33 – Doctor Who 50th Anniversary

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Last weekend was the 50th anniversary of the first broadcast of british sci fi show Doctor Who. Previously on this blog I have admitted that I like the show but personally think the show needs to change. But obviously because I’m a bit of a fan of the show I ended up watching the anniversary special episode that starred David Tennant, Matt Smith and screen legend John Hurt.

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I’ll start off with what I didn’t like about the episode. The plot was a bit all over the place. There was a lot of emphasis on these shape shifting zygon creatures who I thought were just going to be a gimmick at the beginning but then clung on for the rest of the episode with yet another generic undeveloped world invasion plan that the show has already done a million times before. The climax of this sub plot is quite satisfying and almost unexpected but as an anniversary episode it seemed far too similar to every episode before it.

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Also the whole episode didn’t really feel like it developed the doctor in any meaningful way, apart from perhaps John Hurt’s doctor who is struggling with wherever or not to commit double genocide, both David Tennant’s doctor and Matt Smith’s don’t really have any character development what so ever. I know you can’t expect major character development in every episode but in an episode which is feature length and the most ambitious the show has ever done it would be nice to have delved into the doctors psyche a little more and learn more about him.

Onto what was good though, John Hurts role is brilliant and actually quite captivating. His version of the doctor struggles with wherever or not to destroy his own planet and the daleks. It was great to finally see more of the time war that has always been referenced and to see how difficult it was for the doctor to decide what to do. Also John Hurt is a really great actor and it feels like he is representing the older doctors and does so magnificently.

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Now my favourite thing though was the re appearance of David Tennant, as he was my doctor. He was the doctor when I was most interested in the show so seeing him back again in this felt like a real treat. His banter with Matt Smith and his interactions with John Hurt was by far the best parts of the show.

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However I also enjoyed the cameos of Tom Baker which was great as he is arguably the definitive doctor and the cameo of next doctor Peter Capaldi (who I personally think will be brilliant). Oh and the ending of the show gives me hope that maybe they will take the show in a new direction instead of more generic poorly written invasion plots like the one featured in this very episode.

26 – Doctor Who Textual Analysis

Discuss the ways in which the extract constructs the representation of gender using the following: camera shots, angles, composition, editing, sound, mise en scene.

In the extract there are four key characters to discuss in relation to gender. The first of which is the master.

The master’s costume is a suit but his shirt is untucked and his top button is un done. This represents how he is in control in this scene and has no one to answer to. He is comfortable in this environment and certainly holds all the cards at the start of the scene.

Furthermore at the beginning of the scene the master is seen in fairly wide shots that look up at the master which portrays his power and dominance in the situation. He is also on a raised platform at the start meaning he is literally above most of the characters and therefore looks down on them all. Overall the way the character is portrayed seems symbolic of a patriarchal dictator.

Editing wise the master also has the majority of screen time while he is still in power. However as Martha, the female prisoner starts to overcome him she begins to get more screen time than him. The screen time then basically stays on the character who is most in control which is first held with a man (which may seem stereotypical as it reflects patriarchal rule) but changes to a woman halfway through the clip till the doctor returns and then the screen time is dominated by him instead.

Other noticeable changes as Martha takes control include the music. Uptill the mid point of the clip the music has been fairly subdued but building up tension, but one the power shifts it becomes more intense and louder to reflect the story coming to a climax on the screen.

In addition the master starts to leave the raised platform as he loses control and walks down some stairs, albeit one point where in his desperation he returns to the platform in an attempt to regain his power. Also the mid shots and wide shots become more spaced out and instead are replaced by close up shots. These close up shots are mostly reaction shots that can show the expressions more easily and show the master starting to doubt himself and panic as the events unfold.

Martha starts the scene by being pushed by male soldiers who are much taller than her. In this way she looks physically weaker than the men behind her which conforms to gender stereotypes that men are soldiers and stronger than women.

However what does not conform to gender stereotypes is the costume design for Martha which is black and in a military style which altogether seems very masculine and helps to establish that she might be tough and capable.

At the beginning some of the camera shots are POV from the master so the shots look down on Martha which belittles her and makes her appear to have no control in the situation. In this way he demonstrates the way that the master thinks he is stronger than her and see’s her as far less than an equal.

Despite how Martha is undermined she seems to show no fear in the situation and yet again this does not conform to the gender stereotypes of women in films and tv. The way she is not fearful is almost foreshadowing of the fact that she has had a plan to overthrow the master and helps the audience to expect her to defeat the master.

It may be significant that Martha actually does not create the plan herself, instead she is simply following the instructions of the doctor. Her plan is therefore a male invention that a male has instructed her to do. It requires little intelligence on her behalf and the doctor could basically have got any other person to perform the plan instead.

As soon as the Doctor has returned from being a small aged and genderless creature Martha loses the majority of her screen time and the Doctor is shown a lot so that the audience know that he is the main hero at this point and the true hero is not Martha. At this stage the two main characters who are being shown are both men and the other characters only appear in reaction shots to what is happening in front of them.

