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Sixty Things I Like About Who: #12 – 16

December 14th, 2009 No comments

Here are some more things I’ve found noteworthy about the regenerated Doctor Who series. As before, they are in no particular order.

#12: “Blink”

Perhaps the most extraordinary Doctor Who episode to date barely featured the Doctor at all. During each season of the new series, there has been one so-called “Doctor-lite” episode designed to give the regular cast a bit of a break. Season three’s entry was adapted by writer Steven Moffat (see, there’s that name again) from his own short story “‘What I Did On My Christmas Holidays’ By Sally Sparrow.” The result was a paradoxical, terrifying mystery about a young woman who received cryptic messages from the Doctor.

For the televised version, Moffat invented the Weeping Angels, bizarre assassins that could move only when no one was looking at them. While being observed they appeared to be harmless stone statues, yet they transformed into fanged horrors in the literal blink of an eye.

The Angels had a unique method of “killing” their chosen prey. A mere touch catapulted the victim into the past, there to live out the rest of a natural lifespan before they were born. In this manner the Angels feasted on the “potential energy” of the life their prey would have originally had.

The Doctor and Martha Jones became stranded in 1969 after an encounter with the Angels. Through a variety of unusual communications methods–including DVD “easter eggs”–they were able to guide Sally to recover the TARDIS. As events looped back on themselves with no clear beginning or end, the Doctor explained it thus:

People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey… stuff.

#13: Donna Noble

When Catherine Tate was announced as the Doctor’s regular travelling companion, British fandom was aghast. She was a comedienne, for Rassilon’s sake. (Never mind her time with the Royal Shakespeare Company.) And in her first appearance as Donna Noble–the one-off Christmas special “The Runaway Bride”–she was loud and abrasive. (Never mind that her character had already grown and mellowed considerably by the end of that story.)

This was one time when being an American fan was an advantage. Unfamiliar with her comedy work, I could take her at face value. And I quickly fell in love.

Donna was an office temp unexpectedly thrown into an adventure with the Doctor. She regretted refusing his invitation to join him in the TARDIS, and spent the next year tracking him down.

I found Donna to be a relief after the past couple of companions. Rose spent two years mooning after the Doctor.  (At the time, that romantic angle was unusual for Doctor Who, which had once had the mantra “No hanky-panky in the TARDIS.”) Then Martha joined up, and she had a crush on the Doctor. (It went unrequited because she made the fatal mistake of Not Being Rose.) After three years of hormonus interruptus, it was welcome when Donna made it clear right up front that she didn’t fancy the Time Lord.

Perhaps some of my affection for Donna was because she was closer to my own age. It’s one thing to be all brave and amazing when one is young and gorgeous, another for someone with a couple of decades of disappointment behind her.

By the end of her single full season, Donna had demonstrated compassion, imagination and a zest for adventure. She saved all of reality, only to have the moment cruelly taken away when the Doctor was forced to erase her memories. (He had a good reason, but still.) A year and a half later, it still bugs me that she was reduced to the wittering, useless office drone we’d seen at the beginning of “The Runaway Bride.”

Thankfully, Donna will be appearing in the upcoming “End of Time” two-parter. I’m hopeful that her memories will be restored and that she’ll rediscover just how amazing she was.

#14: The Adipose

Not every alien wants to take over the Earth. Some just want to make babies.

The Adipose–creatures composed almost entirely of fat–had a unique method of reproduction. Their representative on Earth, Matron Cofelia, marketed a phony diet drug which accumulated fat cells within a human body into a young (and utterly adorable) Adipose that would detach itself and toddle away while its host slept.

If this sounds like a pretty good arrangement for all involved, it was. But when the Doctor and Donna independently uncovered the secret, the Matron accelerated the process. The result transformed every cell in a dieter’s body into baby Adipose. Fortunately, the Doctor was able to stop Cofelia before she could murder thousands of chubby Brits.

#15:  Proper Nouns

Inventing decent-sounding sci-fi names is trickier than it might seem. Rookies go with such standbys as umlauts, decorative glottal stops and triple consonants.

Old-school Who tended toward the traditional, adding -os, -on or -ana to the end of a random assortment of syllables. (e.g., Ogros, Florana, Trion)

But Russell Davies took a new approach, devising names that were poetic, evocative, absurdly long, deliberately silly and/or designed to trip up the actors. (The Judoon got their name because David Tennant has trouble with the “oo” sound.)

Among my favorites were:

  • Raxacoricofallapatorius
  • The Fire Trap
  • The Lost Moon of Poosh
  • The Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire
  • Midnight
  • Rago Rago Five Six Rago
  • The Moxx of Balhoon
  • The Adherents of the Repeated Meme
  • Barcelona (the planet, not the city)
  • Blon Fel-Fotch Pasameer-Day Slitheen
  • Woman Wept
  • The Medusa Cascade
  • The Silver Devastation
  • Matron Cofelia of the Five-Straighten Classabindi Nursery Fleet
  • The Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe
  • Clom

#16:  Daleks and Cybermen Talking Smack

Then there was the time Doctor Who‘s two greatest races of universe-conquering monsters finally met…and immediately began insulting each other.

As Mickey Smith retorted, “It’s like Stephen Hawking meets the Speaking Clock.”

Bonus: brief appearance by Tess Booberson!