Dr. Whooligan: The Sylvester McCoy Years, Dragoncon 2011 Preview, The Girl Who Waited, Torchwood and More!!!

Doctor Who returned with a vengeance this week with the fast paced and frantic Let’s Kill Hitler. The episode was the perfect jumping off point for the second half of the season and  featured a daring, bold and magnificent performance from Alex Kingston.

In fact the entire cast was pretty great. I like how Rory is getting bolder  as the season progresses. Matt Smith is finding his way in the role and this story marks a turn for his portrayal of the Doctor, one that is a bit darker, flawed and more secretive.

I think the next two stories will be scary and frightening and will deviate in tone from the rest of the season.

Dragoncon 2011

If you are a Doctor Who/Torchwood fan you should think about going to Dragoncon this weekend in Atlanta. The British Media track is in high gear with guests Sylvester McCoy, Mark Sheppard and  Gareth David Lloyd. Martin Landau will also be on hand for a Space: 1999 panel.

The convention runs from September 2-5th and features lots of guests from across popular culture.

Needcoffee.com will feature a live Fun Fest on Friday night complete with their own version of the UK Game Show, Blankety Blank (aka Match Game). They also will be on hand for several British Media panels including their annual Doctor Who panel.

Anglotopia will have a panel all to itself on Friday afternoon. We’ll also be on some panels and moderating some others.

The track features lots of programming about UK television, films, comics, literature and more.

Here are some highlights for Doctor Who and Torchwood fans:

Sylvester McCoy is doing panels for the track each day from Saturday to Monday. He’s always an entertaining guest who loves to work with a crowd.

Gareth David Lloyd will do a panel with Mark Sheppard on Friday and then two more panels that weekend. He also is providing a live commentary for his favorite Torchwood episode Countrycide.

There will also be a panel looking back at the Tom Baker years, several on both the new and classic series as well as a panel on Doctor Who canon and a new panel debuting this year: Steampunk Themes in Doctor Who.

On Saturday night BBC America will host a screening of Night Terrors at the convention with a Q&A afterwards.

The convention is a great chance to satisfy your pop culture fix and meet other Anglophiles. For info visit www.dragoncon.org

THE GIRL WHO WAITED

The BBC Press office has released a synopsis for Episode 10, The Girl Who Waited.

Amy is trapped in a quarantine facility for victims of an alien plague – a plague that will kill the Doctor in a day – as the time-travelling drama continues.

The Doctor can use the TARDIS to smash through time and break in, but then Rory is on his own. He must find Amy and bring her back to the TARDIS before the alien doctors can administer their medicine.

Rory is about to encounter a very different side to his wife. Can he rescue Amy before she is killed by kindness?

In the words of Lloyd Cole: Are you ready to be heartbroken?

THE MOFF ON SERIES SIX, 2012 AND MORE…

Picture courtesy of  THE GUARDIAN

The Daily Beast has an excellent interview with Steven Moffat on the coming year for Doctor Who.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/08/22/steven-moffat-interview-doctor-who-season-7-amy-pond-river-song.html

IMMORTAL SINS RATINGS

Ratings for Torchwood in Britain had an estimated 3.4 million people again tuned in to watch Miracle Day on BBC One.

Preliminary overnight ratings show the seventh episode had an audience share  of 14.9% which was strong enough to put it as the 10th most watched program on that day.

These are raw numbers and do not include DVR recordings by people who tape the show and watch it later.

Final ratings should be out within the next week.

 THE SYLVESTER MCCOY YEARS

Since Sylvester McCoy is coming to Dragoncon this week I thought it’d be nice to revisit the underrated era of the 7th Doctor

Sylvlester McCoy has the distinction of being ‘the transition guy’ for classic Doctor Who. He had to handle the difficult transition from the Colin Baker era into his own by donning a crap wig and doing the regeneration solo. Then his run as The Doctor was cut very short in 1989 when the show was cancelled. Ever the trooper, he came back to hand off the role to Paul McGann in the 1996 TV movie. Thankfully McCoy has had a chance to flesh out his Doctor’s character and tie up some loose ends via the Big Finish audios.

