Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thoughts on Day of the Doctor, Part I: Pulling Off 50 Years

As I write this, it has been less than eleven hours since I saw The Day of the Doctor, Doctor Who's 50th Anniversary special.

I wasn't quite sure what I was expecting, but what I got was not what I expected.

What happened first is that I wobbled in my chair and waved my hands around crazily. The source of this sudden seizure was that the episode's starting credits were the original title sequence—smoky black-and-white stuff with a modern Doctor Who and BBC logo. Then came another nod to the old series; the school at which Clara was teaching was in some way connected with one of the original companions, Ian. I don't know a whole lot about Classic, but I suspect it's the same school that the Doctor's granddaughter went to all those years ago.

It was a good start to an episode that was celebrating 50 years of Doctor Who history.

And the episode went on, introducing Queen Elizabeth I, Zygons, Daleks, and the Moment in the guise of Rose Tyler. (Some fans might have been disappointed that the real Rose wasn't actually in the episode. I wasn't particularly bothered by it. Rose wasn't a bad companion, but her storyline had ended, and I was glad they kept it that way.)

There are three major problems of the Moffat Era: one, bad pacing and/or plotting; two, “bizarre” plot-lines; and three, bad foreshadowing. The first problem is seen most prominently in episodes such as A Good Man Goes to War, The Wedding of River Song, The Snowmen, and The Name of the Doctor. “Bizarre” plot-lines are also seen in those episodes, particularly in The Wedding of River Song. And finally, bad foreshadowing is seen in such episodes as A Good Man Goes to War.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Day of the Doctor didn't suffer from any of these problems. The pacing throughout the episode was very well done and none of it felt rushed, and it wasn't any more bizarre than any other Doctor Who episode out there.

But as the episode began to draw to a close, I started to panic. At one point we stopped for a bathroom break and we only had twenty minutes left in the episode. The Zygons were just about defeated, but the Time War problem still loomed. “So far it's good,” I told my friend, “but Moffat needs to kick it into gear if he's going to shoot this thing up to epic.”

Two minutes further into the episode, and I began to relax a little bit. We finally got to the great Time War dilemma and things were starting to draw to a close.

And that's when he did it. What happened then was one of the most brilliant things Moffat has ever done in Doctor Who.

And the best part was that it was perfectly foreshadowed. The whole bit about the Zygons was, as one of the Doctors put it, the exact part of their timestream that they needed to see in order to make their decision properly.

Then they did it: they brought back Gallifrey, and all of the Doctors.

And when Nine appeared on the screen, if for two brief and fantastic seconds, I fell back in my chair and my friend fell off of his chair and crashed to the ground.

It was so well done that I am still marveling about it right now. Sure, the episode isn't perfect—I would have preferred a darker and more gritty type of episode. It was a little too light and it concentrated a little too long on the Zygons, but other than that I have no qualms.

Then the end—the end! Gallifrey was saved, and all thirteen Doctors!

And leave it to Moffat to top himself—not only did he do that, but he brought in Peter Capaldi for an instant, and started foreshadowing for Capaldi's run. 

Whatever is going to happen next, I'm more than ready for it

But what will the next part of Doctor Who history be like, exactly?  I'll dig a little deeper into the implications of Day of the Doctor for Capaldi's coming era, and more specifically, how Day of the Doctor ties in to The End of Time, in my next post.

Until then—allons-y!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

On Waking Up to a Rooster

To the careful observer, a rooster is one of two things to the sleeping person: either he is an idyllic wake-up call, or an alarm clock from hell.

Roosters worked as alarm clocks in the old days, if rural legends are to be believed. (That brings up the question of what a rural legend is, and whether it is made up by people who don't actually live in rural areas.) According to legend, the arcane rooster, at the exact moment when dawn breaks, feels in his bones that he ought to crow, and crows loudly, consistently giving the happy farmer something to wake up to.

This may or may not be true. I wouldn't know, since I have never been a happy farmer, although I have been happy and I have lived on a farm; the roosters, however, disappeared long ago.

However, I have a number of reputable sources informing me of just how inerrant the divine rooster is, such as the various Disney movies and local farm stereotypes.

Sadly, society evolved past the delightful custom of owning a rooster, and instead substituted mechanical alarms. I am unconvinced that this is the better alternative, since the only snooze button available to the rooster is the chopping block. And besides, a “cockle-doodle-do” is much easier on the ears than incessant beeping, and tends to foster a warm sense of rustic value, something that is lacking in today's postmodern society.

However, it is also my duty to inform you that not all roosters produce this pastoral appeal. While I trust the fables of my home turf, roosters change from continent to continent. In Africa, for instance, it is apparently a custom to starve your roosters so that their melodious crow degenerates into a cross between a screaming baby and a dying cow.

This accentuates the mental instability of both the roosters and their owners. As a result of their conditions, African roosters have lost their sense of time and thus crow at intervals throughout the day. Several times I've been startled to find my neighbor's rooster waddling up to my back door and screaming a “cockle-doodle-do” at my back before returning to his quest for moldy rice in the nearby trash pit.

If you are in the unfortunate position of having been asleep when one of those roosters is waltzing by, my recommendation is to wear earmuffs, particularly if you are on the top bunk of a bunk-bed. The mosquito net is useful for keeping mosquitoes out but not as useful at keeping you in when an unexpected caterwaul sends you flying off your bed in panic.

With this in mind, please be careful in your selection of a rooster, making sure that it is thoroughly American and well-fed. With a rooster, you too can feel like a happy American farmer living the rustic life.

And if, for some bizarre reason, you are dissatisfied with your purchase, eating the rooster is always an option.