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Showing posts by: Rachel Hyland click to see Rachel Hyland's profile
Nov 15 2013 11:00am

Classic Doctor Who: Parodies

Over the past couple of months I have been honored and humbled to bring to the Tor community a rundown of what I consider to be the most essential stories of Classic Doctor Who (choices not greeted with universal approbation, it must be said—but what is, nowadays?). In these pages I’ve treated with the works of the First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors, as well as visited with the short-lived Eighth (amongst some other special presentations), and so one might at last think my task complete. But, no!

There can never be too much discussion of Doctor Who, and so now it is my very great pleasure to move onto that most essential element of any popular science fiction show: its parodies.

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Nov 8 2013 12:00pm

Classic Doctor Who: Specials, Spin-offs, and the Eighth Doctor!

Now that we have covered the essential serials of the First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors, the time has come for us to look at the contribution to the wider narrative made by Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor. But given that he only has one TV movie to his name (though his off-screen adventures are legion), I thought it best to add his adventure to some other compulsory Special Events.

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Nov 1 2013 9:00am

Classic Doctor Who: The Seventh Doctor’s Essential Episodes

Seven Doctor, Ace, Sylvester McCoy, Doctor Who

The Seventh Doctor is unjustly held accountable for the cancellation of this beloved series, but the fact is that there are a few stories and concepts here both exciting and new during his tenure—it is just that they are very effectively hidden amid a morass of bleuch. His first three serials are particularly lame—kicked off by quite the most ridiculous reason for regeneration in the history of the series—and so it is hardly surprising that by the time this incarnation found his feet and things actually started getting good again, few people still cared. (It’s like how Season 5 of Fringe was really awesome, but by then no one was paying much attention anymore, after Season 4 gave us a bunch of episodes with no Joshua Jackson in them AT ALL.)

There are many conspiracy theories relating to the demise of the series, ranging from hatred of all things Who from the BBC higher ups to a dissatisfaction with his role on the part of series exec, John Nathan-Turner. Whatever the reason, there can be no denying that this is the most uneven of all the Doctors’ terms, which is doubtless what makes it the most controversial.

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Oct 18 2013 11:00am

Classic Doctor Who: The Sixth Doctor’s Essential Episodes

The Sixth Doctor. If those three words fill you with a pervading sense of ugh, then you are not alone. Of all the Doctor’s incarnations, the Sixth is the most universally despised, and while I personally now feel this to be unfair—different and challenging doesn’t necessarily mean bad—at the time of his ascension to the TARDIS, I was in no mood to be reasonable about such a leap of crazy. He was mean. He was self-aggrandizing. He was dressed like a clown, and I have never liked those creepy things. Upon rewatch, and certainly in this age of pre-eminence for the unlikeable yet sympathetic anti-hero—from House to Walter White to, in more genre-appropriate examples, Rorschach, Snape, and Sheldon—he and his general derision and superciliousness are far less jarring.

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Oct 11 2013 11:00am

Classic Doctor Who: The Fifth Doctor’s Essential Episodes

The Fifth Doctor’s era is widely considered the last gasp of Who glory, and while it gives us a very different Doctor and a same-same-but-different sensibility, there is much that is well-constructed, thought-provoking, entertaining and even occasionally amusing in this three-season run. Compared to the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Doctors, the Fifth Doctor is not overly-blessed with unmissable brilliance, but there are still a few favorites I had to leave off this list. Still, enjoyable they may be, but even their strongest proponents could not claim them to be “essential.” For example, I’m personally rather partial to Black Orchid , because I really like cricket; Frontios gives the Doctor some excellent lines (“Oh, marvellous. You’re going to kill me. What a finely tuned response to the situation.”) if not too much else; and Arc of Infinity just makes me happy, even if it really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense (why execute the Doctor?) and makes Gallifrey look a lot like the aftermath of a White Snake video.

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Oct 4 2013 11:00am

Classic Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor’s Essential Episodes

You think you know the meaning of the word daunting? I assure you, you don’t—unless you, too, once pondered the Herculean task of whittling down the many, many worthy serials on the Fourth Doctor’s tenure to a mere five “essentials,” which would then go on to be judged (and doubtless found wanting) by a jury of your Whovian peers.

