Monday, 15 May 2017

Doctor Who: The Doctors (in order of greatness)

Recently I drew all of the Doctors for a friend in exchange for her home made eggnog. I will do anything for eggnog, no matter what time of year it is. I thought I'd present them here and put them in order of my least favourite Doctor to my favourite Doctor. Disclaimer: I love them all and the order of this list has been known to change depending on what episodes I've been watching lately, but it serves as a rough guide to my Doctor-preferences.

Feel free to share your Doctor-list in the comments, and let me know what you think of my art. :)

13. The Eleventh Doctor - Matt Smith

Best TV episodes: 
The Eleventh Hour
Amy's Choice
A Christmas Carol
The Lodger
The Crimson Horror

Best audio adventures (played by Christopher Benjamin): 
The Jago Lightfoot Revival Act 1 & 2

12. The Tenth Doctor - David Tennant

Best TV episodes: 
Waters of Mars
School Reunion
Human Nature/The Family of Blood
Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead

Best audio adventures: 
Death and the Queen

11. The War Doctor - John Hurt

Best TV episodes: 
Day of the Doctor

Best audio adventures
The Neverwhen
The Innocent

10. The Second Doctor - Patrick Troughton

Best TV episodes:
The War Games
Tomb of the Cybermen
The Mind Robber
The Highlanders
Evil of the Daleks

Best audio adventures (played by Frazer Hines): 
The Jigsaw War
The Rosemariners
The Lords of the Red Planet
The Black Hole

9. The Fourth Doctor - Tom Baker

Best TV episodes: 
The Deadly Assassin
Genesis of the Daleks
The Talons of Weng-Chiang
The Face of Evil
Robots of Death
Terror of the Zygons

Best audio adventures: 
The Foe from the Future
The Cloisters of Terror
A Full Life
The Wrath of the Iceni
The Ghosts of Gralstead

8. The Eighth Doctor - Paul McGann

Best TV episodes: 
Night of the Doctor

Best audio adventures: 
Lucie Miller/To the Death
The Chimes of Midnight
The Red Lady
Seasons of Fear
The Horror of Glam Rock

7. The Fifth Doctor - Peter Davison

Best TV episodes: 
Caves of Androzani

Best audio adventures: 
Spare Parts
The Burning Prince
The Kingmaker
The Butcher of Brisbane
The Church and the Crown

6. The Twelfth Doctor - Peter Capaldi

Best TV episodes: 
Thin Ice
Heaven Sent
Mummy on the Orient Express
Under the Lake/Before the Flood
The Magician's Apprentice/The Witch's Familiar

5. The Seventh Doctor - Sylvester McCoy

Best TV episodes:
The Curse of Fenric
Ghost Light
Remembrance of the Daleks
The Greatest Show in the Galaxy

Best audio adventures:
Dust Breeding
A Death in the Family

4. The Third Doctor - Jon Pertwee

Best TV episodes: 
The Sea Devils
The Daemons
Spearhead from Space
The Green Death
The Three Doctors
Invasion of the Dinosaurs

Best audio adventures (played by Tim Treloar): 
The Transcendence of Ephros
The Blue Tooth

3. The Ninth Doctor - Christopher Eccleston

Best TV episodes:
The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances
Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways
Father's Day
Aliens of London/World War Three

Best audio adventures (played by Nicholas Briggs):
The Bleeding Heart

2. The Sixth Doctor - Colin Baker

Best TV episodes:
Revelation of the Daleks
Vengeance on Varos
The Two Doctors
Trial of a Time Lord
The Mark of the Rani

Best audio adventures:
The Curse of Davros
The Last Adventure
City of Spires/Wreck of the Titan/Legend of the Cybermen
Arrangements for War
Thicker than Water
The Juggernauts
Doctor Who and the Pirates
The Holy Terror
The Spectre of Lanyon Moor

1. The First Doctor - William Hartnell

Best TV episodes:
The Romans
An Unearthly Child
Marco Polo
The Aztecs
The Dalek Invasion of Earth
The Dalek's Master Plan
The Time Meddler
The War Machines

Best audio adventures (played by William Russell and Peter Purves):
Domain of the Voord
The Beginning
The Perpetual Bond/The Cold Equations/The First Wave
Farewell, Great Macedon
Home Truths
Mother Russia
The Anachronauts

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Kris Marshall is The Doctor, but not in the way you think!


Before I present my latest prediction on the direction of the plot of the latest series of Doctor Who, I should confess that I have yet to see any of my Doctor Who related predictions come to pass. When it comes to second guessing Doctor Who I am always, always wrong.

Nevertheless, please indulge me while I present my latest (undoubtedly inaccurate) theory.

