Mondas, Mondas, Can’t Trust That Day

With Series 10 looming five weeks hence there’s much to do here at THT Towers, so much so that our missives of late have been regrettably few and far between.  But there are few moves the current production team could do that ould prick our collective ears more than the news, now several days old, that the original Mondas Cybermen would be part of the Series 10 finale.

There are several interesting questions that arise from this pertaining to continuity, not only of the Cybermen themselves but also of Mondas (which was destroyed in The Tenth Planet) and whether that matters or not.

What’s worth remembering is how weird those initial cyborgs were, with their cloth faces and hands and sing-song open maw voices.  They have been successfully ret-conned into obscurity but it’s more down to how quickly they evolved into a streamlined version of themselves, even as early their next story The Moonbase, as the reason why they were memorable.  It’ll certainly be interesting to see how they’ll be received later this year.

The Modern Re-Capitulation have been beavering away in advance of the new season.  They’ve capped the following stories for your viewing pleasure:

The Fires of PompeiiHuman NatureThe Family of BloodThe Sontaran StratagemThe Poison Sky, and The Doctor’s Daughter.

Happy capping.

The Sixth Pretense

As has been mentioned before here at the Tour, for long, long standing fans of Doctor Who, there is the notion of the ‘big five’ classic Doctor Who monsters, these being (in order of appearance) the Daleks, Cybermen, Yeti, Ice Warriors, and Sontarans.  While it’s questionable that the Yeti, with only two appearances to their name, should be part of that quintet, here’s a better question …

What nu-Who monster(s) would you or could you nominate to join this list?  For us here at the Tour there’s only one answer.

The Weeping Angels.

That’s it.  That’s the list.

While four of the Five (again the Yeti) have appeared in nu-Who, only the Weeping Angels have really made multiple appearances in nu-Who.  The Silence?  Merely a variation on the Angels so we discount them on that score.  But the Weeping Angels made an impact, especially in their first story (and the latest Modern Re-CapitulationBlink.

It’s a great story of course, and made better by the (possibly apocryphal) story behind the story.  Realizing that the previous Doctor-lite story Love & Monsters, was to be charitable, underwhelming, RTD handed off the responsibility at the last minute to Steven Moffat.  To say he succeeded is anything but an understatement.

What’s astonishing is how logically tight Blink is.  The ‘conversation’ between the Doctor and Sally Sparrow, separated by 37 years, is magnificent in its logical construction.   In this vein it was crucially important to cast the right actress as Sally Sparrow–who had to be incredulous, fierce, coquettish,  and empathetic all at once.  To this end future Oscar Nominee Carey Mulligan carries Blink amazingly well.  It might not work well, or even at all, without her.

Blink is not necessarily a complicated story, with relatively few characters, nor is the direction terribly flashy, but it knows what the Weeping Angels are and highlights them to full effect.  They would be back, and then back again.  The caps for Blink will not go away should you close your eyes.  They’re forever.

Next time Peter Capaldi gets the Modern Re-Capitulation treatment.  How is that possible?

Mirror Primer

This time round Modern Re-Capitulation takes on a story which is probably more remembered for the revelation at the end than for the meat of the story, which in the eyes of the Tour seems unfortunate for Partners in Crime should be known more for it’s somewhat unique tone and execution, not to mention the redemption of Donna as a character.

Farce as a theatrical form of storytelling had only been done once before in Doctor Who, all the way in the Hartnell era in The Romans, where portions of that story were fairly explicit about it.  In Partners it’s worked more in the form of the paralleling or twinning actions taken by Donna and the Doctor, moving towards the same goal, yet always seeming to miss each other until more than halfway through the story.

Their exaggerated and clumsy reunion, played with palpable glee by Catherine Tate, is the real showstopper.  What became clear almost from the jump once together again was what great chemistry Tennant and Tate had.  This was only briefly glimpsed towards the end of The Runaway Bride, and while it’s also withheld in Partners, it leaps off the screen.

But of course what’s more memorable isn’t the jaunty fat but the silent, surprise return of Billie Piper.  That the production team were able to keep her presence a secret is something of an achievement at the time, but it began to underline the notion that Doctor Who was beginning to draw in on itself, which would be further underlined towards the end of Series 4.

Nothing corpulent about the new ‘HD’ caps for Partners in Crime.  They’re lean without the mean, know what I mean?

