Jodie Whittaker Provides A Refreshing Regeneration To Doctor Who

Dr Who S11 poster

The world premier of the new season of Doctor Who just aired earlier today to much fanfare. The reason for the hoopla is not just because a new actor debuted as the new Doctor, but for the first time, a woman is playing the iconic time-traveling alien.

Jodie Whittaker had large shoes to fill with the role of the Doctor being that so many memorable actors left their mark in the role. But she pulls it off splendidly and provides a refreshing take on the character now that the Doctor is a woman. This does not mean that Doctor Who turned into a show with a feminist agenda. Rather, Whittaker and the first episode “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” have given the new showrunner, Chris Chibnall (who also wrote this episode), an invigorating chance to reboot the series.

While the new version of Doctor Who that premiered in 2005 has been terrific, for some time the show felt formulaic and needed a shot of creativity. The regeneration episodes of Doctor Who are seen as a way of reintroducing the character and the show’s premise. “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” follows the same beats as other regeneration episodes-the Doctor is confused as the regeneration cycle completes, new Companions are introduced, and some kind of alien menace threatens the Earth. In the end, the Doctor gathers his/her wits to foil the extra-terrestrial menace and concludes with the Companions being invited into the TARDIS to join the Doctor in new adventures.

woman who fell to earth

“The Woman Who Fell to Earth” actually felt different because it took an alternate route. The Companions that are introduced are diversely different, made up of dissimilar races, ages and backgrounds. The plot felt more grounded and far less outlandish than previous Doctor Who episodes. It was refreshingly simple without any convolutions or the Doctor gabbing away nonsensically. In fact, the Doctor has never seemed this gathered, resourceful and centered since the Ninth Doctor’s introduction. Basically, an alien warrior shows up to gather human trophies as a rite of passage to become a leader. The alien threat was not buffoonish and was rather creepy and menacing. The enemy alien looked appropriately gross with all his victim’s teeth embedded onto his face.

Since the episode was more grounded, it felt more real and the moments of suspense and danger were much more engaging. The pseudo-magical science that was prevalent in past seasons is downplayed. The Doctor is without the safety net of the TARDIS and the usual trappings. In this manner, Doctor Who seemed like it is no longer aimed at young viewers. This may upset some fans, but the show needed a change of pace and gearing it to slightly older audiences is the right thing to do. This does not mean that Doctor Who lost its sense of wonder and passion. Those elements are still there, best expressed by Whittaker and the new Companion, Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole). Needless to say that Jodie Whittaker has a stunning, electric debut as the 13th Doctor. Keep in mind that the episode was not perfect. There are some pacing issues and the behavior of some characters was not natural at certain moments.

Still, “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” is a refreshing way to regenerate Doctor Who and leaves you curious as to what happens next to the Doctor and her Companions.

Lewis T. Grove

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Top 20 Star Trek: Voyager Episodes

voyager cast

This month marks the 20th anniversary of Star Trek: Voyager, the saga of a lost Federation starship in a distant corner of the galaxy trying to make its way home. Ever since the third Star Trek spinoff made its debut on the UPN channel it’s been considered as an inferior Star Trek show. That is a somewhat unfair claim, although many episodes were formulaic there were many that were worthy of the Star Trek name. These are twenty of the best episodes of Star Trek: Voyager.

20. “The Chute” Voyager crewmembers Tom chuteParis (Robert Duncan McNeill) and Harry Kim (Garrett Wang) undergo a harrowing ordeal while being held prisoner in brutal space prison.

19. “Lineage” B’Elanna Torres (Roxann Dawson) grapples with accepting her half Klingon heritage during her pregnancy since she doesn’t want her unborn daughter to face the same persecution she underwent as a child.

18. “The Thaw” Harry and B’Elanna are mentally trapped in a virtual reality by a malicious clown computer program (Michael McKean), who tortures them to gain release from its cyber trap.

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17. “Maneuvers” First Officer Chakotay (Robert Beltran) tries to track down his former lover Seska (Martha Hackett) and her Kazon colleagues after they raid the Voyager and steal transporter technology.

16. “Scorpion, Parts 1 and 2”An exciting two-parter introduced the popular Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) as the Voyager is forced into an uneasy alliance with the evil cybernetic Borg against an even deadlier threat–Species 8472.

relativity15. “Relativity” Seven of Nine is recruited by a Federation starship crew from the distant future. Her mission: travel through different time periods to prevent the destruction of the Voyager.