Peter Capaldi will be leaving Doctor Who this series, that much is certain. Trailers for the series have even shown him start to regenerate into his next incarnation. Showrunner Steven Moffat will leave after this year's Christmas Special and Series 11 will begin next year with a new showrunner (Chris Chibnall) crafting new adventures for a new Doctor. Rumours have been flying for the past few months that Kris Marshall will play that new Doctor. So many people seemed certain that this was the case that bookies have suspended betting on it. Needless to say I had an opinion or two to share about this:

For what it's worth, I am definitely of the opinion that casting the Doctor as yet another skinny, young (ish), white dude in the Tennant/Smith mold would be an uninspired choice and a big mistake. But what if Kris Marshall is playing the next incarnation of the Doctor, and at the same time, not actually playing the Doctor?

What if Kris Marshall is the Valeyard?

Before I elaborate, let's have a quick recap of the Valeyard's identity.

The Trial of a Time Lord (1986) features the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) being put on trial by his fellow Time Lords for his interference in the affairs of other worlds. He is being prosecuted by a mysterious man in black known only as the Valeyard, who seems to loathe the Doctor. Eventually the Master reveals that the Valeyard is a future incarnation of the Doctor, who is attempting to steal his past self's remaining regenerations.
"There is some evil in all of us, Doctor – even you. The Valeyard is an amalgamation of the darker sides of your nature, somewhere between your twelfth and final incarnation, and I may say you do not improve with age." - The Master
This quote should be ringing alarm bells for fans, because if we don't include John Hurt's War Doctor, Peter Capaldi is the Doctor's twelfth incarnation!

As of this writing we are four episodes into Series 10. So far we have seen that the Doctor has exiled himself to Earth for the past 50 or so years in order to keep someone trapped in a vault beneath Bristol University. In episode four, Knock Knock, the Doctor is shown being rather chummy with the occupant of the vault, even going as far as to share Mexican takeaway and an account of his latest adventure with them. What if the occupant of the vault is his own future incarnation? The Doctor would have realised that, as he is approaching the end of what he refers to as his twelfth incarnation, then the Valeyard must be on the way. Wouldn't it be just like the Doctor to break all the laws of time, go forward into his own timeline, and imprison his evil, future self before they can do any damage?

This would explain why (at least according to the trailers) we'll be seeing the Twelfth Doctor regenerate during this series rather than in the Christmas Special. We'll see the regeneration in a 'flashback/flashforward' to the origin of the Valeyard. Shortly after this has occurred we'll see the Doctor's past self materialise, scoop up the newly regenerated Valeyard and take him back in time to imprison him in the vault and exile them both on Earth for decades.

There's a moment in Knock Knock where the Doctor mentions the concept of regeneration to new companion, Bill. When Bill presses the Doctor further as to the meaning of the word the Doctor looks uncomfortable and changes the subject. It stands to reason that the Doctor would be reluctant to discuss the concept of regeneration if he knows that when it happens next he'll end up irredeemably evil and locked in a vault by his past self.

It's also worth remembering that according to the trailers there will be two incarnations of the Doctor's archenemy, the Master appearing this series. Missy (Michelle Gomez) will be appearing alongside an earlier incarnation of the Master (John Simm). To me this sounds like an ideal way of introducing the concept of multiple versions of the same Time Lord appearing at the same time to a new audience. Two Masters together at the same time will prepare the audience for two Doctors together at the same time.

So why do I think the Valeyard will be played by Kris Marshall? I admit, it's possible that he won't be, but it would fit so elegantly. My biggest problem with Marshall as the Doctor is the fact that he's so similar to Tennant and Smith, but if Marshall were playing a bad Doctor then this would be an asset. Imagine how effective it would be if Marshall played his Doctor as "the anti-Tennant" (as my pal Madeley put it). Familiar Doctor-ish behaviour and character traits twisted and perverted towards evil would pack an emotional punch for audiences and hammer home that this character (despite his evil) is the Doctor. Whatever your opinion of Steven Moffat, you have to admit he's good at playing with fan expectations. How clever would it be if the Marshall rumours were deliberately seeded by the BBC as a massive feint?

It's not a perfect theory. For example, in Knock Knock why would the Doctor share an account of his latest adventure with someone who'd already lived it? But for me the best thing about this theory is what it tells us about the REAL Thirteenth Doctor, the one who will be working with Chibnall and will presumably debut at the end of the Christmas Special. Assuming the Valeyard storyline is wrapped up at the end of Series 10 and the Doctor finds a way to prevent the Valeyard from ever existing, then that means there will be a different Thirteenth Doctor debuting in the Christmas Special. It makes sense that the Doctor will do his best to make his new incarnation as different from the Valeyard as he possibly can. And if I'm right then the Valeyard will have been played by a skinny, young-ish, white dude.

So what does that mean for the Thirteenth Doctor?....