Shortly after taking the role of The Doctor,  McCoy  embarked on a tour of American PBS stations to help Lionheart solidify distribution of his episodes. American audiences knew he would be much different then Colin Baker.

Before traveling in the TARDIS McCoy was known as a children’s TV actor and comedian. His comedic work is genius. He once stuffed live ferrets in his pants. Therefore it is no surprise that when assuming the role of The Doctor McCoy used his comedic chops for most of his first season before a darker more severe take on the role in his second and third seasons. Despite the turn in his approach to playing The Doctor, he never completely abandoned his comic and whimsical sensibilities of the character.

His first season borders on the strange. I’d rather not talk about Time and the Rani except to say regeneration stories are sometimes really bad. The Rani was really wasted as a great villain but McCoy ate up the scenery.

Paradise Towers is better then you may expect and finds The Doctor in a very serious mood. Here you see the first glimpses of the later darkness here. The Kangs are hilarious and Ricard Briers is just pure joy in his over the top send up as The Chief Caretaker.

I have a soft spot for Delta and the Bannermen. It is so kitschy and silly that it is a fun romp. The story is pure 50′s sugar wrapped in a classic noble heroes vs aliens tale. I also love that McCoy gets to unleash some slapstick here. Parts of the story are absurd but it still remains a lot of fun. Ray is terrific and would have made a great companion.

Dragonfire is pretty dreadful. Although Ace debuts here. The story ruined the return of Sabalom Glitz and it too had some really bad parts in it. The writers were going for a post modernist feel in this tale but fell very short. A lot of stuff happens without much explanation and the plot seems patched together. It is a mess, but McCoy again is great. He’s funny and clever and again utilizes his comedic timing to save the day.

It is his darker, second season where McCoy stands out as The Doctor. Remembrance of the Daleks is a triumph. It not only showed the Doctor as being dark, it had him scheming and manipulating in a way not seen since the Hartnell era. McCoy is a man of action here. He runs, he jumps, he runs some more.  He also uses a lot of gamesmanship to one up the Daleks. The episode does two things, it scares the audience and it restores some nostalgia as The Doctor returns to Totter’s Lane.

The Happiness Patrol was an ambitious attempt at social commentary about  the populace and government but instead may be the worst episode ever. The Kandyman is hilarious. McCoy, to his credit plays it straight for as long as possible. Here we see a bit of a departure for the Doctor who clearly takes a side and involves himself in a social and political revolution. The badness is memorable:  There is The Kandyman, the bad effects of Fifi, a Stigorax and the TARDIS succumbs to a pink pain job. What was intended as an Orwellian commentary on the power of the people instead was just a gooey mess.

As for Silver Nemesis, it could easily have used another episode to develop it a bit more. It seems a bit rushed and rough around the edges. Doctor #7 is up to something clever again playing all parties against each other ending in the utter destruction of The Cybermen.

You see a lot of the new series in this episode. The Doctor’s callous regard for killing Cybermen comes to mind. However, before there was River Song there may have been Lady  Peinforte who is almost as mysterious and as involved with the Doctor. It’s fun to see Nazis and Cybermen both getting their comeuppance in one story. Plus there is more shrouded mystery antics going on about what the Doctor did on Gallifrey. We also get to see the Ace/Doctor relationship really start to come together.

The Cybermen could have been used better and the bits with the Doctor in the palace are fun. We see the Doctor wearing a fez here as well!

Putting Courtney Pine in the episode is an interesting touch. In general this is a decent episode that relies on a not screened backstory to propel some of the tension onscreen.

Send in the clowns! The Greatest Show in the Galaxy is an adventure on several levels. First JNT takes the mickey out of fandom with a character named Whizz Kid. Second, the story is a trippy clowny clowny clown creepfest. Third, it capped a season that finally helped the series shake its nagging droopiness of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

GSITG takes the momentum from the earlier stories of the season and makes things interesting. Having a story where gods want to be perpetually entertained is the stuff of Gaiman and Bradbury and at the time, a remarkable departure for Doctor Who of this time.  There are great scenes with Jessica Martin (Mags) and Sylvester McCoy, who both trained as comedic performers. The Ringmaster and robot clowns are pretty spooky.