14. “Latent Image” The ship’s Emergency Medical Hologram (EMH) a.k.a. The Doctor (Robert Picardo) discovers that for some reason certain parts of his memories are being erased. His investigations lead to uncovering a tragic moment in his past and his reaction afterwards was very engrossing to watch.

13. “Basics, Parts I and 2” The crew of the Federation starship Voyager have a final conflict with the barbaric Kazons, who coveted the advanced Starfleet ship and its technology. This two-part episode had many thrilling moments and cliffhangers as most of the Voyager crew were defeated and stranded on a primitive world.

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12. “Equinox, Parts 1 and 2” The Voyager comes to the aid of another Federation starship also stranded in the distant Delta Quadrant. What is supposed to be a joyous occasion at encountering kindred spirits turns into conflict when the Voyager crew learns of the other crew’s unethical actions against an alien race.

11. “Dark Frontier” Seven of Nine’s DFrontbackground is explored as Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) leads efforts to steal Borg technology that will hasten their journey home. During a pivotal raid, Seven is captured by the Borg, who plan a biotech attack on humanity. Meanwhile, Janeway mounts a rescue mission.

10. “Hope and Fear” The sudden appearance of an advanced, unmanned, supposed Federation starship could be the means to finish the Voyager crew’s years-long voyage home or a trap. Guest star Ray Wise excelled in his role as a tortured alien whose race was assimilated by the Borg.

9. “Blink of an Eye” The Voyager is trapped in orbit around a planet with a dense gravitational field. So what passes for hours on Voyager is actually centuries for the planet’s inhabitants, which means that the ship becomes part of that planet’s history as its people advance technologically and socially.

8. “Before and After” An elderly, dying Kes (Jennifer Lien) in the future begins to travel backwards in time to many events including her birth. Among the fascinating future moments explored included a foreshadowing of the Voyager crew’s encounter with the Krenim.

distant origin7. “Distant Origin” The premise that some dinosaurs on Earth actually evolved into a spacefaring race was intriguing enough. But this episode’s first contact scenario smartly focused on an allegory of Galileo’s plight as scientific progress and knowledge conflicted with societal and religious dogma.

6. “Deadlock” After going through a technobabble anomaly the Voyager and its crew are duplicated, but both ships are attached to each other. Events dictate that only one ship and crew can survive, but which one? The episode was a novel way of resetting the status quo after disastrous events without using time travel.

5. “Message in a Bottle” The Doctor is transmitted to an advanced Starfleet prototype ship in the Alpha Quadrant in order to make contact with the Federation. Once there, he must join forces with that ship’s EMH Mark 2 (Andy Dick) to fight off Romulans, who have captured the ship.

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4. “Course: Oblivion” In this tragic episode, things seem fine at first onboard Voyager. Tom and B’Elanna get married and the ship will reach Earth in a two years. However, it’s soon discovered that the ship is deteriorating, as well as the people onboard. After realizing that they and the ship are just copies of the actual Voyager and crew, it’s a race against time to seek help before it’s too late.

3. “Bride of Chaotica!” A wonderful and chaowhimsical tribute to old sci-fi serials in the tradition of Flash Gordon has the Voyager crew coming to the aid of photonic, extra-dimensional aliens, who are at war with the evil fictional characters from Tom’s holodeck program The Adventures of Captain Proton. Hilarity ensues as the crew assume the overdramatic roles of the program and endure old sci-fi clichés.

witness2. “Living Witness” In the far future on another planet, a copy of the Doctor is activated by a museum curator (Henry Woronicz), who is fascinated by the “warship” Voyager’s visit to his planet in the distant past. Appalled at the gross inaccuracies about the visit and the Voyager crew, who are shown to be basically space pirates, it’s up to the Doctor to clear his former comrades’ names for history’s sake.

1. “Year of Hell, Parts 1 and 2” Star Trek: Voyager had many epic two-part episodes and this one wasn’t only the best of those, but the best episode for the entire series. arronax2The Voyager passes through a region of space controlled by the despotic Krenim. Janeway and the crew soon find out that the Krenim uses time as a weapon by altering timelines. Leading these alterations is Arronax (Kurtwood Smith) a Captain Nemo type obsessed with time tinkering. Over the course of a year, the Voyager is badly damaged and falling apart, but Janeway must find a way to defeat Arronax. “Year of Hell” was riveting and presented a gritty view of a desperate Voyager crew on their own, plus Smith gave a great performance as the tortured Arronax.

