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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Big Who Season Finale -- Watched the two-part finale of the third season of the new Doctor Who with the kids at lunch today, after having missed the entire season due to lack of intense interest and other things going on. I guess with the internets, you know you can probably always catch up down the line later on, right?


Possible SPOILERS and definite NERDITRY beyond this point...

Except I don't think the season we missed could match the energy and inventiveness of this two-part trip from the end of time back to present-day Great Britain. I mostly decided to check out the season finale because of the rumoured reappearance of one of the Doctor's greatest enemies, a character I'd kind of expected to see back in Season One, with all its "The Doctor's gone dark" stuff. See, I was guessing after it was announced that Season One Doc Christopher Eccleston was only sticking around for the first go-round that he in fact was not the Doctor, but this other gentlemen in question, suffering from amnesia after the end of the Time War. I thought that would have made a great season finale, the real Doctor arriving to reclaim his TARDIS from Eccleston, who would have been able to play the very dark results of finding out his true identity quite well before making room for the sunshiny David Tennant in Season Two. And the audience would have been both outraged and amazed to learn they'd been rooting for you-may-know-who all season long. Oh, the angst!

Turns out The Powers That Be kind of thought like I did -- some of that stuff kind of played out in these final two episodes of Season Two, after all. The Master (I warned you up there with the SPOILERS and all!) has been suffering from amnesia in the wake of the Time War, and he certainly was a lovable old Time Lord type in the first part -- so much so, with the affected name ("The Professor") and the Companion, that I thought maybe he was the ultimate, final version of the Doctor, and that we were in for another iteration of Doc Meets Doc. I'd guess that we were supposed to think that, given the available evidence, and it's really too bad the BBC leaked the actual identity of the bad guy, because I probably would have stuck to my theory that Professor Yana was The Doctor until the real reveal came along.

I first started watching Doctor Who when it was airing on PBS stations here in the U.S. back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Because I saw the transition from mega-popular fourth Doctor Tom Baker to fifth Doctor Peter Davison almost at the same time the British did, I always had an affection for Davison in the role over Baker, although I like 'em both. Certainly they're my two favourites, having seen little to nothing of Colin Baker or Sylvester McCoy, as Who-fever seemed to dry up on American public television stations after Davison left the series.

I was one of the few who watched and liked the Fox TV movie with Paul McGann inheriting the mantle from Sylvester McCoy, and really, really dug Eccleston's work in his one and only season. Tennant has had some great moments in the episodes he's done that I have seen, especially his forced goodbye to Rose, and it was nice to see him given some really meaty stuff in this season finale, from explaining a few things to Captain Jack (who seems much less irritating now) to trying to build bridges with his last surviving fellow Time Lord.

Speaking of whom, John Simm was a bit of a revelation as The Master. The amusing but mostly two-dimensional mustache-twirling of Anthony Ainley in the Baker/Davison era and the dark mischief of Eric Roberts in the Fox movie were nothing at all like the trickster/master planner Simm introduced in these episodes. The whimsy and the perfidy were delivered in equal doses, and the political commentary toward the end was both welcome and well-done. Which came first, Warren Ellis's Black Summer #0 or the script for part two of this season finale? More likely, it's just the zeitgeist at work, The Master's actions on the SHIELD HELICARRIER -- UNIT aircraft carrier Valiant representing a violent fantasy that satisfies the desire of pretty much everyone in the world for the U.S.'s own evil government takeover to end.


So, this two-parter had it all -- copious reference to Who history, actual, unexpected plot developments, and very good performances from actors obviously having a blast in their roles, especially Tennant and Simm. I may or may not catch up on previous episodes from this season, but there's no question I'll be watching with the kids when the fourth season gets underway. We all want to know how they're going to get out of this one.



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