PROse and ba-CON

After a bit of a break the lads down in Modern Recap-itulation emerge from their hidey hole with a double-header of nu-Who caps for Daleks in Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks.  Here’s where we at the Tour damn with faint praise.  There’s nothing particularly wrong with either end of this two-parter, but there’s a certain Death to the Daleks feel that’s hard to avoid in this story.

Back in the Pertwee era the Daleks were brought back after a five-year absence in Day of the Daleks.  After such an interregnum, the novelty, and the menace, of the Daleks, seemed afresh again.  Then the production team got the Dalek virus and brought them back year after year in Planet of the DaleksDeath to the Daleks and finally Genesis of the Daleks.  It was only in the last of these four that something truly novel happened with the introduction of Davros, and the rest as they say, is history.

Similarly Daleks in Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks are the third links in a chain which ends with Journey’s End and Davros once again.  But there’s a certain level of inventive desperation going on with this stateside pair of stories … ‘a human-Dalek hybrid?  Haven’t tried that one before!’ that works … to a point.

But there’s also, literally, too much theatricality going on with one Mister Tennant.  The knock, fair or not, of facial gurning was often put upon Patrick Troughton, but he had nothing on Tennant at least in these stories.  We certainly could have used less of it.  The new caps and caps for Daleks in Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks are lovely however.

Steamed Punk

The last Modern Recap-itulation for 2016 was also the last Doctor Who story of it’s kind as well.  From the old 405-line recordings right through to today’s cap addition, Doctor Who was always made in glorious standard definition, but that was about to change.

Change was also the watchword for The Next Doctor, at least in terms of Christmas specials.  Where Voyage of the Damned was large and heavy on spectacle, The Next Doctor wisely pulled back to something much smaller, personal, and much more Dickensian, and was all the better for it.

But The Next Doctor was also the first Christmas Special which began to tip more towards the fan than the general public.  There’s a knowing quality to the dialogue and specific interactions with Jackson Lake which are enhanced by a deeper understanding of Doctor Who and what makes it work structurally which lean in to the fan experience, and you can tell Tennant is having fun with it.  Tennant also had a better villain to play off of as well.  While the Cybermen were the putative monsters they once again were better slotted in as the metallic mafia to Dervla Kirwan’s Miss Hartigan.  She quite literally provided the color punch and effervescence needed against the gray of a Cyber-winter.

We could have done with less of the Dickensian depiction of children’s workhouses or the hulking Cyber-king, but then every Christmas special needs a little spectacle doesn’t it?  Our recent re-watch of The Next Doctor raised our esteem for it, and we bet the new caps will be quite estimable in their own right.

Actual new Doctor Who beckons.  Can’t wait!

Disasterpiece Theatre

In looking over the vast expanse which forms the landscape of the Tour, and minding the end of year crush to come, the Tour honchos noticed two Christmas specials which have yet to receive the nu-Who nouveau Modern Re-Capitulation treatment, and these will form the last two such stories going out to the end of 2016.

The first of these happens to be out least favorite special each time we’ve ranked the Christmas spectaculars.  Of course YMMV but after a spectacular debut story in The Christmas Invasion and a more comedic escapade in The Runaway Bride, you can almost feel the straining sense in RTD to always go bigger so why not try a Doctor Who take on a disaster film in the mode of ‘The Poseidon Adventure’ or ‘The Towering Inferno’ with Voyage of the Damned.

Our ‘objections’ to Voyage of the Damned are more about tone than execution.  This was the first of the specials to be only peripherally about Christmas.  Fair enough, and it’s a struggle that Steven Moffat has wrestled with too.  The Christmassy iconography is there, but once the disaster begins that’s all but gone.  The tropiness of the disaster film format is hued to well enough and moves along, but the denouement of the villain and the motivations for everything wrought is a bit of a shrug.

The best part of Voyage of the Damned remains Kylie Minogue as Astrid Peth.  She was the first of the specials guest stars whose character was all-in for the adventure and would have made an interesting companion.  That she inevitably couldn’t only added to the Tennant Doctors pathos and would be repeated later on.

The new HD-ish caps for Voyage of the Damned are not a disaster however.  They’re quite good.

One more story remains for the bods down in Modern Re-Capitulation.  No guesses as to what it might be.