Friday, 24 March 2017

The Life and Death of New 52 Superman

In 2011 writer Grant Morrison reinvented Superman for a new era as part of DC Comics' 'New 52' relaunch. This version of Superman wore a t-shirt and jeans and dangled corrupt businessmen from buildings. He was strikingly different from the version of Superman that preceded him; an older, married man, who used his great power a lot more cautiously. This week, in Action Comics #976 both versions have been 'merged' to create a new Superman, and Morrison's young, two-fisted, champion of the oppressed is no more. This new direction has been met with a lot of positive reviews and seems to be selling well. Nevertheless, is it possible that we've lost the perfect Superman for our times?

Superman was born in the 1930s, the era of the Great Depression, Al Capone, and the rise of the Far Right. His creators were Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. They were both the sons of Jewish immigrants, in fact Shuster's mother had left Russia after pogroms. Neither could afford college and so Siegel earned four dollars a week in a printing plant while Shuster sold ice cream and delivered groceries. In between they tried to sell their Superman comic strip to newspapers. When Superman finally debuted in Action Comics #1 (1938) their brand new hero was depicted saving a man from being wrongfully executed, beating up a wife beater, and dangling a corrupt lobbyist off a building. In the subsequent issue Superman intervenes in a foreign war between two nations who had forgotten why they were fighting in the first place. It's difficult not to see these early stories as a form of catharsis for two young men who possibly felt helpless before the injustices of the world. In those first two issues, miscarriages of justice are overturned at the last minute, wars are ended, and bullies are punched in the face.

Times changed, and Superman changed with them. During the space race Superman's power expanded and he explored other planets, while in the era of Vietnam and Watergate he questioned how he chose to use his mighty power.

In 2011, the 'New 52' arrived, and Superman changed once again. Grant Morrison, along with artist Rags Morales took the Man of Steel back to his roots. Within the first few pages of the first issue of a relaunched Action Comics, Superman dangles a corrupt businessman from a building and runs from police bullets. Over subsequent issues we see him helping ordinary people to rebuild their homes and telling a jaded, cynical police officer to "be the cop you wanted to be when you were a kid." Later in Morrison's run more cosmic foes begin to surface, such as the alien Collector, the hyper evolved Adam Blake, and the fifth dimensional Vyndktvx. But even these are dispatched like the old-fashioned bullies they really are, with a smile and a strong right-hook. The very last page of Morrison's final issue, Action Comics #18, depicts a bruised Superman having just defeated his multi-dimensional foe, sitting in a crater and saying "Yeah, but you should see the other guy."

Morrison's angry, proactive, working class Superman seems to reflect the age in which he was born as much as Siegel & Shuster's Superman did in the '30s. The world currently has many disturbing parallels with the world that birthed Superman in the 1930s. There has been much economic hardship, and the Far Right is once again on the rise in America and Europe. We're living in an age of conflict and many people feel unable to trust their own media. The UK has been torn by it's decision to leave the European Union, and the President of the United States is quite frankly a despicable human being who has surrounded himself with corrupt businessmen, near-Nazis, and actual Nazis. The cathartic right-hook of the New 52 Superman seems tailor made for our times. New 52 Superman however, lasted only five years before being killed off, replaced, and then 'merged' into a new version. Why then, did this occur?

Consistency was one of the main reasons, or rather a lack of consistency. Writers other than Morrison struggled to hit the the right note with this version of the character. In his otherwise entertaining Justice League: Origin, Geoff Johns seemed to interpret Morrison's passionate, headstrong man of action as a guy who's just spoiling for a rumble. Johns' Superman slaps Batman and Green Lantern around as soon as he meets them and literally flies head first into bad guys. George Perez left the main Superman title after only six issues, citing conflicting direction from his superiors and a lack of information from Morrison as reasons for his departure. Scott Lobdell, who began writing the title with issue #13 initially seemed to grasp what Morrison was trying to do. For example, he had Clark Kent dramatically walk out of the Daily Planet to start his own blog that would focus on the injustices that a newspaper beholden to their advertisers and dwindling readership would be unable to cover. Sadly this plotline, like much of Lobdell's Superman run, went nowhere. As for Action Comics, Morrison's successor, Andy Diggle was driven away from the book by behind the scenes tension after just one issue and his story was completed by the artist, Tony Daniel.

It wasn't all bad, New 52 Superman featured in some great stories during his time. These included Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder's Action Comics run, Charles Soule's run on Superman/Wonder Woman, a series by Scott Snyder and Jim Lee called Superman Unchained, and a great run in Superman by Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr. Overall however the quality was inconsistent and hardly any of them captured the spirit of Morrison's run. Pak and Kuder came the closest. Their Superman was significantly de-powered and once again clad in a t-shirt. They had him defending the people of his Metropolis neighbourhood from corrupt police officers, which made for some fantastic and iconic imagery. Unfortunately Pak and Kuder soon had to weave their stories into the larger arc running through the Superman titles, and so this status quo wasn't explored for very long.

