Quick Hits - November 17

I don’t have anything to say about the debacle surrounding the unfortunate death of Robert Dziekanski. It’s already being said, far more eloquently than I can put it, I think. About the only bright spot about this whole affair is that it has engendered condemnation across the political spectrum. The video evidence would seem to be incontrovertible, and matches up well with the mounting multi-partisan concern over the overuse of tasers. This offers up some hope that our elected leaders will take this issue seriously, and give police work in Canada the oversight it deserves.

I realize that our police officers do difficult jobs in often impossible circumstances, but their job is too important to all of society to excuse them from accountability. They work for us, even as they police us. And if they screw up, it is society as a whole which suffers.

“Look at me! I’m the Doctor and I can save the universe with a tea kettle and a ball of string!”

On a much lighter note, here’s eight minutes of your life you’ll never get back because, if you’re an old Doctor Who fan, you’ll spend those eight minutes watching this video all over again.

What you just watched was an eight minute short Doctor Who episode filmed for Britain’s annual Children in Need telethon, which takes over the airwaves around this time of year. This is the third such Doctor Who episode written for the telethon, the first being a 14-minute 2-part short filmed in 3-D called Dimensions in Time and a five minute scenelet written in 2005 by Russell T. Davies adding a little something extra to Christopher Eccleston’s regeneration into David Tennant.

(A fourth short story, The Curse of the Fatal Death, starring Rowan Atkinson as the Doctor and written by Stephen Moffat, was drafted for a different charity telethon — a comedy focused “Red Nose Day” that took place in March 1999).

Given the history of these shorts, given the venue, given the time limitations, you of course have to go in with low expectations. It’s going to be gimmicky, it might even be silly. It’s just enough punches at all the touchstones to give you the taste of Doctor Who and it’s out again to the live presenters, campaigning for more donations. The horribly muddled Dimensions in Time sort of set the tone for these things, as writer John Nathan Turner actually tried to tell a serious story. In fourteen minutes. With all the surviving actors to play the Doctor. And about twenty-three companions. And cameo appearances from characters in EastEnders. And as that was the only Doctor Who we were going to be seeing for the thirtieth anniversary of the program, after a four year absence from our screens… well, the less said about it and the fans’ reactions, the better.

Russell T. Davies neatly avoided all of these problems with his take on the special, by inserting a scene that flowed with the narrative of the series at the time (and, incidentally, cuts about 99% of the speaker parts from Dimensions in Time). It was really just a character moment, augmenting the Christmas special that would follow (The Christmas Invasion) while not muddying the waters to such a degree that anybody who skipped this scene wouldn’t know what was going on. It was nice, but ultimately unmemorable.

This time, Stephen Moffat takes an approach that falls between the two extremes. We have a short character moment for the Doctor, neatly inserted into the narrative of the series as it stands. And we have a gimmick. And while it’s still asking a lot to expect anything approaching an actual episode of the television series, I think Stephen’s approach has a whole number of fans engaging in a lot of Squee. Well, don’t take my word for it: the video evidence is above me. Have a look for yourself.

I will say that, as a sampler, it’s varied and yet the many different contributing elements come together seamlessly. Peter Davison has still got it, David Tennant bounces off him wonderfully, and both men adeptly curl their tongues around Stephen Moffat’s rapid-fire dialogue. I was also noticing the background music. Is it my imagination, or did they nicely combine scores from both the revived series (I noticed a bit of “Clockwork TARDIS” in there) with snatches of themes from Peter Davison’s era of the program? Amazing how well they worked together, isn’t it?

And then it’s over in a quick conceit and we’re back to the normal world again. Really, if you want a full meal, you’re just going to have to wait until Christmas. Until then, how about another hors d’oeuvre?

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