Season 26 started off well with Battlefield, a story whose highlight was the return of Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier. Sadly it needed a little more time to develop and the execution of the story falls a bit flat. Nonetheless I like this story. McCoy and Courtney work well together and Jean Marsh is wicked as Morgaine.

This is one of those pan-dimensional stories that we’ll see so much more of later in the new series. It is cloaked in Arthurian legend and the nuclear age.

It is interesting to note that there are more sinister tones to the Doctor.  He is again being manipulative and secretive. A clever plot trick occurs where The Doctor is mistaken for  Merlin. He dismisses all of this by admitting that this may happen in his future.

Despite having his ‘blood and thunder days’ behind him, the Brig gets to go out in a blaze of glory. It is great to see Nick Courtney having more to do then a token scene or two. Battlefield also illustrates the level of deep friendship between the Doctor and the Brigadier in a moving an tender way.

Ghost Light still makes no sense to me. I can say that Sophie Aldred is terrific in it. It’s a story that wraps aliens, evolution, spaceships and aliens in a somber Victorian coating. Watching it now makes me ask, where the hell is Torchwood? It also cleverly name checks Douglas Adams and Charles Darwin. Ghost Light is a daring attempt at fantasy and horror that falls a bit short. McCoy again has an opportunity to hide in darkness and runs with it. This episode has a dark tone to it and the 7th Doctor is portrayed in a much more nuanced style by McCoy.

Near the end of McCoy’s third season the ratings for the show were not very good and things were fading fast. Despite overhauling the texture and nature of the series ratings were still slumping. This is not the fault of Sylvester McCoy who was just beginning to hit his stride when the threat of axing the show began seem more and more of a possibility.

It is against this backdrop that we get to Curse of Fenric, an ambitious jaunt to wartime Britain where Russians, Viking lore  and vampires threaten the land. The idea of a non-filmed backstory surfaces again as The Doctor locks wits with Fenric again. We gradually learn that this confrontation with Fenric has been building up.

Sophie Aldred is golden in this story that continues the season long exploration of her background.  Curse of Fenric uses horror and suspense to lure in the audience. McCoy works well in this framework adding some more secretive aspects to his character.

If you are trying to find a reason why Doctor Who was killed off in 1989 look no further then the ironically titled Survival,  a big pile of horrible crap!

Although I like how they had Ace return to Perivale and  thus revealed more about her I think that the  story itself is horrid. The Cat People are awful baddies and Anthony Ainley is back one last time as The Master. It is tragic to see Anthony Ainley wasted so much here. He’s just silly. It is a tragedy that this was his last go round as the character.

An opportunity existed in this story to change up the dynamic between the Doctor and The Master, but it was missed. It also has chunks that are just bizarre and strange. Fandom needed to hold people accountable for this story and punish them. It is that bad.

Photo courtesy of DVD Times UK

Despite some rough patches the era of the 7th Doctor has some pretty great high moments. I feel that Sylvester McCoy’s television tenure as The Doctor has been too easily dismissed. More then some actors he really worked hard to get to the core of the character and see what motivated him. he tried to get in his head and hearts and you see this onscreen as he throws himself into the role.

If you are a new fan to the classic series make it a point to watch some of the 7th Doctor’s episodes. If you have not watched them in awhile go back and watch some of them. It’ll be fun!

RANDOM BITS

I enjoyed seeing Burn Gorman in The Hour. I hope he is awesome in the new Batman flick.

I hope there is more Peter Davison in Law & Order UK.

British comedian Miranda Hart has hinted that she’s going to be in Doctor Who. I wonder if she tags along for the Christmas Special?

Next time…

A look back at when Peter Davison was on Magnum P.I, Series Six continues and the end of Torchwood?

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