New 52 Superman was eventually killed off and replaced by his previous incarnation as part of DC's Rebirth relaunch. This old version of the character was now trapped in the New 52 Universe with Lois Lane, and together they were raising their son Jon. The quality of the books was suddenly a lot more consistent, and while Superman was far more mature and level-headed than the version Morrison gave us, his characterisation was also a lot more consistent. This week New 52 Superman returned from the dead long enough to merge with his counterpart. But the fact that he remains married to Lois, and is still the father of Jon is an indicator of which version is the dominant persona.

It could be argued then that Morrison provided us with the perfect Superman for our times but DC mishandled the character to such a degree that they were forced to take a creative step backwards. However, it's also possible to argue that Morrison's Superman wasn't the hero we need right now. Perhaps the perfect heroes for our time are in fact the new Rebirth Superman, his wife Lois Lane, and their son Jon Kent.

Despite the many parallels, this is not the 1930s. People all over the world are unwilling to stay silent in the face of injustice. We're living in an age of protest. That's not to say that the people of the 1930s remained silent in the face of injustice. On the contrary, they fought and died against it. But thanks to the internet many of us are living in an age of personal empowerment where we can share our fears, voice our frustration, and organise demonstrations of our discontent. We don't necessarily need Superman to punch injustice in the face for us. What Superman can give us instead is hope for the future, and hope that we actually can make a difference. In the world of Rebirth this hope is embodied in the son of Superman and Lois Lane, Jon Kent. Jon is Rebirth's contribution to the Superman myth. He's what has prevented Rebirth from being a step backwards for Superman, and he's what has kept Rebirth Superman relevant.

I'm by no means arguing that Superman comics can save the world, or any such nonsense. But I am arguing that Superman comics can still be as reflective of the world in which they're produced as they were in the 1930s. A few years ago it seemed like we were reflected in an angry young man in jeans and a t-shirt. While Grant Morrison's Action Comics run remains an amazing Superman story in it's own right, perhaps now we are more accurately reflected by a man, a woman, and their Super-Son, looking towards the future.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Superman vs the Alt-Right

I was reading an old Superman storyline from 1999 today, where Superman finds himself cast into four separate realities based on different eras of his career in comic book history. I was struck by how relevant to today the chapters set in Superman's Golden Age were, particularly Superman: Man of Steel #80, by Louise Simonson, Jon Bogdanove, & Dennis Janke. In fact, for a comic made in the 90s and set in the 30s, it was scarily relevant. For example....

Here's some "patriots" taking the lying, mainstream, liberal media to task for their #FAKENEWS, and presenting them with some alternative news sources.

Here's some courageous Mens' Rights Activists.

Here's a celebrity turned politician promising to put "America First".

And here's how Superman deals with all that bullshit.

'Nuff said.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Peter Capaldi's leaving Doctor Who! Who will be the 13th Doctor?

Peter Capaldi announced this evening that he will be leaving Doctor Who after the 2017 Xmas special. The announcement doesn't come entirely as a surprise considering head writer Steven Moffat will be leaving at that point too, but quite frankly I'm gutted. I like the Tenth & Eleventh Doctors a lot but I'm so much more heartbroken about Capaldi leaving than I was when David Tennant & Matt Smith left. Capaldi is one of the best actors to have ever played the Doctor. As great as they all are, very few of the previous actors who have played the Doctor could have delivered the anti-war speech from The Zygon Inversion quite as effectively as Capaldi. Also, he always brought the best out of his co-star Jenna Coleman in a way that Matt Smith never could. His finest hour however remains Heaven Sent, an episode he carries completely by himself, sharing the screen only with a faceless memory of his companion Clara and a relentless, silent monster.

Of course, amidst all the sadness there's the excitement surrounding who will play the 13th Doctor!  I was initially against the idea of a woman playing the part (typical fanboy, hates change) but I've recently come around to the possibility. I'm not the most knowledgeable person when it comes to British actors working today, but I've got a few ideas about who I'd like to see in the TARDIS. Here are a few of my suggestions. They're all great actors, some of them are unlikely to be interested in the part, while others have been happy to appear in Doctor Who on previous occasions. A few of them are Welsh, as it's about time we were represented in the pantheon of Who actors.

Rhys Ifans

Paterson Joseph

Kathy Burke

Colin Salmon

Sophie Okonedo

Luke Evans

Hayley Atwell

Sean Pertwee

Michael Sheen

As for Peter Capaldi? There's always Big Finish.....

Who would you like to see play The Doctor?

UPDATE: I'm adding Richard Ayoade and current bookie's favourite Olivia Colman to this list as they'd both be perfect.


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