The First Doctor—easy enough, he didn’t have too many serials remaining to him from which to choose. Likewise The Second, and even the Third Doctor while harder, was doable. But this one was an assignment I feared might be my undoing... until I really looked at it objectively, and realised that it actually wasn’t that hard at all.

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Sep 27 2013 12:00pm

Classic Doctor Who: The Third Doctor’s Essential Episodes

This is where things start getting tricky. After two seasons truncated by ruthless purges of the historical record, the Third Doctor is missing nary and episode—and, hey, he’s in color! (Though some of it is restored color, from black and white prints for export to countries that didn’t yet have the more advanced technology.) What this means for the purposes of this exercise is that distilling down his many adventures into a mere five essentials is... well, it’s damned hard.

Nevertheless, here I dare to make the bold declaration that the following fives serials are simply indispensible to the new Who viewer. Oh, sure, I would have loved to have counted The Carnival of Monsters in here, since it is hugely fun and I love it. Ditto Inferno (alternate universe!), and Mind of Evil (alien emotion-sucker/prison reform allegory!) and Invasion of the Dinosaurs (this one’s pretty self-explanatory). But when it comes to essentials, and bearing in mind the five episode limit under which I currently labor, these really are the definitive and utterly necessary stories of the Third Doctor’s sovereignty.

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Sep 20 2013 12:00pm

Classic Doctor Who: The Second Doctor’s Essential Episodes

Second Doctor, Doctor Who, Jamie

Last time, in discussing William Hartnell’s first fusspot Doctor, I mentioned that some 106 Doctor Who episodes are currently missing, following the tragic destruction and/or recycling of the master tapes on which they were recorded. (Damn you, BBC Archivists of the 60s and 70s!) Of these missing episodes, a disproportionate number belong to the era of the Second Doctor, which means that the recommendations made herein should be taken on the understanding that these are merely the best of what is available, rather than the best of what was produced.

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Sep 13 2013 9:00am

Classic Doctor Who: The First Doctor’s Essential Episodes

Doctor Who, William Hartnell, First Doctor, An Unearthly Child, Ian Barbara Susan

Ah, Classic Doctor Who. 42 years, 26 seasons, 8 leading men, 30 main cast, 695 episodes, 155 serials and one TV movie—plus two mid-60s theatrical releases. Such a depth of history can be daunting for the newer Who fan, brought into this Gallifreyan exile’s adventures via Doctors Nine through Eleven, since the excellent 2005 reboot.

Add in some natural reluctance resulting from the show’s early reputation for shoddy production values (and yes, the sets really do shake sometimes), an unfamiliar story-telling format (it’s just constant “To Be Continued” plot arcs, one after the other), as well as the inevitable confusion resulting from the legendary “Missing Episodes” (master tapes ruthlessly recycled by a thrifty BBC, back when they knew not what they did), and it’s really no wonder that many consider New Who to have granted them back story enough, and that the decades-spanning stories preceding it—many in black-and-white!—are just not worth the effort.

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Apr 13 2011 6:00pm

A Game of Thrones: Fantasy Romance?

“Romance reader” is such a broad term, and one that is often mistaken and misused. To those not au fait with the many subgenera that exist within the wide and wonderful playground in which we so gleefully spend our time, too often a “romance novel” is considered synonymous with a “trashy novel.”

Category lines like those of Harlequin and its ilk are held up as exemplars of the field, and—if we’re lucky—best-selling tearjerkers from the likes of Nicholas Sparks are considered romance—and are then subsequently dismissed as “mere” romance.

This ignores the rich history of romantic fiction. From myths of Greek heroes to Arthurian legends, from Sir Walter Scott and Lord Byron to Anna Karenina, The Scarlet Letter, and almost anything involving the French Revolution, timeless romances have repeatedly played out across the spectrum of Classic Literature. And what was Shakespeare if not a writer of romance? Although they may have been regarded as such as the time, these were certainly not cheap tales of Happily Ever After or Doomed Love; they were not simplistic wish-fulfillments of an average girl becoming a princess, or lust-fuelled accounts of unbearably hot vampires and their destined life mates. (Not that there’s anything wrong with any of that—at all.)

[More on the romantic tradition and where A Game of Thrones fits in...]