizing the TARDIS that he escaped in and doing generally MacGuffiny things, as per the norm.

This is a really fun two-parter (The Sound of the Drums & The Last of the Time Lords) because it features the return of fan favorite Captain Jack Harkness! I love the tete-a-tete they have throughout the episodes that lampshade Jack's licentious nature. Captain Jack (John Barrowman) also just has this wonderfully bouncy nature and great chemistry with whomever he's with. Not to mention the Face of Boe crack finally happens.

Don't get me wrong, all of my recent happiness with the series doesn't belie the fact that it's a pretty crap show overall. It's terribly lax with its science, characters, writing, pretty much everything... and expects you to merrily join them without asking questions. Unfortunately, my mind doesn't work that way, and no amount of handwaving will make me.

Still, there are moments of fun, here and there, and these episodes represent a good deal of what I've managed to enjoy so far. Is it worth recommending? On the whole? No. In small spurts of the better stuff, like this? Maybe. 

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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