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Honorable Mentions: “Nemesis”, “Caretaker”,”The Gift”, “The Void”, “Author, Author”, “Pathfinder”, “Prophecy”, “Alliances”, “Think Tank”, “Endgame”

José Soto

New Doctor Who Off To A Mundane Start

new doctor and clara

Peter Capaldi made his debut as the new Doctor in “Deep Breath”, the season premiere of Doctor Who. Unlike the two other modern regenerations we’ve seen, this debut episode of a new Doctor had a very different tone.

To be blunt it was rather underwhelming.

This verdict doesn’t have anything to do with Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, it would be harsh to judge him solely based on this episode. On the other hand, when new actors took over the role of the famous Time Lord, they left very deep impressions. who horseCapaldi’s Doctor doesn’t have any particular quirks or kinks about him and that was a shame. Yes, in the new episode “Deep Breath” the Doctor was characteristically confused after his regeneration at the end of the special “The Time Of The Doctor”, but Capaldi seemed to be just going through the motions. It felt like when he was spouting off disjointed lines about not knowing his hands or talking to a dinosaur that he was just acting.

Even as he settled into the role later into the episode it was very clear that this Doctor would be more subdued and less flamboyant, eccentric or even energetic like the three previous actors to play the Doctor.

It’s a change of pace, but it may turn off some Doctor Who fans who were used to fast-talking and goofy Doctors, which were so endearing.

But Capaldi’s interpretation of the Doctor wasn’t what was offkey about the episode “Deep Breath”. Rather, it was the story itself.

As stated in the opening, this debut of a new Doctor was decidedly different. It was more low key and unfortunately mundane at times with its center being an uninteresting mystery taking place in Victorian-era London.

The episode starts with the Doctor’s Victorian compatriots the Paternoster Gang: the reptilian Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh), her wife Jenny (Catrin Stewart) and the warrior Strax (Dan Starkey) witnessing a rampaging t-rex in downtown London. The dinosaur coughs up the Doctor’s space/time vessel the Tardis and that is how the Doctor and his Companion Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) first appear in the episode.

dinnerAn interesting start, but then “Deep Breath” dovetails when the new Doctor (the 12th? Wouldn’t he be the 13th if you count the War Doctor? Or is he a reset?) starts rambling about in a forced manner at his friends’ residence. Clara is trying to grapple with the fact that the Time Lord she knew and loved (Matt Smith) is now morphed into this noticeably older and confused man. Seeing the two of them together with the in-your-face age difference was jarring to watch and the dynamic between the two feels strained.

After a few uncomfortable scenes of that, the story shifts to this cyborg (Peter Ferdinando) going around abducting people to cannibalize them for parts. This part of the story was rather predictable and mundane. Even the listless fight sequences between the cyborg’s army and the Paternoster Gang wasn’t interesting to watch, nor was the confrontation between the Doctor and the cyborg.

new tardis

“Deep Breath” did come to life near the end of the episode when a certain character made a surprise appearance. As welcome as it was, the cameo served to remind Clara (and the viewers) to learn to accept the new Doctor and to support him. However, the problem wasn’t accepting the new actor, but that his character deserved a better episode to launch his stint. It’s way too early to write off this understated version of the Doctor and some clips from the upcoming Doctor Who previews look intriguing. It’s just lamentable that the new Doctor is off to an unremarkable start.

Annette DeForrester

Top 10 Doctor Who Specials

 doctor day

The modern era of Doctor Who has seen many specials that aren’t part of the regular season or series of episodes, but are just as entertaining. Many of them cover important developments about the Doctor, notably his regenerations. Often, these specials air during Christmas or in between long stretches of seasons. Some of the specials aren’t even aired on TV but are found online as mini webisodes and reveal many interesting aspects of the Doctor. These are the best specials to date.

10. “Voyage Of The Damned” The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) finds himself in an imperiled space-going luxury liner named after the Titanic. Can the Doctor and assorted crewmembers and passengers keep the ship from suffering the same fate as its namesake? Well, he isn’t called the Doctor for nothing!

snowmen9. “The Snowmen” The Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) mourning the loss of his Companions lives in self-exile in Victorian London. While he is drawn to an eerie mystery involving sentient snowmen, he encounters a perplexing woman, future Companion Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman), who he keeps running into during his time travels. Coleman shined in her introduction as the spunky Clara.