The Doctor when he is restored floats into the air in  pose that resembles the pose that Jesus is often shown in. Once this is noticed there are many other references to religion within the scene. The events seem to reflect the armageddon and the rapture and also the master seems to represent the devil, the Doctor then represents Jesus or God and Martha and Jack are his faithful disciples. There is also a reference to prayer being Martha’s weapon and also all the events happen above the clouds so in a sense they’re in the ‘heavens’. A lot of christianity seems to centre around males rather than women so the references can definitely seem significant in relation to gender.

Also significant is Lucy Saxon, the woman in the red dress. The red dress suggests that the woman in trying to impress people and look seductive. However from the facial expressions of worry and unease she shows throughout the scene towards the master it seems more likely that the master has made the decision to dress her in this way to make her into a trophy wife of some form. She is objectified and shown to be completely obedient  to the master as all her attention is on him as she rarely speaks as well.

23 – Doctor Why do I still watch this show?

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Doctor who is a british science fiction show that follows the adventures of a time lord in his time travelling space ship that is stuck in the disguise of a blue british police box. Throughout the show the time lord known as the doctor can change his whole body which means the show can basically swap out their main actor every few years and carry on the show. Now obviously the premise is ridiculous and the show can often be awful, but yet I have become a big fan, and in this post I’m asking why can the show be so appealing but yet so terrible.

The show has many different writers which means there is a lack of consistency in the quality of writing. Sometimes a Neil Gaiman may come in and write a brilliant episode then the next week the shows being written by some guy on work experience at the bbc. Now I exaggerate a bit of course but there are definitely episodes that are so much better than others, maybe the good episodes out weigh the bad, but when the episode is bad, it’s REALLY bad.  It’s then maybe the fact that you know the show is capable of pulling off a brilliant episode like Blink that keeps the audience watching. I’m not sure.

Even the best of episodes all seem to follow the same structure. The doctor and companion fly the tardis, land somewhere, the place they’ve landed in is established, a monster or person is seen doing something evil but undetected, the doctor and companion explore said place, they meet some miscellaneous characters who are then established more, the monster or person does something else bad, the doctor realises the monster or person is doing said bad thing, starts to either chase the monster or run away from it, this reaches a climax, the doctor then regroups with miscellaneous characters and companion, then the doctor or companion performs a non lethal solution to the situation which stops the monster or person and then they all say good bye and the doctor and companion fly away in the box. That description is basically every episode, or at least since the show was rebooted as I cannot be bothered to watch all the old episodes.

The show is also such a blank canvas. Because the doctors ship can go literally anywhere in time and space, the writers for the show can do anything they can think of. Rather un originally this tends to result in a story set on earth and in the past. It is this sandbox nature of the show however which is it’s main appeal. The show can go from a western one week to a sci fi epic the next and a tense thriller the week after. This means the show in theory can never quite get boring as if you don’t like one episode you might like the next as it is never quite the same the next week. The show could literally go anywhere which means eventually it will make good television, it’s almost like if a chef was to just randomly throw all his ingredients into a pan, eventually the chef would make an edible meal.

Also despite the often stupid plots and stories that don’t always take advantage of the sandbox, the characters are some of the most charismatic on television. Maybe not in the case of Rory Williams who was like watching a live broadcast of a gibbering old man, but the Doctor, in any of his 11 (or 12 now John Hurt has popped up) faces, is so fun to watch. The actors always bring such charisma and enthusiasm which means the doctor can be hilarious and often crazy but then can switch to being wise and intense within a second. One of my favourite episodes recently was Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, despite a lot of people calling it terrible, because of this reason, the doctor played by Matt Smith in this episode portrays himself as a kid who’s just been given the best christmas present, and it is hilarious throughout.

One of my main problems with the show though is that every episode is very rushed. A standard episode is around 45 minutes long. Now a standard drama show tends to be an hour long. The short running time is what I think constraints the show and may be the stem of the problem of inconsistent writing. There is a large pressure to rush through the story and wrap things up within the running time. If the show was maybe an hour long, even an hour and a half, with maybe less episodes each season but with better quality writers (cough Neil Gaiman, although his cyberman episode wasn’t as good) and I think the show could be a lot more interesting to watch. This would also allow writers to add more detail to the worlds in the stories and make the planets the doctor visits more realistic and rich.

Anyway though the show reaches its 50th anniversary this year on the 23rd of November. It marks this occasion with a special feature length episode that will star the current doctor Matt Smith, returning doctor David Tennant and acting royalty John Hurt. Despite my doubts about the quality of the show overall I am actually looking forward to this episode just because David Tennant is back, since leaving doctor who he has proved himself as a brilliant actor in shows like Broadchurch, Spies of Warsaw and just in the last couple of weeks I saw him in The Escape Artist which was brilliant and may just be my next blog. Also the idea of John Hurt joining the cast is interesting as the show rarely has an actor of his callibre and experience on the show. Then after the anniversary special the show is back at christmas where the new doctor played by Peter Capaldi (The Thick of It) will be introduced, this is also exciting as Peter Capaldi is a great actor and I really enjoyed The Thick of It so I think he will do a good job.

Also the trailer has just been released for the 50th anniversary episode and it looks amazing.