Doctor Who

Who vs. Who vs. Who

Of the five items on the Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) category for the Hugo awards, there are three episodes of Doctor Who. I recently received season six on DVD for my birthday, which means I’ve been able to watch and rank all three.

Spoilers ahead…

Third Place: A Good Man Goes to War

I feel like this should have been the best of the three episodes. The setup was there: Rory and the Doctor have to rescue Amy and newborn Melody from a heavily guarded space station. To paraphrase River Song, this was an episode that was supposed to show us the Doctor’s finest moment, and then his darkest.

I wasn’t feeling it. It felt like the show was trying too hard, and cramming too many plot revelations into the episode. The Doctor was certainly clever and efficient, and it was interesting to see him calling in debts and putting together an interstellar A-Team. The Silurian and her human companion were my favorites. But it all felt rather by-the-numbers.

There were some great moments. Badass of the Year award goes to Rory for the scene when he marches onto the bridge of a Cyberman ship. I liked the “Melody Williams” vs. “Melody Pond” exchange between Amy and Rory. And I think it’s good for the show to explore the consequences of the Doctor’s “Basically, run…” reputation. But ultimately, while it was a quick-paced and exciting plot, I think that worked against the emotional side. It never stopped long enough to let me feel.

Second Place: The Girl Who Waited

I loved the central problem of this episode. After arriving at Apalapucia, we discover the planet was quarantined due to a disease that kills two-hearted species within a day. Through timey-wimey manipulation, they split off multiple timelines that allowed the sick to live entire lifetimes in that day, while healthy people could look in on them. Amy accidentally enters an accelerated timeline, and lives 36 years on her own before Rory and the Doctor find her. And since the robotic doctors would be deadly to a human, Amy spends those 36 years fighting to survive…

This was a “smaller” episode than “A Good Man Goes to War”: just our three main characters and a bunch of robots. I loved seeing Karen Gillan’s older, harder version of herself, complete with armor made up of the shells of old medibots, armed with a sword and club, and even her own cobbled-together sonic screwdriver probe. I loved seeing how she changed, and her hatred for the Doctor who once again failed to return for her. I loved that she stopped waiting for rescue, that she saved herself.

The last ten minutes or so were incredibly powerful. The Doctor can yank young-Amy from the timestream, but it would erase old-Amy from existence. I loved that old-Amy didn’t want to die. The moment when the Doctor shuts the TARDIS door on old-Amy was brilliant. I love that the show didn’t take the easy way out, that the Doctor knew what he had to do and did it. It showed the alien Time Lord side of him in a way I hadn’t seen in a while.

I did have some nitpicks. How did Amy learn to make a sonic screwdriver or a katana capable of decapitating a robot? What’s with this season trying to bypass the Doctor’s regenerations? (The plague would kill him permanently. Another episode referred to his regenerations being “offline.” Huh???) But overall, I thought it was a very good episode.

First Place: The Doctor’s Wife

I loved it. The plot itself was pretty typical — sentient superbeing called the House lures the Doctor past the edge of the universe in order to feed on the TARDIS. But first House has to remove the TARDIS’ matrix, and tucks it into a human form.

The relationship between the Doctor and Suranne Jones’ personified TARDIS was amazing. I loved their early conversations, when her perceptions were out of synch with normal time. I loved the history between them, and their obvious joy in one another. I loved the smaller moments, like when the Doctor is looking out at ruined TARDISes and seeing the parts he can use to rescue his friends, and Jones’ character points out that she sees the corpses of her sisters.

It was the ending that pushed this into the number one spot for me. Because a human body can’t hold the energies of a TARDIS for long, as we learned back at the end of season nine. And that means the Doctor will never again be able to talk to and interact with his longest companion the way he has in this episode.

In those last minutes, when he’s all but begging her not to leave, you see just how powerfully lonely a man the Doctor really is. It’s heart-wrenching, and it’s some of the best acting I’ve seen from Matt Smith so far.


For the Doctor Who fans out there, what do you think? Agree or disagree, or is there another season six episode you’d rank higher? (I haven’t seen the final few episodes of the season, so please don’t spoil those for me…)

Muppets, LEGO, and Doctor Who

ETA: I’ve added links to YouTube for anyone having trouble seeing the embedded videos.

1) Via, clips of various Muppets trying out for the role of Yoda. Kermit’s bit is my favorite. (Direct link.)


2) For some reason, this next one makes me think of Seanan McGuire. From Paul at comes a working LEGO chainsaw. Okay, I don’t know whether this would actually hold up against zombie velociraptors, but it’s still extremely cool. (Direct link.)

3) Finally, Doctor Who LEGO, from infinitepi. (With a cute little Dalek and an autographed TARDIS, no less!) I totally need to try to build this one. Just need to figure out where/how they got the Police Box sign.

Doctor Who?

Normally I try to answer most blog comments, but yesterday involved a broken car, broken garage door, and other assorted chaos that kept me offline for most of the day.  My thanks to everyone who commented and shared their own stories on yesterday’s post, and I’m sorry I wasn’t able to respond to them all.


I have a confession to make. Despite ranking at the very top of the geek hierarchy, there has always been an unforgivable gap in my geekness.  I’ve never watched Doctor Who.

I remember as a kid, getting a few glimpses of this weird guy in a scarf who apparently flew around in a blue phone booth, but it looked way too cheesy.  Then there was that robot dog thing…

These days, it seems like half the people in my SF/F circle are Doctor Who fanatics.  Not to mention that Torchwood thing, which apparently raced to cult status in its own right.  So one day I was crashed out in my hotel room at a con, and I spotted an episode with David Tennant and something about quantum statues that only move when nobody’s looking.

Cheesy, but intriguing.  I ended up watching and liking the second half of “Blink,” the episode that won the Hugo Award.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago.  I saw that BBC America was showing Doctor Who, and programmed the DVR to start recording ’em.  I figured it was time to see what the fuss was about.

I’ve now watched a half-dozen episodes, all with Tennant as the Doctor.  It’s interesting.  I keep mentally contrasting the show with Star Trek.  Doctor Who is much lower budget, sometimes over-the-top, and yet … more often than not, it works.

Take the opening scene of “The Girl in the Fireplace,” when The Doctor says how disturbing the ticking of the clock is … since the clock on the mantel is broken.  Star Trek would have used louder, more dramatic music and lots of special effects and not done half as good a job creating a foreboding atmosphere.

And Tennant is just fun.  “I’m the Doctor, and I just snogged Madame de Pompadour!”  He’s so damn full of himself, and generally having such a good time … I don’t know if that’s a part of the character or just this incarnation, but I love it.

It doesn’t always work.  In Fireplace, I rolled my eyes at the random spaceship horse.  And given that the Doctor knows time passes more quickly on the other side, Narnia-style, how did he not see that ending coming?

Then there’s The Doctor’s meeting with Satan.  “What does the devil need with a starship?”  So much better than Star Trek V’s take.  (But I know that’s not saying much.)

Overall, I like it.  Even if the Cybermen are a blatant ripoff of the Borg.  (No, wait … strike that.  Reverse it.)  Even the ridiculously over-the-top moments, like The Doctor lighting the Olympic torch.  I like how they do so much with so little — a child’s drawing, or a simple statue — concentrating more on ideas and story than flashy effects.  Heck, the episodes with better effects seem weaker to me, overall.

I’m still ignorant about a lot of things, and we’ll see what happens when we move into other series with other doctors, but I think it’s safe to say my assimilation has begun.

Jim C. Hines