8. “The End Of Time, Parts One and Two” David Tennant’s swan song as the Doctor was probably a bit overblown and too long. Still, it was memorable for returning the Doctor’s nemesis, the Master (John Simm), who was a pawn in a plot to reignite the Time War. While the Doctor’s demise dragged on, it was nice seeing him bid subtle farewells to his Companions throughout time.

7. “The Waters Of Mars” One thing Doctor Who excels at is putting out genuinely creepy tales. This one, which won the Hugo award, isn’t an exception as the Tenth Doctor aids the first human colonists on Mars infected with an intelligent virus. What was more unsettling was the tragic result of the Doctor trying to change history.

6. “The Christmas Invasion” In his first full outing xmas invasionas the Doctor, David Tennant grabbed the role and ran with it. As he and his Companion Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) struggles to deal with his regeneration, the world comes under an alien invasion on Christmas. While the Doctor is busy getting used to his new body, Rose and her associates must deal with the alien threat on their own.

5. Various Webisodes. These minutes-long stories were often some of the best Doctor Who stories. Whether it was about Paul McGann returning time crashas the Eighth Doctor (“The Night Of The Doctor”) or the Tenth Doctor meeting the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) in a weird time quirk (“Time Crash”)  or Rose’s confused and frightened reaction to the Doctor’s regeneration (“Doctor Who: Children In Need”) these nuggets added to the rich lore of Doctor Who.

4. “The Next Doctor” Before his iconic role as the sadistic Governor in The Walking Dead David Morrissey next doctorexcelled in this special as an alleged future Doctor incarnation. The Tenth Doctor meets him in London in the 1850s and the two team up to stop a Cybermen plot. Morrissey’s exuberant performance as the amnesiac Doctor a.k.a. Jackson Lake left many fans wishing he would be cast as a Doctor sometime in the future. He captured the essence of being a Doctor and his character’s tragic back story was unforgettable.

3. “The Time Of The Doctor” In the most recent special, Matt Smith’s gave a truly heartfelt performance as the Doctor for the last time. The time 3story about the Doctor sacrificing his natural lifespan to stay on a planet and defend a town called Christmas was a bit rushed and should’ve been longer, but the finale just tugs at the heartstrings. Unlike Tennant’s Doctor, this version faces his impending natural death and regeneration with maturity and wisdom. He reminds us that change is part of life and that it’s good as long as you remember your past. A Doctor’s farewell couldn’t be more poignant.

2. “A Christmas Carol” The best Doctor Who special about Christmas is this adaptation of A Christmas Carol. To save his Companions’ live, the Doctor must change the cruel and bitter ways of a Scrooge-like figure (Michael Gambon). The Doctor makes brilliant use of time travel to subtly reform the lost soul throughout his life in this loving tribute to Dickens’ classic. Actually, the story enhanced the classic with a tragic love story that is uplifting at the same time. The special also featured some of the most out-of-the-world imagery, specifically that of a flying great white shark (!) that is eventually used to pull a carriage through snowy skies.

1. “The Day Of The Doctor” This is the all-time best special and not just because it celebrated the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. It had an epic all docsstory as the two Doctors (Tennant and Smith) that won over legions of fans in modern times united to solve a mystery regarding the ominous Time War. Many puzzles were solved as we learned about that war and the mysterious War Doctor (John Hurt), who was just outstanding. What’s more, there were many nods and references to the show’s long and rich history that culminated in the Eleventh (or rather the Thirteenth) Doctor meeting the Curator (Tom Baker, the Fourth and most revered Classic Doctor). For the most part, the special delivered for this special occasion and set a very high standard for such events.

José Soto

Doctor Who Celebrates Its Fiftieth Anniversary

doctor who

Doctor Who fans are still aglow over the recent fiftieth anniversary special “The Day Of The Doctor”, and for good reason!  It was inventive, frenetic and most of all it was  downright cool in so many ways. More importantly, “The Day Of The Doctor” was a loving tribute to the fifty-year-old program

Who’s Who?

For anyone who hasn’t watched, Doctor Who is about the adventures of a time-traveling alien called the Doctor, who can go anywhere in time and space. As a Time Lord, he often winds up in some misadventure while defending Earth and is accompanied by a long line of (mostly) human Companions. When the show first aired in the BBC back in 1963, it was more pedestrian than the madcap pace exuberated by hartnellthe modern show. The Doctor was played by William Hartnell, a distinguished older actor who was more cerebral  and sedate than his successors. Doctor Who was always plagued by low budgets and production values, which didn’t help its stature of being a children’s show. Still, it had an unmistakable charm and its youthful audiences loved the show. This happened after the show began steering away from historical dramas and introduced goofy aliens that were played by actors in bargain-basement costumes.

This status stayed with the show for many years and over many incarnations of the Doctor. You see, once Hartnell left the program in 1966, he was ingeniously recast. The Doctor was an alien, so it was established that he could regenerate into another person at the time of his death. Each Doctor that followed him was more and more outrageous in demeanor and attire, probably culminating in Colin Baker’s eye-hurting, multi-colored waist coat and his flamboyantly overbearing behavior.  But this concept allowed each actor to add his own touch to the character, making the Doctor a rather complex person for this kind of show. It was probably why Doctor Who began to catch on past the kids.

tom baker

The first significant introduction to American audiences of Doctor Who was the Tom Baker era from 1974 to 1981. His Doctor was distinguished by an overlong, multicolored scarf, and a huge afro. While he was quite daffy, Baker’s Doctor exhibited a cunning, intellectual side that was masked by his eccentric behavior. Still, the show was bogged down with horrible special effects and production values. While the show won many fans, there were just as many who dismissed Doctor Who as kiddie fare.

Eventually, Doctor Who was cancelled in 1989 and the property laid dormant until 1996 when Fox aired a TV movie pilot that attempted to jumpstart the franchise. The film was actually good, but controversial with many longtime fans, who bemoaned the semi-reboot. For instance, the Doctor revealed he was half-human and shockingly enough he had a romantic moment with his Companion. Egad! Sure, it sounds silly but fans can be recalcitrant whenever changes are made. The movie didn’t lead to a series and so the attempt at restarting the franchise was stillborn.

Who’s Back

nine docBut like any good intellectual property, Doctor Who refused to die. Finally in 2005, a brand new series was launched that rejuvenated the stale franchise. Now Doctor Who had updated effects, the characters were dynamic and relatable and the stories were more adult. The ramifications and intricacies of time travel were explored in episodes like “Father’s Day”, “Blink”, and “The Name Of The Doctor”.  Others had outlandish plots best explained by their episode titles–”The Stolen Earth”, “Dinosaurs On A Spaceship” and “Let’s Kill Hitler”. Some others where actually heartfelt like “The Doctor’s Wife” where the Doctor’s spaceship attained a corporeal, sentient form . To its credit, the show still retained its sense of whimsy and charm. Episodes featured many unique images like the Doctor soaring through the air in a carriage pulled by a flying great white shark (!), or him and his Companion riding a motorcycle up a glass tower. For every lighthearted episode, there were those that were quite chilling, adventurous, wondrous, and more importantly, thought provoking.

A very important change made to the modern Doctor Who is that the Doctor is the last of his kind. His race, from the planet Gallifrey, along with their mortal enemies, the Daleks, had died off fighting in a Time War. The Doctor, as played by Christopher Eccleston, was more morose and subdued. It was even reflected in his dark attire. He was clearly suffering from survivor’s guilt and was wracked by what he did in the Time War (it was revealed that he destroyed both races). However, by the end of his run, Eccleston’s Doctor (the Ninth Doctor) seemed to be recovering thanks to the help of his Companions Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) and Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman).

Edgier, More Emotional Doctors

This change into a more optimistic demeanor was fully expressed with the next Doctor brilliantly portrayed by David Tennant. The Tenth Doctor was exploding with youthful energy and charm. He often rambled on at a mile per second and had an impish way about him. One couldn’t help but be delighted by his antics. Yet, the Tenth Doctor once in a while unmasked a haunted and frightful demeanor that was unsettling to watch. This was underlined by Tennant’s ability to convey someone who was much older than he appeared.

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His successor Matt Smith also had this uncanny ability. But, being that he was the youngest person to portray the Doctor, that ancient quality shown in his eyes and mannerisms added to the dichotomy of the Doctor. Now that Peter Capaldi will be the new Doctor come the next Christmas special (“The Time Of The Doctor”), some of his conflicting aspect will be toned down since Capaldi is an older actor.

But what does that mean for Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman)? She will seem more like a daughter next to Capaldi. It’s doubtful there will be any romantic tension a la Rose Tyler, who started falling for the Tenth Doctor once he came into the picture. Perhaps Clara will soon leave the show. However, River Song (Alex Kingston) seems more compatible with Capaldi’s Doctor since the actress is closer in age to him.

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